A Finishing Touch to Effective Outreach

So you’ve spent a significant amount of time and/or money creating something that both you and your company are proud of. You have ready the name and email address for the person you want to reach out to. One carefully crafted email later, you now with a hint of anticipation and excitement hit send…and then.

Nothing.

No reply.

You leave it for a few days, a week even, but it’s clear little is going to come from the email you sent. So what are you going to do? Send another email? Move on?

That creative idea/piece of content/sales proposal, etc. that you painstakingly put together has now amounted to nothing more than you checking your inbox every 5 minutes.

I am sure you go through this painful cycle of events if not on a daily, then likely a weekly basis. But it does not have to be this way. Yes another email to follow up may nudge the person you are contacting into replying, but what if it doesn’t? Well there are a few things we can do to dramatically increase the chances of getting into a conversation with our contact.

Your Emails Are Being Ignored

There is one thing I want to mention before I press on. Track your emails. When I first started doing outreach I became increasingly frustrated with a lack of response from people I was contacting. How do I even know they are receiving my email? Did they even click through to the resources I included? Email tracking will answer both of these questions for you and more.

I personally use bananatag, it is not 100% accurate but it does give me a good indication on how things are going with the emails I send. Please do not feel you must also use this, there are many similar services out there and this is simply one I chose and have stuck with it out of convenience.

The results from tracking my emails shocked me. Looking at 8 weeks results I found that at times nearly half of my emails were not even opened! With this discovery, I decided to change the way I did things.

Getting In Touch

The goal is always to get an initial conversation going, in sales every time you contact a prospect this can be regarded as a ping or a ‘touch’. With this in mind there are three things that can significantly increase your likelihood of getting the conversation started, and if all three are followed then you will have a powerful system for completing this goal.

  1. Make at least 6 touches
  2. Use a variety of methods
  3. Apply within a 14 day timeframe

Although this setup is for sales this can and does marry well with any outreach you do as well.

The challenge we face is that we are all being bombarded daily by emails, phone calls, advertising, etc. and when contacting a journalist, editor or prospect it is the same for them (perhaps even more so). Therefore our job is to shout above the noise around them and be noticed.

A problem that arises is the more important the person you are trying to contact, the less they are available. These decision makers and influencers have learnt to set up their own systems that deflect unwanted approaches to protect their limited time, persistence with a variety of methods will bring success.

The idea of contacting and following up with someone at least 6 times may make you feel slightly uncomfortable. Initially, you may feel that this will annoy them but I can assure most of your messages are quickly forgotten with these busy individuals so persist.

Different Methods of Contact


In an analysis of over 15 million sales leads, Leads360 now Velocify found that you have a 39% chance of contacting a lead on the first call attempt which rises to 72% on the second attempt. Simply by making two calls instead of one increased the chances of contacting a lead by 87%. By the 6th attempt, you will now have a 93% chance of contacting your lead.

Pick Up the Phone

For many, receiving an email is a brief unwanted distraction. It is easy to receive an email, read it and not take any action on it as your already too busy doing something else. It’s even easier to just ignore it. By the end of the day that one email is now one of many, and no doubt lost in your inbox.

In contrast, when the phone rings in an office it is for the most part very difficult to ignore, and even more difficult to leave ringing. There is an urgency to answer a phone call that is missed when receiving an email. For this reason I have found that calling people gets great “open rates”. If you have the direct number for the person you wish to call then you will have, assuming they answer, instant contact and feedback from that person. Better yet, if you call and there is no answer, you can decide not to leave a message theoretically giving you a fresh first chance when you do decide to call again.

I personally have had great success in picking up the phone and calling people whether it is gaining research, content placements or simply to follow up with things. In my opinion a phone call can help you get what you want both quicker and easier than an email and works incredibly well when combined. I like using one of the two approaches below when initiating contact with someone new.

Two approaches for initiating contact

Note that if you initiate contact with an email, I am not suggesting you have to follow up with a phone call. This is just a great way to build the relationship.

You will notice there is no mention of cold calling only a warm call. Cold calling has a very negative connotation that suggests you’ll receive a cold response to everyone you call. I have never what I would call a bad response. Many positive and many neutral but the truth is we are not selling double-glazing but producing great work that we are proud of, and we know is of high value to those we are calling. We would not be calling unless we were sure this would be a great fit for them and this is why I do not believe in cold calling with the work I do – they should want what I have to offer.

When you visit our work on the Builtvisible site you will see the Classic Car Faults interactive which was an exercise in “really targeted outreach” to authoritative contributors. I carried out the majority of the really targeted outreach for this project and all of my outreach was initiated by phone and followed up by email.

Another example of using multiple ‘touches’ can be found in the telegraph course finder (also found in our work) which was featured in Cosmopolitan. Email was the only form of contact until things went somewhat quiet and then we had to carefully pick our next step. Email seemed to of lost its effectiveness so I called our contact. This got the momentum back with things progressing well, that is until things went quiet again.

I then adopted a third ‘touch’.

A creative way of sending chocolates

This was in the form of a box of chocolates delivered to our contact in their office. What made this particularly creative and fun is I took a screenshot on the telegraph course finder online, sent this to a local printing shop, and then used the now blown up sheet to wrap the box of chocolates. Lastly a compliment card was printed with the same screenshot of the telegraph course finder which was placed inside the box.

The interactive went live later that week.

Choose Your Environment

If you work in a busy office you may not like the distractions of other people on the phone around you or if you work in a quiet environment with others around you then you may feel a little conscious that others can hear you.

My ideal place for making phone calls

Find somewhere that you feel comfortable with. I personally like my own quiet space where I can have my notepad and pen at hand and focus on the call. In the old builtvisible office I would sit inside a window for all my calls.

If the person you are contacting is worth your time, keep following up using a variety of methods. If you are wondering when to stop, below is an actual email I received recently.

This is when you stop following up.

I like this reply for two reasons. First, they took the time to reply which means I achieved my goal of initiating a conversation, and second, they made it clear where I stand. One last email back to thank them for taking the time to reply and I can now focus my time and energy elsewhere.

Knowing What to Say

You might agree with the theory and see its effectiveness but now your thinking that’s all very good but what should I say?

I recommend writing everything down word for word for the first few calls. I know this may not sound natural and somewhat robotic but it builds confidence and will prevent you mumbling away. Also by writing things down you can check your message is coming across the right away. You will then be able to sit back and relax knowing what you want to say is covered. I have shared below a few key rules for using the phone for outreach or sales that I always follow.

  • Know what you want to achieve from the call.
  • Speak slowly. This may sound obvious but you will be surprised how fast you will start talking.
  • Use the pause. Allow yourself to stop talking after every few points, this will give your voice a break and buy you some thinking time. More importantly, it will also help the person on the other end of the call to digest what you are saying.
  • Make notes. As the conversation develops make sure you are making notes of details you feel are important. Maybe it’s just me, but I am sure there is a link between me ending a call which then ends my memory of the call!
  • Conversation Blueprint

    Rather than give you an exact script I have below a blueprint which allows you to see the structure of the conversation. This structure is also similar to that used by copywriters when writing sales pages. It works!

    Who are you?

    What have you got?

    Why do they need it?

    How can they get it?

    I recommend getting a pen and paper and writing out each of the questions in the blueprint and then fill out suitable answers for each. After a few revisions you will have something you will feel confident discussing over the phone. By using this blueprint you can adapt it to any project you are working on.

    Have you had much success using more than just email? Leave a comment below and share your experience and any advice you may have, you’re welcome to tweet me @dannylynch747.

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    One thought on “A Finishing Touch to Effective Outreach

    1. Sandra says:

      Knowing what to say on a call for outreach is really difficult. Mainly because usually there are a number of things you definitely want to say and in an e-mail you can get this across, erasing things that don’t sound right and writing them again. On the phone you can’t do this, so you’ve got to try and get it right the first time. When I first started calling customers I would sit with a bullet point list. Sometimes I would have to initiate everything, but others the person on the other end would ask a question that took me on to another point I wanted to discuss. Listen to the person you are talking to, you might find that you get across everything you want to say without too much effort.

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