4 Tips for Cleaner Leads and Better Lead Engagement

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green emailEveryone wants clean leads. It’s the law, for one thing. It’s cost-efficient, for another. It helps with your company’s ROI. But as you already know, lead cleansing can be a problem. Your brand’s reputation, your customer-acquisition budget, and your final ROI are all on the line.

Co-reg has somehow become a dirty word in marketing, and many marketers are not taking advantage of an important lead and prospect generation tool. Co-reg simply means that the lead has signed up for more than one offer or agreed to have third-party offers sent to them. That’s it. Nothing evil lurks below the surface. In a sense, these are “shared” leads, leads that are getting emails from other people. There’s nothing inherently wrong with doing co-reg. The issue lies in the increased possibility of having some impure data collected along the way.

The reality is that almost all purchased leads end up being co-reg leads, since most lead generation services sell their leads to more than one retailer—who then may sell them to several customers. How much have you been paying for “exclusive” email leads? How much have you been paying for clean ones?

There are four easy steps you can take to ensure clean leads:

  1. Don’t start out too big! Some companies begin with an overwhelming 10,000 leads per day, most of which will need to go into the gutter. Go slowly, and be patient.
  2. Use all available technology. Technology can tell you at the front end—where it’s the most important—whether or not an email address is valid.
  3. Target the right places.
  4. Know where your name is being used. Blind networks don’t tell you where they’re placing your offers. Some affiliate networks and reputable publications will tell you.

Once you’re sure about your leads being clean, you can think about activity on those leads.

It may seem like common sense, but many companies fail to contact leads in a timely manner. (By “timely,” I really mean “immediately.”) The Harvard Business Review audited 2,241 U.S. companies, measuring how long each took to respond to a web-generated test lead. Although 37% of these companies responded to their lead within an hour, and 16% responded within one to 24 hours, 24% took more than 24 hours—and 23% of the companies never responded at all. The average response time, among companies that responded within 30 days, was 42 hours.

shutterstock_155050016In another Harvard study, companies that tried to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving a query were nearly seven times as likely to qualify the lead (defined as having a meaningful conversation with a key decision-maker) as those that tried to contact the customer even an hour later—and more than 60 times as likely as companies that waited 24 hours or longer.

Those are sobering statistics. So here’s a second set of tips for lead activity:

  1. Message them differently. A welcome email along with some information about your company should be the first thing in the lead’s mailbox.  Your message should thank them for doing what you asked of them, like signing up!
  2. Message them quickly. The studies above show that very few companies are really doing this right: make sure that yours is one of them!
  3. Hit them with activity. Don’t just tell your story (yawn!): ask them what you can do for them. Make an offer for new subscribers. Make them want to do something.  Also, ISPs like consumer interaction, which also increases inbox delivery.

Ask for sources of the data from your broker or contacts.  What is the website where they opted in to receive third party offers?  This includes asking for names of other marketers renting the file or data and how it is working for them. Ask if those clients would be willing to give verbal references.

shutterstock_122832445Beware of any contact or broker that won’t work with transparency and comply with the above. This is your first sign that something shady is going on. There is a sea of companies out there fighting for your business. Don’t settle. Employ your own third-party email service provider or traffic-monitoring service to help with back-end analysis of your campaigns. All of your third-party acquisition efforts won’t be able to hide from bottom-line metrics in print. If an email file isn’t working (despite those ridiculously high open and click rates), metrics provide you with where it’s not working, how it’s not working and why it’s not working. With this information, a mailing can be stopped in its tracks before any true damage is done.

Read up on CAN-SPAM compliance.  You don’t have to be an expert, but there is no harm it learning the basics.  The more you know, the less chance there is you will fall victim to any negative practices.

The more interactive you are, the better your chances of turning that lead into a customer. The more you tailor your emails to not only the customer’s expressed preferences, but also to his or her location on the lead acquisition continuum, the better your chances of turning that lead into a customer.

Do it right the first time and you’ll have far better customer lifetime value—and ROI!



Want More Leads? Test Your Offers!

Lead generation 2The best way to see which lead-generation offers work, which ones don’t, and when, is to engage in serious multivariate offer testing.

Every lead source requires different messaging, and messaging is the key to lead generation. Messaging is not one-size-fits-all, as we all learned when we moved from direct mail to online email marketing, and as we’re learning yet again as we move into mobile.

Instead, look at your various lead-generation arenas. They may include banners, co-reg., email, trade publication ads, PPC, third-party-sponsored emails, and others. Each of these arenas will require a different offer, and as you’ll probably be wanting to segment each of them still more, you may end up with sublists of appropriate offers. The more you can segment, the more your offers can target the most likely group of consumers for your services or products.

So what do you test? There are myriad options and you need to nail down a strategy for testing. Do you want to try different subject lines? How about the offer itself—should it comprise free shipping, special offers, discounts? What about timing: are you getting more leads midweek? In the evening?

Determine what you want to test, watch your analytics, and tweak as necessary; but be sure that you have a plan behind it and aren’t just throwing out random changes. Figure out ahead of time what it is you want to learn from your testing, and keep to the plan.

test kitIt’s important that you don’t just stick to one testing method: multivariant testing will yield the most information. Remember, the more knowledge you have about what works and what doesn’t, the better position you’ll be in to secure targeted prospects who will actually make a purchase. Following your strategy, try out A/B splits, try out different times, try out different content.

Whatever you test, there are a few constants, whether you’re looking at banners or emails: keep the copy light, and keep the call to action large. No matter what lead-generation tool you’re using, you still have only a few seconds to catch and hold a prospect’s attention: make those seconds count for you by presenting something irresistible—and by presenting it in such a way that it clearly seems irresistible to the consumer.

In all of this, make sure that you’re adhering to best lead-compliance practices. Make sure that leads know they’ll be receiving offers from you; make sure that they tell you it’s okay. Speak the best language for segmented, targeted leads—and see where it takes you!

It’s Ten O’Clock. Do You Know Where Your Email List Has Been?

shutterstock_96258512-2Freewill. Opt-in. CAN-SPAM compliance. We all know these expressions; we all, in fact, work with these expressions in the backs of our minds most of the time.

But how sure are you, really, that the email lists you acquire are sanitized? That whomever you obtained them from understands “freewill opt-in” the same way that you do? In other words… do you really know where your email list has been?

Just getting your kids in by curfew isn’t all there is to being a parent, and just getting lists that are “probably good enough” isn’t all there is to being an internet retailer. Yet how can you make sure that your list has been cleaned, cleared, sanitized? How do you know where it’s been before you send it on to where you want it to go?

Because not knowing entails risk: risk to your company name, to your brand name, and to your deliverability.

The first step is elementary: do not ever simply buy a list and send to it. Even the most honest of list brokers make mistakes, and it’s your company name that’s going to be viewed as the sender. The reality is that many—if not most—lists are compiled from a variety of places, and what that can end up leaving you with is, quite simply, multi-sourced junk.

red emailLists are often amalgamated from various sources in order to give them bulk, or bought as whole chunks and cut up into pieces and sold. What this means is that there’s no recency: you may be getting addresses that were collected years ago. Someone may have filled out a postcard at a retail store in 2010 in order to receive some sale and coupon information from that retailer… and then, suddenly, that consumer may suddenly be getting offers on peanut butter or vacation rentals.

There’s no identification as to where these offers came from, no tracing them back to that fateful day in the mall when the unwitting consumer filled out a postcard. There’s often even little relevancy to the information that the consumer was originally requesting.

In addition, these are typically the emails that subsist on click fraud, where there can be a 17% open rate… and no sales.

So be a good email list “parent.” Know where your list has been, and exactly who it’s going to. After all, it’s a scary world out there: give your customers every reason in the world to trust you… no matter what time it is!


4 Tips for Better Customer-Acquisition Spending

shutterstock_134128511Email marketers are in 2014 increasingly turning their emphasis and priorities to customer acquisition. The internet has opened up seemingly endless avenues and choices for digital marketers to acquire new customers—so many choices, in fact, that it’s increasingly easy to spend budget haphazardly. But you can spend your customer-acquisition budget wisely and effectively if you follow four simple steps:

1)   Measure to ROI. Most marketers get caught up in the nonessentials of customer acquisition: clicks, impressions, even opens are less important than the money that you are making—or not making—from that prospect. You are investing dollars in your customer-acquisition program, so you need to measure its effectiveness in dollars too.

2)   Move quickly. Amassing lists of prospects won’t help you if you are not prepared to move quickly to convert them into customers. This is what will distance you from the competition. Remember that lost time always equates to lost money in lead generation. Launch, optimize … and do it quickly.

3)   Toss garbage data. No marketer likes to throw anything away, but there are email addresses in your database that will never make a purchase. You are looking for opportunities that will move you forward, not useless data that will hold you back. Nate Silver says that “the signal is the truth. The noise is what distracts us from the truth.” In this case, you can equate the “signal” to your best prospects, while the “noise” is the tracked behavior of the other 90% that you’re holding onto.

blog-image-11-18-13-0024)   Follow up. Studies have shown a 45% improvement in lead-generation ROI for companies that nurture leads. With that in mind, make sure that your followup uses the best segmentation available so that you can zero in on your prospects. Remember that personalized emails deliver six times higher revenue per email than non-personalized emails, so segmenting your followup is just as important than the segmentation you’ll be doing once these prospects become customers.

In addition, automating this process is the fastest and most reliable way to spend acquisition budgets efficiently. The B2C ecosystem of customer acquisition is complex, so make sure that the leads you pay for are the ones that will bring you the best possible ROI.


Want Better ROI? Reengage Your Website!

shopping cart 1While shopping cart abandonment is well documented as a powerful driver of revenue for online companies, 95% of email subscribers visiting your website never get to the shopping cart. That is the very definition of leaving a lot of money on the table.

Working with over 50 companies who reengage subscribers who visit their website using email, whether or not these subscribers ever visit the shopping cart, we have seen significant results.

Here’s the thing: Website abandonment emails typically make up less than two percent of the total volume of email each of these companies send in a month, and yet these emails deliver over 25% of the total revenue driven in direct response from email.

Two percent of the volume of email sent, 25% of revenue. Do the math: that’s fewer emails and more money. Fewer emails, fewer inbox delivery challenges, more money. It’s not rocket science.

How does it work?

Marketers identify their email subscribers as soon as they show up at their website; they keep track of the pages they visit. They also track when these customers leave the website without making a purchase.

Twenty minutes or so after leaving the website, the customer receives an email postcard. The postcard lists current sales and offers. If there is a current discount code, it’s included. If there is a current coupon, it’s included. If there is free shipping, the customer is told of that offer.

shutterstock_107844167 2And it all links back to the website to make a purchase. It’s as simple as that.

These emails include current offers, coupons, and/or discounts. They “never” offer elevated promotions which might simply train buyers to leave the website to get the company’s best offers.

The opportunity is enormous. Tracking over 50 companies with website abandonment email programs in place, the results are impressive:

  • consistently over 50% open rates
  • click-to-open rates over 30 percent
  • conversion rates (sales) of anywhere from six to 70 times those of the companies’ regular promotional email campaigns, no matter how well they are targeted
  • revenue generated is 25% or more of the total revenue the company drives from all its email campaigns

This is truly low-hanging fruit. Website abandonment email reminders to use a discount code or a coupon or to take advantage of free shipping before the offer expires, delivered to customers at exactly the right moment, while they are still online and thinking about your company, adds a new dimension to customer convenience that is appreciated and drives sales.

Website reengagement is an opportunity to reach out to customers from every page of your website, and to send tailored messages based on specific pages the customer visited on the site. A carefully devised and implemented website abandonment strategy immediately isolates undecided customers, gives them the opportunity to return and make a purchase, and improves the marketer’s ability to gain additional return on investment from regular customers.

Want better ROI? Forget the shopping cart and optimize your whole website for reengagement!


Building a Great List: Back to Basics

shutterstock_107177447We talk here a lot about customer acquisition, and for good reason: every marketer needs to have a constant steady stream of new subscribers, new prospects, and new customers in order to stay in business. It really is that simple.

Speaking of simplicity, we’re all always going after the next Holy Grail of email marketing. And that’s necessary: new technologies are constantly becoming available that make our jobs easier and more productive. But it’s also worth taking a step back and reminding ourselves of some of the basics involved in building a great email list.

Those basics include the pseudo-”new” field of content marketing (which has actually been with us all along): you’ll attract more prospects if you consistently offer quality content that they can use. It’s a great way to interact with them as well, and you’ll gain valuable insights when you see which parts of your content are being shared.

What content should you be sharing if you’re interesting in building an email list?

  1. Website. Make sure that your website is easily and intuitively navigable, and then add in content that your customers and prospects will love. Depending on your product or service, this can include some how-to guides and videos, reports, pamphlets, and so on. Make sure that you’re always adding something fresh and new to your website content.
  2. Blog. You should have a dedicated blog that is updated regularly (if you let it go for a while, people will lose interest). This will attract both prospects and search engines as long as the content you place in your blog is useful and non-commercial. The blog should be accessible from every page of the website.
  3. Social media. Once you have a blog post, market it on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and anywhere else your customers might be hanging out (you do know where they hang out, right?). This offers a social introduction to your brand.
  4. Giveaways. Don’t ever ask for people to sign on without offering them a thank-you gift for doing so. It can be simple and wast (and should be simple and easy!), but it should make the new signup feel appreciated.
  5. Opt-In. Be careful not to ask for too much information upfront—some people won’t sign on if the form is too long.
  6. Use an enterprise-level ESP for your email lists. Everything is automated, freeing you to do what you do best!

Getting back to basics will grow your list and increase your ROI, so what are you waiting for?

Email Marketing Must-Haves

shutterstock_107479076Okay. Here are three quick must-haves for midweek. Check your email marketing strategy and practice to make sure you have them all:

  1. Listen to your subscribers: What do your subscribers care about? Live data—what we call “now” data—allows marketers to respond to customers and subscribers in near-real time.
  2. Don’t check out: If you want your subscribers and customers to do more business with you, then you need to earn their trust and respect over time with ongoing messaging.
  3. Make it personal: An email recipient should be able to recognize that a message is useful and vital specifically to them within seconds of glancing at a subject line. And that means great—not just good—copywriting.

Take a moment today to check back with your email marketing strategy, and make sure you’re hitting these three high notes. Good email marketing isn’t rocket science: sometimes it’s just about going back to basics.