The Importance Of E-mail Automation
This is the first installment of a three-part tutorial series that is going to focus on how you can maximize your profits from e-mail marketing.
I am going to start by assuming that you already know the basic concept of e-mail marketing, that you collect the e-mail contact information of targeted prospects so that you can subsequently market to them by e-mail.
Having made this one assumption, I will make no more…
What I will do however is start by ensuring that you are 100% clear about why you need to automate your e-mail marketing efforts and why there are only a couple of automation options you should give serious consideration to.
This is probably not the first time that I have mentioned this in the Internet Marketing tutorial series (and it certainly won’t be the last either) but there is only so much one person can do in the space of a single 24-hour day.
At the same time, running your own internet marketing business is a time-consuming affair. It is one where even the seemingly simple jobs can eat up an hour or two of your time without you ever noticing the minutes ticking away.
In short, no matter how much time you have available to dedicate to your business, it is essential to use that time as profitably as possible.
Consequently, automating as much of your business as you possibly can as soon as you’re in a financial position to do so is a major step towards moving your business to the next step up from the ‘beginner’ level.
In online marketing terms, automation might best be defined as doing a job once and getting paid for it time after time after time.
In no other aspect of your business is this more accurate than in activities that are focused on e-mail marketing. This is because whilst building a subscriber list is extremely simple in theory, it can very quickly become a logistical nightmare that could eat up hours of your day if it is not automated.
Here is why.
The basic concept of e-mail marketing is that you send an ordered sequence of marketing messages to your prospects by e-mail after they have agreed to receive those messages by subscribing to your list.
Every one of those prospects initially enters that sequence at a different time on a different day, after which you must make sure that they get their marketing messages in the right sequence and at the right time.
Of course, if you have just half a dozen subscribers on your list, it would be possible (although tedious and time-consuming) to do this manually.
But if you had 100 subscribers on your list, you would probably have to spend at least two or three hours every day managing your subscribers. You can only begin to imagine what it would be like with 1000 or 10,000 subscribers.
It would be impossible to manage this list manually and even if you did, you’d be in a psychiatric ward within a matter of hours.
If it is not automated, e-mail marketing cannot work in any way that could ever be profitable. And there is only one way of automating this form of marketing.
You must have an autoresponder…
Why Owning Your Own Is A Bad Choice
In very simple terms, an autoresponder is a computer program that is set up to respond to incoming e-mails automatically on your behalf.
At their most basic, most e-mail services have a simple autoresponder attached to your standard e-mail account. This is an autoresponder that you might use to send messages announcing that you are on a business trip or holiday to anyone who sends a message to your inbox.
For e-mail marketing purposes, you need an autoresponder account that is a little more sophisticated than this.
In terms of the type of autoresponder you use, you have several choices, all with advantages and disadvantages.
The first option is to buy autoresponder software which enables you to set up your responder on your own web hosting with software that operates from your desktop or from your web hosts server.
The advantage of this option is that software is often surprisingly cheap (you can even get very decent software free) and of course, if you do buy the software, your initial outlay represents the sum total of your financial commitment. You buy it once and you never need to buy it again.
Unfortunately however, having highlighted these advantages, it is hard to think of many others.
It is however extremely easy to think of an almost endless list of disadvantages of building your list in this way!
To begin with, the software is probably well out of date already (the free program highlighted above is as up-to-date as any) and the technology driving your responder is probably steam driven.
Next, most web hosts have a limit of how many outgoing e-mail messages you are allowed to send in every 24-hour period. And it could be as few as 200 messages an hour or even less.
Just think how long it would take to communicate with your 100,000 subscribers if your web host imposes limits like this (and the chances are they do).
The next problem (and this is a massive one) is that within – I’ll say weeks but it could be days – your web host is going to become very, very miffed at you.
This will happen because some clown somewhere will make a spam complaint against you because they signed up for your list but forgot. As soon as this happens, your web host is going to come down on you like a ton of bricks even though you have done nothing wrong.
Suffice to say that unless you own your own web server, using your own software to build a mailing list is almost always going to be a very poor decision.
It’s not worth taking a chance with, so don’t do it.
Okay, the alternative to installing software on your own desktop or hosting account is to use the services of an online autoresponder provider.
These are specialist companies, organizations whose only business is to offer autoresponder services to their customers. It is therefore fair to suggest that they are masters of one trade rather than being jacks of many.
Within this market, you have a choice of whether you want to use a free autoresponder system or whether you’re willing to pay for one.
Now, I am as big a fan as anyone of ‘free stuff’ but in this case, I really would not recommend using a free autoresponder to start building your e-mail marketing business.
For a start, most free autoresponder’s are only free because every outgoing message you send contains advertising materials placed there by the autoresponder owner. In effect, you are advertising their business for them in return for which they allow you to use their services for free.
There are one or two that don’t insist on inserting their own advertising copy in your outgoing messages, but even these have a significant disadvantage. Most of them will only allow you to build one mailing list on your account, or have a limited number of subscribers, before requiring you to sign up for a premium service.
In the early days, this is not a problem but it will become a major headache further down the line.
What is more, every professional marketer I know who started by using a free autoresponder eventually moved to a paid service, primarily because they eventually see that using a service that their customers know is free damages their business credibility and therefore their bottom-line profits.
If you want to make this switch from a free autoresponder you have been using previously to a paid autoresponder provider, you have to ask your subscribers to re-subscribe. The sad fact is, the majority of them won’t.
In other words, when you move your mailing list from your free responder to a paid company, you will lose more than half of your subscribers overnight.
If that sounds like something you can live with, then maybe a free autoresponder will work. If however you do not fancy seeing half of your business walk out of the door, using a free autoresponder is unlikely to be the wisest choice.
In terms of paid autoresponder services, there are two organizations that (maybe) 99 out of every 100 experienced online marketers use.
And whilst there are plenty of other autoresponder companies around, there are a multitude of reasons why most serious marketers choose one or the other of these two.
To begin with, the services offered by both of these companies are recognized as being the best in the business. As a result, they are both immensely popular.
This popularity translates into revenue, revenue which they reinvest to ensure that their software and systems are always the most advanced available anywhere. Every new technological development and idea to make your e-mail marketing campaigns more effective and therefore more profitable are incorporated in their services as soon as possible.
For example, both services allow you to see which of your outgoing e-mail messages have been opened by recipients and even whether they took action on your recommendations.
This is immensely powerful information to have because if you know what is working when marketing by e-mail, every other campaign can be optimized by the simple expedient of duplicating the campaigns that have already been successful.
Next, both Aweber and GetResponse are expertly familiar with the online marketing business. They are therefore extremely easy to work with and they understand that in the online marketing business, you do get the odd spam complaint now and then.
This is why they have a system called double opt-in which is a method of signing up new subscribers which protects both you and them against spurious, misguided or malicious spam complaints.
Both companies offer hundreds of easy-to-use templates which you can use to launch your e-mail marketing campaign with a minimum amount of fuss and work.
Basically, both Aweber and GetResponse are top class professional organizations who have been around online marketing for years, and they know what online marketers want and need.
Either is therefore perfectly suited to being trusted with the automated back-office system which ultimately drives your e-mail marketing efforts.
There is one crucial factor that I have not highlighted as yet, a factor that should always settle the argument in favor of using the services of either Aweber or GetResponse.
This is a little-known aspect of e-mail marketing that can nevertheless make or break your business, something known as deliverability.
In a nutshell, deliverability describes the ability of your autoresponder system to get your outgoing e-mail messages into the inbox of your intended recipient.
Deliverability is a major issue for many (if not almost all) autoresponder systems.
Nowadays, it is given that every Internet user is bombarded with e-mail spam. Despite the fact that the potential fines for spamming run into millions of dollars, promoting products and services in spam e-mails is still a massive business, one that is almost certain to irritate every e-mail user every day.
Consequently, it is becoming increasingly common for people who use e-mail for business to incorporate spam protection in their account setup to minimize the incoming spam that actually gets through.
Many online marketers use programs like this and whilst it is a bit annoying having to confirm that you are a real human being before they accept your e-mail message, it is understandable.
There is however an additional layer of spam protection that is nothing to do with you, protection that is very ‘helpfully’ provided by your web host or by most of the major web-based e-mail providers like Hotmail or Yahoo! mail.
In addition to the filters or spam protection software you use, they also filter your incoming mail for you in an effort to prevent spam getting through.
Unfortunately, many web hosts and almost all of the web based e-mail hosts are way too keen to be ‘helpful’. As a consequence, many of your incoming e-mail messages almost certainly get trashed before they get anywhere near your inbox (they do not get as far as your Spam box).
This is what deliverability is all about.
When you use a globally recognized autoresponder system like Aweber and/or GetResponse, a huge percentage of ISPs and all of the free online e-mail hosts readily accept your incoming mail without question because they recognize these companies is being legit and above board.
This is why both of these services regularly report that around 99% of e-mail messages sent using their services are delivered. In simple terms, use either of these recommended services and your prospects and customers will receive your marketing messages.
Now, you might think that this is nothing more than how it should be. After all, if you are sending messages to people who have volunteered to receive them, the logic is that they should be delivered, right?
Of course, this is absolutely correct. However, the fact is that in reality, many autoresponder systems fail the ‘deliverability test’ miserably. As an example, I have tested a so-called top notch autoresponder system over several tests that never managed to achieve deliverability in excess of 40%!
In other words, out of every 10 e-mail messages I would have mailed to prospects using this system, at least 6 would never have arrived. And of course, they would never have known about this either.
At least 60% of potential customers never had a chance to buy because their ISP had an automatic system that identified messages from this source as being spam.
Of course, this damage is your business is in the short term, but the long-term damage is also extremely important. The fact that you appear to have ignored this subscribers request for information also serves to damage the reputation of your business.
In simple terms, in my test scenario, at least 60% of the people who tried to obtain information never heard from me again.
Imagine if this happened to you and your business.
How would the prospects feel about the way you run your company if (as far as they are concerned) you totally ignore them? What chance do you think there is of them ever doing business with you at any time in the future?
The answer is probably somewhere between very, very little chance and none whatsoever.
Through no fault of your own, your business could lose a huge amount of credibility simply because you chose the wrong autoresponder system. And unfortunate as it may be, it is a fact of online business life that whilst it always take time for good news about you to get around, bad news always spreads like the plague!
Being dammed for something you didn’t do is a pretty terrifying prospect, but unfortunately a realistic one.
It is certainly a factor that you must consider when choosing which autoresponder company to work with.
There are several specific ways in which an autoresponder automates and also protects your business. Some of these things happen because of the way an online third party autoresponder works whilst others are more related to you and your input to setting the system up.
When you first set up your autoresponder, it is necessary for you to do some work. However, the beauty of automating your business is that this is work that you only ever need to do once.
Exactly why and how this works will become apparent as we run through this tutorial but the key point to understand is, you do the work once and that is it, done for ever.
The way it works goes something like this.
Let’s say that you have a website that is focused on dog training and that you are interested in building a dog training subscriber list.
The first thing you need to do is create a series of outgoing e-mail messages that the autoresponder will send to every new subscriber automatically.
I deal with the specifics of your outgoing message content in a later tutorial. For now, let’s assume that you have created half a dozen outgoing messages which are ready to be uploaded to your responder system.
With the outgoing messages written, you are set to start building your automated back-office support system.
To begin, log in to your autoresponder account.
Assuming that you are using Aweber, you’ll see something like this at the top of the home page:
On the left hand side, you have the name of any lists that you have already created and on the right, you have a link which enables you to create a new list. Click this new list link so that on the next page you can locate the appropriate link for the new list on the right side of the page:
All you need to do from this point on is work through the next two screens to set up your new list.
With the list created, you upload your outgoing message series by clicking the ‘Follow Up’ message link at the top of the page:
Upload each of the messages and one part of the job is done.
The next thing to do is create a subscription form that you can add to your website to invite people to subscribe to your dog training mailing list.
To do this, click the blue ‘Web Forms’ link before working your way through the form creation process. It’s all fairly intuitive, but if you do have any difficulties, there are full instructions on most autoresponder sites.
Okay, with your form created and your outgoing e-mail message series uploaded, you are ready to go. All you need to do now is start sending targeted visitors to the webpage where you have pasted your subscription form to start building your list.
Note that the mailing list that you are just about to build is going to be built on the server of your autoresponder company and not on your own server as it would be if you use your own autoresponder software.
Therefore, your web host has no access to your list building activities and confidential information which effectively ‘firewalls’ this element of your business from all of your other activities.
Most experienced marketers prefer to separate different elements of the business so that they do not rely too heavily on one ‘partner’ who might ultimately let them down, so building your list away from prying eyes is generally a good idea.
And as previously highlighted, another beauty of using an autoresponder to build your e-mail marketing list is that you do the job once and never need to do it again.
It does not matter whether you have one subscriber or 1 million, you have done everything you need to do to build your subscriber list and therefore your business.
From what you have read so far, you can probably see that the most difficult or time-consuming element of setting up your automated back-office system is writing the outgoing messages. Even so, this is another job that only needs to be done once and as you will discover in a later tutorial, it is also a process that you can shortcut fairly effectively.
You now have the most crucial element of e-mail marketing in place, a back-office system that automates the list building process which is what ultimately enables you to market by e-mail.
Setting up your autoresponder is (admittedly) fairly basic stuff, although my experience is that many marketers understand the ‘how’ of automation but far less about ‘why’ it is so necessary.
However, in subsequent tutorials in this series, we’re going to look at a collection of more advanced tips, ideas and ‘wrinkles’ that you can use to streamline your own e-mail marketing efforts.
Without a reliable autoresponder driving your back-office systems, none of the subsequent tips and ideas would have any value.
Hence, this first tutorial is designed to make sure that you have the right tools in place and that you understand what they do before you move on.
It is now recommended you proceed on to Part 2 – The Money’s In Showing You Care.