Jazz Up Your Autoresponders

An autoresponder is a line of script that automatically sends an email response when someone sends you an email, clicks a button on your website, or fills out and submits a form. There are dozens of ways autoresponders can be used to answer customer questions and complaints, respond to specific questions, market, educate, and inform.

At Catalyst, we specialize in informative autoresponders-short articles intended to arrive in your prospects’ inboxes at regular intervals. Our autoresponder articles are similar to ezines in that they are written to be delivered regularly to inboxes, and prospects have to subscribe to get them. But there are key differences.

Informative Autoresponders vs. Ezines: What’s the Difference?

Both are set up to deliver content to your prospects on a regular basis. But ezines usually include several articles, while a single autoresponder installment is just one article-usually no longer than 250 words.

Why Choose Autoresponders?

Autoresponders are more in synch with the short attention span of most online readers. A reader may be interested in your industry-they may even have signed up for your ezine-and they may still rarely take the time to read it. But with a single autoresponder, they’re likely to know it will only take a minute or two to scan, and they’re more likely to open and read it-even if they’re feeling rushed.

Because they’re so short, autoresponders also lend themselves well to more frequent distribution. A daily ezine distribution is a bit much, but you can get away with it using short autoresponder articles. This means you show up in front of your prospects more often, and they’re even more likely to think of you when they think of buying your product or service.

Why “Informative”? Why Not the Hard Sell?

At Catalyst, we specialize in informative content used for a variety of marketing efforts. Just because it’s not hardball sales copy doesn’t mean it won’t sell-in many cases, it sells better than your typical hard-hitting sales letter. We feel that this is especially important when it comes to autoresponders. Here’s why.

You need to give them something they’ll read. When it comes to their inboxes, people are territorial. They’ll delete anything that isn’t immediately of interest to them. They may have signed up for your autoresponder series as a passing whim, but if they open your first message to find mostly sales copy, they’ll stop reading.

To get them opening your emails every time, you need to offer them something of value. A quick how-to, a product review, a concise case study: all of these things can attract their interest when buy-now messages can’t.

People don’t like spam. It may not be fair, but if they see your sales messages showing up in your inbox every day, people may start to see it as spam-even if they opted in. At best, they won’t take the time to read it. At worst, they may start to think of you as a spammer. This may not always happen, but you’re likely to have a higher annoyance factor if you’re more salesy.

It makes you look good. You can generate trust and goodwill, however, by sharing your knowledge instead. Give people a peek into how to choose a vendor or service provider like you, how-to information relevant to your industry, or how they can save money buying what you sell-and people won’t see you as a salesperson. They’ll see you as an educator. They’ll trust you, and they’ll be more likely to buy from you.

What Can Informative Autoresponders Do For You?

Keep you in front of your prospects. You can send autoresponders even more frequently than you can ezines and e-newsletters. This means that every day, every other day, or every week you have an opportunity to make a great impression on prospects. Your competitors may show up during Google searches of certain keywords, as annoying pop-up ads prospects click through, or in more traditional advertising media like television and radio. But with autoresponders, you’re making personal contact with your prospects every day.

Help you assemble a pre-screened email marketing list. It’s best if you don’t sign people up for your autoresponder series unless they ask for it. It’s not just because of anti-spam legislation and making a good impression, although that’s a big part of it. But there’s another compelling reason why you want to send your series only to those who ask for it: because it pre-screens your prospects.

If someone signs up for your series, they’ve shown an interest in your product or service in general, and an interest in your business in particular. These are people who are much more likely to buy from you than the average prospect. Each one is a hot lead, and it will pay to keep in touch.

It’s best not to inundate this list with sales messages, however. Be judicious. Instead of sending separate sales messages, add a succinct, one-sentence message to the end of each autoresponder article offering a free gift or a discount for a new service you want to promote, or a product you want to increase sales on. Tell them to mention this article to receive the discount or free gift. Keep it casual and don’t push the hard sell-make them feel like you’re giving something away.

Help you educate your prospects. Your prospects may know they want or need what you’re selling-if they sign up for your series, they already have an interest. But there may be plenty of things about your industry or products that they don’t know and that they should. You can use your autoresponder series to address common misconceptions, help your prospects get the most for their money, and guide their purchases in a way that’s mutually beneficial.

Boost your bottom line. Your prospects see your company name more often than your competitors’; they are used to getting good, solid, helpful information from you, even as your competitors are sending them nothing but sales letters; and they’ve learned from you and come to trust you as a resource. Of course, when it comes to a choice between you and your competitor, they’re going to pick you. Add a brief discount offer at the bottom of each article, and your subscribers will probably take you up on it more often than not. It all adds up to more money in your pocket, without a huge investment in time or labor.

An informative autoresponder series is a powerful way to increase sales. You’ll make yourself look knowledgeable and generous, stay in front of customers, create a strong email marketing list, and sell to people who want to buy. Put an autoresponder series to work for you, and you’re sure to reap the benefits.

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