Outreach is reaching out to people in an indirect way (i.e. where you don't know to whom you're talking), compared to direct reach (which we call Targeting).
With Outreach, you cannot expect direct cause-and-effect. In fact, you should accept that the path that connects your Outreach activity to the creation of a new customer is likely to be so complex that you may not even understand it, never mind be able to measure it.
But, despite the fact that it isn't measurable, we do Outreach anyway, because we know it's the right thing to do.
So Outreach is an important discipline for most businesses and organizations, because it allows new people to discover your message. The only exception is really if you are running a short-term campaign, where longer-term or fuzzy promotional activity may not have time to bear fruit.
Always ask, "Who does my market already follow? Who has their attention? Who are my natural allies?"
Outreach is about building relationships, not direct sales. So take an attitude of, "How can I help you?" rather than, "How can I benefit from this?" because that's the way to build a following or tribe that will stay with you long-term. (If you urgently need short-term revenues, you should be using a short-funnel Targeting method, such as pay-per-click.)
Any Outreach channel you use will either be your own, or it will belong to someone else. Both types have their benefits.
If we're interested in marketing in the long term, of course we should aim to build assets that we own: often mailing lists, blog sites, or social media groups. However, you don't always want to be talking only to your own tribe.
Because the primary purpose of Outreach is to get your brand and message to new people, we should all be considering how to reach new blood, which is why we also aim to use other people's channels (lists, groups, blog, etc.)
A good principle is to offer a partner some real value, which will make them look good and be useful to their followers. Don't be mercenary and expect a short return. Instead, consider offering a "lead magnet" (or "pre-sell", page to follow) that requires the prospect to enter their email address, thereby growing your own list. (More details in "Capture" phase."
Consider outreach as the on-going activity that your brand does naturally. That is not to say you shouldn't make time for it, rather that it's about being who you are. Outreach spreads your message, your overall promise ("global proposition"), your vision for the world, so that new people can discover your brand.
On the plus side, Outreach has many benefits. A good blog post can get a huge amount of valuable traffic. (For example, a blog post I wrote on "The Top 10 Skills for Web Designers" has been viewed 472 times by 366,000 different people since I published it in June 2010, and was still getting traffic at the time of writing. Consider how much you would have to pay to reach that many people using ads!)
On the down side, some marketers don't like Outreach because it is long-term and practically impossible to measure. However, I don't think that's a good enough reason to ignore it.
The only really good reason not to do Outreach as part of your regular marketing activities is if you do not intend to build the business in the long-term, i.e. your offer is truly short-term.
Here's another story that should make you think twice. At the time of writing this, I'm running a small course with a group of about ten small business owners. When I asked the participants how they had first come across me, I got a range of responses. At least two of them had heard interviews I had done with other marketers (stuff that I do regularly for free, just to share ideas). And more than one had read one of my books (a great outreach tool). But the surprising thing I realised is that some of these people, whom I had only recently met for the first time, had been following me for years!
The best advice we can offer for general Outreach is to know your own brand first. The Circuit Interview and Circuit Review (in Strategy phase) should encourage you to be something that's worth talking about.
If you know what you stand for, or stand against, what people can count on you for, and what you believe in, and you fully embody those things, you will find your outreach is naturally easier.
People will instinctively know what you mean to them, and should have either a positive or negative reaction (which is preferable to no reaction at all), and should find your brand and your activities remarkable (i.e. worth talking about).
On the other hand, if you are unclear about what you mean to the world, you will have an uphill battle trying to get people to notice you, or to talk about you.
Outreach includes the following techniques: