Email and Auto-responders

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* Email Techniques: Email and Auto-responders
Posted Nov 02, 2003 - 07:53 AM
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Pillars of Internet Marketing

Home / Chapter 1 / Chapter 2 / Chapter 3 / Chapter 4 / Chapter 5Chapter 6Chapter 7Chapter 8Chapter 9Chapter 10Chapter 11Chapter 12 / Chapter 13 / Chapter 14 / Chapter 15 / Chapter 16

Chapter 7: Email and Auto-responders
The Most Important, but Most Abused, Misused and Misunderstood Pillar of Internet Marketing.

Email: According to a recent study from the Radicati Group, email traffic this year will reach an average of 7.3 billion messages a day. By 2006, email traffic will grow more than five-fold to 37.3 billion emails a day. The total number of email messages sent daily will exceed 60 billion worldwide by 2006, according to an IDC forecast. Jupiter Communications reports that email marketing will become a $7.3 billion business by 2005. Over 50% of consumers will be communicating via email by 2001 according to Forrester Research. eMarketer reports that by year-end 2001, there will be 111 million email users. Email volume has already eclipsed postal mail. Obviously with startling statistics like this – email should be a major part of your online and offline marketing strategies. For a basic start in the positive aspects and uses of email marketing, I suggest the eBook, Million Dollar Emails.

Spam: Spam, or unsolicited bulk email, is the sending of unsolicited advertising through email. In Washington State, the number one consumer complaint reported over the last 2 years is Spam. On average the Washington Office of Consumer Protection reports, “. .our office receives between 1,000 - 1,600 Spam complaints per month." The Federal Trade Commission reports receiving over 130,000 junk email complaints a day. Almost 45 percent of all email is now Spam and that number is growing each year. Nearly three trillion Spam messages are sent each year - thirteen times the total snail mail delivered by the U.S. Postal service. The average wired American is hit with nearly 2,200 Spam messages annually - this after most ISPs has filtered eighty to ninety percent of the junk messages.” eCommerce Times reports that Spam now represents a third or more of all email sent. Over sixty-five percent of American email users also felt that even permission email marketing companies sent messages too frequently, while fifty-nine percent said that nothing of value was sent to them. People are fed up with Spam! A recent Harris Interactive study reveals that seventy-four percent of American Internet users would like to see spamming outlawed. To date, thirty-two states in U.S. have laws outlawing or restricting Spam. Although the laws enacted vary from state to state, generally, the laws require Spam to be labeled as such (e.g. ADV, ADLT at the beginning of the subject line), requires the ability to “opt out” of future messages, and forbid the deceitful practices of disguising where the email originated from (e.g. blocking IP addresses or email addresses or making it appear that the mail originated from a false or non-existing IP or email address). Washington state probably has the most prohibitive Anti-Spam legislation. Many states have laws which prohibit unsolicited bulk mail from having deceitful or misleading subject lines. Some states laws or more prohibitive, some less. With all the unsolicited bulk email one receives on a daily basis, you may wonder, do these states even prosecute? The answer is yes. You can selected examples cases and a summary of each states Spam statutes and proposed federal legislation at www.spamlaws.com The broad public support for legislation has spurred Washington into action. No less than half a dozen Spam bills are currently under consideration in Congress, with at least one measure expected passed by the end of 2003. 

Not only is Spam annoying, it costs people money! The InternetNews reports that Spam cost corporate America close to 9 billion (USD) in 2002. The days of Spam are about to come to an end in the next one to three years. In my opinion, what most likely will happen is the current state legislation will be expanded in a federal policy which also includes the sender of email must prove the recipient of any email message asked to receive email from the company (such as a confirmation email that when clicked records the recipients IP address) and a permit may be required to send bulk email. This permit, is likely to cost money and be based on the number of emails sent (like a trackable stamp).  Charging senders for any unsolicited email (Spam) they send may be the only way to limit the number of Spam messages being sent. The use of emailing extracting software (software that spiders chat rooms, newsgroups, user groups and webpages and captures email addresses throughout the internet) will probably be outlawed as well. Not only is Spam annoying, and possible in violation of state laws, it is ineffective. eMarketer reports that over half of US Internet users delete an email from an unrecognized name without opening it. So, don't Spam, you will only degrade your professional name, annoy internet users, undermine the confidence in the web, and may generate legal problems for yourself.  Spam doesn't pay!

Opt-In Direct Email: "Opt-In" Direct Email, as opposed to Spam, is the practice sending commercial email to recipients that HAVE approved of commercial email. The best Opt-In list are your own customers or leads (always put a way for people to leave their email address when they come to your website, if they want to be receive updates from your company (for an example, click here and select the Join Email sub-page). By the way, the eBook Million Dollar Emails has an excellent article about 7 Ways to Collect Emails Off and Online. You can also "rent" Opt-In Direct Email lists. These opt-in lists are targeted email lists, which offer marketers a "politically correct" way to reach their target audience on the net. Not only will your offer be sent to a targeted list, you won't have to worry about flames, email bombs and ISP cancellation (vigilante and formal penalties of Spamming). All recipients have "opted in" to receive offers like yours. When looking for list brokers there are only a few top notch ones. Look for ones that have “double-opt-in” verification of their subscribers. What’s the difference? Opt-in means, supposedly, a subscriber with an email address subscribed to receive information on a particular topic or from a particular company, however, the list broker has no proof of that, other than having the subscriber’s email address. Too many of the list brokers out there, software and “safe-lists,” do not have true legitimate Opt-In subscribers, but email addresses that have been harvested or exchanged. Double-Opt-In means after a person gives their email address to become part of a list, they are then sent a confirmation email with a link, which they must click on, to verify they are the owner of that email address and do wish to receive said materials or announcements. Usually the confirmation link, if clicked on, also records the subscribers IP address and the date and time that they “opted-in.” Double-Opt in lists always cost more, but in terms of results (both in response and in not offending or angering people), are always worth the extra costs. The list brokers I have found reputable are Bullet Mail, ePost Direct, and Yes Mail. There are more, but keep in mind when searching for an email list broker, go with the best, most reputable companies. Their cost per email are usually double than the others, but well worth it. To stay abreast of Opt-In Email marketing news and issues, I recommend periodically visiting the Opt-In News site. I also recommend a book by Seth Godin (one of the originators of Internet Marketing and Permission Based Marketing), called Permission Marketing.

One benefit of using a list brokering company is they usually send the email for you, which saves you the time, hassle and expense of a bulk-email software.  A good list broker will provide you with statistics on email campaigns, such as percent delivered, percent read, percent bounced, etc. . . As you build your own Opt-In list and customer database, it often becomes desirable and cost effective to move the operation in house. For such tasks, I use Mailoop, an automated, desktop, newsletter, bulk email and auto-responder software for your company. If you, or someone on staff, have a good knowledge of computers, this software will save you a ton of money – because you won’t have to pay for bulk email services, or auto-responder services. Last year, I finally moved over from an online newsletter service, and online email service and auto-responder service to Mailoop and my savings was about $750.00 a month. Once you get a good Opt-In list, this is invaluable because you can automate much of customer relations, and send timed follow-ups. When using an online, or third party, bulk emailer, I have only found one that I think is reasonably priced and that I like, and that is My Email Manager. I have found Cooler Email, Microsoft Bcentral, to be too expensive, not user friendly, and lack functionality and flexibility. I have tried them all, and easily My Email Manager is twice as good and is priced less.

Why an Opt-In list is so important: An Opt-In list is very important, because, it is the key to residual income in any business (whether your product is a one-time sale, or a consumable that is re-ordered). If you have been studying business or internet marketing, you know that residual income is worth ten times non-residual income is. Because residual income builds on itself, it has the potential of creating wealth. One key to residual income, is to have complementary or non-competing products to sell to your existing customers. This is important, because your profit is always higher when you sell to an existing customer, than it is when you sell to a new customer. The reason is, much, if not most, of your profit you made in a sale to a new customer goes to cover the cost of acquiring that customer. Once you have a new customer and you can sell them just one more thing, that is your key to growth. The problem is, most companies are content to get a new customer, sell them one thing, and then go get new customers. This is not usually profitable. If you can sell your existing customers just one more thing, you can double your business. And your Opt-In list is your key to residual sales, because now that you have a relationship with them, you can periodically, over time, market them one, two, three or more new things. If you don’t have something else to offer them, find something. This is why affiliate programs (See Chapter 1, Joint Ventures and Affiliate Programs) are a win-win, because by joining an affiliate program, you gain one more thing to sell your customer. And by another joining your affiliate program, they gain one more thing to sell to their customer. Note:  By using personalized Email and auto-responder messages (e.g. addressed to the recipient’s name) the effectiveness of these mediums can be increased by twenty-five to sixty percent).

Managing your Opt-In and Customer Lists:  As you begin to grow your customer and subscriber lists, you will need a contact relationship management program (CRM).  CRM programs allow you to organize, search, export, filter, etc. . . your database and keep notes on responses and interactions -- as well as allowing you to schedule reminders for follow-up.  I have found ACT CRM to be the easiest CRM to use and an essential part of my overall business.  There is a bulk-email add on for Act, called High Response, as well, that I have found valuable.  

Auto-responders: A recent study conducted by Sales and Marketing Executives international concluded that eighty-one percent of major sales are closed after the fifth (not the first) contact. Eighty percent of people who inquire about a product or service will buy it within one year of their initial inquiry (not immediately). However, most companies and sales people only contact a lead once, maybe twice and perform no follow-up. The easiest and most cost effective way of substantially increasing your bottom line is simply increasing your follow-up efforts. Certain follow-up activities can be automated -- and automated at specified timed intervals -- through the use of auto-responders and sequential auto-responders. Email auto-responders work like a fax-on-demand system. You can set up a whole sequence of auto-responder messages going out on any day you choose. For example, message #1 might go out immediately, then message #2 goes out 2 days afterwards, next message #3 goes out on day 5, then day 8 comes another message, etc, etc. Everything is done automatically for you because it's triggered when a prospect submits their email address. Auto-responders are a power follow-up tool that is time and cost efficient and are an effective strategy for educating leads in a bit-by-bit fashion in-order to close sales. For auto-responders to be effective, they truly must be invoked by a recipient, and the copy of the auto-responder messages must be clear, terse and compelling. For tools to increase the effectiveness of auto-responder copy, including templates, I recommend Auto-responder Magic, Push Button Sales Letters, Sales Letter Generator and Master Copywriting Secrets

Other than the Mailoop software we already discussed, most auto-responder software does not reside on your computer, but is hosted on a third party server. There are tons of them out there, but only a few I like. Aweber is consider by many to be the best, and it is one of the finer services out there. It certainly has many features many don’t. Other ones I like, for various reasons, are SendFree, and Auto-Responder. Basically, when choosing an auto-responder service provider, I look for the following features: not just auto-responder, but sequential auto-responder capabilities, the ability to send HTML email, automatic email removal capabilities, the ability to capture email addresses from a web form on my website, the ability to have auto-responder emails have an attachment (auto-responders work great for delivering eBooks), and statistical reporting.

Summary:
 Email will continue to remain a viable, lower cost option for companies to remain in contact with their customers and potential customers. Email will remain a viable way to advertise, yet the rules of how that is to be properly conducted will probably be structured in the next one to two years and will alter the marketplace. Email remains the number one reason people are online and will continue to be so. Spam remains the biggest challenge to the potential of Email marketing. The sending of unsolicited email is damaging to eCommerce, lowers consumer confidence in the internet and burdens the information infrastructure. The use of Opt-In and Double-Opt in lists to deliver company updates, news and product info will continue to remain a lower cost alternative to postal mail and has the benefit of generating faster results. The use of auto-responders to automate follow-up and to deliver sequential informational content, such as training programs and eBooks and reports, will continue to grow as a legitimate use of email communication and will help email live up to its potential.

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