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Thursday, May 19th, 2011

Email Etiquette

This article by Jeff Bennett was taken from an upcoming issue of Western Retailer, a publication of the Western Home Furnishings Association.

You’re doing everything right to market and brand your business. Radio and TV ads? Check. Direct mail? Yes. A Web site? Naturally. Email marketing? Of course! But here’s something you may never have considered. Every time you send an email to your customers, there’s a big chance they have no clue who in the heck it’s coming from. Here’s why.

If your business sends bulk email or one-on-one correspondence from a generic email address such as info@abcfurniture.com or sales@abcfurniture.com, you’re alienating customers. Your customers may be asking themselves, “Who’s Info?” or “Can I call stop in and talk to Sales?” The digital divide caused by impersonal electronic mail is intensified when the sender is a nameless, faceless department.

Think of your email address as your digital John Hancock, a firm handshake through cyberspace. It should foster a sense of security and trust for your customer. You wouldn’t put ‘Info’ on your salesperson’s nametag, would you? Your email address shouldn’t leave your customers scratching their head in bewilderment wondering who they’re actually communicating with at info@abcfurniture.com. The easiest way to assure your customer that a real, live person will read their message is to use real, live names on all email addresses.

If Larry is your Sales Manager, give Larry an email address such as larry@abcfurniture.com. Identify Larry as the Sales Manager on your Web site and provide his email address for all customer inquiries. And if you don’t want to overwhelm poor Larry, you can have messages sent to Larry’s address forwarded to several different email addresses to ensure that every customer receives a prompt and appropriate response. Brand loyalty and confidence will blossom in your customers when they know they can turn to real people for questions instead of an automated team of Info and Sales bots.

Beyond good customer service, there’s a law that regulates sender names. The CAN-SPAM Act, enforced by the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, creates rules for all commercial and transactional emails. It gives recipients the right to opt out and request you stop sending them email. Even if you don’t participate in bulk email blasts, the CAN-SPAM Act covers all commercial messages, which are defined as “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service.” Even emails that promote content on your web site fall into this category of commercial emails and must comply with the rules established by the CAN-SPAM Act

Now, these rules aren’t harsh. They don’t ask you to disclose your date-of-birth, social security number or anything like that. In fact, most of us naturally adhere to CAN-SPAM guidelines by being truthful and conscientious senders. The rules simply state that all commercial emails must:

  • Use truthful heading information. The “To,” “Reply-To,” and “From” lines must be accurate and identify the business sending the message.
  • Use truthful subject lines. The subject line cannot be deceiving and it must mirror the content in the message.
  • State your message is an advertisement. There is a lot of breathing room here for interpretation. But there must be no shadow of a doubt in the recipient’s mind that your email is an advertisement.
  • Disclose your business’s physical address. Simply provide a valid postal address.
  • Tell recipients how to stop receiving your email. If you’re sending bulk mail, be sure to visibly allow customers to ‘unsubscribe.’
  • Quickly honor opt-out requests. You must honor a recipient’s opt-out request within 10 business days. Your opt-out mechanism must be in place for each message for 30 days after the message is sent.
  • If you hire a third party for email marketing, monitor their activities. Both your company and the third party can be held responsible for not complying with the law.

If you don’t use email marketing, you may believe most of the aforementioned rules are not applicable to you—but keep this in mind: If a customer calls your store and Larry – or the unknown sales force behind sales@abcfurniture.com – follows up with an email promoting the store’s latest big bargains and sizzling savings, this email is considered a commercial email. However, if Larry follows up with an email discussing item dimensions or warranty information, this email would be considered a transactional email.

Emails are a fantastic way to brand your business and promote your store. Remind your customers that a real, living and breathing sales force stands ready to care for their needs by using staff names in email addresses and follow the CAN-SPAM Act to avoid penalties in your email marketing.

About Jeff:

Jeff Bennett is The Director of Client Relations for Grey Suit Retail, the industry’s only SaaS platform that fully integrates a website, an ecommerce shopping cart, email marketing, traditional marketing, blogging, analytics, and now craigslist in one simple yet powerful tool that gives you complete control of your online strategy. Call 800-549-9606 ext. 6, email jeff@greysuitretail.com or go to www.greysuitretail.com to see for yourself how everything we do is designed to help you sell more stuff, keep more customers and make more money.

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Thursday, December 17th, 2009

How To Make Your Website Stick

Room with a wall of tv screensConsumers have a lot to look at these days. We’re exposed to several thousand advertisements and websites each day, yet we remember very few of them – despite billions of dollars spent on advertising.

How can you do a better job than your competition at attracting your consumer’s attention?

  1. Be brief. Decide what to leave out. Be selective about what you say. Pick one point and stick to it, because that’s all the consumer will remember anyway.
  2. Be bold. Have you ever surfed the web while listening to music, or watched TV while eating dinner? On your usual drive home from work, you can easily chat with an old friend. But while driving on an unfamiliar street in a strange city, we need to stop talking and take in what’s going on around us. Your consumer may be multitasking, too , and is likely to ignore the expected. An unexpected element grabs attention.
  3. Be clear. The Wizard of Ads, Roy H. Williams, once said, “The price of clarity is the risk of offense.” Clarity leaves little room for vague impressions and enables your consumer to see your brand real. Posing and hype don’t hold up in today’s marketplace, yet many marketers fear telling the truth. Would you dare say who your brand is not for?
  4. Be sustainable. Once you’ve attracted attention, you must sustain it. Your marketing must grab the consumer and never let them go. Continue to make your website interesting, or consumers will go somewhere else.
  5. Be relevant. Make sure the attention-grabbers on your website and advertisements are relevant and don’t distract from the main point you want consumers to remember.

What do you want your customer to do? You want them to focus on your brand and your message. You want them to think of you first and best when they have a need for your particular product. You want them to remember why you’re different and how you’re better than your competitors.

Let us help you be attractive.

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