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…)
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…)
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!
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…
It’s good to be home from an important recent FTC workshop on online lead generation, which I attended with my Chief Compliance Officer and panelists Greg Gragg and Michael Ferree, two fellow board members of our exciting new LeadsCouncil – that you are invited to join. As a compliance-focused member of the Digital Performance Marketing industry for the past two decades, I very much looked forward to this event. After first breaking down all of the lead generation players and detailing exactly what is important to whom, I turned my eye to some often-misleading quotes from the Consumer Advocacy side of things.
Who doesn’t find some frank feedback useful?
Some classic quotes (and my opinions on what they said) from the Consumer Advocates, many of whom paint the industry with the broad brush of misunderstanding or zealotry:
“If a prospective student submits a lead, they’ll get calls from 100s of schools”. – Not true…well most of the time.
David Halperin – Consumer Advocate Attorney
“In the for-profit school business, they use strippers as recruiters” & “If I were you, I would never enter my phone number anywhere on the Internet.” – I am sure a stripper got a job as an admission rep somewhere, but it is not the norm. Mr. Halperin appeared more interested in making a name for himself with his outrageous statements than finding workable solutions. (more…)
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.
Once upon a time, before the National Do-Not-Call regulations and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 USC 227 and 47 CFR 64.1200, business were free to “cold call” consumers to introduce them to new products and services. Those days are long past, and more importantly, cold calling landline or mobile numbers on even your old leads can create tremendous liability for you and your company. Despite these regulations, I still find myself frequently the recipient of such cold calls regarding a mortgage, and when queried, the callers often have never even heard of TCPA. It’s mind boggling! Understanding these regulations are critical for anyone in business given the rash of Federal Class action lawsuits against corporations from professional litigants looking to extort your company.
Background on the TCPA
The TCPA and its implementing rules impose limitations on calls placed to both residential and wireless telephone numbers. The TCPA prohibits telemarketing calls made using an artificial or pre-recorded voice to residential phones, without prior express consent. The TCPA also prohibits making non-emergency calls using an automated telephone dialing system or artificial or pre-recorded voice to a wireless telephone number without prior express consent. If the call to the wireless number includes an advertisement or is considered telemarketing, the express consent must be in writing. Failure to comply with these rules results in automatic penalties ranging from $500 up to $1,500 per unsolicited call placed if you disregard TCPA compliance. Unlike DNC penalties, this is not a fine for the calls you made to the specific complainant, but rather EVERY call you made to anyone’s mobile number since TCPA was updated in Oct of 2013, if the Class is certified in litigation. Even if compliant, the costs of defense are enormous and litigants often file these as a way to extort $50,000 or more from companies, as judgments can be in the hundreds of millions of dollars and take years in court. Calling under the pretext of a “survey” to generate a sales opportunity is also prohibited. TCPA includes uninvited text messages.
On July 17, 2015, the FCC issued new rules regarding TCPA in an attempt to clarify this area of law. While the new rule results in a number of changes to the TCPA, none is more significant than the broadening of the definition of an “automated telephone dialing system” (ATDS). In simplest terms, the FCC now defines an ATDS as any equipment that is actually or potentially able to dial random or sequential numbers – even if not actually used that way, and even if it must be altered in order to be capable of doing so. In essence, your iPhone can be considered an automated dialer in certain circumstances. Given the fact the US economy relies on consumer spending for 70% of total GDP, these laws are not only stifling our economy in my view, but placing undue burdens on legitimate businesses. Bottom feeding lawyers and professional litigants are clogging up the courts with these cases due to the extremely high value of potential judgments.