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)
The machines have risen; now let’s put them to work
In November of 2022, the buzz surrounding ChatGPT and its potential to revolutionize the workforce made headlines. While the predictions of a complete transformation have yet to fully materialize, it’s clear that AI programs like ChatGPT, Microsoft Bing AI and Google Bard are here to stay.
It’s easy to see why people are increasingly incorporating AI into work and life. With a few carefully worded prompts, you can create some truly amazing things using these programs. For agents seeking to leverage the potential of AI, one promising area lies in marketing. Let’s discuss some ways you can start harnessing AI’s potential today. As we’ll see, the secret to getting the most out of AI platforms lies in asking the right questions.
Begin at the beginning
One of the best ways to use AI in your marketing is to incorporate it right at the beginning – that is, during the initial planning before you launch a campaign. You can start by asking your preferred AI chat platform to act as a marketing expert that will generate your plan.
Building this prompt requires a bit more than flipping a switch or pressing a button. You need the following information on hand so you can include it in your prompt:
- Business overview – Describe your industry and your company’s position within it, including the products or services you offer.
- Goals and objectives – Next, describe your marketing goals, which could include anything from building brand awareness, to generating leads, to boosting sales.
- Target audience – Include your target audience or customer personas. Don’t limit this to only demographic information like age, gender and location. Add psychological details like interests, behaviors, habits, values and pain points.
- Unique selling proposition (USP) – Ask yourself what sets your business apart from competitors. This is your unique selling proposition. Your USP is an important anchor for your plan and should not be overlooked.
- Marketing channels – Ensure that your prompt includes the marketing channels you currently have available to you. Separate these by owned, earned and paid media. Some examples of each include social media platforms, email marketing, content marketing and SEO (owned); public relations coverage or press release placement (earned); and advertising (paid).
- Budget – All of your marketing initiatives should be tied to a budget.Include an estimate of the resources you have available to allocate to your marketing plan.
- Timeline – Remember, a marketing plan should not be on an indefinite timeline. Include all relevant time-sensitive dates.
The most obvious way an AI chatbot can improve or streamline your marketing is through content development. Whether you need social media posts, a blog or even a full white paper or multi-page guide, today’s leading programs can help. Here are a few things to keep in mind when prompting your chatbot to create a new content asset:
- Length – Be as specific as possible about length requirements for your collateral. When it comes to the ideal length of content assets, opinions vary. There’s no guarantee that the AI program you use will automatically create content to an appropriate length for your needs.
- Tone and voice – Unless you specify what you’re looking for, chances are an AI program may not deliver your content in the right tone. Be sure to use plenty of adjectives. Provide examples of writing you’d like to emulate. You can also offer additional context. Describe what the content will be used for, and the language model will tailor accordingly.
- Trust but verify – One thing to remember is thatAI models, while helpful, are still not an exact science.These programs can and will deliver faulty information. Always verify your outputs against outside sources, and double check any data or calculations.
SEO and Digital Advertising
AI programs can also help with the high-level strategy for search engine optimization (SEO) and digital advertising. Here are best practices for creating effective prompts in this area:
- Clear, concise goals – Specify for the program exactly what you want to accomplish: improving organic search rankings, driving conversions or increasing awareness are all perfect examples.
- Relevant business information – As with your marketing plan, a bot like ChatGPT needs to understand some basic information about your business to create a relevant and impactful SEO plan. Be sure to include information related to your industry, target audience, products and services and competitors.
- Provide some keyword parameters – The success of both your SEO and digital advertising efforts depends on the strength of your keywords. Chatbots can assist you in developing a knockout keyword list when given the right parameters, including:
- Specific products and services
As you can see, there are numerous ways to leverage AI in your marketing efforts. Whether you are seeking a fully fleshed out marketing plan or specific deliverables, AI chatbots are certainly worth a try.
However, caution is warranted when using AI chat programs like ChatGPT. They should not be considered “secure,” and prompts should never include nonpublic, private, confidential, or sensitive consumer, business, or other information. As mentioned earlier, AI chatbots can also produce inaccurate, misleading, or even offensive responses. It’s always advisable to carefully review and consider the output generated by these programs.
AI chat tools certainly aren’t perfect, but one advantage of these platforms is the ability for human users to provide feedback on the responses generated. Working with an AI chatbot then becomes something of a collaboration, and that’s when great ideas start to emerge. By using AI tools responsibly and in conjunction with human expertise, you can help ensure the best possible outcomes for your marketing efforts.
Gain new business by improving your local footprint online.
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO stands for local search engine optimization. It is the process of refining and optimizing your online presence to gain local website traffic and ultimately more business. Taking advantage of local SEO best practices is particularly important for smaller businesses that rely on nearby customers for the bulk of their revenue. Here are a few ways you can use local SEO strategies for your benefit.
Google Reigns Supreme
While Google has lost some luster over the years, it still reigns supreme with local SEO. Begin your efforts by claiming and then optimizing your Google “My Business” profile. As you know, Google makes a point to identify and catalog as many businesses as it can across its services. Business leaders can claim ownership over these listings and then modify the available information fields. Don’t miss out on this valuable opportunity to improve how your business is displayed across one of the most popular websites in the world. Ensure that the following is complete and correct:
- Business name
- Phone number
Your Google “My Business” profile will also include the option for customers to leave reviews, and it is not a bad idea to ask satisfied customers to leave a positive notice regarding your services. Responding to reviews that people leave is similarly important, as it indicates that you are a responsive organization that cares deeply about the customer experience you provide.
Deploy Location-Based Keywords
Businesses like title agencies should also incorporate location-based keywords into their web properties, as their customer base is often defined by a fixed geographical location. On your website, for example, don’t merely refer to yourself as a “title agency.” It is not specific enough and won’t do much from an SEO perspective. Instead, add in mentions of your city and state, and be sure to use a keyword explorer tool to assess metrics and get help selecting your phrases.
Take a deeper dive into selecting the right local SEO keywords.
Investigate Local Listing Opportunities
There are countless local directories that can be found online, and they represent another opportunity for small businesses like yours to enhance their digital presence. From Yelp and Yellow Pages to Foursquare and TripAdvisor, utilizing digital directories can boost your agency’s visibility and enhance your credibility, especially once you make sure all information is consistent and updated.
Take a look at some of the best local listing opportunities here.
Keep Focused on Your Local Footprint
When you think about businesses that are deeply intertwined with their local communities, few spring to mind faster than title agencies. After all, these are the firms that secure the very properties that make up a community in the first place. It only makes sense, then, that title agencies should prioritize local SEO to boost awareness, position their brands and grow their profitability. And by following the best practices listed here, you’ll do exactly that.
Connect with your audience through visual storytelling
Humans are visually oriented creatures. Time and time again, data shows that people engage more powerfully with visual media than other forms. Take social media as just one example. Using video on social media generates an incredible 1,200 percent more shares than text and image content combined.[i] With those numbers, brands can’t miss the opportunity to engage in more visual storytelling. Here’s how to do it.
Empower your team on social
When looking to expand your visual storytelling, think outside the box. There is only so much you can put out on your corporate social media channels. That’s why you may want to consider asking your team to share your brand’s visual content on their personal channels.
You can take a variety of approaches. Some companies create an entire formalized employee social media program. Others simply notify the team whenever an important and visually dynamic post could benefit from some amplification.
If you feel strange about asking your employees to share your content – don’t. Many people enjoy sharing information about workplace wins, and many others desire to build their own industry thought leader credentials. Engaging with your team to share on social media can be mutually beneficial.
Consider new channels
For some time, the social media landscape has been changing. The big players in the space, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, have slowly been fading in influence and relevance, eclipsed by new kids on the block such as TikTok.
One of the benefits of this new breed of apps is that they make it easier than ever to engage in highly visual storytelling through built-in video production and editing tools. Their massive audiences (almost 45 percent of Americans have a TikTok, for example) also don’t hurt!
Find overlooked hosting opportunities
Once you have visually engaging brand content, share it far and wide. One obvious place is on your website. You don’t want to go overboard with this, of course. Too many videos and images can potentially compromise your website’s performance. Yet a few strategically embedded visual assets can create a more compelling experience for your visitors. Visuals are also a much more effective way to disseminate critical information about your brand. Studies show, for example, that viewers retain 95 percent of a message when they watch it in a video compared to 10 percent when reading it in text.[ii]
Look for easy, low-cost solutions
Anytime you prepare a piece of content, ask yourself if you can make it more visual. Then, find the low-cost online tools you need to produce it. One of the best things about our digital economy is that it has never been easier for businesses to create high quality visuals.
From icon libraries to infographic makers to explainer videos, converting static text content into something more visual is a breeze. In doing so, your content will not only make a better first impression but also pay lasting dividends. Hosting visually-rich, educational and evergreen content on your website, for example, can work wonders for your long-term SEO and domain authority.
Get visual and reap rewards
In a cluttered market, the more visual a brand the better its prospects. Of course, like anything else, creating meaningful visuals requires some time and effort. But the rewards are worth it. By enlisting your team, utilizing low-cost digital tools and staying open to new platforms, you can position your brand to be more engaging and successful than ever before.
[i] How To Increase Engagement Through Video Marketing (forbes.com)