The Power of Auto-Responders

Using Email "auto-responders" To Increase Marketing Impact

by Rick Hendershot

Like email itself, "auto-responders" have been around for quite a few years. The idea is fairly simple. Say you want to promote your new e-book called "Dog Care Fundamentals". Here is how you use an auto-responder to promote it:

Step 1. Create a text or html promotional message, for example, "Intro to Dog Care Fundamentals".

Step 2. Enter the message into the auto-responder program.

Step 3. Create a web page that promotes your product and offers a "Free Intro" -- the message you created in Step 1.

Step 4. Put a web form on the page that allows people to "submit" their name and email address to the auto-responder.

Step 5. Program the auto-responder to send out your Intro..., message when someone submits their name and email address using the special web form you created in Step 4.

Step 6. Create links in email messages and on web pages that point to your special promotional page.

Now whenever you send out an email message, you include -- for instance, in your signature -- a link that says Click Here for your Free Intro to Dog Care Fundamentals. When someone clicks on one of those links they are taken to your special promotional page. If they are interested in receiving the Intro..., they fill out the form and submit the information. The auto-responder automatically sends the Intro..., message you created.

Problems with Email

Since it is based in fairly simple email technology, the auto-responder concept is what you might call "old technology". And since email is taking a bit of a beating right now (because of anti-SPAM measures), auto-responders have fallen out of favor in some circles.

One criticism is that email messages are often filtered out by anti-spam systems. If true, this would mean your messages would be sent straight to the "delete" folder and never be seen by their intended recipients.

Another criticism is that it is relatively difficult to set up an auto-responder system. What was your initial reaction to the 6 Steps I outlined above? As hordes of new "internet marketers" come on stream, many of them have no real knowledge of web programming. Since the learning curve is too steep, they look to other, less technical solutions. It is much easier just to put your Intro..., message on a web page and leave it at that. Someone clicks on your link, and they are taken to the web page. No need for any programming.

Advantages of Auto-Responders

So why not just take the easy way out -- put your Intro..., message on a web page along with a sales pitch and leave it at that?

Three reasons immediately come to mind:

  1. You have no effective way of tracking people who visit a web page. But when people ask for your Intro..., message via a web form, you capture their name and email address. This is a form of "opting-in". These people are essentially put on an "opt-in" mailing list and are generally considered fair game for receiving information about your new product. Don't abuse this. For instance, don't put them on a general mailing list and send them all kinds of emails about other products.
  2. You can use your auto-responder to create a sequence of follow up messages, sent out every three or four days. Every marketer knows that repetition creates familiarity. And familiarity creates trust. And trust leads to sales. So the odds of getting a sale after sending out three or four follow up messages are much higher than the odds of getting a sale from someone just looking at a web page pitch.
  3. You can use a sequence of messages to gradually "unfold" the features and benefits of your product. For example, in the first message you talk about doggy diets, in the second message you talk about doggy grooming, in the third you talk about doggy training, etc. And you can even use each message to introduce a different but related product. Since your respondents are already interested in your "Dog Care" book, it is safe to assume they might also be interested in some of your other "Dog Care" products.

In a future article I will discuss some of the specific auto-responders I have tried. They are not all created equal.

In the meantime, if you would like to see a couple of auto-responders in action, go HERE.

The oldest, most established supplier of auto-responders is still the best, IMHO. You can find them at http://www.aweber.com.



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About the Author

Rick Hendershot is based in Conestogo, Ontario, Canada. He spent many years as an advertising consultant, and small business owner, and currently publishes several golf, travel, and small business websites and ezines, including Small Biz Tips and Trade Show Tips. He can be reached at rh@small-business-online.com. His primary website is http://www.small-business-online.com



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