Autoresponder Renaissance

I’ve been thinking about an old favorite that could quickly become another workhorse for e-marketers to lessen the load on email campaigns. I’m talking about autoresponders. Are you using them as extensively as you could?

We’ve been using autoresponders for years as an integral part of our systems. Now, autoresponders present a way to avoid violating spam laws. Used creatively, they offer new methods for responding to prospects from wherever you advertise, including email.

“Direct consent” is when someone signs up at a Web site or sends an email message to a specific address requesting more information. You can respond with one or more email messages with information only about the product or service requested. It doesn’t matter whether a machine or a person responds.

From a legal perspective, the autoresponder is fine. But marketers should ask, “How can I use one or more autoresponders successfully?”

We like autoresponders because of their immediacy, providing an ability to respond to an inquiry 24/7. We’ve built an entire business unit around autoresponders and how timely they are.

Setting up autoresponders for each product or product group is fairly easy. Autoresponders enable you to put out a consistent message and design. Plus, you’ll capture email addresses of people who have specifically requested follow-up information.

Autoresponders can also be used as a cross-selling device, called a “treeing” approach. Here is an example of how to tie these ideas together.

In online and/or offline ads, give consumers the ability to request more information: For instant information about the XYZ Power Washer, send a blank (no message) email to and check your email box in a minute.

The email message that’s automatically sent back to the requester includes everything consumers should know about your product or service: benefits, features, specifications, materials, cost, shipping, availability, FAQs, special offers, and testimonials. Include everything you’d want an interested prospect to know.

The autoresponder should include a section giving people the ability to request the same information about other products or services you offer. For example:

For instant information about: Send a blank email to:
XYZ Carpet Cleaning Solutions
XYZ Driveway Repair Kit
XYZ Roof Shingle Maintenance Kit

This treeing approach will result in people requesting information, in the same manner, about other products and services that interest them.

Another benefit of using autoresponders is their ability to track inquiries from different places you advertise. Let’s say XYZ runs an ad for the power washer in four newspapers and two local magazines and sends direct mail to four lists. By cloning the email content 10 times, XYZ can now track the number of inquiries that came from each source, by utilizing the following coding system:

Source Autoresponder Address Inquiries
Newspaper A 42
Newspaper B 58
Newspaper C 10
Newspaper D 97
Magazine A 44
Magazine B 68
List A 187
List B 255
List C 442
List D 109

The only difference in the email addresses is the letters (a-j) following “1082” in the above example. This kind of tracking tells the company Newspaper D, Magazine B, and List C pulled the most email information requests, ultimately giving XYZ insight into the advertising media’s performance.

Every email address that comes in can be coded so you know exactly where consumers came from and what products they inquired about. This valuable marketing information can be used to begin or continue a customer relationship.

If you’ve never used autoresponders or they’ve been on the back shelf, now’s the time to craft a strategy to use them more prominently. Keep reading…

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