Blogging and email autoresponders

Email Response
Note: PublicityShip uses Aweber internally, and additionally has signed up with Aweber’s affiliate programme. This means if you purchase Aweber using our affiliate link, you pay the standard rate and we receive a commission.

If your blog or website offers information resources that go into some depth, or you have slightly more complex products/services that need to be explained in more detail than a web page allows, then you should learn about email autoresponders.

Autoresponder for a newsletter

We use an autoresonder for our monthly newsletter, ensuring that when you sign up you get the current issue immediately. The autoresponder uses a verified opt-in approach, so that once somebody requests to be added to our list, a note goes to them asking for verification. Unsubscribe options are automatically included on every message that goes out. This means we stay fully compliant with anti-spam regulations in both Australia and the US. While we could use full HTML formatting for our newsletters (the autoresponder has many templates), we choose not to, and keep them as simple plain-text. If the content is no good, pretty layout won’t make it worth reading :)

Ironically, we’ve found that by using the personalisation feature in the autoresponder, our clients report that newsletters are a lot more personal. Without the autoresponder and a proper database of names, we ‘personally’ sent the emails but we weren’t able to use the receiver’s actual name.

Using the autoresponder to manage a competition

The Autoresponder is also helping us manage our Hidden Jewel competition. It collects registration details from each entrant (including passwords that they choose), and sends them personalised details on how to login and complete their entry. This is a lot more friendly than we were able to achieve before. Jane still gets to see every email that comes in, and can personally send a reply if someone asks for extra information.

Offering educational content in easily digestible chunks

As we continue to broaden our service offering, we are using autoresponders to help educate prospective clients about publicity and blogging. It all depends on the content, but in our case offering content as a mini-education series over several days works well. People get exposed to so much information anyway, and taking in complex material over a number of days makes it easier to digest.

Host your own or outsource?

Prior to choosing a 3rd party autoresponder, I looked at hosting our own email service. There are a number of good options available, including several open source choices (as always, free is a compelling option!) Its not rocket science, and your webmaster could probably set it up for you in half a day at most. And then you would be able to manage your own email campaigns for free, right? Wrong. Now have a ticket into the world of whitelists, blacklists, and potential spam complaints (accidental spam is still spam). Consider a lawyer to make sure you are complying with the anti-spam laws (and if you plan on working outside Australia, you better throw in CAN-SPAM compliance as well). And then — the major factor — deliverability. Keeping deliverability rates high is a very complicated task, and not well suited to a part time webmaster.

So in short, while technically in reach, having our own autoresponder service would mean significant ongoing costs to operate, distract us from more significant work, and expose us to legal/reputational risk. Using one of the high profile hosted autoresponder services avoids these costs and risks.

How I selected our hosted autoresponder

I selected Aweber (aff), one of several very good alternatives. The others I looked at were eNewsletters Online from Elk, GetResponse.com and 1ShoppingCart.com. Elk is very simple, and great for newsletter focussed requirements. GetResponse is stronger as an autoresponder, and 1ShoppingCart is a shopping cart with an integrated autoresponder – very good, but the merchant account integration doesn’t work for Australia.

Aweber has good features and competitive pricing. Having been on the receiving end of Aweber email campaigns before, I knew they came across professionally and worked well for the reader. They also offer an affiliate programme, which provides a way for us to offer services to our own clients, helping to implement on the content side of autoresponder usage.

But first and foremost, Aweber convinced me the most regarding deliverability. We plan to use autoresponders as part of our core service delivery, so this is a critical factor. But even for our newsletter, if people take the trouble to opt in to our list, we want them to receive the message! Deliverability is a big part of what Aweber worry about, which suits me fine.

Our experience

We’ve found the service works very well. Getting our existing mailing list across from our manual system into Aweber meant our subscribers had to verify their inclusion. This proved a barrier for some – either they hadn’t got around to unsubscribing before, or they didn’t make it past the verification link. Still, the loss of some subscribers is worth it, compared to ongoing email hassles. There is no doubt once you invest in building your email list with a hosted provided, its difficult to change. You have to rebuild the list with a new hosting provider. So its an important decision, and not one to be made lightly.

Once made however, there are a lot of benefits to be had from autoresponders.

Summary

So there you have it, my take on email autoresponders. Very useful if your business involves services, and helps you steer well clear of spam.

The article below is written by the CEO of Aweber, and explains autoresponders from their perspective.

Glenn.

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Do Your Potential Customers Forget About You?

By: Tom Kulzer

Your web business probably gets product inquiries from potential customers around the globe. Inquiries come via e-mail and your web site, and you try to send information to each hot prospect as quickly as you can. You know that you can drastically increase the likelihood of making a sale by satisfying each person’s need for information quickly!

But, after you’ve delivered that first bit of information to your prospect, do you send him any further information?

If you are like most Internet marketers, you don’t.

When you don’t follow that initial message with additional information later on, you let a valuable prospect slip from your grasp! This is a potential customer who may have been very interested in your products, but who lost your contact information, or was too busy to make a purchase when your first message reached him. Often, a prospect will purposely put off making a purchase, to see if you find him important enough to follow up with later. When he doesn’t receive a follow up message from you, he will take his business elsewhere.

Are you losing profits due to inconsistent and ineffective follow up?

Following up with leads is more than just a process – it’s an art. In order to be effective, you need to design a follow up system, and stick to it, EVERY DAY! If you don’t follow up with your prospects consistently, INDIVIDUALLY, and in a timely fashion, then you might as well forget the whole follow up process.

Consistent follow up gets results!

When I first started marketing and following up with prospects, I used a follow up method that I now call the “List Technique.” I had a large database containing the names and e-mail addresses of people who had specifically requested information about my products and services. These prospects had already received my first letter by the time they requested more information, so I used the company’s latest news as a follow up piece. I would write follow up newsletters every now and then, and send them, in one mass mailing, to everyone who had previously requested information from me. While this probably did help me win a few additional orders, it wasn’t a very good follow up method. Why isn’t the “List Technique” very effective?

The List Technique isn’t consistent. Proponents of the List Technique tend to only send out follow up messages when their companies have “big news”.

List Technique messages don’t give the potential customer any additional information about the product or service in question. He can’t make a more informed buying decision after receiving a newsletter! If someone is wondering whether your company sells the best knick-knacks, what does he care that you’ve just moved your headquarters?

List Technique messages convey a “big list” mentality to your potential customers. When I used to write follow up messages using the List Technique, I was writing news bulletins to everyone I knew! I should have been sending a personal message to each individual who wanted to know more about my products.

What follow up method really works?

Following up with each lead individually, multiple times, but at set intervals, and with pre-written messages, will dramatically increase sales! Others who use this same technique confirm that they have all at least doubled the sales of various products! In order to set this system up, though, you need to do some planning.

First, you’ll need to develop your follow up messages. If you’ve been marketing on the Internet for any length of time, then you should already have a first informative letter. Your second letter marks the beginning of the follow up process, and should go into more detail than the first letter. Fill this letter with details that you didn’t have the space to add to the first letter. Stress the BENEFITS of your products or services!

Your next 2-3 follow up messages should be rather short. Include lists of the benefits and potential uses of your products and services. Write each letter so that your prospects can skim the contents, and still see the full force of your message.

The next couple of follow up messages should create a sense of urgency in your prospect’s mind. Make a special offer, giving him a reason to order NOW instead of waiting any longer. After reading these follow up messages, your prospect should want to order immediately!

Phrase each of your final 1 or 2 follow up messages in the form of a question. Ask your prospect why he hasn’t yet placed an order? Try to get him to actually respond. Ask if the price is to high, the product isn’t the right color or doesn’t have the right features, or if he is looking for something else entirely. (By this time, it’s unlikely that this person will order from you. However, his feedback can help you modify your follow up letters or products, so that other prospects will order from you.)

The timing of your follow up letters is just as important as their content. You don’t want one prospect to receive a follow up the day after he gets your initial informative letter, while another prospect waits weeks for a follow up!

Always send an initial, informative letter as soon as it is requested, and send the first follow up 24 hours afterwards. You want your hot prospects to have information quickly, so that they can make informed buying decisions!

Send the next 2-3 follow up messages between 1 and 3 days apart. Your prospect is still hot, and is probably still shopping around! Tell him about the benefits of your products and services, as opposed to your competitors’. You will make the sale!

Send the final follow up messages later on. You certainly don’t want to annoy your prospect! Make sure that these last letters are at least 4 days apart.

Following up effectively seems complicated, but it doesn’t have to be! So many potential customers are lost because of poor follow up – don’t you want to be one of the few to get it right?

Tom Kulzer, CEO and Founder of Newtown, PA based AWeber Communications, Inc. an opt-in email service provider. With 7 years managing opt-in follow up and newsletters for small businesses, email deliverability is an integral part of day to day operations. Learn more:
Aweber

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