Outreach Tools Spotlight: Pitchbox vs Ninja Outreach vs BuzzStream vs Mailshake - Point Visible | Content Marketing Agency
outreach-tools

34 min read

Content marketing is in the full swing. Almost every project requires some kind of outreach effort. Finding the right outreach tool that helps you manage those projects and, at the same time fits into your everyday workflow, can really be a pain in the ass (pardon my french).

Any serious blogger outreach project can quickly turn into a time-consuming black hole and an asset that can help you with prospecting and managing your communications is the only way out.

Most of the tools on this list have been with us for quite a while now. However, browsing trough marketing-related forums and FB Groups, we noticed that there is still a lot of debate on their benefits and disadvantages and it’s hard to find an objective recommendation.

So we took this matter into our own hands. We decided to take a closer look at the most popular outreach tools and make a detailed comparison.

Take a closer look at the most popular #outreach tools in this detailed comparison! Click To Tweet

Why exactly these tools? A fair question. Pitchbox, Ninja Outreach, BuzzStream are a staple in this category so that was a no-brainer. We decided to include theΒ MailshakeΒ since it was somewhat hyped up in recent months so we had to check what is that fuss about.

Interested? Awesome. Get yourself a drink and find a comfy position because this will require some intense scrolling efforts.

What will this article cover

One of the challenges, and probably the main reason why there are so many conflicting opinions on this topic, is the difference in their workflow.

Every tool on this list has its own idea on how the projects should be managed and in which directions should the campaign process flow.

Not to tut our own horn but we have been providing blogger outreach and other link building services for several years so it’s safe to say that we have a good sense of what characteristics we are looking for and which options should an ideal outreach tool provide.

On the other hand, every team is different and someone else may not look for exactly the same things. In sight of that, we went for a more general approach and covered areas that are a part of every outreach project.

Long story short, this article will go trough project and email setup, look at the offered prospecting options, review their mail management (templates, customization, scheduling, follow-ups), reporting, support, assess the learning curves, and state the pricing options. In the end, as a short wrap-up, you’ll get see our opinion and read our recommendations.

Also, for anyone that is too busy or too lazy to read trough this fabulous content, at the end of this post, there is a checklist style table that compares these tools on the basis of available features they provide.

What was our approach to this project

None of these tools are free but luckily for us, they all provide trial options (except Mailshake). To properly test them out, we decided to carry out a couple of blogger outreach projects in each one.

The structure of this article was hotly debated. We had two offers on the table. One was to make a complete review of every tool in one by one manner and the other one was to take one part of the outreach process and compare every tool on that particular section before moving to the next part.

The latter idea was the one we couldn’t refuse. Not because Marlon Brando suggested it but because we wanted you to be able to compare these tools only on the sections that are of interest to you.

Also, to make this easier to follow, at the end of every chapter you will find a table and see how we rated each tool for the tasks that were covered in that particular chapter. The grades aren’t there to show you how easy/hard is to use the features but rather to show how many options and features you have at your disposal.

1. Project and email setup

If you decided to dive further into this article, the chances are you are looking for a tool that will help you find multiple opportunities and allow you to efficiently manage your outreach efforts.

It is not a secret that balancing multiple campaigns requires structure. The most common way to enforce that structure is to split your work into different campaigns.

#Outreach tip - split your work into different campaigns for easier handling! #BloggerOutreach Click To Tweet

Different campaigns will then require you to use a different email address. You can’t do an outreach on behalf of every one of your clients with the same contact info. I mean, it is not physically impossible but it just doesn’t make sense. Some bloggers even specifically state that they will immediately delete your pitch if the mail doesn’t contain a proper domain name.

Let’s see what these tools have to offer is in this department.

1.1. Pitchbox

When it comes to project and campaign managing, Pitchbox has the clearest structure.

Until very recently, you had to have an existing email to finish the project creation setup but with the last update that inconvenience is gone. To keep things consistent, we’ll start with the email setup. This is the screen that awaits you when you decide to add a new email account.

PB-adding-emails

If you go with the last option, you can choose the enter everything yourself (name, pass, ports etc.) or you can enter just the name and the password and go with the Autodiscover option.

If the email is using standard ports and configurations, then the autodiscover will, in almost every case, successfully connect Pitchbox with your email account.

Moving on to the project section.

Every project you created can be found under the Projects section. You can also search it by name or scroll trough the drop-down list.

When you create a new project you’re asked to enter some basic info about the site you are doing the outreach for. What is interesting to note is the option to select the time zone. This is important because cold pitches and follow-ups will be sent according to the time zone you chose and the „working hours“ you specified. Before you finish the project setup, you will also have the option to choose which team member will have the access to this project. If you leave the default setup, access will be granted to every user.

When you create a project and you are ready to start a campaign, you are presented with several options. Not all of the campaign types are available in every pricing plan so be sure to double check that with the provider.

PB-camapign-creationSetup for most of these campaigns is fairly similar. Here is an example for Blogger outreach.

PB-campaign-creation-options

To help you with your keywords, you can enter a word or a phrase and Pitchbox will offer you some suggestions. When you’re done entering your keywords, you can scroll down to play with the metrics.

PB-campaign-metrics

You can also use Semrush and Majestic metrics to filter the sites Pitchbox crawls trough. Only if you pay to acquire their API-keys, though.

1.2. Ninja outreach

Setting up an email address in Ninja Outreach is pretty straightforward. If you are using one of the more common email providers, you have an option to choose from a list of presets.

NO-mail-setup-2

After the email setup is done, it is time to create a project.

Ninja Outreach is pretty specific when it comes to managing projects. They decided to take a different approach here. They don’t deal with campaigns but rather with lists.

All of your lists are shown under List management tab. From here you can also create a new list or blacklist some sites you want to avoid reaching out to.

NO-list-management

One may argue this isn’t the best way to manage projects but you can’t deny it is a simple and unique.

1.3. BuzzStream

As it is in the case of every tool on this list, setting up an email account is hard to mess up.

BS-email-setup

The last option from the picture above lets you connect to any other email you are using. Whatever option you choose, you will have the ability to add a signature and unsubscribe text.

When you’re done connecting your email, you will want to create a campaign. You can see all of your campaigns by clicking on the appropriate tab. If you have multiple campaigns under the same project you can manage that by placing it in the same folder. If you have favorite campaigns, they will show above the list.

BS-managing-projects

Creating new outreach campaign comes with several different options with the most interesting one being the ability to assign and invite different team members.

BS-creating-new-project

1.4. Mailshake

The only thing you need to do to start a project in Mailshake is to name your campaign and connect it to an e-mail address.

Mailshake-project-setup

Sounds simple enough. And it is if you want to connect to an existing Gmail account. Connecting a different email address requires some workaround. Here is the guide to a quick setup if you want to send emails from an alias.

After you connect to your desired Gmail account you can add a signature.

Mailshake-mail-signature

If you are juggling several projects, you can see all of them in a list when you log in and select Campaigns.

Mailshake-campaign-list

Nothing much to add here. After this short setup, you will be asked to add some prospects and write your pitch. More on that later.


2. Prospecting

Welcome to the jungle.

Finding the right connections willing to work with you in this forest of opportunities can become a real challenge because you don’t want to build low-quality links on some shady sites.  Having a tool that can help you with this can be invaluable.

That’s why prospecting is arguably the most important step in this whole process. Let’s see what the tools in question can do for you in this context.

2.1. Pitchbox

In a way, we already started explaining prospecting in the previous chapter. When you are creating a campaign, you need to enter the keywords that will be used to crawl the web.

After that, you need to wait a minute or two, depending on the number of keywords you used. If you closely look at the Pitchbox campaign screenshot down below, you will notice that the prospects have to go trough 3 different phases – Inspection, Personalization and Compose.

PB-campaign-list
When Pitchbox is done crawling the web, you can find the list of your prospects (with available metrics) under the field Inspect.

PB-inspection

Pitchbox offers you the option to inspect a site in this window but you are better of opening it in a new tab. You can delete the sites you don’t like and move to personalization ones you do fancy.

More on personalization and outreach in the next chapters 😊

Most of the standard prospecting options are available here too. You can add sites one by one or import a CSV file. For now, Pitchbox doesn’t have a browser plug-in that would allow you to inspect and manage prospects outside of their working space.

 2.2. Ninja Outreach

Ninja Outreach has divided prospecting into 2 categories – Content and Social Prospecting.

Both categories feature extensive filtering options. Content prospecting searches trough Bloggers, Influencers (a prospect with 3k+ followers), articles with 50+ shares on social networks and so on. If you uncheck Live search it will not pull results directly from search engines but, instead, it will search trough their internal database (25+ million websites according to the info on their website). You also have the ability to use some pretty useful advanced search operators.

NO-content-prospecting

Filtering options for Social Prospecting are rather similar. As the name suggests, this options lets you search trough social networks, Instagram and Twitter to be exact.

NO-social-prospecting

After the crawling is done you will probably be faced with 250+ results. To help you find the right ones you can filter them out using some common SEO and social media related metrics.

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As with any good outreach tool, you can also add additional opportunities by hand (one by one) or you can import a CSV file that contains a list of contacts you want to reach out to. Here is the list of importing options.

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The last thing related to finding prospecting that definitely should be mentioned here is the Ninja Outreach Chrome Extension. It allows you to save results directly from your Google search into one of your previously created lists.

You can also use it to speed up your review process. It opens the first link on your list in a new window and lets you decide if you want to keep or remove the prospect, add relationship status, comments etc. After you’re done with that opportunity, it automatically loads the next one in the same window.

#Outreach tip - Use #NinjaOutreach and #BuzzStream Chrome extensions for easier prospecting! Click To Tweet

Every prospect you review this way gets a Reviewed tag so you won’t end up inspecting a site multiple times.

The last weapon in this Chrome extension arsenal is the option to open an article, select the text, and load and review any found links on the spot. Seems it could be utilized very well on the articles that contain a list of websites that are of interest to any of your current campaigns.

Oh, not to forget, there is also a Pro version that allows you to use your pre-made templates to fill out contact forms and reach out to opportunities for which you couldn’t find a valid email address.

Whatever approach you take, in the end, you will be faced with a list of potential prospects, ready for the outreach.

NO-managing-prospects

2.3. BuzzStream

BuzzStream also allows you several different ways to make a list of promising prospects.

The first way is their Discovery platform. You just write in your search term and wait for the results. On the left, you have some filtering options so you can narrow down the results to better fit your needs. If the found site/influencer isn’t already in your contacts you can add them to your list with one simple click.

If you need more information before you can decide if you are interested in an opportunity, just click on the View full profile button. Now you can check their content, how often do they post, how many shares do their articles get, etc.

BS-discovery-platform-2

You can also add websites by hand by pasting URL’s or choose to import a CSV file.

BS-csv-import-options

If you have your own, custom made CSV, you have the option to match corresponding fields so BuzzStream gets a handle on what is what. And you can choose what delimiter you are using. Really neat if you have a custom field that holds some descriptions. Because of that, you don’t have to jump trough hoops to avoid using a comma in your sentence. Just go and use another delimiter.

BS-match-my-csv

If you’re more of a keyword kind of guy, you will be glad to know that BuzzStream does have an option where you can let it search trough the web with your keywords in mind. Don’t forget to select the country if you need location-specific results.

BS-prospecting-search

But wait, there’s more.

The last way to find and add some interesting opportunities to your existing projects is by using their Buzzmaker plugin. It works similar to the Ninja Outreach counterpart. You make a Google search and load results into Buzzmaker. And just Start prospecting. The pages will appear in a new window where you can see all the details BuzzStream has on them. You can add a bunch of your own info and add the site to any of your projects. You can even click on the email icon and send them a pitch right away.

   BS-buzzmaker-2 BS-buzzmaker-3

After you’ve researched the opportunity, just click next and the Buzzmaker will load the next page in the same window. You can go back and forth between all sites that you didn’t delete from the list.

If you amassed quite a large number of prospects, there are a lot of filtering options so you can get ahold of the ones you want to reach out right away.

BS-prospect-filtering

2.4. Mailshake

Unfortunately, Mailshake falls flat on its face when it comes to prospecting.

To be fair, it is built to only manage your communications so we can’t really complain that it doesn’t do the things it isn’t designed for.

If you are wondering do you need to reach out to your prospects one by one since you can’t make a list of prospects directly in it, you can be at ease. You can make a CSV file and import your desired contacts that way. You can also manually add the email addresses of the people/sites you want to reach out to.


prospecting-ratings

3. Template & Customization

There’s no 100% automatic way to do outreach or any other kind of email promotion, especially if you’re doing that for a living. You have to send out hundreds of emails to hundreds of different accounts, you need to check for replies all the time and follow up to those who haven’t replied, sometimes more than once.

Luckily, these tools will help with making these tasks a bit easier, with templates, and customization. Most of them have editing tools for creating templates that use customization fields like Name, Website and similar. They pick up that information from the prospect information they gather themselves or you have to fill it in manually. It makes your life easier for sure, but not in all tools.

3.1. Pitchbox

Pitchbox allows you to create templates on two levels – global and project-specific. Global templates are considered like „quick replies“ and are created under general Pitchbox settings. They can be used in any project inside the app and are accessible in a drop down menu when writing email replies inside the app. Sounds amazing, right? It is a real time saver.

They allow custom fields that are being used in the project of choice and are generally a great choice for default replies or something you will be using a lot of times – follow-ups, templates with author’s bio, templates thanking someone for their reply and so on.

pitchbox-global-templates

Pitchbox also allows you to create different outreach templates for every project. You first need to define the fields you want to use inside the template. The app already has some built-in fields like First Name, Website and similar, and you can add as many new fields as you want. They can be different types as well.

PB-personalization-fields

Writing a template for each campaign is as easy as writing a new email. If you have no inspiration, there are some premade templates at your disposal. You can select one of them and add in any personalization fields from the previous step or some of the contact fields that are made by default.

All fields allow conditions too, so if, for example, you don’t know the name of the person you’re contacting, you can use fillers like „there“ or something similar. Better to be safe than sorry.

 pitchbox-template

3.2. Ninja Outreach

Ninja Outreach has a separate section inside the tool for managing templates, where you can check out the prewritten ones or create your own. However, that’s as far as you can go when it comes to customization.

There are quite a few customization fields that you can include inside the templates. These fields will be filled with info the app gathered during prospecting (first name, website info, and anything else that was detected), but it doesn’t allow you to create your own custom fields (like titles of guest posts, for example).

ninja-outreach-templateAs you can see in the example above, we included several different customization fields, but only a few default ones are actually being picked up from prospects. We used ones for [Guest Post Title] and [Guest Post Description] but they are not filled, they are here just to remind the person sending emails where to put that information. I don’t know about you but we aren’t that fond of manual labor πŸ™‚

Update on additional customization fields: Ninja Outreach does allow you to create and fill in custom fields automatically if you import your prospects in a CSV file that has those fields defined and filled with information. Thanks David Schneider for this tip! 

If you don’t need these fields in your template, then this tool is great and allows a lot of customization. Besides the email template, it has a separate tool for filling out contact forms which comes handy for those sites that don’t have emails addresses listed. The app requires Chrome browser and Ninja Outreach extension for this feature.

NO-automatic-fill-contact-form

3.3. BuzzStream

BuzzStream lists are highly customizable and the app allows you to create new columns and edit existing ones as much as you like. All columns in the lists can be used as custom fields in outreach templates.

BS-custom-fieldsOnce you add the custom fields, you can customize them for each prospect and include them in your templates.

Template creator and editor are easily accessed under “Outreach Mode“ drop down menu. All available fields appear on the right side of the window and you can include them inside the template. Each template can have a different follow-up schedule. Perfect for A/B testing.

buzzstream-template

3.4. Mailshake

Mailshake disappointed us a little on the customization front considering it has all of its eggs in the outreach basket. As mentioned in Prospecting section above, Mailshake doesn’t find prospects by itself – you have to import a list. Same goes for customization.

When you are compiling a CSV file with prospects, you have to think of the templates that you will use and customization fields you will need. If you imported a CSV file with only email addresses and first names, you can use only those fields in the templates.

For illustration, we created a template that uses two aforementioned fields but also adds other fields that help customize the template even more. Those fields were not inside the CSV so you immediately get an error warning you about that.

MS-email-template

This just means you have to think upfront and create a CSV file with all the fields you want to use in your templates. After that, it’s fairly easy to create a template.

Mailshake does partially redeem itself by offering an extensive collection of prewritten templates that are made to be used in various situations. They are all pretty good and you can definitely use any of them if you’re just a beginner and not sure which templates work the best.

#Outreach tip - Use prewritten templates as inspiration for your own, unique ones! #BloggerOutreach Click To Tweet

If you are creating your own, make sure you save it so you can easily access it whenever needed. The editor has a Send Test Email option as well, where you can send it to yourself and see how it looks and if all fields are filled in properly.


templates-ratings

4. Outreach – Scheduling & Follow-ups

Now we come to the most important part – the outreach. Outreach process can be done manually using any email app. You gather email addresses, come up with a template email and just copy-paste…for hours. And then spend more hours to send follow ups when someone doesn’t reply.

Why bother with that when these apps do the job really well? Whichever one you choose, it will make the whole outreach process much easier and faster and it won’t wear out your Ctrl, C and V keys.

4.1. Pitchbox

Pitchbox allows different projects, campaigns, and different outreach schedules for each. You can add up to 3 follow ups and determine the number of days between each follow-up. You can’t pick different time interval for each follow-up. The one you decide to go with will be applied to all of them.

PB-outreach-schedule

PB-outreach-schedule-2

Outreach starts after prospecting and personalization phase. First one finds the sites and emails while the second one is for adding personal details like name, email, titles. After that, emails are sent to Compose phase where you can check them all individually.

Pitchbox will warn you about missing data in some fields only if you marked the fields as required. If, for example, you created a field for Guest Post Title and you didn’t mark it as required, Pitchbox won’t ask you to fill it in before sending and it might be sent with placeholder text.

Emails can be sent right away or at some particular time. It can depend on the outreach schedule, or you can pick a time yourself when composing each email. The whole process is easy and self-explanatory. One rather big thing that is missing in Pitchbox (and the reason the final rating for this section isn’t a 10) is tracking. All other tools can track when an email is opened and even when someone clicks a link in the email, but Pitchbox doesn’t have that option.

#Outreach tip - Always send follow-ups after a few days, people might have missed your email! Click To Tweet

 4.2. Ninja Outreach

Ninja Outreach is, as mentioned, based on lists of contacts and sites, and it allows you to schedule sending outreach emails for each list. Once your templates are all set up, you can go in Outreach Mode and start sending.

It allows you to schedule time and date of sending, as well as a daily limit (up to 200 emails). You can pick what is being tracked and if you want to add up to two follow-up emails. There’s an option to use premade template for follow-ups, as well as picking different number of days between initial email and each follow-up.

NO-email-schedulingBefore you send your pitches on their way, Ninja Outreach will warn you if any of the emails are missing some fields so you have the last chance to edit each one.

You can also send single emails to individual prospects. This should come as no surprise. There’s a little paper airplane icon next to each prospect in the list, which you can click and compose an email from scratch or use templates. Those emails can’t be scheduled and are sent as soon as you press Send.

4.3. BuzzStream

When you want to start the outreach using BuzzStream, you need to first select who you want to contact. List of potential opportunities can end up being quite big and you may not want to contact everyone on your first try. You can filter those lists by columns that you can determine yourself and then choose certain parameters that interest you the most.

For example, one day you want to outreach towards people who post new articles daily – you filter your list according to that and select them. That’s when you start the outreach and are allowed to pick a template.

BS-email-template-and schedule

BuzzStream allows you to schedule each email separately in pre-defined time intervals or you can add your own time.

There’s one, I could say, negative side. BuzzStream is the only tool on this list that doesn’t have automated follow ups. Instead, when there’s no reply in your outreach campaign over a number of days you specified in campaign settings, you will get a notification that a follow up is due, and you will have to compose the email and send it yourself. Another example of manual labor we’d rather avoid considering this shouldn’t be that hard to automate. We’re not lazy, we just look for practical solutions πŸ˜›

BS-follow-up-notification

4.4. Mailshake

Mailshake sure has some issue with prospecting and creating templates but it is great at organizing and doing outreach. When you’re composing an email for your campaign, you have the option to add follow-ups and even an email that will be sent if someone clicked on a link you mentioned in the initial email. The follow-ups can be scheduled to be sent automatically. You can use premade templates or create your own.
MS-scheduling-emails

After you’re happy with your templates and schedule, Mailshake will show you all emails – both initial emails and replies (along with filled out custom fields).

MS-email-preview

You can schedule emails to be sent at certain times, and pick how many emails do you want to be sent at once. Mailshake tracks whenever someone opens your mail and whether they click on any of the links you sent them in that particular email. This is really neat so props to their team for including that option.

MS-tracking-options

One thing that was really a thorn in the eye was the way Mailshake refers to the term follow up as reply and that thing is really confusing until you get used to it.


outreach-ratings

5. Inbox

This is the part where you can see the result of your efforts. After creating campaigns, templates, sending few rounds of emails and follow ups, your inbox will be cluttered (hopefully). Keep in mind that not all emails you receive will be good. You’ll get spam, automated replies, newsletters and positive ones. In this part, we’ll explain how inbox messages are shown, how to reply to them and what specific features each tool has.

5.1. Pitchbox

Pitchbox is great for both – sending and receiving emails.

Emails are organized in three categories by each project. Every project has ‘Inbox‘, ‘Unmatched emails‘ and ‘All emails‘ tabs. For each new email, there will be a notification in the top right corner that will disappear after a few seconds. You can reach to your emails by clicking on that notification or by opening specific project.

PB-email-options

Inbox is showing all unanswered emails. For each mail, you can see attributes like: from, subject, date, etc.

A great feature is that you can open and read received emails as many times as you like and they will stay in your inbox, marked as unread as long as you don’t answer, delete or archive them. This is important because sometimes you won’t be sure what to answer and you’ll have to consult with client or colleague.

PB-inbox

When you open a single email from inbox, you can see different details like history, opportunity information, and personalized data. Also, there are many options on what to do with received a message like adding a note, replacing, deleting, archiving or changing a milestone.

#Outreach tip - Use milestones in #Pitchbox for easy email management and tracking progress. Click To Tweet

Replying to the mail is quite easy and intuitive too. Here you can use previously mentioned global templates or write your custom reply.

PB-email-reply

Unmatched emails are the ones that you received to the outreach email account but Pitchbox can’t connect it to any opportunity. This can happen if you received an email from someone who you:

      • haven’t contacted through Pitchbox at all
      • initially contacted through the contact form
      • contacted through one email ([email protected]) but you got a reply from other ([email protected])

Sometimes there will be some annoying spam message but you can easily delete or ignore it (on email or domain level). Keeping track of unmatched emails is important as much as matching it to the correct campaign. This is important since Pitchbox has an option to stop outreach after receiving reply otherwise, Pitchbox will continue to send follow ups even if you got a reply but it’s still unmatched.

In tab All emails you can see all emails from a specific project. For better navigation, you can filter them by accounts, type, milestone and campaign.

PB-all-emails 5.2. Ninja Outreach

When you get a new email you’ll get a notification in the left corner.

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By clicking on the notification, you’ll see more info about received email. To see the text of the email, click on the ‘2 old messages’.

The problem with inbox in Ninja Outreach is that once you click and open your email you won’t be able to reach it through notification. You’ll need to go to ‘List management’ and click on the ‘Unread messages’. In the ‘Unread messages’ section there could be 0 unread messages but to see your old emails simply click on it.

Emails are organized by lists. This means you can see emails from all of your lists or from just one.

If you pick ‘All lists’ you’ll be able to see the status of the email. I wouldn’t call myself a stalker, but this is my favorite feature regarding inbox. This way you can if someone is ignoring your email or just haven’t read it yet.

NO-inbox-email-filtering

Emails can be filtered by list they are in and by the status.

5.3. BuzzStream

In BuzzStream you can also track emails but if you want to do it you need to add more columns like it was explained in ‘Customization’ part.

BS-email-status

When you get a new email, notification will appear in the top right corner. Same as in Pitchbox, your notification will stay active as long as you don’t reply to the email.

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After you click on the notification you’ll see the history of the conversation.

BS-history-of-comunication

You’ll need to click on received email to see it. I expected there would be the option to reply to the email but there’s no such option.

It took me some time to figure out how to reply. The problem is that I was looking for a ‘Reply’ button when there is no one. You can reply to an email by clicking ‘Follow-up’. This could be confusing for anyone who is using Pitchbox since there reply and follow up have opposite meaning.

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5.4. Mailshake

New emails are shown on the main dashboard together with their status and campaign they belong to.

MS-main-dashboard

After you click on the message you’ll see more details like original mail, a time when it was opened and when it was replied. When you click on the View, a new message will appear and you’ll be redirected to your Gmail account. All of that is great but there’s one problem, you can’t actually reply to emails from Mailshake.  This is the main disadvantage of Mailshake since it’s  a quite important feature and all the other tools have it.

Update on reply from Mailshake: They recently added an important option to reply on email. Next to the name of the contact, you’ll notice 3 dots. Click on them, after that click on ‘Create lead’ and you’ll see more options. One of them is to reply on email.  

To sum inbox part it’s important to say that all tools have tracking option, except Pitchbox.

I would recommend to occasionally check your emails directly and don’t depend completely on any of the mentioned tools. They are great for many things but there could always be some problem with connection and you could miss important emails.

#Outreach tip - Check your emails in email apps, just in case there was a connection problem πŸ™‚ Click To Tweet


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6. Reporting

Just like any other job, outreach projects can be done the right way or the wrong way. And the best way for finding out if you did your job right is to check the stats. It is the easiest way to check your success rate and, more importantly, point you in the right direction. To where? Well, to the parts of your campaign where you need to step up your game, of course.

6.1. Pitchbox

Pitchbox has so many different reports. From how many emails you’ve sent to the performance of each team member.

On a level of all projects, you can look at the management and team performance.

A management report is showing how many campaigns there are and what kind of campaigns are they, how many emails are sent and other workflow and campaign graphs.

Team report is oriented to the team and their work.

There are other types of reports and they are created on the campaign level. Here you can again see management and team report but also one additional: client report.

PB-reports

PB-reports-2

PB-reports-3

As you can see on images, Pitchbox has lots of different reports for a different aspect of campaigns. They can be downloaded so that you can use them for a different analysis.

Although Pitchbox has reports on different levels and lots of different stats, we noticed some of them are incorrect so we don’t like to exclusively rely on them. For example, in this campaign, we contacted 19 opportunities and successfully placed 4 guest posts. In our world, win rate would be 21 %. Pitchbox doesn’t see it like that and it’s showing us win rate of 65 %.

6.2. Ninja Outreach

Ninja Outreach reporting options are nothing to write home about. You can only see stats about sent, received emails and the reply rate.

NO-reports

6.3. BuzzStream

In BuzzStream, you can see their premade reports that consists of message insights, team insights, project insights, and projects leaderboard. In each premade report you can add your own widget to show more data that you consider important.

You can also create your own customized report where you can see stats about projects, team, and links.

BS-reportsBS-reports-2

BuzzStream, unlike other tools, allows the user to create custom reports. This way you can choose exactly what you want to see on a report page.

6.4. Mailshake

Mailshake has just basic reporting. You can see email tracking stats by each campaign and some basic emails and recipients stats.

MS-reports

MS-reports-2


reporting-ratings

7. Support

Working long enough with any of these tools, you are bound to encounter some problems. During our testing operations, we didn’t bump into any major obstacles but we still wanted to test how efficient and responsive their customer support is. To do that, we contacted them with some questions and requests.

Mailshake has an option of sending an email to the support directly from their tool. After that, communication moves to your email. They replied quickly, asked more about the problem and solved it in no time.

Ninja Outreach and BuzzStream have the identical approach to customer support. Both have a live chat where you can contact them and describe your problem. They respond in a timely manner, usually within one business day.

When you encounter a problem in Pitchbox, you create a ticket and describe the problem. You have the option to upload files along with your written explanation of the problem. Throwing a screenshot in there to help you describe a problem is a welcomed option. From our experience, they’re open to communication and eager to solve any problems you may have. Only downside is that reply (other then automatic) could take up to few days and solving some complicated problem could take up to few months.


support-ratings

8. Help

Each tool is different, unique as it is created by different people. So it can be pretty hard to find your way around all those options, settings and features. It’s a good thing you can always look for help in different ways: tutorials, videos, articles or chat.

We have to admit, all tools have amazing help options. Great thing is that everyone has a free access to this content. You don’t have to have an account. This way you can get familiar with the tool and just take a look at what they offer even before signing up for a trial.

#Outreach tip - Check the Help section of each tool to get familiar with all the features. Click To Tweet

8.4. Pitchbox

The fastest way to find some helpful articles is to visit their knowledge base. You can do that directly from Pitchbox without the need to open additional tabs in your browser. Articles are backed-up with screenshots and description to help the user with the navigation.

PB-knowledge-base

In the end of each article, there’s a link to the source of that article. If you click on it, it’ll take you to a Pitchxox’s zendeks (pitchbox.zendesk.com). On that site, you can also read articles, search terms or submit a request. Knowledge base and zendesk are practically the same things but zendesk is better organized.

They also have their YouTube channel where you can watch their video tutorial. Some of them are even integrated with the process of project setup to help users.

 8.2. Ninja Outreach

Navigation in Ninja Outreach is quite simple too. Just click on the question mark in the top-right corner and you’ll see 3 options: ‘How to tutorials’, ‘Knowledge base’, and ‘Learn to use this page’. How to tutorials are instructional videos that teach you how to efficiently use different features.

NO-how-to-tutorials

The knowledge base is available at support.ninjaoutreach.com.

NO-knowledge-base

Lastly, there is ‘Learn to use this page’. It contains the same content as the knowledge base, just in a different format.

8.3. BuzzStream

BuzzStream also has a help section with several options: ‘Step-by-step tutorials’, ‘Training Webinars’, ‘Customer Forums’ and ‘Email us’.

Step-by-step tutorials are lessons for learning more.

BS-help-lessons

BuzzStream has one more additional help feature. They have their own forum. You can easily join, ask and answer questions and connect with other users.

BS-community-forum

BuzzStream doesn’t stop here. They have another unique way to help their users and that is trough webinars. You can see topic and date of next webinar and register to be a part of it.

BS-webinar-sign-up

8.4. Mailshake

If you need help with Mailshake, click on the question mark in the top-right corner. You’ll see a new window pop up with a selection of video tutorials.

MS-video-tutorials

If you still haven’t found what you were looking for, you can go to ‘I still need help’ and you’ll get lots of available tutorials.

MS-written-tutorials

Clicking on the one you are interested in, transfers you to docs.mailshake.com. This is something like zendesk from Pitchbox and it can also be used even if you don’t have an account there.


help-ratings

9. Additional Features

We wanted to use this chapter to highlight features that are unique to a certain tool and to mention any additional feature that we deemed really useful but didn’t really have the chance to mention it yet.

9.1. Pitchbox

Pitchbox has several features that deserve a shout out.

Global templates

The first one is previously mentioned Global templates. The ability to make and use a reply templates that are available to you no matter which campaign you’re working on can be a real time saver. Especially when you need to reply the same thing at a number of different emails.

Flags for conversation history

The second thing that shouldn’t stay overlooked is the ability to see if you had previous interactions with someone on your current list, regardless of the campaigns in question. You can notice a little flag next to the domain of email you want to contact. When you click on it, you’ll see the history with this contact and it will show you status it has in different campaigns. This way you can know if it’s worth pitching to them, what was your mistake last time and increase your chances of getting a positive reply.PB-history

PB-previous-contact-flag

Link Monitoring

When you are in the process of setting up your project, you may wonder what purpose has the Link Monitoring Domain field. The answer is actually really simple. You enter the desired domain and monitor the links that you’re building towards it.

It doesn’t seem like that at first but the report you get is pretty detailed. You can check the number and type(not linking, nofollow, dofollow, 301, 401) of links, redirects, and anchors.

Integrations

Last but not least, are integrations. Pitchbox has some interesting integrations with other tools like Slack and LinkDetox. Integration with LinkDetox is quite handy if you are often doing link removal for backlink audit.

9.2. Ninja Outreach

When it is all said and done, the feature that stands out the most is the social prospecting. Searching trough Twitter and Instagram bio’s to find potential influencers is surely an interesting and useful feature worth highlighting out.

Also, that Chrome extension can really speed up the process of inspecting opportunities and the ability to instantly fill out contact forms with premade templates sounds really neat.

9.3. BuzzStream

A notable feature here is definitely Discovery platform. There isn’t anything especially unique in the way it works but the ability to thoroughly inspect every search results with a couple of clicks may be just the thing some teams are looking for. BuzzStream also has the Chrome extension that lets you quickly inspect multiple opportunities in one tab.

This is a great opportunity to mention how BuzzStream has the whole section dedicated to Link Monitoring. The purpose of this feature is to monitor important links and know when contacts have linked back to you. When you click on the Link Monitoring tab you can see the list of websites that you’ve added to your database along with the information on whether they are linking back to you or not, anchor text, nofollow, flagged words etc.

9.4. Mailshake

Our favorite feature in Mailshake is the ability to send follow-ups based on a multitude of options, including things like sending a follow up only if someone clicked on a specific link you included in your original pitch.

10. User Friendliness & Learning Curve

The learning curve of these tools is rather similar. We looked at how easy is to setup the projects, use available prospecting options, manage your e-mails and turn available tutorials into practice.

Pitchbox is a good example of a tool that is easy to learn but hard to master. After you learn how to effectively construct e-mail templates you’re ready to go. However, Pitchbox has some interesting features like global templates and automated follow-ups that allow you to significantly speed up your workflow. It is the most robust tool with a lot of additional features. It may take you a little bit more time to get to a specific feature but that is a small price to pay to have a very well structured tool.

Ninja Outreach, from our experience, had the easiest learning curve of the tools that cover both prospecting and outreach. The whole process is intuitive and you’re quickly ready to send out some pitches. Getting ahold of most of your information is only a click away. The only potential problem here could be managing multiple projects with different campaigns since there is no obvious way to effectively manage lists (like grouping them together for example).

BuzzStream is also fairly straightforward. Managing projects and adding new prospects is both relatively intuitive. You can leave notes and add a lot of different data for every prospect you decide to keep. It may take you some time to learn to utilize all of that data. Could come in handy when you have the need to send out highly personalized messages.

Mailshake is the easiest one to get a hold of. It is basically a regular e-mail account on steroids. The only bump in the road may be creating CSV file for importing contact info if that is something you’ve never done before.

This is one characteristic you shouldn’t worry about. Whatever outreach tool you decide to try out, you shouldn’t have any major problems to get used to its workflow. If you plan to make a transition then you could need some time to get accustomed to different workflows. The great thing here is that there are a ton of written and video materials that will help you get on your feet in no time.

If you are out of the office and thinking about using one of the tools on your tablet or mobile device, you’ll have a problem. Their design is not responsive so if you need to check or send emails it would be a lot easier to do it directly from your email account. Though, to be fair, none states that their outreach tool is built for usage on mobile devices.


user-friendliness-rating

11. Pricing

We have gone trough every main feature, now it is time to see if you can fit it into your monthly allowance πŸ™‚

Since every tool on this list is equipped with some specific features, the limitations on the bundles they offer are different. Pay close attention to it so you don’t miss on what you actually get for your investment. We tried to cover it in more details but some of these tools have really specific limitations so we advise you to thoroughly check your options with the tool provider you decide to go with.

11.1. Pitchbox

Pitchbox has 4 purchasing options. You can save 20% if you opt in for annual billing.

Pitchbox-pricing

Besides the options you see in the picture above, Pitchbox can create a custom plan for you in the case you need to connect more e-mails accounts, send more pitches etc.

 11.2. Ninja Outreach

Ninja Outreach also offers you several different packages.

Ninja Outreach-pricingThey don’t officially have a custom plan available but from our conversation, they were open to meeting us halfway and offer a custom package that sits somewhere in between this options.

11.3. BuzzStream

BuzzStream is no slouch either. Again 4 options to choose from.

buzzstream-pricing

You can pay for every additional user. Note that the amount you need to cash out for new users depends on the package you have. Also, have in mind that this isn’t a one-time thing, it adds up to your monthly payment.

11.4. Mailshake

Since Mailshake is a pure outreach tool with no prospecting options, it should be no surprise to anyone that it is, by far, the cheapest option on the list.

Mailshake-pricing

Final Verdict

final-ratings

Our recommendations

While the average score is a decent measure to quantify the overall capabilities of these tools, it really isn’t the only criteria on which you should base your decision of using one.

Type and number of projects, specific campaign requirements, the size of your team –  can all play an important role when it comes the time to make this decision.

In our humble opinion, Pitchbox is the most complete tool on this list. A great choice for marketing teams that have 3+ members and work on multiple different projects at the same time. There are 3 main reasons behind it. It has solid prospecting options, great email management, and the best structure that gives you the ability to be on top of things even when you have a bunch of different things going on at the same time.

Ninja Outreach and BuzzStream are neck and neck. Both have some great features that make them a good choice for anyone that works a lot on influencer marketing projects. BuzzStream has a better structure for managing multiple projects while Ninja Outreach has an edge with its social prospecting. They both seem to have a good handle on intensive outreach efforts. To see which one is better for you, we would advise you to check the features and the workflow once again since that is going to play a big role in choosing the right tool for your team.

Mailshake does its outreach job reasonably well but can’t compete with the rest of the guys simply because it doesn’t help you find opportunities in any way. If you are a one-man team and you are planning to do some outreach for a couple of different projects then this may be just the tool you need. Bloggers that want to do some guest posts for their blog could also find Mailshake useful.

Comparison table

outreach-tools-comparison-table

Finish!

That would be it from us on this subject.

We hope this was helpful to anyone that was faced with the dilemma of choosing the right outreach tool. Now, you should be able to sleep a little bit easier πŸ™‚

Thanks for sticking with us till the end. We apologize if your scroll wheel met its demise but it is a small price to pay for this kind of content.

Are you using some other outreach tool and you can’t believe it didn’t end up on our list? Don’t hold it in – let us know in the comments below!

Edit #1: March 30th 2017 – We added a mention that Ninja Outreach allows custom fields in templates, thanks to the tip from the comments!

Edit #2: March 30th 2017 – Mailshake recently added the option to reply on email. Big thanks to Sujan Patel for letting us know!

Edit #3: August 14th 2017 – Updating price changes for Mailshake and Ninja Outreach. 

Point Visible

Point Visible

At PointVisible, we believe in teamwork and love working together on big projects. Articles written under this name are either a result of teamwork of Point Visible team of writers, or a guest post from some of the industry experts.
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  • Awesome article guys! I haven’t seen this kind of summary / comparison since Jon’s article on Point Blank SEO, and it’s great to notice how much progress we’ve made because at the time we weren’t even really in the running with the other guys πŸ™‚ I definitely learned a lot from your observations and will be sending this to the team. Not to be a bother but it looks like in the table/image at the end you wrote that NinjaOutreach doesn’t have custom fields for templates, however we do, I think the reason it didn’t fill in for you was simply because the prospects you were dealing with didn’t have those data fields, but if they did, or had you used a custom csv import with those fields, they would have populated.

    • I’m glad you like the review, @selfmadebm:disqus ! πŸ™‚ Thanks for the tip about custom fields in templates, our team is already on it, running additional tests and editing this part as I’m writing this. NinjaOutreach is a great tool with few really awesome features we missed at other tools (like the prospecting part) and we’re looking forward to spending more time with it in the future. πŸ™‚

      • Cheers! A lot of great things on the way too πŸ™‚

  • Great write up! Like @selfmadebm:disqus said it’s the most comprehensive write up in a long time.

    We used to go by another name (ContentMarketer.io) and had prospecting but we decided to kill that functionality as most customers used (and loved) our email sending functionality.

    • Thanks for the comment, Sujan! Disqus simply won’t let us reply to your comment for some reason! πŸ˜€

  • For people with additional challenges / requiremes (just one of mine: finding germans …) I can also recommend looking at these tools for their export features and then use a system f.e. with Streak for Gmail (perfect for campaign processing and mail / followup). Other solutions are much better, sure, but in special cases like language the downsides are often too big or the campaigns just too specific. So look at export as well – and how well they do f.e. with umlauts and accents. πŸ˜‰

    • Thanks for the suggestion! πŸ™‚ You’re right here, all these tools have lots of space for improvement when it comes to multi language support.

  • I love all of these tools, and can vouch for @selfmadebm:disqus and @scubasewj:disqus on support. You guys are fast to respond and amazing to work with. My personal mix is to use NinjaOutreach + manual review to build a list, export to CSV and import to Mailshake. I feel this is the best of both worlds and is extremely cost effective. It’s also great if you have different people prospecting vs emailing. You only really need to pay for the number of users that do a specific task. You can’t go wrong with any of these tools, and I would agree that PitchBox is probably the best single tool, but I think this combo does everything I need at a fraction of the price.

    • Hey @PaulDillinger:disqus, this sounds like a great combo idea! Each of the tools has its pros and cons and a workflow like this gives new possibilities. Thanks for sharing the tip! πŸ™‚

  • GonΓ§alo SimΓ΅es Henriques

    Hi, amazing article!!!

    I want to use a tool like these to manage a Kickstarter campaign launch and I have a 6000 email list, should I choose one of the tools to manage the Newsletter and the outreach, or just use mailchimp for the simple newsletter and the tool to do only the outreach? Thanks

    • Hi @gonalosimeshenriques:disqus, I’m glad you liked the review. πŸ™‚

      Personally, I’d go with specialized tool for newsletters. Most of them, including MailChimp, have more options for quick newsletter design and broadcast.

  • Excellent comparison of key features! I’d love to know which tools excel in the search for international influencers or in my case, Canada. It’s important in today’s global marketplace to be able to search by location and have the tool return a comprehensive list.

  • Awesome content.
    I am glad to stumble on this post though the post is quite lengthy but informative. I love the tools comparison infographic which mention all the features.

  • TensLiberty

    Got more than I was looking for. Thanks for such an informative post!

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