In 2013 the barriers of entry to media and business are arguably lower than at any other point in modern history. The ease with which one can establish a platform with a potential audience of millions is astounding. But despite the opportunities available to each and every one of us, those same low barriers to entry make it remarkably difficult to make yourself heard above all the noise. To put it another way, speaking is easy, whether or not you are heard is another matter altogether.
In this post you'll learn how to get heard (or more fittingly, how you can get read). I am talking about the humble email, which is often overshadowed by social media and SEO, but still the most important tool we have for connecting with people online. There are still more people using email than all of the social networks combined, and to gain access to someone's inbox will do you far more good than being just another transient voice in their feed.
Make no mistake, if you want to make the most of your next launch (whether it's a blog, service, or product launch), email is the tool that will make the biggest difference.
In this post I outline a strategy for email outreach that may be quite unlike any other you've read. It's centered around building real relationships with real people, reaching out to bloggers that align with your goals, then leveraging your hard-earned goodwill to craft a highly successful launch.
1. Subscribe to All of the Blogs That Cover Your Niche
To start off, you will want to subscribe to every blog you can find that covers your niche.
That certainly sounds bold, and perhaps even intimidating, but it's not too scary once you put it into perspective. For starters, don't be afraid to narrow your sights — subscribing to every blog in the niche of “business,” for example, is far too general.
You want to be more targeted and specific, to be sure that the blogs are relevant to your project. If you subscribe to a bunch of big-name blogs that have little direct relevance to your subject matter, your efforts are unlikely to pan out.
For example, if you decide that your niche is “business,” you should narrow it down. You might look at your planned blog content and decide that your niche is actually “business coaching." Even such a simple observation can winnow out dozens or hundreds of blogs.
Try to be specific enough that the blogs you follow will have direct relevance to what you're building. Possibly, what you're focused on is as narrow as “marketing for business coaches.” Let's outline this:
- Start with a general subjects; for example: blogs that focus on business. These are the large, important blogs in your field.
- Narrow down to your specific niche; for example, blogs that focus on business coaching. These are your competitors.
- Narrow even further, down to a very specific niche; for example, blogs that focus on marketing for business coaches. These are your direct competitors.
By the time you have narrowed down to a very specific focus you may only have a few blogs that are competing directly with you. Blogs that are in your niche have great promise, especially those that have a different specific focus than you.
Also, you want to balance your research. Consider blogs that have a direct bearing on what you do, as well as blogs in related or complementary niches. You want relevance, but if people perceive you as a direct competitor then they may be wary of promoting your launch. Balance these two approaches when choosing which blogs to follow.
If you're wondering how on earth you'll find these blogs, it's as simple as searching on Google. Simply searching for "[your niche] blog" will turn up a number of results. You can also use Google's Blog Search Tool to focus search results to blogs. Beyond that, you can search Google more specifically for "top [your niche] blogs" to find lists and also check out blog directories such as Technorati.
Ultimately, you'll end up with a healthy selection of blogs that you can subscribe to.
2. Build a Shortlist of Blogs That Resonate with You
Once you have subscribed to a number of good blogs in your niche, the next obvious step is of course to read and get familiar with them. Besides providing you with valuable information about your own niche, reading these blogs gives you a chance to see what they're all about in far greater depth than an About Page blurb ever can.
Your ultimate goal is to pick a shortlist of blogs written by people in your niche that resonate with you. These are run by bloggers that you'll begin to develop real relationships with.
Do not underestimate the value of genuine relationships.
You should be checking to see if the blog's content lines up with the type of readers (or customers) you will be hoping to attract. There's little use in putting in the effort to convince a blogger to promote your launch if his or her readers wouldn't even care about it.
The more important (and more difficult) aspect of this is to evaluate the person on the other side of the screen. Is the blogger on this site someone you could see yourself getting along with? Do they have personality traits that you find irksome or do you think you'd see eye to eye?
If you try to become friends with someone you can't stand (or are even merely indifferent to), it probably won't ever amount to much. You want to be genuine, not fake. That's the core of this approach. Do not underestimate the value of genuine relationships.
3. Get Involved
It's not a great idea to dive into an attempt at friendship right out of the blue. Instead, you should first dip your toes in the water by getting involved in the blogs of your choice.
Keep your shortlist handy and be sure to stay involved with the communities built around those sites. At this point you should have already subscribed to email newsletters. You can also branch out to become more connected with particular blogs: like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. You should share content that you find especially insightful or interesting on your social networks.
A way of staying involved that I highly recommend is commenting. You can always leave comments on blog posts. Let the blogger know what you appreciated about an article, what similar experiences you have had, or other relevant information that you would like to share. Most of them will appreciate it (I still love getting comments on my blogs, especially when they're particular thoughtful).
It's important to keep in mind that you don't want to blend in with the crowd. You should avoid cookie-cutter comments of the “great post, thanks” variety. Such sentiments are fine, but you should couple them with more "meat." Write substantial comments that add real value to the conversation.
Your end goal is to become known by each blogger as an engaged, helpful, positive fan.
4. Email the Blogger (When You Have Something Relevant to Say)
One-on-one communication is vital to building an online relationship. The web is not a bricks-and-mortar networking event, but it does share a key similarity: to get noticed, you need to seize the initiative. That means emailing the bloggers that you follow.
Focus first and foremost on what you can do for them.
Forget about trying to get something from the person; instead, focus on trying to build a real online friendship. Nobody wants to deal with needy strangers who ask for extensive favors, so don't be one of those beggars.
Focus first and foremost on what you can do for them. This is a blogger you genuinely like and respect, one you want to build a long term relationship with, offering them assistance is a great way to approach them and show that you have real value to share.
Maybe you'll find an area where you can offer your expertise. Maybe you'll simply come up with a friendly suggestion regarding their content. Whatever it is, you should convey that you're willing to give them a little bit of help if they want it. You should aim to get to a stage where the person would be happy to do you a favor on the basis that you're friends.
I do have one caveat: don't overdo it. There is such a thing as being too assertive and too eager. You don't want to fall into that trap, so don't try to force relationships with people who aren't interested. Just move on.
5. Rinse and Repeat
You should focus on building a sizable network of bloggers whom you know and who know you. This may take a few weeks.
Remember that the ultimate goal of the approach I'm laying out is to email bloggers and ask them to put in a kind word about your launch. It is natural and acceptable that some people will say no, not out of spite or animosity, but because they simply don't feel comfortable doing so.
On the other hand, a lot of people will be more than happy to help out someone who has demonstrated a sustained interest in their blog, which is why this strategy is worthwhile to pursue. The key, then, is to make sure you have a decent-sized group of bloggers that you follow and engage with on a regular basis — only then will your email outreach lead to enough promotion to make an impact.
Thus you should take the steps above and make sure that you are doing them as effectively as possible — then rinse and repeat. Find and establish ties with a number of cool bloggers in your niche.
This process will probably take at least four to six weeks. The longer you keep up with this, the more successful you'll be. This is a great way to build up to your launch.
6. Send Your Launch Promotion Email
When you are indeed ready to launch your blog, product, or service, it will be time to send the email. This email is the pinnacle of this outreach strategy, so it's important to get it right.
By the time you contact your network of bloggers, you will have organically developed relationships with them. Most will probably be more than happy to lend you a helping hand. Your email should casually remind them of your engagement with their blog, but you shouldn't need to hammer the point home if you've been commenting and emailing them every now and again to offer help.
Your email could read something like this:
In the time since I've found it, I've come to really love your blog. I always find your posts engaging and compelling.
Inspired by you and others, I've decided to launch [insert your project's name], my own [blog/product/service]. I'd love for you to check it out.
I hope you like it. If you do, I would greatly appreciate if you would [insert action here].
Looking forward to hearing back from you!
There's two key things you want to do here:
- Make it personal. Call the person by name, and if possible, include some personal commentary that is relevant to them.
- Provide them with a clear action. Do not be ambiguous. If you want them to do something, ask them plainly. Make it easy for them to make a decision.
As you can see, it's fairly generic. The key strength is that it is short and to the point. You don't want to be wasting anyone's time. Say what you need to say in as few words as possible.
Don't be afraid to ask for a bold request. If you think you have a particularly good rapport with a blogger, chances are good they will help you out. For example, getting them to mention your launch to their email list will have a far greater impact than if they just tweet a link out.
You should customize the template above to your individual situation. This should simply serve as a guideline. Create a message that is concise and direct, but that feels right for you.
The Power of Genuine Relationships
Reaching out to established bloggers in your niche is a fantastic way to leverage your launch and pull-in big traffic numbers. Of course, it's your job to do good work and keep that traffic coming in after the launch.
This strategy is very organic. You should only reach out to people who you think you would like to approach in real life, and only reach out to those people when you actually think you have something valuable to say. Don't try to force a relationship.
This approach rids you of the dishonesty found all too often on the Internet. At the end of the day, if you're genuine about building blog friendships and passionate about your launch, things will work out far better than if you reach out to all and sundry.