If you’ve had a contact form on your website for more than ten minutes, you’ve probably been the victim of some pretty terrible cold email outreach.

And you keep reading and hearing cold email outreach works, and maybe it might work for you, but how?

In sales, marketing, and PR, the right way to do cold email outreach is a question that doesn’t have one clear answer.

There could many reasons why you want to do outreach in the first place. Maybe you want to get people interested in a product or service, develop a partnership, or reach out to journalists.

Most importantly, the goal of sending cold emails is to build real relationships.

Here’s a guide to help you make the best out of cold email outreach. The goal of this guide to help you build relationships so you can do some really good work with the people at the other end of the email. It’s a resource to help you develop your own way of doing cold email outreach.

Step One: Why Are You Doing Outreach?

The first step in doing cold email outreach is to determine why you are doing it in the first place.

There could be many reasons why.

For example, at our agency, Clique Studios, we use cold email outreach to collaborate with marketers, blog editors, publishers, writers, business owners, and thought leaders on content.

We reach out to pitch articles, conduct interviews, and build real relationships with real people. We use outreach because we want to work with others and make things better for someone else. In doing so, we get to help our clients by creating good content for audiences to read.

Think about your goals before you start the outreach process.

Step Two: Create Lists

Once you’ve figured out why you are doing cold outreach, it’s time to get going on the process.

The next step of the process is to create lists in a method popularized by Glen Allsopp. Not lists of just anyone, but of people who are associated with blogs and publications you want to reach out to, who are also relevant to your goals. This requires some research.

Believe it or not, Google is the best place to start your research — and that’s it. Because our goal at Clique is to write quality content, we start our research with Google to search for websites we know accept guest articles. We begin with queries like this:

  • Healthcare blogs “write for us”
  • Restaurant blogs “contribute”

Google should not be your only way to find opportunities. We use a variety sources including Ahrefs, LinkedIn, and Twitter because variety gives us more options of quality blogs and publications. It’s like when you research a topic, do you only use one source? Probably not.

In Ahrefs, we use the content explorer feature as one way of finding additional opportunities to add to our lists. For example, if I type in, “food and dining,” Ahrefs gives me a long list of blogs and publications. I can add some of these websites to my outreach list. I use LinkedIn or Twitter to find specific people I want to reach out to.

Create Lists

The lists can be organized in many ways. If you’re in public relations, maybe you will choose to organize by audience type. Or, maybe you will organize by industry if you’re in sales. Seriously, though, always create a list — a media list, guest blog list, whatever you want to call it — before doing any type of outreach. You’ve got to be organized, or the outreach just won’t work.

My agency uses a template from Webris to create lists. Here’s what it looks like:

Create a list

The first column in the Google Sheets document says, “status,” which refers to where we are in the outreach process with a particular person. The second column, “follow up,” let’s us know if we’ve followed up with that person or not. (Only follow up with someone one time if there is no response. More on that later.)

The type of opportunity refers to how we can collaborate with the person. Examples include a guest article or media pitch

From there, we fill in the website of the the person(s) we are reaching out to in addition to our target contact’s email address. For guest articles, most blogs have editorial guidelines. Add that. It’s going to make things so much easier if you are pitching a guest article.

Note: I do not add websites without researching them first. I look at the website’s domain rating (we look for sites with at least a 20 domain rating), its content quality, its backlinks, and its mission. I look to see if the backlinks are nofollow or dofollow. You can look to see if links within the main text of an article are nofollow or dofollow by right clicking on the page and clicking “view page source.”

Step Three: Write the Email

Make sure the email you’re writing is as personal as possible.

The primary goal of email outreach should be to build professional relationships. So when writing an email, I write as if I am personally emailing somebody that I care about (because I am). I always research the person I’m reaching out to so I at least know their name. I also find something interesting about the recipient.

For example, let’s say I reach out to the editor of a restaurant blog. Before I start writing the email, I will look up her social media profiles, check out the articles she has written, and see what we have in common. If I used one of her articles for help in my own work, I will tell her.

Here’s an example of an outreach email I wrote to an editor of a real estate blog.

Write the Email

I am genuine in this email about my interest (or addiction). I really did spend three hours searching for houses that Sunday. I sent the editor some headlines because I know he accepts guest articles. If I don’t know whether or not the recipient accepts guest articles, I send an email like this:

Write the Email

In the second sentence of this email, I show an interest in a recent article written by this editor. I really am interested in manufacturing. I grew up in the heart of the automotive industry — the Detroit area.

I am always honest in my outreach emails. This is how I develop real relationships. If I’m not honest, the person can tell. Trust is already lost. And the relationship hasn’t even started yet. It’s like any personal relationship — if you start out by being dishonest, it’s not going to last.

In addition to being honest, I keep emails short. Short emails are easy to read. If I send a long email, the recipient won’t have time to read it. This person is busy and doesn’t know who I am — yet.

Step Four: Follow Up

According to Mailshake, you might be missing out on opportunities by not following up. Always, always follow up.

I follow up once. That’s it.

In the email, I keep it simple and short.

I re-pitch the headlines in a follow up email if I am reaching out to an editor of a blog. That way, the editor can decide if any of the articles might be a good fit for the blog or publication without having to look back to my original email.

Step Five: Continue the Relationship

When you start relationships with your prospects, continue them. Ask your recipients for advice, interview them for articles, share with them the latest trends in their industry, or simply ask them how their summer is going.

When putting together a cold email outreach plan, always remember relationships are what’s most important. Cold email outreach is not about how many deals you close, how much money you make, or how many emails you send. Cold email outreach, rather, is about the person who reads your email.

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About the Author

Brendan Hufford is a marketing and business veteran who, since his first project in 2011, has founded and sold multiple businesses. He currently runs HUFF Media, a thriving SEO consultancy based in Chicago. Brendan is is passionate about helping businesses get more revenue and profit from their website through SEO.