Email Marketing Tip #23: Auto Response Campaigns
Take advantage of the auto response feature in your email marketing application. The auto response tool allows you to set up an ongoing email campaign based on time or behavior-specific intervals. By automating your email campaigns, you can easily stay in constant communication with your subscribers. Also, you can ensure that your emails are sent to specific subscribers based on their behavior (i.e. if they already received “Email 1” they will receive “Email 2” X days later as a follow up) or based on time (i.e. a news service can send a news update to subscribers at the same time every morning).
Another way to use an auto response campaign is to automate a “drip” campaign, which includes emails sent in a succession based on when the subscriber signs up. This is invaluable for lead/prospect nurturing.
Examine any bad sales experience with an otherwise good product or service (such as working with the average car salesman) and what has usually caused a bad buying experience is the lack of relationship construction or thoroughly ham-handed attempts at forcing rapport that doesn’t exist. This stems principally from a salesperson asking for value before providing it – asking for a sale or pressuring for a sale before a buyer even knows what it is they’re buying. Very few prospective buyers in any industry are immediately ready to buy, though those few that are should be allowed to do so with minimal interference.
Ask any prospective buyer that is not cash-in-hand-ready where they are in the buying process and almost all will give you the same answer, from the shopper in aisle 17 to the chief procurement officer of a Fortune 50: “just looking”. Just looking and its millions of variations are a polite way of prospects indicating that they haven’t learned enough about your products or services and thus are not ready to commit.
What’s the antidote to the non-committal prospect? It’s not pressure, not trying to extract value faster out of someone who has not received value. It’s education, and email marketing is the ideal vehicle for delivering the education. Here’s a recipe for constructing a value-delivery email campaign to bring prospects closer to a close.
1. Develop education-based content.
Start by determining what things your prospects are actually looking for. Look in your analytics for your web properties to see what people are searching for, what questions people are asking on your site’s internal search, what questions you see over and over in your inbox and voice mail. Compile these questions and rank them by frequency of occurrence from 1 to 7.
2. Create an auto-response campaign.
Set up each of the 7 questions with your answers in a series of 7 emails that someone receives, one per day, over a 7 day period. Obviously, if you have better information from data and experience about the length of your buying cycle, adjust the frequency accordingly, but if someone is doing research, keeping the topic – and you – in mind over a week probably isn’t a bad idea in the absence of other data.
The questions should each have clear answers that are valuable enough that a subscriber would want to forward them to a colleague, friend, or family member. Remember, the cardinal sin of most salespeople is asking for value first instead of providing it first, so be sure your email content is more than just a pitch or a close – make it valuable.
For example, if an email for, let’s say real estate, answers the question “what credit do I need to buy a house”, make sure you provide a list of resources for people to check their own credit for free and understand what credit is. That level of educational depth provides value and makes prospects more comfortable that you know what you’re doing and are worth building a relationship with.
3. Invite people to participate.
Nearly every salesperson has had this conversation or a variation of it:
“Can I help you?”
“No, I’m just looking.”
“What are you looking for?”
“I’m not sure yet, I’m just looking.”
At this point, there’s usually an awkward transition where the salesperson encourages the prospect to come to them with questions, and the prospect walks away without ever asking questions.
Here’s where you make your email offer as the alternate sale:
“Great. What I’d like to do is help answer some of the questions you’ll probably have after you’ve learned what you’re looking for. We’ve been in business long enough to hear the same questions and concerns come up, so we put together a little email miniseries that can help answer those questions as you have them with one short email a day for just the next week. Would you like me to send that to your work email address or your home email address?”
If you deal with trade shows or walk-ins, take the time to put this offer on a business card-sized piece and let people take it with them if you’re not speaking to them face to face.
4. Track your data carefully.
If you’re legitimately answering questions about your product or service in a valuable way, make sure you track prospect responses throughout the cycle. You may find that prospects always reply or call back after message #3 in the series or always make a purchase after message #6 in the series. Pay attention to the data as you test, because you may find that data can help you improve the speed of your regular sales process as well.
Try out an auto-response campaign as your alternate sale antidote to “just looking” and see how well you can transform “just looking” into “just buying”.
Christopher S. Penn
Director of Inbound Marketing, WhatCounts