LinkedIn InMail Changes: What B-to-B Sellers Should Do Next

The new LinkedIn InMail changes are in effect—leaving sales reps and managers upset and confused. InMail just got much more expensive for average B-to-B sellers. However, you can now access a nearly unlimited supply of InMail credits under the new policy—by making one small change to how you craft InMail messages.

The new LinkedIn InMail changes are in effect—leaving sales reps and managers upset and confused. InMail just got much more expensive for average B-to-B sellers. However, you can now access a nearly unlimited supply of InMail credits under the new policy—by making one small change to how you craft InMail messages.

Yes, I said nearly unlimited. No, I’m not kidding, nor risking my integrity.

There is a way to send 100 InMail messages and get 193 credits back (for you to re-use again).

Briefly, What Changed and Why?
When InMail was introduced, LinkedIn’s “guaranteed response” policy rewarded spammy messages. Oops. So, as of January, LinkedIn gives InMail credits (that you buy) back—BUT only for InMails that earn a response in 90 days.

This is radically new.

Under the old system if you did not receive a response within a week, the InMail credit you purchased was given back. LinkedIn guaranteed a response. However, this rewards you for failing.

For example, let’s say you purchased 50 InMails and sent them. A (poor) 10 percent response rate allowed you to earn credits and send over 400 InMails per month. Thus, the policy increased the amount of spammy InMail messages being sent. The system rewarded it.

What the New Policy Means to You
Going forward, you will receive a credit (get your money back) for each InMail receiving a response within 90 days. You can re-use the money to invest again … and again and again. But if you earn no reply (or a poor response rate) your money is wasted.

LinkedIn’s old InMail policy rewarded sellers who weren’t successful with InMail.

LinkedIn’s new InMail policy rewards you (only) for writing messages that get good response. How good?

If you send 100 InMails per month, with a steady 20 percent response rate, you will end up with about 125 total InMails to send-based on InMails credited back to your account.

How to Send 100 InMails and Get 193 Credits Back
If you’re an average InMail user, you’re seeing credits vanish lately. But there is a way to send 100 InMail messages and get 98 returned to you. Or even 193 credits back (for you to re-use again).

How? Write effective InMail messages.

For example, let’s say you earn a 50 percent response rate on your first batch of 100 InMails sent. Over time (as you use the InMail credits returned to you) you earn a total of 98 credits. Not bad. You get nearly all of your investment back for re-use.

But what if you were really good? Let’s say you earned a 70 percent response rate to your InMail messages? Hey, it’s possible. I have students who earn 73 percent response rates.

With a 70 percent response rate, you would earn 193 InMail credits (of your original 100) to re-use for prospecting.

In actual practice the math is a bit messy, due to the delays between prospects responding and LinkedIn’s re-issuing credits. But you get the picture.

Should You Stop Using InMail?
As much as it may hurt, your never-ending stream of InMail credits were part of LinkedIn’s lack of foresight. If you are considering investing in InMail you’re in luck. Learn from this experience. Most B-to-B sellers who invested in LinkedIn Sales Navigator (and InMail) are complaining loudly. Many are resigning accounts.

And they should.

As Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

Change for the better.

What to Do Next
LinkedIn’s InMail policy change is another signal. Another warning. A reason to abandon fairy-tale beliefs like:

  • Email prospecting doesn’t cost anything when it fails-or under-performs
  • It’s mostly a numbers game
  • Getting response and appointments means sending more emails

Yes, it is a numbers game. Just like cold-calling. But what is the basis of an effective cold-call routine?

An effective communications process. More specifically: A systematic, repeatable, scalable way to turn calls in to leads. I recently described this technique—gave next steps and templates to help make it easy.

If you aren’t serious about learning an effective process, you won’t experience predictable success.

“Lazy individuals will still be able to send indifferent InMails, but they won’t be rewarded for it.” says Bruce Johnston of The Practical Social Media blog.

“The new InMail system will reward people with imagination that experiment to get optimal response rates,” says Johnston.

Whether you pay cash for LinkedIn InMail credits or send standard emails to prospects … if it doesn’t work, it costs you. Cash or wasted time-time you should have spent doing something productive!

How do you feel about LinkedIn’s new InMail policy? What do you intend to do about it, looking forward?

Are We Hypocrites on Privacy?

I have been carefully reading the terms and conditions and privacy policies of companies to which I subscribe more often, lately. I am concerned about with whom my data is shared and under what conditions. While I hold my vendors to high standards, have I let our company’s standards slip?

I have been carefully reading the terms and conditions and privacy policies of companies to which I subscribe more often, lately. I am concerned about with whom my data is shared and under what conditions. While I hold my vendors to high standards, have I let our company’s standards slip?

With great confidence I can say, “No, I have not,” but can you?

My sister wears a FitBit. She explained to me it reminded her to walk 10,000 steps per day, and also enabled her to track her fitness progress on their website. That sounds great, I thought—until I read their privacy policy, one with gaping black holes and ambiguous terms. A privacy policy I found so objectionable the benefits simply did not justify the means.

After shopping for nearly a year, I recently bought an HTC phone—the unlocked version, which enables me to control which apps are installed and what they share. Though Google is by no means setting the standard for privacy, I feel Google is reluctant to share my information with others and so those are the only third-party apps allowed—no Facebook, no Twitter, no games, no sharing of any kind.

So, here are two instances where a company’s privacy policy has changed not just my habits, but my buying decisions. This got me to thinking about how many marketers’ privacy policies have been written in such a manner as to be intentionally ambiguous, somewhat misleading, or downright dishonest in order to encourage people to subscribe. As you set about collecting subscriber names, what are your answers to these hard questions:

  • Is your privacy complete and up to date?
  • Is your privacy policy clear and honest?
  • Do you use your subscriber names ONLY in the way you have described?
  • If your company marketing practices have changed, does your policy reflect these changes?
  • Are you collecting, or have you collected, information you did not disclose?
  • Do others have access to what you proclaimed as private?
  • Have you been hacked?
  • Has an employee taken your data with them when they left the company?

Some of these answers have the air of intent, while others present you as the victim. But in both cases, it’s time to update your policies, and this can present a wonderful, welcomed opportunity for dialog with your subscribers.

We’ve all received of one of those seemingly nefarious letters, “We’ve Updated Our Privacy Policy,” so how about a new take on an old problem: “Good News! We’ve Updated Our Privacy Policy to Give You Even More Privacy!”

If you’ve spent the last few years collecting data about your subscribers and you’ve found you’re not using the vast majority of it—and let’s face it, the data shows we’re simply not—it’s time to delete it from your list. If you haven’t used it thus far, it’s out of date and useless to you going forward. Delete it and brag about it. Send a cheery note to your subscribers reminding them that while others are collecting more and more, you are collecting less and you’re intentionally deleting everything you have not found directly useful to how you interact with them today and not specifically covered in your privacy policy.

Send them to a link with the shortest, sweetest privacy policy they’ve read, for example:

Our Privacy policy

  • We have on file only your first name, last name, and email address.
  • We ask for nothing else.
  • We send you only emails you request.
  • We have nothing to share with others, and wouldn’t if they asked.
  • We won’t change this policy without prior notice – ever.

Thank you for being our customer.

– Sincerely,
Your Grateful Vendor

No, I’ve never actually seen a policy like this, but if I did, I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase their wearables or buy their phone.

The Terms of Your Terms of Service

Most of us have a terms of service document on our websites, even if they’re mostly contained within our privacy policies. We reference these documents in much of our correspondence, including our business and marketing emails. Your privacy policy or terms of service sets the expectations for what your customers will receive from you as a company

Most of us have a terms of service (TOS) document on our websites, even if they’re mostly contained within our privacy policies. We reference these documents in much of our correspondence, including our business and marketing emails. Your privacy policy or terms of service sets the expectations for what your customers will receive from you as a company.

Recently, Google upgraded its terms of service to explicitly inform its customers they have automated systems analyzing content in order to deliver relevant ads and provide customization and security. General Mills in a separate, yet oddly related move, has changed its terms of service to inform customers who “like” their products on Facebook that they have given up their right to take the company to court if there’s a problem with the product.

As mentioned in previous articles, Google is already camped out in courtrooms for these business practices, and I am confident that General Mills will find similar legal challenges over their new draconian policies, which potentially create an adversarial relationship with their customers.

In both of these scenarios, and for our company, when the need arises to make changes to our policies, the new language is probably more enlightening to current customers, followers and subscribers than it is giving future customers sufficient warning—after all, when was the last time you read the terms of service of a new company with whom you’ve chosen to follow or create an account? Most of us are good about sending notices when we have a change in policy, and our subscribers are much more likely to read that than the original TOS.

The Trust Factor
As marketers and builders of brands, we know honesty is paramount. Building credibility and trust sells, whether it’s product or service. It’s why many of us choose to include a link to our privacy policies in our emails. We want our subscribers and customers to know we value their information and will do our best to protect it. When our privacy policy changes in a way not congruent with the original version the client may—or may not—have read, we run the risk of damaging the credibility we’ve worked so hard to build.

Companies such as Google and General Mills have the means to defend their companies against customers who object to the TOS changes, but for those of us who represent small- to medium-size businesses, lawsuits challenging a policy change could easily bankrupt even the most successful. What’s more, negative policy changes put us at odds with the very persons with whom we are trying to build a trusting relationship; and that is likely to land us, like Google and General Mills, on the social-media hot seat.

While truthfulness in our policies is necessary, it’s also important to give consideration to the delivery. Of course there is a need to have a TOS that protects us when a beautiful relationship becomes discourse, but a candy coating can make it that much easier for our customers to swallow. For a great take on how to deliver your TOS or make changes or updates to it, Daily Conversions did a great piece on this topic a couple years ago.

Our marketing emails are difficult to deliver and getting more so. We need to consider each component of the email to ensure deliverability improves over time, and a friendly, yet firm, privacy policy most certainly will have a positive effect.

Treat your recipients with respect—and humor when you can—and you will continue to create a nurturing, healthy, trustful relationship.

UPDATE: After I completed this article, General Mills announced (due to the severe roasting they took in social-media platforms), they will reverse their new policy. You can now safely like General Mills and reserve your right to sue them—not as though there was a whisper of a chance they could have defended their position in court, IMO.

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.