They are filling the seats. Hanging on every word that proceedeth from your lips (err, pen). Because you’re sending them an autoresponder series that rocks, not just ‘blog updates’. Right?
Email Marketing: It’s The People That Matter
We’re almost at the close of 2014. We’re looking forward to filling our calendars with engagements for 2015. Some of us are in the midst of mobile marketing for the holidays or thinking about how to incorporate responsive email design in the coming year.
All those activities are worthwhile but totally worthless unless you add major value to those outgoing emails.
When we become strategic in our thinking, removing the sensationalism, we will experience a fundamental change in why we do what we do and in the way we do what we do. Applying this to email marketing, we should not be interested in following the pack or using this precious commodity irreverently, disrespectfully or trivially.
This is the methodology for getting in touch and staying in touch with the people who matter the most to us — outside our personal circles and peer groups. With that in mind, is your audience looking for blog updates or informative autoresponder series?
Only Blog Updates? Really?
Your landing page is being wasted if all you are doing with it is using it to entice someone to sign up for blog updates. In fact, that is a lazy way out. If your subscriber box is only for that purpose, it relieves you of the responsibility to create compelling content, specifically as future-proof marketing assets, and lulls you into a false sense of who your target market is, your buying public. (How many sales do you make from people who subscribe to blog updates?)
It is entirely plausible that your blog updates will bring you customers. Well, maybe.
Conventional wisdom certainly indicates otherwise. In fact, for as long as I can remember (and I’ve been around the block a few times), both online and offline marketing sages say it takes potential customers numerous times of viewing your offer before they take you up on it.
Hey, I don’t have anything against blog updates. I subscribe to those from my favorite blogs and I offer them from my own, as well. But, as I mentioned in another article on a similar topic, if all you’re doing with your landing page is using it for blog updates, you, my friend, are wasting prime, revenue-generating real estate.
Blog Updates Don’t …
But think about it: your blog updates rarely sell anything. They don’t have blatant offers. They don’t have calls to action that go to sales pages. They don’t present your consulting services in an in-your-face bid for business.
Yes, they cover topics of interest to your audience.
(BUT, they don’t cover the facets and nuances of your products, services, podcasts or webinars.)
OK, they also spark discussion and generate comments.
(BUT, the comments are not talking about your products, services, podcasts or webinars.)
Is this wrong? No. Not exactly.
That other conventional wisdom tells you to do it exactly the way you’re doing it. They say, don’t sell. They say, it’s not about you. They say … (Any wonder most blog owners aren’t making money from their blog presence?)
Listen, I realize that adding a Feedburner or Feedblitz blog subscription box was a big step. If your blogging model is only about sharing information — it’s not meant to undergird or complement a business endeavor — updates are the way to go. The rest of this article won’t mean much to you (unless you’re just curious.)
Blog updates are what they are; blog updates. They are not email marketing, in the purest sense. Let’s move away from them for a bit and talk about using the real power of autoresponders in your email marketing.
Better Than Blog Updates: The Case for Autoresponder Series
You need a strategic, pre-planned sequence of emails
You need to nurture your leads so they stay connected, build their confidence and increase trust. You need to have a sequence in place which does all those things. … If you wait till the next time you update your blog post or send out a promotion, your subscriber would most likely have forgotten all about you.
What you need is a strategic, pre-planned sequence of emails to keep your new leads warm and happily waiting to consume more. — How to Create a Simple Autoresponder Series to Keep Your Leads Hot, Marya Jan, GetResponse
Did you get that?
What Can You DO With Autoresponders?
We’re really looking at this all-important question:
Now that you have their email address, what are you doing with it?
Oh, and this question: Are you creating permanent marketing assets that can be used over and over again?
First of all, just so we’re on the same page, let’s see what can you do with autoresponders. (Hint: Anything that you can do with e-mail.)
These are a few of the ways autoresponders are being used. I’ll give you two or three examples of how I’ve used them for clients’ email marketing campaigns a little further down.
- education about solutions
- lead nurturing
- customer retention
- answer questions (before they’re asked)
- industry facts and stats
- case studies (briefs)
The Autoresponder Effect
You want your subscribers to get that warm-fuzzy feeling when your carefully-crafted email messages land on their tables. Blogger Andrew Warner is in total agreement with me about the updates but he also metes out this dire warning:
Typically, when people subscribe to your email list, they usually want much more than just “updates of your blog posts.” A lot of people want to receive emails that will help them get better at something . . . or at least some practical advice. They want the type of email that has a clear focus and is something that’s a quick take away that they can benefit from.
So if this is the case, maybe you should be asking yourself this question, “What is it that I can include in my next email that someone would value and wouldn’t want to delete it or unsubscribe?” — Andrew M. Warner, 4 Surprisingly Common Reasons Readers Unsubscribe From Your Email List
Warner didn’t pull any punches: don’t give people value and they will eventually unsubscribe from your email list.
The best autoresponder series I have subscribed to and read almost religiously read like a never-ending white paper filled with solutions from trusted, knowledgable advisors. Experts, if you will, to whom you do not pay a retainer, who are not sending you exorbitant bills for the one-on-one consultations it feels like you’re getting. They share industry facts and best-practices. They answer my questions before I ask them. (Speaking of white papers, one of those series happens to come from That White Paper Guy.)
Their reward? I look forward to opening their emails when they arrive. I miss their emails if they don’t show up within the timeframe that I expect them (and I will go hunting in Gmail’s social or promotions tab, in case they got mislaid). I immediately seek them out as my go-to resource when something lands on my plate where their kind of help is needed. And I have never considered unsubscribing from their email lists.
Am I aware that this or that company whose autoresponder sequence I’m consuming didn’t write this just for me? I am. Do I know that just because they used my name in one or two places within those emails, they don’t know me? I do.
I am not immune to its magic because the magic works, regardless.
Autoresponder Series That Rock
Now, those are autoresponder series worth reading, and you can rock your email marketing campaigns, too.
We’re about to wrap this episode up in a neat package. Here are some ideas for autoresponder series that get results and show forth better than blog updates.
- Timeless, evergreen content that answers today’s problems
- A phased building of knowledge (how to, step by step, in small bites)
- An introduction to a series of experts in your field
- A series of solutions (that effectively introduce different facets of your services)
- A book you’ve written where you share selected chapters over some pre-determined time frame
- Reviews of white papers that your audience might not know about
Can you think of others?
In case you don’t already know, let’s point out where the really useful autoresponse systems are hiding.
Where Will You Find Autoresponse Systems?
You can do a quick search for autoresponder and email marketing software and turn up numerous online, offline, standalone and all-in-one products. I’ll just mention a few here, but if you’re not already using one, take some time to try out the features.
Don’t just take my word for it; and, please, don’t just choose one based on commission-inspired advice from the “internet marketing gurus” splayed across the ‘net.
A Few I Know About
The Really Big Boys
Marketing automation services like Pardot and Marketo have built autoresponders into their services. Unfortunately, their cost is too steep for the average business but those that use them, swear by them. (If you haven’t reached a certain income threshhold, you can’t even signup for a test drive at Marketo and the baby plan at Pardot starts at around $1,000/mo billed annually. Yikes!)
More Affordable Options — Slow down your your heart rate . . .
- My favorite online autoresponse system hands-down is GetResponse because (in addition to a reasonable price point), they use video tutorials and an extensive library to get you up to speed and keep you moving along.
- However, since 2002, I’ve used a standalone system (chalk it up to the tech in me) dubbed arpReach (formerly AutoresponsePlus). I was a charter member during its development a decade ago and own a lifetime multi-domain license. It works well for my needs. (But I do recognize that most folk will not be going down this self-hosting road.)
There are so many others. Just do your homework. Test drive, make a feature short-list according to your needs, and be sure to factor in responsive display on mobile devices.
Warning: Do stay away from the “free autoresponder scripts” unless you personally know how to vet them, can confidently vouch for their security, and are willing to stay on top of the developers who create them. Bad scripts on your website — just like broken links and spammy content — can impact your search results and cause penalties.
SELL Your Series
I haven’t forgotten about the landing page or subscription box.
You could occasionally mention your stellar series. You could put a subscription box in the sidebar, near the top. Or under your post as is common with Genesis themes. Or, you could take it to another level — dedicate a page to your series that encourages signups and makes a solid case for having your series in hand. You want your email and content marketing strategies to have a good chance to succeed.
Dedicated Landing Page
Your signup box on the blog sidebar could be use for your marketing series, not entirely for blog updates. Better still, why not create a dedicated landing page?
There are excellent landing page tools available. The same online tools you use to create your series will likely have a landing page creation tool. You can take it further by writing compelling content — even for your landing page — that excites a potential subscriber so much she’ll take you up on your offer.
Go Deeper: A Quora Question
Want more? There aren’t a lot of resources out there about writing good autoresponder series or using them as permanent marketing assets, intangible assets or intellectual property. But I did find (and enjoyed listening to it so much, I retweeted) the short audio below about how one Australian company is using autoresponders in their business.
Quora has an active email marketing group but not many questions about autoresponse use. So I posed the question in a new Quora topic to see if others will share their experiences, so check that out, too.
That’s A Wrap
Bloggers are writers and, therefore, uniquely qualified to craft engaging autoresponder series for themselves and their products or services. If you are a local business coach or small business consultant, you can do your clients a huge favor by helping them create strong, meaningful email marketing materials and steering them away from “just blog updates.”
Remember, your autoresponder series is intellectual property which represents permanent marketing assets that can be used over and over again.
Questions? Insights? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Image Source: Pixabay. Public Domain.