I had the pleasure of visiting BrightonSEO for the first time this April, and I cannot quite explain how empowering the conference was — although my colleague Kayleigh shared her thoughts on the matter.
To say I attended talks covering a range of topics would be an understatement. As Digital Campaign Manager at Seeker, I regularly have my fingers in lots of pies, and so it’s important for me to stay on top of as many industry trends as possible. As a result, I found myself listening to experts chat about Facebook, mobile first, influencer marketing, and strategy throughout the day.
While there wasn’t one talk discussing how to construct a successful outreach strategy, three experts, Georgina Park, Hannah Butcher, and Corinne Card, touched upon the foundations of building and executing one.
Combined with my own experience and the expertise of these three speakers, I will show you how you can craft and deliver a killer outreach campaign too.
Setting the scene
When you conduct outreach, you must have a solid plan of action in place if you want success.
Searching for a few keywords, targeting a couple of landing pages, and hitting send on your auto emails to bloggers (while muttering a desperate prayer under your breath) is a guaranteed way to put a dent in your ROI.
There’s a science behind a successful outreach campaign, and you should review and maintain a tight plan every month, not just when you onboard a client.
Park’s session at BrightonSEO on planning a marketing strategy from scratch was inspiring, and she reiterated the fundamentals of planning any campaign. Here’s how you can use her main talking points (which covered the SOSTAC marketing model) and translate them into a killer outreach strategy of your own.
Get a feel for the current situation
Start by analysing your client’s current situation. Assess and record a baseline of key metrics so you can identify what the campaign objectives should be and track the success of the campaign.
The metrics you choose to record will differ from client to client. However, for us outreachers, common metrics include:
- Backlink profile
- Conversion rate
- Social engagement
- Brand awareness/press coverage
Also, analyse the brand as a whole by adopting the SWOT marketing methodology — this covers strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Consider, for example, what are the brand’s USPs, what should the brand (or your outreach team) avoid referencing, what trends can you jump on for this brand, and what are the competitors doing?
On that note, you should also conduct a thorough competitor scrape, cross-referencing the metrics you will measure with the client’s main competitors. This will give you a thorough understanding of where the brand resides in the industry, and what you must do to help them move or stay ahead of the curve.
To make sure you’ve covered all bases, you may also like to conduct a PESTLE analysis to gain a wider overview of opportunities and threats to the client.
Credit: 4P Business Development
Define your objectives
Once you have assessed the situation, it’s time to identify your outreach campaign’s objectives. Some clients may hand you very specific goals, and others might give you general aims and desires. It’s down to you and your outreach team to iron out these aims to keep your client’s expectations in check — otherwise, you may be in for a difficult conversation at the end of the campaign when they are unfulfilled.
For success, make each objective SMART:
- Specific: Is the goal clear, precise, and unambiguous?
- Measurable: Does the objective say what success looks like? Can you measure whether this goal has been met qualitatively or quantitatively?
- Achievable: Is the objective possible based on the timeframe, resource, and support available?
- Relevant: Is this goal relevant to what the client wants to achieve?
- Time-based: Have you set a realistic deadline that’s relevant to the campaign?
Breaking down your objectives by timeframe is extremely important when it comes to outreach. If you’re link building, for example, it can take up to 10 weeks to witness one rank jump. So if you’re targeting a handful of keywords one month, you may not see the true success of that month’s campaign until two months later.
Therefore, define your main, overarching goals for the client that span a six or 12-month period. For example, rather than setting get more backlinks to improve rankings as a goal, make it SMART. Increase the backlink profile from 10k to 12k at the end of the six month period, or move XXX keywords from page two to page one by the end of the six month period are much better options.
Once you have your umbrella objectives, set out your monthly objectives for each mini campaign. Now you’re ready to start planning your strategy to obtain each goal.
Form your “big picture” strategy
As the strategy for achieving your client’s goals is the largest part of planning an outreach campaign, Park explains that it’s best to split it into two sections: the big picture of the strategy and the tactics.
When composing your big picture, gather your situational analysis to work out how you will meet your objectives. Park suggests that you should use the marketing principle STP here. This covers three key areas, including:
- Segmentation: Break your market down by age, location, etc. and identify their pain points.
- Targeting: Of the segments you’ve identified, how will you target them? Are there gaps in the market you can exploit?
- Positioning: How will you communicate your message to the segments to achieve your objectives?
The STP marketing approach is audience-focused, which is key when it comes to outreach. After all, if you’re link building, you’re essentially asking sites to do you a solid by writing about and linking to your client. But if you can make your pitch using STP, your product will seem much more attractive.
While STP relates directly to marketing campaigns, we can use the analysis to influence our outreach strategy by pairing them with great talking points from two other BrightonSEO speakers:
Start by identifying who you need to talk with to achieve your objectives — your client and their product won’t be relevant to everyone. Think about the niches that will work for your client. For example, if they’re a sports brand, you could target sports, health, lifestyle, and potentially the tech niches.
Then build a picture of your segments demographically, focusing on personal attributes such as age and gender. Also, consider geography and prospect sites and brands’ missions and values.
You might also like to segment based on authority metrics like DA, TF, DR, organic traffic, and keywords.
Then you need to think about how you will target the people you want to outreach to. Not in terms of how you’ll make contact (although, more on that later), but in terms of what segments are the best to target.
Evaluate the profitability of each segment and consider which one will bring the most value to your objectives. Also, think about the size and potential growth of each segment.
For example, in Butcher’s talk on “How to win friends and influence… influencers”, she explains that bloggers swap brand details. Therefore, if you were to target one small sample of this community, it’s likely you’ll experience a wave of referrals off the back of your successful outreach.
The referrals are clearly extremely valuable as they will save you time sending out your next batch of outreach. You may want to prioritise targeting this segment as it could bring you more ROI.
When evaluating your target markets, also carefully evaluate how you can service each of these segments so that your outreach converts.
It’s obvious that most, if not all, of your target markets wish to be serviced via a payment. But think about how you can go one step further to cement a conversion. For example, full-time bloggers value timely payments, samples, and repeat work, whereas news outlets value relevant, exclusive content.
Then think about how you will angle your proposition, so that it speaks louder than the noise of competitors and other outreachers. You might like to consider your method of outreach or your pitch, for example.
Card suggested in her talk “Digital PR on a budget: how to get some awesome press links for SMEs” that one of the essential ways to secure a link with journalists is by writing the news for them and delivering that well-written press release in the correct way.
She explains that everyone writing a release should use the inverted pyramid to structure it. She also suggests that PR outreachers should avoid aggravating journalists if they want to secure coverage. Top outreach mistakes include sending the release as a PDF, including too much marketing speak, sending the story too far down the email, and writing a release that has a tenuous connection with the news. Do any of these, and your release will end up in a black hole.
Other “big picture” strategy points to consider
The STP marketing model can be flipped to analyse your target outreach market. However, when building an outreach strategy, there are other questions to ask and topics to consider to work out how you will meet your objectives, such as:
- How will you get your client where they want to be? g. on page one for X keyword.
- How will you deliver those results from your objectives? g. looking at keyword rankings, traffic, and revenue.
- What is your overall intention? g. to increase the client’s organic traffic.
- How does your action plan look against the client’s competitors? g. competitors have coverage in X publications, so we need to target those.
Identify your tactics
Once you have your strategy mapped out, it’s time to get to the nitty-gritty: how exactly will you get there.
Park explains that in every marketing plan, this section would normally follow the 7 Ps of marketing: price, product, place, promotion, people, processes, and physical evidence.
Credit: Smart Insights
Once again, not every P is relevant to an outreach campaign, but we can use them to influence our tactics.
Your client’s product
Ultimately, your client is the product you are selling, but they may have a product of their own that they want to push, especially if they are involved in the digital sphere. Spend some time getting to know exactly what you are selling to your target market, whether that be your client on the whole, the client’s product, a feature, a press release, or a link.
Price and budget
For us outreachers, there is a whole range of pricing aspects to consider, from what your budget is and how far it should stretch, to what a link, article, or social shout out it worth and product and sample fees. Weigh up every aspect of your pricing strategy for the overall campaign, and month-by-month if you need, keeping your objectives and your segments in mind.
Butcher suggests that where money is involved with bloggers and influencers, always make a contract. Cover the payment, deliverables, and deadlines to ensure you manage expectations and can run the campaign smoothly.
In a standard marketing campaign, Park explains that the promotion covers the tools that should be used to promote a product or service, such as PR, sales advertising, and social media.
But when planning an outreach strategy, you need to look at the promotion concept in a different way as we already know that our task as outreachers is to promote the product via PR, SEO, social media, or a mixture of all three.
Instead, treat the promotional part of the tactics as how you will communicate with your segments. For most of us, email is the tool of choice, especially for a large scale campaign. However, social media is a common way to chat to influencers, especially over Twitter. Use the right tool to communicate the right message.
Butcher warns that while outreachers from PR, SEO, and social media agencies tend to adopt a mass email approach because of the large volume of outreach required per campaign, it’s the most risky. That’s because maintaining it can be difficult, especially when reaching out to hundreds of prospects at a time. As a result, many emails are left unanswered which could damage the client or agency’s reputation.
I’m going to introduce my own P to the mix: the pitch. If you want to reach out to sites you have no existing relationship with, a cold-call email is a great option. However, like there’s a science to outreach, there’s a science behind a cracking cold-contact email.
Research suggests that guest blogger or sponsored post outreach emails might expect a reply rate in the 5–15% range. It’s not bad, but it’s not great — especially if you’ve spent two hours crafting two killer templates.
But Butcher suggests that learning how to introduce yourself is the difference between influencers responding to your message and sending it to trash with the rest of the poorly personalised boilerplate emails.
“I’m contacting you on behalf of a fashion brand” won’t fly with your prospects. There are many types of outreach services, such as PR, SEO, and social media, so tell the blogger exactly what you do so they can identify your aims from the get-go. This is guaranteed to reduce your email traffic and still get the responses you need.
I’m throwing in another of my own Ps into the mix to cover the remaining particular details. As an outreacher from a PR, SEO, or social media agency, you will have a fair idea of what you need to do to achieve your SMART objectives. This could cover targeting certain pages or keywords, or pulling together some press releases for up and coming events.
Iron out the remaining details you need to launch your campaign, like a link building strategy or a content plan, for example. Keep your situational analysis and objectives in mind at all times.
The appropriate people
The last P of the marketing mix that is most pertinent to your outreach strategy is people. Work out who will be responsible for each element of the campaign to make your tactics happen. Consider any skills gaps, who is the most qualified, and sign-off authorities.
Get this plan into action
Once you’ve got your tactics in place, draw up a schedule to implement them. Review responsibilities and structures, processes and systems, and internal resources and skills.
Park suggests that having a Gantt chart that clearly displays the steps your outreach team will take is extremely beneficial. Top-level, it should detail the process, timescale, task delegation, and budget. But ultimately, it will guide your outreach team through the campaign from start to finish.
Measure your success
The final stage of planning your outreach campaign is your control or measuring the success of your campaign. The metrics should be pertinent to you and your client and should relate directly to client’s KPIs and SMART objectives.
Consider the tools and reporting platforms you need to report, who is responsible for documentation, the frequency of reporting, the review of measurements, and any actions on variance.
Whether you’re from an SEO, PR, or social media agency, you should have a fairly good idea of how to construct a successful outreach strategy. If in doubt, follow Park’s advice and SOSTAC your campaign so you can deliver, and keep your prospects in mind at all times to avoid that PR disaster.
Got a question about outreach, SEO, or digital marketing strategies? Ask Laura in the comments below.