Reaching out: The value of outreach in marketing

As a key part of a marketing strategy, outreach is the process of contacting influential bloggers and website owners to have your content published on their sites and shared with their readers.

lauren-henleyBy Lauren Henley, every1.

It creates opportunities for engagement with your prospective customers – helping you reach the right people at the right time – while building links to your online brand and creating a buzz about your business. If the content you publish is relevant to your target audience, they may contact you to find out more.

So how does outreach work?

Imagine a potential customer is searching for specific topics online. They try their favourite blogger’s website and come across a new piece of content – a really interesting blog (your outreach) about those topics. In the article byline they see your company name with a link to your site. Liking what they’ve read, they click the link. Within seconds they’re introduced to your brand, your products and services; exactly what they’re looking for. Impressed, they decide to contact you for more information.

This customer learns about your company, visits your website and makes a business enquiry ­– all because of your outreach.

The evolution of outreach

The value of good outreach has grown in recent years. When Google ranked websites in its results pages in the past, there were no rules and regulations for link building. Companies could get away with paying for dozens of links from link-building businesses to help them rank higher.

But Google soon recognised many websites were using such unethical SEO tactics and decided to step in. In 2012 the search engine announced the Penguin Update, which targeted sites with signs of unnatural link building. Guilty websites had to remove such links and disappeared from the rankings, with Google heavily penalising many businesses.

The days of dishing out auto generated poor quality content and using link networks to quickly build up links, without skill and effort, are now long gone. Outreach takes time and effort, and patience is needed to gain quality trustworthy links.

How to practice good outreach

The basics of outreach marketing may sound simple: emailing some bloggers to tell them about your company and then waiting for a response.

The truth is, it’s a big process – from extensive research to find a suitable blogger, to producing a quality piece they’re happy with which appeals to their readers and attracts them to your brand.

It can take over 15 hours to create one outreach placement, which involves:
  • Finding appropriate blogs or websites
  • Researching their site for suitability
  • Preparing a pitch for the blogger
  • Negotiating a placement
  • Creating content or commissioning a pre-written piece
  • Ensuring new content meets the blogger’s deadline and they’re happy with the result
  • Making sure the approved content (with links) is published at the agreed time and resolving issues such as missing links, once the post has gone live
It’s important to come up with some good interesting content ideas that will appeal to relevant bloggers and their audience. Even if you feel you aren’t in the most exciting industry, you should be able to think up ideas for content that are valuable to both them and you. Think about what you’re trying to achieve, alongside the blog’s key messages, themes, style and tone.

Outreach promotes your brand, which makes it even more important to push out well-written, interesting, accurate, enjoyable and engaging content too. If you’re still creating articles with keywords shoehorned into every other sentence, or rehashing highly derivative work based on what other people did last year, the reader (and search engines) could associate your brand with poor quality or other negative characteristics, which your blogger and their audience won’t want. First impressions count, so make sure your content is up to scratch.

Alternative ways to approach outreach marketing

Informative, valuable, error free and well-placed articles will promote your brand and get you a return on your investment. But it’s worth noting, outreach doesn’t have to be written content. Try turning some interesting data you’ve sourced into an interactive infographic to add colour to a blogger’s site, share one of your products with a blogger in return for a review, or run a competition that bloggers can take part in– the possibilities are endless.

Sometimes ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking can turn a good campaign into a great campaign. Detergent company, Ariel, proved this when they worked with a women’s fashion brand in an innovative outreach campaign. It involved Ariel sending fashion bloggers stained designer clothes along with an Ariel stain remover that, when used, revealed the iconic print of the fashion brand.

The campaign was a huge success, resulting in bloggers choosing to upload videos to their sites of themselves happily holding up their clothes – before and after they’d been washed with the Ariel product. The campaign reached three million people and received more than 4,200 Facebook shares, 15k Instagram likes and an average of one tweet per minute during their event – clearly demonstrating the power and possibilities of outreach. To learn more about the benefits of outreach marketing take a look at our case study for Accentuate, for who we planned and deployed an outreach campaign as part of our launch of their new party game, generating fantastic results.