Web and Hosting Tips
Written by Brandi Bennett
Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014
Email marketing is big. It’s no secret. Email marketing is one of the best ways to not only ensure that your brand and your products or services stay fresh within the minds of your clients, it allows you to catch their attention, appealing to the impulse buy side of your clientele.
Leverage Existing Relationships
If an individual sees your product or service in their email and thinks that what you are offering is a great deal they may simply click through the email to purchase it, as they already have a relationship with your company, without feeling the need to do any form of price comparison or the like. It’s easy for people to get caught up in the moment, wanting to get their products and services out to as many people as humanly possible, regardless of whether or not the person has technically asked for that email from you. There’s just one problem with this. That type of behavior is illegal; an internet no-no.
“But I just found this list of people’s email addresses! It’s obvious that they wouldn’t have left it lying about if they didn’t want others to use it” you might proclaim. Or you might have decided to purchase a mailing list, share email addresses with your buddy who has an email list as well, or simply have pulled email addresses off of Craig’s list or some other site where such information is freely posted. You might justify it to yourself in a thousand and one different ways, but the fact of the matter is that the justification doesn’t count, not when it goes against the CAN-SPAM act, your hosting provider’s terms of service and acceptable use policies, and their upstream providers terms of service and acceptable use policies.
The Low Down:
In order for your mailing list to be a legitimate one, in order for your messages to not be considered spam, and to ensure that you are able to stay with your hosting provider, there are several things that you cannot do.
- Use a purchased mailing list
- Use a mailing list that was given to you
- Use a mailing list that you found somewhere (sorry, that email address you found in the back of the taxi can’t be just tacked on to the end of your list, gotta throw that one out!)
- Randomly generate email addresses and send out messages to all of them, hoping one goes through to a legitimate email address.
“Well, that seems like a lot that I can’t do,” you might think to yourself, and the truth is, you’re right. You cannot do anything that gets around the idea of not getting someone’s permission to email them. So what can you do, not only to make sure that your mailing list is legitimate, but that it’s CAN-SPAM compliant?
The Double Opt In:
Make sure that you get everyone’s permission to email them, not once, but twice. This process is referred to as double opt in, and it means that not only does someone have to give you their email address, but you then have to ask them if they really meant to give it to you, and they have to say yes before you can start including them on your mailing list. The process usually goes something like this:
- A person puts in an email address on your site, indicating that they want to receive email from you. The reason this isn’t enough is that you have no way of knowing whether the person entering the email address is the one that owns the email address.
- You receive their form with their email address listed. You’re excited! You want to add them to your list, but you just can’t yet. First you have to send them an email, typically with a link that will write to a database stating the date and time that they accepted (this is the second time they are accepting).
- They will click on the link, writing the information to the database (you want to retain this information in case you later get reported as spam, thus proving your legit status and ensuring that you don’t get in trouble).
- You will add them to your mailing list and can email them every time you send out the mailing list.
The Rest Of The Story:
Keep in mind that there are other laws, rules and regulations that you may need to adhere to, such as the fact that all individuals requesting access to adult content, if that’s what you’re offering, must be over eighteen, but it’s your responsibility to determine whether what you are sending needs those additional features. You can read about the guidelines at the FTC’s site here: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/business/ecommerce/bus61.shtm
Remember, if you receive a complaint from your hosting provider about your mailing list, they’re not only working to make sure that you are in compliance with the rules, but that they are as well. They don’t want to get in trouble either for violating Federal law, so don’t take it personally, just remember that you’ve got to keep your mailing list legit; once it’s there, it’s smooth sailing for both of you.
Written by Taylor Hawes
Tuesday, April 1st, 2014
Hate it or love it, Facebook is still one of the most effective platforms for social media marketing. As we’re all aware, they like to update things A LOT. Sometimes it’s the way it looks; for instance, they’re currently advertising a simpler layout with a bigger focus on posts appearing in the news feed. Other times they’ll add entirely new options on how to market the things you post.
If you use Facebook to manage a business page, advertise events, or even just to garner some recognition for your craft, here are five recent updates you’ll find beneficial.
1. Objective Based Ads
This is one of two big steps Facebook has taken in the last six months in trying to adhere to objectives of advertisers on Facebook. This change is said to have taken place for the purpose of focusing on the impact of advertisements rather than the type. Based on conversations Facebook staff had with “marketers of all types” they’ve come up with 8 objectives advertisers can choose from to meet their goals:
Page Post Engagement
In-store Offer Claims
Clicks To Website
& Event Responses
After the user chooses the objectives and creates the ad, Facebook will place the ads where they’ll create the best impact. You can now see under the ads manager the results of your post based on the selected objectives. With a much simpler approach to getting your ads seen, you can focus on the content and what viewers are enjoying most.
2. Facebook Insights
The new update to page insights makes tracking the performance of your Facebook page more ‘insightful’ than ever. Long-valued by strategic marketers, the data collected will support your goals when tracking the performance of ads and posts. Facebook has updated the web version of Insights that are presented in easy to navigate graphs that can be adjusted and customized to your preferences.
Some new features include:
Advanced filtering – Filter by Total Reach, Organic vs. Paid and Fans vs. Non-Fans.
Best post types – Quickly determine which of your post types generate the highest reach and average engagement.
When your fans are online – Incredibly useful for determining when to post, see things like:
Number of fans that were online each day of the past week
Average number of your fans who saw any posts per hour
Benchmarking – Compare the performance of your page between time periods.
3. Auto-Play Videos In The News Feed
It may be a lesser known fact, but videos aren’t nearly as engaged with as photos and status updates. That said, Facebook felt it was a good idea to have a way for users to engage with videos more often by catching the glimpse of it playing without sound. Straight from an article on Facebook’s business blog, “Compelling sight, sound and motion are often integral components of great marketing campaigns, particularly when brands want to increase awareness and attention over a short period of time”.
While this may seem appealing to some (marketers especially), there has been a significant backlash from many of its users. Complaints like their load time slowing, distracting, unwanted, etc. Like other features people would rather not see, you can block this functionality for more distraction-free browsing.
4. Edit Your Posts That Have Already Been Published
Have you ever posted something, only to notice a few hours later thatthere was a typo? While it is possible to delete these posts, sometimes it has already been paid for as an advertisement, or has received too much attention to make replacement an attractive prospect. For quite some time now, Facebook users have been requesting the ability to edit their posts, and now that option is here.
For posts appearing on your personal profile you have the option to edit captions for photos and status updates that are strictly text. For business page administrators, the editing capability is still only limited to photo captions while Facebook tests the ability to edit posts as well.
5. Improvements To The News Feed Ranking (They’ve Made It Smarter)
Like many other tech giants, Facebook has revamped their algorithms to make a more personalized stream of posts based on the individual user. Impressively, what posts appear are based of over 100,000 weighing factors, things like:
Relationship Settings – Things like labeling friends as “close friend”, or “acquaintance”
Post Types – Users that interact more often with photo posts are more likely to see more photos.
Hiding Posts/Spam – Recent hides may be carrying weight as to whether a post shows in the news feed
While those are just a few, it is clear that the challenge of making engaging and visible posts has become more difficult. The company’s advice is is to create and advertise a variety of interesting content that will attract clicks, shares, likes and comments. The best way to do this is by understanding your fans, and what they want to see.
Written by Brandi Bennett
Thursday, March 27th, 2014
Many people have seen demotivational posters before. They are treated as slightly humorous distractions from an otherwise busy day, serving to provide a reminder of what to avoid or what not to do.
In spite of the fact that these demotivational posters have a dual purpose, many people only see the amusing side of things and move on without ever truly paying attention to the other side of the coin. Take for example the Professionalism demotivational poster above; the image is not a new one, and many people have seen either this image or other similar images before. We look at them, shake our heads, and wonder to ourselves how someone could be so lazy, and then move on with our days. What we fail to realize is that in some aspect of our jobs, no matter what they are, we have painted around the fallen branch instead of moving it.
Are You Wearing Shoes, Does It Matter?
In some instances the lack of professionalism that is displayed doesn’t really affect the workplace. No one can really see the fact that you have taken off your shoes under your desk, after all. The trick is just remembering to slip them back on before you get up, and BAM! Professionalism has been restored.
The issue arises when everyone is able to see the lack of professionalism that you present; think of it as greeting clients wearing mismatched socks and no shoes, or having them step over a fallen branch in order to get to your office, where the real professionalism is. I’m not going to suggest that you work to convey perfect adherence to the standards of professional conduct; let’s face it, we are all human and we all make mistakes sometimes. What I do suggest, however, is working to ensure that the face that your customers see is always professional, and the first step in that process is your website.
Be Sure Don’t Accidently The Wrong Grammars
Typos and formatting do matter. If your text overlaps, if you have misspellings, poor grammar, improperly used words (they’re instead of their, or where instead of wear), poor navigation, and even improper features all serve to convey the idea that your site is unprofessional. While there may be simple reasons for these things to occur, like an update that was not compatible with your theme (if you use WordPress), or an old version of Magento that was upgraded, for example, there is no excuse for not double checking yourself.
Your site is the first experience that your customers have with your company. It is how you are reaching out to introduce yourself to your target market through the internet. While there are instances where a consumer may overlook one issue, such as one improperly spelled word out of the entire site, you want to make sure that your customers do not see your company as one that is prone to mistakes.
Think Like A Customer
As a consumer myself, I know that I personally will not spend money with a company if their site isn’t professional. How do I know that they will address any issues with my order in the appropriate manner if they cannot even manage to ensure that their site is error free? This is the mindset that you will need to have when reviewing your site in order to ensure that it maintains the appropriate level of professionalism all the way through. This does not mean your site cannot be fun! There are a host of highly professional websites that are fun. (We like to think Hostgator’s site is not just professional, it is fun too!) It simply means that your site needs to convey the tone that you want it to, contain the appropriate information, and work to present the appropriate image to your customers. It doesn’t matter what you are selling, it simply matters that it conveys the right message, a message that cannot be present if your site is less than professional.
If you are unsure as to whether or not your site looks professional enough, ask a friend, or find an online editing service that can review the site for you to double check and give you pointers. Take the extra time to double check anything you post, and in doing so, you will make sure that your customers aren’t being asked to step over any branches, giving them the confidence in you that they need in order to purchase your products or services.
Image Source: Professionalism Demotivational Poster. (2014). [image online] Available at: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_MIqc0txxDNM/SvfBIqftprI/AAAAAAAAAA4/S63X2RMUECo/s320/professional.jpg [Accessed: 20 Mar 2014].
Written by Taylor Hawes
Tuesday, March 18th, 2014
Fostering additional sales is a priority of virtually every business on the planet. After all,
growth requires additional revenue, allowing you to reinforce your offerings to better serve your customers. However if you are a startup, or simply cash-strapped, you probably don’t have the capital to pour thousands into sales lead services. Thankfully there are several tools available to help increase online sales that are both efficient and inexpensive.
ZoomInfo Community Edition – ZoomInfo offers several paid plans but has a free database with over 60 million contacts available under its community edition license. The caveats are two-fold: you have to share your business contacts with ZoomInfo and you are limited to 100 contacts per month. If you are just starting out, it is an excellent tool for leveraging a community of aspiring businesses to the success of all involved.
Lead411 – Another searchable database, Lead411 offers great detailed information including email addresses and phone numbers for contacts. It is not free, but is a reasonable $29.95 per month and offers you access to over 100,000 company profiles and 700,000 executives. If you decide to upgrade to the $39.95 plan, you are permitted access to nearly three times that many contacts. The one drawback with this particular service is the sometimes questionable quality of the information therein, so tread with caution.
Jigsaw – Jigsaw is part of the prolific and ubiquitous Salesforce.com. You earn points for adding or updating any of their contacts and can then use those points on free contacts. They offer paid plans but if you are cash strapped you can start out by earning free credits and building your address book in the process. All listings include name, title, email, phone number and address.
Pipeline and Contact Management
Zoho – Zoho is a customer relationship management (CRM) program unlike any other. The basic level is free and allows you to have up to three users and 5,000 records. With mobile access and a usable interface, the app sets itself apart from competitors, to your benefit. In addition, it can scale with your business and the upgraded plan is only $12 per month.
Streak – if you are using Gmail as your email client then you Streak is a must-have. It is a simple plugin that integrates your CRM directly into your inbox, enabling management of multiple contact conduits simultaneously. You can designate your contacts as leads, prospects, customers, etc all within Gmail. Furthermore, sharing data with co-workers is easy, allowing the ability to share part of your inbox with others. For the busy or forgetful business-person, it can even schedule emails to send later.
Contact Monkey – Another powerful free add-on is Contact Monkey. This tool lets you know who opens the emails you have sent, how they opened it (mobile or desktop), and if they clicked on any links. When working to tailor your communications for best reception, this data is invaluable.
Rapportive – When dealing with clients, context is crucial. Also an add-on to Gmail, this tool integrates all the data about your contact next to their emails for easy viewing and consideration. You will see their picture, pertinent data, and any public social networking info, giving you a comprehensive picture of their online presence.
Newsle – If your contact appears in the news, it is always a great reason to touch base with them. Newsle tracks anyone you know with your social media network and notifies you if they appear in the news. It is a great way to have an excuse to get in touch with a prospect, either to capitalize on a financial success, or wish them well in the event of difficult times.
While this list is certainly not comprehensive, it is a great place to start. These inexpensive and free sales tools will help you generate some new sales leads and manage those leads more effectively to increase your online sales, synergizing to assist your business in one of its primary goals: revenue through efficient outreach.