Your web business probably gets product inquiries from potential customers around the globe. Inquiries come via e-mail and your web site, and you try to send information to each hot prospect as quickly as you can. You know that you can drastically increase the likelihood of making a sale by satisfying each person’s need for information quickly!
But, after you’ve delivered that first bit of information to your prospect, do you send him any further information?
If you are like most Internet marketers, you don’t.
When you don’t follow that initial message with additional information later on, you let a valuable prospect slip from your grasp! This is a potential customer who may have been very interested in your products, but who lost your contact information, or was too busy to make a purchase when your first message reached him.
Often, a prospect will purposely put off making a purchase, to see if you find him important enough to follow up with later. When he doesn’t receive a follow up message from you, he will take his business elsewhere.
Following up with leads is more than just a process – it’s an art. In order to be effective, you need to design a follow up system, and stick to it, EVERY DAY! If you don’t follow up with your prospects consistently, INDIVIDUALLY, and in a timely fashion, then you might as well forget the whole follow up process.
When I first started marketing and following up with prospects, I used a follow up method that I now call the “List Technique.” I had a large database containing the names and e-mail addresses of people who had specifically requested information about my products and services. These prospects had already received my first letter by the time they requested more information, so I used the company’s latest news as a follow up piece.
I would write follow up newsletters every now and then, and send them, in one mass mailing, to everyone who had previously requested information from me. While this probably did help me win a few additional orders, it wasn’t a very good follow up method. Why isn’t the “List Technique” very effective?
Following up with each lead individually, multiple times, but at set intervals, and with pre-written messages, will dramatically increase sales! Others who use this same technique confirm that they have all at least doubled the sales of various products! In order to set this system up, though, you need to do some planning.
First, you’ll need to develop your follow up messages. If you’ve been marketing on the Internet for any length of time, then you should already have a first informative letter. Your second letter marks the beginning of the follow up process, and should go into more detail than the first letter. Fill this letter with details that you didn’t have the space to add to the first letter. Stress the BENEFITS of your products or services!
Your next 2-3 follow up messages should be rather short. Include lists of the benefits and potential uses of your products and services. Write each letter so that your prospects can skim the contents, and still see the full force of your message.
The next couple of follow up messages should create a sense of urgency in your prospect’s mind. Make a special offer, giving him a reason to order NOW instead of waiting any longer. After reading these follow up messages, your prospect should want to order immediately!
Phrase each of your final 1 or 2 follow up messages in the form of a question. Ask your prospect why he hasn’t yet placed an order? Try to get him to actually respond. Ask if the price is to high, the product isn’t the right color or doesn’t have the right features, or if he is looking for something else entirely. (By this time, it’s unlikely that this person will order from you. However, his feedback can help you modify your follow up letters or products, so that other prospects will order from you.)
The timing of your follow up letters is just as important as their content. You don’t want one prospect to receive a follow up the day after he gets your initial informative letter, while another prospect waits weeks for a follow up!
Always send an initial, informative letter as soon as it is requested, and send the first follow up 24 hours afterwards. You want your hot prospects to have information quickly, so that they can make informed buying decisions!
Send the next 2-3 follow up messages between 1 and 3 days apart. Your prospect is still hot, and is probably still shopping around! Tell him about the benefits of your products and services, as opposed to your competitors’. You will make the sale!
Send the final follow up messages later on. You certainly don’t want to annoy your prospect! Make sure that these last letters are at least 4 days apart.
Following up effectively seems complicated, but it doesn’t have to be! So many potential customers are lost because of poor follow up – don’t you want to be one of the few to get it right?
In 1936, long before the rise of the personal computer, Hormel Foods created SPAM. In 2002, the company produced it’s six billionth can of the processed food product. But that mark was passed long ago in the world of Internet spam.
The modern meaning of the word “spam” has nothing to do with spiced ham. In the early 1990’s, a skit by British comedy group Monty Python led to the word’s common usage. “The SPAM Skit” follows a couple struggling to order dinner from a menu consisting entirely of Hormel’s canned ham.
Repetition is key to the skit’s hilarity. The actors cram the word “SPAM” into the 2.5 minute skit more than 104 times! This flood prompted Usenet readers to call unwanted newsgroup postings “spam.” The name stuck.
Spammers soon focused on e-mail, and the terminology moved with them. Today, the word has come out of technical obscurity. Now, “spam” is the common term for “Unsolicited Commercial E-Mail”, or “UCE.”
Chances are, you’ve been spammed before. Somehow, your e-mail address has found it’s way into the hands of a spammer, and your inbox is suffering the consequences. How does this happen? There are several possibilities.
Businesses often keep lists of their customers’ e-mail addresses. This is a completely legitimate practice and, usually, nothing bad comes of it. Sometimes though, the temptation to make a quick buck is too great, and these lists are sold or rented to outside advertisers. The result? A lot of unsolicited e-mail, and a serious breach of trust.
Random Address Generation
Computer programs called random address generators simply “guess” e-mail addresses. Over 100 million hotmail addresses exist – howhard could it be to guess some of them? Unfortunately for many unsuspecting netizens – not too hard. Many spammers also guess at 'standard' addresses, like:
Today’s most insidious list-gathering tools are web spiders. All of the major search engines spider the web, saving information about each page. Spammers use tools that also spider the web, but save any e-mail address they come across. Your personal web page lists your e-mail address? Prepare for an onslaught!
Chat Room Harvesting
ISP’s offer vastly popular chat rooms where users are known only by their screen names. Of course, spammers know that your screen name is the first part of your e-mail address. Why waste time guessing e-mail addresses when a few hours of lurking in a chat room can net a list of actively-used addresses?
The Poor Man’s Bad Marketing Idea
It didn’t work for the phone companies, and it won’t work for e-mail marketers. But, some spammers still keep their own friends-and-family-style e-mail lists. Compiled from the addresses of other known spammers, and people or businesses that the owner has come across in the past, these lists are still illegitimate. Why? Only you can give someone permission to send you e-mail. A friend-of-a-friend’s permission won’t cut it.
Already drowning in spam? Try using your e-mail client’s filters – many provide a way to block specific e-mail addresses. Each time you’re spammed, block the sender’s address. Spammers skip from address to address, and you may be on many lists, but this method will at least slow the flow.
Also, use more than one e-mail address, and keep one “clean.” Many netizens find that this technique turns the spam flood into a trickle. Use one address for only spam-safe activities like e-mailing your friends, or signing on with trustworthy businesses. Never use your clean address on the web! Get a free address to use on the web and in chat rooms.
If nothing else helps, consider changing screen names, or opening an entirely new e-mail account. When you do, you’ll start with a clean, spam-free slate. This time, protect your e-mail address!
Want to surf the web without getting sucked into the spam-flood? Prevention is your best policy. Don’t use an easy-to-guess e-mail address. Keep your address clean by not using it for spam-centric activities. Don’t post it on any web pages, and don’t use it in chat rooms or newsgroups.
Many a first-time marketer has inadvertently spammed his audience. The first several hundred complaints and some nasty phone messages usually stop him in his tracks. But by then, the spammer may be faced with cleanup bills from his ISP, and a bad reputation that it’s not easy to overcome.
The best way to avoid this situation is to have a clear understanding of what spam is: If anyone who receives your mass e-mails did not specifically ask to hear from you, then you are spamming them.
Stick with your gut. Don’t buy a million addresses for $10, no matter how much the seller swears by them! If something sounds fishy, just say no. You’ll save yourself a lot in the end.
The online world is turning the tide on spam. In the end, people will stop sending spam because it stops working. Do your part: never buy from a spammer. When your business seeks out technology companies with which to work, only choose those with a staunch anti-spam stance.
Spam has a long history in both the food and e-mail sectors. This year, Hormel Foods opened a real-world museum dedicated to SPAM. While the museum does feature the Monty Python SPAM Skit, there’s no word yet on an unsolicited commercial e-mail exhibit. But, if all upstanding netizens work together, Hormel’s ham in a can will far outlive the Internet plague that is UCE.
The future of customer service is here. Technology has made seeking out support faster and easier than ever. But, has your digital age company sacrificed true service in the name of automation?
Today, finding customer support is as simple as writing an e-mail or picking up the phone. But, even though you’re not face-to-face with your customers, you still leave a lasting impression. Do you come across as caring and competent, or menacing and mechanical?
Offering stand-out service on the Internet isn’t as hard as it is rare. Take these simple steps towards old-style service in the digital age:
When a customer sits down to e-mail your company, it’s because he needs help. He chooses e-mail because it’s quick, but his request still warrants a satisfying and personal response!
Companies eager to save time and money often take automation too far in their customer support. Each customer has a unique question, and deserves a unique answer. Even if you save time by copying and pasting stock replies, change the opening and closing to make the message sound less robotic.
When responding to customers’ e-mail, be sincere and to the point. Before sending a message, try turning the tables. Ask yourself, “Would this answer satisfy me if I were the customer?”
Take that extra moment to give your customer the help he deserves. It might mean the difference between a satisfied customer and a credit card chargeback!
E-mail has become an acceptable form of communication. But, live customer support is still necessary. The plethora of information available online can be overwhelming to customers, especially those new to the Internet!
Single your company out from the crowd by providing customers with a real person to talk to. Live phone support is an invaluable way to foster trust. When your customer has reached the end of his Internet rope, and just needs help, your toll free number is the answer he’s looking for.
The presence of phone support will do no good if your staff doesn’t know your product! Customer support reps should be warm and friendly, and willing to help with any aspect of your product.
What a good feeling it is to talk to someone who feels confident in his product. It’s even better if he’s knowledgeable enough to solve your problem without transferring you all around the company!
Too many e-businesses skimp on customer service, hiding behind web sites and message boards. Customer support is an integral part of every company, even those operating solely online. Be one of the few to offer stellar service, and gain customers for life!
Confirmed opt-in as defined by SpamHaus, who is one of the most respected anti spam organizations in the world:
Known as “COI” in the legitimate bulk email industry, also known as “Confirmed Opt-in”, “Verified Opt-in” or sometimes “Double Opt-in”.
With Closed-Loop Opt-in the Recipient has verifiably confirmed permission for the address to be included on the specific mailing list, by confirming (responding to) the list subscription request verification. This is the standard practice for all responsible Internet mailing lists, it ensures users are properly subscribed, from a working address, and with the address owner’s consent.
In the event of “spam” accusation:
The Bulk Email Sender is fully and legally protected because the reply to the Subscription Confirmation Request received back from the recipient proves that the recipient did in fact opt-in and grant verifiable consent for the mailings.
Numerous myths have circulated regarding confirmed opt-in and its effects. There are many misconceptions out there, and we’d like to help clear those up.
Some addresses entered into your form will not confirm — that much is true. The percentage of addresses that don’t confirm depends on many factors, including the quality of your traffic and how effective your thank-you page, confirmation message and incentive for confirming are.
Percentages aside, there are compelling reasons that having fewer addresses on your list is a good thing.
I know. You may be asking, “How can a decreased list size be a good thing?” Well, let’s consider:
This means that of your total list size you can cut that by 5-20% because these email addresses are simply dead. Remember these are not temporary undeliverable but permanent dead addresses.
ISPs do not differentiate between unintentional spammers or actual spammers. The potential for you to be blocked or even worse, blacklisted, remains the same.
Let’s be clear, confirmed opt-in is for all businesses, plain and simple. Anyone collecting subscribers and in turn sending email needs to confirm that those people intended to sign up to your mailing list and want to receive your email.
In this age of email regulations and massive volumes of spam email, deliverability can be an issue. Why increase your chances of not getting delivered by putting yourself at risk.
This is simply not accurate. Our own campaigns here at AWeber use confirmed opt-in for all email marketing activities. When someone signs up for a Test Drive of AWeber, they must confirm.
After setting up an account, if they want to receive our customer training email course, they must confirm. The same goes for our affiliates and their email training. Even when someone subscribes to our blog, they must confirm.
The simple solution is to tell them. The first page after someone fills in an opt-in form, commonly called a “thank you page” should tell the visitor exactly what to do next. Often this is done most effectively with a picture showing visitors what the confirmation email will look like.
An excellent example is our test drive sign up video on the thank you page showing visitors what to do.
Honestly, if they can’t click a link then you probably should be marketing your business offline. If someone can find your website online I guarantee they can click a link.
Have you tested this assumption? The answer is always, “No, but I just assume” or “No, my colleague told me it would hurt sales”.
It’s best not to assume anything, but rather to seek out your own answers by testing and observing your own campaigns. We have found from our own testing that while the raw number of email addresses on our list declined when we switched to confirmed opt-in, sales did not.
This means that the people who did confirm were the ones that truly wanted the information that they had to offer and the ones that didn’t were not left to bloat the mailing list.
Will your results be exactly the same as AWeber or even anyone else? This can only be determined by proper testing and measuring.
Use confirmed opt-in as an opportunity to make sure that your lists are 100% clean and that you know without a doubt that 100% of the people receiving your mail have specifically requested it themselves.
Spend your time and energy building your business with subscribers who want to hear from you rather than dealing with issues created by people who don’t want to hear from you.
Ensuring requested opt-in email is delivered to subscriber inboxes is an increasingly difficult battle in the age of spam filtering. Open and click thru response rates can be dramatically affected by as much as 20-30% due to incorrect spam filter classification.
Confirming that the people who ask for your information have actually requested to be on your list is the number one step in the battle for deliverability. You should be using a process called confirmed opt-in or verified opt-in to send a unique link to the attempted subscriber when they request information. Before adding the person to your list they must click that unique link verifying that they are indeed the same person that owns the email address and requested to subscribe.
When requesting website visitors to opt-in ask for their “real” or “primary” email address instead of a free email address like Yahoo or Hotmail. Free emails tend to be throw away accounts and typically have a shorter lifetime than a primary ISP address.
Always promptly remove undeliverable addresses that bounce when sending email to them. An address that bounces with a permanent error 2-3 times in a 30 day period should be removed from the list. ISP’s track what percentage of your newsletters bounce and will block them if you attempt to continually deliver messages to closed subscriber mailboxes.
Usage of HTML messages to allow for text formatting, multiple columns, images, and brand recognition is growing in popularity and is widely supported by most email client software. Most spam is also HTML formatted and thus differentiating between requested email and spam HTML messages can be difficult. A 2004 study by AWeber .com shows that plain text messages are undeliverable 1.15% of the time and HTML only messages were undeliverable 2.3%. If sending HTML it is important to always send a plain text alternative message, also called text/HTML multi-part mime format.
Many ISP’s filter based on the content that appears within the message text.
Research potential newsletter advertisers before allowing them to place ads in your newsletter issues. If they have used their website URL to send spam, just having their URL appear in your newsletter could cause the entire message to be filtered.
Choose your language carefully when crafting messages. Avoid hot button topics often found in spam such as medication, mortgages, making money, and pornography. If you do need to use words that might be filtered, don’t attempt to obfuscate words with extra characters or odd spelling, you’ll just make your messages appear more spam like.
Avoid creating messages that are entirely images. Use images sparingly, if at all. Commonly used open rate tracking technology uses images to calculate opens. You may choose to disable open rate tracking to avoid being filtered based on image content.
With viruses running rampant and spreading thru the usage of malicious email attachments many users are wary of attached documents. It’s often better to link to files via a website URL to reduce recipient fear of attachments and reduce the overall message size.
The January 2004 Federal CAN-SPAM law introduced a number of rules regarding the delivery of email. It’s important you have your legal counsel review your practices and ensure you are in compliance. The two most important rules include having a valid postal mail address listed in all commercial messages and a working unsubscribe link that is promptly honored to remove the subscriber from future messages.
Reputation services are often used by large ISP’s as a way to vet email senders regarding their email practices and policies. Businesses listed with these services are then given less stringent filtering or no filtering at all. Several reputation services are:
Contact with major ISP’s and email providers is essential in letting them know about your requested subscriber email. Many large providers such as AOL and Yahoo have specific whitelisting programs and postmaster website areas to ensure your email is delivered as long as you meet their policies and procedures in handling your opt-in list.
Email deliverability is about ensuring requested opt-in email is delivered to the intended recipient. While no single tip will enable you to get 100% of your email delivered each one utilized as a group can go a long way to reaching that goal.