Do you like airline travel? My wife hates flying, but I have no problem with it. When I worked at Arthur Andersen, I always kept a suitcase handy, because I never knew when I would be shuttled off to a destination for a video interview. Miami, San Francisco, Houston, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Charlotte, Atlanta, Orlando and Albany were just a few of the stops along the way! Although I travel less today because of tools like GoToMeeting (I work with people all over the world), there are still times I have to meet with someone face-to-face.
When traveling, you want to make sure your pilot has two mad skills…takeoffs and landings. More often than not, once they reach cruising altitude, the plane is flying on autopilot.
If you are like most small businesses, you are subscribing to or even using an email broadcast system. Your subscribers can always tell which system, since the Can-Spam Act forces you to have an unsubscribe button at the bottom of each email.
There are many options, like iContact, EmailContact, Constant Contact, Aweber and even some larger options like InfusionSoft, GreenRope, and GetResponse. I recently switched from iContact to Aweber, primarily because of its advanced auto responder system. Email systems allow people to subscribe to your pre-defined list(s) based on their needs and interests. I have one list for my local clients, one for my books, several for my podcast, one for each of my courses or conferences and even one for specific clients (WordPress updates). Segmenting like this makes sure that people stay interested in your emails. Having one broad list that goes to all people will most definitely not have great open rates and will have higher unsubscribes, because you are not focusing on each person's specific needs and interests.
What is an Autoresponder?
When people sign up for an email list on one of your email services (that you subscribe to), you can set a sequence of emails to be sent to them at defined intervals. In my interview with email marketing expert Terry Dean, he told me that there is a methodology to the madness. Understanding your audience's needs and wants should always be front and center, but there is more to this than just simply setting up a series of repetitive emails. Terry expressed that the most effective autoresponder sequences are the ones that make sales (you are in business right?).
- Define The Sequence – What information would your email list subscribers want? Maybe they would like a “Thank You”, or a link to a free download, or maybe a special report or another special offer? No matter what it is, it has to have some value to keep them focused. If you show the value up front, then people are more likely to stick with you. If all you do is sell, sell, sell, people will unsubscribe as quickly as the people jumping off the Titanic right before it sank!
- Define The Frequency – If you are going to send out an email every day, it better be a good one. Once per week may be good enough. Your audience will determine the frequency. If they are active participants, then more often could work. If they are passive, then less is more. Keep in mind that different lists have different needs, so make sure your autoresponder sequence reflects your list's temperament and needs.
- Calls To Action – Unless you are wishing someone a “Happy Birthday”, every email (even broadcasts and personal ones) should have some kind of measurable call to action. The message could be as simple as read our blog, or as straightforward as “Buy Now – Limited Time Offer”, but it should have links that make your audience take some action. Even “Pick up the phone and call us” is an actionable item.
- Maintenance – Follow up is hard to do. Why not let autoresponders handle that for you? I manage over 150 Google Analytics accounts. How about asking “How did your website stack up this week?” Then you can give them some tips and maybe include a link to a simple reminder training video? The video could be one in a series that you sell as a package or offer a subscription to? There are many options here!
- Next Steps – “Now that you have purchased product A, you need to explore support options”, or “Product B will help you make the most of product A.” Maybe your first step is to define those next steps? You can use autoresponders to help guide them through the process first, then, in a few weeks, offer them the upgrade or additional support processes.
No matter what your business or what you are selling (you are in business right?), you can find a way to make autoresponders work for you and your clients or customers. Yes, it takes some time, testing, tweaking, and training, but it beats the sound of crickets after someone signs up for your list. People will unsubscribe whether you hit them up the next day or the next year. You might as well do your best to keep them informed, entertained and interested.
Trust me, your competition would love to talk to your audience. Do your best to keep them in your camp!
I would love to hear your thoughts, feelings and feedback on this post – comment away!