Email marketing is one of those marketing topics that seems to be coming back into conversation, and there’s a reason for it.
Email marketing is one of the most effective marketing strategies for nurturing and converting prospects into clients. And when done well, it can boost your reputation, revenue, and retention of clients.
But there are a few email marketing mistakes that you want to avoid as you invest more time and money into it.
What Is Email Marketing?
First, what is email marketing actually?
It’s a form of direct marketing that helps you promote your offer. Now, it doesn’t have to be a hard sell. It could be more of a brand awareness tool, follow-up tool, or engagement tool for the in-between purchase phase.
Regardless of how you utilize your email marketing, it’s a powerful tool to add to your marketing toolkit.
Why Should Your Business Use Email Marketing?
In our professional opinion, there is a place for email marketing in every business’s marketing strategy. There is so much diversity in what you can use this strategy for. Here are a couple of examples:
Consulting → follow-up with referral partners
Health and wellness → educational newsletters
Marketing → long term nurture
Consumer products → awareness of new products and/or offers
8 Email Marketing Mistakes To Avoid
Here are 8 email marketing mistakes to avoid so that each marketing dollar is spent well.
1. Using Your Personal Email Over A Trusted Email Service Provider
When you can, use a trusted mass mailing service, like Mailchimp, Constant Contact, Keap, Hubspot, or whatever email marketing software you prefer. This is your best bet because it establishes your professional reputation.
A trusted email service provider will make it easier for your subscribers to:
Opt-in and/or adjust their email marketing preferences
Receive your emails in their inbox
Provide email statistics to base your decisions on
And those are just a few of the technical reasons to use an email service provider over your personal email!
2. Not Spending Enough Time On Subject Lines & Preview Text
Your subject lines and preview text are the 2 things that convince your audience to click on your email (apart from your stellar reputation).
If you need help coming up with subject lines, take a look at the emails that you open. What about them attracts you? Why do you want to open those emails?
If you’re really not sure what type of subject lines your target audience likes, then it’s time to test. Here are a couple of the subject line A/B tests we’ve run recently for clients:
Dad joke vs. non-joke
Question vs. statement
Question that includes software name vs. question that avoids software name
3. Sending Bulk Emails To A Cold Audience
This is a biggie, and one that I made in my early email marketing experience. I sent an email to 27,000 people once but a good chunk of those individuals were a cold audience – those that hadn’t actively engaged with our previous efforts.
And I got blacklisted…
Email service provider locked me down. Domain was flagged. And all my big marketing tools for that company were restricted.
Let me tell you…It took hours to fix.
So if you’re going to send an email to a wide audience – especially a cold audience – break that audience down into smaller groups. It will save you a lot of time, stress, and heartache.
4. Falling Out Of Consistent Emailing
When you’re inconsistent with your emailing, your audience’s inbox isn’t going to treat your emails the same way as if you are consistent. While this may not be an exact science, we have learned from experience that consistency helps with the technical part of email marketingand with the customer engagement.
When you start to do email marketing, it’s important to find a frequency in which you can consistently email your audience. Whether that’s quarterly, monthly, bimonthly, or weekly…Whatever it is, find a frequency and stick with it.
Need help with consistency? We’ve created a guide that includes 52 email marketing prompts to get you through the rest of the year. Download that guide here.
5. Not Measuring Email Statistics
When you don’t use an email service provider or neglect to look at the email statistics, you are wasting a big opportunity to improve. We all know that marketing is a big experiment. Anyone that tells you one thing is certain in marketing isn’t someone you want to trust. So take the statistics (i.e. open rate, click through rate, opt-out rate, etc.) into consideration when determining which methods to focus your attention and others that may need to pivot.
6. Keeping Emails Impersonal & Vague
Your emails are a great opportunity to show some personality and build a relationship. Afterall, people do business with people they know, like, and trust. When you’re impersonal and vague in your email messaging, you lose the opportunity for people to know, like, and trust you.
Personalizations, such as their name, company name, and location, are great opportunities to break through the noise and personalize your messages. When people feel seen or heard, they are much more likely to engage.
Share the horror stories, lessons learned, big wins, and embarrassing moments. Share stories that will grab their attention and engage them. And since this isn’t a public platform like blogging, social media, podcasting, etc., it’s a more intimate environment to get vulnerable.
7. Sending Emails Without Testing Links
Another one of my email marketing mistakes include sending 25,000 emails with the wrong link. Facepalm. That’s why I’ve made it a professional rule, and even a standard, to always test links in emails. Depending on the software, send yourself a test email and click on every single link. You can also preview the email and do the same thing.
If you realize a link is bad after sending the mass email, send a quick follow-up email stating that you included a wrong link. This provides you an opportunity to remarket yourself. You don’t want to do this often because then it speaks to your lack of quality control (and you don’t want that).
8. Including Unclear Call To Actions
Lastly, be obvious with your call to actions. Be specific and focused. Avoid including a dozen different call to actions in your emails. Instead, choose one and focus on that one action.
It’s Time To Focus On The Right Things For Your Email Marketing
The first step to email marketing is demystifying that it’s some complicated marketing strategy. When in reality, it’s simply about having the right conversation at the right time. If you need inspiration about what to write in your email marketing, download these 52 prompts to get started.
Prospects Slipping Through The Cracks Of Your Sales Pipeline?
You may be leaving money on the table if you aren’t following up with them regularly and relationally.
As a business owner, do you indoctrinate new prospects as much as you hustle to market your content to the right audience?
When running a business, converting your audience into paying customers is key to turning profit and growing your brand. This is what we call the indoctrination process, and it’s all about nurturing your leads.
Don’t forget to indoctrinate new prospects into your brand. This portion is often skipped; however, it needs to stay at the forefront of your marketing. From the lead magnet that prompted a lead to give you their email address, that welcome email that locks in their interest, all the way to following up after a purchase is made. And don’t forget about your website copy, blog content, exclusive offers, and so on.
2 Steps To Indoctrinate New Prospects Into Paying Customers
Next comes the welcome message, but it doesn’t end there.
Welcome Your Lead Into Your Business’ Culture
You’ve done something right so far because a lead has opted in to receive your emails. But we all know how emails go. If it’s not done right, then we quickly hit unsubscribe because we don’t want an irrelevant chain of emails clogging our inbox.
So how do you capture your audience’s attention and get them excited about what comes next?
On top of writing copy that represents your unique brand voice, your friends at FocusCopy write in a way that will indoctrinate your leads into your brand.
Because at the end of the day, what good is great copy if it’s not converting leads into paying customers?
Are you wondering, “What is my business’ culture?” Let FocusCopy help you engage your audience with your brand specific voice through effective copy. Reach out today!
Introduce Yourself In A Relevant Way
So this takes a bit of finesse. You want to introduce yourself – but in a manner that is relevant to your product or service.
Talk about who you are and how your business exists specifically to make your customers’ lives easier.
However, you also want to keep it fun, light, and engaging. After all, people want to feel like they’re communicating with a person – not a bot.
Furthermore, this email might contain that special offer your audience opted in to receive. So make sure you include that piece of value.
Then, to finish it off, give your audience a little taste of what they can look forward to with your future emails.
Focus On The Prospects Wants & Needs
In your next email to your lead, let them know that you understand their needs. They wouldn’t have subscribed in the first place if there wasn’t something that sparked their interest.
So the key here is to keep that momentum going while offering value to their own life or business.
To do this, you want to focus on their pain points and the solutions you provide.
For instance, consider a hypothetical health food company, Raspberry Blue, that is pushing their new beverages. It’s no secret that there are tons of competing businesses out there. So this (fictitious) company needs their audience to understand why their product is the best option.
How do you do this? Tell them the benefits!
Raspberry Blue has been shown to improve cardiovascular health, give you that pep of energy to get through your day, and is a healthier alternative than your mid-day snack. Did we mention their drinks are low in calories, contain no added sugar, and are ultra low in sodium?
If you’re in the market for healthier alternatives due to a recent diagnosis of high blood pressure, wouldn’t you want to at least give it a shot?
We definitely would!
Show Your Prospect How Your Business Will Improve Their Life
By now, you’ve introduced yourself and your business. Most importantly, you’ve empathized with your audience’s pain points on a human level.
Now, it’s time to really show your prospects how your product or service will improve their lives.
Give examples, provide testimonials, heck – you may even offer a money-back guarantee. Because at this point, if they’ve opened and read 3 whole email newsletters, then you’re definitely doing something right.
And like all communications, point your lead in the direction you want them to go. Whether that’s Order Now! or a link to your product or service page, make this next step easy. Tell them where to go and provide a direct link.
Don’t Leave Your Leads Out In The Cold
Here’s where we see business owners fumble the most.
You’ve created content, utilized marketing tools to reach your target audience, and they are engaged! The proof is in the opt-ins to receive your emails.
Moreover, you’ve been sending them newsletters with value. They know you, they know the benefits of your product or service, and while they haven’t made a purchase yet, they haven’t hit unsubscribe.
While you don’t want to bug them with a ton of emails and texts, you also don’t want to leave them out in the cold.
This is where your conversational content keeps you looking human and your leads interested. Just because they haven’t given you their money yet, doesn’t mean they won’t.
Maybe they’re budgeting their next quarter, or maybe they just need a little more convincing. Either way, don’t give up on your leads.
If running your business is leaving you no time to create consistent and effective copy, then FocusCopy can help. Through our services, you’ll be able to capture the attention of your ideal customers with value-laden content that will convert. Reach out today, and we can talk over a warm cuppa.
Continue Nurturing Your Leads With Value-Driven Content
The same care you put into your email newsletters should also go into every piece of content you create.
This means website copy, blogs, social media, texts, direct mailers, and so on. Stay in touch and stay relevant.
Furthermore, if your audience is reaching out, despite not being paying customers, continue to engage. Doing so builds trust and credibility.
That being said, we’re not telling you to offer your services for free. But you can answer questions and give pointers. If the requests are encroaching on the services your business provides, direct them to receive your services as a client. And let them know why!
With a paying customer, you’ll be able to devote a whole lot more attention, and you’ll be personally invested in that person’s success. But again, it takes finesse.
Continue to show up in their inbox with intriguing newsletters that contain backlinks to blogs to your website. Not only will well-written blogs with SEO improve your Google ranking, but you’ll be continually offering something of value that is relevant to your ideal customers.
Need Help Indoctrinating New Prospects Into Your Brand?
Your friendly copywriters at FocusCopy would love nothing more than to discuss your business goals over a warm cup of coffee. We help entrepreneurs just like you narrow in on your brand voice and utilize our tools to establish and grow your brand.
So whether you don’t know where to start or just don’t have the time, you can still reach and engage your target audience. After all, if you’re not indoctrinating prospects and converting leads into paying customers, how will your business become the success you envision?
As an entrepreneur, many things are pulling your attention – growing your team, serving your clients, keeping your books in order, and so on.
But what about your marketing?
You’re told to write a blog, send an email newsletter, create SEO content, post on social media, create video content, learn all the algorithms, paid advertising, speaking engagements, and the list doesn’t stop there.
But through the noise, do you feel like marketing experts think about you and your capacity (brainwidth) as a small business owner?
Here are some things you can do to start prioritizing marketing tasks.
Get Organized And Start Prioritizing Marketing Tasks
A great place to start is by making your dream list. Come on, let’s brainstorm together!
Ask yourself, what is your all-the-bells-and-whistles checklist? You know, the whole laundry list of marketing ideas you’ve ever wanted to implement. If you’re stuck or need some suggestions, you can:
Review your website copy. Does it still fit you and your company’s vision? Find a copywriter who can spice it up.
Are you getting any traffic? Use a writer who knows SEO to help.
Do you have social media followers? Work on a social media strategy that can boost sales for your business.
Now look at your list and ask, what is your more sensible barebones checklist?
This checklist is what you need to begin and get going on building your marketing strategy.
Whether you’re running the show or you have a team of helpful employees, there are some small things you can do to be productive and get organized.
ClickUp is an online task management tool that you can use to plugin projects you need to get done, set deadlines, assign tasks to staff, and so much more. Because it’s such a user-friendly system, prioritizing your laundry list of marketing to-dos is that much easier.
A Breakdown Of Marketing Strategies
Let’s talk about several marketing strategies you may have seen over time. Let’s determine if it’s something that you want to focus on and use for your business.
If you don’t have an SEO strategy or you don’t have a lot of website traffic, blogging could be a useful channel. With blogs, you can kick up your ranking through SEO best-practices. Doing so gives your prime audience helpful information and a sneak peek into your industry.
Your traffic rate is reasonable, but you don’t have a substantial email list of current and potential customers interested in your services. Lead magnets can get you into your customers’ minds to find out what their pain points are and what’s important to them in a solution.
It’s okay to put your customers on the spot. Ask them for their email or create other ways to encourage them to take an action on your page. Use phrases like:
A useful landing page is an engaging and easy-to-read snapshot of your business and its services. It helps to lead a viewer to click and take them to the next step. Whether the page leads them to a phone number, email address, or order form – you want your customer to take action here.
Cheat Sheet Or Guide
Post a simple cheat sheet or guide informing others of your business model or the way you produce a product. This is a quick way to get them to understand more of what you do. Again, you want them to take action and reach out to you.
Video Or Audio
Think of a video or audio bite as a more modern version of a cheat sheet. Not only can you show off a bit of your personality here, but you’re also giving your audience a way to interact. By doing so, they are more likely to make an action on your page and seek your services.
There’s nothing like a fun quiz to get an audience engaged and interested in signing up for future emails (check out this fantastic example here). Quizzes are an interactive way to get your audience to question themselves and realize they may need your help. Whether you want to lead them to make a purchase or sign up for your emails to reveal their answers, you really can’t go wrong with a winning quiz.
Some lively and informative email marketing can help you turn your traffic into leads and eventually into buyers. A good email marketing strategy keeps subscribers in-the-know and consistently aware of your brand.
It’s okay to start small with social media. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself with the idea of posting on all outlets every day. It’s better to create a stable community of advocates and promoters for your business little by little.
Paid ads can kickstart awareness of your business. This can help grow your following, traffic, regular subscribers, etc. It pays to invest in yourself.
What Are Your Marketing Priorities?
Keep in mind that you can do it without feeling like you need to do it all.
For this upcoming quarter, make a list of 3 things you’re going to do well. It could even be cross-sections of a topic (i.e. send one newsletter a week instead of full email marketing campaigns). Then determine whether it genuinely looks doable to you.
Check Us Out & Check Off Your Marketing To-Do List
We’ve listed some insights into what you should really focus on between all of the agencies, consultants, and experts so you don’t skip the important stuff. Make reasonable requests for yourself. Can you put out one email a month? One blog a month? What about one social media post a week?
As a small business owner, it’s important to be true to yourself, your capabilities, and your budget.
Need some help with your prioritizing marketing tasks or creating content? Give us a shout, and we’ll get you where you want to be – operating in a timeframe that works for you.
When Was The Last Time You Updated Your Home Page?
Answer these 6 questions and spruce up your home page in 15 minutes (or less).
There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for content marketing.
The type of content your website should provide to your customers should depend on what they want to buy and how much time they want to spend reading your site before they buy or move on.
In today’s digital age, the opportunities to sell are endless. There are so many different types of content that you can create and offer to your audience. In this blog, we’ll focus on the content that targets individuals or businesses that…
May not be aware of their need for your product or service
Need to engage more with your brand before they click “buy”
But first, let’s talk about how this audience is different from others you market to and why they require different kinds of content.
Why Offer Different Types of Content For Each Stage of the Sales Funnel
Each customer that will eventually buy your service or product has their own journey that starts at awareness of your brand and moves to being an active promoter of your brand.
In marketing, this customer journey is called the sales funnel. It has three stages:
Top of funnel
Middle of funnel
Bottom of funnel
Top of Funnel (TOFU)
Top of funnel (or TOFU for short) is the stage where prospects become aware of their problem and your solution.
They must become aware that you exist.
You want them to engage with your content.
And to get them to do that at this stage, your content should be freely available.
In other words, it should be ungated – while still havingthe option to provide their email for more information.
Middle of Funnel (MOFU)
Middle of the funnel (or MOFU for short) is the stage where prospects become customers. It’s all about conversion here! At this stage, content might look like providing a free resource in exchange for your customer’s email or selling your customer a product or service.
Bottom of Funnel (BOFU)
Bottom of funnel (or BOFU for short) is the stage where customers become excited about working with you. By this time, they will:
Ascend through your different offerings
Be ready to buy higher-value content
Advocate/promote your brand to their network
The Purpose of Top of Funnel Content
The value and purpose of content needs to change at each stage. And the first stage, TOFU has the widest audience. The goal of top of funnel content is to build, connect, and interact with your audience.
In dating terms, this is making eye contact and asking that person out for coffee. It’s safe and non-committal. It’s just expressing interest and seeing where it takes you!
Different Types of Top of Funnel Content To Offer
Here are some different types of top funnel content that will help you make a great first impression with your audience.
Your company is accomplishing amazing things that set you apart from your competitors. Blogs are the place to show that off! Celebrate your hard work, explain difficult decisions, and discuss your growth and major milestones.
If your audience is captivated by your story, they’ll want to learn more, engage, and cheer your company on.
2. Product Announcements
Speaking of company news, blogs are a great way to announce the launch of new products. This might include:
Added service offerings
A blog post lets you go beyond a general product description. It gives space for you to tell a story with more detail. How did you identify the need? What inspired its design? How will/have customers’ lives changed because of the new product?
3. Cornerstone Blogs
Cornerstone blogs are articles your audience will want to refer back to time and time again. Just like we pin important posts to the top of our Facebook pages, cornerstone blogs are substantial and noteworthy.
A great cornerstone blog will be:
All-inclusive of your entire process
Approximately 3 times the length of a normal blog (2,500 or more words)
Filled with crosslinks that lead customers to your other content
Everyone wants to use the best products and services possible. But the average person will not have time to do all the research themselves to find the right solution for them. Save your audience time (which they’ll appreciate) by doing a comparison blog.
For example, to write about “what’s the best project management software?”, you could:
Pick 2 of the most popular contenders
Compare and contrast product features
Note their reviews
Talk about ease of use and customer support
This is extremely common for software.
Comparison blogs aren’t the only way to save people time. How-tos are also really valuable for this! Give a quick and easy tutorial on how to do something. To make your post even more valuable, include screenshots or photos of the process and mention anything your company offers that can make it even easier.
6. Quiz or Survey
Nothing says engagement like an interactive blog post. Include a quiz or survey in your next blog. Here are some ideas for making it fun and useful:
Keep it short and sweet with 10 questions or less and 3-6 options per question
Include a text box on surveys where your audience can ask questions
Make it easy to read by pairing text responses with images
Provide a next step by including a call to action at the end
With a quiz, you’ll increase engagement and learn more about your target audience. It’s a win-win!
Another type of blog that has lots of value is a Question and Answer (Q&A) post. This is where you go over questions your customer asks (or what you think they’ll ask). Here are a few ideas:
After you’ve collected survey results, duplicate that content by turning the responses into a Q&A blog
Create a Q&A blog from frequently asked questions about products or services – “6 Questions We Get About [Your Product]”
Conduct an interview-style Q&A with an expert from your team
Q&As help resolve common questions and draw awareness to your products and services.
Every email on your email list is not created equal. Some people who are in the top of your sales funnel might not make it to the middle. Email content helps you rebuild your targeting list by pulling in possible leads.
10. Email Newsletters
Keep your company visible by showing up regularly in your audience’s inbox with a roundup of content. Here are some best practices for making an email newsletter your audience will look forward to:
Don’t spam their inbox
Have an eye-catching subject line
Highlight your other recent content
Give email-exclusive offers
Well-crafted email newsletters have the power to bring people from TOFU through MOFU to BOFU.
You know what they say… “An image is worth a thousand words”. Image content can communicate so much about your company with just one glance. Plus, get double the visibility by reposting images from your blog onto Pinterest. Here are a few kinds of image content.
It’s time for a brand photoshoot! Photo content can give your audience greater insight into the personality of your company. Take photos to:
Try overlaying an image with an inspiring quote – especially ones from your own brand! Your audience will start to picture you as an authority figure and leader. If you’ve been quoted, you’re legit and on a fast path to becoming an authority leader.
Reading through a long detailed process description or trying to visualize complex stats is confusing and boring. Don’t be boring. Keep your audience’s attention with clear infographics instead. They’ll be engaged and ready to learn more. Here is an example of an infographic we created.
Does your company have expert knowledge that your audience will benefit from? Turn it into learning content through webinars or a video series.
14. Video Series
Create a company YouTube channel! There, you can post a series of videos where you teach your audience. To get the most out of a YouTube video series, include links to your other content in the video’s description and embed those videos into blog posts.
Webinars are a more interactive type of learning content. Your audience will be able to tune in live, ask questions, and get specific feedback. Increased engagement means more opportunities for you to show the value of your products or services.
Aside from learning content, video can also do so much more for your marketing strategy. Here are some different types of top of funnel content to create from videos.
Use videos that run longer than 10 minutes for more detailed story-telling like:
Vlogs (video blogs)
A case study or success story
Behind the scenes footage
To keep your audience’s attention, your video should get more interesting as it gets longer. Introduce at the start that something exciting will be revealed at the end. And then deliver on that promise.
Channel your collaborative side by recording an interview with a team member or someone from your business network. Also look out for opportunities to be interviewed by other companies to get even more visibility.
Diversify your reach with outside content like magazine articles, press releases, and Q&A forums.
19. Magazine Articles
Being featured in a magazine article will build trust and recognition for your brand. Identify some popular magazines that get a lot of traffic, and then pitch your story!
Need some help pitching your story to magazines? Press releases can help grab the attention of journalists and media outlets so you’ll be more likely to get on their radar. Press releases spark curiosity in a broad audience and give them a reason to visit your website, find your other content, or try out your products.
(We’ve recently partnered with an incredible boutique PR agency that customizes solutions for each of their clients. If you’d like a warm introduction, reach out to us here.)
21. Q&A Forums
Establish your credibility as an expert and grow your community by answering questions in Q&A forums. Try out these 2 forums: Quora and Alignable.
Now more than ever, people are spending an unprecedented amount of time on their social media. Take advantage of their undivided attention by showing up regularly with awesome content in their feeds.
22. Social Media Posts
Each social network has their own content style. With all that variety, you can post about the same topics on different platforms while still making it look like different content.
23. Facebook Group
Leverage Facebook groups to engage with your audience on a whole new level. Being part of a Facebook group helps people feel more connected to your brand and each other – making them one step closer to reaching the BOFU.
24. Facebook or Instagram Live
Interaction gets even better when the experience is happening live. Your audience doesn’t even need to leave their home to have face-to-face access to you. Show a live demo, interview, or Q&A! Host the live content with collaborators in your network to reach an even broader audience.
24. IGTV (< 5 minutes)
Instagram introduced IGTV last year, making it a hot new avenue to post your content. The best part is, you don’t need expensive professional equipment to shoot your content. The platform is meant to be made right from your phone.
26. Social Media Advertising
What most people don’t know is that when you do social media advertising, your ads can appear outside of social media networks. When you take out a Facebook ad, it can appear in the New York Times or Wall Street Journal. Take advantage of this extra visibility!
Finally, there are different types of top of funnel content that can exist right on your website and require little to no updating. These are things like online calculators, product or services pages, and microsites.
One kind of TOFU website content is a calculator – like the calculators found here. Many mortgage lenders have calculators on their websites. If done well, it can act as a lead generator to get a mortgage quote.
28. Product / Service Pages
Does your website have seperate pages for each of its products or services? This is a great way to expand your content and make it easier for your customers to find you online. Check out FocusCopy’s tips for updating your website copy to make your products and services pages work well at the top of your marketing funnel.
Microsites are great ways to capture more attention and direct them to your website. It’s usually a single page or cluster of pages meant to complement a specific activity.
One of our favorite recent use of microsites is Tulsa advocating to Tesla to build a plant in their city. So they created TulsaSaysYes.com.
While that’s enough to at least put a case together for Tesla to consider Tulsa, they took it one step further. They created AustinSaysNo.com.
While this campaign only had a target audience of one, it was extremely effective and targeted.
What Types of Content Are You Working On?
These 29 different types of top of funnel content are just the start. There are so many varieties of content for different stages of the sales funnel. What kinds of content is your company working on now? Creating content consistently can be a lot to keep up with. If your team is looking to grow your visibility by outsourcing your content writing, FocusCopy can help.
Focus Your Copy On
Conversation & Conversion
Let’s Grab A Virtual Coffee With Us To Discover How To Boost Your Words
If you’re a regular around here, you know we usually talk about copywriting tips to help your business better communicate how it transforms your customer’s lives. Today, we’re taking a different direction to tell you why communicating your new IT solutions is critical for your business’ well-being.
COVID-19 has been top-of-mind for many businesses lately.
But the pandemic isn’t the only war we need to be fighting. Hackers are capitalizing on these unprecedented times to steal your information and compromise your security. Our friends at Brooks IT Services have put together these tips to help you avoid security threats and make sure that your genuine communications aren’t mistaken for spam.
3 Ways to Combat Cyber Threats
There are several measures all companies can take to avoid cybersecurity breaches. Here are 3 ways to combat cyber threats that can be quickly put into effect.
1. Watch Out for Phishing Emails
In the era of social-distancing, our inboxes contain more email than usual. It’s 2020, and email remains at the center of vital business communications. Unfortunately, it is also at the center of countless cybersecurity breaches. We must be more guarded and suspicious of emails and watch out for phishing email scams. Brooks IT Services has seen an increase of 680% in phishing emails since the COVID-19 lockdown started.
What’s a Phishing Email?
A phishing email is an email sent by a cybercriminal to convince you to reveal your sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, or banking details. They do this by pretending to be a representative of a trustworthy company or someone you know.
Hackers have caught on to the copywriting techniques that well-meaning companies use everyday and use them to craft their phishing scams. This makes it extremely difficult for people to know what is spam and what isn’t.
Can you spot the subject line that’s spam?
Not as easy as you’d hoped, right?
Signs An Email Is A Phishing Scam
So how can you tell a phishing email from a legitimate one? Phishing emails…
Appear to be from a company you trust. Cybercriminals take advantage of the trust companies have with their clients. They’ll even include a company’s name and logo or attach a fake invoice.
Notify you of fake suspicious activity. Hackers will scare you into providing your login information. They may claim there’s an issue with your account information or that there have been several login attempts.
Include a “special offer.” They’ll offer coupons for free products or say you’re eligible for a free service.
Have generic language and/or typos. When phishing emails are sent out in mass, the greetings are typically generic (“Dear Customer,” or “Hi Dear,”). Cybercriminals intentionally include spelling and grammatical errors in their emails too. They assume people who overlook these errors will be more gullible, and it’ll be easier to steal their information.
Be More Suspicious of Emails
Trustworthy companies will neverask for your personal information via email. Never download non-secure attachments. If you receive a suspicious email from a company you trust, double-check the sender’s email address. If it looks genuine, contact the company directly with a phone number or website you know is legitimate.
Now that you know what phishing emails look like, how can you make sure your business communications don’t look like spam?
Tips to Avoid Sending Spammy-Looking Emails
Familiarize clients with your email address. If you send emails from a marketing automation software (Infusionsoft, Hubspot, Mailchimp, Constant Contact, etc.), let your audience know what to expect. Say what the email’s sender address will be and what the contents will look like.
Minimize poor grammar and spelling errors. This may seem like a duh moment, but there are many professional emails littered with grammatical issues. Proofread your emails and send a test email to confirm there aren’t any mistakes.
Provide secure downloads. Establish trust with your audience by hosting your downloads in a secure place like Google Drive, WordPress media, or Amazon S3. If you’re sending secure information, always make sure the emails are encrypted. You don’t want someone to steal that information while it’s navigating to the intended inbox.
2. Use Work Computers
Another simple way to combat cyber threats is to have employees use work computers. With Stay-At-Home orders, non-essential work is being conducted from home. It might be tempting to switch over to personal computers, but this is incredibly dangerous. And no… we don’t mean dangerous for your work-life balance (although it might be for that too!).
Companies take several measures to ensure their computers and networks are secure and protected from cyber threats. These protections aren’t guaranteed on personal devices. If employees access a company network from a personal computer, malware can enter the network and compromise company security.
To avoid this, provide secure company computers/laptops for employees’ at-home use. And if they aren’t already, have employees use a VPN to connect to business networks from home too.
3. Improve Your Password Strategy
It’s tempting to set a simple password that’s easy to remember and saves you time.
But hackers can crack a simple password in a matter of seconds.
Your time is expensive, but security breaches are too. The good news is you don’t have to choose! You can improve your password strategy in little to no time.
The song lyrics strategy. Song lyrics are long, but easy to remember. Set your password as the first letter of each word in a song lyric. It will be nonsense to anyone else, but you’ll recall it quickly. For example, a password using the starting lyrics of the national anthem would be “Oscysbtdel”. This would take 20 octillion years to break using a PC; but many hackers access multiple computers so this likely break time is much shorter! Add in a symbol or two for even more protection.
Use a password manager. Most business owners have numerous login credentials. Using unique passwords for each one provides maximum security, but remembering them all can be grueling. Password managers are a great solution for setting and remembering highly secure passwords with minimal effort. You’ll just have to remember one password, and the rest is done for you.
Change passwords regularly. Hackers use computer programs to test every combination of characters your password could be. This means it is only a matter of time before they crack even the most complex passwords. Set a recurring reminder in your calendar to change your passwords regularly so you’ll have new security details before they finish hacking.
Communicating Your New IT Solutions During COVID-19
The pandemic hasn’t only impacted cyber security. It’s pushed many companies into remote work requiring new technology. To make this transition as smooth as possible, keep these things in mind when communicating your new IT solutions during COVID-19…
The most predictable thing about our current situation is that it’s unpredictable. With each coming day, there’s something new we need to protect ourselves from – either physically or virtually. Shortly after Zoom’s rise in popularity, Zoom-bombing became an issue. Now we know password-protecting calls is essential. As technology and current events change rapidly, keep your employees informed through frequent communication.
Become a Valuable Resource
Don’t assume your audience knows the technology. Take time to make sure your communication is extra clear and your audience knows how to protect the application and information they access. The last thing you want is to be bombarded with a bunch of people asking how to get onto Zoom.
Be a Person First
This is something that we preach all the time… It’s not about your company. It’s about the customer. And when you’re dealing with your customers, you have to be a person first. Bryan Brooks affirmed, “they may be your employees, colleagues, and your clients. BUT they are people first.”
Stay Informed But NOT Obsessed
Trying to stay up-to-date on all the latest news is exhausting and unrealistic. With today’s 24-hour news cycle, you could be caught up for hours on end and still not get to everything. You’ll lose valuable work-time and gain more anxiety than benefit.
So how can you stay informed without getting obsessed? Try signing up for an email newsletter that highlights important tech news. You’ll get straight to the important news, without wasting your time and energy.
The experts at Brooks IT Services find the most relevant news stories in tech for you and deliver it to your mailbox each day so you can spend less time worrying and more time doing.
March 18th, 2020… The rapidly spreading coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) led to countless local and national events to be cancelled. Major events such as the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, to MLB spring training, and NBA March Madness came to a stand-still and halted the community spirit they engender. Churches, universities, libraries, and school districts rapidly followed suit. Suddenly, virtual classrooms were hurriedly created, parents had to become homeschool teachers, and homes became offices.
Even today, there continues to be a lot of uncertainty surrounding coronavirus. Will what happened in Italy happen in the United States? How long will this pandemic last? How will it impact my business?
When there’s uncertainty, people either make rash decisions (AKA taking more than their fair share of toilet paper and water) or don’t make any decisions at all.
Take a deep breath…. In… Out…
Let’s talk through one of the most important decisions your business should be making right now: communicating through the coronavirus crisis to your community about your company’s plans.
2 Camps for Coronavirus Business Communications
There are 2 camps for coronavirus business communications: those which require immediate communications with customers or vendors (urgent) and those whose business has not been impacted dramatically (non-urgent). It’s critical that you figure out which camp your business is in.
There are 2 audiences for business communications, audiences that:
Urgently need information (i.e. staff, customers and vendors or suppliers)
Can wait or don’t need explicit communications about what you’re doing
You should communicate with both audiences, but your immediate priority audience should be staff, customers, and vendors/suppliers. This is especially important regarding the highly volatile and troubling COVID-19 pandemic.
Companies That Require Urgent Communication
If your business primarily depends on customers and workers being physically present in your place of work, it is essential that you communicate as soon as possible with your customers, employees, and vendors about your plan regarding the coronavirus pandemic.
Here are some examples of companies that require urgent communications with employees, vendors, and customers:
Restaurants / Cafes / Coffee Shops / Bars
Fitness Centers / Gyms
Businesses whose supply chain has been disrupted (how many of your goods or components are sourced from China?)
Companies That Do Not Require Urgent Communication
Businesses and people that you work with, but don’t necessarily have to be in the same room or building with them to conduct your business, should be considered for non-urgent communications. Why? Because they only need to be kept informed about what and how your business is operating under current conditions as it may affect how you continue to work together.
For example, if your key personnel are now working from home, they may need to offer their cell phone number or clients or set up call forwarding to their cell phone.
That’s why you won’t see an email about how FocusCopy is reacting to the coronavirus pandemic. Our clients already know that we can do everything remotely and that we are able to deliver our services to them – business as usual.
Here are some examples of companies that you may consider for non-urgent communications:
Companies that already work remotely
Coaching or consulting businesses
Identifying What Coronavirus Means For Your Business
To communicate effectively with the community regarding your company’s plans, you should first identify what the current state of affairs means for your business.
Create a Business Communications Plan Before You Need It
Most days, I check the weather before I leave the house so I know whether to pack an umbrella – I don’t want to get caught in the rain.
If the coronavirus had your company blind-sided, let’s talk about ways you can regularly tune into the forecast of your business network to anticipate major events and be prepared for an unexpected storm.
Pay attention to your employees, vendors, customers, and customer’s customers.
One of my mentors once told me to ask every business I come in contact with, “How’s business?”. Whether it is before the close of a meeting or at the end of a quick phone call, it’s one of the best pieces of advice that he ever gave me.
Asking this one simple question will give you a regular update on the economic climate and keep you tuned in to challenges that might soon rise to the surface. When issues arise in other businesses, vendors, customers, or employees, you can anticipate the impact this might have on your business and start preparing your communication plan, well in advance.
Always Defer to Reliable Sources For Guidance
It’s so easy to get caught up in pseudo-reliable sources or believe compelling news trends that pick up in your social media feeds. However, before you put out any business communications, defer to the legitimate reliable sources of information – the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO).
Tips for Communicating Through the Coronavirus Crisis
Here are tips for communicating through the coronavirus crisis.
Keep Messaging Clear & Concise
When public health officials release new information, they aim to be consistent, accurate, clear, and concise. You should do the same thing. The last thing that you want to have happen is have a wave of customers responding with clarifying questions.
If there is any vital information that your audience needs to hear, don’t withhold it. If you don’t know what’s going to happen, then state it.
Many businesses in the service industry (restaurants, cafes, bars, etc.) have created a separate COVID-19 response page on their websites to explain how they are helping to maintain cleanliness and how they are going to serve their customers despite ever-changing demands from public health officials.
If your normal services need to be adjusted to protect your customer and your staff, consider creating a COVID-19 web page of your own, or devoting a post on your social media page explaining the change(s).
There is a balance between being serious (not joking) and remaining positive. It’s a fine line to dance, but we always err on the side of caution especially with something as serious as a pandemic. Acknowledge the challenges of the situation, and offer ways that your business can provide some solace or positive distraction.
One of our clients forwarded us this great email – full of empathy, positivity, and opportunity. It acknowledges the situation (lack of college guidance while schools are closed) and a perfect solution to make their readers not waste this extra long Spring Break.
Leave Email Blasts for Essential Communications
Leave the email blasts for essential communications. Here are some companies that sent really well put-together emails about their response to COVID-19.
Postmate has direct contact with their consumers; therefore, it makes total sense to send out an email to their customers. One thing that we really like about this email is they include everyone – customers, fleet (their “employees”), and vendor (restaurants) in one simple to read email. It’s clear and concise. Bullets are your best friend here!
Unfortunately, my inbox has been flooded with non-essential emails. These messages aren’t communicating useful information about changes in a company’s normal procedures or access to their services. Instead, they are sending out messages solely because they have hopped onto the bandwagon and think that they need to address the world news via an email blast.
To protect the following perpetrators, we haven’t included any examples. But I can almost guarantee that you have some in your inbox. Read through a few of them, and while reading these, ask yourself… Did these communicate anything valuable?
Remember, if your customers already interface with you digitally or have little in-person interactions with you, do them a big favor and spare their inbox by communicating with them using other mediums instead. Your community will respect your ability to be thoughtful and intentional about your communication.
Reinforce Safety & Priorities
While you’re communicating through the coronavirus crisis, it’s important that your reinforce safety and state your priorities. Your customers need to hear that you’re taking care of everything.
Southwest Airlines put together a great email outlining the biggest concern in the airline industry right now – cleanliness. They expressed that while they already have an extensive cleaning process, they’ve upped their game to protect their customers.
Letting your customers and employees know what your company is doing to ensure their health and safety will put the community at ease, and help business run as close to normal under unusual circumstances.
Get On It Early
It’s no shocker that things change on a daily if not weekly basis. In the span of just 2 days, Harris County shut down all bars and clubs and closed all restaurant dining rooms. In the food and beverage industry, that’s a rapid and radical change! Successful transitions into these changes relies on a company’s ability to adjust early.
When first hearing news about health and economic troubles in other parts of the world or even local companies outside of your industry, it’s only natural to want to keep hope that these misfortunes will not come your way too – that things will not get as bad here. But like the old saying goes: better safe than sorry. It’s better to prepare a plan you may never have to use, than to be forced to react last-minute without one.
Another benefit about planning an early response is that it allows you to create your own narrative rather than allowing the media, the government, or competitors to write your storyline for you.
Support Other Businesses
Bottom line… Every business has been impacted by COVID-19. In times like these, there is power in numbers. We are stronger together. Support other businesses by…
Engaging with their brands on social media
Sharing offers from other companies
Partnering with a company for a joint product/service
Referring business to those other businesses
Offer Free Value
If you have not been impacted, then I encourage you to offer free value to your followers. Don’t be afraid to give value, even if it was once behind a paywall. Here is a list of free value you can offer your followers, prospects, and customers:
Free Facebook Group
Access to normally paid content (see below for an example from Digital Marketer)
Guides (see below for what Jenna Kutcher put together)
All of these options are social-distancing proof, can be extremely valuable, and help build relationship equity.
For example, DigitalMarketer just offered its DM Lab available for free. This is a subscription that has helped me as I built my career. Again, they’re building relationship equity.
And they didn’t send an email about how they are reacting to COVID-19.
Extend Grace to Your Vendors & Customers
Everyone reacts differently to stress. Some become very quick decision makers. Others lose their cool or shut down. So in all your communications – digital, written, verbal, etc. – extend grace. You don’t know what unexpected challenges others are dealing with, how they react to stress, or how they’ve been treated by others.
Thankfully, this isn’t the first pandemic of our time (last one being the 2009 H1N1 pandemic). For some of us towards the end of the millennial generation or in Generation Z, that memory may be vague. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask more experienced colleagues. This isn’t their first rodeo, so you may learn something that will help you not reinvent the wheel.
Give large amounts of grace. Be quick to forgive. And forgive often.
At the end of the day, your vendors and customers are human beings. I know I say that all the time, but we often forget that we’re working with emotional beings. They have basic needs, just like you.
Ask For Help If You Need It
Finally, ask for help if you need it. Small business communities are stronger than ever. People are willing to fight for you, but they can’t give you what you need if you don’t ask for it. Common things to ask for are:
Whatever it is, ask for it. If you’re having issues finding a solution, please tag FocusCopy at @FocusCopyLLC to let us know or send an email to info@FocusCopy.com. We made it our mission to be our clients’ strategic partners in all their business communications. So let’s partner together and get through this!