Friday, 29 August 2014

How to Set Up your Seller Profile in Amazon

 Your store settings on Amazon are where you provide information to buyers about your company. This is the place you can begin to develop a relationship with Amazon buyers and gain their trust.  Lets discuss four areas that every Amazon Seller should update in the store settings:

#1 About the Seller

Your About the Seller section is what you can use to describe how long you have been in business, how your business started, your company philosophy, whether or not you have a Brick and Mortar store and if you have any employees.

#2 Seller Logo

Your Seller Logo will be on your “At a Glance” page, on your storefront, (if applicable), and on the “Offer Listing Page.” This logo will make it easier to identify you as the merchant to customers when they have a choice of who to purchase from. Amazon does not allow the use of a URL (.com, .net, etc.) contained within the image. Your logo needs to be 120 x 30 pixels in size and may not contain any reference to your website if you have one.

#3 Returns and Refunds

The Returns and Refunds section is for you to enter the instructions for how customers should send you an item for return. Here you will include the address for merchandise returns and the estimated time to process a refund. If you charge any kind of a restocking fee, it is important to enter that information here and be extremely clear about the way it is calculated. If you only reimburse shipping costs on the items where there is damage or they are defective, please include that information also. The Participation Agreement and Amazon policy requires a minimum 30-day return period.

#4 Shipping Rates

The Shipping Rates section has one part for you to enter the information about when you ship your items and what carriers you use. Please make sure this matches the information you set up in Seller Central earlier. The second part of Shipping Rates is automatically populated based on your shipping settings.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

How To Create An Amazon Seller Account

Amazon Seller Account
Selling items on Amazon is a great opportunity to earn extra money as an individual seller or to see huge profits as an established online retailer.  Fortunately, Amazon has made the process to become a seller very easy.   The steps below describe how to create an Amazon seller account.

Option #1 – If You Already Have a Buyer Amazon Account:

If you have purchased items on Amazon before, it’s just a matter of adding the option to sell your items to your existing account. To do this, log-in and go to “Your Account” page.  Once there, just click on the “Sell Your Stuff” link in the right navigation.  This link will take you to the “Sell Your Stuff” page where you will establish your individual account — an account that is built for sellers that just have a few items to sell.

If you have a lot of items to sell, you’ll want to click the “Learn More” button at the bottom of the page which will take you to the “Sell Professionally” info center.  This “Sell Professionally” account (aka Pro Merchant) has a $39.99 monthly fee is intended for those who have businesses and will be selling many products. More info on the different types of Amazon Seller accounts.

Details of Product and Seller Information Required:

Once you have decided what type of Amazon Seller account to establish, the next step is to start listing your products. You will do this by using Amazon’s search tool and searching for a product by name or category or ISBN/UPC/ASIN number. Amazon’s search results will show product suggestions and once you find your product, click on the “Sell Yours Here” link.
  • Describe condition of your product (new or used)
  • Pricing (Amazon will show the lowest price as a reference)
  • Quantity of items for sale
  • Shipping methods (ship yourself or let Amazon ship via Fulfillment by Amazon)
  • Shipping time (standard or expedited)
The next page will require you to input information about your business or yourself (if selling individually).  This page will ask for:
  • Establish your username or business name
  • Confirm the Amazon Services Business Solutions Agreement
  • Update your contact information
  • Give Amazon your bank account info (so they can pay you!)
  • Phone number so Amazon can confirm the info on file via a personal identification number
Option #2 – If You DO NOT Have an Amazon Account Yet:

If you have never bought anything on Amazon and don’t have an Amazon account, you’ll need to create an account on Amazon which you can use to both sell and buy products.
Start by going to Once there, you will see a big “Learn More” button. Click on the “Learn More” button and choose what type of selling account you want, either an Individual Seller or a Sell Professionally account.
Amazon will ask you for your email address, a password and a business name or name.  Once you agree to the Amazon Services Business Solutions Agreement, the process will be the exact same as described above in option #1.

Once you’ve followed these steps, you will now be an official Amazon seller!

Friday, 22 August 2014

Selling Internationally with the eBay Global Shipping Program

As an eBay seller, you have access to customers across the entire globe. And eBay’s statistics show that selling to international buyers can be an easy way to grow your sales. But since selling internationally involves customs, tariffs and taxes – all items that can seem complex, many sellers do not open their listings up to international buyers.
In response to these seller concerns and to help make the international sales process as simple as possible, eBay has created the Global Shipping Program. Here’s what you need to know to get started.
What is the eBay Global Shipping Program? 
As a seller enrolled in the eBay Global Shipping Program, you’ll be able to sell internationally to buyers in many different countries, but will not need to ship your items to the international destination. You will only need to send your items to a shipping center located in the U.S. After you make an international sale, eBay will provide you a domestic address inside the U.S. to ship your package to. Once your package is received at the eBay warehouse, eBay will then reship your package to the international destination managing all the customs forms, duties and taxes for you.
If you’re apprehensive about selling internationally, this is the program for you. When you participate in the Global Shipping Program, you’ll:
  • Expand your business internationally in a snap. Let eBay manage the logistics, such as navigating customs forms, duties and taxes for all packages going overseas.
  • Be protected. Should your shipment become damaged or lost in global transit, eBay won’t charge you seller fees, and you’re covered under PayPal Seller and eBay Buyer protection plans, too.
  • Be able to sell to customers in at-risk countries. If you’re interested in working with buyers in at-risk locations, such as Brazil, Italy and Russia, eBay is there to assist.
(Note there are extra costs associated with this service and some sellers worry that their international buyers may get scared away by the overall costs of the product.)
Eligibility Criteria
Deciding to sell internationally is a big decision, but it’s just the first step in the process of qualifying for eBay’s Global Shipping Program. You’ll need a seller rating of “standard” or higher, as well as a verified PayPal account and at least 10 Feedback points. Your first successful eBay sale must have occurred at least 90 days prior, and you will need to make sure you comply with the selling requirements of the countries with which you intend to work.
Next, make sure you meet the Listing Eligibility criteria outlined by eBay. As with domestic selling, dealing in certain items (for example, fine jewelry, nail polish, fossils, printer toners, and many other seemingly innocuous items; check here before listing) is restricted or prohibited.
Eligible Countries
The world’s a big place, and eBay deals with a lot – but not all – of it. Know which countries you can sell to by checking the list here. Make sure you refer to this resource often, as the list can change over time.
Setting Up the Global Shipping Program inside the eBay UI
Now that you’ve established that you’re eligible for the program, here are the steps to take to opt in.
  1. Visit My eBay after you log in.
  2. With your cursor on the Account tab, click down to Site Preferences.
  3. Select Shipping Preferences.
  4. Choose Global Shipping.
  5. Click on Join Now.
  6. Accept the Terms & Conditions.
Once you’ve finished with these prompts, the Global Shipping box will be visible on the regular selling form. If you use outside listing tools, be sure to set your account to sync with these eBay settings.
Shipping Made Simple
When you’re part of the program, shipping labels printed via eBay automatically print to ship to Kentucky, where the eBay Global Shipping Program is headquartered (it’s likely more centers will open in the future).
With your eBay-generated shipping label, your tracking information is automatically uploaded; if you choose to use a different method of making shipping labels, just upload the tracking number yourself onto the site. Using this tracking information, eBay will generate a global tracking number that you can access via My eBay and the Order Details page. Your buyer learns directly from eBay that the package is on route.
The Bottom Line
It takes a leap of faith to expand your business beyond borders, but there’s no need for trepidation with eBay’s Global Shipping Program behind you and your shop. Give it a try, and you may soon learn just how simple – and profitable – an international presence can be!

Monday, 18 August 2014

Why Email Still Rules!

Social media strategists (ok, not all) love to discount email in favor of, you guessed it - social media. They have deemed email a dying communications channel, which is absurd. Email lists and email marketing continue to grow, especially for the nonprofit sector where list size grew at least 14% in 2013, according to the 2014 eNonprofit Benchmark study.
Here’s just a few reasons why email still rules:

  • People who take action on advocacy campaigns via email are 7x more likely to donate money to your organization. 
  • You have the most control of how you engage your audience. For example, who sees and responds to your message is not based on some proprietary social network's secret algorithms and you are not forced to pay a premium to target segments.
  • There are good analytics for action, open, and click rates for email, so you can segment your list and move people up the ladder of engagement based on their level of commitment. With a good CRM you can capture a robust snapshot of your consituents - what are people taking action on, are these the same people signing up for lobby days or donating money? What specific issues are they interested in?
  • You can leverage your email list to drive further action on other platforms. For example, on Facebook, you can use Facebook Custom Audiences to target your email list members and further engage them on your advocacy campaigns. You can test targeting a range of advocates – the most engaged people or try to re-engage those who stopped taking action via email. But you need a strong email list to support that kind of targeted social engagement.
  • Email raises money. Outside of direct mail, email raises a lot more money than social media. Online giving increased 14% in 2013, mainly due to email communications. Monthly giving revenue grew 25% in 2013.
  • The majority of nonprofits aren’t raising a dime on social media. And the amount of nonprofits that have raised $100K or more on social media is only about .07%.
While email still rules, there are some issues that I’m concerned about, but I think we can tackle them with thoughtful strategy. Battle of the inboxes and social media noise is competing for our constituents' attention. This has had an impact on email response rates, which declined about 25% in the nonprofit sector in 2013. I think that another contributing factor to the decline of email response rates is that  people are getting bored with our messaging and they are not seeing enough impact. This means nonprofits need to spend more time and resources changing things up. Focus on developing messaging that really resonates with your supporters and their values.

What’s the best way to do this? Start by finding out the pain points that people have around the issues you are working on. What are the pain points people have with your organization? You will see common trends that you can address. Then begin testing different content to find out what connects with people more. Measure the response rates to see what worked and what clearly flopped. Many organizations are working on campaigns that will take years to win, so it’s critical to find creative and meaningful ways to keep constituents engaged and show them how their actions and support are generating impact even if it's incrementally.

Friday, 15 August 2014

How to Get Social without Compromising your Brand

You’ve placed your brand at the heart of your business. It informs customers of your values and what your services promise. It’s right at the centre of your marketing materials and tone of voice. But is it on your mind when you Tweet?

If it’s not, it should be! Social media is the ideal platform from which you can continually play out and reinforce your brand, but get it wrong and you put your customers’ faith on the line.
In short, your social media campaigns need to engage your customers, but not at the expense of your brand, something to be particularly aware of when employing outside experts for your social media management and content marketing. Remember: Brand confusion is the number one threat to your brand. Whoever is responsible for your social media therefore needs to get their head around your brand before they start thinking of content ideas, because the resulting posts need to ring true to your company, its thoughts and values, and how these are expressed.

That isn’t to say that nothing new or creative can be expressed; simply that these expressions must be ones that feel authentic to the brand, rather than some bolt-on flow of posts that awkwardly co-exists with it.

These five tips will help you keep your social media posts ‘on brand’:

1) Establish brand guidelines for social

These guidelines should set out how your company’s image can be played out through social media, including what types of content you’ll post about, how imagery will be used and what tone of voice you’ll adopt. The guidelines should be given to everybody involved in creating and posting your social media content.

2) Think ‘brand’ before you post

Have the guidelines been followed? Does the post feel like something your company would say? Does any of its content grate against your brand values? If your company was a person would it speak in this way? Does the post strengthen what you stand for or does it confuse your business purpose? And most importantly, will it appeal to your audience?

3) Align to your brand strategy

Your brand strategy has set out the way your particular brand will go about achieving its goals, so ensure your social media content falls in line. If, for example, your brand takes a slowly but surely approach to winning new business, then putting out aggressive sales-driven posts could confuse your customers and ultimately even drive them away.

4) Focus on your business aims

Post content that supports and contributes to your business message. Social media offers the perfect platform to execute new ways of conveying your message instead of just repeating the same old information. Put yourself in the mind of your customer. Having seen your message on your website, marketing materials etc what kind of things would they like to see and hear to reinforce and validate it? Imagine your message is a pencil sketch. Your aim, through social media, is to add definition, colour, light and shade to the original sketch through your posts – not to keep adding new sketches.

5) Create a social media strategy

Having considered your brand guidelines, brand strategy and business aims, condense your thinking into a cohesive social media strategy, then plan and timetable your posts, it’s the surest way to make certain they don’t veer suddenly and catastrophically off-piste, especially if several different employees or content creators are involved in your social media.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014 shows social network actions speak louder than words

One of the sad things about Twitter becoming part of the establishment is the homogeneous and self-aware behaviour it has bred among us. 

Compared to the early days, everyone’s sharing ‘engaging links’ and ‘thought leadership’ and they know what the etiquette is.
Many of the glimpses into people's true nature that used to shine through are filtered in favour of the familiar, sanitised ‘Twitter voice’.

However, every now and then, a new tool pops up that reveals some of that natural behaviour beneath the surface again.

My current favourite of these is BioIsChanged (another Product Hunt find) and does one simple thing: Notifies you when anyone you follow tweaks their Twitter bio.

Who do you think you are?

It may sound fairly innocuous. But, having received my first weekly update over email, I was amazed at the little insights it revealed about people’s behaviour.

Firstly, there’s the obvious sensible useful stuff: people changing jobs or competitors losing clients (and removing the @name from their profile). Increasingly, people embrace that their Twitter bio is a part of their professional existence, so it has to be current.
Beyond that, you then get into the nuances and little updates that tell a story behind the scenes.


Often it’s consolidation - throwing away a pile of hashtags for something simple like 'writer' or 'tech PR'. You also see people with growing awareness of profiles showing up prominently in Twitter search.

Something old, something new

Important to all this is the fact it holds the update side-by-side with the previous version. This is especially fun with photos - does this person clearly want to come across more fun? Did they think the paler version of that headshot reflects them better?

But it gets better. You can also poke your way through the full history of updates to someone’s bio over the years (here’s mine, by no means the most interesting).

So many elements of Twitter emphasise the ephemeral nature of the experience - you’re only as good as your last tweet.

But watching these bios evolve, I think you get a developing polaroid of someone’s personality and realise that just as they’re constantly crafting each tweet, their perception and presentation of themselves is also changing.

In the early days of explaining Twitter to clients, I’d often play up the importance of nosiness to make it a habit and make them someone worth following.

Showing little glimpses of who you really are, what you’re really doing makes people take an interest. We’re a fundamentally curious species.

BioIsChanged brings some of that back, and I think we’re all the better for it.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Using Forums to Market New Products and Services to Existing Customers

proboardsBusinesses of all stripes are always looking for new customers to buy their products or services. However, sometimes businesses ignore the best place to look for new sales:  through customers who have already purchased products and services in the past.  Tapping into your existing customers to boost your sales is smart because you’ve already done the hardest part of the sales cycle with them:  you made that first sale.
The easiest path to new sales is often found through those who have already made a decision to buy from you.  The key is getting a sense of how the products are perceived by customers, how the services are used, and what add-on or upsell products and services are a good fit to market new offerings to an existing customer base.

Internet Forums

One of the best tools for learning more about customers who already use your products and services is social media, with Internet forums being one of the more dependable tools for gathering information.
According to a 2012 study by Awareness, a marketing firm based in Burlington, Mass., one-third of marketers are looking to social media and Internet forums as the platform of choice to reach customers.  Nativo, a content marketing firm in Long Beach, Calif., says 20 percent of Americans use forums to discuss and recommend products.  Nearly two-thirds of women in online forums make product recommendations on these boards.
Marketing to customers via an Internet forum delivers this proven path and helps ensure success by enabling a series of regular and intimate communications between the company and the customer. Spending time on Internet forums where your customers can be found often reveals relevant marketing information about products in demand, services used, strengths of competitive offerings, and weaknesses in products or services offered by a competitor.  This sort of intelligence is ideal for putting together a sales pitch on new or related products and services, or to make a compelling offer to customers of your chief competition in order to acquire new customers who were unhappy with their offering.
Internet forums also help to build customer loyalty. The seeds you plant today, through the intimate two-way communication forums provide, help make products better and allow the company to fix potential problems, while ensuring product launches are more successful — just by leveraging the loyalty built through the regular interactive engagement with your customers.
Spend some time finding out which forums your customers read regularly and do some “lurking” where you read each post and response without actively participating.  Take careful notes.  Identify current customers on the forum.  From their posts and comments, what other products or services would improve their experience with your company based on the first purchase they made?  Do they offer advice to others buying similar products or do they warn prospects about the purchase they made from you?

Stay in Touch

If you detect something is wrong, you can proactively contact them and fix the problem.  If it’s a competitive offering, how does your product or service address the shortcomings of the competitive solution?  Can you put together a program to encourage these customers to try your company?
Internet forums provide a great way to stay in touch with your customer base.  But there are some “rules of the road” for participating in a forum and using it for marketing purposes.  Follow them or you could risk being banned by the forum staff:
  • Develop a good profile so forum participants know who you are.  Make yourself approachable.  Make sure there is contact information so it makes you accessible to your customers and prospects.
  • Introduce yourself to the forum members in the appropriate section.
  • Be smart about commenting; never insult a poster.
  • If you are alerted to a problem, play a role in getting it resolved; encourage other posters to ask you questions.
  • Make valuable contributions to the forum; provide good information.  Don’t spread rumors or make bold claims.  Be helpful and humble.  Be objective.
  • Don’t hard sell new products and services when you make a new post, and always expose any biases you have.  It’s great to help people who have questions, it’s bad to spam.

Friday, 8 August 2014

30 Tips for Great Digital Marketing

Tips-great-digital-marketing-ducttapemarketingA man walks into a bar/restaurant/hotel/car repair shop. Chances are, he found it online. That’s because today’s consumers, 80% according to Google, rely more on the Web to find and choose local businesses.
So how do you make sure that these consumers find and choose your local business? By using a mix of these four strategies for great digital marketing: search advertising, webSite, search engine optimization, and social media. Here are 30 tips to get you going.

Search Advertising Tips

1. Identify and follow the rules of Bing, Yahoo!, and Google search ads before running your campaign as all have slightly different formats.
2. Optimize the URL displayed in your search ad so that it’s relevant to the product or service you are promoting.
3. Include target keywords in your headlines and copy that either match or closely match the keywords you bid on in order to boost the chance that your ad appears for those terms.
4. Write strong calls to action for your search ads that directly state what you want consumers to do. For example “Contact for a Free Estimate” or “Get a 50% Coupon.”
5. When using a click-to-call extension, consider using a tracking number so that you can identify and measure which ads perform the best.
6. Don’t spend precious text ad character count on your business name. It should already be in your optimized URL.
7. Do capitalize the first letter of major words in your ad. Don’t (read “NEVER”) go crazy with all caps.
8. Should you use correct punctuation in text ads? Yes! It just makes good sense.
9. Using trademarks in text ad copy is a no-no unless, of course, you own them. You can, however, bid on terms relevant to your business.
10. DUUA (don’t use unknown abbreviations). While it could pique the interest of a few searchers, why take that chance?

Website Tips

11. If you haven’t updated your website since 2010, do it now. A clean, modern design is key in digital marketing, plus it ensures that you meet today’s best practices and Web standards.
12. Make your website mobile-friendly! The 2014 Local Search Study results indicate that nearly 80% of local mobile searches end in a purchase. This is a big audience you shouldn’t ignore.
13. Accurately complete your site’s metadata (title tags, descriptions, alt text, etc.). Not doing so can negatively impact your visibility on SERPs.
14. A business blog is a winning addition to your website. It can help boost your site’s SEO, set you apart from the competition, and demonstrate your knowledge and expertise. It’s a win-win situation.
15. In order to get found by local consumers, you need to optimize your site with local information like your address and geo-targeted keywords.

Search Engine Optimization

16. Having a business blog is useless if you don’t regularly create and promote original and sharable content to help prove relevance and therefore rank in search engines.
17. Enable share buttons on your blog so that readers can easily post your content to their social media pages and drive visitors back to your website.
18. Optimize your Google+ Local page to help your business name, phone number, location, and even opening hours show up in Google Maps and Google’s local search results.
19. Much like Google+ Local, Yelp is platform to complete and post information about your business. More importantly, it helps feed Apple Maps with local business results.
20. Include geo-specific keywords, such as your city, neighborhood, and zip codes, in your website, blog, and even social media copy to appear in search results for these terms.
19. Don’t only promote blog posts once. Repurpose them as engaging images, quotes, or questions in order to generate additional views, shares, and subject relativity.
21. Getting backlinks from influencers and other industry-related websites that have already established credibility are great for building your own authority and driving more visits back to your site.
23. Enable Google Authorship to help build your personal brand. By establishing yourself as a subject matter expert, you can share your own content, generate more shares, and drive more website visits.
22. Since positive reviews rank in search engine results, generate positive reviews with high rankings to help persuade consumers to choose your business.
26. Once you receive positive reviews, promote them on your website and social media sites so that consumers who search for you business on social sites or local directories see the great things others say about your business.
25. Images can help sell your business, and they also rank in search engines. Don’t name your images “photo.jpg,” and instead name them more descriptively, add alt text, or captions on your website to help images show up in search results.

Social Media

27. Think, review, and review again before you make a social media post or comment. The ability to easily take screenshots makes it difficult to take back a social media mistake.
28. Since your employees also represent your brand, both in person and online, implement a social media policy that at the least permits them from sharing internal information.
29. Before you jump on a trending hashtag, make sure you know the origin of it. Not doing so can potentially cause social media regrets.
30. Like it or not, you “share” your brand on social media. And since consumers can start good and bad conversations about you, make sure to set up alerts that notify you of new mentions, comments, or messages.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Social Media Marketing for Lead Generation

photo credit: whoohoo120 on Flickr
photo credit: whoohoo120 on Flickr Let’s say you’ve devised the perfect marketing strategy for your small business, a photograph business. It involves placing ads in papers and passing out business cards. The business comes in, and for a while things are good. After a few more months, however, it seems that the leads have dried up. You’ve had nothing but success at the events you’ve done thus far, but fewer people are responding. So what do you do? Make a new plan, Stan, and it should probably involve social media. Look, I’m not saying your marketing strategy doesn’t have potential, but if you’re not using social media to generate leads, you’re missing out on an opportunity to reach a huge market. Not convinced? Lend me your ear…

Tides Have Changed

photo credit: Flickr
Now more than ever, there has been a dramatic shift on social media from being purely a community to being a viable market. Here your customers sit, just waiting for you to reach them and tell them why they need you at their next bar mitzvah. Small businesses are using social media to create a brand for themselves, making them almost instantly recognisable. Through posts, tweets, pictures and videos, they’re encouraging conversations about their products and services. Social media also makes your company appear more personable. Your customers will feel like they can approach you, ask you questions and potentially pass your name on to their friends.

Content Leads to Leads

professional-photographer-blogIn recent years, social media has come away from the community builder aspect and become more of a lead generation and content publishing platform for small businesses. This encourages them to become content publishers, writing blogs and posting photographs in order to further connect with the customer. It works like this: The photographer might show off his or her expertise in a blog explaining the rule of thirds or the best time to use outdoor lighting. He or she then posts the article to the company website and begins posting the link on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, along with an accompanying photo on Instagram. The followers then read the post, comment and even share it with their friends. The photographer has reached out to more people, who probably have a relative or friend who needs a photographer for an event. The content helps potential clients view the photographer as an expert, and they’ll be more likely to trust the service provider.

The links on the various social media sites help point back to the business website, bettering the link profile. Sure, community is a great aspect of social media, but just having people “like” your page just isn’t enough. You have to keep them engaged with new and original content, questions in posts and photographs that will provoke a positive response.

Get Out the Measuring Tape

photo credit: Google Analytics
photo credit: Google Analytics
It is now so much easier to measure social media’s return on investment (ROI). After you establish the goals you want to reach, such as clicked links, filled-out contact sheets or booking dates for events, you need to define a strategy to reach them and find a way to track your progress. Check out these programs:
  • Simply Measured
  • Google Analytics
  • Socialbakers
  • Rival IQ
  • Zumm
These tools (and others) will help you see your social media efforts in action. You’ll be able to see what is working, what isn’t and what you can do to change that. Some companies rely heavily on paid advertisements, such as Google Adwords or Facebook Ads, and it’s true, they can be very useful. Their value, however, should come from the number of clicks back to your website, and if they aren’t doing that, they’re not really worth it. The possibilities are endless with social media and landing page marketing. Who knows? A social media shift might just lift your small business out of a marking slump.

Friday, 1 August 2014

How People Judge You Based on the Emails You Write

JudgeLookSmallForget about spinning articles and directory listings.  If you want to effectively market your business online, you need to become an expert at networking with others in your niche.

But there’s a problem: Inboxes have turned into out-of-control monsters. People are increasingly being ambushed with unwanted messages, and they’re getting less timid about hitting the delete key when faced with unsolicited emails.  Often, you have only a few seconds to make a good impression.
So how can you rise above the din?  The recipient of your email will ask (perhaps subconsciously) three questions about you when deciding how to respond.

I’ll admit these questions are a bit judgmental.  That doesn’t mean someone whose emails aren’t up to snuff deserves to be shunned electronically.  It just means you need to be aware of how your emails sound to recipients who are forced to make snap judgments in order to prioritize their overflowing inboxes.
So if you want to increase your chances of getting a response from a complete stranger, make sure you pass these three tests:

Question #1 – Can You Write Well?

It may sound harsh, but most people don’t write very well.  So when a well-composed outreach email comes across my inbox, I immediately take notice.  Why?  Because I assume someone who can write well is also smart, ambitious and worth investing the time to connect with.
I can’t think of anything more intimidating than trying to write a blog post on how to write well.  The topic merits its own book or even library.  But here are a few things to keep in mind:

Get the Basics Right

It goes without saying, but punctuation, grammar, spelling – all of these are really important.  Brush up on the correct usage of then/than, they’re/their/there, it’s/its, your/you’re and all of these commonly misused words.  I realize I sound like an overly pedantic eight-grade English teacher, but most of the people you’re trying to connect with to help grow your business will notice these kinds of things – good or bad.

Be Anal About Proofreading

You only get one chance to make a first impression, so don’t botch it.  Proofread your emails if you’re reaching out to an important contact for the first time.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll re-read some of your drafts and find egregious spelling mistakes, misused words and incoherent thoughts in what you thought was a well-written first draft.  So take the time to double- or even triple-check your work. (Pro tip: It helps to read your message aloud. You’ll quickly hear the awkward parts.)
If you tend to read through your sent email looking for typos – and I KNOW others do this, too! – you’re on the right track.

Ditch Text Shorthand

Surprisingly, “lol” doesn’t exactly translate to “laughing out loud.”  In email speak, it means “please take my email much less seriously.” Including half a dozen emoticons in your email has the same effect.

Think About Tone

Tone can be tricky to express with an email, given there’s no face-to-face interaction.  You want to be friendly and upbeat without coming across as overbearing or unnaturally exuberant.
You can use exclamation points, but do so conservatively and only after sentences that merit them. If you must use the smiley face (which can sometimes be a way to lighten an otherwise serious sentence), make sure you limit it to one per email.

Don’t Skimp on Capitalization

if you don’t capitalize when you should, i guarantee you will rarely get replies.  not capitalizing the beginning of your sentences simply makes you look lazy. Don’t do it.  Embrace that shift key.

Pick a Professional Email Address

If you’re still rocking your email address from the ’90s, it’s time for an upgrade.  Anytime I see an email address for one of these dated domains, I instantly think the person I’m corresponding with isn’t too tech-savvy.  It may not be a fair judgment, but given that I have about 30 seconds to make the call, it’s the assumption I (and others) settle on.
You should have an email address from,, or from a business domain.  And make sure to keep it clean with a variation of your first and/or last name.  If I were using my old high-school email address for outreach – – I doubt I’d get many replies.

A few other tips to follow

  • Keep it short!  If it’s more than 10 sentences, you’ve written too much.  Six to seven is ideal.
  • Don’t be overly personal.  Bearing your soul to me in a first email is awkward and inappropriate.
  • If your text color is anything other than black, change it back.
  • Stick with a standard, professional font (i.e., no curlicues).
Again, I realize it’s nearly impossible to cover the fundamentals of good writing with a few bullet points. It really is a life-long pursuit.  And much of this is as much related to formatting as to actual writing.  But these guidelines will go a long way toward making your emails count.
You should be able to find loads of information about upping your writing game, including this great piece from Forbes.  (And if all else fails, you can always marry a writer/editor. That’s what I did!)
Now that I’ve convinced you that I’m actually a cranky, 80-year-old English curmudgeon, let’s move on to the second question your recipients will ask.

Question #2 – What Do You Want?

If you’re writing an outreach email, you almost certainly want something specific from the recipient.  The problem is, what you’re asking for is extremely valuable – that person’s time, attention or their audience –and they don’t know you.  Why should they spend their finite resources to help you, a complete stranger?
That’s why the best approach isn’t to ask for anything.  Instead, make your goal just to start a conversation.  If you’re a quality person offering something of value, the option to work together will naturally come up in subsequent emails.  And it makes it much more likely someone will reply to you if you don’t ask for anything up front.
I’d never interacted with Greg Ciotti from HelpScout and SparringMind when I received his first outreach email:
Hey Andrew,
Greg from Help Scout (and Sparring Mind) here. I’m one of the few contributors to the Shopify blog along with yourself, and I’ve been digging what you’ve been putting out lately!
This is just one of those emails where I reach out to somebody doing real stuff, heh. :)
But seriously though, keep up the great work my man, looking forward to what you come up with in 2013, and if you’d ever like to collaborate, give me a holler.
I’m guessing Greg’s goal in reaching out was to eventually get HelpScout additional exposure via the eCommerceFuel brand.  And yet, there’s no hard pitch.
Instead Greg makes a connection, offers some praise of my work, tries to genuinely connect with me and proposes an open-ended collaboration opportunity that doesn’t require an immediate commitment.
And did you notice there was only one exclamation mark and one smiley face?  Tone nirvana.
Like an expert hunter stalking his prey, Greg executed the cold approach perfectly.  Since then, I’ve recommended (awesome help desk software) to dozens of people and had Greg on the eCommerceFuel podcast to talk customer service.  So I’d say his email did the trick.
Another great example from this week via Jeff from
Hi Andrew!
I just wanted to tell you thanks for your podcast each week. I listen all the time. You have great guests and good discussions. I actually run my own ecommerce store that has been an awesome ride so far. I’m no expert, but have some experience in the ecommerce world.
I would be happy to help you out if you ever have questions. Keep up the good work!
Jeff’s email asked for nothing; he was simply writing to let me know how much he enjoyed the podcast and even offered to lend his experience to help out.
When I viewed his website,, I was blown away by an impressive product and a beautifully executed design.  We started a discussion, and I’m hoping to have him on the podcast in an upcoming episode. (Although he doesn’t even know it yet.  Jeff, I’ll be in touch!)
Did you notice the tone?  An exclamation point in the header and one in the body.  Friendly, but not over the top.  You may think I’m over the top with my nitpicking, but these small things can make a big difference in how an email is received.
Focus on building a rapport, and you’ll usually see long-term benefits if you’re doing something worthwhile that can genuinely help the other person.

If You Must Ask for Something …

If you have to ask for something in your initial email, make sure you do three things:
  1. Show you’ve spent time on their site
  2. Offer something that would be valuable to them and
  3. Close with an authority builder

Here’s the wrong way to begin an email:
I’d like to write a guest post on your blog about scorpion-taming kits.  We sell dozens of scorpion cages on our store, and I know a lot about them.  All you’d need to do is give us a link back to our site and we’d be happy to write this for you.
Thanks, Andrew
About the only thing this email has going for it is brevity.  It fails in just about all other aspects. Where’s the rapport building?  The offer that’s of interest to the site owner’s needs?  And why should they trust you (er,  me)?  Here’s a better example:
First off, I absolutely love your site on scorpion taming – really well done.  Especially like the video you had on teaching them to do backflips.  Didn’t even know this was possible!
Writing because I noticed you don’t have any posts or articles about scorpion cages.  If it’s something that your readers would find valuable, I’d be more than happy to write a unique, quality post for your site.  No commitments from your end – if you don’t think it’s top-notch stuff, there’s no obligation to use it.
I’ve been selling scorpion cages online at for the past four years, so we really know the industry.  If you’d like to see some of the resources we’ve compiled, you can do that here.
If this isn’t a good fit for your visitors, not a problem.  Appreciate the consideration and nice connecting!
- Andrew
Quite a difference, eh?  A lead that shows I’ve actually spent some time on his site and am not spamming him with a fill-in-the-name outreach template.  An offer for content that puts his visitors at the center of the value proposition and gives him an “out” if the content is low quality. And, finally, an authority-building bit at the end listing my credentials and showcasing some of the top-notch work I’ve already created.
As I said earlier, the best type of outreach email simply starts a discussion. But if you’re going to pitch right out of the gates, make sure your email focuses on their needs and not yours.

Question #3 – What Have You Done?

If you’re asking for something meaningful from the recipient, there’s a cost (or risk) involved in them agreeing to it.  Whether or not they accept depends on how well you present yourself (how you write), your offer (what you’re asking for) and your track record online.
The biggest indicator of future behavior is past performance, right?  So when evaluating requests – especially larger ones – people will often do some sleuthing about you.