The Economics of Bad Outreach

Lazy outreach practices have the potential to erode business value

by Mark Smiciklas |

I received an email pitch recently that prompted me to question the economics of lazy outreach.

Is there risk to the bottom line for organization’s that cut corners in the way they reach out to prospects and influencers? My theory is that the practice of lackluster research, or worse, the lack of research altogether, combined with the use of form letters, spam and automated emails has the potential to erode business value.

Economics of Outreach
Economics of Outreach

Let’s look at the pitch that inspired this post and use it to help illustrate a business scenario:

We have heard some real good reviews about the content marketing services that you offer. We were wondering about your thoughts regarding inclusion of engaging infographics in your content marketing packages. [Company Name] can help you make your content marketing services more special and effective by creating visually appealing, viral infographics that would surely draw huge attention of the target audience.

Sadly, this is a pretty standard pitch. By investing 30 seconds and performing a Google search the person sending this email would have quickly been able to figure out that their pitch didn’t make any sense written as is. The fact that I already use infographics in my content marketing and that I wrote a book about infographics makes their pitch fall flat because it lacks relevancy. But more importantly, the lazy approach has some potential financial consequences in the following areas:

Lost Sales – Poor research blended with the lack of customized outreach can result in lost revenue opportunities. In this case, I didn’t object to the idea of being pitched but, rather, the pitch itself. Yes, I do create my own infographics but I also have a need to outsource infographic designs. If the pitch was written with that in mind it would have kept the door open with respect to future relationship management and business development.

Trust Erosion – A lack of care when it comes to outreach reflects the potential of a greater service problem. If the organization doesn’t cover off the basics when it comes to their outreach what possible gaps or flaws exist in their service delivery and support? This manifests itself in a couple of different ways: people sharing the outreach story with friends, colleagues or across the internet (see next point) or simply removing them from consideration when it comes to using or recommending their products and services.

Negative WOM – I chose not to call out the organization that contacted me in a public forum like SME. Not everyone shares the same view. There are many examples of organizations being used as case studies to highlight poor or misleading outreach practices. Haphazard outreach can definitely result in negative word of mouth that can erode the value of your brand.

Outreach Tips

So how can you avoid some of these potential economic pitfalls when it comes to your outreach?

I like to think that common sense is your best guide – treat the people you are approaching in the same manner you would like to be treated. Be honest, do some research, don’t waste people’s time and offer a value proposition.

Here are a few of the things I like to do prior to reaching out to a prospect or influencer:

  • Blog Subscription – One of the first things I research is a prospects blog or website. I like to subscribe to RSS feeds using Google Reader and tend to skim through a number of posts going back as far as 6 months. My objective when it comes to referencing  blog posts in any outreach is to be genuine – the best way to accomplish this is to actually dig into some the content and extract value from what you are reading. It’s very rare that you won’t find something interesting, thought provoking or debatable when you conduct this research. Remember, you don’t have to love or agree with everything someone says on their blog in order to genuinely engage them in dialogue. Sometimes offering a counter-point or different perspective is a great way to start a conversation during the outreach process. Also, I don’t like to pretend I’ve been a long time subscriber if that’s not the case. There’s nothing wrong with telling a prospect you just subscribed to their blog and have been catching up on old posts. Be transparent in any outreach you do.
  • Blog Comments – After reading a few posts and picking out the ones that really resonate with me I may submit a comment or two on some older posts. Normally I like to continue following a blog for a few weeks and comment when it’s appropriate. Remember to try to add value every time you submit a comment. Don’t simply placate or agree with what is written…try to offer an opinion or unique perspective.
  • Twitter Stream – In conjunction with blog research I like to follow prospects if they are on Twitter. I have a special column set up in HootSuite that filters content from people that I may be interested in connecting with down the road. There are a lot of smart people sharing great content on Twitter so I find pretty easy to find relevant, helpful posts to retweet or @mention. I also find you can gain some added insight though the links that prospects are sharing.

These are just a few of the things you can do when it comes to managing your prospect or influencer outreach. For more information check out this comprehensive Best Practice Guide to Blogger Outreach from the folks an inkybee (FREE, email required to download).

Personalized outreach is hard work that can take a lot of time but, in my opinion, it’s the only real effective way to nurture relationships that can add business value over time. What do think? What other economic risks might be associated with poor outreach practices? The comments are yours.

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About the Author

Mark Smiciklas

Mark Smiciklas is a Digital Strategist, author and President of Intersection Consulting; a Vancouver based digital marketing agency that teaches organizations how to leverage the dynamics of the web to achieve business goals. Mark is also the managing editor at Solopreneur.ca and is an established marketing and social media practitioner recognized for his visual thinking and practical strategic approach. You can connect with him on Google+.