Outreach: Best Practices and Worst Pitfalls

Guest author, Blake Davis, shares his tips for drafting an effective outreach email that will yield results and take your campaign to the top.

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Sending cold outreach emails is an integral part of every marketer’s work. In 2016, the total number of emails sent worldwide per user on a daily basis was 215.3, and an average number of spam emails received was 14 (only taking into account those which did not pass security filters). If you were to ask an average email user, this number should be much higher.


But how can a cold email seem less spammy and yield actual results? How can you prevent your outreach from being marked ‘spam’ for all future references? Whether you want to inform someone of a piece of content you’ve published, ask for a backlink, or simply wish to make a connection, your message should be skilfully crafted. The following article lists the pillars of an effective outreach campaign that are bound to increase the open rate, ultimately helping you build your way to the industry top.

Careful with the subject line

It takes only 7 seconds to make the first impression; with outreach, it all comes down to less than one, as around 33% of email recipients decide whether to open an email or not based on the subject line alone.

Keep it short and to the point, but not too revealing, in order to spark an interest in a reader’s mind. A little bit of stalking never killed nobody, as subject lines that indicate there will be talk about the recipient’s previous blog post or content suggestion can be highly effective. These show you are not just a regular spammer and the recipient is bound to be a bit curious to hear what you have to say about their work.

Keep it simple

People you are looking to connect with probably receive dozens of emails on a daily basis, and don’t have the time to bang their heads on the wall trying to figure out what you really want from them. Be direct, state who you are and say exactly what you want, that is, what you expect them to do for you. Being open about your intentions builds more trust than a vague, even slightly sketchy outreach.


Be relevant

When drafting a cold email, think what relevant piece of information can you offer to a blogger or a business you are pitching to. For instance, you can mention an article they previously published, recent social media share or a comment, or a project you know they are currently working on, thus showing an interest in their work.

Restrain from over-flattering

Although everybody wants to hear a few words of praise about the work they’ve been doing, template flattery never works in the case of cold emails. Focus on saying something meaningful, for example, giving context and the reasons that you appreciate their work, as this way, you prove to be a real follower.

How can they benefit?

When looking to get featured in front of someone’s audience, you have to provide them with a piece that is of value to them. So what type of content would be of value to an industry expert?

1. New and unique

If you make the effort to compose something one-of-a-kind and innovative, influencers will surely appreciate it. These are people with a large number of followers, and they are on a constant lookout for an informative piece of content to cater to their fans. Ensure you do thorough research on the topic and be realistic about the novelty of what you have to offer. Once you determine which part is unique, be sure to emphasize it in the outreach to grab their attention.

2. A mention

Whenever there is an opportunity to quote an industry influencer, make sure you inform them of the mention in your article. This is an excellent tactic for beginner writers and marketers; quote someone’s article, provide feedback on the things they taught you, or a positive experience you had with their work or company, in such way to make them look good. Even if you’re just a newbie, they will appreciate the hard work.


Timing can be rather difficult to scale, and cold emails cannot be forced whenever you want them. Certain opportunities present themselves at the ideal moment, and you can increase your chances of success if you capitalise on them. Is the recipient currently working on a case study? Are they looking to launch a new tool? Try tying your pitch into that, and chances are they will take it far more seriously.

Be creative

In order to stand out from dozens and hundreds of emails marketers send on a daily basis, creativity is of utmost priority. Think: are there any channels your competitors have overlooked?

For example, you could subscribe to a blog’s or company’s newsletter, and respond to the first one you receive. This way you show interest in their work and, rather than feeling like just another cold outreach, the pitch will seem more like a conversation. And you know what? This really works. A colleague of mine recently used this tactic; he replied to one of Buzzsumo’s weekly newsletters, and surprisingly enough they responded.

Show you are credible

Whenever you are looking for a guest post, affiliate relationship or a product review opportunity, credibility is a priority. Look at it this way: when you ask someone to expose their audience to your brand, they will want you to provide social proof. Reference guest posts you’ve already published on reputable blogs and brands you’ve collaborated with. Still, make sure to send your top quality work, and not just another average article, as it just won’t cut it.

But how to determine whether a particular content is of high quality? Look at the number of social media shares and comments, a number of backlinks, quotes, or upvotes. Reality is, not everything you publish will turn out to be a masterpiece, so choose carefully which ones you want to ‘brag about’.

Focus on personalisation

The only way to persuade someone you are not just another bot and they are not just one out of 50 recipients you are sending the same email to, it is of essence to make the email a bit more personal. With this in mind, before drafting an outreach email, ensure you familiarise yourself with the recipient – from their name, age, location, and work title, to their special interests. This shows you are highly motivated to get in touch with them, with a desire to build a strong relationship.

The don’ts of email outreach

Never mistake outreach for broadcasting, which means sending emails immediately after publishing a new blog post to a multitude of people in your industry is far from welcome. Sending generic outreach to industry experts and influencers is plain disrespectful.


Be careful who you outreach to

Getting an industry leader to mention you in an article, or even publish your post on their blog will certainly bring a lot of traffic your way. Nevertheless, chances of this actually happening are pretty slim. Instead of putting all your efforts into emailing someone who is probably going to ignore you, go after bloggers who are either at the same level as you, or one step higher on the ladder.

Don’t offer what they have already seen

A number of people chose to pitch someone with an idea they saw a person has already tweeted, wrote about, or linked to. Sending a ‘similar article’ is a somewhat poor excuse, since no one really wants to re-read yesterday’s news. Instead, use these references to pitch something that would provide a different point of view on the topic, a more extended version, or something that would prove to be a better resource on a subject.

Conclude with a follow-up

But only one.

More often than you would expect, people don’t respond to an email simply because they forgot, not because they are not interested in collaboration. Make it short, don’t restate what you already sent; just focus on reminding them of your previous email. Conclude with a question, like have you considered my proposal, was it something you would be interested with, and similar. This question will make them scroll to your previous outreach and re-read it (once again, or for the first time). Leaving something open-ended, concluded with a question, always makes the reader crave for more information.

Doesn’t it?

About the author
Blake is a content marketing expert and a copywriter @ Media Gurus. He is currently working as a consultant at Agseosydney. His interests, besides marketing, include gaming, reading, and an occasional game of football.

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