Everyday, we're bombarded with loads of information, from marketers' emails and LinkedIn messages to Twitter DMs and Snapchats. It's easy to get bogged down by these various avenues of contact, but even in today's digital age, real relationships still matter!
Unfortunately, we've all gotten a bit lazy. Sales professionals send seemingly personal notes to "prospects" they've never met, hoping their cold-call style of communication will convert strangers into customers, PR newbies pitch tech reporters stories that don't match their beats, and we email our CEOs long-ass emails that they'll likely never read. Due to all of the above, I felt the need to create some guidelines for reaching out to influencers of all types. Skim through these tips to sharpen your outreach skills and ensure that your emails don't get sent straight to trash.
1. Be relevant.
If you're reaching out to a reporter or an analyst, know what beats or topics they cover and tie your pitch to topical news. If it matters to them, they'll likely respond even if they don't do anything with the idea.
Nik Rouda, Senior Analyst of Big Data at Enterprise Strategy Group, comments, "I'll read or listen to almost any unfamiliar outreach at least once. If you brought me something useful, a piece of new information, or an invitation to an event on a topic of interest, I'll remember that about you." He adds, "If you share something helpful, this conditions me to read or listen next time." Every influencer fielding dozens of outreach emails a day learns very quickly who is and isn't wasting their precious time.
2. Try to understand what motivates the person you're reaching out to.
If you're trying to influence an analyst, journalist, or even prospective customers, find out what motivates them. What are the key motivating factors that will get their attention and entice them to hear you out?
Senior Account Director at GOLD PR, Jackie Jorge, comments, "Understanding what motivates someone is the key to building any relationship--business or personal. Ask questions and really listen to the answers. This can give you genuine insight into who someone is and what motivates them. Plus, it leads to trust and mutual respect." Whether you're looking to reach a reporter or your target customer, it's critical to tailor your approach based on the recipient's needs.
3. Cater to your audience.
You're not going to reach out to a mommy blogger the same way you would communicate with your CEO. Jorge says, "Do your research on the reporter/influencer you're reaching out to and be concise. A thoughtful and creative pitch that shows you've done your due diligence on both the reporter and the audience you're trying to reach will help increase the chances of a response." Start following them on social media, engage with their content, and then look for opportunities to serve them up something they'll be interested in.
4. Always make it personal.
If I get an event invitation from someone I've never met before, 99% of the time I won't respond or attend because I don't know them and they haven't given me any context as to why I should care. But if I get an email from someone asking my opinion of something, and then after a bit of interesting back and forth, I'm far more likely to RSVP.
Rouda comments, "I attended a conference on IT security a few years ago, out of curiosity on the topic. Some marketing team bought the attendee list and still spams me regularly with news, but I only cover security as it pertains to big data and analytics. This is immediately apparent to anyone who Googles me or checks my LinkedIn profile. Know who I am, what I care about, and personalize your outreach."
The truth is, if you're trying to get an influencer to "jump," unless you're the POTUS it ain't gonna happen without some serious context and personalization.
5. If you're a newbie brand, link yourself to points of interest.
At the beginning of a business lifecycle, it's tough to be your own PR machine and get responses when no one's heard of you. If you work for a brand with little name recognition, try linking yourself to points of interest.
Rouda suggests, "The Hollywood-style, one-line pitch works: 'It's like Tesla but it can fly and will star Mark Zuckerberg.' I have no idea what that product might be, but it references a company I admire for a successful and disruptive business model, it includes something cool and aspirational and you've mentioned someone I respect for building a company that changed the way people interact around the world. It's worth hearing more." By no means should you consider this type of piggy-back phrasing a brand tagline, nor should you continually pitch it to the media, but snappy one-liners can indeed work like glue when you're initially explaining your brand or product.
Also, don't forget to leverage your existing circle of influence to forge new relationships. Jorge says, "Let your circle of contacts know what you're up to by opening up and sharing with them and asking for their opinions." You just may find that your existing contacts are thrilled to write some email intros for you.
6. Be enthusiastic.
"If you sound like this is your 15th pitch of the day or you're texting a friend while you're talking to me on the phone, I'll be able to hear it in your voice," says Rouda. "If you're not excited about what you're pitching, why should I be?"
Be excited about your product or pitch but remember to speak in layman's terms. Rouda shares, "If you tell me how your message queues better leverage vector processing in multi-core flugglehonkers' I'm already asleep. That may be your special differentiation, but I don't know why it matters. The world seems to be getting along with the flugglehonkers we already have. Tell me why I should care in words I can understand."
7. No response? It's okay to follow up in a non-obnoxious manner.
Following up is perfectly acceptable but don't be weird or stalkery. Keep it respectful and remember that the person on the other end of your outreach has a life outside of work too. Reach out again after an appropriate interval of time with something else of value, versus reforwarding your original message which does diddly-squat most of the time.
Rouda adds, "If you just send me a note asking why I didn't answer your spam email from this morning, you're just being annoying. If you say, 'Hey, I have another idea that might be cool to explore,' then you're on the right track."
8. Be a human.
Whether it's a time suck or not, a little chitchat or real-life face time can really make an impression. Not only is it the "human" thing to do, but isn't work more fun when you're friendly with the people you spend your nine-to-five time with?
Rouda comments, "Take a few minutes for small talk. Even superficial stuff like where you live establishes some shared context and empathetic thoughts."
Jorge adds, "There's only so much you can do over email or via social media. I'm best able to influence an influencer when I'm with them in person. It goes back to relationship building. Human connectivity is very important."
9. Have a clear call to action.
Lastly, make it easy for the influencer you're communicating with to take next steps. Are you trying to get their assistant to set up a half-hour meeting for next week? Are you looking for an email intro to their company's CEO? Get granular, and bold your "ask" at the beginning or end of your email, (wherever is most appropriate). Rouda adds, "Include what's in it for me, what's in it for you, how we'll ideally engage, and what you hope I'll do next."
10. Remember, it's all about respect. If it's still not sinking in, the bottom line in all outreach is respect. When you check out at the grocery store and your cashier starts ringing you up without a measly hello, are you likely to help them bag? Probably not. Like our parents have always said, you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Be sweet, relevant, and clear, and watch them fly right in (or at least stop to smell).