Everyone these days is constantly checking their email box – so why is email marketing so hard? Let’s take a look at the challenges. For one, it is important to understand that email marketing is a very legitimate form of advertising. This is not the 90’s where SPAMMERS were pervasive. The FTC regulated the industry with the CAN-SPAM act of 2003, and a number of state laws that are more restrictive must guide your commercial emailing efforts. A deep understanding of email compliance requirements has to be your first step. Email compliance requires transparency, ethical messaging, and providing a consumer the ability to opt-out of receiving more emails. It also requires monitoring Publishers for compliance. Every legitimate mailer follows these compliance requirements, but knowing how to avoid publishers who try and game the system and who can get you in trouble takes years of learnings. It is also important to have the technological tools to monitor your campaigns to avoid problems or bad actors.
Reputational risk is another concern companies have with commercial emailing. They perceive that consumers do not like to be emailed, and while true with a tiny percentage of people, most of us understand what the delete button is for. Frankly, if you are emailing compliantly and honoring consumer opt-outs, consumer complaints really are not much of a concern. Many people appreciate being introduced to new products and services, or the response rates would not be what they are. After deploying several hundred million emails a month for a variety of Brand advertisers, the complaints we receive annually are minimal. Let’s call it 2-3 a year, with half of those being from professional litigants who opt-in everywhere, and then use the lesser known state laws to try and extort a few dollars. Not having a firm hand on compliance however can yield much worse problems. The benefits and ability to scale your business however, far outweigh the perceived risks which are minimal and easily addressed. Again, experience counts here, because an understanding of how to navigate through these problems is critical for both peace of mind and cost savings. (more…)
Let’s face it. Nothing has changed our lives more in the past 20 years than the Internet and email. We receive emails delivered to our computers and phone wherever we are, 24/7. In addition to work and personal emails, companies we do business with (or companies who’d like to do business with us!), utilize email to communicate. We have all gotten used to checking our email regularly, and hitting the “X” button to delete the myriad of messages we don’t have an interest in. Email can be used for communicating with existing clients, re-marketing to clients who have already discovered you, or to acquire new, fresh hand-raisers who have an interest in your product now! Emails that pique our interest by introducing us to new products play a significant role in driving our economy.
Millions of leads and sales are generated daily from this advertising medium. In fact, E-mail Marketing has effectively replaced Direct Mail as the preferred method of driving new business.
So why are so few companies marketing this way?
For one, it’s hard. Most companies fail at it. After working with a lot of well-known brands, the stories we hear about their efforts prior to our engagement are relatively consistent. They have tried it, but the sales metrics did not back out, traffic fraud was pervasive, their forms did not convert and so on. Traffic was not only hard to find, policing it for compliance was even harder. Identifying mailers with the the right Demographic lists and who can also “inbox” are also a challenge. Managing your domains or a couple consumer complaint can be daunting. As with all things, experience and good contacts matter. But for every challenge, there is a solution…
Has anyone told you that you have good “phone”? That’s a good start when it comes to the sales communication skills needed for successfully working leads. But how good is the content of your voicemail? Or your follow-up email? Those are the areas where we’re now going to focus on our path to finding success with leads instead of making excuses as to why they fail – now that we’ve already tackled sales culture and contact time, and how to sell your company.
Leaving an effective voicemail. This is an often overlooked, but critical part of the follow-up process. Have a plan or script for this as you often won’t reach a customer on the first call. Think about how you check your own voicemail. I know I quickly check mine without listening to the entire message. We are all busy. If it sounds like a sales call from someone I don’t know…I delete it before I listen to the whole thing and so do you. Engage the consumer and leave a positive first impression that relays that you are following up on their request. It’s important when leaving an enthusiastic voicemail to use something like this:
“Hi <customer name>, I’m following up on the Internet Request you made today for more information on a <product> (confirms their request and personalizes). Based on the preliminary information you submitted (reaffirms their request), I have some great ideas and information to share with you, but I need to have a few additional questions answered so I can provide you all of your options and the information you requested (we need to speak). (Next, provide a benefit): You may be aware that a <product> allows you to… End the message by advising the client to look for your email, provide your contact information, and be sure to use the consumer’s name a second time and that you will be calling again. Repeat your phone number two times slowly. I look forward to providing you this information <name>! (more…)
“It’s not the leads, it’s you!” If you’ve been with us for some time, you know that that’s CEO Bill Baskin’s battle cry when it comes to handling complaints about leads “not working.” We’ve already discussed sales culture and contact time while working leads, but there’s much more when it comes to strategizing how to make successes out of leads. Now we move on to:
Sell yourself and your company
On your initial call, start with a warm and enthusiastic greeting as it is important to get the consumer engaged in the process and build rapport. Be sure to articulate why you are better to work with. Why your company and its fulfillment process is better to work with than your competitor. In other words, how the experience you or your company provides is different than other companies they may be speaking with. Why your process is easier. Think about these things and differentiate yourself and be the product expert. Let me give you an example.
I sold Mercedes Benz cars for a period early in my career. The leads we received were from customers over an hour away. They had to drive past three competing dealerships to get to mine. How did I overcome this? Well, I developed a script to overcome this frequent objection and nip it in the bud, the conversation went like this:
Me: Have you had a chance to speak with your local dealer? (more…)
Whenever I hear someone complain about leads, my tough talk, signature comeback is: it’s not the leads it’s you. I promised I’d come back with a foolproof strategy for better success with leads, so here we are. Let’s start with sales culture and contact time.
The first thing a company should review before they buy Internet leads is their sales culture. If you historically generate mostly inbound calls to your sales team, getting them to make outbound dials on Internet leads may prove to be a problem, and working them has different challenges as well. With an inbound call sales culture, many sales people would much rather sit around and wait for the phone to ring then make many outbound dials all day. Working Internet leads takes commitment and significant and focused effort, supported by a great sales process. The deals are in there, the question is can you earn them? At some point, the consumer raised their hand and expressed interest in your product. They expressed a desire to learn more.
If inbound calls are your current sales culture, the first thing you need to decide is how you hold your sales people accountable for hitting certain metrics working Internet leads. You should track outbound dials per day, contact rate, total talk time, quotes given, applications taken, loans funded, plus whatever other milestones your company utilizes. I like to start (more…)
OK, one more to wrap up my series on the importance of generating your OWN leads. In the previous two posts, we discussed some big reasons to start building a channel for generating internet leads internally (driving free inbound phone calls, and generating a more targeted lead for more profit). This time we are going to talk about the “B word.”
Using your brand. First let me be specific here: by “brand” I mean what makes you a better choice for the consumer than your competition. I am not talking about promoting nebulous tag lines, color schemes, or building name recognition. Lead generation is for generating sales – period. It is critical that you do not sacrifice direct response principals that are proven to work in an attempt to promote brand elements that will not influence consumers to take action now. Specifically, by “brand” what I am talking about are the elements that are unique to your company and can convey the positive customer experience you have already built with your client base.
- Real testimonials. The FTC has disallowed fake or general testimonials in advertising, which means that only advertisers that work directly with consumers can use them. Consult the guidelines on this, but actual testimonials specific to your company can add credibility and improve conversions considerably.
- Third party verification. This could be your BBB accreditation, any awards you have won, any associations you belong too, etc. Icons and logos from these sources used on the landing page send a signal to the consumer that you are established and trustworthy.
- Information specific to your organization. If you have a big number of clients, or have transacted a large dollar amount, or something similar, this can be powerful information for consumers trying to discern the difference between all the services they are researching at the moment.
- Your phone number (see my post “1 Big Reason to Start Generating Leads Internally”). Having your phone number on the page seems simple enough, but many lead generation sites don’t have one. It will not only drive “free” calls to you, but will also add some credibility vs. sites that are lacking a call-in number.
Although I stress not trying to use your lead generation campaign as a way to build your brand, you can certainly stay within your brand elements such as colors and fonts. Also, branding is about customer experience, and what better way to generate positive customer experience than generating more customers? And as I always say, if you are not set up to generate leads internally because of technical and/or media buying resources, but still want to take advantage of benefits, maybe consult an online direct response agency (like us).
Yes, shameless plug. But as a direct response marketer I just couldn’t help myself!
Last time, I wrote about one big reason to start generating more leads yourself: driving “free” inbound calls. Now, in this article, we will look at another big one: targeting to your key demographic. This results in, yup, more profit. I have sold leads for 15 years, and there are definitely big advantages to buying leads from lead generation companies, such as cost and the ability to scale quickly. But here is one advantage that generating internally can give you.
Create more expensive leads and make more profit. One of the most successful campaigns I ever managed was priced at more than $450 CPM and required a contract north of $4,000,000. The lead cost on this was very high, but what it produced was a large volume of the right kind of lead for my client (in this case exclusive, excellent credit, mortgage refinance leads). Those types of leads were simply not available from lead aggregators, on an exclusive basis, with any volume at the time. So, despite the big price tag, the campaign was very successful. At times it was even too successful: the 200+ agents were not able to get to 100+ inbound calls an hour because of the lead and call volume the campaign generated.
Lead generators typically can create high quality leads at a lower cost and provide the ability to scale. But, one disadvantage in selling leads is that very high quality leads may be too expensive to generate at the price point dictated by the lead buyer market. Here are a few ideas that may create more expensive leads, and produce a big return on your investment:
I’m not saying you should stop buying leads altogether from lead generation companies – in fact, I sell leads myself. Buying leads typically allows advertisers both cost advantages and the ability to scale up quickly. However, if you are a lead buyer and have not (yet) invested resources to generate a large volume of leads internally, there are several reasons (including targeted leads for more profit) that you should seriously consider building this channel – sooner than later.
One huge reason is having the freedom to drive “free” inbound calls to your sales floor. Call-ins usually represent the low hanging fruit of the buyer base and are typically not a component of leads purchased from a third party. Obviously, there is a 100% contact ratio on call-ins (as long as someone answers the phone). Beyond that, the mindset of someone calling in is better because that person is reaching out to you. Therefore, the close ratio should be significantly higher on these calls and thus an added bonus to the online leads you are generating.
Not sure how to start? Here are 3 ways to drive inbounds as part of your lead generation campaigns:
- Offer an incentive on the confirmation page or “thank you page” for calling in rather than waiting for a call from you. This can be as simple as stating, on the page immediately following the submittal of the lead information, “Thank you, a representative will contact you within 48 hours. Or, to obtain your quote immediately, please call (800) 555-5555.” We once ran a campaign for satellite television where this strategy caused 10% of the leads to call in after they had submitted the lead. These call-ins closed at around 50%, which doubled the performance of the campaign as a whole.
- Put the phone number in a shadow box upon the exit of the landing page. If worded correctly, the exit shadow box can draw on a powerful principal of influence that social psychologist Robert Cialdini calls “rejection then retreat”. Simply stated, when the consumer chooses to the leave the page he/she is rejecting our request to complete the lead form. When we then ask the consumer to please call us instead, we are “retreating” to a lesser request. There is an ingrained societal obligation to comply with the second request. Or maybe some people just want to call instead – I don’t really know. I do know this though: doing this will drive inbound calls and help you monetize traffic that was falling off the page anyway.
After frankly discussing some misleading quotes from Consumer Advocacy I wanted to close out my notes on the recent Washington, D.C. FTC workshop I attended by looking towards the future. This is something I’m extremely passionate about, and one of the reasons I am honored to be a Board member of the exciting new LeadsCouncil (www.leadscouncil.com), whose goals are creating new strategies for upholding ethical values and compliance.
At the conference, protecting the consumer Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and distribution of that data was the subtext behind all of the panel discussions. Further, providing transparency on how many times the data will be distributed to the consumer through disclosures is key.
Proposed ways to further protect the consumer:
- Require all providers to meet Initial standards to deliver interested consumers to the client
- Set up disclaimers and privacy policies for the consumer to read and understand.
- Verification pop-ups
- Set up filters to eliminate non-qualified consumer or redirect them if not.
- Set up opportunities to not collect non-qualified leads.
- Set up better lead qualifiers as well as confirmations on submittals
- Verify data through a data clearing house to make sure information is accurate
- Auditing call centers
- Data gathering technology to go and find violators to protect the consumer
My overall impression of what’s to come from the FTC is that if you are…
As both a Board member of the exciting new LeadsCouncil (www.leadscouncil.com) and a compliance-minded member of the Digital Performance Marketing industry for the past 20 years, I flew to Washington D.C. this week with my Chief Compliance Officer to attend an FTC workshop on lead generation. We had received notice that the FTC was going to hold a panel discussion on lead generation in the lending and education verticals, and we wanted to attend. LeadsCouncil Board members Greg Gragg and Michael Ferree were both panelists at the event, and the council was also indirectly represented by VP & Head of Compliance, John Henson from Tree.
These types of panels and acceptance of written comment are usually a precursor to enhanced enforcement efforts or proposing additional regulation. Discussions around these events focused on tools and processes that consumers and businesses could use to determine where and how their information was being used as well as the current disclosures, and whether they are enough to protect the consumer. The following is a summary of the topics and issues discussed and topics to think about to improve your business practices:
What is important to the consumer?
- Receiving reliable, accurate information on the products and services they requested.
- Competitively-priced options to ensure consumers get the best price for the best service.
- Expectation that their data and information will be protected.
- To control the flow of communication during the decision-making process.
- Personalized search options to only receive options that meet their criteria.