“My friend got an email saying you can get swine flu from eating canned pork, but it’s just spam.”
“Jim: I bought this great new spam-blocking software last week. You should look into it.
John: Yeah, I got 40 emails about it today.”
No longer is “Spam” mainly associated with the disgusting canned meat that I had to eat as a kid (My dad had a taste for it. Blech…). Today, the word brings to mind the annoying daily deluge of junk email.
Email is one of the best ways to stay in touch with current and potential customers. Say you’re a costume designer. You want enough contact with your customers so they think of you when they’re getting ready for the next Comic-Con. You want them to know that you have a stellar Darth Vader design and the perfect Fourth Doctor costume. But you don’t want them to see yet another email from you, roll their eyes, and delete.
Using autoresponders for emails makes your life much easier. Having set emails to send to customers in certain situations, as well as to promote your products can be an enormously beneficial marketing product. However, when it comes to sending out emails, there’s a fine line between spam and steak. You want to be the steak that people will enjoy.
Let’s explore how to use autoresponder emails in a way that will help your business – without being spammy.
What to use autoresponders for
Autoresponders can be a great tool for your business, if you use them wisely. The first exposure you probably had to autoresponders was a bounceback email from a colleague or client telling you that they’re on vacation or that they plan to respond to your email as soon as possible. That information can be helpful in setting response expectations. When autoresponders are used by businesses, there are more options to help them promote the company than when used by individuals.
When a potential customer fills out a contact form and gives you their email address, use autorespond to send a welcome email. In the message, introduce the customer to your company. It doesn’t have to be overly detailed. A short and sweet elevator pitch of what makes you great should do the trick. Tell them about your products and/or services and offer links to explore these in more depth. Also, be sure to ask the customer to add the autoresponder email address to their contact list, so future emails from you won’t default into the junk mail folder. Include a discount for any orders in the next month or so in the welcome message to motivate the potential customer to become an actual customer.
You can also use autoresponders to send out ongoing messages to those on your contact list. Here are several ways you can use autoresponders:
- A multiple e-mail series offering a continuous set of information. Say your company is Knancy’s Knitting Kneedles. To engage potential customers, you can send out a 6 part email series showing them how to knit. Each email adds a new knitting concept designed to increase the subscriber’s skills and includes free patterns.
- Request for feedback and reviews after a purchase
- Targeted emails based on previous items purchased. If Carl bought circular needles, send out patterns for hats. If Carol bought double pointed needles, send out sock patterns. You can have autoresponder messages keyed to product codes.
- Send event reminders. For your costume design business, send reminder emails as Comic-Con and Halloween get closer, with costume ideas and discount offers. (These are often called broadcast emails, which are slightly different than autoresponders, but still useful)
- Frequent product promotions and coupons: These are designed to entice a customer to make an immediate purchase (Also considered broadcast emails)
How often to send autoresponder messages
Crafting autoresponder emails is the relatively easy part. Knowing how often to send them is where things can get tricky.
You WANT customers to think of you first next time they buy a product you offer. And you WANT customers to rely on your expertise and trust your knowledge.
On the other hand, you DON’T WANT customers to unsubscribe to your email list. You also DON’T WANT customers’ main association with you to be all those annoying emails. And you really DON’T WANT customers to look elsewhere to punish you for bothering them.
The ideal timing of your autoresponder emails will change over time. Here’s a rough timeline on how to structure autoresponders:
- Month 1: When the customer first signs up, that’s the time to maximize the number of emails. Your new customer is excited about your product and wants to learn more. Send daily emails with an instructional series or extensive information about your company and products. These daily emails can last a few weeks to a month.
- Month 2-3: Send out messages several times per week (3-4) with more information about your products. Be sure to include the occasional carrot at least once or twice a month with a discount code.
- Month 4-6: Go down to once or twice a week. Your subscribers are used to you by now and know what you have to offer. Hopefully they’ve bought at least one item. Your goal is to keep you in their minds when they need your services.
- Month 6-Eternity: Send out emails once or twice per month. Think of yourself as an old friend checking in occasionally. Include special offers to long-time subscribers and discounts. Increase your email frequency if a special event is happening or if customer purchase patterns show a specific need.
Frequency of autoresponders is something of an art. There are general frameworks, but it’s important to analyze the specifics of your company. Keep a close eye on the analytics reports from your autoresponder software. Look at the rate at which subscribers open your emails, click on links, unsubscribe, and ideally purchase directly after an email. This will help you tailor the content and frequency of messages to best fit your needs.
Autoresponders are the modern version of cold-calling prospective clients to introduce yourself or standing out on a corner wearing a lobster costume to promote your new tacos. They’re definitely easier than boiling in a lobster suit on a 90 degree day and can reach a lot more people than dropping by a dozen offices each day. With careful preparation and attention to customer tastes, autoresponders can help bring your company to the next level.