Autoresponders: An Introduction… and Why You Need One!

By Graham Lee

If you are running any form of business, whether online or offline you probably already know the importance of email to your business.

Emails are essential to your business for many different reasons. Most importantly, these invisible email voices give you their feedback about your website – for free! They are also a potential source of customers, either new ones or existing ones who know you already know and have purchased your product.

If you are not collecting the email adresses of every visitor to your website or place of business, you are losing out on a huge slice of the profit pie.

Big Numbers

  • In 2010 there were an estimated 110 Trillion emails sent across the Internet worldwide.  That’s a rough average of almost 300 Billion per day.
  • Those emails were sent and received by almost 2 Billion email users, with 500 Million new users in 2010 alone.
  • That is an average of 55,000 emails sent or received by every user per year or 150 emails per user per day.
  • 25% of email user accounts are classified as business accounts and as such may receive more or less depending on the level of SPAM filtering a particular company employs, but that still leaves 75% or 1.5 Billion private individuals who use email.
  • Worryingly 90% of the emails sent are junk mail or SPAM. But even discarding the SPAM, that still leaves around 11 Trillion emails sent last year giving an average of 30 Billion per day.

The figures are obviously not in yet for 2011 but already there have been much larger increases in the number of internet users this year than there were last year, so the numbers are expected to rise.

These are averages and if you in business you are probably receiving far more than the average of 150 emails every day, in reality the figure is more likely to be between 300 to 500. If you’ve reached the point of exhaustion trying to keep up with answering the mountain of emails that threatens to bury you alive every single day, you’re ready to learn about autoresponders.

The bad news is that people expect prompt replies to their email inquiries. However, unless you can figure out how to work continual twenty-four hour shifts, or hire enough people to constantly monitor incoming emails (while they’re eating up your revenue), you have a problem. The good news is an autoresponder is an inexpensive – or even free – method of quickly responding to emails.

What is an Autoresponder?

Autoresponders are programs that automatically respond to your emails without you so much as having to click on your mouse. They automatically respond to incoming emails as soon as they are received, letting your customers know that you do exist and will attend to their inquiry as soon as possible. This gives you more time to answer those emails that require a more personal touch. Your website should contain different email addresses for different contact requests. For example, use info@yourdomain.com for information requests, or sales@yourdomain.com for questions about sales, or service@yourdomain.com for customer service requests, separating customer service requests, from general inquiries, from brochure requests, from Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), etc. allows you to attend to customer service requests personally and allow the others to be handled by your autoresponder.

Use it to advertise your business by choosing your email address carefully.  It’s also a good idea to set up one for the owner, such as president@yourdomain.com. This presents your company in a personal, approachable light and insures that direct contact is provided.

There are a number of good reasons why you need an autoresponder besides just answering your email. Email is an excellent marketing tool; it is inexpensive and it is fast. For example, autoresponders can be used to offer your site visitors a special bonus of some kind, such as advice or relevant articles. Additionally, you can advertise your business and then build stable relationships with your customers by using autoresponders.

About Autoresponders

Autoresponder programs vary from software that runs with your email program to a specialized script that runs on your web hosting company’s server. This kind of script may use a web page form or simply operate with your email account. This kind of script is programmed to send out a standardized message whenever an email is received. The message is sent to a particular script or email address.

Some autoresponders can do more than simply send out standardized messages. They can send out an unlimited number of follow-up messages sent at predetermined interval of time. For example, you can set your autoresponder to send out a new message every day for as long a period as you desire.

There are numerous companies who offer autoresponders free of charge. Your website hosting company often provides autoresponders as a free service. If this is not the case with your web hosting company, there are numerous companies who offer this service for a small fee, or free of charge, providing you attach an advertisement for their company to your emails.

Email Signatures

To personalize your autoresponder messages, you can attach a signature. Signatures in this case are much like business cards. You can include your name, company, all your contact numbers and addresses, and a brief message.

It’s a good idea to attach a signature to every email that is sent out. This works as a repeated reminder of your business identity every time a customer sees it. The more they look at your signature, the more likely your company will spring to mind when your particular service or product is needed.

You can create a standardized signature that every employee in your business uses, or you can go wild, and let every staff member create their own personal signature. Of course, like everything in life, there are some rules and guidelines to creating a personal signature.

Keep the length of your signature between four to six lines of text, with no more than 70 characters in a single line. Make sure that your email program does not cut off your text! The content should include your name, your company name, your email address, fax number, and any other contact details, such as 800 numbers. Lastly, always include a short personal message about your company. It should be a subtle sell of your services or your products, and possibly your company’s reliability and longevity.

Using Autoresponders to teach.

Another specialized use of autoresponders is to create courses that you can then offer your site visitors for free. You must choose a topic in which you are an expert and that precisely targets your potential customers. For example, your business sells Artist’s Materials, Pens, Pencils, Paper and such like. Create a course teaching your visitors how to draw or paint. You could expand on the theme by offering beginner, intermediate and advanced courses.

Once you have carefully chosen your subject, divide it into a number of different sub-topics. Then offer your site visitor a free 10 or 15 day course, each day offering a different sub-topic. The first topic should always be a welcome message to your site visitor and an explanation about what is to follow. Your explanation should be enticing, getting the point across that you are offering free, quality information that your target audience will find of great value.

With every lesson, include the number of the lesson, the topic title, information about your company and its services or products. At the end, include a few blurbs about the next lesson to entice the subscriber to continue on.

Make sure each topic is packed with essential and valuable information, and leaves the visitor lusting to know more. Otherwise, you may lose them in the very beginning.

Remember to include that subtle sales message by including a link to the specific type of pencil, paint, paintbrush or paper used in each lesson.

Final words

Of course, you have to write up your course or your follow-up messages before you can offer the information to your customers. Once you have done this, and gone over the material carefully, employing a professional writer or editor if necessary, you must transfer your text to your autoresponder.

When you sign-up for your chosen autoresponder, you will receive instructions as to how to set up each message and transfer your text.

If you’ve created multiple email addresses, you can set-up multiple autoresponder campaigns for each address to ensure each inquiry gets the specific information they are requesting. Once the first message has been delivered with that specific information and you then want to build the relationship, you can transfer their email address to a general mailing campaign, that contains your follow-up messages about offers and more information.

Autoresponders are an effective and powerful marketing tool, allowing you to make contact with thousands of potential customers. This is an invaluable asset considering how many potential customers you usually have contact with before you make an actual sale. Making sure you use an autoresponder will ensure you do not lose those potential customers.

Autoresponders will allow you to get your slice of the 1.5 Billion, and growing, private users of email who are looking for information and use them to grow your business.

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About the Author

Graham Lee is CEO of The Income Zone, where you will find online ebusiness tools for web entrepreneurs. Graham is also the owner of a number of other websites offering tools and information about internet marketing and working online.

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