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Sunday, October 09, 2011

I Heart
Building a list is one of the most important things you can do to effectively market your products and services online. But how many people are proactively building a list using their current website or blog? After spending a number of years developing lists of different kinds, I have to say the fastest and easiest way to build your list is with an "auto-responder".
If you're not familiar with auto-responders, the concept is simple.  Add a short form to your website.  When a user enters their information in exchange for something of value - a newsletter sign up, special discounts, or download, they receive a confirmation page and series of pre-programed emails.  What's the big deal you ask?  Well, until now, adding a form to your website and programming a bunch of follow up messages to be sent automatically has been difficult.  That is, unless you're a programmer.

Aweber Auto-responder Tool
There are a number of low-cost tools out there that can make the implementation of a form on your site incredibly simple.  I've used a variety of tools in the past for both the form itself as well as email marketing.  Combined, these two aspects of online marketing provide a powerful punch.  the tool that I use to manage all of my forms and follow up messages is Aweber.  This service removes the challenge associated with programming your own forms and manually distributing follow up emails.

The key to an effective auto-responder is not only the functionality of the form and follow up messages provided by the service, but the ability to manage your sign-ups and opt-ins automatically.  When someone completes your form, the service you're using to manage your email campaign verifies the name (by sending a confirmation email that requires acceptance/activation) and adds the individual to your database.  When follow up messages are sent out, the tool also tracks individuals who opt-outs.  Users simply need to click the unsubscribe option included in your email and the tool removes the name from the database, making your messages CAN-SPAM compliant.  See how Aweber supports these helpful functions...


What I like about auto-responders is the ease of set up.  Many, like the tool above, have pre-defined templates that allow you to complete some simple information and copy a snippet of code.  You drop the code into your website or blog and you're off to the races.  The number, variety, and flexibility of forms over the last year have really expanded giving you the flexibility you need to create a seamless form that fits perfectly with your site.

Aweber Follow Up Messages
Automation tools have really made the development and management of follow up messages very easy to implement.  When I create a new form, I always make sure to enter at least a few follow up messages.  A great example would be a form that gives users access to a special report you've developed.  Once an individual enters their contact information and presses the "submit" button, they receive the first of your messages.
The first message is a confirmation messages that says something like, "Thank you for submitting your information.  You will receive a confirmation shortly.  Please click on the link provided to verify that you wish to receive our download."  This is called a double opt-in and ensures that users really want to receive your information making them highly qualified.

After passing through the first hurdle, the next step is distribution of your follow up messages.  These messages are entered when you set up your campaign. At the same time, you can prescribe when you'd like the follow up messages to be sent (ex: one day later, two days, three days, etc.).  This gives you the power to pace your follow up emails based on when an individual user has signed up.  That's really helpful as you'll be adding individuals to your list on a daily basis and they'll each be on different communication cycles.

Getting Started with Aweber
As I noted earlier, the tool that I use (because it's cheap and powerful) is  Aweber.  They run a variety of promotions including a $1 trial of the service.  If you've never used auto responders in the past or are ready for a switch, I suggest to check out their service.

Getting started takes about 5 minutes and you'll be amazed at what having your own list can do for you.  I've offered promotions on the marketing blog in the past using this very same tool and have grown my list into the thousands.  Not only can you offer special promotions to your list but you can also engage with your list for feedback, product review, and much more. Start building your list today!


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