Building an E-newsletter List? Make Sure You Are CAN-SPAM Compliant

Have you ever felt burned by getting a piece of mail from your bank, cable company or insurer whose envelope blared “Important Account Information Enclosed”? You know the outcome: You opened the envelope, that “important information” turned out to be an ad.

Translate that print tactic into untold millions of e-newsletters in distribution, and you will understand why the CAN-SPAM business compliance guide was created.

Email a Powerful Attraction Tactic

Even in an age of Facebook “likes” and Twitter “tweets,” email and e-newsletters — when handled right — continue to be a robust tool for marketers.

  • According to 2011 statistics published by Exact Target, 42 percent of subscribers are more likely to purchase from a company whose emails they subscribe to.
  • The other side of that coin? Content Marketing Institute notes that the e-newsletter open rate can go as low as 8 percent, with monthly newsletters averaging in the low-20 range.

So the audience making up your e-newsletter lists needs to be one you screen carefully — those on your list should be the people most likely to find your information valuable enough to subscribe and to read at least occasionally with few opt-outs. If you use purchased e-newsletter lists, ensure they are from reputable sources consisting only of “opt in” subscribers.

Keeping Out of Trouble

Once you’ve identified an audience to invite as subscribers, you must establish an acceptable template for your message. Just a few false moves, and your carefully crafted e-newsletter could end up in the spam folder.

CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003) establishes standards for commercial email, including e-newsletters. It spells out what you can and cannot say, and sets penalties for violations.

Under the CAN-SPAM rules, for example, you are required to:

  • Identify the nature of your message as an e-newsletter.
  • Tell recipients where you are located. Your e-newsletter must include both an email return address and a valid physical postal address.
  • Tell recipients how they can opt-out of your e-newsletter, and honor their request within 10 business days.

Conversely, the CAN-SPAM law prohibits:

  • False or misleading header information. In other words, the “To,” “From” and “Reply to” headers must accurately identify the person or company initiating the email.
  • Deceptive subject lines. No false promises, “gotcha” wording or other text that doesn’t reflect on the actual content of the e-newsletter.
  • Sending through an open relay or using harvested email address (both examples of technology that allows spammers to find and use lists).

And of course, the CAN-SPAM act requires you to truthfully describe any products or services you are offering for sale in your e-newsletter — and if you are positioning this information as an ad, you must identify it as such.

How to Attract More Subscribers

Subscribers can quickly become un-subscribers, so identifying and attracting new audiences is an important part of your e-newsletter strategy.

How can you encourage people to opt-in?

  • Promote your e-newsletter on your website’s homepage. Keep a colorful sign-up icon near the top of the screen, as you can never rely on visitors scrolling all the way down.
  • Invite new customers to subscribe. If someone makes a purchase through your website, follow it up with an email invitation to the newsletter. You can use the same tactic with visitors who leave contact information on your landing page.
  • Include a “send to a friend” link on every e-newsletter to encourage forwards from subscribers.
  • Promote your e-newsletter on your social media pages; include sneak-peeks of articles or offers that subscribers will find in the newsletter.
  • Offer a free gift to new subscribers. It can be a special deal or item associated with your business, or something general, such as a drawing for an iPad. (However, all giveaways and drawings must be “no purchase necessary” in nature and something anyone may enter.)

Test and Test Again

The way you handle your e-newsletter lists may change once you see how many people opt-in and opt-out of their subscriptions. As with most forms of web marketing, e-newsletters can benefit from testing and measuring results to create the ideal marketing tool for you.

Ten Mistakes That Can Kill Your Startup and Business

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It’s often said that the devil is in the details. Those are wise words to keep in mind when running your startup or business. Yes, it’s your responsibility to be far-sighted and make decisions based on the big picture. But many companies have stumbled in the long run due to neglect of an issue that looks frustratingly simple in hindsight.

Don’t let your business become one of these needless casualties. Take advantage of the wisdom of those who have gone before you. Use these tips as a checklist to keep you on track with those tasks that can easily be overlooked.

1. When starting your business, give careful thought to the systems and processes you’ll need and implement them right away. This might seem like something that can be done later on. It’s not. Once your company is up and running, you and your employees will have already established certain routines. It’s difficult at best and impossible at worst to try and shoehorn those behaviors into a new framework.

2. All the preparation in the world means nothing without execution and follow-up. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that “research” is actual work. While it’s important to make informed decisions, it’s easy to procrastinate under the guise of gaining education. Make sure you turn that knowledge into action.

3. Be in the business of providing solutions. Your product or service may have all kinds of shiny bling, but for your potential customers it comes down to only one question: what’s in it for me? They don’t want to hear how big or fast or inexpensive it is. What they want to know is what problem it will solve for them.

4. Don’t be so arrogant as to think that paying a bill means you can treat your suppliers like an afterthought. Make every effort to cultivate an honest partnership with suppliers. There will absolutely come a time when one of them can bail you out of a sticky situation.

5. Social media is no longer a fad. It’s here to stay, and it’s just as competitive as every other aspect of the business landscape. Treat your website, Facebook, Twitter and other sites as major parts of your marketing program. Prominent placement of social share buttons makes it easy for customers to pass along your content, especially when you make it worth their effort with engaging material.

6. Entrepreneurs often make the mistake of thinking they can run the whole show themselves. Put your ego aside long enough to recognize your own limitations. The most successful business owners are the ones who hire people with talent and skill to make each area of the company as strong as possible.

7. Take a lesson from the squirrel gathering acorns in preparation for a long, cold winter. Marketing sometimes takes a back seat when business is booming. When sales hit a lull, as they inevitably will, the company hits the wall with no prospects in the pipeline. Your marketing strategy should be aimed at building ongoing relationships to sustain a consistent pool of regular and potential customers. This is another reason to integrate social media into your efforts.

8. Let your company’s size work in its favor. People have grown weary of the impersonal experience provided by large corporations. Instead of trying to make your company seem bigger, emphasize its flexibility, effective customer service and other advantages offered by a small business.

9. While sales and profits are vital, cash flow is the true lifeblood of your business. If you don’t know how to read a cash flow statement, learn now. Lack of available cash is one of the biggest icebergs that sink small companies, so be sure you’re equipped to know where yours is going.

10. Business owners and executives tend to boast about being a workaholic as though it was a positive trait. Stress and burnout will cost your company financially just as surely as they affect you personally. Time for yourself should be planned into your list of priorities. Even a long weekend away can pay significant dividends in renewing your focus and energy.

Running a successful business takes more than a little money and a lot of good intentions. These tips can serve as your map, steering you away from the dead ends and keeping you moving in the right direction.

When you need to kick your business up a notch and you are ready to let go of running a warehouse out of your garage and are tired of taking packages to UPS, Medallion Fulfillment and Logistics is here to help with cost efficient, headache-free pack and ship solutions. Call us at (818) 998-836 to get a free price quote today.

Tips on How to Get the Most Out of Your Next Trade Show

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There’s nothing like a trade show to get a new perspective on your industry and your customers. And while nobody will claim that getting successful results is a breeze, you can take advantage of some proven trade show tips to ease the way toward a better experience for everyone involved.

Grab Attention — Now!

Think about the environment of the trade show floor: booths all over, music and crowd noises, people walking by. This means you have maybe five seconds, tops, to grab the attention of passersby.

Your booth’s messaging; graphics and overall design will contribute to the success of your trade show.

  • Keep the in-booth text to a minimum — about 90 percent of written material will never get read anyway.
  • Promote one benefit statement, and make it a game-changer; something your competitors couldn’t claim. If you can keep the message under seven words, even better.
  • Use supplemental signage only to advertise here-and-now events and offers: a schedule of presentations, a grand prize drawing, an invitation to a luncheon or workshop, or an appearance by a notable figure in your industry. Save the overall sales pitches for your follow-up contact.
  • If you have the space, rent some comfy chairs to scatter around your display. At best, you’ll get a captive audience to see your booth; at worst, you’ll have the gratitude of attendees weary of schlepping.

People Love Free Stuff

No two ways about it. Something as simple as a candy dish at your booth or table will get the instant-gratification crowd stopping in, but the more you up the ante, the more traffic you can expect. Folks in the trade show business refer to promotional items as “trinkets and trash,” and some people merely call them “tchotchkes,” but the outcome is the same. Giving away stuff gets attention.

Popular tchotchkes include affordable standbys like pens, tote bags (stuffed with your sales literature) and lanyards. If you have something significant to promote — a new product or even your company’s logo — consider branded hats, T-shirts and lightweight drink containers.

The better the item, the more you should expect in return. Create a lead-generating contact form in print or online for attendees to complete, or save the giveaways until after an in-booth presentation.

Consider the Needs or Interests of Your Crowd

  • Are you exhibiting in Orlando in August? Give a battery-powered handheld fan.
  • Does your trade show play to a family audience? Give kid-friendly items that parents will want to take home.
  • Are you in among a “green” audience? Emphasize that your freebies are made from recycled materials.

Then there’s the heavy artillery: grand-prize items like an iPad or an AmEx gift certificate. A drawing at the trade show for a high-value prize can net you tons of leads, which you can follow up on later. Remember, though: By law, prize drawings must be random and “no purchase necessary” to enter and win; a purchase must not increase chances of winning.

Hit the Floor

Ideally your booth is manned by at least two, and preferably more, representatives. During the day, get someone out on the floor. This serves two purposes:

  1. Your rep can strike up impromptu conversation with attendees, and maybe give away some tchotchkes in the process;
  2. Your rep can get details on what your competitors are doing at their booth

Be a Business Guru

For you and your reps still at the booth, engaging visitors begins with a warm greeting. To that end, never ignore people standing by, even if you’re busy with other visitors. A quick smile and an “I’ll be right with you” can mitigate the risk of walk-offs.

Having made an acquaintance, follow your visitor’s line of dialog in conversation. Perhaps he’s interested in a product on display — let him get a hands-on demo if possible. But not all visitors are interested in the sale. You may have to earn the right to make a sales speech, so start your conversation at a higher level, talking about your industry and the customer’s needs.

Find Out Where the “Pain” is for the Visitor

  • What’s been their biggest challenge?
  • What would they like to achieve?

Once you have a handle on the visitor’s issues, then you can recommend a solution. If the potential customer is still hesitant, offer to follow up later.

How to Use Facebook to Build Your Customer Base

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A 30-second Super Bowl commercial cost $3 million; not exactly chump change. Granted, that 30-second ad had the potential to reach an expected 110 million viewers worldwide; but what is interesting is that, this year, Super Bowl advertisers were not as focused on the immediate marketing impact of their ads as they were on using them as teasers to draw viewers into interactive Facebook and Twitter conversations.

The power of social media to connect with consumers, drive brand recognition and build customer base is changing the way businesses connect with consumers. Social media marketing capitalizes on the same type of good will and loyalty that people afford their friends to convert casual site visitors into product consumers. Using special promotions, contests, surveys, games, videos, polls and wall dialogues on their Facebook page, businesses develop a friendly, accessible, interactive relationship with potential customers. In effect, Facebook humanizes your business, transforming it from a faceless, corporate “it” into “one of the guys,” someone consumers can trust and count on and want to do business with.

As casual as this business-consumer relationship may seem, it is important to differentiate between a personal Facebook page and a business Facebook page, also called a fan page. Your business fan page should focus exclusively on your products and brand. Because Facebook requires accounts to be tied to a personal email, it’s smart to open a separate email account for this purpose to keep your business and personal lives separate. Access settings on your Facebook business page should also be adjusted to prevent access to any personal information.

The Doritos “Crash the Super Bowl” promotion is an excellent example of how interactive Facebook promotions build brand recognition and excitement. Doritos was a fading brand in 2007 when it first invited consumers to create their own Doritos commercials, then allowed Facebook fans to vote for their favorites, and aired the top vote-getter during the Super Bowl. Since then, the annual promotion has drawn thousands of entries (5,000 this year), driven hundreds of thousands of fans to Doritos’ Facebook fan page, generated months of positive brand buzz, and made Doritos the best-selling tortilla chip in the U.S.

Savvy business owners know that to sell a product you have to take your pitch to the consumer. Today, that means social media, and Facebook is where the action is. Facebook boasts 500 million active users, 50% of whom log onto Facebook daily. The average American Facebook user spends about 15 minutes a day on Facebook, more than double the amount of time spent on all other web programs. Advertising your product where it can get that kind of attention at zero cost –Facebook is free — is a marketing asset you can’t afford to ignore. The real beauty of social media marketing, however, is that each consumer contact has the potential to explode exponentially as fans share “liked” sites with their friends. According to Facebook, the average Facebook user has 130 friends. If just one visitor to your Facebook page shares a link to your site with his friends, traffic to your site can mushroom quickly.

You don’t have to be a corporate behemoth to put social media to work for your business. Facebook is ideal for small business owners. It’s free, business pages are easy to set up and there are hundreds of optional applications available to handle Facebook’s more sophisticated features. Social media has the power to take your business to a whole new level and it won’t cost you a cent. If your business isn’t on Facebook yet, what are you waiting for?