Huffpost Business
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Penny C. Sansevieri Headshot

Maximize Your Marketing With Autoresponders

Posted: Updated:

With all the talk of Facebook, Twitter, and now Google+, it's easy to forget some of the good, tried-and-true marketing tactics. For instance, the autoresponder. I started using autoresponders about eight years ago, and since then it's become a consistent part of our marketing.

While autoresponders may not be as sexy as some of the new social media, it's a method of marketing that should not be overlooked. Here's why. We get flooded with information via text messages, Twitter tweets, or Facebook status updates -- the information is endless. We don't often retain what we read or hear just once. That's why there is the "marketing rule of seven," in other words it takes seven impressions to your book, message, or product for your consumer to take notice. Certainly it's conceivable that you could manually send out email messages to your customer base. But if you're trying to run a business, create a product, write new books, and all of the other things that fill your day, this really isn't very reasonable.

Why an autoresponder?

As your email list starts growing and your followers start multiplying, you really want to automate as much as you can. You might not like the idea of automating your marketing, but without a certain amount of automation your marketing will never grow beyond what you can handle in a day. Yes, we all want a personalized experience within the company, and trust me when I say that a certain amount of automation will help you do that. As an example, we have automation handle all of our newsletter sign-ups. These are folks who come to our website and want to subscribe to our newsletter. They don't need a personalized email; they often don't need to call. They generally just want information. Other people land on the site who want more than just information, and they contact us in a variety of other ways. But the autoresponder that's in place helps to manage the flow of new users that find us. It also keeps us on their radar screen. I created 52 Ways to Sell More Books for our autoresponder, and we deliver tips, insights, and helpful advice in two separate emails.


Understanding how a good autoresponder works

For an autoresponder to be effective it needs to be populated with small bits of information that are delivered sequentially over a period of time. In order to encourage people to sign up for your autoresponder you must offer them something they need. I've talked a lot about the "ethical bribe" to get someone to sign up for your newsletter. The autoresponder is very similar; give them something they need so you can get what you need: their email address.

To understand how autoresponders work think about the last time you subscribed to an online e-course or some other type of "drip marketing campaign." You gave your email address in order to get something valuable in return. That value was delivered in the form of information, and often this information was not delivered at one time. A good autoresponder is just a one-shot deal; it's a system that drops information one bite at a time into the end-user's email inbox. When I was first introduced to autoresponders I wasn't really sure how to use them. Then I remembered that we are all content creators. At this juncture in our careers we probably have more content in the form of blog posts, Twitter updates, and e-books than we ever thought we would. This content has enormous value not just as a whole product, but also as bits and pieces.

How would you use an autoresponder?

There are a lot of uses for an autoresponder. As I mentioned we use it for our email capture. It's our ethical bribe and people love it. But you can use an autoresponder for just about anything. Here are some ways I've seen an autoresponder used:

  • Lessons: e-learning is a fun way to deliver information. You can drop lessons into an email that delivers them right to your customers' inbox.
  • Exclusive content: giving your end-user access to exclusive content via an autoresponder is another great idea.
  • Book teasers: you can deliver any or all of your book via autoresponder. That's what I did with 52 Ways to Sell More Books. I also gave folks the option to "Buy it Now" if they wanted to.
  • Tips, wisdom, insight: deliver your brilliance via an autoresponder
  • Interviews with experts: your consumers might love these interviews, they can be print or video, in which case you'd point them to your YouTube channel.
  • Questions, questions, questions: readers love questions, especially the most frequently asked questions you might get.

Timing of your messages

Before you embark on your autoresponder campaign I encourage you to create a publishing schedule. My recommendation is to keep the first few emails close together. So, immediately when someone signs up they get email #1, then two days later they get #2, and two days after that they get #3. From there I tend to space these out a bit more so that my 52 tips can actually spread out over almost three months. Once we get through that first three or four email sequence, I recommend dropping back to once a week or once every 10 days. Remember, you're still connecting with your end-users but you're not staying in their face (and cluttering their email) in some obnoxious way.

How long should my auto responder be and how many messages should I have?

In my view autoresponders should be short. I keep them to 200 words or less. Especially when you're delivering frequent content during days 1-4 of your sequencing, you don't want people to have to read a lot. I can almost guarantee you if they do they'll unsubscribe from your list.

How many you should have is entirely up to you. You might talk to some Internet marketers who say you should always be communicating with your end-users but keep in mind the funnel that you're working with. Our autoresponder is the key to our newsletter, which goes out every two weeks. We don't want to inundate them with too much content, so at some point our autoresponder ends but gives the end-user the option to restart the sequencing.

What you should never do with an autoresponder

Years ago when autoresponders were first used by marketing mavens, they were often used to sell. The autoresponder was part tip and mostly a sales pitch. This worked for a while, but I can guarantee you it won't work anymore. These days, it's all about content. High quality, helpful advice and great content. Make sure that your autoresponder is 99% helpful or entertaining content and only 1% marketing. In fact we don't even really market in our autoresponder. Instead, we invite folks to contact us for a free 30-minute consultation. Remember the call to action. Each autoresponder should have a call to action without being overly salesy. You'll keep your readers a lot longer that way and create a fantastic marketing funnel of loyal and buy-ready followers.

Autoresponders we love: Infusionsoft.com, Aweber.com, and Getresponse.com