How Good Is Your Customer and Prospect Email List? Why Canada’s New Anti-Spam Law Makes Sense

E mailThanks to the Internet, connecting with customers and prospects has gotten somewhat easier. For my clients, all of whom are located in the United States, email marketing is a viable vehicle for reaching those customers and prospects. Since the US Federal government enacted the CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing) Act of 2003, most businesses comply with an opt-out option when sending emails.

Our neighbor to the north has taken a new and more strict approach. Yep. Canada’s anti-spam legislation (CASL), which took effect in July, requires implied (information published in plain sight, given to the business, through an existing business or non-business relationship) and express consent (contact clearly agreed) for any business to send electronic information to their contacts.  Basically, you need contacts to opt-in to receive emails.

Third Party Email Lists Can Be Too Good to Be True

While the opt-out option is routine today, what Canada has put in place makes some sense. Especially if a business wants to email to credible email addresses.

Buying email lists can send a small business down a slippery slope if you’re not careful. First of all, people who don’t know you or your product/service are harder to sell to and may not want to get an email from your business.

In addition, most email list providers promise good contact information, but purchased lists can be full of out-of-date data.  How well do you know the list seller? Be very selective when purchasing lists and do a test emailing to determine the value of the list.

Bad data usually leads to low deliverability.  This doesn’t just get you bounced emails, it can potentially hurt your email sending reputation. What? Yes. Reputable email service providers monitor email activity and watch for things like properly formatted emails, change in email volume being sent, email bounce rates.  The last thing any business wants is their ISP flagging their account and blocking all email activity.

Build Your Own Email List

Getting emails from people who want to stay connected to your business will give you better email lists, which will give you better deliverability and a better reputation with your service provider…a better scenario all around.

How do you build an email list?  Here are some suggestions.

  1. Add a “Sign-Up for Email” to your website.
  2. Invite new customers to sign up as part of the e-commerce purchasing process.
  3. Ask at trade shows.
  4. Offer email sign up on everything including marketing collateral, invoices, rebate cards, advertisements, direct mail, etc.
  5. Ask when meeting with customers and prospects.
  6. Require an email as part of website visitor downloads and requests.
  7. When a customer or prospect calls you with questions or requests, ask them to join your email list.

Be responsible and respectful and before you know it, that email list will be growing and valuable.

Is Your Website Secure? Does It Need to Be?

SECURE ICONIn August, Google announced its intention to use HTTPS as a ranking signal—a very lightweight signal, but a signal nonetheless—specific to URLs. Why?

Google is encouraging website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS for some pretty good reasons. HTTPS is a website hosted on a secure server. Most e-commerce sites use HTTPS.

According to Google Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller, all sites should be sure for date integrity and authentication reasons. A secure site would ensure that content on your website is not altered in transit and that it is truly your site.  To learn more, check out Google’s video Google I/O 2014 HTTPS Everywhere, in which Ilya Grigorik and Pierre Far break down the reasons very plainly.

What is Security?

Authentication – am I talking to who they claim to be?

Data Integrity – has anyone tampered with the data?

Encryption – can anyone see my conversation?

So…to become HTTPS, you’ll have to add a security certificate to your website and migrate your website from an HTTP server to an HTTPS server.

Planning ahead is key.  John Heard at SearchEngineNews.com estimates that website owners have about two (2) years before an insecure website will become a critical problem for SEO. He warns against waiting two years to make the switch.

If you are building a new website, changing domain names or making a major change to the URL structure of your website, you will want to consider moving to HTTPS now.

Google will generate a warning to visitors for websites that are not HTTPS  (see below)

Warning visitors would see if your website is not secure on HTTPS

Warning visitors would see if your website is not secure on HTTPS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving your website to HTTPS may give you a small bump in SEO. More importantly, as more people become leery of the Internet’s security, you’ll want make the move before August 2016.

Please let me know if you have questions or want to price migrating your website to HTTPS.

Digital Marketing Vs Traditional Marketing Platforms: What Can a Small Business Really Afford to Do?

digital marketing vs television advertisingI came across Rohan Ayyar’s recent article in Entrepreneur in which he highlights traditional marketing platforms that still resonate in the digital marketing world. I agree that digital marketing has overtaken traditional marketing spend for many companies; they’d be foolish not to move toward more digital marketing initiatives.

As for the traditional marketing platforms that still hold their value, not all are affordable to the small and medium sized company. Ayyar briefly addresses television, billboards and events, PR, and radio as he highlights the staying power of these platforms. What’s so attractive about digital marketing is that it levels the playing field for small businesses competing with larger ones. So, over the next four blog posts, I’m going to take a closer look at the costs associated with television, billboards/events, PR, radio and online with a small business perspective.

Today, let’s look at television. As Ayyar points out U.S. consumers spend about 27 hours per week watching television and that television—broadcast and cable—advertising is worth it if you can afford it. We’ve seen the rise of programs like Orange is the New Black, Game of Thrones, Fargo, and others. But what are the pros and cons with television advertising?

“When television advertising works, it influences online activity. Video ads on websites, social media and game aps are increasing, which is a tip of the hat to how well television advertising works.”

Television Advertising Pros

Attention Getting. Television ads usually reach viewers when they’re already attentive (i.e. watching their favorite shows). A good example of the magnitude of viewers paying attention can be seen in the number of people voting for participants in The Voice or American Idol.

Show and Tell at Its Best. Television as a medium is wonderful for sharing a product or service with a large audience quickly. Television advertising also lets a company reveal its personality and brand, which is a good way to connect with consumers.

Television Reaches a Large Audience. In addition to broadcast television, cable television programming is gaining attention from the public and there is an opportunity to purchase lower cost ads to reach a cable TV audience.

Television Carries Credibility. Believe it or not, being on television is still seen as a sign of prestige in America…and that translates into credibility.

Strong Call to Action Can Drive Online Activity. There’s a growing number of people who go online while watching television. In fact, according to Nielsen, 84% of smartphone and tablet owners say they use their devices as second-screens while watching TV at the same time.

Television Advertising Cons

Television Ads Cost Money. The average cost  of producing a national, 30-second TV commercial is about $300,000. That number goes down for local markets and will be based on number of viewers you want to reach, the number of times the ad airs, and when the ad airs.

Multiple Touch Points Required. Like all marketing platforms, television advertising requires multiple airings to influence viewer purchasing behavior.

Creative and Well-Written Scripts Cost Money. We can all think of a creative ad that simply stays with us long after the ad was aired. Those types of ads come with a price tag. Not only do good ads come from good scripts, they are also well-produced to avoid looking cheap or tacky—or making your product and company look worse than it really is.

Little Room for Change. Television ads, once they’re produced, are not easy to change with a new offer or deal. That would require reshooting the ad—an undertaking that is time-consuming.

Targeting is Broad. Television simply doesn’t target specific groups very well. There are niche programs, which could provide some targeting, but they may not be a company’s target market.

DVR Systems Use. Many television viewers are now DVRing programs to fast forward through commercials. That could mean an ad gets passed up.

Bottom Line

Each small business owner will have to make his/her own decision about television advertising. As a society, we are a visual audience. When television advertising works, it influences online activity. Video ads on websites, social media and game aps are increasing, which is a tip of the hat to how well television advertising works.

But, and this is a BIG “but,” television advertising is expensive. Don’t be fooled by production companies swooping in to offer your small business a deal. And, don’t spend money you don’t have or cannot justify with a strong return on investment. There’s nothing worse than unsuccessful television ads—for a small business budget, reputation, and business health.

Stay tuned for my next blog taking a closer look at billboards and events as a way to promote your small business.

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