While most folks in the B2B marketing world have certainly heard of email autoresponders at this point, these set-it-and-forget-it marketing tools still have a fairly low adoption rate. In some cases that’s because they aren’t seen as a good fit with the types of products and services being offered. But in many more I suspect it’s because they simply aren’t understood very well.
What is an autoresponder?
An autoresponder is an automated message sent in response to either an email or a web form inquiry. It can be something as simple as “Thanks for contacting us!” to a series of ten or more emails sent at specific, pre-determined intervals.
At a very basic level, you set up the response in an autoresponder system, and set the parameters for when it gets sent. The automated program then takes care of the rest. Almost everyone I know uses either ConstantContact.com or AWeber.com to handle their autoresponders, but there are many providers out there catering to specific needs and budgets.
Who needs an autoresponder?
I would argue that unless company emails and web inquires go to a specific person who responds personally to each one within a few hours, you should – at the very least – have an autoresponder set up that thanks the person for contacting you, lets them know when they can expect a response from a real person, and provides them with a phone number they can call if they need help right away.
Using autoresponders to walk prospects through the sales cycle
A more sophisticated (though not necessarily more complex) way to use autoresponders is to set up a series of emails that helps walk a prospect through the sales cycle. For example, if a web visitor fills out a contact form on your website and checks a box saying she would like more information on product X, you can respond with a series of emails that go something like this:
1 – Immediately: send the prospect a thank you email along with a product brochure. Give them the contact information for a sales rep if they should have any further questions.
2 – Week one: send the prospect a follow up, including a deeper piece of collateral, such as a case study involving the product. Again provide a call to action with the email and telephone number of a sales rep.
3 – Week two: Send a helpful email with a few FAQs and a client testimonial.
4 – Week three: Send the latest white paper and offer to set up a web conference to go over the solution with all members of the decision-making team.
5 – Week 4: Send along an industry report on the subject.
6 – Week 5: etc…
As you can see, setting up an email responder series for each of your products and services creates a hands-free follow-up system that keeps you top-of-mind with your prospect for weeks or even months.
Of course, be sure to follow SPAM guidelines and always make it easy for a prospect to “stop receiving emails” if they want to. It’s only good business.
Have you set up an autoresponder series that ought to be featured in AdAge?
Been annoyed to tears with an inappropriate or unwelcome barrage of auto responses?
Share your stories in the comments section!