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I try to write about three times per week. Most of it is pretty good and will probably help you grow your business. If it doesn't, then I probably can't help you.

You can use a traditional RSS Feedreader with this fancy-dancy link. I think this approach is harder but if you want to do it the hard way, who am I to say otherwise?

You can use a traditional RSS Feedreader with this fancy-dancy link. I think this approach is harder but if you want to do it the hard way, who am I to say otherwise?

Never Buy Lists

posted this on Wednesday, August 21, 2013 at about 8am.

When my wife and I were ready to sell our first house after living there a few years, we were able to sell it pretty quickly. A very nice young couple made us an offer that we accepted.

The last name of this couple was Smith. In case you haven't realized it by now, since my name is Corey Smith, our last name is Smith as well.

We laughed at the idea that we were able to sell our first home to another couple buying their first home with the same last name. But, that ended up not being the funny part.

We found that the couple, at the time of the purchase, was still engaged. Her maiden name was Smith. So, a Smith marrying a Smith bought a home from the Smiths.

I hope I'm not giving away too much when I say that their names were Jeremy and Kelly Smith. I only point that out because of the quantity of junk mail we get at our home for them. The image above is just an example.

Since that move, we have lived in four other places. We lived in one home in Utah and three homes in Idaho. When mail would get forwarded to our first place, it was understandable and the post office was able to get it worked out within the first couple of weeks.

All the mail that we have received since is because someone purchased a mailing list. They purchase a mailing list that has perpetuated this for a very long time. How long? Well, we moved from that house almost twelve years ago.

Whether you are buying a list for snail mail or buying a list for email you can count on two things.

  1. Your recipient never asked for their name and address to be sold so therefore they really don't want your mail (or email).
  2. You can't count on the fact that what you are mailing will make it to the right recipient because you never know how verified the address really is.

I recognize that I take a pretty hard line approach by saying in the title to never buy lists. The reality is that for a lot of companies this type of marketing works. Just understand that when you annoy your potential audience by spamming them all the time, your brand could suffer the consequences.

Oh, and if Jeremy and Kelley are reading this blog, hopefully they forgive me for the "grape juice" stain in the hall closet.

Corey Smith and his wife are the proud parents of five wonderful children and live in Meridian, Idaho. He is the president of Tribute Media, a Meridian based Web Design & Marketing Agency.

He is the author of two books, "Do It Right: A CEO's Guide to Web Strategy" and "Tweet It Right: A CEO's Guide to Twitter." You can learn more about his books here.

Interested in having Corey speak for your organization? Need help building or marketing your organization? Want to tell Corey how cool you think he is?

You Might Be a Spammer

posted this on Friday, July 26, 2013 at about 7am.

I can always tell when a company decides to start a new email marketing campaign. They've heard the ads for Constant Contact or iContact that tout the benefits of email marketing and figure they want to try it out. They just know that if they can start email marketing, they can make so much money they'll be able to swim in their piles.

So, they get all the email addresses from their email program, from their Facebook profile page (that was likely set up wrong) and their LinkedIn account. They'll name the list, "LinkedIn List" or something else that demonstrates they are learning.

Then, when adding the emails to their chosen email application, they'll lie and say that everyone on the list has given them their permission to send them emails.

The next step, usually, is to figure out the best offer they can give on each of the emails and then start spamming.

Of course, they don't think it's spamming because they like to think of themselves as ethical marketers. However, according to all common, ethical and legal standards, this is spamming at it's finest.

What's more amazing to me is that they are amazed when this approach doesn't work. They'll try it out for a few months, not get a single new sale then vow to never try that again.

Of course, if you are not going to do something right, you can't expect it to be successful.

Let me give you some things to consider as you are starting your email campaign.

Set your goal for success.

As you are working on your goals, you have to understand that if your product is not something that normally can sell just because you have a deal, then your email marketing campaign won't change that. For example, if you are selling office equipment, most people don't buy because there is a special. They buy because they've done their research or they have a strong relationship. However, if you are selling consumer gadgets, then people are likely to buy more because of an email campaign.

Here are some considerations for your goals:

  • I am a retail outlet and want to tell people about specific daily deals. My success rate will be defined by how my sales increase in all areas when adding my email campaign.
  • I am a business-to-business sales organization and I want to be kept in the forefront of my consumers mind. I want them to be ready to call me when they are in need whether it's today, tomorrow or in six months. I'll gage my success on how many people consistently open my emails and take even a small action (like click through to my website).
  • I am an educational organization and I want people to learn more. My success will be based on how many people open my emails and click through to learn more about the stuff I'm teaching.
  • I am an author. I will gage my success based on the number of people that click through and read my blog. Also, I'll look at my over-all sales numbers.

Only add to your list people who know you are adding them to your list.

You have a lot of contacts. People with whom you've done business in the past might have a reasonable expectation that you'll add them to your list but the people whose business cards you've gathered over the last 10 years probably don't.

Make sure you drop them a line and tell them what you are doing. Give them an opportunity to opt out. Whether it's legal or not, you want to make sure that you don't just start sending unwanted email. Moreover, make sure you don't start sending to each of their email addresses on file. Pick one and roll with it.

If you do not grow your list, you will not succeed.

Just because you have a list right now, it doesn’t mean that you can send messages to that same list all the time and expect constant results. Build your list at conferences, at networking events and in direct communication. Make sure you get their permission before adding their name to your list.

Avoid, at all costs, buying lists. Even though the list sales organization says the lists are 100% opted in, use your brain. How often do you intentionally click the box that says, "Yes, I'd love you to sell my name and email address to other people so they can market to me, too!?"

Send emails for what your clients want to receive.

If your prospects and clients didn't sign up for a daily deal email, they probably don't care about it. If they sign up for one specific type of list, don't just add them to every list you have.

Respect your audience enough to not just be cavalier about what you send to them. Remember, they are people too and should be not treated as a marketing or sales opportunity.

You are more likely to fail the first time or two.

Too many times people want to quit after the first shot and are not seeing success. They have the attitude of, "Well, I tried that once, I'm not going to do it again!"

Know your analytics. Know how your results compare to the goal you set. Take an opportunity to reevaluate your goals. If they don't seem to make sense after you've tried it out, make the necessary adjustments.

Also . . .

If you are interested in reading a little more on the subject, I wrote a blog post a while back called "Why Email Marketing Fails." You should check it out.

Corey Smith and his wife are the proud parents of five wonderful children and live in Meridian, Idaho. He is the president of Tribute Media, a Meridian based Web Design & Marketing Agency.

He is the author of two books, "Do It Right: A CEO's Guide to Web Strategy" and "Tweet It Right: A CEO's Guide to Twitter." You can learn more about his books here.

Interested in having Corey speak for your organization? Need help building or marketing your organization? Want to tell Corey how cool you think he is?

The Importance of an Empty Inbox

posted this on Saturday, January 21, 2012 at about 9am.

Sometimes people give me a hard time when my inbox is empty. I’ve heard statements such as “well, you must not be that busy then.” I’ve also heard statements like, “well we must need to give you more things to do.”

It was interesting to me one time when I found that my inbox was empty and I commented on Twitter and Facebook. One person who was giving me grief commented about my lack of being busy. He seemed to wear it as a badge of honor that his inbox was overly crowded with unread messages.

The reason I found this interesting was the fact that he was a vendor of mine who had an unread email for me for about a week that was important to be taken care of. He was proud that his inbox was so full yet I, as a client of his, was frustrated that he was not responding to my email.

I personally take pride in an empty email inbox. As a business owner, a businessman, and simply a person who respects others, I feel it is important that I effectively manage my email inbox. In today’s business environment, people have an expectation to communicate in ways that are efficient for them. Some people prefer a quick phone call, some people prefer social media, and some people prefer an email to be answered in a reasonable amount of time. When I receive a request via email I take it as my duty to reply in a reasonable amount of time so that the person who is contacting me feels confident that I care about their needs.

I believe it is the height of selfishness to have a communication medium provided to a client or even a friend but then not use that medium to communicate back. Why have a telephone if you’ll never answer it? Why have a contact form on your website if you never respond to it? Why have an email address if it takes you two weeks to clear out your inbox?

An empty inbox shows your consideration of the communication needs of others. If your inbox gets too full, then perhaps you need to find a better way to manage it so that those who want to communicate with you will know that you care about them more than your busy work.

Email Marketing Blunders

posted this on Friday, December 23, 2011 at about 9am.
Spam Can

When I selected my email address name (I use smith [at] coreysmith [dot] ws) I never thought it would be a filter of stupidity. I am amazed at how many emails I get from ‘marketers’ that think my name is Smith. It’s obvious that these marketers really don’t know what they are doing.

Let’s me explain why.

Last night I received an email from a company called TalkSeda. The message was extraordinarily long but the intro and the first paragraph really got to me.

Hi Smith,

This is Adrian from TalkSeda-GVO, I was given your contact info by our marketing team. I am wondering if you are using some web-conferencing services for online meetings because TalkSeda is totally browser based web-conferencing software, with Literally NO software to download or install, enabling you to host live meetings, classrooms and webinars in seconds - right in your browser.

So, let’s talk about this paragraph just a little bit.

First, my name is Corey and not Smith. I have never liked it when people call other people by their last name. I think it’s impersonal and disrespectful. You should either call someone by their first name or title + last name (e.g. Mr. Smith).

Second, they were given my contact info by their marketing team? What does that mean? Does that mean their marketing team called me and I gave them permission? Does that mean some bot mined my email address?

Third, the first paragraph jumps right into features demonstrating a clear lack of understanding of a real problem that may or may not exist.

Fourth, the letter he sent listed a number of features as their competitive advantage. The catch? Most of the features can be done well with the competitors they list and better with those they don’t list.

I decided to be a little snarky and send an email back.


I don’t know your marketing team so your introduction doesn’t compel me to take interest in your product. Please remove me from your mailing list and tell your marketing department that they need to learn better how to do their job.


Corey (my first name is not Smith)

I was disappointed that the email didn’t get delivered because the user’s mailfolder is full. Perhaps it was from all the people replying with, “Stop spamming me!” because the email wasn’t CAN-SPAM compliant.

This ‘marketing’ email alone demonstrates a significant lack of understanding how to market. However, their website demonstrates it even more. We can talk about the stupid intro landing page or the flash embedded video. We can talk about the design that might have been impressive in 2002 or the fact that I don’t know which call to action I should pay attention to.

But I won’t talk about those things. I’ll just focus on social media issues.

Marketing in 2011 (soon 2012) requires the ability to connect with your clients via social media… especially if you are in an industry that requires support as their service no doubt does. They don’t have a corporate Twitter or Facebook presence. Looking them up on Twitter, the most applicable tweet was from @paraic where he said:

Dear TalkSeda-GVO, whether you think your unsolicited email can be considered spam or not is not the point #fail #spammers

Stupid marketers.

They are an MLM company so maybe this TalkSeda is one of their ‘representatives.’ Maybe GVO doesn’t even know this is going on (probably not the case). But if GVO doesn’t know, it doesn’t excuse their website and their lack of participation in the social world.

The only real competitive advantage they have is that they are cheap (inexpensive - but they are really cheap, too). I wouldn’t consider using their services if they were free.

Why Email Marketing Fails

posted this on Thursday, December 8, 2011 at about 3pm.
Constant Contact

I won’t name any names, but I’ve recently been hearing a lot of ads proclaiming that if you add social media to your email marketing, then you’ll be able to supercharge your email marketing.

The premise is that if you add the social media icons to your email marketing, your subscribers will forward share the content via their social circles.

I have heard way too often marketers treat email and social media as a magic bullet for marketing online. Yes, I agree they are great traffic generation tools. I address each of these methods in my book (although I don’t specifically talk about tying them together because that would be too tactical for my tastes). However, I think that there is one key component that companies do, such as the company who shall remain nameless, to significantly mislead their audience... that is to say that if you market via email (or social media) then you'll never want for more business.

I don’t want to leave anyone out of this, so let me be clear. I don’t think that this misleading advertising only exists in email marketing companies. It’s been going on for years. It’s the radio, television and newspaper salesman that says, “You’ll get more business if you are on [insert media here].” It’s the yellow page rep that convinces businesses to pay thousands of dollars each year because of [insert your reason here].

The problem I have with the email marketers, especially when talking about how effective social media is, is that they never talk about how much work it is to really do it right.

Don’t get me wrong… I know they have tutorials, info guides and educational materials. In fact, they have so much information available on their websites that I am sure they understand this principle very well. They know how hard it is. They know there is far more to an email that putting some text in a random (pretty) template and hitting send. I just get frustrated when they make it sound so easy.

I think there are three key reasons why email marketing fails. I think that these also apply to social media.

List Management

List management is the most important of these three areas where email marketing fails. The most common approach to email marketing is that people take all the people in their database and start emailing them. They don’t look to whether they have opted in or whether or not the content is applicable.

I can always tell when someone is starting a new email marketing campaign because I’ll get subscribed a couple of times since I have a few emails that I use on a regular basis. It’s obvious they have just stripped their Outlook or GMail account and started emailing everyone. They put no thought into how to appropriate start and manage their list.

The other issue is they don’t actively manage their email lists. Different people are willing to take action differently than others. Because of this difference, we need to manage the subscribers differently. Customers react differently than prospects. Prospects react differently than people you just met at a convention or networking event. Because of this difference, we need to actively manage lists of people as groups that will act differently.

Above all, don’t buy email lists… don’t do it.


Next to list management, this is probably the most important area of failure for email marketers. Too much text and a confusing message can cause the people to simply ignore your message… or worse, send your email message to their spam filter (which you never know).

Content relates to your text, obviously. But, it also refers to imagery and video. When you have images that support your message that are well thought out, people will be able to see what your point is quickly and increase likelihood of action.

Really, when it comes down to it, content needs to speak to your audience. If you have an audience that is looking for a lot of news, then a lot of text is appropriate. When you have an audience that is looking for the daily deal, then you need one, bold message/image that allows them to act quickly.

Know your audience and the content should then follow.


Sometimes I get emails way too often. Sometimes I get emails not nearly as often as I’d like. The problem we have as email marketers is that we don’t really know what people expect.

When I sign up for a newsletter from a publisher of news, I’m probably expecting that I will receive something on a daily (or sometimes more often) basis. When I sign up for a blogger’s email distribution I’m probably going to expect emails multiple times per week. If I sign up for a newsletter from a business that I shop with (retail or commercial) then I probably don’t want to receive emails very often.

This can be a tricky thing to master. This is one of the key reasons why list management is so important. Different people will want to receive their emails at different frequencies and at different times. You have to test what works and what doesn’t work.

Bottom Line

Email marketing fails because marketers don’t really take the time to properly understand and manage their email marketing efforts. They send emails inconsistently, they try to get too much information in an email or they send emails to people that never really wanted the message in the first place.

In order to be effective in email marketing, you need to take the time to manage it effectively. Look at the analytics your email marketing provider has and always test new concepts to see what is the most effective.

Of course, it may just be better to hire it all out.

Either way, it’s going to take time to do it right. It’s not something that you can just throw together in a few minutes and expect it to be effective. It requires planning and consistent execution to be successful.

It would be better to not do it at all rather than do it wrong.

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