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…)
I’ve run a number of sales teams in my career, and spent some time in the mid 90’s training automobile dealers on how to create an effective sales process working Internet leads that was the antithesis of their traditional sales process. (This was with the very first Internet lead company, autobytel.) Managing my own consumer fulfillment sales teams since those times, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that “the leads were not good,” I’d be a rich man. My response has always been: “Then why is so-and-so consistently making $20k-$30k a month working the same leads you are?”
As a lead generator, I’ve worked with thousands of advertisers over the years. I’ve had the opportunity to share processes with and aggregate best practices. Some of these clients have seen tremendous ROI and consider leads the best thing since sliced bread, yet a few don’t see success using a subset of the very same leads. Why is that? Because: the leads are only as effective as you are. Process, positioning, and competitiveness matter. Engagement with the consumer also matters…a lot. A microcosm of this is why most sales organizations consistently have certain sales people at the top of the board, the middle of the board, and those who should seek other employment.
The top producers are not necessarily more talented than anyone else. (Although that is a small part of it.)
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!
We’re headed down a brand-new path for our industry – and an especially exciting one. After nearly 20 years in online marketing without an industry advocacy and standards organization, I’m thrilled by the recent formation of the LeadsCouncil.
In effect, the LeadsCouncil symbol will be a seal of approval to help advertisers distinguish the industry leaders, from those other who are less concerned about upholding ethical values and compliance.
It’s a fascinating time to be involved in Digital Marketing.
I’m honored to have been asked to join as both a plank holder and participate on the Board of Directors to help create the policies and standards we hope to apply to all of the current and future members of LeadsCouncil. Our goal is to promote ethical policies and practices, protect consumer rights, advise and lobby the Federal regulatory agencies that police our industry, and develop a set of standards all LeadsCouncil members must adhere to for the benefit of our advertisers and our industry.
I liken it to the perception of the Better Business Bureau. It’s frankly nice to see our industry maturing!
I have always felt that it was important to be proactive in fighting for our rights. Sadly, so many in our industry would rather hide their head in the sand than participate in helping Federal Regulators form policy regarding marketing practices. As an industry, we must take steps to police the “bad actors” and protect the rights of consumers, or someone outside our industry will take steps to do it for us. (more…)
Unfortunately for those of us in email advertising, trying to work with top-tier performance email publishers is like trying to find a wife in Alaska. There are so many of us and so few of them, and they know it. So what happens? Only the most attractive offers survive. Those are the offers with no caps on traffic, no schedule restrictions, higher payouts, etc. If you won’t give it to them, they are on to the next offer, and very few offers can take uncapped traffic at a high payout with zero restrictions.
In an article titled “How to Negotiate with Powerful Suppliers” from the Harvard Business Review Magazine, this kind of difficulty in getting publishers to work with your needs is due to the fact that the good ones are scarce. There are only a handful of top-tier quality email publishers that can really drive traffic at scale at any given time. Therefore, their services are in high demand and they gravitate to the offers that make them the most money with the fewest headaches.
So then, as advertisers, are we totally powerless? No. Luckily this article is titled, “How to Negotiate with Powerful Suppliers.” We have four options:
- Consider playing hardball. Good luck with #1. Remember, these publishers have buyers lined up, and there is no leverage in trying to withhold your business. That just won’t work.
- Acquire an existing supplier or create a new one. That sounds great, but the hard part is that email publishers come and go. There are many stories in this industry of large purchases being made only to have the mailer’s IPs go down the next day. Creating one is probably a better idea, but no simple task. Hiring an expert to create one may be just as expensive and just as risky.
- Consider whether you can change how you buy. You could consider changing how you buy, but in our industry, you probably have already done this. Other forms of media, such as Search and Social, can produce great traffic. But most advertisers look to email traffic only after saturating other opportunities.
- See if you can help the publisher realize value in other contexts. Bingo! This is the strategy that has been extremely successful for me. If I have an offer that is limited because of restrictions on the amount of traffic it can take, days it can be run, etc., I know that the best way to overcome that is to build ancillary value for the publisher into the offer. This can mean different things in different situations, but an example may be to test creative extensively until the conversion ratios from the open of the email through the acquiring of the customer are at a level much higher than existing offers. With that accomplished, the offer will make the publishers more money per email drop, and they will be much more willing to adhere to my requests on volume on scheduling. Another example would be to test CPM mailings. This may take a good deal of trial and error, but the top mailers will usually be willing to mail any offer on a CPM basis because they are guaranteed to meet their revenue targets. As a result, the advertiser has control over the size and timing of the email drops.
Last week, the LeadsCouncil introduced the new board of industry leaders at LeadsCon New York 2015. In a presentation to the audience at LeadsCon, the LeadsCouncil board shared its plans to chart a new course for the industry and LeadsCouncil members. The plans include a larger role in advocating for the lead generation ecosystem in Washington D.C. and support with the establishment of standards, self-audit, and remediation with both buyer and seller members. During the presentation, the board called for the industry to join LeadsCouncil in forwarding the mission of extending their influence in the rule-making process for the lead-gen ecosystem. Click here to view a video with more details from Board Chairman Gregory Gragg.
The New LeadsCouncil Board of Directors consists of:
- Gregory Gragg, Blue Chair LLC – Board Chairman
- Bruce Cook, Tree.com
- Erik Josowitz, All Web Leads
- Ethan Ewing, Bills.com
- Joe Marinucci, Digital Media Solutions
- Michael Ferree, Anomaly Squared
- Joe Laskowski, Higher Ed Growth
- Cory Smith, Access Intelligence
- Bill Baskin, Epath Digital
LeadsCouncil Mission Statement: To educate and advocate on behalf of the buyers and sellers engaged in all forms of lead generation, ensuring that all participants deliver value and follow ethical as well as federal and state guidelines when conducting their business. (more…)