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5 Critical Mistakes To Avoid In Your Email Outreach Campaign

Razvan Gavrilas

Knowing how to make people read your emails is, partially, science.

However unpredictable and unique we are, there are some common traits of our business personas that will most likely answer positively or negatively to different types of stimuli.

What you’re about to read is nothing but the math behind our open rates. You’re going to read a few critical mistakes that can be made when creating an outreach campaign and a bonus advanced lesson, in the end, to start spinning your wheel of engaging networks.

1. Failing to Be Personal Enough

Which takes me directly to the following point.

Here’s a perfectly common-sensical train of thought: whenever there’s a new message in an influencer’s inbox from a stranger, what we immediately assume is that someone is going to ask for stuff - because we’re popular and we have the exposure that it takes to be of use. It is, really, the elephant in the room.

However, a pleasant surprise is finding someone who is polite and doesn’t act like you owe them something just because you’ve worked so hard to become visible to a large(r) audience.

So, let’s, for once, see a positive example.

One of my personal favorite stories in this respect is John Corcoran’s personal experience with Noah, the CEO of AppSumo. The epitome of outreach done right is having cookies sent to by the influencer you’re trying to persuade into thinking of you as a collaborator. 

Related Article: 5 Practical Tips to Improve Your Email Marketing Campaign

Picture of Noah AppSumo Mail
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This came after a long set of emails, all with the honest intent of building a meaningful relationship.

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“Noah is busy running AppSumo, training new entrepreneurs and riding bikes around Austin sampling tacos. Until recently, he had no idea who I was. And yet here I was, opening my mail to find a box of chocolate chip cookies, with a thank you note from Noah Kagan.” John Corcoran

It’s always best to come clean when it comes to your intentions, and email outreach abides the same rule. Yet, it’s always best to address the person behind the influencer, the one who likes tacos and running, and watching movies until the eyes are sore.

2. Addressing the Wrong Influencers

It’s infinitely easier to have a positive response from someone who is already a fan of your content. Consequently, it’s much more strategic to try contacting people who know you. However, if you’re new on the market, the best strategic solution would be not to aim for the big fish. It’s unlikely that someone tremendously popular will reply to a mail from a newcomer.

Which takes me to the following idea, targeting people who are generally more successful than you, but not dramatically so, as they are more prone to accept an offer from someone who they can identify with. If you’re trying to build a meaningful business relationship with one of the most popular influencers in your niche and you’ve just started your business, your stakes aren’t too high.

But if you target people who are constantly growing but have recently been in your position, there’s a good chance they’ll be interested in collaborations.

The response rates should be dramatically better in this case. Loyal readers are not to be taken for granted, especially when they’ve got more exposure and sometimes even more professional experience than you do. Considering that your approach is personal and relevant to the recipient of your email, the odds are ever in your favor when you write to a familiar face.

The brutal fact about loyal audiences is that a happy customer will always be the very best ambassador of your brand.

And there’s yet another reason why. Writing a cold email outreach can be a little off-putting and hard to start when you know very few personal things about the prospect you’re trying to persuade. However, when it comes to people you’ve already been interacting with (perhaps a happy customer who’s thrilled with your services) you’re off to a good start.

Related Article: Is Boring Better? The Case for Plain Jane Online Marketing

3. Asking for Links

Common sense of the world wide web protocol says you don’t really have to verbalize that you’re interested in exchanging lists. I can’t imagine an influencer who thought: "Great email! So many compliments! I’m so happy that they don’t want anything in return!", because there’s always a catch. And since it’s commonly known, whenever you stress out the obvious it may seem like you’re not a true professional.

The gap between a marketing prospect and a marketing opportunity is huge, but most of the times it goes down to a right approach.

Moreover, any digital marketer would appreciate an approach that’s focused on building a meaningful professional relationship. If you’ve got a reputation (however slim) of creating quality content and being a true professional, you should know that behind any outreach there’s something more than the networking intent.

However, a powerful marketing strategy would make the prospect play along instead of just thinking he’s got another spam email in his inbox.

4. Writing Copy Without Value for the Audience

It’s funny how the entire idea of added value has lost all meaning because everybody keeps repeating it, when, in fact, the very reason why it’s so widely discussed is its significance in any business process.

Not at all distinctly, successful outreach needs to start from the premise that you’re not just doing it for marketing purposes, but because you objectively have something to offer to your prospect’s audience.

As I’ve mentioned in other articles, every outreach campaign has to begin with an empathy exercise. Imagine yourself in the position of the influencer, try to replicate the qualities that it would take someone to get a response from your email. It’s essential, to be honest and not over-evaluate your proposition just because it’s easier this way.

One practice that we’ve dismissed on every other occasion is sending pieces of content from the first email to the influencers. It doesn’t only show that you’re desperate to be featured on their website instead of being a worthy connection, but it also looks spammy. The example below is more than illustrative on the matter. 

Email Outreach Proposition
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But it’s not enough to have a decent proposition. It takes a focus on an audience to help you create a connection. The ultimate purpose that every influencer on the web shares is a satisfying the customer/reader.

People who’ve got better exposure will always be one step ahead of your plans. And while this premise is very likely to scare you, there is a way you can leverage this to your advantage. Find someone whose audience looks very similar to yours (or to what you’re looking to see in an audience). Any proposition that will directly benefit their customers is going to be welcome, especially if you know the guy behind the screen.

5. Bonus Advanced Critical Mistake: Ignoring Broken Links Opportunities

The more popular a website is and the more consistent its content, the better your chances of finding broken pages that they may care about fixing. There’s no need to be overly obvious, as we’ve covered on the previous point on the list. It’s enough to let them know that you have the insight they need and that you’re interested in building a significant business relationship.

Moz Broken Page
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Once you’ve identified the broken page that you believe your prospect will be most interested in, you can think of the message to be written. While we suggest keeping it short and simple, it’s also necessary to be personal and show that you’ve got a true interest in following their activity.

However, you’ve got the advantage of starting this relationship from the position of offering something instead of asking for something. It’s even better if you mention nothing about a favor in return in that first email or the following few.

Most of the times it’s not enough to state that "I’m a huge fan of your blog", which is a given since you’re writing. Try going into the specifics and relating to your prospect on a more personal level.

Related Article: You've Got Mail: The Comprehensive Email Marketing Guide


The idea that all influencers are reluctant to collaborations is somewhat true and totally grounded. It’s not every day that you get to see someone who’s put effort into that email, who’s tried to address your hobbies and see that you’re not just an ROI machine, but a person who they could like and should like them as well.

While it’s not always easy to be fun and engaging, taking an interest in the person behind the monitor and what they’d like to hear is sometimes the most relevant approach you can have.

Image Credit: NanoStockk / Getty Images
Razvan Gavrilas Member
Razvan Gavrilas is the Founder & Chief Architect of cognitiveSEO & BrandMentions, tools that help you monitor, research and improve your digital marketing strategy. Razvan has over 15 years of internet marketing experience and has improved the digital marketing strategy for both small businesses and large enterprises.