Autoresponder Success

Email auto responders are responsible for approximately 30% of the online product sales from my information based web sites.

My typical auto responder follow up happens like this:

  1. Prospect signs up for the mailing list and receives a thank you email that day.
  2. A second email is sent the next day with a follow up.
  3. For the next month, we send emails on a weekly basis – always on the same day and time of the week. If this is when they were free to sign up, then they’re most likely free to read follow up emails.
  4. Following the first month, we go to bi-weekly emails.
  5. After that, we send out monthly until the end of the follow up series.

A lot of people ask me if it does any good to follow up for such a long period of time. Here are a few samples from the sales results of that site:

  • Joined 12/18/06, purchased product on 01/28/08, 405.97 days from signup.
  • Joined 01/07/08, purchased product on 01/25/08, 218.54 days from signup.
  • Joined 11/08/07, purchased product on 06/09/08, 213.95 days from signup.
  • Joined 08/19/07, purchased product on 02/19/08, 183.88 days from signup.
  • Joined 04/15/08, purchased product on 01/15/08, 90.59 days from signup.
  • Joined 11/13/07, purchased product on 01/10/08, 58.41 days from signup.
  • Joined 12/31/07, purchased product on 01/24/08, 24.07 days from signup.

Here are a few techniques I use to ensure successful campaigns:

  1. Pre-qualify the recipient. In order to collect emails, I usually do a product giveaway. The product should be directly related to what you’re selling. That way, you know that anyone who signs up will have a good chance of becoming a customer.
  2. Avoid stodgy subject lines. I try to use an email subject line like I would title an article – a three to five word description of what I’m about to talk about. I avoid things like June Newsletter
  3. Personalization – During the signup process I ask the prospect for their first name and include it in all of the emails that go out to them.
  4. Familiarity – I always try to write in a personal rather than formal tone. I find this more engaging and I think it helps to build trust with the reader.
  5. Offer something of value. I rarely send out an email that’s just a straight sales pitch. I find people are more receptive to reading the emails if they offer something of value. It can be a short and informative article, a free download, or a helpful tip.
  6. Pitch the product. Just because you’re a nice guy doesn’t mean you can’t try and sell your product. That’s what the autoresponder is for! Be sure to include a link to your product at the bottom of each email.

Ranking Keyword Video Tutorial

Someone sent this video tutorial to me the other day, and it’s not bad. Some of the techniques the narrator describes are tedious, but worthwhile. I think he leans a little more toward the game theory of search engine marketing as opposed to the larger picture, but that’s OK.

I’m actually a lot more interested in the tool he seems to be using.

Here’s the video

On the Internet, Nobody Knows You’re a Dog

From the web site:

Online Advertising Law

An old cartoon in the New Yorker showed two dogs in front of a computer, and had the caption “On the Internet, Nobody Knows You’re a Dog.” The inherent anonymity of the Internet has fostered a number of shady advertising and marketing practices, such as unsolicited e-mail spam. Over the past decade, federal and state governments have passed additional advertising laws that protect consumer privacy and ensure fair and truthful advertising practices online. If you plan to advertise online — whether you’re buying ads on search engines or direct marketing through e-mail — you’ll need to understand some basic rules.

100+ Marketing Ideas

Some choice bits on marketing from the SBA web site.

100+ Marketing Ideas

Marketing is all about satisfying customer needs. The following represents a comprehensive list of marketing ideas; use it to help better understand customer needs and ways to satisfy those needs.

  • Never let a day pass without engaging in at least one marketing activity.
  • Produce separate business cards/sales literature for each of your target market segments (e.g. government and commercial and/or business and consumer).
  • Include testimonials from customers in your literature.
  • Code your ads and keep records of results.
  • Write a How To pamphlet or article for publishing.
  • Start every day with two cold calls.

That’s enough copy and paste from me. Read the whole article on their website. Do take note of the publish date of 4/97.

SEO is a Waste of Time

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is generally a waste of time in my opinion.  There are a few legitimate firms, but for the most part, it’s a group of individuals trying to game search engines, or worse just take your money.

Here’s what I do for SEO:

  1. I include all the page elements that are important to SEO – meta tags, title tags, image tags, header tags, etc.  These are by and large handled automatically by my content management system.
  2. I do a little bit of linking – I try to get with the top 10 or so sites on Google for my key phrases and get them to link to me.
  3. I use my existing sites and email lists to generate a bit of traffic.
  4. I occasionally post on forums, craigslist, or whatever I’m in to at the moment for some free traffic.

Here’s what I really do do for SEO:

  1. I add solid, original and valuable content to my web sites on a regular basis.  I take time to try and answer questions, and address the needs of my audience.  I do this for months, sometimes years on end.  I write from my own experience, and I list solutions that I have personally found from my own experience.

I listed the last one separately because it gets 85% of the results.  Funny enough, you won’t find a lot of people selling that one because it takes a lot of effort.

Joint Ventures

I’m not a big fan of joint ventures.  If I have to partner, I’d rather it be limited or ending at some point.  I find that if I have to split profits with anyone, my motivation immediately decreases.

11 Ways to Annoy People with Email

As a follow up to my post on automating sales with an auto responder, here are 11 ways to annoy people with spammy email practices:

  1. Don’t let me opt-out of your list. This is actually a legal issue. If you don’t have an opt-out method, you’re going to get shut down. Find a service provider who will do this for you – they’re not that expensive.
  2. Email me daily. The only people I want to hear from on a daily basis are my wife and my kid. Some days, not even them.
  3. Sales pitch me constantly. I know I signed up for an email list, and I recognize that you have a business to run, but can’t we talk about anything other than your amazing special offer?
  4. Use those pre-packaged marketing templates that look like everyone else’s. Actually, I like this one – it’s an easy way to tell which emails I can delete without reading them.
  5. Poor grammar. I also hate it when people type in ALL CAPS or use too much punctuation!!!!
  6. Send me generic content. You know – info about the weather in my area, local restaurant reviews, and other random stuff so you don’t have to type. I obviously get email, I probably have the internet too and I don’t need you to deliver it to me.
  7. Don’t include any contact information. What if I actually want to investigate you further? A little link to your web site goes a long way.
  8. Don’t have a web site. Why would I bother to invest in you if you’re not willing to invest in your own business?
  9. Don’t customize my email in anyway. You went to the trouble of collecting my first name, why aren’t you using it in your message?
  10. Write way too much. I have a limited amount of time in my day. Get to the point and have some respect for my time.
  11. Don’t include anything of value in your email. I hate when people send me stuff that talks about what they want from me without giving anything in return. Do you really not have a story or a helpful piece of advice you could share in your message?

Automating Sales with Auto Responders

I’m a big fan of sequential auto responders (the automated email programs that send a pre-written set of messages over a period of time). I like them because they automate part of the sales process and automation is good.

I use them to great effect on sites like my ITAR Compliance Training web site.  For this site, I give away a free product in exchange for email and contact information.  Once you sign up for the product, you’re placed in the queue for follow up.  I have about 11 emails written for that site, and they go out:

  1. On the first day
  2. On the second day
  3. On the first week anniversary
  4. Once week for a while after that
  5. Once every other week for a while
  6. Lastly once every month until the end of the sequence.

I’ve had prospects purchase the products almost 200 days after their initial sign up.  It’s just a matter of tickling the prospect at the right time and staying conveniently in front of them for when they’re ready to buy.

Total time to setup an auto-responder for this site: one afternoon.

Total cost: about $10/month.

Value of the auto responder: 30% increase in sales for a web site earning an annual five figure income.

Rigging the Fishbowl Drawing

A friend of mine and a fantastic in-person salesman shared this gem with me the other day. Hopefully he won’t mind if I publish it.

Next time you get a booth at a trade show or similar and you’re doing the put your business card in a fishbowl giveaway, try this:

  1. When people walk up to the booth, give them your spiel. Ask for a business card or have them fill out an information card. Business cards are better because the information probably isn’t faked.
  2. If the prospect is hot, take their card and mark the back of it. Act like you’re going to put it in the fishbowl, but stick it in your pocket instead.
  3. At the end of the day, group up with your sales team (who should all be doing the same thing). Decide who has the hottest lead and the best chance to close a sale.
  4. And you guessed it – the most prospective lead will also be the winner of your giveaway!

Hey, it’s your money – you rented the booth and you set the rules for the giveaway. I’ve never once had someone ask me the rules for a fishbowl drawing, but if they do feel free to tell them the truth.

Fake It Until You Make It

I’m not the world’s greatest salesperson by any means, but one thing I’ve learned is that people want to do business with people who are already successful. For the most part, they view your business relationship as a stepping stone to something they want to achieve. There’s nothing wrong with this self-preservation style of thinking, and it’s actually responsible for many mutually beneficial business relationships.

The thing people desperately want to avoid, however, is being dragged down by someone else. If you’re out hustling your product, cutting your margin to the bare minimum, pleading for every scrap of business like a dog hoping for a bone, then you’re driving away your best clients.

Go out today. Buy a nice suit, set your pricing to a respectable level, and fire your worst performing clients. Walk around for a week treating yourself the way you want and deserve to be treated, and you’ll find that people respond. If you believe that you are a success and a rising star, other people will believe it too. They’ll want to be a part of whatever you’ve got going and will bend over backwards to help you.

Don’t like the “Fake it until you make it” phrase? Here are some others that mean the same thing:

  • Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.
  • Believe to achieve.
  • Believe and act as if it were impossible to fail.