Is it ethical to use rejected leads?

Anyone who is in the lead business whether as the primary supplier or a broker knows that in every batch of leads provided to a client there is a percentage of leads that are rejected. The reasons vary based on the benchmark the client is using to qualify the leads. If the client is a call center they are qualifying the leads based on phone numbers, leads are rejected if the number is disconnected or the wrong number and even though these leads come with both phones and email addresses they don’t care about the emails because they are using the data strictly for calling.  This is the case for most call centers.  On the other hand if the client is a marketing company that is using the email address but not the phones they would reject leads based on bounce backs (bad email addresses) whether the phones are good numbers or not.

So let’s say that the call center is paying you the supplier based on good leads based of course on good phone numbers, and that you do not get paid if the phone number is disconnected or a wrong number.  So out of 10000 leads let us assume that there was a 15% disconnect/wrong number rate meaning you got paid for 8500 leads and payment was withheld from 1500 leads.  What if the call center then takes those 1500 rejected leads and sends an email to them advertising whatever it is their offer is, driving traffic to their website? Is this ethical? You were not paid for these leads because they were rejected, should the call center be using leads that you were not paid for?

While the answer for this might be grey for many, not so much for me; if a lead is used in any capacity then the provider should be paid.  The call center did not pay for those leads and therefore should not benefit from them in any way whatsoever.  As a supplier or provider of leads this should be discussed prior to supplying the first lead, you need to determine what the classification of a lead is based on what and how they are going to be used.  If a call center tells you that their primary method of contact is phone, but that when they cannot get a hold of someone on the phone or the phone is not a valid number they then attempt to email them, then you should be paid for that data regardless if the phone number is good or not.  You will probably want to charge less for this record; maybe you are only charging half the cost of the other leads since the phones are not valid.

Companies that are purchasing leads need to be ethical and honest and tell the supplier exactly what they are going to be using the leads for and what fields will be used and under what circumstances. Full disclosure is a must for a long term healthy relationship with your supplier and conducting ethical business should not be a choice.  Suppliers may want to consider seeding their data with phone numbers and email addresses so that they know what is being done with the data, and make sure that your agreement is in writing, even if it’s with an existing client.

The Email Marketing Chronicles – Co-Registration Data

As a media company we are constantly explaining to new clients what “opt in” really means and specifically what co-registration opt in is and why it is okay to mail to it.  The word “opt in” itself has been the subject of intense debate among the online marketing world for quite a while, because there are various definitions of what is considered opt in.  In the simplest definition opt in is the email address of a person who has opted in to a mailing list and has given permission for a company to email them.

Let’s start by examining what co-registration is; it is a method used to collect user information on people; usually this would be a separate check-box on a Web signup form where the user can opt-in to receive messages from a third-party and/or partners. The area of debate is can you as a company purchase a list of co-registration data if the users did not opt in to your site specifically? I say yes you can, so long as when they opted in that it stated that they would receive offers from partners and other sites that may have offers that benefit them.  As long as this was made clear and they still opted in, then there is nothing wrong with purchasing and using this data.

One thing that you want to be really careful about however is make sure that you are purchasing from a legitimate company and that they are really selling you co registration data.  Make sure they are a reputable company, make sure the data comes with opt in source, time and IP address so that you can prove that they opted in.

Another thing that you want to be sure of, if you are mailing this yourself be sure that you know what your hosts Terms of Service (TOS) and Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) are.  It is likely that your host has a policy against this opt in or not, most hosts have a limited to how much email you can send out in one day or at one time. Sending mail at Constant Contact for example only allows mailing opt in that was specifically opted in to you, whereas Ad Mail allows co-registration data as long as you have the permission of the original list owner, but even Ad Mail is going to limit you to sending just a couple of hundred emails because as the list grows so do the problems, even in opt in lists.  If you are planning on sending more than a few hundred emails it is recommended that you use a professional email marketing company.

Social Media – The modern background check used by those we do business with

As I was doing some background checking on a potential client yesterday who wanted 30 net terms it occurred to me that everything we do as an individual has an impact on our business.  We live in a world where virtually everything we do is available to the public eye.  From the books we read to the company we keep to our political affiliations.  A comment to a friend on facebook may make its way to a potential business partner a year down the road.

We live in a world where we are connected to our friends, relatives, business associates, vendors, clients and everyone they know through an interconnected collection of computers strung together from one end of the globe to the other. Our opinions, statements, business practices, where we live, work, the car we drive and what we had for lunch last Tuesday is available for any and all who are interested.

I was recently told by a public relations expert to be very careful of any political conversations that I have online with friends, because an innocent comment made on someone Facebook wall may appear before a potential client whose personal political view do not agree with mine and that could potentially ruin a deal in the making.

It is scary to think that my personal life and my business life can no longer be kept separate from one another and that I have to watch what I say to a friend in Facebook or on Twitter because of who may or may not end up reading those thoughts and opinions months down the road.

Employers have been using Google and Yahoo to check job applicants and more recently have turned to Social Media such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to understand an applicant and using this information in assisting in the selection decision process.  But it doesn’t stop there; it can also be used to check out potential business partners, clients, vendors, etc.  So needless to say you need to be careful what you say regardless of who you are saying it to.  A comment made in good humor to your brother based on a conversation that started face to face last weekend at a family barbecue can be taken completely out of context and the next thing you know you are left scratching your head wondering why a deal you thought was in the bag has suddenly been taken off the table.

There are many that will argue that there are serious privacy issues involved in all this, and they may very well be right, but that isn’t going to help you in the here and now.  So my advice here is to use caution and common sense when writing on walls or discussing anything in any forum that has the potential of ending up in front of someone you are doing business with.

A Message to Big Business – Quit Your Whining!

You want to know what I am really getting tired of hearing about?  The condition of big business across the nation; whether they are doing well, or whether they are still fighting to keep up, whether they are involved in a hiring freeze, laying off, raising prices, closing locations, blah blah blah.  Who gives a damn?  The government forked out billions in tax payer dollars in bailouts to businesses who were mismanaged and in return tax payers got to foot the bill to pull these poor companies out of the muck.

In the United States the majority of all business is comprised of small business, as I am sure is the case all over the world.  Take a drive down the street sometime and take a look at the businesses that line the street, coffee shops, diners, donut shops, jewelry stores, restaurants, doctors, dentists, auto shops, car washes, and in the virtual world you have small hosting companies, graphic artists, marketing companies, consultants, you get the point.  Where is our bailout? I’ve been checking the mail for nearly two years waiting and nothing as of yet.

If a small company mismanages their finances or executes poor decision making that causes them to sink, they go out of business, the government is not going to come to the rescue with tax payer dollars and bail them out nor should they.  So why then are they doing it for big business?  Why did we not let Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG and General Motors fail?  Because according to the U.S. Government they were “Too big to fail”.

Too big to fail?  Really? Since when in a capitalist society was a business too big to fail?  When did we start bailing out businesses?  I say let them fail; let them be bought out for pennies on the dollar, let them be sold for scraps, whatever.  While one of the world’s largest auto manufactures has been turned into a government operation the rest of us are just trying to keep our heads above the water in these troubling times, while many small businesses have thrown in the towel and given up, and some big businesses still have their hands out asking for more money.

I say let them fail, let them struggle to make payroll, let those at the top feel the burden of not having enough money to pay the bills, let those that can’t keep up the struggle close their doors and call it a day.  Let them feel what we feel. Too big to fail, give me a break.  Maybe those running these large companies should spend a little time in a small business so that they can see how the rest of us do things, without government aid.  So please from all of us who work every day to keep our businesses in business, quit whining about your financial woes, and get back to work!

The Email Marketing Chronicles – The Can Spam Act

As you may or may not know one of the things that Throttle Media specializes in is Email Marketing, and I personally have years of experience dealing with just about every aspect of Email Marketing that you can think of and I have been involved in campaigns ranging from just a few thousand in a zip code to national campaigns involving several millions.  Email marketing started out fairly simply, you typed in an ad, a subject, you loaded the list of those you were sending your message to, you clicked on the send button and presto your email was on its way.  Well email has gone through a lot of growing pains over the years and has evolved into something that is anything but simple, and while the concept itself seems simple enough, it’s really not.  There are a lot of technical issues that you need to be aware of, certain words, colors, phrases, punctuation, industries that you need to be aware of.  One wrong move and your mail can end up in a server’s trash bin never having made it to its final destination and then there are the legal aspects of sending email.  In short, it is best to use an email marketing professional to handle your company’s email marketing, but even if you do that I think that it’s important that you understand the many facets of email marketing and I have noticed that many people really don’t know enough about this subject, so over the next few weeks I will writing a series called “The Email Marketing Chronicles” which I will post every Thursday.  To start off our series I am going to discuss an issue that many (especially small businesses) don’t seem to understand or at least don’t understand it correctly; The Can Spam Act.

The Can Spam Act was created because people were complaining about spam and several states had passed strong Spam legislation, notably California and Washington State, and because people were very concerned about the amount of pornography that was ending up in not just in their inboxes but their kids inboxes as well. The Can Spam Act stands for Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act.  Several different versions were written before the final text of the law was settled on;  in May 2003 House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-LA), House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Congressman Richard Burr (R-NC), vice chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee and lead sponsor introduced H.R. 2214, the RID SPAM Act of 2003 and Congressman Gene Green (D-Houston), and Congresswoman Heather Wilson (R-Albuquerque), sponsored the Anti-Spam Act of 2003 (H.R. 2515) and eventually after working together and compromising on legislation the Can Spam Act of 2003 was born which was signed into law by President George W. Bush on December 16, 2003 and went into effect on January 1, 2004.

There are many misconceptions about the Can Spam Act for example many think it makes Spam illegal, some think that it requires marketers to have permission of the recipient; none of that is true.  The act does not make spam illegal, as a matter of fact many anti spam advocates felt the law actually did the opposite and made spam legal and in a sense I suppose it did, but like everything it’s not quite that simple. The Act states that you can send an unsolicited commercial email to someone but that you have to adhere to the following rules as stated on the Federal Trade Commission Website (FTC- Can Spam Act):

 

  1. Don’t use false or misleading header information. Your “From,” “To,” “Reply-To,” and routing information – including the originating domain name and email address – must be accurate and identify the person or business who initiated the message.
  2. Don’t use deceptive subject lines. The subject line must accurately reflect the content of the message.
  3. Identify the message as an ad. The law gives you a lot of leeway in how to do this, but you must disclose clearly and conspicuously that your message is an advertisement.
  4. Tell recipients where you’re located. Your message must include your valid physical postal address. This can be your current street address, a post office box you’ve registered with the U.S. Postal Service, or a private mailbox you’ve registered with a commercial mail receiving agency established under Postal Service regulations.
  5. Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you. Your message must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt out of getting email from you in the future. Craft the notice in a way that’s easy for an ordinary person to recognize, read, and understand. Creative use of type size, color, and location can improve clarity. Give a return email address or another easy Internet-based way to allow people to communicate their choice to you. You may create a menu to allow a recipient to opt out of certain types of messages, but you must include the option to stop all commercial messages from you. Make sure your spam filter doesn’t block these opt-out requests.
  6. Honor opt-out requests promptly. Any opt-out mechanism you offer must be able to process opt-out requests for at least 30 days after you send your message. You must honor a recipient’s opt-out request within 10 business days. You can’t charge a fee, require the recipient to give you any personally identifying information beyond an email address, or make the recipient take any step other than sending a reply email or visiting a single page on an Internet website as a condition for honoring an opt-out request. Once people have told you they don’t want to receive more messages from you, you can’t sell or transfer their email addresses, even in the form of a mailing list. The only exception is that you may transfer the addresses to a company you’ve hired to help you comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.
  7. Monitor what others are doing on your behalf. The law makes clear that even if you hire another company to handle your email marketing, you can’t contract away your legal responsibility to comply with the law. Both the company whose product is promoted in the message and the company that actually sends the message may be held legally responsible.

While this is a very simple law it has its problems, for marketers it is nearly impossible to follow this law because every ISP in the world has a No Spam Policy in its Acceptable Use Policy (AUP), if you spam they will shut your account down so fast it will make your head spin.  They are not required to allow you to spam, and they don’t and won’t.  The other issue with this law is that the majority of spam comes from outside the United States and there is really no way to enforce it and while many other countries have spam laws it hasn’t slowed down the deluge of spam that is delivered each and every day. I once thought that an opt out system could be created much like the Do Not Call (DNC) in the United States and the Telephone Preferential Service (TPS) in the United Kingdom but it is clear that because email crosses International borders in a nano second that there is no way to control it.

In next week’s edition of the Email Marketing Chronicles I will discuss Co-registration email data, what it is and whether it’s okay to use it.