List-building 2.0: 7 Tips for Using ‘Power’ Polls For Prospecting

Most people know Web 2.0 is simply the evolution of the Internet into an environment of interactivity, reader participation and usability. Web 2.0 opens up the dialog between user and website or blog. This connection can help generate traffic and a viral buzz.

Most people know Web 2.0 is simply the evolution of the Internet into an environment of interactivity, reader participation and usability. Web 2.0 opens up the dialog between user and website or blog. This connection can help generate traffic and a viral buzz.

But from a search engine marketing (SEM) standpoint, the benefits are clear and measurable: More traffic and frequent interactivity (or posts) equal better organic (free) rankings in search engine results. Getting good organic rankings is a powerful way to find qualified prospective customers.

So what online tactic encourages Web 2.0 principles as well as helps with search engine results page rank, visibility and listing-building efforts? Targeted online prospecting polls, also known as “acquisition” or “lead generation” polls.

Based on the specificity of your poll question, online acquisition polls can help you: collect relevant names and email addresses; gauge general market (or subscriber) sentiment; and generate sales (via a redirect to a synergistic promotional page). Polls also allow for interactivity, where participants can sound off about a hot topic.

I’ve been including strategic acquisition polls in my online marketing strategy for nearly a decade now and have rarely been disappointed with the results. Some websites, like surveymonkey.com, allow members to set up free or low-cost surveys and polls. However, it may not allow you to include a name-collection component or a redirect to a promotional or “thank you” webpage, which is essential for a success.

If that’s the case, either ask your Webmaster to build you a proprietary poll platform or use a poll script. You can find examples at hotscripts.com, ballot-box.net/faq.php, and micropoll.com.

Here are seven ways to help create a winning prospecting poll campaign:

1. Engage. Your poll question should engage the reader, encourage participation, pique interest and tie into a current event. And be sure to have a “comments” field where people can make additional remarks. Sample topics: politics, the economy, health, consumer breakthroughs, the stock market, foreign affairs.

2. Relevance. Your poll question should also be related to your product, free e-newsletter editorial, or free bonus report (which can be used as incentive). This will greatly improve your conversion rate. Let’s say your free offer is a sign-up to a stock market e-newsletter and the upsell is a redirect landing page promotion to a paid gold investment newsletter for $39/yr. In that case, your poll question should be tied with the editorial copy and product, something like “Where is gold headed in 2013?” Investors who favor gold (your target audience), will respond to this question … and engage. You are gaining these qualified prospects as leads and perhaps buying customers.

3. Incentive. After people take your poll, tell them that to thank them for their participation, you’re automatically signing them up for your quality, free e-newsletter or e-alerts … which they can opt out of at any time. To reduce the number of bogus email addresses you get, offer an extra incentive free “must-read” report, too. And assuming it’s your policy not to sell or rent email names to third parties (and it should be, based on email best practices), indicate your privacy/anti-spam policy next to the sign-up button on your email sign up form. This will immediately reassure people that it’s safe and worry-free to give you their email addresses.

4. Flag. Having your poll question somehow tie into your product makes the names you collect extremely qualified for future offers. Each name should be flagged by your database folks according to the answer they gave by topic category. You can create buckets for each product segment. Using our investing e-newsletter example, categories could be gold, oil, income, equities, etc. Segmenting the names into such categories will make it easier for you to send targeted offers later.

5. Results. Use the poll feedback for new initiatives. In addition to collecting names, online polls will help you gauge general market opinion—and could help you come up with new products.

6. Bonding. Strengthen your new relationships. You need to reinforce the connection between the poll people just participated in and your e-newsletter. So make sure each name that comes in gets an immediate “thank you” for taking the poll. This could be via autoresponder or redirect “thank you” page. On your “thank you” page/email, can be a link for the downloadable, free e-report you promised. Consider sending a series of informational, warm and fuzzy editorial autoresponders to help new subscribers get to know who you are, what you do and how your e-newsletter will benefit them. This will help improve their lifetime customer value.

7. Results. Gratify participants with the results. Don’t just leave poll participants hanging. Make sure you tell them the results will be published in your free e-newsletter or on your website (to encourage them to check it regularly), and then upload the results, as well as some of your best, most engaging comments. This is great editorial fodder, as well as helpful to increasing website readership and traffic.

Marketers have used polls internally (on their own company websites) for years. But now more than ever, with its cost effectiveness and efficiency, polls can be used to collect targeted leads and interact with prospects.

Polls aren’t just for finding leads, either. They are also great for measuring market sentiment, doing competitor analysis and new product development; which, in turn, can help customer retention, customer service and sales.

Getting Started With Email Segmentation

Creating effective email connections that drive response and revenue requires segmentation. That sounds fine in concept, as many marketers know they need to do more segmentation in order to engage subscribers and break through the clutter. However, many marketers struggle with getting access to data and developing creative approaches that match the customer lifecycle. I urge you to not be intimidated. Demand greater data integration and access from your vendors. Start testing new content and creative approaches so that you can be automated and fully functioning immediately.

Creating effective email connections that drive response and revenue requires segmentation. That sounds fine in concept, as many marketers know they need to do more segmentation in order to engage subscribers and break through the clutter. However, many marketers struggle with getting access to data and developing creative approaches that match the customer lifecycle. I urge you to not be intimidated. Demand greater data integration and access from your vendors. Start testing new content and creative approaches so that you can be automated and fully functioning immediately.

Ease into segmentation to avoid overtaxing your precious resources. Use early tests to learn about subscriber interests and understand key success metrics. Doing so will build your confidence and help you make a case for automation, data integration and creative services — all of which are essential for advanced segmentation and better results.

There are two ways to get your arms around your segmentation opportunity, both with the goal of “right message, right person, right time.”

  1. Segment by customer profile and craft messages around customer demographics, firmagraphics and behavior.
  2. Segment by customer life stage and speak to customers who are in specific life stages.

Customer profile segmentation: With profile approaches, even simple segmentation can make a big difference. Separate your file into large segments that distinguish subscribers by a factor that has significance to your business. Clickers are a good place to start. Those subscribers who have clicked on something in the past month are more likely to be engaged than those who haven’t.

You can do less storytelling with clickers. For example, a retailer may simply alert clickers that a sale continues until Friday or put in specific sale prices for pants, sweaters and scarves. A business software marketer may send clickers three of their most popular whitepapers or an invitation to participate in a LinkedIn community. In both cases, clickers need less background info and more options to get them to act, whereas nonclickers may need more guidance and education prior to taking action.

Why burden clickers with info they don’t need and that gets in the way of their actions? At the same time, don’t skimp on critical storytelling information for nonclickers, as they clearly don’t have a strong connection with your offer yet.

Other starter segments worth testing include new subscribers versus long-time subscribers, buyers, geography (e.g., north versus south) and gender.

Draw segment lines around key drivers for your business — i.e., differentiators that give you a clear path to a custom message that will make an impact. For many B-to-B marketers, the most important driver of customization is job title. For B-to-C retailers, the key data point is most recent purchase. Don’t choose geography if location has no bearing on purchase behavior. Your business is unique, but good marketers understand the key customer attributes that lead to increased sales and satisfaction. Focus there for your segmentation and you’ll be rewarded with the biggest lift.

Life stage segmentation: To effectively segment by life stage, first abandon the notion that every email program has to be a long-term affair. Short-term email conversations can be even more powerful, particularly because they address a specific need at the time when that need is most acute. A four-message reminder series that disrupts the messaging flow around renewal time can be much more powerful than a generic newsletter which comes like clockwork every two weeks. Why not replace the newsletter with custom messaging for all customers who are up for renewal in a particular quarter? Similarly, create custom series of two messages to 20 messages that cluster around that particular life stage.

Remember to think through the dialog of the conversation if the message series is longer than three messages so that you can intensify, cease or adapt the message stream to accommodate response. For example, stop pitching the purchase midstream if someone has already upgraded from a free trial.

Not every email program has to be long term. The goal of “right message, right person, right time” can be achieved through segmentation that focuses on a specific life stage as well as customer profile.

What are your biggest challenges when it comes to nurturing engagement via segmentation strategies? Perhaps I can address them in a future blog or learn from others handling of them.

Online Retailers Need to Get Serious About Online Security

Online retailers, listen up: Earlier this week in its e-mail authentication report, the Online Trust Alliance (formerly the Authentication Online Trust Alliance) gave online retailers a failing grade in preventing deceptive e-mail and phishing scams.

Deceptive e-mails and phishing scams refer to forged e-mails that purport to come from legitimate brand owners. If you’re receiving a failing grade in this, you’re really shooting yourself in the foot.

Online retailers, listen up: Earlier this week in its e-mail authentication report, the Online Trust Alliance (formerly the Authentication Online Trust Alliance) gave online retailers a failing grade in preventing deceptive e-mail and phishing scams.

Deceptive e-mails and phishing scams refer to forged e-mails that purport to come from legitimate brand owners. If you’re receiving a failing grade in this, you’re really shooting yourself in the foot.

E-mail authentication, which equips e-mail messages with verifiable information so recipients can recognize the nature of each incoming message automatically, has grown over the past year, according to the OTA. Nevertheless, the OTA found that 45 percent of the top 300 revenue-generating e-retail sites have not adopted e-mail authentication. The alliance said this lack of adoption leaves brands, domains and consumers exposed to security and privacy threats.

“Authentication is the best tactic to use to counter phishing scams,” OTA Chairman and Founder Craig Spiezle told me earlier this week, adding that authentication is an easy fix. And for goodness sakes, it’s free.

Many leading brands — including Amazon, Dell, Office Depot, Apple, Costco and Staples — have adopted increased online security measures, according to the OTA. But many others — including Sears, Victoria’s Secret, Gap and Nordstrom — still don’t adequately protect their brands and customers through e-mail authentication. “These brands need to step up to the plate and protect their consumers and stockholders,” Spiezle said.

Spiezle did indicate that among the top 100 online e-retailers, “we are close to 70 percent of adoption. So, what this indicates is that, in general, bigger companies are recognizing the value of authentication.”

When you look at the top 200, Spiezle said, “adoption drops to 59 percent and then to 55 percent when looking at the top 300.”

OTA will also release similar data on the Fortune 500 at the upcoming OTA Online Trust Town Hall Meeting on April 23 in San Francisco. At the forum, OTA will also present best practices including data governance, privacy and behavioral targeting with the goal of increasing the adoption of best practices to protect consumers.

It seems to me that if you’re an online e-tailer, it would make sense to do whatever it is you can to make sure that your brand is protected. And since it’s easy and free, it makes even more sense. Do your brand a favor, authenticate!

DMA International E-mail Guide Available

Did you know that “forward-to-a-friend” or “member-get-member” marketing techniques in e-mail are currently permitted in Argentina, Hong Kong and Israel, but not in Hungary or Poland? Or that while Canada does not have legislation specifically addressing the issue of e-mail marketing, key legislation for e-mail marketers is the federal privacy law, or PIPEDA. Or that in China there is no legal definition or best practice that specifically defines “opt-in?”

Did you know that “forward-to-a-friend” or “member-get-member” marketing techniques in e-mail are currently permitted in Argentina, Hong Kong and Israel, but not in Hungary or Poland? Or that while Canada does not have legislation specifically addressing the issue of e-mail marketing, key legislation for e-mail marketers is the federal privacy law, or PIPEDA. Or that in China there is no legal definition or best practice that specifically defines “opt-in?”

These were just a few of the facts I learned thumbing through the Direct Marketing Association’s very useful International Email Compliance Resource Guide. The book is a compendium of e-mail marketing regulations and practices for individual countries.

The report is valuable for two reasons:

  • International e-mail marketing is growing. Many companies today are looking for new opportunities to market their products and services abroad while the economy here is in the doldrums.
  • To my knowledge, there really isn’t easily accessible information of this nature available on the subject of international e-mail laws.

Here are some of the topics the DMA touches on in the guide:

  • affirmative consent;
  • legal definition of opt-in;
  • forward-to-a-friend;
  • privacy policy in e-mails; and
  • other best practices.

For the guide, the DMA developed a questionnaire targeting key areas of legislation regarding e-mail regulations and data protection. The questionnaire was then administered to preselected respondents who were knowledgeable about their country’s e-mail laws.

Responses varied from country to country based on the questions they answered. In cases where no questionnaire was submitted, a link to the relevant law is provided as well as contact information for local DMAs and/or departments of data protection.

I strongly suggest you check it out. To do so, click here.

Authentication Alliance Marks Data Privacy Day With Consumer Trust Best Practices

To mark World Data Privacy Day, Jan. 28, the Authentication and Online Trust Alliance published its top 10 list of privacy principles and business practices. These practices, many of which have been widely adopted by AOTA members, are calls to action for companies to help maximize consumer confidence and ultimately spur economic growth.

To mark World Data Privacy Day, Jan. 28, the Authentication and Online Trust Alliance published its top 10 list of privacy principles and business practices. These practices, many of which have been widely adopted by AOTA members, are calls to action for companies to help maximize consumer confidence and ultimately spur economic growth.

To me, it’s pretty simple: Adopt these principles or suffer the consequences of a consumer trust meltdown. And that could invite regulation, according to AOTA Founder/Chairman Criag Spiezel. Here’s what the group recommends you do, edited a bit:

1. Ensure all privacy policies are discoverable, transparent and written to ensure consumer comprehension, accessible from every page of a Web site and/or e-mail.

2. Periodically contact users and provide them with your company privacy policy upon any changes for their review; allow for provisions for consumer choice or their data usage.

3. Establish and publish procedures for data collection, transfer and retention; perform third-party or self-audits for compliance.

4. Support collaborative, global, public-privacy efforts to increase consumer awareness and education, as well as the adoption of fair information practices and privacy/security regimes (e.g., the appointment of a national chief privacy officer).

5. Support self-regulatory efforts to adopt standard data retention/use policies.

6. Set and publish standards of privacy, security and data retention policies with clear accountability between first-party sites and third-party content providers and advertisers.

7. Create response plans for accidental disclosure of personal information and data breaches, including notification to consumers and governmental agencies. Provide relevant remedies to consumers (e.g., no-charge credit record monitoring services to those affected, or other remedies as appropriate).

8. Commit to authenticating all outbound e-mail with Domain Keys Identified Mail and/or Sender ID Framework to combat forged e-mail and potential privacy exploits within six months.

9. Transactional sites should adopt Extended Validation Secure Sockets Layer Certificates within six months or upon existing certificate expiration.

10. All consumer-facing sites should obtain privacy certification and seals from third-party providers or other third-party consumer dispute resolution mechanisms.

More details can be found here.

Are you following these best practices? If not, why? Let’s start a dialogue on the subject. Post a comment now.

Digital Ad Spend to Grow 8.9 Percent

Digital advertising spending will grow by 8.9 percent to $25.7 billion this year, and digital media consumption will approach 20 percent as a share of media. These were key statistics presented by Bruce Biegel, senior managing director of the Winterberry Group, a direct marketing consulting firm, during the Jan. 8 Direct Marketing Club of New York luncheon in New York City.

Digital advertising spending will grow by 8.9 percent to $25.7 billion this year, and digital media consumption will approach 20 percent as a share of media. These were key statistics presented by Bruce Biegel, senior managing director of the Winterberry Group, a direct marketing consulting firm, during the Jan. 8 Direct Marketing Club of New York luncheon in New York City.

In his presentation, “Outlook 2009: What to Expect in Direct & Digital Marketing,” Biegel pointed out that digital marketers will have to pay a lot more attention to measurement and analytics this year.

“Marketers need to solve the ‘Where did they come from and what happened when they got here’ questions,” he told attendees. This year, marketers also must improve digital channel integration — such as e-mail and search, and display and search — and will need to be more selective in what media and services they buy, and from whom.

E-mail will remain a cost-effective marketing channel, Biegel said, with e-mail spending projected to triple from $472 million in 2008 to $1.4 billion by 2012. This year, marketers also will focus on better e-mail integration with other channels, Biegel said, but will keep searching for the most relevant messages and most appropriate frequencies.

Even though search spending is projected to grow by only 15 percent this year — down from the 21 percent growth in 2008 — Biegel said the channel is still strong. “Search, with its strong ROI from trackable, performance-driven marketing, is recession-resistant,” Biegel said.

Other findings Biegel presented include:

  • online display spending growth is expected to grow to $4.9 billion in 2009, following a slowdown in the second half of 2008;
  • mobile marketing spending is projected to rise to $1 billion — up 28 percent over last year — driven by direct response and execution/measurement improvements; and
  • social media spending is projected to grow 10 percent to $1.3 billion, then face a slowdown later in the year.

Vendors in the Interactive Marketing Space React Positively to New FTC CAN–SPAM Rules

Vendors from the interactive marketing space are reacting positively to the news from earlier this week that the Federal Trade Commission has approved four new rule provisions under the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003 (CAN-SPAM).

According to the FTC, the provisions–which are intended to clarify the Act’s requirements–address four topics:

Vendors from the interactive marketing space are reacting positively to the news from earlier this week that the Federal Trade Commission has approved four new rule provisions under the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003 (CAN-SPAM).

According to the FTC, the provisions–which are intended to clarify the Act’s requirements–address four topics:

(1) an e-mail recipient cannot be required to pay a fee, provide information other than his or her e-mail address and opt-out preferences, or take any steps other than sending a reply e-mail message or visiting a single Internet Web page to opt out of receiving future e-mail from a sender;

(2) the definition of “sender” was modified to make it easier to determine which of multiple parties advertising in a single e-mail message is responsible for complying with the Act’s opt-out requirements;

(3) a “sender” of commercial e-mail can include an accurately-registered post office box or private mailbox established under U.S. Postal Service regulations to satisfy the Act’s requirement that a commercial e-mail display a “valid physical postal address”; and

4) a definition of the term “person” was added to clarify that CAN-SPAM’s obligations are not limited to natural persons.

Quinn Jalli, Chief Privacy Officer for online marketing firm Datran Media said he believes that legitimate marketers will embrace the new regulations, as they significantly reduce the complexity of complying with the law in a joint-marketing scenario.

“The FTC’s position is well in line with the prevailing philosophy in the industry, and the new regulations align the law with common-sense expectations,” he said. “[The new regulations] are a win for marketers and consumers alike.”

In a press release, Matt Wise, CEO of Q Interactive, an interactive marketing services provider, also announced support for the FTC’s revised definition of e-mail “sender”.

“Since CAN-SPAM’s inception, there has been pervasive confusion in the marketplace over responsibility for including opt-out links in e-mail, which has led to inconsistent execution of the unsubscribe process, increased risk of unsubscribe list abuse, additional and unnecessary costs for advertisers, and an overall reduction in the efficiency of the medium,” Wise said in the release.

Q Interactive said that under the revised ruling, companies advertising with e-mail can now designate a single e-mail “sender” responsible for adhering to the rules of CAN-SPAM, which include having the “sender’s name in the e-mail “from line” and providing a working opt-out link and physical address.

The FTC’s revised “sender” definition, Wise said “eliminates the confusion and frustration over multiple opt-out links for consumers and makes it as easy as possible for them to unsubscribe from unwanted e-mails, which, in essence, is the primary purpose of the CAN-SPAM Act.”

Opening Up a Dialogue About Spam

I learned about an interesting survey yesterday.

It basically was focused on the fact that many legitimate advertisers following the e-mail industry’s best practices still find themselves not connecting with consumers due to the spam button.

I learned about an interesting survey yesterday.

It basically was focused on the fact that many legitimate advertisers following the e-mail industry’s best practices still find themselves not connecting with consumers due to the spam button.

As a result, online marketing services provider Q Interactive and marketing research firm Marketing Sherpa conducted a survey to look into consumers’ definition of spam. What did they find? For starters, that there is a big disconnect between what consumers see as spam and what is considered to be spam by the interactive community.

According to the two firms’ “Spam Complainers Survey,” the definition of spam has changed from the permission-based regulatory definition of “unsolicited commercial e-mail” to a perception-based definition centered on consumer dissatisfaction.

In fact, according to the survey, more than half of the participants–56 percent–consider marketing messages from known senders to be spam if the message is “just not interesting to me”. In addition, 50 percent of respondents consider “too frequent e-mails from companies I know” to be spam and 31 percent cite “e-mails that were once useful but aren’t relevant anymore”. (Respondents could select more than one answer for multiple questions in the survey.)

When it comes to using the “report spam” button—the primary tool Internet Service Providers (ISPs) provide consumers to counter the problem—nearly half of respondents (48 percent) provided a reason other than “did not sign up for e-mail” for why they reported an e-mail as spam. In fact, underscoring consumers’ varying definitions of spam, respondents cited a variety of non-permission-based reasons for hitting the spam button, including “the e-mail was not of interest to me” (41 percent); “I receive too much e-mail from the sender” (25 percent); and “I receive too much e-mail from all senders” (20 percent).

The surey also found that there is a pervasive confusion among consumers regarding what they believe will happen as a result of clicking the “report spam” button. Over half of respondents, 56 percent, for example, reported it will “filter all e-mail from that sender” while 21 percent believe it will notify the sender that the recipient did not find that specific e-mail useful so the sender will “do a better job of mailing me” in the future. Even more indicative of the lack of understanding, 47 percent believe they will be unsubscribed from the list by clicking “report spam” while 53 percent do not believe the button it is a method to unsubscribe.

Not surprisingly, accompanying this confusion is the frequent misuse of the “report spam” button. The survey found a large number of consumers, 43 percent, forgo advertiser-supplied unsubscribe links in email and simply use the ISP’s “report spam” button to unsubscribe from an advertiser’s list—regardless of whether or not the email fits the consumer’s definition of spam. Moreover, a full one in five consumers (21 percent) use the “report spam” button to unsubscribe from e-mail they specifically do not consider spam.

To address this problem, Q Interactive has called for ISPs, marketers, advertisers and publishers to come together with industry associations such as the Interactive Advertising Bureau to agree on a solution that is beneficial to consumers and all interested parties. To begin the dialogue, Q Interactive suggests two points for discussion:

* Replace the broken “report spam” button with buttons that more clearly indicate consumers’ intentions such as an “unsubscribe” button and an “undesired” button.

* ISPs should categorize e-mail senders based on their practices to identify and reward senders who follow best practices in transparency and permission.

For the good of our industry, we should all pay heed.