Developing and launching an email campaign requires several steps. One of the most important is “affirmative consent”: the process of gaining explicit permission from your audience before you send them messages. By not fulfilling the requirements of affirmative consent, you run the risk of annoying your email recipients at best to violating compliance requirements at worst. Let’s talk about how you can gain this consent from your audience.
Demystifying affirmative consent
What does affirmative consent need to look like in practice? Primarily, it needs to be unambiguous. Affirmative consent consists of your recipient taking a clear, direct action to indicate that they want to receive further contact from you. Examples include checking a box, filling out an online form or putting a name and an email down on a contact sheet.
Another part of affirmative consent is making it clear to your audience what they are signing up for. To do this, create a self-serve subscription page that people can navigate to and opt into the different types of messaging that you offer. Specify, in detail, what the mailing is and how often they should expect to receive it. You will also want to add a link to your data privacy page and instructions on how to opt-out.
Speaking of opt-outs, it’s important to have a page where your audience can go if they no longer want to receive communications from your agency. Here are some best practices:
- Clarity and brevity: Get to the point as quickly as possible by listing how people can end their subscription to your email marketing.
- Tailored options: You can provide the option for your readers to modify the type of content they are subscribed to and how often they receive it.
- Automate where possible: Use your email software to set up an automated confirmation email that is sent to those who successfully unsubscribe. You should also automate the opt-out logging process. Recording and maintaining a history of opt-outs is an important part of CAN-SPAM Act compliance.
For additional guidance on setting up trigger emails, check out these resources from major marketing providers like MailChimp and Constant Contact.
Why it all matters
The consequences of not gaining affirmative consent are significant. They can range from getting banned from the inboxes of potential leads to receiving CAN-SPAM fines to the tune of over $50,000 per email.
Even if you set aside the consequences, however, you still would not want to start blasting emails to folks who have not given you permission. Why? It just isn’t very effective. Email marketing success hinges on sending the right messages to the right people at the right time. Emailing people who don’t want to hear from you probably won’t pay off. In the end, all it will do is alienate a potential audience.
The tortoise and the hare
In the story of the tortoise and the hare, we get a timeless lesson on the virtue of going slow and steady to win the race. That same idea holds true for email marketing.
While it can be tempting to send mass emails to any contacts you have, you simply shouldn’t do it. Instead, work toward gaining affirmative consent by building out the right infrastructure like subscription centers and opt-out pages. You’ll be glad you did once you start seeing improved results.
To learn more about email marketing compliance, check out our recent blog.
Gaining leads is thrilling. It means that something you’ve been doing has worked; and hey, that feels pretty good. But before you market to your leads, it’s best to step back and ensure you are compliant with all relevant regulations and guidelines.
What is a lead?
What exactly is a lead? Basically, a lead is any individual who may have an interest in your products or services. Leads can be broken down into subcategories:
- Hot leads – A hot lead has significant awareness of your company and is likely ready to make a purchase.
- Cold leads – A cold lead has shown little to no interest in your company.
- Qualified leads – A qualified lead has not only expressed interest in your company but has characteristics that align with your buyer personas.
Businesses collect leads through their various marketing channels, and once you gain them, it can be tempting to immediately launch into aggressive marketing campaigns. However, it’s important to consider the rules and best practices governing lead communication.
Tread carefully with email
Marketers must adhere to regulations prior to pushing out commercial messages in a digital context, the most pertinent being the CAN-SPAM Act.
Enacted in 2003 at the dawn of Web 2.0, CAN-SPAM is most associated with email communications and includes several provisions:
- Don’t harvest – It is never wise to buy bulk lists or collect email addresses from websites for the purpose of mass emailing. It is true that there is no real “opt-in” feature to CAN-SPAM. Unfortunately, when you mass email a list, you run the risk of mailing someone who has already opted out of your communications,[i] which could result in a violation of over $50,000 for every single email.[ii] Other potential consequences include getting banned from your lead’s email inbox or even from your email marketing software itself.
- Affirmative consent – Because of the problems inherent in sending out mass messages to large, unverified lists, many marketers pursue what is known as “affirmative consent.” Getting explicit consent from your contacts means they have articulated a desire to receive marketing messages from you.
- Clearly identify yourself – All email communications from a commercial party should be clearly labeled as such. Emails must list your company’s physical address and the headline should mesh with its body content. Lastly, fields like the “From” field need to be accurate and align with the sender’s identity.
- Allow them to opt out – You are required to give your email recipients a clear, digital-based way to stop receiving communications from you. Under the CAN-SPAM law, you need to also process opt-outs in 10 days or less.
- Compliance must be comprehensive – All of the requirements we’ve just discussed also extend to any vendors or third-party providers.
What about social?
For years now, marketers have also wondered whether the CAN-SPAM law also applies to social media communications. While mostly designed to govern email messages, some federal court cases have interpreted the scope of the law to also include social media platforms.[iii]
Even if direct solicitation on social media won’t necessarily result in CAN-SPAM trouble, it is wise to emulate the statute’s spirit:
- Be transparent – Do not try to hide who you are on social or attempt to obfuscate the reasons for contacting someone.
- Adhere to platform rules – Each social media network has its own community guidelines and site rules. Before engaging in any direct messaging, familiarize yourself with any relevant codes of conduct to avoid being banned.
- Respect consumer privacy – Many social media platforms allow users some control over how their data is used, who can contact them on the site, and which parts of their profiles are publicly available. Be on the lookout for any signs that your messages won’t be received well and act accordingly. For example, if you are thinking about contacting someone who has set their profile to private, think again.
A better approach
Gaining prospects and leads is exciting, but before you send additional electronic messages, ensure you are compliant with regulations and adhering to platform codes of conduct. Failing to do so can land you in a world of hurt, which is why taking things slow and steady is often a better approach.
Instead of utilizing mass emails and social media advertisements, prioritize creating a content marketing strategy that delivers value and nudges leads toward actively consenting to receive further messages and campaigns. That way, you can develop more organic, impactful relationships with leads, close more deals and keep your nose clean all at the same time.
Take the next step! Read Alliant National’s other blogs on writing effective email campaigns and making your marketing more authentic.
[i] Candid answers to CAN-SPAM questions | Federal Trade Commission (ftc.gov)
[ii] CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Business | Federal Trade Commission (ftc.gov)
[iii] The CAN-SPAM Act Applies to Social Media Messaging, Rules Federal Court in California (pillsburylaw.com)
Maximize face-to-face opportunities to build new partnerships and close more business.
In a third season episode of the great mockumentary sitcom “The Office,” hapless middle manager Michael Scott rails against the ever-increasing encroachment of technology at Dunder Mifflin by exclaiming: “People will never be replaced by machines. In the end, life and business are about human connections. Computers are about trying to murder you in a lake. And to me the choice is easy.”
Although right before this we had seen Michael actually drive into a lake after misinterpreting his GPS’s instructions, you can’t entirely dismiss his point. Technology is fundamentally intertwined with business, but at the end of the day, people want to connect, collaborate and work with other people – not machines. This means you must seize opportunities for personal, face-to-face marketing whenever they arise. Let’s look at some ways of doing so successfully.
Choose the right events
Before you can share information about your agency and engage in face-to-face marketing, you first must identify events that will put you in front of the right people. Thankfully, for those in the title insurance and real estate industries, there is no shortage of possibilities:
- Conferences and meetings: Consult your state’s land title association for opportunities. Trade press publications will also frequently advertise professional meetings to their readers.
- Real estate association meetings: Realtor associations and boards represent a fantastic opportunity to market yourself to integral players in the real estate space.Finding out about meetings you may want to attend is also relatively easy by searching online.
- Online webinars: Both educational and social, digital webinars can expand your professional knowledge and industry circle in one fell swoop.
- Chamber of commerce events: Local chambers of commerce provide a supportive environment for businesses and offer resources and tools to help them connect and collaborate.
Know your company’s story
When acting as a personal representative of your agency in a face-to-face setting, you must have your company’s story down pat. More specifically, you must be able to convey your value proposition quickly and clearly.
One way to successfully deliver in these moments is to develop an “elevator pitch” beforehand. Creating easy-to-remember talking points allows you to effortlessly speak to potential customers about how your products and services can improve their lives.
Pulling off successful face-to-face marketing is challenging, but bringing along well-designed marketing materials can make it easier. Let’s look at the following best practices:
- Avoid clutter: While you want to include complete and accurate information, avoid overloading your materials. Remember: when participating in an event, people often don’t have time to digest large amounts of textual information.
- Include the right info: Highlight your communication information in any materials you bring. You are trying to equip contacts with the means to continue the relationship. Include your email, phone, company name, job title and potentially your social media accounts.
- Stay on brand: All marketing materials should be seen as a natural extension of your brand, which means they need to use the right colors, fonts and logos.
Follow up, follow up, follow up
Meeting and pitching someone on your business is not a one-and-done activity. You must also follow up with them. What’s the best way? As we know, some people are hesitant to talk on the phone these days and email is hit or miss. Social media platforms like LinkedIn can be an effective way to follow up. Reaching out on social media can have a personal and real feel, and sites like LinkedIn lend themselves to building organic, long-term connections.
Keep the following in mind:
- Be specific and personal: Even if you have a lot of connections to write, take the time to personalize each message.
- Brevity is best: People are busy and generally overwhelmed with information. If you want someone to read your LinkedIn note, keep it short and sweet.
- Emphasize value: Avoid coming across as overly “salesy,” but be sure to include a value proposition for your message recipient. Give them a reason to want to take the relationship to the next step.
Make meaningful, lasting connections
Personal, face-to-face marketing can yield a high rate of return. Even in our highly digital world, many customers still find connecting person-to-person one of the most impactful forms of communication. By taking these tips to heart, you can grab such opportunities and run with them.
Do you have your elevator pitch down?
We live in a digital world, and it’s easy to rely heavily on digital marketing tools to raise your business’s profile. Yet, when we focus too heavily on digital solutions, we can sometimes forget that person-to-person interaction remains one of the most impactful ways to form new connections and gain business. Concise and meaningful talking points that easily communicate your unique value proposition can be an important tool for making the most of these critical in-person interactions.
What are talking points?
Describing what you do isn’t always easy, especially when you’re on the spot. Sometimes, it’s hard to predict when you’re going to have a key conversation with a potential client. That’s why it’s always good to have talking points in your back pocket.
Talking points are short, succinct statements that describe key aspects of your business and the work you do. Often, talking points cover the services you deliver, what your company’s culture is like or how you work with clients to achieve their goals. In short, they are a series of brand promises that help audiences quickly get up-to-speed on how your business operates.
Best practices for developing talking points
Unsurprisingly, one of the best practices to keep in mind when developing your agency’s talking points is brevity. There is a lot more that goes into it, however, such as:
- Key messages: Before you can create talking points, you first need to know what your business’s main messages are. These messages should reflect your firm’s top priorities and goals.
- Integrate customer needs: Your company’s key messages and eventual talking points must address the needs of your ideal customers. To do this effectively, you should first understand who your customers are – both demographically and psychologically. And how do you do that? By building out buyer personas! Check out our earlier blog for more on building these personas.
- Create a logical flow: Although talking points can touch upon different or disparate aspects of your business, they still need to move easily from one point to the next. Flow is important. You don’t want to confuse your audience.
- Be benefit and customer-focused: When you are talking about your agency, try to put the focus less on you and more on your target audience. You will want to convey how your products or services will improve their lives.
- Show your passion: Imbuing business communication with emotion can be tricky, as you run the risk of coming off as unprofessional. But the truth is people are emotional by nature, and your audience will want to feel your passion. You can accomplish this by discussing not only what you do, but why you do it.
- Prepare for rebuttals: As you build and deliver your talking points, you may occasionally experience pushback from an audience. Objections are a fact of life, and it’s always best to be prepared to address counterarguments. Spend time thinking about potential weak spots in your business narrative. By doing so, you can be ready to rebut the rebutters!
Best practices for delivering talking points
Once you have your business’s talking points fleshed out, it’s time to sit back and relax. Just kidding! Getting these messages written out is only half the battle. You still need to practice and refine your delivery. Here is a good process you can follow:
- Practice makes perfect: There are no shortcuts to being a great speaker or advocate for your business. Instead, practice makes perfect. Practice your talking points in front of people you trust, in front of a mirror or even by recording yourself. Try doing this repeatedly until you feel calm enough to speak about your business in any context and at a moment’s notice.
- Stay loose: Have you ever heard that it is not really what you say that matters; instead, it is how you say it? Keep this in mind when delivering your talking points. This does not mean that you should be flippant or overly casual, just that you want to avoid sounding monotonous or like you’re reading from a script.
- Refine and edit: As you practice your talking points, stay open to constructive feedback. Think of your talking points as an ever-evolving process rather than something static and fixed. Accept feedback in good faith and use any criticism to improve the next pitch.
Be ready to pitch and reap the rewards
In today’s fast-paced economy, you need to be ready to pitch at a moment’s notice. By developing clear, concise and compelling talking points, you will be ready to spread the word about your business and position yourself to capture new leads and growth opportunities.
Giving back to your community not only feels good, but it can also pay dividends.
Philanthropy and community giving have long been a part of business, harkening all the way back to the 19th century in some cases. Many businesses participate in programs like these simply because they are the right thing to do. But sponsoring a cause, or especially an event, can also be a great way to market your company’s offerings and even capture new business. Let’s explore best practices for how you can achieve those goals.
It can be tempting to think that sponsoring a local event is as simple as merely writing a check. There is a lot more to it, however, if you want to gain tangible benefits. Begin like you would with any other strategic initiative by determining your goals and objectives. Then, research different events that are seeking sponsors and where there is an overlap with your company’s identity and priorities, including your:
- Brand identity
- Target audience
Once you have selected an event you want to sponsor, the real work begins. At this point, you will want to conduct due diligence regarding your sponsorship’s terms and conditions. Be sure to assess the following details:
- Duration of sponsorship – You will want to establish a start and stop date for your sponsorship.
- Intellectual property – It is always wise to stipulate who will own any intellectual property or “IP” created for the sponsored event. IP can encompass many different things, including designs, logos and slogans.
- Brand reputation – Closely related to intellectual property is brand reputation, namely how your brand will be positioned and utilized before, during and after the event. Scrutinize the details to guarantee that your brand receives the right return on investment.
- Promotional obligations – When heading into an event sponsorship, you need to fully understand your promotional obligations. The event’s organizer must clarify what is expected of their sponsors in writing well before the event takes place.
- Liability and indemnification – Take the necessary time to double check if you will have any potential legal liability for your participation in the event.
During the event
Once the big day arrives, you can put your feet up and simply enjoy the event, right? Not so fast. The work of leveraging a sponsorship to promote your agency’s brand changes once the event begins, but it doesn’t end.
There are a few things to do during this period to get the most out of the experience. The first step is simple. Just get social. Liaise with event attendees. Capture content of the happenings to utilize on your social media channels in the days and weeks ahead. Discuss your business and its value propositions with key constituencies and exchange contact information. Whatever you do, just don’t rest on your laurels.
Finally, stay vigilant about how your brand is being presented and perceived throughout the event’s duration. If you have a booth or table and are not manning it directly, periodically check in for quality control purposes and to guarantee that visitors are getting their questions answered and their needs met.
After the event
Even after the event is over, the work is not yet finished. The post-event period is a critical moment where several activities must take place. In the days following the event, it’s important to move quickly to follow up on any leads generated through your sponsorship. Engage in post-event marketing by promoting your agency’s sponsorship through your owned channels or even by pitching a story to the media. You can also solicit feedback from your team and start laying the groundwork for future sponsorships.
Finally, take time to analyze the ROI. Take stock of leads generated and converted and examine your website metrics for any upticks in web traffic. Also, don’t forget to review your social media analytics for any boosts in engagement numbers.
Ask any event planner and you will quickly learn that putting on a good event is a big job. The same goes for sponsorships. Encompassing far more than simply doling out a little money, promoting your agency and amplifying your brand requires time and effort. There are no shortcuts, but when done correctly and thoughtfully, the results can be rewarding for your community and your business.