I want to rant a bit here. I have been to six networking events in the past month and when I tell people about Solo Biz Hacker and that we help people use marketing automation to build online businesses… I get asked the question…
So… Meredith, what autoresponder should I choose?
And, although I want to be helpful and recommend Active Campaign (of course – I’m a certified partner) – I know in my heart of hearts they are asking the wrong question to start out. I hate to say this (since I LOVE playing with email services) – but here’s the truth of the matter…
If you have an audience, the email service you choose really doesn’t matter.
There are many many services out there and, frankly, 85% of them will meet your needs. As long as the service allows you to segment your list, and it delivers your email, you are golden (honest!). If you outgrow what you start with – you can always move up. Do not let this stop you from getting started. (The majority of people I know with great ideas who never launch get stuck in this early tech-deciding phase. Just remember – content and consistency are what drive success. Most tools will work.
But what if I don’t have an audience?
The important thing to understand with autoresponders is that they are an opt-in technology. This means that the person you are emailing has to have agreed (opted in), to receive your emails. If they haven’t then it is spam. And nobody likes a spammer, right?
If you don’t have an audience then you need to build one – ie. get people to opt in, usually by offering something in return (see below). However, you can still email people personally – one-on-one – even if they haven’t opted in to receive them – that’s “personal” email. There are services that will allow you to mass email people (cold email), that makes it appear to be a personal email – just don’t use your regular email to do it!
That is a way to get started if you have no other connection with a prospective client or customer. But your aim should be to get people to opt-in to a legitimate service as soon as possible – and there is no reason why they shouldn’t, IF you have something they really want. That is why messaging the right person is key. Sending messages to people who are not interested in your product or services is not only a waste of your time, but it is also going to harm your reputation, especially with your autoresponder company as your lousy results are going to impact theirs – and that they cannot allow! The more time you put into finding the right prospects to message the better your results will be.
So – Here’s what you SHOULD really be asking?
Before you start worrying about which autoresponder to use to send your messages, you need to know the answers to the following questions:
- Who is your audience? Before you start emailing, you need to know who you are targeting. Why would they want to work with you? (Many times, a great audience is people who are like you before you learned how to do x, y or z)
- What problem are you solving for your audience? If you don’t know this you should NOT be sending emails to anyone. Go do your market research. If you need help with this check out Read Your Customers Mind – our course on painless market research (even if you hate talking to people).
- How often are they thinking about that problem? (This will determine how often you email your community. If you help businesses make money with marketing, you can email just about every day. If you have a business that is less urgent (i.e. making balloon animals), emailing more often can get annoying.
- What can you offer (for free) to get them on their way to a solution? (You don’t need to solve the problem – but you absolutely need to provide enough value for free that prospects want more from you). This is where a prospective customer turns from a cold prospect (ie. they don’t know you or what you are offering), to a warm prospect (where they like what you have to say enough to offer their email address in exchange for something you are offering them (usually information that they are looking for). That doesn’t mean they are ready to buy from you, but by giving up their email address they are implicitly open to moving the relationship forward. This is your opportunity to build ‘know, like & trust’ with them to the point where they are open to purchasing your product or service. This is where your true marketing begins.
“People do business with people they know, like & trust”.
- What is a success for me – and how will I know if I achieve it? The difference between the pros and the amateurs is that pros will do the same thing again and again making small tweaks based on feedback (from split testing, surveys, etc.). Take time to send a few different versions of messages – and tweak to see which one works best. Messages that work for one audience might be off-putting to a different audience. That is why it is so important to know your audience.
Once you’ve answered these questions, you are ready to start building your list. The key to building a healthy list is consistent action. Day after day taking small steps to make your list grow. You can get these steps for free on the Solo Biz Bites Email Challenge Podcast available on Anchor or your favorite podcast client.
It is not just email
Remember, the advice above does not just apply to email. For sure, email is the best way to reach a prospective customer because it is almost guaranteed that the prospect will see it in their inbox (Note: deliverability is an important factor in choosing an autoresponder – and is why all good one’s are very concerned how you get your list, how many unsubscribes you get and how many people open your emails). But your email inbox is the one place everyone goes, every day – if not several times a day. If you want to get your message across then email is by far the best method for doing so.
However, the same principles apply to any technology you use to try to connect and build a relationship with prospective customers, whether it is messaging someone through LinkedIn or Facebook Messenger, DMing someone on Twitter etc etc. It is about building relationships – building that all important ‘know, like & trust’ – over time and with the right people – ie. people who have a problem to which you have the solution.