Reaching out to bloggers and influencers can be a very intimidating process. It’s almost like asking someone out on a first date. You need to make sure your proposal seems attractive in every way to limit your chances of being rejected, and to create a more valuable relationship. But the truth of the matter is that you’re most likely going to be denied, if not a few times then many times. We realized that if we were to create infographics for the influencers we reached out to, it gave them more of an incentive to help us out.
I’m used to being rejected. When I was younger I wasn’t so easy on the eyes and had a very questionable sense of fashion. Needless to say, my personality is what won over my closest friends (so I tell myself) and create some very strong bonds. As I got older, and discovered the existence of H&M, my appearance improved ever so slightly, but I still faced considerable rejection on a daily basis. The reason for that was that I decided to go to theatre school and pursue a career as an actor. This quickly backfired because I got a lot of stage-fright and the other students in my class intimidated me.
Tired of all the rejection I had been facing, I decided to pursue a consistent and fulfilling career in the field of Digital Marketing where I could create as many infographics as my heart desired. Naturally, I have since faced far more frequent rejection in this field than in high school and theatre school combined. In fact my first month after being hired, sign-ups and upgrades for the infographic maker actually took a substantial drop, and I was getting no results whatsoever. Every influencer I reached out to in hopes of getting a mention or a backlink somewhere on their sites about our wonderful product that let you create infographics, either said No or simply ignored me. It was a very discouraging time in my life and I was extremely close to giving up, but I remembered what Jack Donaghy once said on 30 Rock: “Sometimes the way back up is down…into the darkness”. The point of this quote is that once you hit rock bottom, sometimes you need to keep going deeper into a tunnel of darkness that will eventually lead you back out to the surface. I realise it is a quote from a comedy show and that it is meant to be absurd, but I took it to heart! The thing is, when you get to such a low point, and your options become so limited, you’re forced to think outside the box and create innovative methods to help you succeed. Usually that means you’re thinking up ideas that most people haven’t touched on before.
Started from the bottom
When I started reaching out to influencers in hopes of promoting our tool that could create infographics, I wanted to make sure that I was communicating with each one personally. I didn’t want my outreach emails to seem canned or fake. Understanding who I was reaching out to and what their fortes were was imperative. First, I manually looked through existing Twitter followers, or people hashtagging the words “Create Infographic” in order to sort out through those who seemed relatively influential, but also to target individuals who were already advocating for our infographic product. I would take a couple of minutes to write custom emails to each of the influencers I had targeted. To put this into perspective, in 3 hours I would have reached out to about 90 people. With a 5% response rate, that means I heard back from about 4 people, and if I was lucky I would get 1 mention. If I was lucky. Without a doubt, I was wasting my time and energy.
Use all of your resources
In order to get more mentions about our infographic maker, I needed to reach out to more people, but it took me between 5 to 10 minutes just to locate 1 person’s contact information. At this rate, I was getting 1 mention a week at best, and I was emotionally drained from my lack of success. So we hired an assistant to populate a spreadsheet with a list of influencers to reach out to who might be interested in infographics. This eliminated a lot of the grunt work, but I was still only reaching out to about 20 to 30 people a day since I needed to research each one and write an email for them. I was against using a mail merging system because it was so systematic and non-personal. I didn’t want people to think I hadn’t actually taken the time to read their articles and learn about their interests as an influencer; and even if I did reach out to them asking for a favour, why would they be bothered to give me a backlink or publish an existing infographic? I was a nobody after all.
Then one day we got an email from one of our users, asking if we could create an infographic for them because they didn’t have time to make their own on our infographic maker tool. They were willing to pay for the custom infographic we would create. Well, if they were willing to give us money to make an infographic using our own tool, would they perhaps be willing to give us a link on their site? So we offered to create the infographic for free in exchange for a solid mention and some social media shares. The client was completely on board, and very grateful too. The time it took to create one infographic by our designer was minimal considering how long it took me to reach out to 5 bloggers.
So we started offering to create infographics in exchange for links, and our response rate rose considerably. In fact, it jumped up by 25%. We went from getting maybe 1 mention every other week, to getting 5 or 6 consistently each week.
Tell it how it is
Once we knew that we wanted to continue offering to create free infographics in exchange for mentions, we needed to change our outreach approach. The initial emails I was writing were a bit too flowery. I figured people didn’t really care very much about what I thought of their articles, and how I stumbled upon their blog. All they really cared about knowing was: What did I want? And what would I do to get it? Straight to the point.
I still made sure to read the articles of every single blogger I reached out to. I wanted to make sure that they were not only a viable lead, but that they knew I was legitimately interested in collaborating with them and willing to create an infographic for them. I changed my approach to something like this:
My name is Nadya and I was reading your article, _____________ on _______________. I’m part of the team at Venngage (an online infographics tool) and I was wondering if you would be interested in a free custom infographic we could create for an upcoming post? I’m not trying to sell anything at all, but rather than just asking for a mention on your site, I thought it would be better to provide you with some visual content you can make use of. Let me know your thoughts and we can discuss the next steps,
By coming off as more transparent and honest, people were more willing to trust me and more eager to work with me and create an infographic together. Also, the email was not over-explanatory, which risked boring them to death, but it also wasn’t too concise. It gave them just enough to inform them of the basics, with the option of discussing the next steps in terms of the infographic we would create.
And just because we were now getting substantially more backlinks through collaborative means, didn’t mean we stopped reaching out and asking for mentions all together. In fact, another great tactic is to reach out to bloggers or marketers who create “Top [#] Lists”. It’s usually not an issue to ask the editor to add your tool or site to their article. That’s exactly what I did with Ninja Outreach when I saw they had a large list of the best content marketing tools. They were more than willing to accommodate us. Just be sure to do your part to help other small businesses as well with a mention when you can.
Deliver results FAST
Finally, once you have established a rapport with an influencer and you have agreed to collaborate and create some content together, make sure you deliver your part of the bargain as quickly and as efficiently as possible. That doesn’t mean throw some text and images together, call it an infographic and hope for the best, it means actually create and deliver quality content that goes above and beyond their expectations. There was one particular point when I received an email from an influencer who wanted something changed on an infographic we had offered to create. Within a couple of minutes I responded, with the change complete. The guy was so surprised and so pleased with the fast turnaround that he emailed me and said , “I do not normally comment on things like this but that was incredibly quick haha :)”. I feel a sense of personal pride every time someone I am communicating with takes down their professional wall momentarily. It’s so satisfying.
The reason to deliver results fast, especially with a new client or collaborator, is that you need to show that you are reliable and a master at your craft. That way, they are so blown away by what you create, that they can’t help but advocate for you and your product, and thus return the favour by publishing your content quickly. We learned that the faster we could create and infographic, the faster the link would go up on their site, and the faster we would see results!
Never forget past relationships
Finally, whenever the opportunity presents itself for you to create a backlink for one of your past connections, take it! It’s always good karma to return the favour and then share the post with those contacts. They’ll appreciate it, and as a bonus, they will likely promote your post on their social networks as well. Anytime we create an infographic that has any relevance to a company we have a relationship with, we will try to share it with them. If we notice them tweet or share something our users could be interested in, we will retweet and spread the word as well. Create relationships that last rather than focusing on momentary gain. With every new influencer you connect with, try to create as much content as possible with them in order to keep our relationship strong. At Venngage, we try to create as many infographics a day as we can for fellow marketers, not only for our own gain, but so that they can also have exciting and informative content for their users.