Keeping Track and Following Up

As we’ve discussed in previous articles, your list and its’ maintenance could be a key to realizing more profits from your business. A well-maintained active list is an extremely valuable asset – an asset that adds value to your business, on a daily basis for as you market products and services and make special offers to the loyal following you’re building and for a buyer should the day come when you want to sell your company. A company with an active database is valued higher than one without.

For the purpose of this article, let’s discuss some list maintenance options and whether you should keep your list on your own computer system or use a web-based service provider.

Begin by asking yourself (or your marketing manager, or both) a few questions. How are you going to use your list? How often will you mail to it? Are you going to be making contacts with the people on your list any other way? By ‘snail mail’ or telephone? Do you need to track interactions with people on your list? In other words, if you’re going to be calling people as part of your marketing efforts, will you need a way to track that communication?

Your answers to these questions will help you determine the best way to create and maintain your list. Let’s say for example, you only plan to email your list. Are you buying (or renting) a list or are you creating a list from opt-ins on your website? If you buy or rent a list, you will probably want to lean toward buying software that you’ll maintain on your own computer system. Many of the web-based services won’t allow you to upload a list and mail to it through their servers, so working with a bought or rented list becomes difficult. With CAN-SPAM laws and white listing of emails names and lists, web-based list management companies perceive uploaded lists as too potentially threatening to their own security. No matter how good or clean the list, they just won’t let you do it, so that won’t work.

If, however, you are building a list by offering something on your site – a free report, a consultation or anything else in exchange for someone’s email address, then using a web-based subscription service is ideal. Why? Because they are directly integrated into your site and with just a little bit of setup on your end, you have a full-fledged system that will work on autopilot, importing names into your database, sending a thank you note as well as your free download if you’re offering one. These services allow you to set up a series of emails to send to anyone on your list, or to multiple lists inside one account – automatically (often referred to as an autoresponder) and with whatever frequency you choose. This will put quite a bit of your follow up work on autopilot. Once you create the series of emails you want someone to receive, you can sit back knowing that everyone is being taken through a prospecting and marketing sequence that you can change or update at any time.  Read our next article Marketing with List Software or Web-based Systems to learn more about how and why to choose the system that will work best for you.

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Marketing with List Software

In our last article, we talked about some of the reasons you might keep your database on your own computer system, or use a web-based system. Let’s talk more specifically about either of these choices, and some simple marketing strategies you can use with either choice.

With a system you use on your own computers, the advantage is that you can use all kinds of lists – ones you’ve generated yourself, rental lists, lists you purchase, other people’s lists. There is no one else telling you who you can mail to. You still have to comply with CAN-SPAM and any other email regulations, but you won’t be as restricted.

There are many different software programs on the market and more being created all the time. You might either do a search and research some companies and products or talk to someone you know who emails frequently and get a recommendation from them. You’ll find there are multiple solutions, often based on the size of a business as well as the size of lists being used and the frequency of mailing. Be aware if you’re using software that your ISP (internet service provider) or web host may very well have limitations on the number of emails you can send through your monthly subscription. Be sure to investigate your options before committing to software. You’ll find there are also ways to ‘outsource’ the mailing and pay a fee to go out through a company who provides that task specifically. Still using your software, but configuring it to send through a ‘server system’ other than your own.

Most popular software is reliable and most companies include updates as part of the purchase price. Be sure to pay attention to whether that’s included or if you’ll be expected to pay for upgrades and updates. Another thing to check into is what kind and how much tech support they offer. Some companies offer unlimited support, others offer free support for 30 or 60 days and then an annual contract and/or a ‘per incident’ fee to talk with one of their support agents on the phone. Just make sure you know how it works at the outset so you won’t have any unpleasant or costly surprises.

Most software packages have built in templates that you can easily customize with you own logos and graphics and they have the capability for you to import and edit lists and add or change them as you go. They also have statistics built in that allow you to keep your list nice and clean. Those would include reports on ‘bounced’ and undeliverable email addresses for example.

It’s a good idea to use that information to keep your list clean, consistently mailing to bounced and undeliverable addresses could cause you complications. The cleaner you keep your list, the better off you’ll be. There is some work involved to keep it maintained, but it’s worth it, because it will streamline your marketing efforts and keep your valuable lists up-to-date and usable. You want clean metrics so you know how effectively your marketing is performing.

You’ll also be able to keep you campaigns stored in the software and run the same campaigns to different lists. A simple way to manage your software is to keep copies of all your campaigns – which are usually letters or templated newsletters or something very similar, in separate files outside the email software program. That way you can access them to use them or update them whenever needed, but you won’t risk losing anything should you forget to clean the software periodically and it has any problems or in the worst case, if it crashes and loses data. Like most computer based programs or systems, if you take the time to establish good habits when you get started and follow those procedures, it’s not very time consuming and you’ll be able to be efficient and effective very easily.

Some software will have a contact manager function built in, other won’t, so decide whether keeping notes or building files on any individual that you’re mailing too is important to you. If you do find that function is important to you, either look for a program that has that capability, or find one that has other programs it easily interfaces with so you can perform both functions. In our experience, it’s worth spending the time at the outset to outline your needs carefully and search for the right product. It’s much less time consuming than having to move everything and set up a new system once you’re already underway.

In the next article, Marketing with a Web-Based Contact Manager, Mailer and Autoresponder System, we’ll discuss the advantages of the other type of lead tracking and creation system you might consider: an online web-based service. We’ll cover the differences and why and when you might choose that option instead of or to work along with a software-based system.
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Marketing with a Web-Based Contact Manager, Mailer and Autoresponder System

In our last article we talked about list management software and some of the advantages of using software as well as some of the potential pitfalls, or things to be aware of when choosing a system.  In this article we’re going to discuss web-based services and why you might use them or use them in conjunction with a software solution.

Have you ever filled out a form online and given your email address in exchange for some free information relevant to your business or to a personal interest? You probably have. That’s what marketing with web-based programs looks like from the consumer side. It’s a very common online marketing method, and it’s a great exchange of value which is why it’s a popular marketing strategy.

Giving something of value away to a targeted audience is win-win. Your audience gets something of value from you right up-front in the form on information that has value and meaning to them. You get the name of someone who is interested in exactly what you offer and that enables you to send them more information, build trust, credibility and a relationship – arguably strong currency with your target audience.

Often those forms you fill out are tied directly to a web-based contact manager and autoresponder program. There are any number of very popular and reputable web-based solutions. Do a search and see what products offers the features appropriate for your business. You’ll find the same few names popping up over and over again and you’ll easily be able to differentiate and see which makes the most sense for your particular needs.

Most offer a monthly subscription or annual subscription that ranges in price from approximately $15-30 per month – usually with some discount if you pay the year in advance. Price may be determined by capacity you need and most services offer the opportunity to increase capacity as needed. Some services offer a simple form creator so you can create an easy opt-in box for your website that will attach directly to your account so that as people sign up and request whatever you’re offering, their name, email and any other information you request and they give you will be captured, and they will be put in whatever email sequence you create.
Note on marketing with web forms: you can ask for certain pieces of information, like name, email and phone number, but it’s usually best to just  make name and email ‘mandatory’ so if they give you their phone number, it’s a bonus for you, but they don’t have to supply it in order to get what you’re offering. Your goal is to get them on your list and you want to make that as easy and ‘painless’ as possible for them.

When using any online service, be sure to regularly ‘export’ your list and store it somewhere safe. In the unlikely event that something should happen to your online service, you don’t want to lose your valuable resources. You might consider doing the same with any campaigns you create. It would be highly unlikely, but you never want to take a risk with your marketing assets.

Most web-based services will require a double opt in, asking someone on your list to verify that (through link generated by the service and emailed to your recipient) they want to receive email from you. They will have to complete this step in order to be opted in to your list. The advantage is that once they do this, they are ‘bulletproof’ as an opt-in. You have full permission to send them emails, marketing and promotions. If, however, they don’t opt in, you don’t ever get their name. This type of double opt-in is industry standard and required of all companies that offer this type of service. Most services also generate a list of people who request information, but then don’t opt in when they receive the email. That allows you to email them again and remind them so you don’t lose them altogether.

When people do sign up, they’ll be sent an email with a link to ‘double opt-in”. You can craft that email so you get a higher likelihood of them clicking on the link and getting on your list. Use the email to remind them of the great value they’re getting and of your free offer, thereby encouraging them to take that next step and opt-in.  That extra push can be the difference between the email sitting in their box until the later that never comes, or them clicking right then and there and becoming part of your list immediately.

Once you have them in your system, you can email them individually, you can email them as part of a larger mailing (the list they’re part of) and you can set up an autoresponder series so they get regular pre-written and pre-scheduled emails from you, and you can add to that series anytime, or send a custom email to anyone on the list, or to the list outside of the series you created and that they’re part of.

You can set up multiple lists, so if you want to run different promotions, or have one list for people who opted-in for a free report, another for newsletters, a third just for special offers and updates, etc. you can contact each list separately and control your marketing and check your back office for results, tracking and statistics.

As you build your list, no matter how you do it, you’re creating a valuable asset that, when used correctly, can increase your business and your bottom line. Despite the proliferation of social media, email marketing is still the most powerful way to reach the people most interested in what you offer. For more details on email marketing and contact management software see The Fortune is in the Follow Up, Using Contact Management Software for Effective Lead Generation.

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The Fortune is in the Follow Up, Using Contact Management Software for Effective Lead Generation.

Have you heard it said that the fortune is in the follow up? Typically, a buyer has to see a message at least nine times before they make a buying decision and part with some of their hard-earned income. Knowing that, it pays to become expert at follow up.

In traditional marketing, companies spend money on advertising – be it on television, in newspaper or magazines or perhaps on the radio. Nine impressions in any of those media are far more expensive than sending nine emails, or ninety emails for that matter.

Email is cost effective and it gets read – the inbox is still the best place to reach people directly. 67% of email users have opt-in relationships with companies and brands that interest them and 59% of those people spend 20 minutes or more each week with email sent to them by those companies and 27% spend an hour or more each week with those emails (Merkle Interactive).

Email combined with phone calling (if it’s relevant) can boost sales even more. And of course, following up once you’ve generated a lead can be done a number of different ways. What’s most important is that it gets done regularly, efficiently and that it adds value to the consumer or end user. One of the best ways – and most organized ways – to keep in touch with your prospects is to use contact management software.

There are a lot of choices for ‘contact management programs’ on the market and again the best thing is to do a search, find the top 3-5 companies that offer what you are looking for and then compare them based on price, features, ease-of-use, the ability to grow with the company over time and any other features that are important or critical to your marketing efforts.

You can use your contact manager to create and store details – conversations with clients and prospects, what people have bought or inquired about, when you have an appointment with them, either by phone, in person or to contact them next and you can use it as a calendar. Book an appointment or any other activity and be reminded automatically when the time arrives. It will keep you organized and focused, because you won’t have to worry about those details.

If you are in a service business, or have high ticket items, you’re more likely to be in direct contact with individuals. Using a contact management program to take notes on a client, a conversation or a need can make you more money. Here’s a great example – a woman we know who markets high end cruises keeps detailed database files and notes on all her clients.

She got a call from a client who had booked a very expensive cruise for her and her sister and wanted this woman to advise her on the best way to get to the launch point. The woman asked about the cruise and learned it was very much an exploring at port tour. Her notes told her that the sister was older, had foot pain and a knee replacement. She said to her client: you know, you really should invest in the best shoes you can possibly buy, that particular cruise will have you walking miles in all those ports of call, rather than leisurely market touring like you’re used to.

A conversation ensued, the client was very grateful that she ‘remembered’ all these things about her and she cancelled her cruise and booked almost $10 thousand worth of business with the woman whose contact management software helped her know exactly what her client needed and wanted. Without those detailed notes, she never would have captured that business.

Generating leads is essential to building your company, continuing to market to those ‘leads’ before and after they become customers and clients is what will set you apart in the marketplace and keep your business thriving and healthy. Having a great follow up system in place is the second half of the job and using a software system is probably the easiest and most efficient way to stay organized and on track.

Does your company need a website or lead generation system? Contact us or take our survey and see how Lead Generation Canada can help you!