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What to do during your first outreach session

Every outreach session should involve actually sending a message, and you will send some messages today! But the majority of your first session should be spent on strategy. Here’s what to do.

State your goal

There’s a wide gap between “what you’re hoping to achieve” and “a message that will do anything other than annoy or confuse the recipient,” and we have to narrow that gap.

So: what do you hope to achieve?

Write it down in the plainest language you can manage.

Here’s a hint: you do not hope to “create synergy by leveraging your expertise to drive innovative solutions.”

You might hope to sell your services, or appear on a podcast to sell your book. You might hope to land a job, or get someone to agree to mentor you.

Craft a quest

Now that you’ve written down your goal, free of pretense, it’s time to turn your attention to the people you want to talk to.

What kind of adventure would they like to help you with?

Yes, an adventure. A quest. The opening of a portal. That’s what you’re going to talk about in your outbound messages.

picture of a sleazy used car salesman next to a guy hiking on a mountaintop

Which guy do you want to help out? Also I have no idea why the sales guy has a mouth full of keys, stock photos are weird.

The easiest way to turn your selfish goal into an irresistible quest is to embark on a research project.

Say you want to sell your services - in particular, process improvement for UX teams. What if you picked a single, pernicious process problem that UX teams face, then set out on a quest to find out how 20 different leaders approach it?

If you sell design services to startups, you might decide to talk to 50 founders about how they created their company’s first logo.

Make it relevant to your goal

The UX leader you reach out to might answer, “Honestly we’re struggling with that right now. Do you do any consulting?”

The founder you interview about logo design could easily say, “Good questions, can’t wait to see this post when it comes out. By the way, we’re actually looking for some design help …”

Make it fun

“A mission to interview 50 founders about their company’s logo” and “a quest to bring insights about website experimentation to small ecomm brands” both sound like the kind of thing someone can join in on, or at least stand in the sidelines and root for.

“Discuss my services” … not so much.

Take your time

Give yourself 15-20 minutes to craft your goal into a quest.

Don’t make the scope too ambitious, but make sure it’s interesting and novel. Brainstorm a few ideas and weigh the pros and cons.

Play with how you’ll talk about it - it’s okay if “quest” is too nerdy and you’d rather call it a project. Be authentic.

Send a couple messages

Once you’ve got an idea of what your quest might be, spend the last 5 minutes of your session actually doing outreach. Send some emails, or messages.

But don’t go after your target audience or ideal client just yet. Start with friendlies.

That’s right - reach out to your closest friends or family members and tell them about your quest.

What they lack in market fit, they’ll make up for in willingness to listen. And now that they know what you’re working on, they’re able to mention it to folks who are in your market. (They also get to cheer from the sidelines, and that helps too.)

If you’ve completed these three steps:

  1. Be clear and honest about your goals
  2. Formulate a quest that’s relevant to the folks you want to reach
  3. Shared the quest with a few close relations

… your first session is done. Great job.

You might have noticed there’s been no mention of actually selling, and that’s quite by design. Focus on the sales and you’ll come off as desperate, annoying. Focus on the quest and the sales will take care of themselves.


Did you know ...

This post is part of a series called Long Game Outreach.

Each issue contains scripts, strategies, or success stories to help you practice authentic, non-spammy outreach.

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© 2022 Brian David Hall