Applying Strategic Business Thinking To Outreach

conceptual darts isolated on a grey background

If you’ve done even the smallest amount of outreach, you’ll know that there are a couple of things that are true:

  1. You will receive a lot of rejection
  2. You will be ignored by a good number of the people that you email

You can write some of the most finely crafted emails of your career and the person on the other end won’t even respond. In my experience, this can lead to frustration and then on to despondency. Before you know it, you find yourself in the loop of producing sub-standard emails that are even more likely to get ignored than the first batch.

You don’t want to find yourself in this position.

On the other hand, when you get great links for your clients; coverage, citations or mentions can give you a bit of a buzz. That buzz is not something that a lot of people get at work. You should use that to your advantage in outreach.

Don’t let yourself get bogged down in the rejection – figure out ways to improve your success rates. You need to adjust how you think. When you adjust how you think you can develop tests, you can try out multiple subject lines, you can bucket prospects and batch your emails.

You also need to ditch those templates that you stole form a blog post that someone wrote on a year ago – you’re all using these. Stop it. Please.

So what do I suggest you do? Apply some actual business strategy to the process. Get smart about what you are doing. This isn’t going to be a list of things you need to do:

  1. Find the name
  2. Find an email
  3. Know whether they like to play polo
  4. Know the name of their first born before they even have it
  5. Pretend to be a woman cos someone mentioned it works once somewhere in a blog post 3 years ago and still believe that this is a valid tip…

Applying real strategies, thought processes and models to outreach allow you to improve your success rate. As your success rate increases, then so does your desire to do even better. Improving what you do and how you do it will actually make you bother more about outreach and happier in it.

Also, just for the record, 69% of strategic models are wasted on me – they are usually filled with hot gas and created by someone with far too much time on their hands.

So let us cut to the chase and look at a strategy model that you can actually apply to your outreach process:

The Eisenhower Matrix

Originally credited to the US president Eisenhower, this is a fairly simple matrix system for managing your time. Its power lies in its simplicity and if it helped a president make decisions wisely you can safely say that it might help someone doing outreach make a few as well.

So how does it work?

Strategic grid

You have four quadrants that are set out like the image below and you are meant to grade work as it comes in to priorise what needs addressing first:

Here is the breakdown as Eisenhower saw it:

  1. Urgent and Important
  2. Not Urgent and Important
  3. Urgent and Not Important
  4. Not Urgent and Not Important

This allowed Eisenhower to arrange his time accordingly – his limited time was not wasted.

“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” – Eisenhower

If you transfer this to your outreach process, you can make sure that you are optimising your time accordingly. Let’s take a look at the model again and swap it up. Let’s assume that you are making decisions about which sites you need to contact and when. It makes sense that some sites are likely to give you more exposure than others – these sites could actually mean that you get more links and mentions for less work.

1. Urgent and Important

These are sites that you are going to place in your primary bucket for outreach – these are probably the most trusted by Google. Either they are going to be super relevant to your site or they are likely to give you maximum exposure. Place the absolute cream of the crop in this quadrant. Getting featured on some of these sites could lead to more link building opportunities. These are the sites that are going to give you the most bang for your buck.

When placing sites in this quadrant you have to be honest with yourself and question the likelihood of the sites featuring your content or client.

2. Not Urgent and Important

These could be the sites that are incredibly relevant to your site but are not as popular in the grand scheme of things. You want links, mentions or shares from these sites but they are not as likely to give you massive exposure because they’re far more niche.

These links and mentions are going to be useful in the long term for improving the link relevancy of your site and should still factor highly in your planning.

3. Urgent and Not Important

These are likely to be the big sites that you would love to get a link from but in reality, aren’t quite right for the project or the likelihood of them featuring you is slimmer for this particular project. Don’t be adding Mashable to all your projects 😉

It will require you to be brutally honest with yourself at this point because you are going to want to place some of these in quadrant 1. If you misplace them in quadrant 1 you are going to end up with wasted time – time that could have been spent more wisely elsewhere.

4. Not Urgent and Not Important

These are the lower quality sites, they may be (sort of) on topic but the metrics aren’t that good or they don’t have much of an audience.

In the Eisenhower Model these would be ditched. When applying the model to outreach I wouldn’t say that you ditch these sites but that you retain them for use if you really (really) need to use them. The ROI of quadrant 4 is not good.

Once you have placed them in quadrants, you may even want to get a colleague to look over them for you. You will probably find that they are able to help you be a little more realistic with where sites belong!

How To Prioritise

I think it should be obvious that you first head to the ‘urgent and important’ (quadrant 1) – if you see some good results here then you ROI should be pretty solid. You are likely to bag a good link and some good exposure. You may find that you have a mixture in this quadrant; of good quality on topic sites and sites that can give your content reach and visibility.

What may not be quite as obvious and where a lot of people fall down when managing time effectively, is that quadrant 2 is where you should head next – ‘not urgent and important’. People often give priority to urgency over importance. When applying this model to outreach, this can be attached to your want to make a piece of content successful. It is quite easy to prioritise a popular site that would give you reach over one that that doesn’t but is more on topic. So that news site about sectional garages isn’t as sexy as but you are more likely to get a better ROI. Spend your time wisely.

In The Eisenhower Matrix, most people spend too much time in quadrant 3 (urgent and not important) and you can see how this works for outreach as well. If you get over excited about contacting great sites with irrelevant or substandard content you are just going to be wasting your time. They aren’t likely to feature it and if you contact them several times over the course of a few months, you are likely to start burning bridges, bridges that could help when you do have something that fits with their style.

Hopefully your outreach has been so successful that you never have to email the sites in quadrant 4 – but you know, if you have to, they are always there…

Knowing which sites belong in which quadrant is the key to using this model for outreach. Adapting The Eisenhower Matrix for outreach will allow you to make smarter decisions and use your time more wisely.

Content doesn’t spread itself, links don’t build themselves – you need to give them a push. If you are pushing in the right direction to the right people with the right message you are much more likely to be successful.

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