May 31, 2014

CASL Basics for Small Business

If you own a business and are using email, text messaging or social networks to promote products and services, you should know a bit about Canada's new anti-spam law (CASL), which comes into effect on July 1, 2014. The regulations, impact summary, bulletins and other resources are detailed and lengthy. I've been asked about this a lot over the past few weeks so I'm starting here with the very basics.

First, determine if your electronic message is commercial in nature. The law applies to commercial electronic messages (CEMs) only. A CEM is defined as encouraging participation in a business transaction or activity, regardless of whether there is an expectation of profit. Many messages sent in the process of doing business would be considered CEMs.

Here’s what you’ll need to do for those CEMs, starting July 1st:
  1. Get the consent of your recipients. The legislation requires obtaining "express" or "implied" consent. Express consent means that a person has clearly agreed to receive a CEM before it is sent. Consent may also be implied in certain situations, for instance if there is an existing relationship.
  2. Identify yourself in the message. Provide contact information, including your business name, postal address, and either a telephone number or email address.
  3. Include a mechanism that allows the recipient to unsubscribe from receiving additional messages. This must be at no cost to the recipient.
  4. Ensure that no part of the CEM is false or misleading, including your identity, subject line, web links, and text.

B2B organizations should take note that there is an exemption for persons sending CEMs to persons at another organization, where the CEMs concern the activities of that other organization. In this case, the requirements above do not apply.

What about those business cards? If someone gives you one, that is "implied" consent, as long as:
  • the message relates to the recipient's role, functions or duties in a business capacity
  • the recipient has not said they do not wish to receive marketing messages

There will be more in future posts about consent and what to do about your current subscribers. You can learn about the law at fightspam.gc.ca. (Note that some of this text has been copied word for word from the regulations and resources.)

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May 26, 2014

eMail Marketing has an ROI


Unlike some of the other marketing initiatives we undertake, email marketing can have very specific measurable results.

Consider...
  • The marketing consultant who locked down a $5000 contract as a direct result of a call to action in her newsletter
  • The speaker who was asked to write a column for a national magazine in response to his newsletter
  • The advisor who launched a speaking career when a speakers bureau responded to her newsletter
  • The trainer who filled a workshop
  • The entrepreneurs who filled a conference
  • The therapist, the nail technician, the coach and the spa that each booked many appointments
  • The wine store, the shoe store and the health store that sold more products
  • The author who sold more books
  • The many sold out events!

Certainly the ROI of some email marketing campaigns can’t be measured as specifically as this. And there are lots of smaller benefits which accrue over time. If you're wondering how an enewsletter might benefit your business, contact me for a chat.

May 21, 2014

The Wrong eMail Marketing Advice

These questions about email marketing should never be answered, “It doesn't matter.”
These are just a few of the things you'll need to know and decisions you'll have to make when you start your own enewsletter. The answers to these questions can have a significant impact on the success of your campaign. Don't let anyone tell you differently.

May 15, 2014

Loyalty isn't Instant

I've been keeping an eye on our blog because I know I’m approaching 250 articles and I want to celebrate that milestone. I've been feeling pretty good about that. Four years of consistent blogging is an accomplishment, don’t you think?

Jessie Toope stands by the Girl Guide monument in Bowring Park in this 2010 photo.
Jessie Toope by Girl Guide monument in Bowring Park 2010.
Now, here’s some perspective. I just finished reading this article in The Telegram (St. John’s, NL) about my aunt who recently passed away. Among her many other accomplishments, she wrote the Guiding column for The Telegram for 50 years (starting the year I was born). During that time, she wrote over 2000 columns! (The link above includes her last column.)

In a world where we now seem to measure success in months and even weeks, 50 years and 2000 articles seems rather daunting.

I have seen, though, what a long term consistent approach can do for a small business, at least as far as newsletters and blogging go anyway. When you demonstrate your loyalty to your readers by being consistent over time, they become loyal in return. Once you have loyalty, you have fansDoesn't every small business want fans?

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder May 15, 2014

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May 10, 2014

Commit to Consistency

Every single month since June 2011, Peter Chapman of GPS Business Solutions has been sending out an informational newsletter. It’s a shining example of commitment and consistency. I asked Peter recently to share his insights, tips and successes.

Peter is a consultant focused on increasing the sales of producers, manufacturers and retailers in the food industry. Because he’s an expert, he’s also in demand as a speaker on these topics. Now, unless you work in the food industry, you may not be interested in what Peter has to say. It’s very specific... and very valuable to folks in his target market.

One key to Peter’s success is advance planning. He told me, “I have a spreadsheet with my ideas for each section of the newsletter and I try to plan at least 4 months out. It makes it much better for me to know I just need to write it, as opposed to coming up with the ideas and then writing it. I also find there is better continuity. If you start from scratch every month there is not the same flow. I like to pick themes and use that for the main article. When I start on a theme, I will do the plan for all of these. For example, right now I am working on a summary of each of the retailers operating in the Canadian food landscape. This will be at least 8-10 month’s worth of content.”

When I asked Peter where he gets ideas for content, he said, “I get ideas from clients, walking the stores, and just trying to think about what my customers need to know. People want it short and quick, so sometimes one idea can work for 3 month’s worth of content.”

Peter told me that the biggest benefit from his newsletter is that it positions him as an expert and gets him in front of potential clients every month. “They see value in it and I have their permission to send them something 12 times per year,” Peter said. He gets calls when his newsletter goes out because it reminds people of him and what he does. He also told me that another benefit of doing a newsletter is that it forces him to stay current. “I have to be on top of what is happening to write about it,” he said. Would you believe Peter gets all those benefits from spending one hour writing and less than $200 per month?

I asked Peter what advice he has for anyone considering starting a newsletter. “The biggest thing is to have content that is of value to your potential clients.” Here is some more advice he offered:
  • Planning is key. Having the topics planned ahead ensures that it is not a big mountain to climb every month.
  • Do not give away too much each month – readers want it short and quick.
  • Stay current. We live in a world that is changing fast so make sure your newsletter is relevant.
  • Use a consistent format to keep yourself on track. Peter uses a format of one main article and three small sections. He says, “The format keeps me on track and allows me to throw in items that are important at the time.”
  • Build your list with people who might want to hire you. “Doing the work each month for people who will not open it or ever call you is waste of time and just gets frustrating,” Peter said. “And if you’re a speaker, offer the newsletter to bureaus and other people who hire speakers. It never hurts to get in front of them every month, too!”
  • Analyze the results. You can tell from the response if the content, your format, and the overall concept are successful. Be objective.

May 5, 2014

Why I use iContact

I’m often asked why I choose to use the iContact bulk email application exclusively. My reason is not that iContact is so great (although it is), but that I have to be great at one thing to really be an expert.

I've tried and used several of the other bulk email applications. I’m capable of figuring out the technical bits and learning how to troubleshoot. I've been courted by potential clients and prodded by current clients to adopt other apps, such as Infusionsoft or AWeber. I've passed on business because I wouldn't do that – not because I couldn't, but because I shouldn't.

While I love to learn and experiment with new apps, I learned early on that when I spread myself too thin:
  • I can’t truly be an expert.
  • My productivity suffers.
When it comes to producing polished campaigns, it takes a lot of mistakes and near misses to truly learn how to troubleshoot, plus tricks to keep trouble from happening. I would wager that I have more experience using the iContact Message Builder than many of their own staff.

PS: For those interested, I think iContact is superior to the other apps I've tried because:
  • I don't code from scratch and iContact's Message Builder offers me lots of flexibility for layout and design. Because I like to create unique designs, this is my #1 reason for using iContact.
  • Multiple lists, campaigns and segments allow us to really manage what goes to who.
  • Integration with social media platforms is more robust than many other email apps.
  • Pricing is competitive with other similar apps. We have an agency account which allows us to offer clients bonuses that usually cost extra.
  • Response time to service requests is fast, and almost always appropriate and useful. By email or phone, the people are friendly.