Looking back on my greenhorn Outreach days, I was a bright-eyed and spiky-haired marketer who learned as I went.
In my last two posts, The Scouting Report for Link Building Rookies and Think Beyond the Link – The Right Way to Conduct Reviews for Outreach, I shared some insights I’ve picked up along the way.
Looking back on how my outreach methods have evolved, there is one lesson I wish I would’ve learned sooner - how to manage deadlines.
I took deadlines for granted, and maybe you do to.
Clients, coworkers, and leads have at one time or another have asked the status of a guest post/review/creative piece/etc., and on more occasions than I’d like to admit, my response was “...umm, I dunno. I sent that out a few days ago so it should be live soonish. Lemme follow up with the blogger.”
If you’ve ever responded with something similar, click HERE. If you have never ever in all your marketing days said anything remotely close to, “I SENT THAT TO THE BLOGGER, LEMME FOLLOW UP ON THAT”, then you good sir/madam, are a champion. Celebrate your skills and click HERE.
I’ll admit I was working on projects with blind faith. I’d send guest posts and products without a clear definition of anything resembling a deadline.
I learned my lesson one summer day. I was plugging away at a project for a client who was trying to increase their rank for computers, laptops, tablets and other gadgets. We created budgets for sites based on various measurements.
I connected with several top tech focused mom bloggers. One of my techy moms desperately wanted to review a computer which was just over her target budget.
We emailed back and forth several times about the project. Her enthusiasm about reviewing the computer won me over.
“If you could make that happen I would be your best friend and write awesome things about your AWESOME CLIENT and you. LOL!”
So, I two-day shipped a brand new computer to my bestie and we were emailing daily. BFFs for life! On July 23rd, my new friend went on a two-day vacation. I did not receive any emails from my new BFF till the afternoon of August 27th. Ouch. During this time, I sent out numerous emails and just as many excuses to my team lead and client.
The review did go live (...eventually), and ultimately it was a good review and the client was happy - though the blogger didn’t say awesome things about me in her post (some bestie she turned out to be). So how did I get my win?
You’ve Got Mail! - I sent numerous unanswered emails. At first they were sporadic, then scheduled, and then increased in frequency as time passed.
Can You Hear Me Now? - I resorted to leaving her voicemails, when one day she finally answers a call with, “I bet you’re wondering where your review is?” This was my first contact with my BFF in over a month.
Thankfully, I needed her phone number for shipping and was able to call her. Everything worked out in the end and our client was happy, but what went wrong?
There Were No Clearly Defined Expectations - Clearly, I didn’t set any defined expectations of when I expected a live review. I simply had faith in everyone I was working with and 99% of the time it worked out. But that 1% will bite you each and every time.
My Solution for Defining Outreach Deadlines and Expectations for Reviews & Giveaways
These days, I always state exactly what I’m looking for in terms of content quality and timeframe. That way if there is a conflict in schedule I can plan accordingly around the blogger’s calendar - saving time and a possibly avoiding a roadblock. Here is an example of what I typically send:
What I’m looking for is a well written, informative review that shares your genuine thoughts on the product. Pictures are great so the more you include the merrier. I’m also looking for your review to be live within two weeks after delivery.
If this all sounds good I’ll need a mailing address and phone number and we’ll get the ball rolling on this.
Let me know if you have any questions!”
Takeaway: Set clearly defined expectations with those you’re working with. This will give you leverage if something goes wrong and give you information to report to your client.
Here is another happy-turned-horrible outreach situation you many have run into: after sending an introduction email and securing approval for a guest post, the blogger simply stops responding.
The first time I ran into this situation, I couldn’t let it go. Email after email was sent and still no response. I sat on a written blog post for a month with a bold PENDING on my outreach tracking Gdoc. Finally I gave up and put the post on My Blog Guest and found a new home for the piece.
My guest post eventually did go live, but on another site that wasn’t as good. So how did I get my win?
Apply Pressure to the Wound - I have a “three-strikes-you’re-out” policy. After three emails without a response, I move on. Each email applies more pressure. My first email is very brief. My second email kindly suggests using the post somewhere else and my third flat out states that I will be scheduling it elsewhere.
Email Example #1
Just checking in to see if you received my guest posts. Let me know if you need anything on my end.
Email Example #2
Hope all is well. I haven’t had heard from you in a while.
After your positive feedback I’d love to see my guest post go live on your site. If you still are interested in using my work just, that’s great. I know how these things fall through the cracks.
If your editorial calendar is full let me know so I can pitch it elsewhere.
Email Example #3
Hope this finds you well. I just wanted to follow up one last time as I haven’t received a response from my previous emails.
I’d love to see my guest post go live on your site, but if you no longer plan on using my work I will try to find another home for it so it’s not effort wasted”
If you still would like to use my work, please contact me by the end of day.
Don’t be afraid to take your message public. Use Twitter and apply more pressure.
The Show Must Go On - There comes a time when an outreacher must move on and secure a win elsewhere. It’s always more challenging to pitch a prewritten guest post, but sites like My Blog Guest, Blogger Link Up, and Guestr all allow you to pitch something you’ve already penned.
Thankfully, through My Blog Guest I found a site who posted my piece quickly. Everything worked out in the end and our client was happy, but what went wrong?
Again I didn’t set any clearly defined expectations of when I wanted my guest post to go live. When the blogger stopped responding I was just left asking, “do you know when..?” when I should have been stating, “our live date was scheduled on April 15th, has there been any changes to your editorial calendar?” This would have given me specific details about our agreement and more authority when things go wrong.
Even if I set expectations and the blogger never responds, it is important to follow up in a timely manner and know when to take your content elsewhere.
Pro Tip: Create a blacklist - Our outreach team tracks all bloggers and site owners who we’ve had trouble with.
My Solutions for Defining Outreach Deadlines and Expectations with Guest Posts
Guest posts/Creative Pieces - Adria Saracino, our Head of Outreach, shared these tips to encourage a commitment to a live date. Be sure to include these or something similar in your email when setting expectations.
“Awesome, I can get working on that right away. I want to be courteous of your editorial calendar, so is there a deadline I should hit for launch?”
“Did you have a date in mind for when this can go live? I want to make sure I hit any deadlines and make this process as smooth as possible for you.”
Takeaway: Set clearly defined expectations and if those fall through know when to walk away.
Tools for Outreach DeadlinesHere are some handy tools that I find creating and managing deadlines easier.
Editorial Calendars - Create an editorial calendar and share specific targeted go live dates with the bloggers you’re working with, that way both parties involved will receive reminders regarding upcoming deadlines.
Boomerang - Once I discovered Boomerang, it became a part of my daily outreach routine. There are free and pro versions which allow users to set reminders if your email isn’t replied to by a determined date. This is perfect to set up once you’ve sent your material off to remind you to follow up if you don’t receive a response.
Google Tasks - Add due dates and check them off! This tool integrates your Gmail, Calendar, and works on mobile devices. Useful if setting up an editorial calendar seems too daunting. Set your deadlines and follow up dates and receive reminders across several different platforms.
Trello - Fast and easy way to organize anything. I use this on my iPad and PC; it is super helpful. Project tasks are set to to do , doing, and done. Individual “cards” can be assigned to people, due dates can be selected, and email reminders sent out. Very similar to Tasks mentioned above but great for teams working on the same project.
Don’t take deadlines for granted! Setting deadlines will increase your outreach success and give you the ammo to deliver specific project data with your team and clients.
What tips and experience do you have working with outreach deadlines and setting expectations? I always like to learn with others, so please share them in the comments below.
Stock images courtesy of shutterstock