Purchasing Email Lists – A Seriously Bad Idea

emailA quick Internet search will show you that, yes, you can buy virtually anything online including email lists. In fact, you can buy a list containing thousands of email addresses of consumers in just about any demographic you’d like. Imagine having a huge list of email addresses that you can mail to right away. It’s tempting, isn’t? As attractive as it may sound, purchasing email lists is a seriously bad idea for several reasons. Let’s take a look.

As you likely know, there are three common ways to build an email list: generating a list on your own, buying a list of email addresses, or renting a list of leads. Each has its pitfalls. For example, it’s time-consuming to build your own list. It often means attending trade-shows, asking customers to sign up, or building an advertising campaign and opt-in incentive program. Renting lists requires working with a third party provider who owns the list and keeps the addresses hidden.

Buying lists is by far the fastest choice, but it also has the most pitfalls. List sellers often claim that their lists are filled with contacts who have opted-in to receive email messages. However, what’s unclear is how long ago and from whom? You can bet that they didn’t consciously agree to receive random email messages from marketers like you. Many people on purchased lists will be tempted to report your messages as spam – and many will because your messages arrive without their actual consent. Even if you are not concerned about the implications of the CAN-SPAM Act, you should be concerned about sending messages to people who are not interested, who did not request contact from you, and who are weary of having their contact information sold to one marketer after another.

Another problem with buying email lists is that most email marketing vendors such as Constant Contact, Mail Chimp, and Aweber strictly prohibit the use of purchased email lists. They WILL notice and they will not allow you to send email messages to these lists using their service. If you’re tempted to work around that by choosing a less picky vendor, be aware that email service providers that are not careful are often blacklisted by Internet service providers. A single spammer using such as service could affect the entire service. Thus, even legitimate messages sent through blacklisted providers will never arrive in recipients’ inboxes.

Even if your messages go through and land in your purchased targets’ inboxes and do not get marked as spam, you have another huge hurdle to overcome: these contacts don’t know you nor are they necessarily interested in your offer. They are cold and unqualified. For example, let’s say you’ve purchased a list of mortgage leads. These people may have expressed an interest in acquiring a new mortgage six months ago and opted into a list. Some will have refinanced between then and now and are no longer in the market. Others will have lost interest. Others will be sick of receiving an endless barrage of mortgage-related materials. How do you think your message, no matter how elegantly crafted, will be perceived?

Finally, your reputation could be seriously harmed if you buy email lists. Companies specialize in identifying spammy behaviors and spammers. Much of this is automated using software that identifies messages being sent to out-of-date mailboxes. If you’re identified as a spammer, not only will your messages not be delivered, your IP address could be blacklisted simply for sending a blast of emails to obsolete email accounts.

We know it’s tempting to take shortcuts, but buying an email list is a seriously bad idea. Don’t do it!

Internet Marketing: CRM, Marketing Tactics and IT Alignment

Internet marketing and sales strategyInternet marketing continues to evolve, becoming both more viable and more complex. Customer relationship management software (CRM) has become a must due to the complexity. It plays an important role at all stages of the sales funnel. With a solid CRM system in place, your Internet sales and marketing teams can more effectively manage contacts whether they’re in the engage, convert, or nurture stage. Where the sales funnel was once the realm of the sales and marketing team, today’s Internet marketing strategies require a robust CRM solution – and IT involvement.

To add to the complexity of CRM and the Internet sales funnel in general, social media has emerged as a major channel for customer service, tech support, sales, and marketing alike. Integrating social media into your Internet marketing CRM program allows everyone to see the larger picture. For example, is a contact complaining about your service? Is she raving about your products? Has a contact expressed a need that your company can fill? By tapping into these channels, your sales, marketing, customer service, and tech support teams can respond appropriately.

Opinions vary on the best approach to CRM with some Internet marketing experts favoring a single, shared database for both marketing and sales and others preferring separate databases to ensure that leads are managed properly according to where they are in the Internet sales funnel. Other experts advocate using marketing automation software to first clean up the sales funnel data before importing it into CRM software.

Can a single CRM solution handle everything your Internet sales and marketing teams need? The answer varies from company to company. In most cases, sales and marketing need to work with the same data and contacts; however, they tend to interact with that data differently.

Integrated CRM solutions that include marketing automation and email marketing software may be the optimal choice by allowing sales and marketing to access shared data without duplication or conflicts. For example, with an integrated Internet marketing CRM platform, when an email subscriber unsubscribes from an email marketing campaign the contact will be removed from the mailing list and relevant information appended to the contact’s record.

No matter which option makes the most sense for your Internet marketing strategy, one thing is clear: you need IT support. With multiple databases, automation software, and lead sources (such as cold calling, opt-in lists, special events, and social media channels), managing the sales funnel requires software and systems that perform to their fullest potential.

While many Internet marketing platforms are offered as “software as a service” and imply that minimal IT intervention will be required, aligning marketing with IT is essential. While installation, updates, and support tasks may be minimal with cloud-based Internet sales solutions, IT should be involved in selecting the solution to make sure it is compatible with existing systems along with the company’s security and privacy policies. If your CRM solution includes social media information from contacts based in European Union countries, stricter privacy regulations may apply.

By including IT in the Internet sales and CRM conversation, you’ll benefit from a broader perspective that extends beyond the sales funnel and better aligns with the organization’s objectives. In addition, IT professionals tend to have more experience in purchasing software. Thus, they may be better equipped to evaluate the terms and conditions and negotiate the contract.

No matter which CRM solution you use to nurture prospects through the sales funnel, stronger Internet sales require alignment between your Internet marketing, sales, and IT teams.

Video eMail Marketing Planning Tips

Planning your email video marketingVideo email marketing campaigns can be much more complex than meets the eye. In fact, they should be. Like traditional email marketing, your video marketing campaign should build on itself, ultimately leading to a desired action. This involves much more planning than simply pointing to an existing website video in your newsletter. Below are a few tips to ensure that your campaign informs, guides, and delivers.

What Do You Want to Accomplish with Video Email Marketing?

Start by considering what you want to accomplish with your email marketing campaign along with how your subscribers initially found you. Let’s say that you sell kitchen remodeling services. You ultimately want subscribers to pick up the telephone and call you for an in-home consultation so that you have the opportunity to bid on their remodeling projects, right? Before you start sending videos of your work and asking for a consultation, you need to also consider why your subscribers opted into your list and then tailor your video email marketing campaign to satisfy those users. You need to earn their trust and deliver on your promises.

For example, if your subscribers joined your list in order to download a free report about environmentally friendly building materials, it would make sense for your email campaign to feature a website video that showcases some of the most innovative eco-friendly building products available. Since you know that these subscribers are sensitive about the environment, your email marketing campaign could continue to build your credibility as a “green” remodeler. After sending a website video on building materials, your next message might discuss Energy Star appliances or the benefits of using trash compactors and composters.

Create an Entire Video Email Marketing Series Leading to Your Goal

Now that you have a goal in mind and understand what your subscribers are interested in, brainstorm at least five ideas for your video email marketing campaign. In this example, you might want to discuss green building materials, Energy Star appliances, composting tips, innovative kitchen faucets that conserve water or heat it instantly, and energy-efficient kitchen skylights.

Now that you know the topics, it’s time to produce a website video for each message in your campaign highlighting those topics. By including a website video in your email marketing messages, not only are you providing your subscribers with valuable information that they are interested in, you are redirecting them back to your website where you’ll have additional opportunities to make your case. Do this each week and your subscribers will become more comfortable with you and recognize your expertise in the topic. Who do you think they will call when it comes time to remodel their kitchens? The expert that has continually demonstrated expertise green kitchen remodeling topics – you!

Create a Call to Action

While it may seem like you’re the obvious choice thanks to your video and email marketing strategy, many prospects need to be reminded to call you. Make sure that your video email marketing campaign and website video series ends with a compelling call to action. This goes back to step one where you defined what you want to accomplish. In this example, you want the prospect to call and schedule a consultation. Make it easy for your prospects to do this by including your specific call to action such as, “Call 1-800-xxx-xxxx to schedule a free, in-home kitchen remodeling consultation.”

No matter what product or service your business offers, a well-planned video email marketing campaign can build trust, reinforce your area of expertise, and send prospects back to your website to watch a website video on the topic. Create an email marketing series with a specific goal and ask your prospects to take action.

What do you think about planning a video email marketing campaign in advance? Share your thoughts in the comments section below:

Video Email Marketing Trends for 2012

Video Email MarketingVideo email marketing continues to evolve, yet few marketers are doing much with the medium in their email campaigns. Part of the problem (the fact that embedding video into actual email messages is impractical and rarely an option) is also video email marketing’s biggest advantage. In most cases, your email marketing message will link to a website video. Isn’t driving your subscribers back to your website one of your primary goals? Below are a few video email marketing trends to keep an eye on for 2012.

  • Creating animated GIFs of a given website video gives subscribers the illusion of motion, and can be an effective teaser that prompts the user to click through and view the video in full screen. If you link the animated GIF to your website video, your video email marketing technique worked like a charm. This technique has its downsides, however. For example, some email clients such as Outlook 2007 display only the first frame.
  • Another option is to grab a screenshot of your website video, insert it into your email marketing newsletter, and then link it to your website video. This is one of the more common video email marketing techniques – and it works. Many marketers have reported remarkable click-through rates using this simple email marketing technique.
  • Using embed codes will also result in a static image complete with the recognizable “play” button superimposed over a screenshot of your website video. Using the embed code is a simple technique, and the resulting image is readily understood by users. They know that when they click the play button, they will activate a website video. While this action doesn’t necessarily take place within the video email marketing message, most users won’t mind be directed to a website to view the video.
  • Another video email marketing trend has less to do with where the user views your video and more to do with how the user interacts with it. Many video players are becoming more sophisticated, offering added features such as player customization, social sharing, interactive transcripts, and calls to action.
  • The more you include video in your email marketing messages, the more important video email marketing analytics become. Depending on which email service provider, video player, and analytics services you use, you can analyze the performance of your video email marketing campaign as well as the video itself.
  • Video heat maps are often included with video players as well as offered as standalone services. These analytical tools can show you where viewership dropped off, which parts of the video were referred to most often, and give you a general idea of the audience’s engagement with your video.
  • HTML 5 makes video, and email in general, a better choice for tablet computers. Expect to see an increased emphasis on HTML 5 in the year ahead.
  • Another trend is to use YouTube’s Post Bulletin feature to update subscribers to your YouTube channel subscribers or uploading your video to Facebook and Twitter. Though technically not official email marketing techniques, these video sharing options can be part of your overall video marketing strategy.

Perhaps one of the biggest video email marketing trends to expect in 2012: more marketers will be experimenting with website video and email marketing. After all, embedding website video in email marketing messages adds value and drives traffic.

Do you have any video email marketing success stories to share? We’d love to hear how your click-through rates have improved or how you’ve solved tricky issues with embedding videos in email messages. Share your thoughts in the comments section below:

Video eMail Marketing: Improve Click-through Rates

someone clicking mousing button

Video email marketing campaigns are much like their text-only counterparts in that you can spread your message to prospects that have opted in. The addition of video adds a human touch and provides for an engaging medium. However, recent surveys reveal some startling information about including videos in email marketing campaigns: dramatic improvements in click-through rates. Including a website video in your next campaign could make a big difference.

Video Email Marketing Surveys

In March 2011, Get Response released its Email Marketing Trends survey results. Among the results focused on video email marketing were the following:

  • Nearly 64 percent of SMB marketers surveyed said that including website video in emails significantly increased conversion rates
  • 50 percent of SMB marketers surveyed believe that video email marketing increases click-through rates
  • 1 out of 3 SMB marketers surveyed believe that video email marketing positively affects branding and/or loyalty

The Web Video Marketing Council is currently conducting its 2011 Video Email Marketing Survey. While those results aren’t in yet, last year’s survey reveals the following:

  • 73 percent of those surveyed believe that video email marketing increases click-through rates
  • Nearly three out of four respondents believed that customer purchases / conversions are more likely with email campaigns that include website video.

Another study, 2010 Social Media Usage, Attitudes, and Measurability: What Do Marketers Think? by Kingfish Media, HubSpot, and Junta42, revealed that website video presented on a company’s website is the most common way video is shared (61 percent) followed by video-sharing sites (56 percent) and video email marketing (13 percent). This same study also concludes that educating customers is the top reason marketers use website video. The second reason is to bring company employees to life.

Video Email Marketing Opportunities

Though these surveys aren’t the definitive word, they’re thought provoking. A large percentage of marketers that use video email marketing reports significant improvements in click-through and conversion rates, yet only 13 percent of marketers appear to be actively promoting website video via email marketing campaigns. The opportunity to reach consumers with website video through your opt-in list is compelling. Not only are consumers unlikely to be overwhelmed with video marketing messages, they’ll be more likely to click-through to your website in order to view your message.

Assuming you already have a strategy that engages, converts, and nurtures your prospects, including video in your existing email marketing plans could be a relatively simple matter. For example, if your email marketing campaign delivers a series of useful tips related to your product or industry, adding a “how to” video that illustrates one of the more visual tips could be a good fit with your existing campaign. If your website sells kitchen gadgets and you regularly send emails with recipes and special offers, consider adding a video on “chopping onions like a sous chef” or a short cooking video. Once your prospects land on your page and watch your website video, you have the opportunity to keep them on your website, entice them to explore your catalog, and so.

Putting Video Email Marketing to the Test

Using your last traditional email marketing campaign as a “control,” you can put video email marketing to the test by including a website video in your next campaign. After the campaign is over, compare its click-through rates and conversions with your control campaign. How did video email marketing work for you? Did click-through rates improve? How about conversions? If you take part in this challenge, please come back and post your results in the comments section below. We’d love to hear your experiences.

Video Email Marketing: Helping Leads Become Customers

video email marketing

Video email marketing is a process that, when done correctly, can bring leads back to your website where they can view an informative website video that both educates and reinforces the benefits of your product and service. Using video within your email marketing nurtures your sales leads and helps them make the decision to become customers.

Using Video Email Marketing to Nurture Sales Leads

Video email marketing falls under the “Nurture” phase of the video-to-lead funnel. This sales funnel involves a website video series that first engages prospects, earning their trust. After engaging prospects, the next website video series continues to deliver interesting information, but with a goal of converting these prospects into leads. Finally, once converted and opted into your email marketing campaign, you’ve earned the right to present a website video that reinforces your message. You are now in the nurturing phase.

As you know, you must have permission in order to begin an email marketing campaign. Using video to engage and convert your prospects sets the stage for video email marketing. If you’ve followed the video-to-lead funnel strategies we’ve previously discussed, your leads will know that each website video in the past was engaging, informative, and relatively short. When they receive an email marketing message from you containing a link to a website video, they’ll expect more of the same and trust your video email marketing messages.

Website Video Messages

In most cases, your video email marketing messages will contain links back to your website video where visitors can learn more about the benefits of your products and services. In order to be effective, each website video should be related to the original call to action. For example, if you’ve prompted the prospect to download a buying guide for kitchen appliances, your email marketing campaign should include content relevant to people interested in buying kitchen appliances. This isn’t the time for an email marketing campaign about remodeling bathrooms. Therefore, your website video should be related to that initial action. For instance, you might create a website video focused on how your appliances save energy in the kitchen and reduce utility bills.

In addition to being relevant, your video email marketing campaign must also be focused on benefits. In the email marketing example above, appliances that save energy in the kitchen deliver a benefit to the sales lead: they reduce utility bills. Your prospects may love that your appliances have a specific feature such as a built-in timer, but people don’t buy features; they buy benefits. Make sure that each website video focuses on benefits and your video email marketing campaign will be much more likely to connect with your leads.

How long should your video email marketing campaign be? As with general email marketing, each campaign will be unique. Before you produce a single website video, you should first map out your email marketing strategy. Think about the following:

  • What is your primary goal for the video email marketing campaign?
  • How long is the buying process for your particular product or service?
  • What interval is right for sending messages?
  • How many contacts do you need to make?

Once you know the primary goal, make sure that each website video supports that goal, educates sales leads, and reinforces benefits. After identifying the length of the buying process, you can create a website video email marketing campaign of a similar length. For example, if the average kitchen appliance buyer spends a month researching before buying, your video email marketing campaign might be three to four weeks long. Your email marketing message intervals will be determined by the overall length of the campaign and the number of contacts you feel is appropriate to educate, nurture, and ask for the sale.

Video email marketing is an important part of the video-to-lead funnel. You’ve worked hard to engage and convert your prospects. Now it’s time to nurture them and bring them back to your website for more relevant information.

How have you used video email marketing? Share your thoughts in the comment section below: