I’m working with a group of business
professionals to help each of them establish his and her brand online.
It seemed natural to me to begin the process by doing a simple search on
the search engines to see what sites, if any, I hasten to add, appeared
prominently. But what seems natural to me seemed almost surreal to my
clients. Yet their response to the results ranged from engaged to
alarmed. Had they never done this before? Really? Well, that’s why I’m
One professional was prominently listed as
a partner in a firm – except not the one she is currently with. Another
found his status rating in an unfamiliar directory inadequate and his
listing inaccurate. And for most there was no particular problem except
one: they had almost no presence on the Internet except in their firm
bio and LinkedIn. And often the LinkedIn bio linked to a list of the
other 12 people having the same name.
So you’re going to search for your name now, right?
Some tips to help you in this search would
be to search your name with quotes around it and search variations of
your name with quotes such as adding your middle name or initial, etc.
Satisfy your paranoia and add unfriendly suffixes to your name search
like “sucks”, “arrested” and other bad deeds of your choice. You might
as well find what is obvious.
And if Google is your search tool of
choice, make it a point to repeat your search with Bing. I won’t share
any spoilers so you can enjoy the hunt on your own. But Bing is
different, has its own search algorithm and displays its search results
in a creative manner.
Based on what you discover, there are a
lot of options for you to take to help you shape your digital brand.
That’s a post or three for another day. But take the first step and do
your own assessment. Go ahead. Google yourself. You won’t go blind.
I am so embarrassed. I have been producing
and sending targeted emails (don’t call them email blasts, dammit) for
13 or 14 years using tools from service providers such as ExactTarget,
Bluehornet, CreateSend, MailChimp and ConstantContact. Yet not once have
I initiated contact with a new email subscriber by sending an initial
email that welcomes them to the email communication.
Wait! Before you make me wear the Scarlet S (for spammer) on my chest. Let me explain.
I’m a good person. I adopt best practices.
I believe in opt-in emails. I loathe unsolicited emails and the brands
that send them. I hate it when non-profits, like WTTW Channel 11* and
many/most others, share my contact information unless I tell them not
to. So then why have I never sent a welcome email to subscribers who
recently joined an email list?
In part, I’m lazy. Not lazy like I don’t
give a damn. But lazy as in most of the lists I’ve worked include people
who are already receiving communications. For example, email is just a
transition from print. Adopting and sending communications by email was
an evolution and not a traumatic surprise. The content being delivered
was useful and informative, not promotional and annoying. Moreover, the
proof was in the analytics. Very few people unsubscribed. Open rates of
the emails were at or above what might be expected. The system seemed
pretty healthy and it was all good. But the truth is, I was skating on
The Dark Side
Lazy, ok. But I got sloppy. I have a
client who acquires email addresses whenever customers sign into their
in-house wifi system. To be clear, the customers voluntarily contribute their email address as a condition of using the wifi. And I
imported these emails into my email service provider. Not exactly
opt-in. OK, not opt-in at all. I had moved to the dark side without
After the first mailing, I received an
email from “Sander” who told me he loved the client’s business when he’d
patronized it in Chicago, but he lived 4000 miles away and wouldn’t be
back soon. But Sander was wondering how we had obtained his email
address. He wasn’t angry. Just curious. But I was the deer in the
headlights. I apologized to Sander. I told him I’d misbehaved and
promised to fix things.
The Thing I Fixed
Today, I sent an email to 60 new
subscribers whose emails I had acquired from their wifi connection.
First, on behalf of the owners, the email thanked them for their
business, stated the company’s mission and solicited feedback. Then I
explained how their email address had been acquired, asked permission to
keep them on the subscriber list, promised to never share their
information and provided several links to unsubscribe to any further
In a perfect world, every email subscriber
opts in to a list. However, I believe an honest and transparent appeal
to “prospective subscribers” to continue to receive ongoing email communications is an ethical approach to the dilemma of securing a
new email subscriber. For this purpose the “Welcome” or “Thank you for
your business” first email is an essential tactic in the email marketing
arsenal. I won’t be caught flat-footed again.
What do you think?
I’m interested to know what you think
about sending one initial email to people whose email you have acquired
but who have not given explicit permission to be on a subscriber list.
time to time we may disclose personal identification information about
you as an individual user (such as, for example, your full name, street
address, telephone number or e-mail address) to one or more third
parties in order to expand our membership base and increase support for
At a dinner conversation on a trip wholly
unrelated to legal marketing or the Internet, the wife of a BigLaw
partner whose son was also a BigLaw partner prompted me to identify
three things law firms and lawyers should do on the Internet.
I had been talking in generalities about
digital marketing and she wanted specifics. It was a great question and,
wanting to appear brilliant, I stumbled out a response. My answer was
brief and, in reflection, on target. But I felt the good question
deserved a response more thorough than the quick witted one I shouted
over the mealtime din. This is what I answered – the longer version:
One: Claim and Manage Profiles
This seemingly innocent task seems to be
fraught with fear, misunderstanding and ignorance. In fact it is
strategic, protective and opportunistic. Few firms or lawyers do this
effectively. The participation tasks are assigned to administrative
people and the “marketing department.” It is far more than populating
one’s LinkedIn profile with the same undifferentiated bio that appears
on the website. Content from profiles are increasingly becoming
re-purposed as the web grows increasingly social and apps and sites
Two: Create Content
Successful professional service providers
must create content to be effective marketers. Lawyers perceive
marketing as sales and sales as dirty. Nothing replaces the business
development value of one personally networking in places where clients
reside such as causes, country clubs, the symphony and skyboxes. But
publishing authoritative content can often be the deal breaker for
selecting one lawyer or firm over another. My data is anecdotal but it
has grown steadily over the entire time I’ve been serving this industry.
An entire industry has grown up around content marketing and there is a
good reason for that. It works.
Lawyers, of course, are busily yolked into
billable hour requirements. Many are reluctant to share the knowledge
they believe they should sell. Publishing in a regulated industry is a
challenge. And the layers of review and approval can make it difficult
if not impossible to produce timely content. I get it. That’s why
cutting through all these obstacles and consistently producing
informative non-promotional content makes the successful ones stand out.
Three: Publish Effective Websites
Websites provide a powerful opportunity to
really make or blow the firm’s brand. Firms spend 100 of thousands of
dollars on their websites. Yet in an annually conducted study of the AmLaw 100 “10 Foundational Website Best Practices”, 75% of firms were rated fair or poor. It is astonishing that they can’t get it right.
Why is this? First, the lawyers get in the way of the marketers. They believe themselves to be experts on design. Their lawyer-staffed web committees can only agree on the color blue. They want to be the same as [fill in the blank] law firm. Moreover, they have a strong tendency to listen to marketers who are also lawyers**. Better they should be talking to marketers whose clients resemble the law firm client and not themselves. Unless all they want to hear is an echo, which seems to be the case.
Did I get this right? If not, what three things top your list?
** There are some
excellent marketers who are also lawyers. But being a lawyer is not a
prerequisite for offering good legal marketing advice.
My team had developed a website in
record time to meet a client’s immovable deadline. In fact, the site was
ready for client final review 10 days early. We were sitting pretty. Or
so we thought.
An Arranged Marriage
As we made plans to host the client’s new
WordPress website at a reliable and modestly priced internet service
provider (ISP), the client introduced a new contact to our team. He was a
part-time technology consultant who managed the small firm’s email,
internal network and other miscellaneous duties including the start-up
website that our team had been engaged to replace.
Who’s on First?
Our new IT partner had his own ideas about
where to host. Although we expressed disappointment at this well-known
non-performing ISP, we could live with it. The website was not
mission-critical and if there were hosting issues down the line, the
site could always be moved later or the client would simply accept the
ISP’s misbehavior. It was not a show stopper. But then the project
really went south.
Now Escape with Both Hands Tied
Because the IT consultant also managed
other infrastructure at this hosting site, we were to be given limited
access to the ISP. Moreover, our new IT friend indicated his intent to
set up the WordPress environment and was preparing to receive our
website files and database although we had not sought this “assistance.”
The arrival of this complicating news was
followed by an exchange of many emails and several phone calls.
Directions from the IT consultant came with incorrect credentials,
inaccurate ftp upload directions and somewhat of a tug of war over
controlling the quality of the launch. Our process was slipping away and
our time was escalating.
The Client is Not Always Right (But they’re always the client)
In the end, the client backed its IT
consultant. Instead of $84 for a full year of hosting from our preferred
ISP and a smooth and efficient launch process, we engaged in 4 hours of
unbillable time wrangling over the IT consultant’s desired process.
Too bad for us. Suck it up. But more importantly and regrettably, the
client lost as well. A process we had followed with great success
succumbed to an impromptu series of misdirection and errors.
So Now Who’s In Charge?
Most important, the site is not up and it
remains an open question as to whether it will be successfully published
by the mutually agreed launch date. Failure to follow a proven process
has led to other casualties as well. And the open question remains if or
when something is not working correctly who is responsible?
Once the site is launched our process would have continued to provide added value including:
weekly automated back up of the site for 1 year
regular (at least quarterly) security and patch updates to WordPress for 1 year
configuration of caching, webmaster tools
30 day post-launch warranty on the site function
staff training on use of the WordPress interface
to limited site access most of this added value, with the exception of
staff training, may not be able to be executed. Of course, we’ll do
whatever we can with the permissions we have.
Takeaway: Update Our Process
This website launch case story is
exclusively about process. It is not about being “right” or being in
control. It is about following steps that have been put in place based
on prior errors and missteps that we, and everyone, makes on their way
toward improving and perfecting a process.
Our one takeaway? Shame on us. Close the
hosting arrangement at the very top of the project and avoid surprises.
Add that to our process.
Have you had a process disrupted? What have been the implications for you? Share your story.
After I got on my soapbox for a minute
about how small business should use the Internet more effectively, Patti
Mason asked me what are the first three things a small business should
manage on the Internet.
I was talking with “Independent Damsel Pro” Patti Mason from Damsel in Defense. Patti was the guest speaker at our Mastermind Business Networking lunch this afternoon. I was already self-conscious about having passionately launched into a monologue on small business and the Internet and was ready to turn over the floor. But Patti seemed earnest in her question. I sputtered my answer in as close as I could come to a Tweet.
Here’s a slightly longer version:
You have to have a website with
informative content that addresses the needs of your targeted client.
Graphic design is content’s chaperone, making sure it is findable,
visible and readable (or heard or seen). But your ongoing energy is in
the content you publish.
Your digital reputation envelops you. This
may be good or bad for society and our remaining privacy. I don’t
know. But right now chances are there is a great deal online about you
and your business. Your clients want to know that working with you is a
risk-free transaction. Claim your profiles and manage them. If you have
ratings, acknowledge them.
Business referral is such a significant
source of new business. Leverage this power online. Consume and
acknowledge the content produced by others. Share what you can of your
own. And be authentic.
The best platform in which to be engaged
will depend on your business. It may be LinkedIn or Pinterest. It could
be Facebook or YouTube. You have to investigate and experiment. Don’t
accept anybody’s Top X Social Media list.
What do you think?
So how close to your list is my Top 3 Internet Priorities for Small Business? Let me know.
About Damsel in Defense Damsel in Defense is about equipping women with the tools to not only keep them safe but also to give them the confidence to know that they have a way out if they ever feel threatened.
I was completely caught off guard while
working on my laptop computer when LinkedIn displayed a list of my email
contacts and innocently prompted me:
“We found 424 people you know on LinkedIn when you added your address book. Select the people you’d like to connect to.”
And there, before my eyes, were all my email address book contacts.
Whoa! What was this about? I never added my address book to LinkedIn. That’s one thing I would never do.
Life in the Transparent Lane
As a matter of professional hazard, I live
my life rather transparently online. But there are some things I take
some caution to not share. And one of those things is my contacts. For
the same reason I don’t like to be robotically solicited to engage in
someone else’s network, I don’t want to be the culprit that causes this
pain to others. So I mind my contacts as best I can.
About a half hour of online sleuthing –
also known as completely wasting my time – revealed a large network of
people who had been caught in this LinkedIn scam. And they, like me were
pretty pissed off.
At first I suspected that I had somehow
slipped up and authorized Google to cough up my Gmail contacts. But this
time Google (and I) were not guilty. Then began the search through my
LinkedIn privacy settings. Astonishingly there was no information about contact importing. Ultimately after more research (read: wasting
time) I was led to the LinkedIn app recently installed on my mobile
device. And there it was…
Permissions? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Permissions
Under “Permissions” in the LinkedIn app is
the innocuous authorization to “Read Your Contacts”. It is not an
option. It is a condition of using the app. OK, so reading my contacts
is one thing. But after highlighting this specific permission, the more
onerous truth emerges and it reads,
“Allows the app to read data about
your contacts stored on your phone, including the frequency with which
you’ve called, emailed, or communicated in other ways with specific
individuals. This permission allows apps to save your contact data, and malicious apps may share contact data without your knowledge.”
Well, there it is. Ouch.
Now, to be fair, something I don’t really feel the need, LinkedIn only uses the information to suggest that I start sending out requests for connection. They’ve even done the
heavy lifting of culling my list of several thousand contacts down to
about 400 or so actual people who are on LinkedIn and with whom I
haven’t already connected. And they ask for permission to extend my
invitation to them. I can even customize my invite. How nice? No, not
nice at all.
Bad LinkedIn. Bad. Bad. Bad.
LinkedIn: You’ve crossed the line. Your
app is malicious. And I’m removing it from my mobile device. And worse, I
trust you less. Which is too bad, because I’ve been rather high on
LinkedIn lately. But now this. It’s wrong.
Next step: Remove those Damn Contacts
Another half hour of research brought me
to the process for removing those contacts from LinkedIn. It wasn’t
easy. But if you’ve been caught in this cesspool, here’s how to do it.
1) On LinkedIn, navigate to Connections
> Add Connections and select “Manage imported contacts” in the upper
right of the page 2) Check “Select All”, scroll to bottom of page & select the greyed
out (!) “Delete selected contacts” and accept the double confirmation
request 3) Repeat this process because LinkedIn won’t display all your contacts
at once. For my 1100 imported contacts I had to do this repeatedly.
After repeating this incredibly time
wasting process several times, LinkedIn will deliver an error message.
They’re toying with you. And disrespecting you. At some point you will
have to start selecting a shorter list of deletes. Begin to manually
check names – perhaps 50 – 100 at a time. Keep at it. Eventually all
your contacts will be deleted.
Dump the LinkedIn App
Delete the LinkedIn app from your mobile device. They behaved badly and they don’t deserve a place on your mobile device.
What Do You Think?
Have you been caught in this? Do you think
LinkedIn should bust into your email contacts and import them to their
platform? Maybe you think this is a valued service. Let me know.
Much has been made of best times, day of
week, effective subject lines and other strategies to achieve the
single most important objective of getting your email opened. But there
is one strategy I have found that is incredibly effective and
infallible: send that email again.
But wait. Before you abuse your
subscribers let me explain what I have done that increases open rates
without irritating your email recipients. And how you can know this is
My client lists range from the
passionately engaged who open at an average rate of 45% to the
“I-didn’t-know-I-signed-up” crowd, with an open rate of 15%, who coughed
up their email address to access the business’ free wifi. In all cases,
I’ve been able to increase open rates by as much as 50%.
My email tool of choice is MailChimp. One of the features provided is the option to create segments of your email list. That is, a segment is some portion of your list that meets certain criteria. And the criteria that I select is “Campaign Activity = Did not open [the last email]. In MailChimp it looks like this:
So now you have your list. Take these few additional steps to be respectful to your subscribers as well as to be effective:
Change your subject line. Your new subject line is a tacit acknowledgement that this is a redo. It
also provides you the opportunity to attract subscribers who didn’t
find your first subject line particularly sexy. I usually go with
something like “Reminder: xxxx.” For the people who may see both your
emails in their queue it just appears as a friendly re-notification. For
most, it is the first time they’re seeing your email.
Send at least 2 days after your first email Think about your own email nemesis and how you fall behind in getting to
less pressing email. But there is a half-life to email opening. My
experience is that after about 2 days (your own results can be observed
to tune this timing) you can safely assume that very few people will
open your original email.
Change the time of day Did your first email go out at 8AM? Did you send it on Tuesday because
everyone says that’s the hot day for sending email to get the best open?
Send the second email Friday night or a weekend morning or some time
that is different from the first email. Again, you might test different
times to determine your best second-send time
Measure The two most important metrics for evaluating the effectiveness
are open rate and unsubscribes. You WILL increase the open rate. My
experience that your new open rate will be about ½ of the original. I’d
be interested to know what you experience.
But the real measure of effectiveness is unsubscribes.
Unsubscribes are not always bad. That’s a topic for another time. But
for many reasons you don’t want people on your list who don’t want to
hear what you have to say. But, if you consistently get a lot (you
decide what a lot is) of people unsubscribing to your second email,
you’re probably irritating your subscribers. This has not been my
experience. But your results may differ and you should be alert to this
possibility.Rinse and Repeat Do it again. If your message is not time-dependent or if you have given
yourself enough lead time, you can continue to send to non-openers a
third or even a fourth time. You will realize diminishing returns but
you will get some new opens each time. Manage your list The hard truth is that you probably have subscribers who do not open and
never will open your email. Only you can decide it if it worthwhile
deceiving yourself or others about how huge your subscriber base has
become. Chronic non-openers will also give you a more pessimistic view
of your open rate and other engagement metrics. Ridding your list of
these inactive subscribers may help you better understand what your
engaged subscribers truly like about your email sends.
I welcome your opinion about this strategy as well as sharing
experiences you may have had re-sending campaigns to your subscribers.
The do-you-do-SEO question is a heavily
laden cargo ship launched years ago in the even more primitive era of
the Internet. The bounty it carries is comprised of great expectations,
misunderstandings and broken promises freighted by a crew of charlatans.
Now there is an indictment!
If you think SEO, more accurately known as
search engine optimization, is something your business needs, take a
moment to consider the following:
Marry Your SEO
SEO is not a one-night stand. Sure, there
are some pretty simple quick fixes. But optimization is an ongoing
process that can go on, well, till death do us part.
Return on Investment
An SEO campaign will demand a budget.
Therefore, the best – and perhaps only – SEO initiative that should be
undertaken requires a clearly identifiable metric of performance
success. Usually this performance is based on some kind of action such
as creating a lead, a download or a sale. What it is not measured by is
the prominence of a specific keyword phrase. This metric of success must
be applied against the cost of the entire effort to produce a Cost Per
Content is (sigh) King
Look, if you want to be found, you’ve got
to offer something for which people are looking. Read that again. And
what are people looking for? Answers. Answers to their problem. They are
not looking for your hyperbolic marketing speak. They are not searching
for your awards. They want good content in the form of text, images,
videos and audio. Yes, all of these media. And new stuff regularly.
Social Media Helps
Social media is content. Sometimes
(usually?) it is vacuous cat memes and moody slogans. But done right,
social media is a well-stocked river of catch and release (to others)
content. An effective SEO campaign includes a vibrant social media
initiative. They go hand in hand.
Your Website Sucks
Maybe yes. Maybe no. But chances are there
will be changes made to your website so that your valuable content can
be properly digested by the Great Google, its Court of affiliates and
the BingYahooAOL search engine challengers. Some of this is content.
Some of it is technology configurations.
If you are interested in marketing your
business on the Internet, I can help. Do I do SEO? Yes, maybe. The real
question is, “Do you know what you’re looking to accomplish?”
Let me tell you about my new and unexpected BFF Allen Cope, Marketing Specialist at SocialAuthorities.com. But before I do, permit me to set the stage.
I “heart” LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a valuable business resource to me. Like you, I’ve joined
relevant groups and I interact in some of the discussion. Sure, there
is an undertone of self-serving behavior from those who are either
oblivious or simply don’t care, but for the most part it is a benign
environment and I’m free to pull from it what I want and push my own
point of view when I care enough.
Don’t Cross the Line
But there is a line that should not be crossed. And when it is, it
would seem the only remedy is for the LinkedIn community to step forward
and say “that is wrong.” That is why I want to tell you about Allen
Cope, his employer SocialAuthorities.com and their client 3 Tier Logic.
The Big Lie
So recently, Allen sent me an InMail with the message, “Hi Sonny, I
am a fellow group member and I just found this great new piece of
marketing technology that I thought you maybe (sic) interested in
checking out. Here is the link ….”
Think of the lies inherent in this message: Allen “just found” this
marketing technology? Really? And, even though he and I have absolutely
no relationship other than a common group membership, he thought I’d be
interested in it? I don’t think so. The entire message strains
Calling Them Out
So Allen, whose LinkedIn bio curiously refers to him as “Clinton,”
has leveraged our mutual group participation to prey on me on behalf of
his company SocialAuthorities.com, who apparently has been hired by 3 Tier Logic to build traffic to their demo site. Is this cool? No, it is abusive. It’s not only abusive it is entirely disingenuous.
So I’m calling them out for this unsocial behavior in this social
medium. Vengeance is not my objective. Exposure is. Self-policing is our
only path to civil discourse. If you act badly, people will call you
out. And if you hire companies to use bad strategies to further your
otherwise worthwhile business objectives, it will tarnish your brand. Be
What do you think?
Should I have just clicked the spam button and been done with the
matter? Is the value of LinkedIn increasingly being compromised by bad
players? Is this getting worse? Is 3 Tier Logic a perpetrator or victim
of their marketing firm’s strategies?
(Note: Thanks to (now former) Senator Al Franken whose excellent and unrelated book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, provided the inspiration for the title of this post. Other than that, he has no involvement with me or this post.)
We’ve been pounding the mobile drum for
about three years now. Our advocacy is fueled by the overwhelming trend
that can be observed in every website analytics analysis. Granted, the
results vary depending on the demographics of your site visitors. But
the increase in mobile access to your digital assets is inexorable. And,
by the way, that includes your email as well.
While many/some firms who actually care
about their site visitor’s experience have made the investment to
provide some kind of mobile access to their website, most are still
lagging far behind in providing the same consideration to their email
recipients. Which, if you think about it, is counter-intuitive. Unlike a
website that visitors can, by and large, elect to visit at a moment
they have convenient access to a large screen display, email arrives
randomly and is commonly viewed in the moment. And that moment has a
good chance of being when the recipient is up and about.
I looked at the results of recent email
campaigns and even I was surprised to see that about 50% of emails were
opened on a mobile device. This would be compared to B2B website traffic
that hovers around 20% to 30% mobile. So if one were to prioritize
their mobile-izing effort it should be placed on email before the
website. But this does not seem to be the case.
Granted, mobile email is a tad more
complicated than a mobile website. Websites are viewed in browsers
(Firefox, IE, Safari, Chrome, etc.) that to some limited extent and
imperfectly interpret website stylesheet code in a common way. But email
is viewed via email clients and these clients’ rendering of the email
stylesheet on a mobile device are much more divergent. Nevertheless,
there are some best practices for producing a reasonably coherent mobile
Surprisingly to me, email publishers
rarely view and test their own emails on the devices used by their
subscribers. Is this laziness, ignorance or something else? I don’t
know. What I do know is that email is a key component of the mobile
evolution of the Internet. And about that I will keep beating my drum.