Today’s guest post comes from Sarah Fudin. Sarah is an inbound marketing manager at 2U Inc., an education company that supplies universities with the resources to go online. Sarah currently works with the the George Washington University on their online MPH program. Outside of work Sarah enjoys running, reading, and Pinkberry frozen yogurt.
As a retired college athlete, turned coach, turned customer management guru, turned social media lady (I’m not ready to name myself a queen or guru at this point), turned linkbuilder slash community manager (is that even possible?), I’ve learned many things, but one thing has stood out to me: it’s all about building relationships.
I’ve realized in my short 25 years and even shorter 4 years in the workplace that relationships are king. Relationships are what move you forward in your personal life, your career and your bigger aspirations. I also have come to believe that it’s not actually who you know, but who you’re willing to get to know that will help to move you forward.
Okay, enough with all of the philosophy. The questions remains, how do we turn all of these relationships that are so important into an overall inbound marketing strategy? The process starts with identifying your goals as an individual or a team and figuring out a systematic way to achieve those goals.
Here’s a process I’ve had some success with:
1. Identify Your Goals
As an inbound marketing team, you must have goals. For my team, they go like this: create organic leads. How? Through linkbuilding, communication with thought leaders, and creating valuable and real relationships online. Why does this help? We gain visibility and traffic to our website. And what do we do to make this happen? Create a content, conduct outreach and implement an SEO strategy. Today I’m going to focus on outreach.
2. Identify Your Audience
In order to reach your goals, you’re going to have to connect with people. That’s right, even as an inbound marketer scouring the web for linkbuilding opportunities and all of the retweets in the world, you’re going to need to interact, connect and create a relationship with experts in your vertical. But how do you identify these people? This is where some practice with Google, SEOmoz, twitter, facebook, rapportive, and many other applications will come in handy.
Let’s use an example. Over the past few years I’ve been connecting with a community of teachers and educators through my work with USC’s Rossier School of Education’s Masters in Teaching program delivered online.
When I started communicating in this space I had little experience in teaching, I had been a teacher, but not for very long. Upon further research I identified the hashtag #edchat on twitter and was introduced to a world of connected educators, bloggers, tweeters, etc.
These were the people I need to connect with. By starting from the top (#edchat founders/moderators) I was able to find my way through the education community and identify the thought leaders in the space. The likelihood is, that you will be able to do the same thing through other twitter chats in other verticals.
3. Organize Your Audience
So, lets say you’re like me – you’re working in a vertical you’re passionate about, but may not know the online landscape. You’ve taken the time to identify who’s important in the space, but now you’re left to figure out what to do about it. I’m not just saying this because I’m writing a post for BuzzStream right now – BuzzStream has been absolutely amazing in creating a place for me to store everything about anyone that I may ever need to know.
By adding the bloggers and influencers into my BuzzStream account, I’m able to identify any easily accessible contact information, social media accounts, history any of my team members might have with them, and website authority metrics. From here, I might decide to organize this list by their authority or maybe at random by their name.
4. Look at Each Person as an Individual
If you’ve identified a group of bloggers, you need to recognize something: every blogger is important. Every blogger is an expert at something or has something to offer you to help you achieve your goals.
They may have a website with amazing resource lists that you could benefit from being included in. They may offer opportunities to connect with their community by guest posting. They may be willing to share content that you create. Or, they may be super aligned with your mission and be willing to work together with you for a common goal. Whatever the case is, each blogger is important and brings something great to the table. Treat them like the influencers they are.
Every time I reach out to someone, I feel humbled that they have created this presence, this content, or this resource for others to learn from. That should come across in your outreach.
5. Outreach, with a Goal in Mind
If your goal is to build links, then keep that in mind when you’re reaching out to a website – maybe you can write a guest post? If your goals is to solely to connect, then keep that in mind when you’re reaching out – maybe you don’t need to write a guest post? Also ask yourself this: what can you provide to this person that will help them?
Ultimately, you want to align your goals with their goals so that you will both mutually benefit from your relationship. Maybe the blogger is looking for more content or maybe they’re looking for resources to add to their page – whatever it is, you should be an authoritative figure able to offer something to them for something in return (or not).
6. Follow Them
Follow these bloggers on twitter, comment on their blogs, share their articles on facebook – there’s really no easier way to say, “Hi, I’m Sarah and I care about what you do” than to engage and care about what they actually do.
7. Follow Up
W. E. Hickson, a British educational writer once wrote, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.” This is true. There are plenty of times I’ve reached out to bloggers and heard crickets – turns out my email went to spam by accident. There have been a few times that my guest posts have been rejected – turns out I didn’t do a good enough job understanding their audience.
You will go much further if you’re able to admit your mistakes, be a real person and try again. There have also been times where I just haven’t heard back for no reason at all – it’s okay to follow up to make sure your message wasn’t lost or buried. Hopefully, there is a person on the other end of that email too.
8. Follow Through
Do what you say and say what you do. By this I mean, don’t be flakey. If you promise to write something up for someone, or share one of their articles or follow them on twitter – do it. There is no easier way for a relationship to fall through than letting it fall through. #bebetter
9. You did it!
I promise that if you identified your goals, figured out who you needed to connect with to reach them, organized yourself, offered something mutually beneficial and followed through in a way that made you seem like a caring human being, then your blogger relations will turn into links, or likes or follows or SERP movement, or all of the above – but this comes back to aligning your goals with your strategy in the first place and building the relationships to get there.