Why ‘build a relationship’ first in outreach?

“I’d very much appreciate it if you’d agree to…”

Your instant reaction was probably a ‘no.’

Why is that?

Why is the default reaction to say ‘no’ to requests from strangers?

Well, first off, it’s because it’s a request from a stranger. If a friend asks you to help out β€” check out your new app, tweet a link to their new podcast, have a 15-minute market research conversation with them about a business idea β€” you’re more likely to say ‘Sure’ because you already have a relationship with that person and trust them.

When you ask someone to invest time in you, a conversation with you, or your business, you’re asking someone else to take a risk.

  • How do they know your podcast is good?
  • How do they know your app is worth the time?
  • How do they know that you’ll be prepared for that market research conversation?

Because you made an ask of them without, first, providing any value to them, you’re asking them to risk their time by doing whatever it is you’re asking them to do. People don’t like risk and don’t like wasting their time.

So, first, we want to focus on building a relationship. Why? Because when you first focus on building a relationship and providing value by being helpful.

Let’s take a look at a counter-example:

Bad Outreach

(Make sure to turn on images in your email client to see this outreach email example)

In this email, the sender is immediately asking the recipient β€” a stranger β€” to take the time to give feedback on their open source project, but they haven’t taken the time to build a relationship with the person they’re emailing. Let’s put ourselves in the mind of the person receiving this email.

Can weΒ guess the questions they’re asking themselves?

  • “Who, exactly, is this person emailing me?”
  • “How much time is this going to take?”
  • “What do they want from me?”
  • “Why is this relevant to me?”
  • “How will this help me?”
  • “Why should I care?”

If you focus, first, on building a relationship with the person you’re emailing by writing a ‘you’ focused email (https://kaidavis.com/you/), you increase the chances that the person you’re contacting will care about the email you’re sending them.

This is why, in The Outreach Blueprint (http://outreachblueprintcom), I advocate having the initial emails be focused on the person you’re emailing and using those first emails to start a conversation with the person you’re emailing. Not immediately pitching them or asking them for something.


Because we want to avoid the mistake that the above email makes: asking before giving. If we first focus on giving value, then it’s easier for us to make an ask in a follow-up email once we’ve built that relationship: