In this post we’re going to compare the most popular solutions for conducting & managing link building and/or PR outreach.
Which one should I use?
After my research & testing, it pains me to give such one-dimensional answers (cue waves of criticism), but since that’s what a lot of you are looking for, here’s the TL;DR version of what you should use:
- Small business owners – Google Drive / Excel ($0/anything/month)
- Solo person or small team – Pitchbox ($47-67/project/month)
- Mid to large-size team – BuzzStream ($15-25/user/month)
See the more in-depth comparison here. The group up for the most debate is the mid-size teams (i.e. ~5 people).
With that said, making a decision purely off the above is a very poor idea. They were made off a few critical assumptions that don’t hold true for ALL of you. Each platform has its own sets of advantages, so you need to answer these main questions before you can decide which is the best fit for you:
- “What budget do I have to work with?” – If you’re so shoestring that you can’t afford shoestrings, spreadsheets are always free, and can probably do the job. Even if, understand how your options price as they scale. Some are more friendly than others.
- “Do we want prospecting features built-in?” – More of you are in this bucket than I realize, but I don’t think it’s smart to be. If you do need them for whatever reason, this can impact your decision. But I’d rather you go elsewhere to get it done right (think Link Prospector, Ahrefs, Majestic, LRT, BuzzSumo, etc.) & simply import those lists, than by using tools where it’s not their bread & butter.
- “Are we hand reviewing individual prospects?” – some of you may already know the exact set of sites they’re reaching out to (i.e. pulling a list of supplier websites) that don’t need to be qualified individually. If that’s the case, then you may not need these features in BuzzStream/Pitchbox.
- “How many people are doing outreach?” – If it’s just you, then you don’t need to try to figure out who contacted which site saying what. You did it all yourself. Even if you did need to do in some small overlaps, a quick inbox search isn’t difficult.
- “How many websites/clients are we doing outreach for?” – It makes a serious difference if you’re talking about outreach for one website or outreach for 10 websites. Even if you’re not doing multiple today, do you think you will be?
- “How important to me is reporting?” – Do you want something you can send to a client/manager and not think twice on, or are you simply reporting to yourself / have your own reporting tools?
Why is this an important decision?
Outreach is a critical component of “getting shit done”, and doing it effectively & efficiently is essential for those serious about building links.
- If you’re looking to use one for the first time, getting it right from the beginning is huge. Moving platforms can be a pain.
- If you’re already on one, despite that pain, it’s important to not be complacent & consider what’s now available. For example, 2 of the 4 options in this post were in their infancy even 18 months ago (as of this writing), and the other 2 have changed rapidly in that time as well.
Overall, if getting links faster, or getting MORE links, is important to you, than this is a critical decision. Don’t just take into account where you’re at now, but also where you’re going (if you plan to do more/less outreach in the future).
About Me + This Post
Before we get into each platform, it’s important to highlight my background. I run an agency of 10+ link builders, and we’ve used BuzzStream from the start. The purpose of researching & writing this post for myself was to help challenge my assumption that they’re the best option for us. With that said, I do have a relationship with BuzzStream, and have done my best to remove any bias of them & purely look at the value of each.
I sent each review in this post to someone at each of these companies, in order to make sure the validity of what I discovered, as well as clearing up any misconceptions (down to a very high level of detail). With that said, the features of each of these tools are changing rapidly; i.e. one screenshot I took was outdated in a week!
Further more, it’s worth highlighting that this post contains affiliate links for Ninja Outreach & BuzzStream. I would’ve also used affiliate links for Pitchbox & Outreach.io, but they don’t have affiliate programs (much to my dismay). But feel free to disregard the validity of this post due to those links.
Outreach Platform Reviews
We’ll be reviewing each of the following platforms (alphabetically):
With that said, after reviewing each of these 4 platforms, I realized that it was really a “two-horse race” between BuzzStream & Pitchbox. I talk about why here. As a result, I’ve reviewed the main two in as much detail as possible, and reviewed the other two in lesser detail (highlighting just the important things) which come later in the post.
So let’s now start with the main two platforms, going alphabetically.
Overall, be prepared for somewhat of a learning curve, more than the other platforms in this post. This is a very flexible & scalable platform, but as a result, there’s a level of understanding needed.
After you initially sign up, you’ll be taken through a setup process that will look similar to the below:
There’s a handful of things you should setup immediately:
- BuzzMarker – arguably the best feature of the entire platform, the BuzzMarker is a chrome extension that allows you to do a lot of things straight from the browser. Install it for now; we’ll talk more about it later.
- Add Websites – ignore this for now, unless you’ve got a list of prospects ready-to-go.
- Setup Email – setup each of the different email accounts you’ll be using during outreach. If you’re on Gmail, this is a 2-click setup process.
- Setup Twitter – if you plan on doing any outreach / have any conversations with prospects on Twitter, set it up in a couple clicks.
- Add Users – ignore for now.
Once you go through the above, you should be taken to a similar screen below.
Let’s explain what you’re looking at above in a few quick bullets:
- We call this view ‘The Grid’. It’s essentially a table that will have rows for each prospect in a given project (there’s currently none).
- In the top left, you’ll note that this tells you which project you’re in. Currently, I’m in ‘Example Project’.
- There are 4 main views of The Grid: Websites, People, Link Monitoring, and Dashboard.
- Websites – organized by the different domains of your prospects.
- People – organized by the names of individuals of your prospects.
- Links – organized by the specific pages you either have links from or are trying to get links from of your prospects.
- Dashboard – shows outreach conversations across the entire team, or specific projects, or specific users, in one place.
Let’s look at a screenshot of what things look like in the Websites view when there are prospects in it.
You can configure the columns of your table to show a lot of different things (i.e. tags, type, any dates, metrics, contact info, custom fields, etc.). If BuzzStream logs it, you can configure to show it here.
Let’s now take a look at the People view.
Once again, configure the columns to what you want (too many options to list). It’s worth noting though the Website column; you can actually tie Website, People & Link records together, which is a vital aspect of the setup.
So, for example, if an author writes for multiple blogs, you can tie them together in their settings. If there are multiple pages on a single website you want to get a link from, you can tie them together.
Let’s now look at the Links view.
Note the ‘Check Backlinks’ button towards the top: it allows you to check the specific pages you’ve saved to see if they’re linking to the project’s domain.
Keeping the above intro in mind, let’s now dive into organization.
Overall, if you don’t get organization right, you won’t like BuzzStream. The app will seem tedious and hindering. It took me personally a while to get this right. But when I did, I unlocked a lot of the value it had to offer.
In the few screenshots shown above, there’s a lot going on within the app. Particularly, things like:
- Projects – why would you want to split things up into their own projects? When is this appropriate?
- Custom fields – only Relationship Stage was mentioned so far, but what are custom fields, and what are they used for?
And some things that haven’t been mentioned yet:
- Users – if I’ve got multiple people on my team, how should they be organized within the app?
- Categorization – how can I categorize prospects in a way that scales to multiple website types, topics & verticals?
I’ll start by illustrating how my team organizes things in BuzzStream.
Projects & Folders
Our organization of projects starts off in one of 3 main folders:
Note: folders are used specifically, and only, to divide up projects. There are no folder-specific settings.
Within each of the 2 client folders (Current + Archived), we have a folder for each client. Within each client folder, we have projects for each of our main service offerings (i.e. Main Tactic #1 & Main Tactic #2). We do this because they’re essentially different divisions within our team. We usually only do 1 per client, but we like to stay organized in this way, in case we latch on another service offering in the future.
How you want to personally divide up projects is up to you, but there’s one key project setting you should key into:
As you can see from the above, in your project settings, you designate a URL or domain that you’re trying to build links to. This is ultimately what’s used in the Link Monitoring part of the app, which we’ll talk about later.
So I highly recommend you split up specific sites (or clients) into different projects, at the very least, given this feature. There’s no limit to the projects you can create in BuzzStream.
Also, another important project setting worth noting here is the ability to select which users have access to it.
I view custom fields as the bread & butter of BuzzStream. They enable you to organize & customize campaigns in any which way you want.
We’ll start with an example. One of the very few required custom fields is Relationship Stage. In essence, this states where a specific prospect is at in the pipeline. Here’s an example of some of the Stages we use.
Here are the most important ones for us:
- Not Yet Researched – we’ve saved the prospect as qualified, but haven’t prepped for outreach (i.e. found contact info, wrote the email, etc.).
- Prepped for Outreach – this is specifically for those we’ve prepped for outreach, but have a contact form URL. We save them here until an appropriate time of day & week to submit the form (since this can’t be automated / queued up for a future time/day).
- Not Started – those we’ve prepped for outreach, and have an email queued up for a future time. When it gets sent, the prospect automatically moves into Attempting to Reach.
- Attempting to Reach – we’ve sent at least 1 email, but haven’t heard back.
- In Talks – we’ve heard back, but we haven’t drawn a conclusion.
- Waiting for Result – we’ve sent our link/post/pitch over for review, but haven’t drawn a conclusion.
- Agreed to Link – they’ve verbally agreed to do what we want them to do, i.e. post our link, accept our post, write about our client’s asset, etc.
- Link Accepted – the link is live! Booyah.
- Rejected – they shot down our request.
There are others, but the above makes up the vast majority. But the cool thing is, you can customize all of the above.
Note: the only 3 you can’t edit are Not Started, Attempting to Reach, and Link Accepted. The first 2 are because they automatically move prospects from 1 to the other (respectively) once a queued email gets sent, and the last is used for their link monitoring feature (if they find a link on the URL you’ve saved, their stage automatically gets moved to Link Accepted).
With the above said, that’s just our Relationship Stage field. We have 20+ custom fields just for website records, and 8 for link records.
Note: your custom fields will be divided up by the type of record, going back to the Website/People/Links division mentioned in the Setup section. So, for example, you might have ‘Role’ as a field for People, but that wouldn’t make sense for Links, whereas you might have a ‘Page Title’ field for that, based off your preferences.
We use custom fields for 3 different reasons:
- Filtering / Division – if you’re looking for a specific segment of prospects, filtering by that custom field allows us to easily find them. In the same way, this division of organization helps for process management.
- Template fields – a custom field value can be used in an outreach template (but unfortunately, only Website fields).
- Data analysis – very recently, we’ve had data entry workers analyzing prospects and pulling out specific data points, and saving them in a specific field, which makes the data structured in a way that it can be pulled out via the API (i.e. specific approaches took).
When creating a new custom field, you’ll get the below options screen.
It’s worth highlighting each setting:
- Name – this can’t be the same as any other custom field already created, given that they’re called in templates by name.
- Type – in the above, I’ve selected Checkbox, but you can choose any of the below:
- Enable field in… – if you only want that custom field for specific project, you can specify here. If it’s a universal field, you need to choose if its value will be project-specific, or universal (i.e. Relationship Stage is a project-specific value; your stage with that client/prospect combination is unique to just that client).
- Disable – you can disable a field at any time, if you want to reduce clutter within the app while still keeping it on the books.
Once a field is created, and used across the app, you can then filter by it in the grid:
Note: if you’re wondering, you can filter by just about anything in the grid. I’ve yet to find structured data that I can’t filter by.
Additionally, as mentioned previously, you can pull out any custom field values via the API (given some of the limitations of the API, this can be a great workaround).
Since pricing is primarily based off the number of users on your team, this is worth mentioning in detail.
Everyone on our team is their own user. We do this because we do a lot data analysis about each individual team member. We couldn’t do this unless each had their own account, and as a result, having all of their data segmented.
If you’re not looking to analyze each team member in detail, or can do it in another way (i.e. if person A is responsible only for task X, and no one else is, then we can assume that any time task X is completed, it’s done by that person, and can be analyzed/attributed accordingly), then you wouldn’t need to divide things up in this way. So really it’s up to you.
With that in mind, one key area of users is Roles. You can assign them a specific role, which you can customize on the below page.
Note: one role our team will soon have is a Manager role, but for the time being & up until about ~15 people, I’m basically doing all those functions.
Here’s a look at our team’s most popular role, ‘Standard Link Builder’:
You’re allowed to customize a user’s role by any main functionality or part of the app (with a few exceptions).
Also mentioned previously, you can split up access to specific projects by user, which is also handy.
Pro tip: if you want to get rid of a user, but want all of their data intact (assigned to them, meaning it can be segmented by them), ask the support team to ‘Archive’ the user. Archived users won’t count towards your account’s user limit.
One usability detail – a user can only respond to an email from within the app if they sent the original email. So if you have one person sending initials, but another responding, you can only respond within BuzzStream by having them both use a single user account (see earlier section on pros/cons here).
One last area that my team is finally cracking the code on is how to organize up specific prospects from a topical perspective, in case you want to say, for example, “show me all marketing blogs we’ve gotten to write about our product.”
I recommend the use of Tags for this. You can create any number of tags within BuzzStream, it’s easy to filter by, and you can use multiple tags per prospect (it’s highly likely a site will be about multiple topics). They’re also easier to manage than a checkbox custom field.
If you go this route, it’s absolutely essential that you & your team have an agreed upon list/hierarchy of topics. Otherwise, this won’t work! Imagine if user A marked one site as ‘Auto’, user B marked it as ‘Cars’, and user C marked it as ‘Automobiles’. Filtering would be hell on earth, I tell you.
From my own personal research, I’ve found the following to be great sources of pre-defined hierarchies of topics:
- Dmoz – they categorized the Web, and did a hell of a job at it.
- BOTW Blogs – the largest hand-curated blog directory I could find. They get paid a lot, so they probably care a lot about categorization.
- Alchemy – you can actually download an Excel file of their taxonomy classifications (alternate link if it ever gets removed).
My team ended up building our own, but used the above 3 as guides.
As for deeper levels of categorization, if we used a tag that was 3 levels deep (i.e. Science > Agriculture > Forestry), we would use all 3 tags. Unfortunately though, you can’t filter by those with only a single tag (i.e. just those tagged as Science, but nothing else), so there are certain things my team & I are still working through.
This is less of an organization thing, and more of a “you should understand this before you get going” thing.
Your outreach templates can be found via the below button at the top of the page of each project’s Website tab.
From there, you can see all universal or project-specific templates, along with response rates of each.
When you go to create a new template, you’ll get the below screen.
A few specific things:
- You can choose if a template is universal, or only for that specific project.
- You can choose to keep a template private, or share it with the rest of the team.
- Fields that you can use in templates can be found in the right sidebar. This includes website custom fields, people custom fields, BuzzStream user first/last names, and unsubscribe options.
Other than that, it’s a fairly straightforward template creation module.
I decided to mark this tool as its own section given how important it is to the platform. It has a few different uses, which we’ll go into below.
For my team, it’s a central part of our workflow; we spend more time with it than in the main app itself.
View/Save details of a specific prospect
This is the main functionality of the extension. When it’s toggled, a pane will show on the right side of the screen, allowing you to save the current website to your current project.
If a website has already been saved to BuzzStream, you can view or edit any of its details. If that’s the case, the right-sided pane will look like the below.
From there, you can edit any website details, link (specific URL) details, add notes, or conduct outreach, which we’ll talk about next.
One of my team’s favorite features is being able to send an outreach email directly from the page you’re viewing, by clicking on this icon.
You’ll then get the below prompt at the bottom of your screen.
From here, you can format the email, use your templates, set reminders, and use attachments. After the email is filled out, you can either send now, or send it at a later date (and down to a specific minute of the day).
Create a prospecting list
This allows you to view a list of active links on a page (i.e. on a Google SERP) in a carousel mode, allowing you to quickly view each back-to-back.
Simply right click on a page, and choose ‘create a prospecting list’.
From there, you’ll get a prompt on the right side of your screen, detailing the list of links on the page.
You can edit the list by deleting any specific ones. You’ll also get notes on if they’ve been added to another project. When you’re ready, hit ‘Start Prospecting’.
You’ll now be able to view/edit the details of each, and be able to quickly go to the next in the list using the next/back buttons at the bottom of the screen.
If you have a list of URLs you want to view, you can make them active links on a given webpage by pasting them into a tool like URLOpener.com. We’ll show a use case of this in the Workflow section below.
View highlighted contacts
This allows you to check which active links on a page are on domains that have already been saved, either to that specific project (dark green) or to any project (light green).
BuzzStream does have a prospecting feature built in. As with most tools, all it’s doing is scraping Google, so if you have more specialized tools for that, you’re not missing out here.
To use their prospecting feature, locate the ‘Add Websites’ button in the Websites view of your project, and select ‘Find Prospects > Create New Prospecting Profile’.
Once you do, you’ll get the below screen.
First, you’ll name it & set the country (which version of Google being scraped); for the international folks, you can scrape from 100+ different countries.
Second, you’ll come up with the prospecting searches. I won’t go into what you should be coming here, and will defer to these resources.
Third, you can set it up to run on a weekly basis (recommended; results Google shows vary all the time), and get notifications of new prospects.
After creating a new prospecting profile, you can now find this segment of prospects in the menu here.
After it finds results (takes a couple minutes), you’ll get the below view in the grid.
The main new thing you’ll notice are the 3 buttons to the right of the domains listed. Before explaining each button, it’s worth mentioning that this list of websites from your prospecting report can only be found when specifically view this prospecting list. These websites won’t show up in your normal Websites view. With that said, here are what those 3 buttons do:
- Thumbs up – prospect is removed from list, and is added to your project’s list of Websites.
- Thumbs down – prospect is removed from list.
- Crossed out circle – prospect is added to your blacklist, so you’re cautioned not to add them / reach out to that website in the app in the future.
You can view the prospecting list efficiently by utilizing their BuzzBar, something you’ll find mentioned here:
You can view specifically selected prospects in this feature, or the entire prospecting list. It’s your choice. Once you’re viewing them using the BuzzBar, you’ll get the below screen.
From this screen, you’ll be taken one-by-one through each prospect in the list, where you can qualify any using the 3 buttons (see top left), save any specific details in the right column, conduct outreach (see top right-ish), and then go to the next prospect in the list.
There are some other aspects to the BuzzBar beyond that, but overall, I’m not focusing on it because I’ve been told that they’ll be deprecating the BuzzBar sometime in the future and simply just use the BuzzMarker (a much better alternative for reasons explained later).
However, for now, the only way to view a prospecting list (using the 3 aforementioned buttons) straight from the dashboard is with the BuzzBar. A workaround for this, if you’d like to view them in the BuzzMarker (addressed later), is to select them all in the left-most column, and then hit Export.
You’ll then get the list of prospect URLs in a CSV.
Take that list of URLs and paste them into a tool like URLOpener.com, which will simply make the URLs active links on a page.
Right click on that page, and using the BuzzMarker, choose “Create a prospecting list”.
You’ll then be able to view them in a carousel view, just like the BuzzBar, but without some of its viewing limitations.
With that said, let’s now talk about what workflow looks like.
Because BuzzStream is such a flexible platform, there’s a number of ways you can do things using the tools & functionalities they provide. With that said, as a long-time user, I wanted to show how we primarily use the platform for the various tasks we perform on a regular basis.
Our overall process looks like this:
- I do all the up-front prospecting myself, and pass off prospecting lists to our team, grouped by client.
- They review & qualify each by hand.
- They then collect collect info & info necessary for certain template fields.
- We send the initial emails, conduct follow ups, and respond to emails until we draw a conclusion with each prospect.
Based off that process, I’ll now walk through what our workflow looks like. We’ll start #2 in the list, given we do prospecting outside of the app.
Note: our workflow is very similar to how Pitchbox is structured out-of-the-box. The below shows how you can work in a similar way within BuzzStream, if things are setup properly.
Each team member starts with a list of URLs. Their goal is to quickly figure out which ones are qualified (both authoritative + obtainable), and then save them to BuzzStream so we can collect further information on them later.
To start, they take that list of URLs, and paste them into a tool like URLOpener.com, in order to view them in the BuzzMarker chrome extension.
At this point, now that they’re being displayed as a prospecting list in BuzzMarker, it’s as easy as doing a few quick things:
Setting Default Values
First, at the beginning of any batch of prospects we’re reviewing, we locate this default settings icon at the top of the panel.
Once clicked, you’ll get this prompt to enter in values for fields that will be used for each new website we save.
There’s a number we use internally, and 4-5 are based off the campaign type we’re doing, so being able to set this up-front (and not for each individual website) saves a lot of time. Once we’re finished, we’ll simply hit Done.
Make An Assessment
From here, now we can view the entire page in our browser that we’re reviewing, and can click through to any other pages on the website, and still have the BuzzMarker settings handy.
Save the Prospect
If we decide that it’s a good prospect, all we have to do is hit is save it in one click.
We then save that specific page as a new Link record (the first save was for the domain).
From there, at this point in our process, we don’t do anything else. We simply go to the next prospect in the list. This allows us to isolate the reviewing process, and get things down to only a couple clicks for each we review.
Overall, this process allows us to only save the good prospects to BuzzStream, instead of importing ALL, which removes a lot of junk from the app.
Collecting Personalized Info
Once we’ve saved enough qualified prospects to BuzzStream (we usually batch things by about 50), we then move to this step. We’re now going to collect all contact info & custom field inputs used in our templates.
Going into the grid, we’ll filter by all of those in the specific relationship stage of those that have been only simply saved (we mark them as ‘Not Yet Researched’).
We’d now like to view them in the BuzzMarker again, this time collecting this info, but unfortunately this can’t be done easily. Currently, the grid is only setup to view them in the BuzzBar, but viewing it that way has a lot of limitations that you’ll find out the more you use it.
So to get them into the BuzzMarker, after this filter, we’ll then have to export this list as a CSV.
In the CSV, we’ll then copy & paste all of either the URLs in the ‘Linking From’ column (if we’re looking to get links from specific pages) or the domains in the ‘Domain’ column into a tool like URLOpener.com, and then view them as a prospecting list.
From there, we’ll use the auto-discovered contact info as aids while we look for any other contact info, and also take notes about the specific pages/websites that we’ll be using for our templates & processes.
From there, we now have everything we need for our initial emails. For those who want complete automation for this step, you unfortunately can’t bulk send, but you can send initials in a click each from the grid.
Note on the left side of the screen: you can view history details (i.e. past emails, past tweets, notes, etc.), Link record details, recent RSS feed items (if a feed was found), other contact info and social profile links (if saved).
With that said, my team doesn’t do outreach in this way; we like to personalize our emails quite a bit, and found that sending the emails right from the page (directly after we collected those personalization fields) allows us to figure out ways we can make the emails more personal.
So for us, we’re sending the initials from the BuzzMarker. We’ll start the email, as shown below, but also minimize this email screen so we can view the entire page, check for things, then go back and make any necessary edits to the email.
We’ll usually queue these up to send later (see the arrow next to ‘Send now’), then move to the next prospect in the list, and repeat the process.
After sending initial emails, we have processes for:
- Conducting follow ups – unfortunately manual. We segment up those we need to do follow ups by the # of times they’ve been contacted in the past, and send the follow ups from the grid.
- Contacting someone else – if we don’t hear back from that first piece of contact info, we ‘repurpose’ them by finding new contact info & reaching out again (with a new message, usually noting our first email). We use a custom field to segment these.
- Responding to emails – this could be done via the dashboard, but it’s difficult to manage, given there isn’t a single inbox location for emails received, and because some emails don’t go through that are matched to specific prospects. So this is done via the original email’s inbox, and we have BuzzStream open in another tab to make any relationship stage edits.
With that said, that wraps up the majority of our normal workflow.
Currently, there are no out-of-the-box reporting features of BuzzStream for the average user.
You can, however, export all fields of any websites in any projects, and use that data in any reporting tools of your own. But you currently won’t find any ready-made reports with graphs/charts to export.
With that said, one of the biggest reasons why my team uses BuzzStreamisfor their reporting. They have an extensive API. We’ve built countless reporting tools of off the data we can get out of it. It’s just unfortunately not an option for the average user to build with it, given you’d need a developer to dive in.
I won’t talk too much about the API, given you’d need to learn more about what you can/can’t get out if it based off the documentation, but one thing worth noting is that their API Explorer makes things very easy for me when working with a developer. It’s a non-developer friendly tool to figure out what you can (and can’t) pull out, and how to identify for your developer what you want being pulled out.
With all of the above said, there are some specific things not mentioned in detail. The below list is simply things not addressed in the above breakdown.
- Tasks – you can select a group of websites and assign them as tasks to a specific person. You can then view any tasks of yours in the Dashboard tab, at the top right sidebar.
- Notes – you can add custom notes about specific websites, which can be found in the History tab of their profile.
- Blacklist – this was briefly mentioned before, but their blacklist feature allows you to mark individual websites as ‘Do Not Contact’, or bulk upload a list ahead of time. This can be done for domains, specific email addresses, or even Twitter accounts.
- Reminders – as mentioned previously, you can’t automate follow ups, but you can set reminders for specific prospects if you don’t hear back after X days, and you can also set notifications for when you hear back.
My team doesn’t use tasks, but I believe they also get listed in the reminders list, along with the aforementioned specific email settings.
Bugs & Drawbacks
As a user of BuzzStream myself, I’ve got a very good grasp on things we don’t like about the platform, and things that need to be fixed. The below list is sorted by importance.
- No inbox – this is probably the biggest area. Having to exit the app to continue email conversations from a separate inbox has its limitations. Email matching is more difficult, and viewing prospect details isn’t quick.
- Manual follow-ups – this has been brought up previously. My team tracks our time for specific tasks, and know that it adds up when having to do follow ups manually, even if only in a couple clicks.
- Bugginess of BuzzMarker – this sentiment has been specifically pointed out by other users of BuzzStream as well. We actually have an internal doc for our team of how to handle certain problems (usually involves installing then re-installing the extension at times…). Most the issues are intermittent; they’ll only last a few minutes. But it can definitely be buggy at times, some worse than others.
- Matching email logic – their logic for figuring out which prospect an email is from is mediocre (they only match by the exact address being emailed from). Some very easy to figure out emails don’t get marked, so for tracking purposes, we have to add all new email addresses to a specific website’s profile before future emails are then tracked & logged.
- Going to BuzzMarker prospecting lists from the app – noted above is our workaround for viewing a list of websites in the BuzzMarker from the app. You can use the Buzzbar, but it’s very limiting (it’s essentially an iframe).
- Link fields in templates – you can only use website custom fields in templates, not link or people custom fields.
- Default link fields in BuzzMarker – you can set default website fields when saving new prospects in the BuzzMarker, but you can’t set defaults for link fields as well.
- Saving auto-discovered contact info – all auto-discovered contact info gets automatically saved to all website records. This becomes especially annoying in the BuzzMarker, when you don’t want to use what’s discovered, and have to delete each item before saving.
- Embedding images in emails – my team doesn’t personally need this, but I know there are those out there that do.
There are a number of very tiny issues we’ve noticed beyond these 8 (i.e. things like not being able to edit the type of note from the BuzzMarker), but they have minor workarounds.
Setup & Organization
After you initially sign up & get logged in, the first thing you’ll do is create a Project. Projects are what the pricing model is based off of. My assumption is that you would segment clients & target sites up by different Projects, so look at this aspect mostly from an organizational perspective (although it’s worth noting that opportunities, or prospects, are de-duplicated at a project-level).
Once you name & create your first Project, you will now be taken to a page to create your first campaign. This is where things really begin. The screen for doing this is below.
Campaigns are what Pitchbox is built around. They have 8 built-in campaign types (listed below), but also allow for custom imports of websites & contacts. If you select one of their campaign types, they do the prospect discovery for you. Here’s what they are:
- Blogger Outreach – you input keywords, they give you a list of blog articles.
- Advanced Search – you input search phrases, they scrape their Google results.
- Product Reviews – you input keywords, they give you a list of blogs that (they think) have featured review articles in the past.
- 48 Hour Blog Search – you input keywords, they give you a list of blog articles published in last 48 hours.
- Competitor Backlinks (NEED to integrate w/ Majestic OR LRT) – you input competitor domains, they give you a list of URLs linking to them.
- Link Removal (default OR using LRT) – doesn’t prospect; you have to provide the list of URLs. But makes things very efficient for getting links removed.
As a result, you don’t have to come ready with a list of sites ready to research.
Creating A Campaign
We’ll start by looking at the main group of built-in campaign types they offer that offer prospecting functionality that is ready out-of-the-box. Specifically, those are the Blogger Outreach, Advanced Search, Product Reviews & 48 Hour Blog Search campaign types.
For this group, once you click ‘Create’, you’ll be taken to this screen.
We’ll go down the list for each of the fields & inputs:
- Campaign Name – simply, what you want to call it.
- Country – from my understanding, country-specific version of Google they’ll be scraping (getting their results from).
- Keywords – the most important part. The quality of the results you get back will be dictated by the keywords you come up with. Pitchbox has a tutorial video here for the selection process. Overall, the process isn’t any different than the one you’d use when scraping Google for link prospects with any other tool.
- Max Results – this dictates how many results in Google you want scraped. The more results, the more prospects (but they get more irrelevant the further you go).
- Quality Filter – the options for this feature is hidden by default; it allows you to filter your results by certain quality metrics (as shown below). Specifically, by Google PageRank, both Majestic Citation Flow & Trust Flow, LRT Power*Trust, and Moz metrics (DA + MozRank on domain & subdomain levels). You can set your own filters, or you can use one of their pre-built “good” or “great” filters.
- Advanced Options – also hidden by default; allows you to select four options. First, if you want ‘Approval Workflow’. We’ll explain this feature later. Second, if you want them to find contact info for you. Third, to disable their auto de-duplication (on a project level). And lastly, to make Recurring, so new prospects are found on a regular basis (i.e. re-scraping Google, checking Majestic again, etc.).
With the above said, the type of campaign you select will dictate the type of results you get back. For example, if you selected Product Reviews, you’ll get back a list of any pages found through Google that are both about your keyword, and have any footprint specific to that type (i.e. by appending “review” or “product review” to the keywords for your searches).
Alternatively, if you integrate your Majestic credentials with the tool, you’ll have a different campaign setup screen, as shown below.
Instead of keywords, you’ll enter the domains of your competitors, and instead of setting a max # of results scraped for each keyword, you’ll enter a max # of linking pages.
Finally, if you have your own set of prospects already, then you can simply upload them view the ‘Website Import’ campaign type, as shown below. It’s as easy as entering the URLs into a text area, or uploading a CSV.
Once you’ve filled out all the settings for the campaign you’re creating, scroll to the bottom and hit ‘Next’. You’ll now be asked to create an email template, as shown below.
If you don’t have any idea where to start when creating your template, you can use some of the ones they provide themselves in the righthand sidebar.
For example, here’s what ‘The Godfather Offer’ template looks like. Overall, they have ~20 built-in templates that you can use that are for all kinds of campaign types (PR included).
As you may notice in the above example, they not only allow for custom variables in your emails, but also for conditional logic. The template states “Dear [First Name],” if a name is found, but if not, simply state “Hello,”. For the advanced crowd out there, conditional logic is a HUGE perk. For more info on what you can do with that logic, it’s using Smarty.
Pro tip: when writing follow up templates, you can pull in the original email sent (so it’s seen as if you’re replying to it) with the } tag).
Once your main template is setup, you’ll be taken to a final setup screen, as shown below. Simply confirm the email address being used for the campaign, and the templates used for the email sequence. You have the option for setting up automated follow ups (up to 2; so 3 emails in total), and can specify the # of days in between when the follow ups are sent.
Now that we’re finished, the tool will then start to find contact information for each of the websites you entered (given you didn’t un-check this option). When that’s finished, on your campaigns page, you’ll have a graph like the below detailing how many prospects are in that campaign.
By clicking the blue bar, you’ll be taken to the first stage of conducting a campaign, which is labeled ‘Inspecting’. We’ll talk more on this next.
Conducting A Campaign
Now that you’ve either prospected for new opportunities, or imported a list of URLs, you’re ready to get into the main workflow of the tool, one of its greatest assets.
The workflow of conducting a campaign is split up into 3 main areas:
- Inspect – reviewing the opportunities (unless the URLs you imported are pre-qualified).
- Personalize – reviewing the contact info they collected, and finding the inputs for custom template variables (i.e. “Blog Name”, “Post Title”, etc., which in some cases, are also scraped ahead of time).
- Compose – previewing & sending each individual email (and editing if necessary), or just bulk sending them all at once.
We’ll now go into each of those 3 in detail.
First, we need to inspect each opportunity to see if it’s a good fit for our campaign. You can review each URL without even leaving the app, as shown below.
As a result, it’s very easy to breeze through this part of the process if you need to vet individual URLs. When you determine if one is qualified, simply hit the blue ‘Move to Personalization’ button, moving it into the next stage of the process.
An additional feature of this part of the tool is the list of metrics displayed in the columns on the right hand side, as shown below.
You can click any of those and easily sort the list each from top to bottom.
Note: if the list of URLs you imported are already qualified for whatever reason, you can simply use the checkbox at the top left of the panel to Select All, and then all at once, click ‘Move to Personalization’.
After you’re finished going through all the prospects, for those that you didn’t move into the next stage (Personlization), you don’t necessarily have to delete them. You may want to, but we’ll talk about why later.
Next, it’s time to get all the details we need from each website for our email. That usually means contact info, and custom variables for our templates.
To start, go to the ‘Personalize’ tab, and look for the ‘Personalize’ button next to each website record, as shown below.
Upon clicking, you’ll have three main areas on your screen: the contact info they collected, personalization fields used for your templates, and the webpage open for you to look at.
From here, you can review the contact info selected & make any necessary edits/removals/additions & edit in the appropriate custom variables.
Starting with the contact information, it’s important to understand the implications of what you leave in here. For every address they find, if you don’t delete it from the list, it will be included in an email sequence that sends your email to ALL of them (unless someone gets back to one of them or to one of your follow ups).
As an example, if they found 2 addresses, and you set a main template & a follow up template with 5 days in between sending each, then here’s what your email sequence will look like:
- Now: main email is sent to contact #1
- In 5 days: follow up email is sent to contact #1
- In 10 days: main email is sent to contact #2
- In 15 days: follow up email is sent to contact #2
And so on & so forth for each address entered in that section (which you can drag-and-drop the order of). Therefore, it’s important to review each, and see if they’re relevant or not. If they’re not, then they should be deleted from the list.
One noteworthy thing to aid you in this process is their ‘Enhance Contacts’ feature. You can find this as a star next to each piece of contact info, as shown below.
Upon clicking, if the appropriate info is found, they’ll display a heap of extra things about that contact, as shown below.
So keep that in mind when investigating certain contacts.
Moving on, one nice feature of the section for personalized fields is that you can see the context of where they’re being inserted into the template, so you can mouth how it would sound & see if it fits.
It’s also worth noting that for certain fields (i.e. Blog Name), they’ll go out & do they’re best to find them for you, just like with contact information. In example of some auto-scraped info is below.
After you’ve reviewed & edited all the necessary contact info & personalization fields, you can both preview the email to see what it will look like with those fields, and save & go to the next prospect in the list.
The email preview screen is nice because the personalization fields entered are highlighted, as shown below in my amazing template.
Now that we’re finished with this one, click ‘Submit to Compose’, and you’ll be taken to the next prospect in the group to do this all over again for.
If, for whatever reason, you don’t want to individually review each URL for this personalization stage, and just want to go straight to composing the email (using the contact info they collected), you can do so with the ‘Bypass Personalization’ button here. Just select all with the checkbox on the left, and click that button.
We’re now ready for the final stage: Compose.
At this point, we’ve now got all the info we need for the email, and are ready to do one of two things: Preview & Send, or Launch Automation Sequence.
Preview & Send allows you to review & edit each email before you queue it to send, while Launch Automation Sequence queues them all up to send in one click.
If the same person doing the Personalizing is also doing the Composing, and no further personalization happens beyond the custom fields, then you can just hit Launch Automation Sequence and be done with it.
But if a separate person is doing each, then the person doing the Composing might want to review the work done by the one who Personalized. In this case you would have to have the “Workflow Approval” feature on. This allows you to review ones work, and “Reject” it if the work needs to be re-done.
Additionally, for the Preview & Send screen, there are a few things worth pointing out.
First, you’ll see a list of all emails in your sequence for that prospect. This number is determined by the # of email addresses you have for it, as well as the # of email attempts (main + follow ups).
Second, make sure you select the ‘Auto Follow-Up Sequence’ at the bottom, which is not selected by default. This automates the sending of follow ups. Otherwise, Pitchbox will notify you when you need to send a follow up, which is additional manual work that should instead just be automated from the start 9 out of 10 times.
Once you hit Send, your emails will be queued up and sent based off your outreach schedule in your campaign settings (which we’ll talk about next).
In case you queued up emails by mistake, if they haven’t been sent out yet, you can find them by clicking here.
On that page, you can move any individual (or group) of emails back into the Compose section, just with a few clicks of a checkbox.
There is a few settings you should make yourself aware of before any emails go out. The most important of them is the outreach schedule, as shown below.
This is a great feature because this means you don’t need to select the day/time for each email.
One thing to note about exactly what time the emails are sent – the group you have queued up will be spread out over the appropriate times you have selected for the next appropriate day. So for example, going with the screenshot above, if I queued up 20 emails on a Sunday, they will be sent out on Tuesday, all randomly between 8:30AM and 6:00PM (in the timezone assigned in the project settings).
Other than the outreach schedule, you can also manage your personalization fields in the campaign settings.
Notably, you can make some fields required, and you can give a descriptive help message to aid the person doing the Personalizing.
Other that your outreach schedule & personalization fields, you can also edit any of the details that you entered when you first created the campaign, both General settings & Template settings.
At this point, we’ve now sent out our initial emails, and are now starting to receive responses back. One of the great features of Pitchbox is that they have a built-in inbox, so you can respond to emails right from their dashboard.
In this case, we’re paying attention to both the ‘Inbox’ & the ‘Unmatched Emails’ items in the left hand sidebar.
From a workflow perspective, you’ll start by going into the Unmatched Emails section. These are emails received back, that Pitchbox doesn’t know which exact prospect it’s from. It’s VITAL that we match them with which prospect they are in their system, so no automated follow ups go out after they respond.
This part of their tool is quite cool; here’s an example of one of those unmatched email records I got.
On the right side, you’ll notice the ‘Suggestions’ area towards the bottom. This is their best educated guess for which prospect this is. In the example above, they got it right, and took one click to match it. If the suggestion doesn’t look right, you can use the search box, and i.e. type in the domain of the email address you received, or anything else you can think of trying.
Once you match the email, it gets removed from the ‘Unmatched Emails’ section and goes into your inbox. So, in terms of process, go through these first & make the matches, then respond to them in the inbox.
Here’s what the inbox looks like.
A few specific things worth pointing out:
- You can filter by the email account used, so if you’ve got multiple team members working in the same project, each can see their own emails this way.
- In the ‘Opportunity’ column, you can see the Campaign the prospect is from. However, you can’t filter by this.
- Having the link metrics included would hypothetically allow you prioritize which emails to get back to first by those that are most authoritative
Let’s click on a specific email so we can reply. Below is what your compose screen looks like. There’s a LOT going on, so we’ll go into each.
Specifically, I wanted to point out:
- Notes – you can log specific notes/observations for your own records, listed at the top. Some things will be marked here automatically, i.e. who personalized/approved the prospect for outreach, if Workflow Approval is turned on.
- Personalization data – purely for reference, it’s easy to find in the right sidebar.
- Past Conversations – found below the email.
- Campaign Details – which campaign they’re in, where they’re at in the pipeline, milestone details, and even metrics.
- Contact Info – specific contacts, if there are multiple for that prospect.
- Tasks – can assign specific tasks for that prospect for anyone on your team, and set a due date, as shown below.
When you are ready to reply to that email, click the ‘Reply’ button, and you’ll get this editor screen.
Two very useful things worth pointing out are:
- Canned Responses – a Gmail-esque feature that allows you to easily insert templated responses. Big time-saver. You can set these up in your Account Settings.
- Milestone – update where they’re at in the pipeline right at the bottom here.
Now that we’ve responded to our emails, there’s one last feature we can look at – Pitchbox allows you to see all emails in the ‘All Emails’ item in the sidebar.
This allows you to see all emails sent or received. You can split up your sent emails by (1) the initial & automated follow ups you’ve sent, and (2) your email responses to those that got back to you.
The last main part of Pitchbox is their reporting functionality. Comparatively to other platforms to date, they do a pretty good job in this area.
Note: I’ll do my best to screenshot everything, but the data in my account is limited (only did a small campaign for the sake of this post).
There are two main reporting areas in the toolset: their Project Overview section, and their Pipeline section.
The Project Overview section gives you an idea on the raw numbers of the campaign in terms of what’s been done, and what needs to be done.
This gives you a ‘quantity’ perspective on how things are going, which can even be broken down by campaign.
The Pipeline section is split up into three views: Pipeline, Aging, & Performance. Starting with their default view (Pipeline), it illustrates what # of prospects are in which stages of your campaign.
The Aging report shows how long prospects have been sitting in certain milestones, so you can monitor if things are moving through your pipeline.
Finally, the Performance reports gives you a breakdown of response rates & success rates, contrasted with the main pipeline report.
At the bottom of each of those 3 reports, a table is displayed of each of the prospects, which you can sort by the main aspect that the report you’re viewing is about (i.e. for the Aging report, you can sort by Date Found).
These 3 reports give you a ‘quality’ perspective on how things are going, which again, can be broken down by campaign.
Not everything found in Pitchbox can fit into each of the above sections, and for some, they were only briefly. So I wanted to break down a handful of features that got either brief mentions or no mentions at all, sorted by importance.
- Great customer service – you can ask their team questions directly from the app, and I got a response by email within 24 hours each time. In some cases, they went to great length to help.
- Workflow Approval – this feature allows you to have specific team members work on specific parts of the workflow process, and have their work approved before it’s used.
- Tasks – this feature allows you to assign specific tasks to specific members of your team, setup exactly when they’re due, and see if they’re completing their tasks via the Project Overview section.
- Link Research Tools integration – if you do a lot of link removal campaigns & use Link Research Tools, this integration makes Pitchbox a no-brainer for you. Here’s a video of how it works.
- Other Integrations – you can also integrate with Moz, SEMrush, HipChat & (very recently) Slack. Moz & SEMrush are for metrics, and HipChat & Slack are for pushing notifications.
- Blacklist – if there are certain sites you want to make sure you never contact, there’s a Blacklist feature in your Account Settings that’s fairly straightforward.
- Address Book – you can search specific email addresses of those you’ve contacted, and quickly scan over the emails you’ve exchanged with them.
- Bookmarklet – you can add new opportunities to a campaign with their simple bookmarklet. It’s fairly simple; see the screenshot below. Just click it when you land on a URL you want to add.
- Default values for templates – in your templates, you can set default values for any of the custom variables you use (i.e. if you’re doing scholarship link building, having the ‘page title’ field be ‘Scholarships’ by default).
- Image embeds – you can embed images into your emails via their email editor, something not offered by every outreach tool in this post.
- Overall non-buggy-ness – it’s worth noting that I really didn’t run into any bugs in my time using the app, and I even enjoyed some of the tinier, usually overlooked aspects of UX (i.e. if you go to your Settings page, make an edit & hit save, it’ll take you back to the page or prospect you were last viewing).
Bugs & Drawbacks
There are some specific things, sorted by importance, that I jotted down when using the tool that I wasn’t a fan of.
- Organization – there is no organized way of making sure you don’t contact the same site/person twice in different projects (with that said, they do now de-duplicate within a project). You can’t see what’s already been sent to specific prospects (without searching an inbox). The more you scale, the more this is an issue when you’ve got multiple clients, or just in general, multiple projects.
- Viewing webpages in-app – while the viewing of webpages inside the app is a step up from other tools, it can still be fairly limiting. The main aspect (size of the viewed page) can be countered by having a large screen size, but if you’re on a laptop, it’s far from great.
- Also, you can’t see the URL or the HTML page title of the page you’re viewing, unless you either hover over the link icon, or open the page in a new tab, respectively.
- Adding opportunities in bulk – there is no way to bulk upload opportunities once a Website Import campaign has already been created (you will need to add them manually one-at-a-time).
- Editing keyword lists – you can’t edit your keyword list after a campaign is created. You also have to have a Pro account for that campaign to get any new prospects into it after creation, and that only happens once a month. This, paired with the last bullet point, warrants a LOT of campaigns created, which creates a lot of noise the more you scale up.
- Follow ups as new emails – automated follow ups are sent as new emails, not as replies to the original. Some may want this, but others may not.
- Workflow Approval for Inspection – The Workflow Approval feature only applies for Personalization –> Compose. You can’t i.e. do this for one person inspecting, then another person approving those opportunities that they’ve qualified.
- Sending opportunities backwards – Outside of the Workflow Approval for Personalization –> Compose, you can’t send opportunities backwards in the workflow. i.e. if you accidentally moved a few from Inspect to Personalization, can’t send them back. More so applies when only one person is working on a campaign.
- Deleting sequence emails – You can’t delete any specific sequence emails in the list you see in the Compose section.
- Editing sequence emails – You can only edit the first email in the sequence in the Compose section; for some reason there is no Edit button on the other emails in the sequence.
I really wanted to talk in detail about more than just two options in this post. Notably, I also came across Ninja Outreach & Outreach.io, but I couldn’t highlight them as good choices after investigating them for these reasons:
- Ninja Outreach ($25-29/user/month) – the newest tool provider. It still has a ways to go before it’s competitive from an outreach perspective. With that said, they do have some useful prospecting tools that are worth investigating.
- Outreach.io (Enquire for Pricing) – great for what it does, but it only handles a small portion of the process (automates sending of initial emails & follow ups). Not an end-to-end tool beyond that (doesn’t help the start or end of the process).
If either two makes strides in the right direction, I’ll be (more than) excited to add a more extensive review of each to this post in order to keep it up to date.
With that said, let’s now get into a few noteworthy things from each of the above.
As mentioned previously, this is the newest tool in the link building outreach landscape. It’s made strides, and a few are worth noting here. Below I’ll be talking about their web app (NOT their desktop app, which has a different interface & seems to have a few more features).
As a further note, the web app is ~4 months old as of this writing, and is rapidly improving.
Comparing their prospecting features against BuzzStream & Pitchbox’s, they’re definitely a step up. Starting with their Content Prospecting tool, they allow you to do keyword searches for bloggers & influencers based off what they’ve written about in the past.
As you can see, you’re getting a lot more than just a Google prospecting search, the results are instant, you can get up to 5000 results, and social metrics are included in addition to link metrics.
Their Social Prospecting tool provides a kind of result that the big 2 don’t provide at all.
You can search by Twitter or Instagram accounts, and their profile information is pulled into the results as well.
Whichever tool you use, you can add prospects individually or in bulk to a List. Below is an example list I created; here are the settings for a List.
If I wanted to view the prospects in the list, I can do so on the Your Prospects page. They’re displayed in the same way I found them in the Content Prospecting tool.
It’s worth noting that on the right-most column of that prospect table, they identify posts on their blog of certain opportunity types; i.e. when I clicked the ‘Giveaways’ link, it took me to a recent post on that blog that was a giveaway post (based off what looks like basic page title / URL footprints).
I can also get a quick overview of a specific prospect by clicking on the Settings icon at the bottom of each. The RSS tab is especially handy for looking over recent posts, and getting an idea on both the author name & the # of comments.
On their Templates page, they have 7 already created for you for various opportunities, and the template creation process allows for using custom variables, as shown below.
Finally, for their Outreach Mode, you can select a List, select a template, and then make the necessary edits to each email as you go. You can then send & go to the next in your list in one click.
There is a settings page, but the only thing currently available on it is to add email accounts to send from.
Beyond the web app, they also have a chrome extension that provides some basic info, discovered contact info, RSS items, and visitation data of the website you’re viewing. (The extension is actually free to non-users as well.)
One handy feature is their ability to pre-fill contact forms with templates upon visiting those pages & allowing it do so.
What Needs Work
With the above said, there are a few major things that need attention.
- They have a Desktop version of their app, but it’s Windows only. It’s a bit scary to see a tool provider having a desktop version of the tool (there’s a reason all the other tools in this post are web apps), but I have been told that they will no longer be focusing on updating it, and will put 100% effort into the web app.
- You can’t add an email account to send from if it’s not on Gmail / Google Apps (at least, on their web app; documentation shows you can use any email provider via their desktop app).
- You can’t schedule emails at later dates.
- Their list of relationship stages doesn’t seem to be editable. There are a few more than the below, but this makes up a fair amount.
- You can’t view pages efficiently like you can within the app of Pitchbox or via the BuzzMarker extension for BuzzStream. This is important if you’re qualifying prospects beyond just metrics / website descriptions.
Note: I was told hours(!!) before posting to remove pricing info, as they’re now going the enterprise route. You’ll have to enquire to find out pricing yourself.
This is a fairly new sales tool that can be used for link building, when used correctly. There are limitations given that it’s built for sales, but the overall good news is that this tool is fairly new as well, so I’m hoping for improvements in certain areas to make it more synergetic for marketers.
What this tool does is help you efficiently & effectively send out emails once all the appropriate data has been collected. It won’t help with the before (finding prospects + qualifying), or after (responding to emails, measuring success beyond response/open rates). With that said, for what they do, I think they do it better than any other in this post. So I’ll talk later about using it in conjunction with a CRM.
Even though it’s quite a specialized app, there’s a lot of details about it, so we’ll go through the main value adds that are worth noting for our purposes (I’m not going to be going through every tiny detail; see here instead). We’ll start with the best features for us.
The bread & butter of the app is what they call Sequences. Imagine dumping a bucket of prospects (with all the necessary data collected, i.e. emails + custom variables) into the top of a funnel that then does the following:
- Sends an initial email, equally testing Template A & Template B
- Waits 4 days, then sends a follow up
- Waits 11 days, then sends another follow up, testing Follow Up Template C & Follow Up Template D
- Waits 47 days, then creates a new task for the assigned user in Outreach to write a custom follow up, or put them into a new sequence, or to find new contact info, etc.
The above is just an example; you can get really customized with your sequence, and you can very easily A/B test templates at each ‘Step’ (and can easily toggle on/off individual ones in a sequence).
Here’s an example of a Sequence I setup.
In the above I’m testing 3 templates for the initial, then testing 2 for the first follow up, and using just one template for the third. I blurred out some of the email message, but I left in an example of how you can use conditional logic in templates, which is a big plus.
If a prospect replies back, then they’re considered “finished” and are removed from the Sequence so no more automatic emails are sent down the line.
In terms of the data you get back on your templates, it includes response rates, open rates & link click rates.
As with the other tools in this post, Outreach has its own version of a pipeline. They call their individual steps within a pipeline ‘Stages’. You can create your own set of custom stages as I have below.
One of the best features of this aspect of their app is that you can automatically move prospects into certain stages based off certain events. This can be done on an organizational level (your whole team), or based off a specific sequence. Let’s look at the settings for the latter.
As you can see on the right side in the above, if events happen such as the prospect gets initially added to the sequence / they’re emailed for the first time / that email bounces / the prospect replies / we never hear back at the end of the sequence, you can specify the Stage they’d automatically be put in.
Beyond that setting, you’ll notice a few more important ones on the left side of the above screenshot:
- Delivery Schedule – similar to Pitchbox, you don’t set the specific time of a specific email, but rather setup weekly time intervals that are acceptable to send emails during (i.e. Monday 8am-5pm, Tuesday 2pm-5pm, Wednesday 1pm-2pm, Friday 8am-12pm).
- Safety Settings – there are a handful of safeguards throughout the app to make sure you don’t do dumb things (i.e. two people on team emailing same person, not emailing a person too often in a time period, not sending an email if it has blank custom fields, etc.).
- Throttling – since you’re sending based off a delivery schedule, this allows you to determine how many emails can be sent in a certain time period (i.e. no more than 50 emails should go out a day).
Beyond that, for what the app has, it’s very well built out. For example, importing via a CSV is quite easy & user-friendly, filtering prospects is very intuitive, setting up emails to send as isn’t much trouble, etc.
What Needs Work
To be honest, for what it’s trying to be (a sales app that integrates with a CRM), I didn’t see much opportunity for further improvement. I highly doubt they’re going to do any of the before parts (finding & qualifying prospects) or the after (inbox + link monitoring).
I did find two things I didn’t like, but don’t expect to change:
- The chrome extension they have is based off people, not websites. So it works great when saving info of a profile on LinkedIn. Not so much when trying to save info of a blog you’re trying to pitch.
- They have a limit of two email accounts per user. If you have email accounts for each client, if you’re a consultant who does outreach for 8-10 local clients, have fun paying potentially $400/month.
There were a few nitpicky things that I would want improved personally, but the main area that everyone would love is an API. I’ve been told an external version is supposed to be released by the end of September, but I haven’t seen any further updates in the weeks since being told that.
There are two use cases where I think this app can be leveraged:
- As a full solution, given that prospects don’t need to be qualified, and that tracking data further down the funnel isn’t important. Not meant for this (they integrate with Salesforce for a reason), but an option.
- Used in conjunction with a CRM.
I think the first is interesting, as the individual who introduced me to this tool doesn’t need to pre-qualify individual sites (the way he discovers them, they’re already qualified for what he’s pitching them), so for those who are in this segment and are only 1-5 person teams, this tool is definitely a full solution for you.
As for the second, thinking about things for me personally, I could see this as an interesting option. The tool is already setup to work seamlessly with Salesforce, with the thinking that you’d still need a broader CRM for your entire process (this is just for the sending of emails). But for other CRMs, given the BCC feature they have from an organization, user, template, or sequence level, you can have emails sent along to the CRM of your choice.
For my team, that would be BuzzStream (for Pitchbox users, unfortunately doesn’t act as a CRM). I could see the following happen:
- Prospects are initially discovered using a specialty prospecting tool, or get added on the fly with the BuzzMarker.
- Prospects are reviewed & personalization info is collected.
- All that data is exported as a CSV, and imported into Outreach.io, which is BCC’ing our Buzzbox address.
- They’re pushed into sequences, and as we hear back, we mark them as such within Outreach.io so their sequences stop.
A few things about this:
- You’d give up the personalization of emails. This is big for me; we like to use templates as a base, then tweak individual emails from there; doesn’t really make sense to use this app for that (rather do it from the page with the BuzzMarker; also kills reason why we’d use this tool), but I believe there’s a way to do so.
- Template testing data wouldn’t all be in the same place.
- There would be a level of repetition when looking at stages between the two apps.
There are a few other tinier details that would have to be smoothed over, but nonetheless, I’ll be looking into this personally for my team a bit further, given there are certain segments of outreach that we could leverage for this.
Given all of the above information, let’s now compare all of the platforms on each of their major sticking points. To state the obvious, the ratings given are purely my opinion.
This post was written in September, 2015. I hope to keep this updated with new product updates & new tools altogether.
If you have had any experiences with any of the above tools, I would love to hear about them in the comments below!
Shoutouts to the following for the MAJOR help on this post: Brian Gerrard, Dave Schneider, Michael Geneles, Paul May, Donnie Cooper, Benjamin Beck, Nicholas Chimonas, Sean Malseed, Leigh McKenzie, Trey Muhlhauser, Todd Malicoat, Wayne Barker, Ryan McLaughlin
Published at Thu, 24 Sep 2015 15:04:48 +0000