Outreach is a hot digital marketing tactic (and don’t we know it). As specialist outreachers, we literally spend days having conversations about content with people all over the world. The one thing that stands out from these interactions? The importance of a real value exchange.
Let’s face it: your outreach is never going to work if you haven’t figured out your outreach value proposition. You’ll send a few emails, piss a few people off, and go back to not really building links at all.
Actually, you shouldn’t really be doing outreach at all without a good value proposition… Here’s why it matters, what a good one looks like, and how to find yours.
Defining an outreach value proposition
An outreach value proposition is the way you add value to other sites, webmasters, and bloggers. Sounds simple enough, right?
The thing about a good outreach value proposition is that there is no one-size-fits-all way of finding out yours. Your value proposition is largely dependant on who you are speaking to and what their needs are.
- Are you pitching to journalists? They want credible sources and data.
- Pitching to a digital publication? Editors want hard-hitting content that packs a punch — preferably something with a story.
- Some websites will want tutorials, others might be looking for graphics they can quickly embed and share.
- Professional bloggers or influencers will want to partner with brands they believe in.
The main lesson to take away here is: it’s not about you, but about what’s in for them. The whole point of a value proposition is that you’re adding VALUE in some way — and that’s a two-way street.
And your value proposition is not just the tangible offer you put in your pitch email, or a “we do X” statement; it’s everything that you do: from who you contact, to how you contact them. You have a duty of care to ensure that your value proposition is aligned with the people you are speaking to.
Value propositions for your outreach strategy
So, what is a value proposition then? Here are some examples:
- Content (truly awesome content, not just some generic blog)
- Studies (statistics are great as they have a perennial appeal thanks to stats hunters. Credit to Stacey McNaught for sharing this tip)
- Money (yes, advertorial outreach)
- Community recognition
- Exclusive data
- Free trials
- Social proof
- Freebies (products, tickets etc)
- Training or consultancy
- Links (sourcing expert quotes and suggestions in exchange for a credit works really well)
- Co-marketing opportunities
- [Insert value proposition here].
As you can see, there are LOADS of unique ways to sweeten the outreach deal. My advice? Be creative with it and pick a couple.
Awesome content probably needs breaking down a bit, as it’s a concept that gets bandied about a lot….
Awesome content for outreach/linkable assets
Awesome content may not be what you think it is. Or at least, not in the context of outreach.
The content that does really well online and gets the most links and shares is surprising. Often, it’s not the project the copywriters loved the most (read: boring, unremarkable, not that fancy or creative…)
Types of content that generally do well:
- Data-driven pieces
- Maps (super shareable and cheap to implement)
- Interactive content
- Mega-long and in-depth roundups (not the fluff kind)
- Controversial takes on common subjects.
For example, this seemingly unrevolutionary 1995 study from The University Of Florida has recently been doing the rounds a part of a “lavender lemonade for anxiety recipe”. These blogs are getting an insane amount of shares (and some are getting links too):
A great example of how a simple study being brought back into the public eye can spark a lot of interest in a specific idea or piece of content. There are literally dozens of these lavender lemonade posts doing the rounds right now, as well as recipe videos, pins…
Tapping into the online zeitgeist with something like that does not take a lot of time, money, or effort. You just have to know how to listen and react to online conversations, and bring a concept to the forefront that serves a captive audience.
One of my all-time favourite examples of linkable assets is a microsite that comes from a Canadian ecommerce agency, Absolunet. The concept is brilliantly simple: a roundup post of 10 of the biggest ecommerce trends that year. It’s a simple concept (and a pretty generic topic too), but the execution of it is just perfect.
This microsite is a testament to the power of taking something that’s already pretty common, and doing it really really well. Here, it is all about stellar execution. Just look at some of these megalinks this page gets:
And because Absolunet keeps adding content onto the same domain every year (just refreshing the design) the domain is getting more and more links and becoming more and more powerful.
Is your brand outreach-friendly?
Before you get all defensive, this is a question you have to ask. As an outreach agency, we have to turn work away when we feel that the brand, domain, content, landing page, concept, or value proposition are not a good fit.
Outreach is hard enough as it is, and it’s a tactic that does not necessarily work for all brands and websites. Some brands simply have not got the right attitude or setup for successful outreach.
Evaluate whether you fit any of the criteria below:
- You’re the best in your niche
- You’re one of the biggest player in your niche
- You’re not the best or the biggest, but you have a killer feature no one else has
- You have a great story/your brand has an embedded PR hook
- Your team is made up of industry influencers
- You have curated a noteworthy community
- Your content is the best
- You’re a rising star
- You’re in an outreach-friendly niche.
Be honest with yourself about whether you hit any of these criteria, because it will be essential to figuring out the outreach angle for your campaign. Without specific angles or hooks, outreach campaigns tend to fall flat on their face.
And if you are just trying to build backlinks to a sales page that adds no value and have nothing to offer in exchange, forget it.
Finding a value proposition
A good value proposition for outreach does not have to be hard or over-engineered. A.K.A you don’t need to spend top dollar and get an expensive branding agency involved. There is nothing holding you back from doing this DIY style.
Free data, cheap graphics, a well-written guest post — none of these things are rocket science, and all of them can work well for outreach.
One of the main things to consider when signing off your value proposition is alignment: does this concept align with my brand? Have I got the credibility and kudos to pull this off?Again, it comes down to execution. A great concept can be ruined at the point of delivery.
Sometimes, you can get away with this and the power of the value proposition will override any scruples about your brand. But only sometimes.
Campaign-specific value propositions
Outreach is a constant, but you should be mixing things up and running a variety of campaigns at once. Each of these outreach campaigns is likely to have its own value proposition. Mix it up and see what brings you the best results. You might want to mix in some influencer outreach into your latest PR campaign. The key is not to be static.
On an even more granular level, each conversation you have might throw up its own micro value proposition too. Be constantly on the move and remain agile throughout the outreach process as conversations and campaigns develop. Here, the need for agility and reactivity will be highlighted, as a too rigid process will result in poor campaign results.
Outreach value proposition email examples
Now sharing these would be a bit counterproductive — the whole point of finding your own outreach value proposition is to find something unique to you. Anyone who is doing outreach with a CTRL + C mentality should think very carefully about what they are doing.
One thing not to do — fake personalisation. Buzzstream’s Paul May shared some interesting stats on this during his talk at outREACH 2017: basically, fake personalisation is so off-putting that you are better off not doing it at all. So just be real.
- Start with “you”, but don’t be fake. Focus on what is in it for them
- Have a reason — why now? Think seasonal, timely, relevant
- Be upfrontSell it in quick and do not waffle
Jazzy subject lines or subject lines that immediately add value are important.
Emails are not the only way to go! Think about how you can use other formats and methods of getting people interested in your content like social media polls and competitions.
Turn outreach on its head and become an inbound resource for content, commentary, and ideas. Approach things like a publisher, not just a marketer.
Now, over to you. Go find that awesome outreach value proposition and rock it.