Tuesday, 13 September 2016 by Bill Baski
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.
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>!
Email follow-up. Sending an introductory email either before or immediately after your call is critical with Internet consumers. Remember, they chose to transact online and it should be an important part of establishing your credibility and your sales process. Create a reusable basic email template that you tailor to each prospective customer. Your email should accomplish the following objectives, but with your own personal flair:
When you do make contact with the consumer, send a thank you follow-up email detailing next steps and confirming your next appointment. Set expectations, but make sure you meet or exceed them. Alternatively, call and email the prospect until contact is made or the lead goes into your aged lead queue. Call and email uncontacted leads frequently the first two weeks, tapering your efforts out to 90 days to maintain DNC Safe Harbor compliance. Trickle email thereafter. Once you make contact and establish an Existing Business Relationship (EBR), you are free to call until the consumer revokes that right and opts-out (DNC) – Check with your compliance attorney as I don’t provide legal advice (My attorney’s make me say that!).
In summary, these are what I consider to be the basic steps of working Internet leads effectively. Although there are a lot of ways to be effective that may differ from this, it’s always worked for me. What’s important, however, is that you have a plan, and be able to differentiate yourself from your competitors as well as effectively position the product as a solution for the borrower.
Success with Leads: Listen Up!
Talk LESS? “You’ve got two ears and one mouth for a reason!”
“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?
Me: Why didn’t you buy from them
Customer: They wouldn’t give me the price I wanted (or some derivative)
Me. It sounds like they had a chance to be up-front and honest with you, but chose not to be. Let me tell you how we are different. ………and not only that, I am your closest dealer because I’ll put it on a flatbed and drop if off in your driveway so you never have to leave your home.
The biggest problem most sales people have is we like to listen to ourselves talk. I know I’m guilty of this sometimes. You have two ears and one mouth for a reason, so ask open ended questions about how the customer could benefit from your product, their needs, and so on. Your job is to discover the problem(s) they may or may not realize they have, and demonstrate how your product can not only solve that problem, but benefit them. They will tell you how to close them if you pose the right questions. Qualify, qualify qualify!
These are my basic steps to the sale:
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 new salespeople working Internet leads only, starting with aged leads, and then quickly providing them with real-time leads once they demonstrate command of the material. Over time I allow them to “graduate” to the inbound phone queue as a reward for good performance working Internet leads, as inbound calls are expensive, yet not necessarily more effective. Provide your sales team a script and training for fresh leads and aged leads, as they need to be approached differently at initial contact. I hold all sales people accountable and ensure their conversion metrics on Internet leads meet their objectives before I allow them to receive the “easier” inbound calls.
Contact time on Internet leads is critical. You want to reach out to the consumer ideally while they are still online and on the form they submitted. At that point, they are actively thinking about the product the expressed interest in, rather than hours later when they have moved on mentally to something else. The goal should be to make that first call and send the introductory email within 5 minutes of receiving a lead. Work in sequential priority, and a fresh lead tops that list. Remember, the Internet provides people with immediate gratification…you should too! If you do so, you will see much better contact rates, and on shared leads which are typically sold up to 5 times (we only sell exclusive leads), have the opportunity to take the borrower “off the market” before your competitor calls.
Your initial email to the consumer is critical for engagement. Don’t just confirm they applied and that you will be following-up, give them a reason to anticipate your call. This could take the form of a compelling reason why your company and you are the ones they should be dealing with, a significant value or benefit of the product they inquired about, you excitement about educating them about your product or service, and so on.
I’m also frankly surprised that so few companies want leads delivered in real-time on weekends. It’s a 24/7 world. If you have a smart phone that can receive email, you can reach out to a new prospect that is likely home and available to take your call when they submit the lead. Even sending an email to schedule a Monday morning follow-up call is better than letting your leads sit uncontacted until Monday. Why give the time to let the borrower do more shopping while they wait to hear back from you? Think about working leads on weekends, as it’s an untapped opportunity to improve your contact rate and originate more deals.
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?”
Because it’s rarely the leads, that’s why.
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.)
What top sales people do tend to have in common, however, is a better sales process, a better pitch, the ability to connect with people (engagement), and personal drive (defined as work ethic) in which excuses are not acceptable. They hold themselves accountable and find ways to succeed, not excuses as to why they fail.
Again, the leads are only as effective as you are, because the deals are in there.
Stay tuned… I’ll be outlying a fail-proof strategy for working leads in my next posts.
Protect Yourself: An Alarming Look at Fraud
Thursday, 10 March 2016 by Abby Tegnelia
Get ready for some alarming statistics!
Performance Marketing Insider recently released the results of its survey designed to shed light on the world of marketing as it relates to fraud and CPA Affiliate Networks. They reached out to affiliates, advertisers, and networks to learn their perception of fraud, if they trust their networks and if the fraud solutions work.
According to this survey, the CPA industry is awash in fraud … or fear of fraud.
As a founding member of the exciting new LeadsCouncil for ethical practices in Digital Marketing, this hit close to home. We were deeply disappointed.
The survey showed the following scary statistics:
What does this mean?
Let’s be blunt: fraud is an incredibly destructive force in the industry. This report shows that this is something the industry needs to pay serious attention to.
As PMI reports, as more money flows into this industry, more people are starting their own networks with little (to no) experience, perhaps questionable ethics and not much trust.
What’s worse, when PMI reached out to experts following the compilation of results, very few wanted to speak on record. In fact, most refused, stating they were concerned about retaliation within the industry for discussing fraud.
Experts who did speak on the record mentioned dealing with complex schemes and tricks to trick CPA Networks, as well as the blending of traffic through different methods of promotion — most of which aren’t even allowed — and combining them with legitimate sources, all with the hope that advertisers wouldn’t notice the fraudulent practice.
This survey also shows that fear within the community is rampant, and hurting those who actually are ethical. It’s been the cause of growing concern among advertisers to implement affiliate networks, and has hurt the industry. Because of fraud, advertisers risk payouts and fulfillment costs, networks and aggregators risk payouts and chargebacks, as well as the loss of their advertising clients.
However, PMI also reports that around 90 percent of the networks are ethical, with only 10 percent marring the industry.
What can be done?
PMI spoke with David Sendroff, the CEO of Forensiq, who suggested that all advertisers and networks put in place a fraud detection tool. Tools help create transparency so both parties have a real-time glimpse of what is taking place behind-the-scenes in regards to conversions. One thing is for certain: something needs to be done.
EPath Digital to Support Optima Tax Relief Growth into 2016 and Beyond
Orange County, Calif. – February 5, 2016 – EPath Digital is excited to announce an expansion of their multi-year Agency of Record relationship with Optima Tax Relief. This extension builds upon the past two years where EPath has developed a performance email marketing channel that has significantly contributed to Optima’s new customer acquisition volume.
EPath has successfully scaled email marketing for Optima during a period in which Optima has risen to become the nation’s leading tax resolution firm. “In Epath, we have a partner that shares our commitment to excellence and delivering great results,” say Harry Langenberg, Optima Tax Relief’s managing partner.
Optima was named the fast growing financial services company in 2015’s Inc. 5000, a recognition that EPath is proud to have played an important role. “Optima is a case study in how we help our clients attain their ROI and growth goals,” says Jeremy Buttke, president of EPath.
With extensive experience servicing advertisements to targeted demographics, EPath is looking forward to helping Optima attain even higher goals in 2016 and beyond. “No company is better at solving people’s tax problems than Optima,” says Buttke, “and EPath’s efforts are going to ensure an ever-growing number of people who need Optima, find Optima.”
About EPath Digital:
EPath Digital, from its Laguna Beach, California corporate headquarters, represents a number of nationally recognized brands, and focuses on providing new customer acquisition through digital marketing. EPD works in numerous industries in the financial services, identity theft protection, green energy, automotive, and senior markets. With over 20 years of extensive industry experience and high integrity, EPath Digital’s goal is to deliver campaigns that deliver a strong ROI for its advertisers, allowing them the opportunity to grow. EPath Digital also publishes nowitcounts.com, catering to the over 50 lifestyle. For more information visit http://www.epathdigital.com.
About Optima Tax Relief
Optima Tax Relief, headquartered in Orange County, CA, is a nationwide tax resolution firm which provides assistance to those individuals struggling with unmanageable IRS or state tax burdens. The company’s unique two-phase approach to tax relief is revolutionary in the industry and provides consumers unparalleled clarity into their options to resolve tax issues. Fully accredited and A+ rated by the Better Business Bureau, Optima currently employs over 300 professionals, including over 25 Tax Attorneys and Enrolled Agents. Optima offers full service tax resolution for almost any IRS or state tax issue, and the company’s mission is to obtain the best possible result for each client’s specific situation, providing a better financial future by making their tax issues a thing of the past.
Cosmo PR for Optima
Let’s Talk About “Branding” – and How It’s Different with Lead Generation
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.
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!
Want More Profit? How to do your own targeted lead generation
Last time, I wrote about one big reason to start generating more leads yourself: driving “free” inbound calls. Now, in this article, we will look at another big one: targeting to your key demographic. This results in, yup, more profit. I have sold leads for 15 years, and there are definitely big advantages to buying leads from lead generation companies, such as cost and the ability to scale quickly. But here is one advantage that generating internally can give you.
Create more expensive leads and make more profit. One of the most successful campaigns I ever managed was priced at more than $450 CPM and required a contract north of $4,000,000. The lead cost on this was very high, but what it produced was a large volume of the right kind of lead for my client (in this case exclusive, excellent credit, mortgage refinance leads). Those types of leads were simply not available from lead aggregators, on an exclusive basis, with any volume at the time. So, despite the big price tag, the campaign was very successful. At times it was even too successful: the 200+ agents were not able to get to 100+ inbound calls an hour because of the lead and call volume the campaign generated.
Lead generators typically can create high quality leads at a lower cost and provide the ability to scale. But, one disadvantage in selling leads is that very high quality leads may be too expensive to generate at the price point dictated by the lead buyer market. Here are a few ideas that may create more expensive leads, and produce a big return on your investment:
One note here is that these types of leads tend to be limited in scale, and eventually you will hit a celling with how much you can produce. Buying leads from qualified sources can allow you the ability to continue to scale. Adding the two channels together can effectively raise your profitability as a whole while continuing to grow. 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).
Stay tuned! In part 3 of this post we will discuss the “B word”.