Won’t They Think I’m Spamming?
This is the first installment in our “Email Marketing – The Only Bailout Your Business Needs” e-Book.
If you run a small business or run marketing or sales within a medium sized business, you’re going to remember this year. 2009 will go down in the history books as one of the most financially tumultuous years ever. There seems to be a never ending parade of businesses going out of business! And whoever is left standing, including many prominent corporations, institutions – even state and local governments – are asking for bailouts.
With the sort of numbers the politicians are throwing around, you’ve surely found yourself wondering, “How can my business get some of that money or at least benefit from all these bailouts?” The trouble is that most small and medium sized businesses aren’t on any politician’s radar. If you wait for help… you won’t be around long enough to find out you’re not going to get any.
If you’re an entrepreneur, be entrepreneurial. Sometimes you have to create something out of nothing! Or at least take what you do have and make the most of it. Today that means squeezing the most sales out of the fewest marketing dollars. It’s crucial to structure your business so that every contact, prospect and lead is properly positioned to become a customer.
The good news is that all businesses have a gold mine right under their noses. Done right, mining that gold does not require a huge budget. In fact, Email Marketing is probably the least expensive marketing initiative you’ll invest in this year. But the rewards can be massive!
To fully comprehend the raw power of Email Marketing in your business, it helps to understand that the way we all buy things has changed radically with the growth of the Internet and the availability of information.
When you decide to buy a car, you’ve probably always done a bit of research, test driving, visiting various dealerships. Basically you shop around until you are ready to buy.
Traditionally, salespeople at car dealers pounce on every new customer that walks on the lot and try to close. They’ve got mouths to feed and quotas to meet. We all know the top car salespeople get your phone number and call you every few weeks to update you with information so that when you are ready to buy, you will turn to them.
And that’s how things work in most businesses. Leads come in and sales people pounce on them to try and close them immediately. Even the simple follow up sales call a few weeks later is a rare occurrence. In fact, you really do WANT your sales focus to be on closing business in the here and now. But ever single prospect that has contact with you business could be a customer someday. Unfortunately, most don’t become customers quickly. In most B2B sales organizations, a close rate of 20% is darn good. That’s 80% that don’t buy… but might, someday. And the undeniable fact is, the great majority of sales are made after multiple contacts.
So, how can you create an effective and affordable way to make multiple contacts with that 80% of non buyers on a consistent basis – in a way that will create more sales and increase the growth of your business ? If you can create a “hopper” that we can throw all the leads you don’t close on the first try into – and “nurture” them so that even 5% of them eventually come back to your business to buy, that’s a 25% increase in sales! And this hopper can be created easily and cost effectively.
We’ve created “Email Marketing – The Only Bailout Your Business Needs” because email marketing is such a POWERFUL lever tool and is so UNDER UTILIZED. Most business people are overly concerned about the perception their prospects may have of them and legal compliance. They just aren’t sure how to create effective email campaigns. And so they get stuck and do nothing. We all can guarantee the results of doing nothing.
Your bailout answer has just arrived in the form of simple, inexpensive steps you can begin today to create an email marketing campaign that will get results, enhance your reputation in your industry and stay on the right side of the law. Just follow the guidelines outlined here, you will find email marketing to be far more powerful and easy than you ever imagined.
WARNING – if you are interested in learning how you can send purely promotional email messages to a list of people that have never heard of you, these messages are not geared to help you.
Here, we are focusing on how to build the proper long term relationship with the suspects, prospects, contacts and leads you already have but are not maximizing. If you would like to build relationships with people who have an interest in your products and services or the realistic potential to be interested in them in the future and establish yourself as a trusted expert, then please read on!
OK. Let’s get started! First and foremost, let’s clear the air about what is and isn’t spam and what the law does and doesn’t require.
Of course, you don’t want to be perceived as a spammer by your customers and prospects and you don’t want to get yourself into any legal trouble either.
The good news is that the legal requirements are not too stringent or difficult to understand. Please understand, following the law and avoiding being perceived as a spammer by your customers are two entirely different things. We’ll talk about the perception issue later in this article.
In the U.S., the “CAN-SPAM Act” defines what is and isn’t legal in the email marketing world. You can find a simple summary of this legislation on the FTC’s website here.
The “highlights” of the CAN-SPAM Act:
- Bans false or misleading header info – you can’t make your emails appear to have been sent by someone else.
- Prohibits deceptive subject lines – your subject line has to clearly indicate what the reader can expect to find in the email
- Requires you to give recipients an opt-out method – yes, its OK to let them just reply with “remove” in the subject but, you must clearly explain how the can be removed from your list.
- Commercial email must be identified as an advertisement – if you’re selling something, say so.
- Requires that the email include your physical address.
That’s it. Really not to big a deal. Of course, this is not a legal opinion so, read the FTC’s website and other resources to be sure you have a solid understanding. In addition, there are plenty of very affordable services available that allow you to create your own campaigns and let them send the email and act as your “compliance” cop.
And if you violate the law, you’re subject to up to an $11,000 fine per violation. There are additional fines for egregious infractions.
So, its worthwhile to be sure you’re in compliance. And to do so, you just have to follow the simple guidelines above.
No worries right? Again, legal compliance is the easy part. Ensuring your emails are read and valued by your customers is a bit more challenging. We’re going to walk you through the key ingredients here.
First, a few interesting facts. Studies (1) have shown that more than 50% of recipients equate clicking the “Report as spam” button in their email software as the same as “unsubscribing” or “opting out”. Its not. When a recipient opts out, you’re required to remove them from the list for future emails. If they block your emails within their email program or anti-spam filter, you may never know about it.
Plus, 40% of recipients defined “spam” as meaning “any email I don’t want to receive”. Here’s what Yahoo says about how they look at your emails – “Operationally, we define spam as whatever consumers do not want in their inbox.”
So essentially, from your customers’ perspective and that of the major ISPs (companies hosting email for users), spam is anything the recipient would rather not receive.
And that’s the magic ingredient in email marketing… making your customers want to receive your emails. Of course, you’ll know if they do. They’ll let you know by unsubscribing or sending you comments by reply if they’re not appreciating your emails. Most email marketing services even provide statistics that let you see how many folks are opting out. It shouldn’t be to many. If the rule of thumb in direct snail mail marketing is that you should receive a 1% response rate, then a 1% opt out rate for your emails should be your upper limit. That means that 99% of recipients valued your email enough to allow you to send more.
Engage Your Audience
You may be pleasantly surprised to learn that creating emails that serve your purpose of increasing the return on all your suspects, prospects and customers is easier than you think. Many marketers and business owners get a sort of “writer’s block”. They don’t feel comfortable or confident in writing the emails. That’s often because they’re trying to create an email that will motivate the prospect to pick up the phone and call or visit their website. That’s a tall order! If you’re selling to businesses, then the odds that your email will arrive at the moment that the prospect is shopping for what you sell are very low indeed. In fact, this kind of email will be more likely to annoy your prospect than anything else you could do.
We’re not trying to drive your prospects to do business with your company directly. They’re not cattle. They’re real people who are busy and whose inboxes are flooded with email they don’t need, just like yours.
Of course, our goal IS to cause more prospects to buy from you. However, the purpose of your emails should be to engage the prospect by offering something interesting or of value to them. Imagine you’re at a cocktail party that just happens to be populated by folks that will probably need your product or service one day. If you walked into the room with a huge sign and started yelling about the great deal you’re offering “tonight only”, you’d probably get kicked out in short order. I’m sure you would never even consider something so crass.
Well, it’s the same with email. Your customer’s inbox is the cocktail party. You don’t want to be another loud obnoxious huckster. Your objective is to be credible, interesting and even entertaining. You know how to walk into a social gathering and network right? You’d introduce yourself and ask about the person you’re meeting. You might have a funny story to tell about your business. You’d probably have some questions to ask each person you meet so that you can understand how interested they might be in your products or services. Based on their answers, you might offer to help them somehow. Maybe you’d get their card and send them a link to a useful website, etc.
If you approach creating your emails in this same way, you are on your way to success! It makes it much simpler. You don’t have to write the most amazing sales copy in the world. You just have to be interesting and informative. In fact, the less you talk about your products or services, the better. You’d be better served to talk about challenges faced by your customers.
The fact is that if you take this approach, your audience will appreciate and value your emails and when things change in their world such that they have an immediate need for what you’re selling, they’ll contact you first. Because they trust you.
We all get emails and postcards from insurance agents in our neighborhood. Which ones do you appreciate the most? The ones offering discounts and promotions?
You appreciate the insurance agents that provide you with interesting information – statistics about your area or your industry; stories about people who suffered a loss and did or did not have the appropriate insurance in place; etc.
Ask yourself what those things are for your customers. What do they need to know in order to be better at what they do? A simple monthly update of market statistics can be easy and effective. Upcoming Events of trade associations, the chamber of commerce, political interests that are relevant to your industry. You’ll need to put some thought into what these things should be but, give it a couple of days and just jot down ideas that run through your head. You’ll have more than you need in no time.
Of course, a great place to get creative ideas is from customers. Ask some what they’d like to see in their inbox.
In our next chapter/installment of “Email Marketing – The Only Bailout Your Business Needs”, we’re going to dig into creating entire campaigns in more detail. Be sure to register to receive the entire e-Book at the end of June!
“If At First You Don’t Succeed, Email, Email, Email Again!” will appear here at Sell, Sell, Sell! on June 1. In fact, each installment will be appearing here every Monday throughout June. So stay tuned!
Special thanks for contributing to this installment go to Steven Greene. Steven’s written and managed lead generation and nurturing campaigns in industries from banking to boating. His input on email marketing is invaluable. To learn more about Steven click here.
Sources: 1) Epsilon 2007