Are You CASL Compliant?

View the Does CASL Apply? infographic >>

As of July 1st, 2014, Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) will come into effect. All “commercial electronic messages” sent to Canadians must be CASL compliant or risk incurring millions of dollars in fines for the sender.

And although it’s a Canadian legislation, the CASL affects anyone marketing to Canadians; whether they are located in Canada or not. Any unsolicited email sent to a Canadian email address could result in a maximum fine of $1M for an individual and up to $10M for organizations.

That even includes current list members: all potential Canadian message recipients must have opted-in according to CASL standards. Purchased lists and contacts whose opt-in was in some way automatic are no longer “safe” to contact. Even “accidental” non-compliance can result in heavy penalization and legal plights.

Should You Go It Alone into CASL Compliance?

Unfortunately, the legal jargon and level of detail make it hard to read the formal CASL legislation, let alone understand what you should be doing differently. Don’t get overwhelmed! To avoid gambling millions of dollars on a preventable mistake, there are a few changes you can make to ensure your marketing processes are CASL compliant.

It’s often best to start with an assessment of current marketing processes to get a sense of what’s compliant, what might need to change and how to go about changing it, but the complexity of the CASL makes it difficult, and even risky, to do this alone. A CASL consultant, however, will develop a strategy that will ensure compliance going forward.

One big challenge with CASL compliance is that the legislation applies to a variety of processes, beyond the electronic messages themselves. Contact databases will obviously need to be screened, but so will any other asset involved in finding and managing those contacts: sign-up forms and webpages; subscription management; even links that require a contact to input their data in exchange for some reward.

The other challenge is that the assessment and the strategy are only the first step in CASL compliance: it is one thing to know what needs to change and another thing entirely to actually make those changes. If some of your opt-in forms were not CASL compliant, you have to overhaul them, obviously, and this is a task in and of itself. But that also means you have to re-confirm the subscription of every contact “captured” by those assets, a process that the CASL ends up making even more challenging.

As long as those steps are in the right direction, it only takes a few steps to guarantee that you meet the CASL guidelines. Working towards compliance can be a challenge and a risk if you do it alone; to avoid a million dollar gamble, work with a CASL consultant.

View the Express vs Implied Consent infographic >>

To view our our guide A Marketer’s Guide to Becoming CASL Compliant, visit casl.couch-associates.com

Robot Sales Teams (And Why They Won’t Work)

"Mini" Vending Machine

Technology has enabled so much innovation and growth for Marketing and Sales so quickly that it’s easy to lose sight of the people behind the technology. These technologies are often discussed in a way that conjures up images of robot salespeople and giant vending machines that work independently of human interaction. Much of the technology is focused on creating a more individual experience for each person; various tools track and measure how people interact with brands; and people build and use and improve that technology. The human role in the technology suite is obvious but still often goes overlooked.

Technology designed to align Marketing and Sales does not automatically result in better alignment. A new campaign management tool does not immediately result in more successful campaigns. Having the best CRM and lead management suite will not guarantee better customer satisfaction. There must be people at the helms of these tools who are equipped to get the most out of them. The human element is a foundation for successful technology use because it is people who use the technology and they use it to interact with other people. At a fundamental level, the success of technology is still based on people.

Marketing and Sales can see better alignment by integrating lead management technologies; campaigns are much more successful when every element is controlled and optimized; and customers benefit from better data management and communication between departments. Technology can make everyone (at least somewhat) more successful and productive, but the tools are only valuable if people know how to use them. And this doesn’t mean the bare minimum; people should really be experts in every tool they use.

Every single person who is or will be using any piece of technology should understand what it does, why it’s being used, how it will help, and who to go to for help or further training. Training should take place in a low-risk environment where people can find out for themselves what a piece of technology can and can’t do, and they should be rewarded for their discoveries. They should be given opportunities to push the limits of the tools. If a new tool is introduced, users should be given time to get comfortable with the tool and encouraged to explore the full reaches of its capabilities. That’s when technology improves: the field testing. And many times, that’s where the real insights are uncovered.

If people are using a tool every day, they will have ideas on how it might improve. If they have the skills and the knowledge to experiment with the tool, there is a chance to capitalize on that improvement. If people only understand the bare minimum, that chance is never realized. When everyone is well trained and empowered to experiment, technology can drastically improve performance and productivity, but the key element is the people! We’re not at the stage of intelligent, responsive networks of robot vending machines…yet.

Social Selling for the Modern Buyer

Social Media Cube

Most of us would probably agree that the average person does not want to be sold to. As much as we all buy products and services and experiences, we don’t want them to be sold to us. People don’t like to feel the pressure. When we recognize a need or a problem we look for a solution, and that’s when we traditionally reach out to Sales. Buyers have to contact Sales to inquire about a solution, get more info, and eventually make a purchase. This puts Sales in control: the buyer has to come to them.

But the modern buyer operates within a completely different environment, so the modern salesperson must fill a completely different role. With such free access to information, buyers can do their research without ever contacting a company. They can seek out reviews online, find testimonials on social media and find out the general public sentiment about a company before Sales has a chance to get involved. If the company has an e-commerce system, buyers can pretty well avoid every potential Sales interaction.

Social media provides a wonderful new environment for the modern buyer, but the modern seller is able to benefit too. Sales can see how prospects interact in the social environment as they volunteer information about themselves in real time. They can track what prospects are reading, who influences them, where they seek out information and so on. This gives Sales an opportunity to tap into the same networks and build trust within a community the prospect already belongs too. Now, when a prospect is ready to make a purchase, guess who they think of first?

Not only that, it facilitates customer-Sales interactions in a way that benefits both parties. Sales listens to prospects and customers in real time, meaning a better understanding of customer needs. Prospects hold Sales accountable to always provide engaging information rather than make constant sales pitches. Plus, this power-neutral relationship allows less formal and more immediate communications: Sales can reach out to new prospects or rekindle interest by old customers without ever picking up the phone.

Social Selling is defined in Eloqua’s Grande Guide as “the practice of leveraging social networks…in the overall sales function, from lead generation, to closed deal, to account management”. Social Selling is a way of responding to the changed buyer environment, and it works better for both parties. Sales is able to connect with potential buyers much earlier in the cycle and start building a relationship that can lead to more and bigger purchases. And buyers still have control over what information they provide and the degree to which they engage with Sales.

As much as the way the modern salesperson does her job is changing, the goal of Sales is still very much the same. Fundamentally, Sales is responsible for getting a buyer to the point where they can purchase. Buyers still start the cycle by seeking solutions to their problems. Branded thought leadership content is great during this information gathering stage. Then buyers narrow down the list and compare their best options. Sales can share internal and external content that touts the benefits of their solution. When the prospect is ready to buy she looks for social proof. Having an engaged social media following of current and past customers is exactly that kind of proof.

So Sales is still working towards the same objective, they’re just taking a different route through a new environment. Now, Sales accompanies the buyer throughout the whole purchase journey. “Selling to” a prospect means building a relationship over time, building trust with the buyer, and eventually making a transaction. And what better way to build that relationship than to engage “socially”, with Social Selling?

Improving Student Enrollment with B2B Marketing Strategies

classroom desks

The problems of increased competition for students, staff, and research funding are putting a strain on higher education institutions, forcing many to completely re-invent their recruiting methods. With more higher education institutions to choose from, students, staff and donors are having an equally hard time connecting with any one institution; the competition is negatively affecting both parties.

To better serve their customer (i.e. the student or staff or donor), higher education institutions can learn something from the many similarities between their challenges and the challenges in B2B marketing. Consider, if you will, how the challenges of increasing enrollment in the academic sector and improving lead conversion in the business-to-business sector face are really very similar.

B2B and higher education marketing have several common dilemmas, in fact. Both have to market to a variety of individuals, all on an individual level; each must appeal to every customer in a personal way. This is a challenge of mass-customization. Both are plagued by extremely constrictive budgets to achieve their goals, prompting questions of revenue management and ROI. Both are highly focused on conversion; a primary objective is getting more prospects from the “interest” to the “purchase” stage. The ways that B2B marketers approach these problems can reveal tricks for how higher education marketers might do the same.

B2B solves the problem of variety by ignoring it. Where there are no common factors in demography or geography, there are common factors in behavior. While a final purchase decision is made on different variables for each customer, most move though the same buyer cycle when considering that purchase. If you know that buyer journey, you can track what leads a prospect to become a customer, or a student.

B2B marketers have customer life-cycle management tools that they use to track this buyer journey and in fact, many education institutions are already taking advantage of these tools for their own purposes. The data capture available through many of these tools makes it easy to track current student behavior, which gives insights into how to target prospective students. Further adaptation of these tools represents a huge opportunity for higher education.

These same tools also help B2B marketers solve some of their resource-restriction problems. By using a more robust analytics system, marketers are able to identify their “ideal” customer and target them specifically. Without superfluous ad spend on uninterested prospects, marketers also have more money to spend on their ideal customer. Consider the benefits if higher education institutions could identify the “ideal” student and target that student exactly where she is, providing her all the information she needs, before she even asks for it. This would also reduce costs in head-count, as fewer active marketers would be needed to connect with more prospective customers.

With student personas and an idea of the typical student life-cycle, higher education marketers will be able to spot potential students much earlier in their search for an institution and thus guide them to that purchase decision. Not only will marketers be more effective, we will be using fewer of them, and their jobs will be easier. Taking a page out of the B2B marketing hand-book will improve the effectiveness and the efficiency of higher education; we give that strategy an A+.

Why You Need a Personal Brand

Your “brand” is the meaning behind your name – the thing that is recognizably “you”. A sort of mental and emotional short-hand, your brand is the collection of thoughts and feelings and experiences that people connect with “you” inside their heads. If there is consistency in these experiences, people begin to associate them with your brand, giving it its own identity.

The real benefit of a brand identity is that it can connect tangible products and services with somewhat intangible ideas like innovation or customer experience. Now when I think of your brand I don’t just think about widgets, I think about trustworthiness and quality of work and accountability; I connect with your brand on an emotional level.

By giving people a way to identify with you on an emotional level, beyond the product or service you offer, that connection runs deeper and is much stronger. When people are able to make that emotional connection, they naturally become more loyal and even become brand advocates.

But there is also incredible value in having a brand on an interpersonal level. By creating a consistent set of expectations about yourself and your work, and meeting those expectations, you see similar rewards. You appear as a more authentic team-mate and leader and you can motivate people to follow you based on their previous experiences with you.

If you can make the work you do synonymous with who you are as a person, you don’t have to convince people to buy into your ideas or products; they will trust the dependable brand they are familiar with and will see value in what you provide just because you’re the one providing it. Wouldn’t it be great for your customers, employees, or teammates to see you as the perfect company, leader, or teammate to help them meet their needs?

So create that brand and use it to guide your personal and professional life. Create that identity that can connect who you are with what you do. Brand your work and your ideas and make them identifiable and familiar for people, and then use the emotional connection they have with you to sell them your ideas.