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How to Win the Outbound Email Long Game

As today’s digital world has continued to evolve, the average person has gone from seeing perhaps a few hundred advertisements a week to upwards of 5,000 advertisements each and every day. We’re bombarded constantly to the point that we become inundated with information and the sheer noise of it all.

Surely you can relate. Your smartphone notifications will consume your entire day if you let them get the best of you. We all have social media icons begging for a quick moment of attention and spam folders full to the brim with the latest and greatest promotions from companies we’ve never even heard of.

Let’s make the distinction between advertising and marketing. Rather than absentmindedly besieging as many people as possible with generic advertising, marketing is the art of crafting valuable insights and delivering them to those of your prospects who actually care to receive them.

Here’s the best kept marketing secret, which is a simple but powerful truth. When it comes to building an expertise-based relationship with a cold list via email, generosity is critical. It’s important that marketers understand the need to be consistently generous with their insights. In a world filled with problems solved by expertise, your insights are valuable; share them. Creating insightful and specific content will draw prospects in need of your expertise to you. Give them your sincere and unguarded advice—without having to fill out a form. By sending valuable emails several times a month, you create a regular cadence of communication, and set expectations that people can anticipate nothing short of excellent advice coming from your firm.

Executed correctly, your outbound email strategy is an invaluable tool which is paramount to the success of your content marketing. Outbound emails should add value to your prospects’ lives— not more noise. In this guide, I’ll address how to artfully create emails that provide the most value to your readers, and some strategic tactics for how to send to those who will actually care to receive your thought leadership.

Blog promotions

To begin a relationship with readers, you’ll want to start by establishing credibility. Before you go blast an email list with the latest and greatest content on your site, try a more personal approach. Succinctly describe a piece of relevant expertise and the value it provides, and follow with a simple call to action. In essence:

Hi reader,

Here’s something that I’ve created which I think will provide value for you and this is why. Read on to learn about XYZ.

Single link unbranded emails

If you haven’t communicated with a list before, a single link unbranded email is a great way to touch base and offer an authentic human connection. These emails should come from a real person at your company (as opposed to a generic email alias like hello@ or marketing@), briefly introduce a piece of ungated content that you’ve produced, and provide a straightforward, compelling call to action for that content item.

Many email clients, Gmail especially, are exceptional at proactively filtering anticipated spam from inboxes. That said, you have the best chance to reach prospective readers’ inboxes with a clean and simple text-based email from someone in a leadership position at your company. Save the pomp and frill of branded emails for the dedicated readers who have received email from your domain before and who will be anticipating future pieces of thought leadership. Because these people have received your email before, their email clients are more likely to place your branded emails in their inbox.

It’ll take a little bit of time for new readers to warm up to your content. To facilitate this list-warming process, we recommend sending three unbranded single link emails over the course of six weeks (one every other week works well). Some people will inevitably opt out, and that’s ok. Strategic outbound is about the long game, and after some dedication to doing it correctly, will connect you with valuable prospects who care about what you have to say.

Here’s an example of a single link unbranded email:

Blog digest emails

Once you’ve spent some time warming up your IP address and building rapport with your readers, you’re in a good place to share your latest insights in a blog digest format. These are the emails that your loyal readers will come to expect, and even look forward to, provided you continually share valuable insights.

We’ve written a lot about content marketing, and that’s because it’s arguably the most important element of your digital marketing strategy. When you successfully develop thoughtful education to share with your prospects on a regular basis, you position your business as a true expert in the eyes of your prospect. Building up a library of expertise-based content provides the fuel you’ll need for a successful outbound marketing campaign; and a great vehicle to regularly share this content is the blog digest.

These emails typically utilize a more traditional branded approach, and promote more than one piece of content at a time. Though remember to keep it as simple as possible. Add your logo, but don’t let it take up the entire screen (think mobile here especially); share the latest insights from your company, but not 10 of them— stick to the top 3 or so. Adding some variety to the types of content you promote is a great way to keep the most people engaged.

Here’s an example of a blog digest email:


Gated content promotions

Gated content promotions are best for a warmer list of people who are familiar with the brand, which is why they appear further down on the list of promotions covered in this article. Gated content, content only accessible through a form submission, is a key ingredient in your content plan because it drives conversions for your site. Though it’s unlikely that a new list will convert on a piece of gated content as their first interaction with you. Take a moment to consider what you’re asking of prospects from a new list when you present them with a piece of gated content:

  1. Please submit your name and contact information to me, a stranger.
  2. Here, spend some time consuming this thought leadership that may or may not be immediately relevant to you.

Sending gated content promotions requires a fair amount of time getting acquainted with your list before asking them to invest time and personal information in your insights. Keep that in mind as you plan out your content calendar and outbound approach, and be certain that you’re sending relevant content to people who are receptive to hearing from you.

White paper promotions

Similarly to a single link unbranded email, white paper promotions tend to be most effective when delivered from a credible person in your company with a personalized note about why the reader should care to invest time consuming this content. It’s important to carefully curate this note, and not just copy/paste from the white paper abstract that readers will be forced to then re-read, should they choose to click through and commit to reading the paper.

Rest assured knowing that the time put into crafting these promotions will pay off, as white papers tend to have the longest promotional shelf life of any piece of gated content. We’ve observed that they continue to convert long after the initial promotion, so long as the topic is evergreen. For this reason, you can continue to promote white papers long after their initial release and promotion period.

Here’s an example of a white paper promotion:

Webinar promotions

Webinars create opportunities to interact with prospects in a number of key ways. First, they facilitate multiple conversations for you to have with your list through promotional efforts, registration follow ups, and day-of event reminders. What’s more is they will sustain the progressive profiling engine on your site in the form of an evergreen gated asset where prospects can exchange their information to view the replay well after the live event has happened. Finally, you can utilize transcription services like to gain SEO equity from an approximate 8,000-10,000 word transcript from the event after the fact. For promoting an upcoming webinar, we recommend this cadence of emails:

  1. Single link dedicated blast sent to your entire list about two weeks before the event (shown below)
  2. Webinar promotion as a featured item within your blog digest about one week before the event
  3. Single link dedicated promotion deployed a day before the event to the section of your list which engaged with a previous promotion, but have not yet registered

Here’s an example of a single link registration email promotion of a webinar:

Whether communicating with longtime readers or purchasing an email list for the first time, the same basic principle applies: share that which adds value. You’ll win the outbound long game by nurturing a symbiotic relationship in which your audience trusts your thought leadership and you gain their loyalty in the process.

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