Let’s talk CAN-SPAM Act

The other day I got an email from a realtor here in Jacksonville. I know I’ve never signed up for her emails/newsletter/updates since I’m not shopping for a house, nor do I know her. I shrugged it off and scrolled to the bottom of the email to quickly hit the “UNSUBSCRIBE” button only to find that there wasn’t one. *GASP* NO UNSUBSCRIBE BUTTON???!!!

Yeah, this is breaking a very important CAN-SPAM act. Number 5 to be exact. I politely replied and asked her to remove me from the distribution and added the CAN-SPAM law links to the Federal Trade Commission. I think everyone can use a little education; especially when they are breaking the law. 

There IS a compliance page for small businesses. It’s very important you follow these laws when emailing people. 

Here are the laws:
Each separate email in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act is subject to penalties of up to $42,530, so non-compliance can be costly. But following the law isn’t complicated. Here’s a rundown of CAN-SPAM’s main requirements:

  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.

Here’s the link for full details: https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/can-spam-act-compliance-guide-business

I use MailChimp for all of my newsletter/updates/subscribe functions. They follow the CAN-SPAM Act laws better than anyone I know. I don’t have an affiliate link to them, but you’re welcome to google them or click the direct link above. 

Business Tip of the Day! Test the Waters with a Temp

You’ve put blood, sweat and tears into growing your business and you’re doing it all on your own. Now, business is booming and you’re finding it difficult to keep up, but you’re nervous about bringing on a full-time employee. How can you assess your need for full-time assistance with minimal risk?

Hire a temp.

Define the tasks you’d like help with short-term and bring in temporary help to test. If you find that you keep them occupied and your business continues to grow, the decision to bring someone on permanently becomes an easy one.

How did you go about bringing in help when it was time to expand your business? Leave a comment below!

kimtown's Top 10 Web Pet Peeves

I often get asked to critique websites to see what they can do to improve or change. I came up with this list while I was in the shower (I do my best thinking in there) and just had to blog about it. I would love to hear your comments. Let’s discuss…

10. Unprofessional Website
It was cool in 1995 to have flying doves (clipart animated) and a big spinning E for people to click on to contact you, but those ancient design flaws are {and should be} a thing of the past. Potential clients WILL pass judgement on your company based on how your website looks. If your site is dated and has images with people in sweater dresses (oh wait that’s coming back huh?) and bangs taller than most small children, it’s time to update. I know not everyone can spend thousands on a new website, but kimtown websites are inexpensive and look great.

9. Blog with Blogspot.com
Really? You can’t afford to host your site for about $6 a month and get a professional looking blog with thousands of FREE themes with wordpress? Many of you have read about why I don’t think blogs should be with blogspot, but just to recap…Free sites/blogs/etc are a dead giveaway that a business is not making any money; bottom line. That of course means you have little or no experience with what you are doing; so why would someone hire you? I know I will get flamed by some for this, but it really is true. Your web presence is SO important to your brand, since it’s often the first way your potential clients “meet” you. Not ponying up a few bucks a month to appear professional is really speaking words about your business. (Not to mention that annoying bar that goes on top of the blog to promote the free site you are on)

8. Paid Blog space
Places like Typepad, Movable Type, SquareSpace etc charge too much for their blogs and don’t even give you an unbranded name. Last time I checked it was yourname.typepad.com. That’s just as bad (if not worse since you are PAYING THEM to carry their name) as yourname.blogspot.com. Get serious about your brand. You can go far for a few dollars a month. (Check out Dreamhost up top there)

7. Flash websites with super fast transitions
Don’t make your viewers dizzy by all your fancy transitions that you just learned in Flash CS4. Remember less is more. Just because you know HOW to do it doesn’t mean you SHOULD do it. (This goes for FLASH SPLASH PAGES too, just don’t do it okay?) ‘Nuff said.

6. Clicking Sounds
In photography, I always learned that if it isn’t an integral part of the image, then leave it out (props, backgrounds, etc). Same goes for web design. I don’t want to hear a camera shutter, click, whine, moan or buzz every time I roll over a link.  When it doubt, just leave it out.

5. Would you kiss your mother with that mouth?
One of the worst things you can do when blogging or creating your text pages on your website, is to curse (cuss). Many of my clients and viewers have children (many that can READ) and you don’t want junior next to you reading four letter words. It really discredits you and your professionalism when you use foul language to express your emotions. Can you really not think of a substitute word? This goes for your facebook and twitter updates too; just be careful what you say. Everyone will read {into} it differently.

4. Watch your background
Background according to the dictionary {fine arts} is “the part of an image represented as being at maximum distance from the frontal plane.” Keyword here is DISTANCE. Your background should be a nice subtlety to your foreground and content you want viewers to see first. A background should NOT be dizzying, blinding and overpowering. It’s good practice to fix the background so it doesn’t scroll when the viewer scrolls. Viewers will be so busy being nauseated they won’t notice your content.

3. Black and White
Black really is not the new black. Black can be a very powerful color when creating photography websites, but are HORRID for pages with a bunch of WHITE text. Unlike the reverse, black backgrounds and stark white font is extremely hard to read. If you like the black, consider changing your font to a very light gray (#cccccc is a good one) so you don’t put your viewer into tunnel vision hades.

2. Stuffing
Can you fit ONE MORE THING on your website? Sure! Throw it in. STOP IT! Less really is more ( I think I’ve said that before). Okay no ones’s site could be as bad as Bella De Soto’s website, but try to keep your content in the window of your viewer. I know that each person has a different screen resolution and monitor size, but scrolling horizontally AND vertically is just downright annoying.

1. Your Navigation is WHERE?
My biggest pet peeve of all is shoddy navigation. Your online presence should create a {good} memorable experience with your viewer. If they are ticked off when they leave your site because they couldn’t find the info they needed to, chances are they aren’t going to hire you (or ever visit your site again). Additionally, if you have music on your site (which would be pet peeve #11 if there was one) put the OFF button close to your navigation so people can find it quickly and easily (or just turn it off and let them turn it on if they want the “experience”). There’s nothing like getting a potential client reprimanded at work because your site was a dead giveaway they were on the internet, instead of working.

As much as I would like to include samples and screenshots, I don’t want to embarrass or offend anyone. You know who you are though and you know it’s time for a change 😉 Check out the kimtown SHOPPE for ideas for your online makeover.

Fed survey shows US recession may be over

By JEANNINE AVERSA, AP Economics Writer Jeannine Aversa, Ap Economics Writer 5 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Economic activity is stabilizing or improving in the vast majority of the country, according to a new government survey, adding to evidence that the worst recession since the 1930s is over. The Federal Reserve’s snapshot of economic conditions backs predictions by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and most other analysts that the economy has started to grow again in the current quarter.

In the survey released Wednesday, all but one of the Fed’s 12 regions indicated that economic activity was “stable,” showed “signs of stabilization” or had “firmed.” The one exception was the St. Louis region, which continued to report that the pace of decline in economic activity appeared to be “moderating.”

Looking ahead, businesses in most Fed regions said they were “cautiously positive” about the economic outlook.

Click HERE to visit Yahoo News to read the rest of the story.

5 Tips for Creating, Promoting and Managing a LinkedIn Group

 

It’s no secret that LinkedIn is a great place to network professionally, post and find jobs, and answer questions and build thought leadership. But if you’re using LinkedIn solely as a place to maintain an online resume, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to reach and engage with potential customers — LinkedIn groups.

5 Tips When Creating a LinkedIn Group

There are still a lot of industries or groups of professionals not yet represented in LinkedIn groups. If no one has created a group for your industry, go create one. A few tips as you get started:

  • Your name is important! Consider which keywords your target members will search for. Make sure your group name is clear and includes these keywords.
  • Create a group for your industry, not your company. People are more likely to join a group when it’s not simply for fans of your company.
  • Design the group logo to fit the small standard logo size. The group logos that are displayed will actually be quite small – keep this in mind, and don’t cram lots of hard-to-read-text into the small image.
  • Create a custom webpage for the group on your website. When we created the ProMarketers group on LinkedIn, we bought the URL www.ProMarketers.com and redirected it to a page on our site with more information about the group. This type of page will provide more context, engagement and visibility for your group. It can have as much or as little information as you like.
  • Display the group in the Group Directory and on members’ profiles. Take advantage of the functionality already in place on LinkedIn to help your group get more visibility.

5 Tips for Promoting a LinkedIn Group

  • Invite coworkers, past colleagues, and customers to join and start discussions.Leverage your existing network to get your group started. After all, who wants to join a group with no members?
  • Promote the group on your website, blog, email newsletter, and social media networks. Make sure people know that you have a group and how to join.
  • Invite key industry experts to join and engage. If there are some heavy-hitters in your industry, invite them to engage with the community.
  • Cross-market to related groups that you manage on different networks. Create a similar group or Page on Facebook and invite members of each network to join the group on the other network.
  • Integrate LinkedIn into all of your marketing efforts. Every time you do a webinar or go to a conference, notify your group and invite those you meet to join the group as well.

5 Tips for Managing a LinkedIn Group

  • Add discussions, news and jobs. The more opportunities for interaction you add to your group, the more valuable your group will be to the community. All of these features are standard for LinkedIn groups. Unfortunately, it’s an all-or-nothing deal — to add discussions, you must also add news.
  • Use featured discussions to highlight particular content or offers. The group discussions can quickly get overrun and it can be hard to get your discussion thread noticed. But, as a manager of your group, you can mark a discussion as featured and this will pin your thread at the top of the discussion board. You can also unpin it at any time.
  • Send announcements. Announcements are emails sent by you through LinkedIn to your group members. The benefit of sending these announcements through LinkedIn is that your recipients — and their ISPs — are more likely to recognize the email as trustworthy and your deliverability may be higher than if you had sent the email yourself. Announcements will also get added as a discussion thread for your group, and you also have the option to mark this thread as a featured discussion for extra visibility. Announcements are text-only, and have no analytics, so if you want to track clicks, use a URL shortener with analytics to measure the response to your announcement.
  • Import your blog RSS feed. If you write a blog that’s relevant to the group, you can import your articles automatically to the News section. Go to News -> Manage news feeds and add the RSS feed for your blog.
  • Make your own LinkedIn analytics. LinkedIn is still catching up to Facebook in terms of a lot of its advanced functionality. One major piece that’s still missing is analytics. So, if you want to track the success of your group, you’ll need to make your own LinkedIn analytics. To track the growth of your group, check the number of members every week and keep track of the group size in a spreadsheet. To track the click through rate of links in your announcements, use a URL shortener with analytics like bit.ly. And, of course, be sure to measure the traffic, leads, and customers you get from LinkedIn over time. Hopefully, your group will help drive people back to your business.

 

 

Original Article by HubSpot (yeah they are cool)