Tuesday, August 11, 2009

August 11th "Autoresponders In Your World" Series, Part 25.

Autoresponder Personalization: How Intelligent Wild-card Use puts the Wal-Mart Smile Back into your E-mails

In the real world, everyone appreciates the personal touch. Nothing puts a smile on a customer’s face faster than a warm greeting in their favorite store. Whether it be the grocery store, corner gas station, or local watering hole, what’s better than a friendly ‘Hello’ from the owner or his employees? Size is irrelevant – Wal-Mart has turned ‘Meet and Greet’ tactics into an art form. This is classical customer support: proprietors nurture personal relationships and cater to your needs and desires in order to build business loyalty.

The Internet presents unique challenges to entrepreneurs looking to connect with prospects and customers. Autoresponders can play a big role in this respect. Most third party services and software are built with a rich set of “wildcards” that allow you to personalize your e-mail communication. You can use wildcard code to address your subscribers by name, date your correspondence, and even add geographical references.

Incorporating wildcards into your autoresponders is simple. Within your message, insert appropriate wildcards in the positions you want. For example, many e-mail marketers start their letters with a “Hello John” salutation. In this case, you would insert the first name (or full name) wildcard to replace John. In aweber, for example, {!firstname_fix} is the code used. Therefore, your salutation would be:

Hello {!firstname_fix},

If your subscriber’s first name is Mary, then she would see ‘Hello Mary’ at the start of her email, not ‘Hello {!firstname_fix}’.

Not surprisingly, most research indicates that e-mail open and response rates improve with autoresponder personalization. Think about it – if a letter addresses you by name, wouldn’t you be the least bit curious to find out what the letter is about? Just use the ‘first name’ wildcard in a few strategic locations, perhaps even the Subject: line, and each individual subscriber will see their name in your correspondence.

Your ability to personalize e-mail marketing with autoresponders depends on the contact information collected while building your list. Therefore, make sure your opt-in forms include fields for the prospect’s first name and e-mail address at a minimum. This way, you can send instructions for list confirmation, ‘Thank You’ offers, or e-book download messages even before starting your regular autoresponder sequence. It goes without saying that having no contact information takes away your ability to personalize e-mails.

Autoresponder personalization is the best way for Internet entrepreneurs to capture the essence of relationship-based online marketing. On the surface, it may not put money in your pocket, but it is the first step towards building a responsive list of subscribers. Everyone likes to be called by their name; with the rapid growth of social media, e-mail marketers must demonstrate that they are still capable of personal contact and taking their subscribers’ problems to heart.
and putting smile on their faces…

Rahul Majumdar is an Information Marketer specializing in article marketing, list-building, and digital product creation. Sign up for more of his insights here

August 11th "Autoresponders In Your World" Series, Part 24.

Using Autoresponders to Generate Invoices and Get Paid Fast!

Wow, you’ve made a sale! Congratulations, but before popping open the champagne don’t forget that you must complete a payment processing sequence to receive your money. Invoices are an integral part of the sales process, but as your business grows, they can become very time-consuming and impede overall productivity. Fortunately, many web hosting companies permit invoice automation thanks to autoresponders.

Simple and recurring invoices can be automatically sent to customers via a shopping cart (e.g. PayPal) or from your own autoresponder. Instead of guessing whether or not a customer has paid for a product or service, follow the merchant’s invoicing instructions to free you from administrative drudgery. Once completed, use your extra time to create more marketing campaigns and pursue other exciting ventures.

To get started, use pre-existing invoice templates offered by the leading shopping carts. Before long you will be able to:

- Promptly send customers goods and service invoices.
- Provide specifics about each purchase (i.e. item description, quantity, unit price, shipping details, tax, and currency)
- Automatically generate purchase dates and sales totals.

Once you are comfortable with the process, you should create your own templates to further personalize each transaction. Some shopping carts permit e-mail invoicing with Microsoft Office and Quicken, so that you can create forms with commonly used productivity software.

In addition to invoicing with autoresponders, consider offering your clients an e-mail payment option. This ‘one-click’ option lets you accept credit card, bank, and online merchant payments without the hassles of long paper trails. Be aware of any and all fees, especially set-up and recurring monthly fees that eat into your profits.

Another advantage of using automated invoicing messages is to inform customers about complimentary items in your sales catalog. Much like the marketing tactics used by telephone, cable and credit card companies, you can present special deals and discounts for people who regularly contribute to your monthly cashflow.

Presenting professional invoices to your customers will encourage them to move money into your bank account faster. Automated invoices and e-mail payments, with the help of autoresponders, put the power of blue-chip corporations into the hands of home-based, solo entrepreneurs. Use this amazing tool to boost your administrative efficiency and expand your business.

Rahul Majumdar is an Information Marketer specializing in article marketing, list-building, and digital product creation. Sign up for more of his insights here

Friday, August 07, 2009

August 7th "Autoresponders In Your World" Series, Part 23.

Three Marketing Functions Best Suited for Autoresponder Use.

Why is the autoresponder an Internet Marketer’s most indispensable tool? Think about it – could you be an effective online entrepreneur without the tool that makes prospecting, relationship-building, and networking with other marketers almost effortless? You would be hard-pressed to succeed in list-building, affiliate marketing, and joint ventures marketing without the autoresponder’s versatility, flexibility, and adaptability. In short, you cannot have a serious business presence without it.

That being said, there are three specific activities that are tailor-made for autoresponders:

1. Growing your opt-in subscriber lists.

What is the first thing marketers insist they would do if they lost everything? Most (the smart ones, anyway) will opt to start rebuilding their contact list. Lists are where the money’s at, but to unlock its full income potential, you have to master autoresponders. Set up twenty to fifty messages right off the bat to distinguish yourself from casual marketers and those who simply don’t care. If your autoresponder service permits broadcasts, inject references to current news stories or important events in your life for added continuity. Autoresponder services let you incorporate name and time wildcards into your messages, so use them to build personal bonds.

2. Making repeated offers to subscribers and customers.

It takes seven looks (e-mails, salesletters, squeeze pages, etc.) on average before a prospect will seriously consider buying from you. To get the exposure your offers need, you must use an autoresponder to communicate with your permission-based list. Even if you have a respectable open rate, circumstances dictate that subscribers will not always heed your call to action. With autoresponders, you can resend e-mails, give reminders, or even build a storyline to better promote your offer. Note that discreet and subtle reminders are appropriate for both content and offers.

3. Creating and sending E-mail courses.

Most subscribers realize that you will send them content and offers on a regular basis. So, to differentiate yourself from fellow marketers, why not give original e-courses from time to time? Just load a topical 5 or 10-part series into your autoresponder and encourage subscriber interaction. Who knows, it may trigger a new product idea! By focusing on a specific area, you will prove your expertise and make subscribers take notice. E-courses are a great way to pre-sell affiliate products and your own stuff; they can be geared towards salesmanship or information (i.e. product review) depending on your goals and the characteristics of your intended audience.

Autoresponders automate time-consuming, even mind-numbing (but necessary) Internet marketing tasks. True, you have to write or outsource your sales material first, but once you get it right, plug it into your autoresponder and you’re set. It doesn’t discriminate between affiliate marketing and product creation, and is effective for e-mail relationship building. Some marketers even boast about subscribers who honestly tell them that their autoresponder messages are indistinguishable from personal letters.

Rahul Majumdar is an Information Marketer specializing in article marketing, list-building, and digital product creation. Sign up for more of his insights here

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

August 5th "Autoresponders In Your World" Series, Part 22.

3 Ways to ensure Your Autoresponder Messages Are not Rejected.

With great power comes great responsibility, or so we are told. Such is the case with autoresponders, the heart of e-mail marketing. No doubt they have revolutionized e-commerce and information marketing. However, as with so many great innovations, autoresponders are susceptible to abuse and misuse. Nothing represents irresponsible autoresponder use better than unsolicited commercial mail (UCE), and unsolicited bulk mail (UBE).

…Also known as spam.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate legitimate Internet marketers from spammers. The large internet service providers (ISPs) have sophisticated anti-spam technology that frequently traps proper messages; smaller businesses also employ spam filters. Today, standard practice within most e-mail systems is to move questionable messages into a ‘Spam’ folder or in some cases delete them outright. No questions asked.

To ensure that autoresponder messages reach your subscribers’ Inbox safely, use the following three tactics:

1. Create a ‘White List’ Thank You Page.

Don’t assume that your list-building is safe after prospects enter their contact information into your opt-in page! Once they click your ‘Subscribe’ button, redirect them to a web page that gives clear instructions for confirming their request. If you are using a double opt-in procedure, tell them what to look for in your confirmation message’s “From:” and “Subject:” lines. Consider putting in specific instructions for getting onto Google (G-mail), Yahoo!, AOL, and MSN whitelists, since many subscribers use these services.

Even if new subscribers confirm their opt-in, remind them about whitelisting in your first (“Welcome”) message. It’s also a good idea to have your own accounts with large web-based e-mail clients, so that you can test and verify that your white-listing plan actually works.

2. Put each of Your Messages through a Spam Checker.

Successfully adding a new subscriber and being placed on whitelists does not give you free reign to write e-mails as you please. Avoid your subscribers’ Spam box by pre-testing each message before scheduling it in your autoresponder. Several third party e-mail deliverability services include automatic checking software with your membership. Otherwise, consider downloading a leading spam checker; many are no-cost and web-based for convenient use. With experience, you will learn to recognize words, phrases, and writing styles that demand editing or in the extreme case, a complete rewrite.

3. Send Subscribers an Appropriate Mix of Content and Offers.

Internet marketers are regularly targeted as spammers, so it behooves you to do everything possible to maintain a good score with subscribers as well as their e-mail clients. After all, what’s the point of being white-listed and using spam checking software if you’re going to blow it with 100% hard sell e-mails? Stay true to your original intentions by demonstrating your expertise to readers, building real relationships, and making appropriate offers that solve problems. You will be doing the industry, list members, and yourself a great service.

Rahul Majumdar is an Information Marketer specializing in article marketing, list-building, and digital product creation. Sign up for more of his insights here.