How Much Is Your Email List Worth?

Every good direct marketer knows the top company asset is the customer database. Almost anyone with marketing experience can turn that data into revenue. I say “almost” because there is still a social media movement trying to prove that direct mail and email marketing is dying. It’s doubtful that anyone in that group could create and execute an effective plan that delivers sales and profitability. But, for the rest of us, the people who understand that customer relationships are about the quality of service, a solid list is money in the bank

Every good direct marketer knows the top company asset is the customer database. Almost anyone with marketing experience can turn that data into revenue. I say “almost” because there is still a social media movement trying to prove that direct mail and email marketing is dying. It’s doubtful that anyone in that group could create and execute an effective plan that delivers sales and profitability. But, for the rest of us, the people who understand that customer relationships are about the quality of service, a solid list is money in the bank.

Direct mailers are very good at creating detailed plans that project sales and profitability down to the penny. When shifts in external factors like weather and politics affect sales, adjustments are made to keep the company operating in the black. Executing a direct marketing campaign requires a significant investment, making careful management necessary to corporate success. Customers and prospects are segmented, monitored and measured every possible way in an effort to increase lifespan and lifetime value.

Email Marketing Is Different
The investment required for email marketing is minimal when compared to direct mail. Returning a profit is so easy that marketers are lulled into complacency. When the revenue to cost ratio is that good, why invest additional resources in making it better? After all, there are always other areas that need more attention.

Email marketing can do so much more than generate revenue and profits. In the right hands, it increases customer loyalty and reduces operating costs. Emails offer the opportunity to create a personal connection that is unavailable in any other marketing channel. They can be used to economically provide high quality service on an individual level. Capitalizing on this requires in-depth analysis that begins with the value of email subscribers.

How Valuable Are Your Email Subscribers?
There is a direct relationship between the quality of your email marketing program and the value of your subscribers. Programs that build relationships using personalized promotions, education and service create substantially higher value subscribers than pure-play promotional campaigns. This really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone because better investments always yield stronger returns.

The first step in creating high value subscribers is analysis. How do the customers and prospects that participate in your email program differ from the ones who don’t?

Compare purchase history, time from first entry to purchase, times between purchases, average order, lifetime value, lifespan, number of orders in specific time frames and any other valuation information available. Segment customers and prospects as needed so you will be able to consistently evaluate the results. Seasonal, discount, and hit-and-run shoppers significantly skew the results. The information accumulated here is the benchmark that will be used to gauge the effectiveness of new campaigns.

Next, catalog all of the emails sent to each segment over the last two years. Include all available results so new emails can be compared to historical data. If you haven’t been segmenting subscribers, or segmented them a different way, capture the information that is available and move on. Don’t waste resources trying to analyze something that doesn’t have enough data to provide clear results. When finished, you’ll have a good idea of the current value of your email subscribers.

Creating a New Email Marketing Program
The analysis you’ve done tells you what has happened in the past. If you are happy with the results, keep on doing the same things. But, if you want more:

  • Look for gaps in your email marketing campaigns. Do they include personalized emails? Are the transactional emails optimized? Are you sending educational emails that teach subscribers how to use products and services?
  • Are you emailing often enough? Test sending emails more often to a sample of your subscriber list. If response increases without a significant jump in opt outs and spam reports, roll it out. Well targeted emails that provide value to recipients are rarely rejected.
  • Use your email marketing to improve customer relationships. Invest time in understanding your customers’ problems and creating solutions. The more problems you solve, the less likely they will leave. Email is an excellent tool for creating unbreakable bonds because it is effective, efficient and economical.
  • Measure everything on a regular basis. The better your data, the easier it is to improve results. Consistently digging through the data provides insight into how your subscribers behave. The more you know about their tendencies, the easier it becomes to create campaigns that motivate them.

How to Get Engaged Prospects to Buy

“How do we get customers engaged on our blog and other social media to buy or transact with us? How do we make that leap?” It’s a common question and you’re not alone in asking it. Here’s my answer: Getting engaged sales prospects to consider a purchase or actually transact is easy if you return to trusty, time-tested, proven basic direct response practices.

“How do we get customers engaged on our blog and other social media to buy or transact with us? How do we make that leap?”

It’s a common question and you’re not alone in asking it. Here’s my answer: Getting engaged sales prospects to consider a purchase or actually transact is easy if you return to trusty, time-tested, proven basic direct response practices.

  1. Solving customers’ problems
  2. Designing to sell (planning social experiences to provoke customer responses that connect to the sales funnel)
  3. Translating (discovering customer need as it evolves and using this knowledge to improve response and conversion rate)

How to Sell by Solving Problems
Making things like blogs, YouTube videos, Facebook, Twitter and the like actually sell challenges us to trust traditional instincts—to evolve, not reinvent. The social aspects of attracting, nurturing and earning a purchase are already known. Successful social sellers are designing interactions (“conversations”) in ways that solve customers’ problems. This approach makes it easy to help customers guide themselves toward products and services.

Solving customers problems has always worked! It’s a simple, effective way to produce awareness, interest, desire and purchase behavior. Providing answers to customers’ questions remains the best way to effectively coax or nurture customers toward making a purchase. Social media is inherently interactive, making this process even easier to accomplish.

The key is using this familiar process, not figuring out what time of the week earns more Twitter retweets (or other nonsensical yet popular recommendations we often hear).

Get Customers to Ask Questions That Connect to Products
Making social media sell for you is a matter of facilitating, and then connecting, question-and-answer oriented, digital conversations to helpful products and services whenever they’re relevant. It’s an old idea that you can leverage to drive sales with “new,” social media.

Think about it in your own life. Have you ever found yourself suddenly more equipped to make a purchase based on knowledge you suddenly became aware of? Think about it in your business, outside the Internet. Do you publish whitepapers, magazine articles, or other self-diagnosis tools to help customers become more clear on problems, avoid risk, or exploit unseen opportunities? Are you doing it in ways that occasionally connect with your products or services?

Beware: Just like cranking out whitepapers or information-dense brochures, earning sales takes more. Success requires relevancy and earning response from customers. That means making a habit of inducing customer behavior with every tweet, post, or update you make on social platforms. And that takes a plan, a designed system of question-and-answer driven interactions.

Beware of the Digital Charlatans
As I discuss in the June edition of Target Marketing, beware. Paradigm shifts and “total game-changers” are a goldmine for gurus and self-appointed experts pushing flash-in-the-pan software, books (Full disclosure: I wrote a social media book) and consulting services. There’s nothing wrong with making a living, but beware of misguided advice designed to scare otherwise rational business people into making irrational, hasty investments and spending money on ideas that don’t work.

Successful social sellers understand that the difference between fooling around on social media and selling with it relies on a return to the basics.

Why Your Engaging Content Won’t Produce Leads

The ugly truth is, for many of us, engaging customers creates profitless prosperity—impressive marketing statistics that don’t ultimately, directly help generate leads and sales. Engagement is creating momentary value that is aloof from any kind of sales lead management process. Yet businesses who do create sales using social selling know something the rest of us don’t. Let’s find out what that something is.

The ugly truth is, for many of us, engaging customers creates profitless prosperity—impressive marketing statistics that don’t ultimately, directly help generate leads and sales. Engagement is creating momentary value that is aloof from any kind of sales lead management process. Yet businesses who do create sales using social selling know something the rest of us don’t. Let’s find out what that something is.

Why We’re Failing to Sell with Engagement
For years now, we’ve been rising each morning, downing our coffee and suffering through questions like, “How do I know what to blog each day?” And the biggie, “How do I become engaging enough to produce leads and sales?”

Most of us are busy producing engaging content on LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube and other social media. But in the end, even our most engaging blogs, YouTube videos and other forms of online publication fail to produce leads and sales. At best, sales are blindly attributed to content as part of a mass media branding success using fuzzy math. Why?

My on-going research confirms it: We’re failing to create sales engaging social media because we’re building content marketing on an outdated foundation. We’re clinging to mass media advertising ideas and values. Instead, we should be exploiting direct response marketing tactics.

“Marketers often come from two distinct backgrounds,” says best-selling author and IBM distinguished engineer Mike Moran.

“Brand marketers are the ones whose work you see on TV. They are all about branding, brand image, brand awareness—use whatever word you want—and their success has made Coca-Cola and many other consumer products into household names. Direct marketers are decidedly less sexy … constantly searching for the next idea that increases response. They are all about sales, and couldn’t care less about brand image as long as the cash register rings.”

Moran says engagement marketers with an interest in driving sales have much to learn from the practice of direct response marketing. Again, it’s not about influencing or leading thought, it’s about being a thought provoker.

How to Always Make the Sale
Why do so many of us pursue getting “liked” on Facebook or followed on Twitter? Because of this single idea: getting a lot of customers’ attention (reach) over and over (frequency) is enough to earn a sale … somehow, sometime. This is how advertising works.

Today’s best social sellers do not believe for a minute that exposure to engaging content will result in a sale. They have no faith that it will produce a lead. Rather, they believe in, and execute on, carefully mixing in calls-to-action. The content they create solves customers’ problems or vividly demonstrates (proves … think “infomercial”) compelling experiences relating to their service.

The best way to sell on Facebook is to solve customers’ problems (yes “for free”) in ways that earn trust and ultimately help them navigate their way toward your paid products and services. And by the way, I’m not saying attention or branding doesn’t matter. It does. I’m simply saying it’s not enough. Stopping at earning customers fleeting attention is a sure-fire losing strategy online.

I say avoid getting sucked into the profitless prosperity black hole by thinking in terms of direct response marketing when engaging with social media and content marketing. What do you think?

How to Know What to Blog—Always and Forever

How do I decide what to write about in my blog? What’s the right balance of “providing value” and my product/service? These are great questions and everyone is asking them. So here I am answering them. In doing so I’m demonstrating how I, myself, generate leads for my business. Sure, I’m about to provide you with value, but if this story is going to serve a business purpose I need to write it as part of a larger plan, a content marketing system designed to produce leads and sales.

How do I decide what to write about in my blog? What’s the right balance of “providing value” and my product/service? These are great questions and everyone is asking them. So here I am answering them. In doing so I’m demonstrating how I, myself, generate leads for my business. Sure, I’m about to provide you with value, but if this story is going to serve a business purpose I need to write it as part of a larger plan, a content marketing system designed to produce leads and sales.

And by the way, I like writing this stuff. I do it with pleasure and so can you, providing you take pride in serving your market.

Gotcha With the Headline
As you can see, my headline got your interest enough to earn your click. it was pithy, useful, unique and very specific to a pain you’re experiencing. So make sure your headlines on Twitter, your blogs—anywhere and everywhere—are the same.

The hands-down source for just about everything blogging is Brian Clark’s Copyblogger. At the end of this article I’ll give you a link to his Magnetic Headlines resource that will give you the practical knowledge, inspiration and motivation to write nothing but magnetic headlines.

It’s About the Problem, Not ‘Value’
Ok, so you’re still reading. Why? Probably because you think I have the cure for your pain. I effectively secured your attention and now am beginning to scratch an itch you have (your urge to find a better way to blog). Of course, I’ve also set your expectation and had better deliver! I’d better provide value.

My point is focus this: Focus on customers’ problems. It’s not about providing value. Providing value is a meaningless industry buzz term, folks. Functionally it’s a cop-out. Your success at lead-focused blogging (and keeping your sanity if not finding a bit of joy in your work) depends on addressing your customers’ problems in a systematic way.

The System
The best way to describe the system is this: Be an answer center for your customers. Good news! This is a familiar concept to many direct marketers. But those who aren’t traditionally “direct savvy” are getting in on the game too.

The idea of being an answer center for prospective and current customers isn’t new to Amanda Kinsella of Logan Services. It’s what this residential heating and air conditioning product and services company has been doing for many years offline—at home improvement shows, for instance.

What works in blogging is rooted in an old idea: trading answers to serious problems with customers for insight on their “state of need” as a way to nurture leads (not just relationships) to fruition. “Then we can be there when prospects need our products and services,” says Kinsella.

Think about it in terms of your business. Might you already be helping customers solve problems in ways that capture information on the prospect’s “state of need” in return? When you answer questions for customers do you ask them in ways that lead customers to asking more? This is the key.

The Purpose of ‘Providing Value’
Ms. Kinsella says hammering away at calls-to-action and constantly asking for the sale won’t work. Because it never has. It’s not very sociable. What will? A more traditional, familiar tactic: answering questions that are important to the prospect in ways that entice them to ask more.

That’s providing value, yes, but Logan Services always provides this information in return for insight on their prospect’s need—where they are in the purchase consideration process, for instance. These details always-always-always connect to a lead-nurturing process. That’s the purpose of providing value. Right? The trick is to answer questions in ways that prompt more questions.

One Simple Idea That Works
Put this idea of answering your customers most frequently asked questions (or FAQ’s) to work today. Make the questions your headlines and the answers your bait. Make the answers complete (valuable) but always leading to more questions.

Dangle a hook nearby (in the form of a call to action) for a “complete guide to” resource that requires email registration, for instance. But resist rolling into the office and asking, “How often should we post stories on our blog, and on what day is best to get re-tweeted?”

Be like Amanda. Ask a different question. “What problems do my customers need solved? What itches can I scratch for them today?”

“How can I measure the value of a blog subscriber? How much engagement on her blog or re-tweets on Twitter is needed to have a positive effect?” People like Amanda don’t know—and don’t care. Because they know it’s the wrong question.

Here’s that link to Copyblogger that I promised!

How to Convert LinkedIn Contacts into Qualified Leads

Answering your customers’ most commonly asked questions opens the door for discovery … and for brands to make relevant suggestions. You can offer prospects a friendly tip or useful trick or, if appropriate, outline benefits of taking a trial, downloading a whitepaper or attending your webinar.

Turning LinkedIn contacts or LinkedIn Group members into leads rarely happens using what I call passive engagement. It takes something more than occupying prospects’ time. You’ve got to convince them to sign up for your webinar or download your whitepaper.

Luckily, converting LinkedIn contacts to leads is easy. Just start by solving your target market’s problems in ways they find irresistible. Then plan engagement—carefully map it out to connect your target customers’ questions to the answers your content marketing devices (webinars, whitepaper) deliver.

The Engagement Myth
If you’re like most B-to-B marketers, you’re struggling to turn LinkedIn contacts and group members into leads. But getting it done is easier than you think. After a year of interviewing B-to-B and business to consumer businesses experiencing remarkable success using social media I found the common success principle: Ditching passive engagement—and giving contacts, friends, followers and such a reason to offer more than a “like” or merely consume content.

Many LinkedIn gurus claim awareness, reach and influence leads to conversion. They say, “regular online participation in LinkedIn Groups and with followers on other social platforms can convert them from followers into leads and on to customers.”

Yes, it can but this belief isn’t much different than the “reach and frequency” promise of advertising. Namely, if we beat the drum loud enough (reach) and often enough (frequency) it will cause people to perform an action—register, attend, download. As Dr. Phil likes to say, “and how’s that working for ya?” This is what I call passive engagement.

But there is a better way: Designing engagement to produce actions by solving customers’ problems in places where questions often get asked—like LinkedIn Groups.

Solve Customers’ Problems
You’ve probably heard that posting a certain number of times, on certain subjects, on certain days inside LinkedIn Groups where your target market congregates is the key that unlocks success with LinkedIn. Or maybe you’ve heard that frequent posting of blogs you’ve written in LinkedIn Groups will generate leads. These ideas don’t work. The key to success is solving customers’ problems in provocative ways.

For instance, use LinkedIn to generate questions among customers that your webinar or whitepaper gives answers to. Creatively bait customers to communicate or complain about problems (in LinkedIn Groups) that your content marketing device provides solutions for. Next, provoke actions—exploit those complaints by enticing, “ethically bribing” prospects to register for a webinar, download or perform an action that helps you qualify them as leads. It’s a snap.

Scratch Customers’ Itches in LinkedIn Groups
For instance, grocery store Harris-Teeter pays customers to ask its dietician health-related questions on Facebook. Why would a grocer—or you—do that? Because helping customers put out a fire or scratch a bothersome itch is powerful. It can be done on any social platform where your target audience is engaging, like LinkedIn.

Answering your customers’ most commonly asked questions opens the door for discovery … and for brands to make relevant suggestions. You can offer prospects a friendly tip or useful trick or, if appropriate, outline benefits of taking a trial, downloading a whitepaper or attending your webinar.

Always beware: leads don’t “just happen” passively using LinkedIn. You need to solve problems with a plan in mind. That said, using a question-and-answer technique takes much of the work out of the process. It can even be fun. What do you think about giving this a try?

How Your Bank Can Generate Leads with Social Media

You are about to discover a step-by-step way to make social media increase share of customer wallet for your bank or credit union. Whether you’re a branch manager, a banking associate or corporate executive at a major institution, keep reading and I’ll give you the key to unlock success.

You are about to discover a step-by-step way to make social media increase share of customer wallet for your bank or credit union. Whether you’re a branch manager, a banking associate or corporate executive at a major institution, keep reading and I’ll give you the key to unlock success. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs can help you actually get customers to identify themselves as candidates for your most important products.

Skeptical? I don’t blame you. But think about it. How will it feel to know that everything you’re doing with social media will result in more leads? Let’s get going. Here are my best tips to help unlock the true potential of social media marketing in your institution.

Solve Problems & Answer Questions
Today’s most successful banks and credit unions are setting aside the technical and tactical aspects of social media and, first, focusing on solving customers’ and members problems. I talk about this problem-solving and behavior-focused approach more in my book, Off the Hook Marketing but, in essence, this requires having a focused plan.

Close examination of successful banks, like Wisconsin’s AnchorBank, reveals a key success principle: make everything you do with/on social media answer a burning question or solve a problem for customers in ways that drive behavior.

Scratch Customers’ Itches
For instance, you might use Facebook to spark a discussion among college students aimed on avoiding an increasing problem like personal bankruptcy. Telling true, horrific stories can be paired with sensible approaches—good credit management habits to form. Those sensible approaches can be leveraged into behavior in ways that connect customers’ problems to answers—your products.

But beware: they aren’t just answering questions or listening to customers using social media. They’re taking the time to capture insights on customers’ problems, fears and goals. They are finding what’s itching customers so they can scratch those itches.

Provoke Responses
Are your tweets, posts or updates designed to provoke a response, generate customer behavior? The fact is today’s most successful, socially-savvy banks and credit unions are using social media to provoke responses from customers.

For instance, when using Facebook it’s best to give customers a reason to think about something that’s important to them in a powerful new way—something that gives customers a reason to contact a banker. Why would a customer do that? So they can more clearly understand what you just provoked. Again, consider the prior example with college students.

Translate Need
Now I know this goes against what “the gurus” say but the key to success is avoiding “telling stories” with social media. Resist broadcasting stories; instead, structure interactions with customers in ways that prompt them to tell you about their pain points or financial goals. Once you have this knowledge, your goal is to prompt them to ask questions—that your products often answer.

And beware: don’t stop at informing customers and avoid entertaining them. Focus on purpose-driven interactions that are part of a dialogue—a translation process. Whenever appropriate, guide customers toward products they actually want and need.

That’s it. This is the best, most effective, step-by-step way to make social media increase share of customer wallet for your bank or credit union. Now go get ’em!