Imagine if you had a personal assistant to support your online business, that responded within minutes to customer requests, managed your subscriber list perfectly, and sent out perfect e-mails at the time you most needed them to go out, because they understood exactly what you wanted to say, and when you wanted to say it?
They would make your coffee, tidy your office and even pick up your shopping when you’re too busy to pop out.
Sounds too good to be true, right?
Well, it isn’t.
Apart from the coffee bit onwards – I made that up.
But, there is a type of software out there designed to streamline your e-mail marketing to the point that you can set it all up in a matter of hours, and manage your subscribers, prospects, opt-ins and messages so that they get sent out exactly when you want them to, day or night.
Welcome to the heady world of the autoresponder.
Autoresponders are sequences of e-mails that you can write up and set to a schedule, so that they get issued to your list of contacts over a specific period of time (days, weeks or even months).
The sequence you set can include your welcome message when people opt in to services, monthly newsletters, responses to purchases online and even set messages which react according to your customers’ actions, and where they happen to be on your service or product lifecycle.
The mechanics behind autoresponder software
The software works by getting triggered when your customer first opts in to receive communications from you, and the sequence is monitored by the date they first signed up with you.
You get to choose how many days elapse between communications, so if a mail is sent out on day 0, you can programme the autoresponder to ping out further messages on (for example) day 7, 14 and 28.
Autoresponders are a really good way of making sure your marketing is set up properly, that you keep in touch with your list of contacts, and you respond promptly and pertinently when you have something to offer, an update to give out or a news bulletin for a number of subscribers.
As your business grows, spending time catching up on your e-mails and making sure you send out the right type of message at the right time can be really tough.
If you bombard a client with too many missives in a short space of time, you risk making them peeved and unsubscribing.
Similarly, if you forget to send out mails at the right time, you can lose a client because they don’t feel that you are bringing them the added value they expected from you when they first signed up with you.
Enhancing customer service, while reducing your workload
Now, you may be thinking that this is a pretty impersonal way of looking after your customers, but in fact it’s no less personal than sending out your standard messages manually.
As long as you take the time to write engaging, informative and friendly content to go out against your preferred schedule, your clients won’t be dismayed by your lack of personal attention.
Really, by making sure your messages get sent out when they need to be, you’re enhancing, rather than detracting from, your overall customer service.
If this sounds like a good plan for you, and you’ve been finding that the majority of your work time has been spent catching up on e-mail administration and responding to customers that could be managed just as well through an autoresponder, check out some of the options available for setting your e-mail schedule up.
Options like Aweber, MailChimp, Constant Contact and others all have great reputations for smaller businesses looking to automate some of the time consuming administration that could be managed more effectively.
I personally use Aweber.
Choosing the right brand of autoresponder to meet your business needs
Autoresponders have different features and benefits that you can choose from to make sure your preferred solution meets all of your needs.
Some offer a kind of ‘plug and play’ interface where you simply choose a template and pop in your content, while if you want a bit more control over your content you can decide to run with a software package that lets you import your own format for mails.
The cost of the solution depends a lot on how many subscribers you have, with many of the autoresponders charging according to the number of clients you push through the framework, so it is worth checking periodically as your list grows, that you are still using a cost-effective pricing model.
While autoresponders can’t yet make your coffee and pick up your shopping, they can certainly bring enough value to your online marketing administration to free you up to do those things yourself!
Do you use an autoresponder service? Which One?
Please share your views in the comments below.