Business Marketing Tools Explained: What Are Autoresponders?

emailingWe create email Autoresponders on a regular basis because they’re a brilliant marketing tool. But so many people ask us what an Autoresponder actually is and why it makes sense for marketing your business.

Autoresponders are more than just those out of office replies you get when you email someone sometimes.  They’re automated emails that start based on a defined event.

This means that when your customer does something (an event), the autoresponder sends an email or a series of emails.  Examples include joining a mailing list – triggers a welcome message.  Or buys something online – triggers an upsell offer.

Simple, you might say. Yes, Autoresponders are simple in concept, but they bring you more marketing possibilities than you may realise…

Instant Response Autoresponder

You can set an Autoresponder to simply respond when an action (the trigger)  is performed (like receiving an email). This is great for small tasks like “out of office” notices and “thank you” emails after a customer buys a product or service. However, this side of Autoresponders doesn’t quite go as far as you need it to.  It’s just a single message with no follow-through.

Delayed Response Autoresponder

Autoresponders can be delayed to appear a few hours, days, weeks or even months after the trigger has been activated. These are useful for time sensitive reminders such as warranty expiry and account subscription top-ups.

We got asked by a mortgage broker who negotiates interest rate deals with banks for her clients – she wants to send them a reminder 11 months or 23 months after each rate fix so the client has 30 days to get back in touch with her to fix another interest rate deal for them.

Multiple Autoresponders

A neat little trick with Autoresponders is to make them trigger off of each other in a series. This allows you to build a message that is progressive.  Examples include training workshops and stories.

For example, perhaps you want to teach a customer how to use your service that they subscribed to online – you can set up a series of Autoresponders that trigger one week after each other, with each Autoresponder email covering a different part of your service. Yes they can unsubscribe and yes maybe not everyone would read them. However it increases those odds of a customer picking them up and making the most of your service, which increases your customer engagement and satisfaction.

The Strengths & Weaknesses of Autoresponders

Autoresponders work best as a marketing tool when they are integrated with other promotional activities. But they can do so much more than people realise. Here’s a list of their strengths and weaknesses that might lead you in the right direction if you’re thinking of using them.

Core Strengths…

  • Autoresponders are automated – So once you’ve set them up you don’t need to worry about them at all. They’ll run on their own and continue to spread your information and push your sales pitches long after you’ve finishing creating it. This makes them more reliable than a human!  All those times you’ve forgotten to send emails could have lost you business.
  • Autoresponders are simple – Essentially just emails that can tie together or answer specific customer questions on the fly, they don’t take much of your time to set up and yet help you correspond with many more customers without having to lift a finger.

Core Weaknesses…

  • Autoresponders are made of rigid content –  You can change them once they’re up but they’ll only change for people that sign up to receive the Autoresponder after you changed it.  That being said, you need to create each Autoresponder with a specific goal in mind and align it to that goal.
  • Autresponders aren’t individualised – Personalisation is possible – but it’ll just be <insert name> database personalisation.  Real individually customised messages are out of the question. While you can do the basic [firstname] [lastname] customisation fields, you will not be sending these emails yourself so won’t be communicating with the receiver directly. One way to respond to this is to add a manual, personalised thank you whenever you get a new subscriber.

So go out there and discover ways to integrate Autoresponders into marketing for your business. Need help? Feel free to contact us for a complimentary chat or use our training resources below for detailed examples and different structures of autoresponders…

 

Your guide to Autoresponders: learn how you can use Autoresponders to grow your business


See an Autoresponder in action: An Autoresponder about Autoresponders

What’s the best way to introduce my business by email?

We get asked this a lot and the short answer is that it must be part of a wider marketing / business development plan.  BUT Chalkwardwithin that context here’s our recommendation.

The best way to introduce a company to new buyers using email is this.

  1. Research potential businesses by browsing their websites and finding the names of people who work there. Cross-check the names using Linked In and build a spreadsheet database of prospects.
  2. Write a bespoke introduction email to the recipient which demonstrates you have researched their business and understand their needs. It should not be about sales. The first approach is about research and finding out more about them. Aim to set a time to speak on phone/Skype to find out more.
  3. For those who do not respond. Plan a second email with a gentle reminder of your interest in their business. Ask them to pass the message to the correct person if they are not dealing with suppliers.
  4. If they do not reply, add them to your mailing list and start to send regular, short, informative messages which will help their business (may include some sales messages, but very few).
  5. If you can afford it, send a postal mailing individually to each business with some collateral, samples or testimonials as a follow up. Again, invite them to connect with you by telephone/Skype.

The deep skill lies in writing that first, well-researched email.  It needs to be short, engaging and to create a desire to learn more from the reader.  If you work in B2C this is not a practical solution unless you are a startup, because it’s too time consuming.

Creative Agency Secrets provides email copywriting services, and training to teach your team how to write and execute email introduction programmes.

The Top 6 most popular articles of all time

Email Preferences check box

Email unsubscribe best practice

Today I had a raft of emails from which I wanted to unsubscribe.  It happens.  But the experience was so variable between the different service providers that it’s worthy of a blog post.

Box.com

Box came up first – I don’t use the service and so why are they writing to me.

Box.com dumb unsubscribe

Box dumb unsubscribe

Hit unsubscribe.

They use Eloqua for email distribution and I have to type in my address in order to unsubscribe.

Not good.  You know my address, therefore you should have it pre-populated.

New Breed Marketing

New Breed Marketing came up next – an event in a country where I don’t

Email Preferences check box

Email Preferences check box

live – I won’t go and I don’t want more invites to events that I can’t attend.

Hit unsubscribe.

They use Hubspot for email distribution and I find that I can update my email ‘preferences’ and select to only get their blog posts by email.  Perfect!

Check your own set-up by subscribing to your mail list (I always do this for our clients) and see what your unsubscribe experience is like.  Don’t want to annoy customers.

Top tips for marketing Tradesmen

Are you a tradesman – plumber, electrician, carpenter, builder – and want to do some marketing to get more customers?  We had a meeting today with a new client and talked about marketing.

Tradesman image

Tradesmen [Image credit: http://internet-and-computers.com]

The 3 Marketing Tools a Tradesman business needs

There are lots of choices in marketing, but for a tradesman’s business, there are actually only 3 marketing tools they need

  1. Business cards
  2. A website
  3. A mailing list (email or postal)

Let’s run through these and how to use them

Tradesman’s business cards

Cheap to design and print, these are your number 1 marketing tool when you first start.  They should have accurate information about how to contact you printed in large type with a recognisable business name.

How tradesmen use business cards

Hand two to every customer.  One to keep and one to give to a friend.

Keep them in your wallet, in the car glove box and hand them out liberally especially if you go to a social function or belong to a networking group or business meeting group.

A tradesman’s business website

When you’ve enough cash, buy a website.  A simple 5 page site is all you need to start off.

How tradesmen use a website

It needs to have

  • a header that says your company name and phone number,
  • a home page that describes your business and the geographic area in which you work,
  • a page with your full contact details,
  • a page to describe your specialist skill,
  • a page of customer testimonials,
  • a page about you and your team.

 A tradesman’s mailing list

Once you’ve been working for a while, you will send out invoices to get clients paying you.  This is your chance to start to grow a mailing list.  This is useful because your past clients may refer you to future clients, and sending out mailshots or newsletters serves as a reminder to people about your services, and how to contact you.

How a tradesman uses a mailing list

Keep a record of every customer name, business name, address, telephone and email when you raise an invoice.  If you use an accounting software programme, it’ll save these details for you.

When you get a phone call or email enquiry for a new job, save the contact details.  Check on the phone that you have spelled their name correctly – this is particularly important for email addresses because one wrong letter and the message won’t arrive.

When you do a job quote, save the contact details.

Every month collate all these lists into one place (preferably electronic).  Save the file with an obvious name e.g. August 2014 Mailing List.  Then send out a short message to the whole list using specialist email sending software like MailChimp/AWeber/FeedBlitz. DO NOT USE your email program.  Ask me why not if you don’t know.

Put the date in your diary to send the newsletter every month for 1 year.

Stick to the schedule.

Send that mailing.

Even if it is short and has one photo of a job you’ve done (before and after photos are great), or a customer testimonial – it all adds up.  Over time you will get to having a big list.

Say you do 10 jobs a month and meet 5 new people each month who take a card.  Within 5 years you’ll have over 900 names on your list.  If you do 20 jobs a month and meet 10 new people – you get to 900 names in half the time!

 

That is it.

There are additional marketing techniques that you can add on top of the basic 3 such as outbound mail campaigns, using recommended trades services (Builders Crack, Rated People), creating website landing pages for Yellow Pages and other directory listings, customer satisfaction surveys, freebie giveaways or seasonal special offers.

But don’t do these until you have the basic 3 covered and working well.

For tradesman marketing services, call Creative Agency Secrets – outsourced marketing for busy business owners.

WARNING: Chartered Accountant Magazine is Changing

chartered accountants information We were shocked to hear that a professional NZ accounting magazine is stopping its print edition and going digital only has combined with its Australian counterpart. The Institute of Chartered Accountants Australia (ICAA) and the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants are joining forces and as a result will be moving their regular publication “Charter Magazine” to digital only a new brand known as the “Acuity” magazine.


Additions by Andy Mclean, Publisher of Acuity magazine:

1) Contrary to what your article says, we are continuing to publish our member magazine in print.

2) Our new trans-Tasman magazine is not called Charter – it is called Acuity.

I think where you have got confused is that – having joined forces with NZICA – we have decided to stop producing Charter magazine and replace it with a brand new trans-Tasman magazine named Acuity. But there is no intention to stop printing magazines for our members. Hard copy magazines are still very popular with our members.

Just to clarify – Charter magazine had existed in print, online and as a tablet app for the past two years. Acuity will also exist in print, online and as a tablet app. There is no change in channels for our member magazine; it’s business as usual.


So what does this mean for accounting in the Australasian region? What does it say about future practices and success factors? We believe it says that accounting could benefit from going digital in a broad manner. Digital gives easier access to articles because they can be read on handheld devices as well as being found through online search. We’re hoping that, by making an accounting magazine available primarily online, it will help accounting firms visit the online space more and get familiar with it so to start using it in their own firm’s marketing. The move to digital for print magazines opens up other questions.

Is your newsletter digital?

If you’re thinking of moving your newsletter to digital, you’ll want to answer these questions first:

  • Will the newsletter/ magazine be readable from a mobile device (in terms of both the file being sent and the amount of content on such small screens)?
  • Does it fall in line with your firm’s practices and customers?
  • Do subscribers get email notifications when a new edition is published?

If you have a printed newsletter and want to move it to digital, answer the questions above or even get in touch with us to help you out.

Read RSS on Kindle

If you’re looking at building a blog for the website of your accounting firm, you’ll be pleased to hear that Amazon Kindle now allows Kindle editions of blog posts as well! They build directly from RSS feeds, so you’ve got another way to keep your blog readers up to date. The digital space is certainly moving in directions that accommodate marketing which are ready for any and all accounting firms to use and enhance their reach to prospects. Let us know how you feel about the change to digital for Charter Magazine, and what your Accounting firm is doing to become digitally enabled.

 

Need accountancy marketing help?

Creative Agency Secrets are experts in accountancy firm marketing.  We can tutor you and teach you what to do if you want to do the marketing yourself.  Or we can do the firm’s marketing for you.

Learn more and join our free Accountants Marketing Newsletter

How to improve a ‘cold’ email introduction

Many businesses use direct email and purchased mailing lists for new business development.  It’s a tried and tested technique.

No cold calls

No more cold calls or emails. [Image credit http://muddycolors.blogspot.co.nz/] 

But it only works when you have a VERY compelling and well-written message.

Here’s an example we received

Would you like to have just one invoice to pay every month for all of you property maintenance? And only have to remember one number. Then give us a call and let us and our team do it all for you. From a one off job, or a complete maintenance package that works just for you

I have attached our company profile for you to see who we are and what we do

Also here is a link to our website [included but not hyperlined]

Please do not hesitate to contact us with any queries or quote requests

Kind regards

 

Improve your cold email text

Thanks very much for getting in touch.
As you probably can see I run a marketing business and my eagle eye couldn’t help noticing a couple of things you could improve with your approach email which I just got.

You forgot the company profile attachment.  And the link isn’t formatted correctly to open your website.

But the main thing your email lacks is a strong reason for me (the recipient) to DO ANYTHING.
Take a read of a couple of our blog posts about writing cold emails
Do you see that both give me a reason to reply?

I want to make you an offer

Will you let Creative Agency Secrets re-write your cold email so that it actually gets prospects to reply or click through to your website?
We will show you the techniques that not only get read, they get prospects to take action and start a dialogue with you.
If this sounds like the sort of marketing you’d like to be doing, let’s talk on the phone next week.
I have got time free on [name date] – any time after 10.30 am.
Thanks for your time

 

 

Regards

 

 

Rebecca Caroe

 

 

P.S.  There is no obligation to work with us after the phone call… but we are sure you won’t be wasting your time.

 

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10 Year Anniversary

10 Year Anniversary Promotion

In a previous article, we discussed ways in which you can promote a business anniversary. Recently, one of our clients celebrated their 10th year in business. To celebrate, we did three things. We created an eBook to highlight the changes in the industry over 10 years and where the next 10 years may take them, a timeline to show the company’s milestone achievements and a classic anniversary sale.

What must be remembered is that an anniversary is not just a giveaway to thank your customers/fans. It’s also a great opportunity to get closer to your customers, generate more sales and build your future audience.

 

The eBook

The eBook was created to give readers a summary of the major changes in the industry in the past decade as experienced by influential individuals within the industry. The changes were analysed by 10 expert individuals who are heavily involved in the industry but all play a different role. This provided an interesting range of insights, each focussing on a different area of the industry.

The eBook was promoted predominantly on Social Media and on their blog. A large portion of the social media audience and website visitors are not on the mailing list – and ultimately, the purpose of the eBook was to generate newsletter signups.

To download the eBook, customers had to enter their email address whereby they would be both sent the eBook instantly as well as added to the mailing list if they weren’t already on it. This was achieved using an autoresponder. In the email with the eBook, we also mentioned the anniversary sale and gave them the discount code.

 

The Sale

10 years in business, 10% off everything – hence the discount code “10years10%”. In the previous article, we mentioned that there were a variety of sale options to choose from (historical pricing, free shipping, free gift per $10 spent). We chose to utilise a simple 10% off by process of elimination. The products our client now sells are very different to the ones they sold 10 years ago so a historical pricing promotion (where the prices would be what they were 10 years ago) wouldn’t be nearly as effective. As the value of the products is quite high, but the products are generally small, free shipping is not a big incentive as it usually equates to a minimal discount. The free gift per $ spent option was ignored for a similar reason; no one wants 100 caps with every order.

The code was promoted front and centre on the client’s homepage, on their social media accounts, those who downloaded the eBook and to their existing mailing list.

The 10% discount code was enabled for 10 weeks, which not only tied in to the 10-year theme but also allowed enough time for anyone who was going to use it, to use it. We also left the coupon open for unlimited uses – if someone wanted to buy something then use the same code again a couple of weeks later, they could.

 

Timeline

A timeline is a nice, visually attractive way of showing progression. Although they can be complicated and contain too much information, simply picking 10 most important events to highlight is a simple way of avoiding clutter and confusion. We therefore chose to feature just the big product redesigns, new releases, and company milestones (such as the 5000 unit produced) during their 3652 days in business.

To make a timeline easily which can be featured on your website, I’d recommend TimelineJS. TimelineJS is a free, opensource tool, which enables you to build interactive timelines from a Google Spreadsheet. The great thing about TimelineJS is it can be embedded into any website.

 

The results

Our client’s mailing list increased (ironically) by 10%. The number of downloads for the eBook however was considerably more than those that were newly signed up. This is because those already signed up to the mailing list were sent links to the eBook directly for download – they didn’t have to re-fill in their details unnecessarily.

The client received a number of sales utilising the 10% off discount. Surprisingly though, even though the code featured largely on the homepage, social media and in the text to those who received the eBook, there were still a handful of people who paid full price.

What’s the advantage of FeedBlitz over Mailchimp?

We got this question from an SEO agency who works on a client and thought that our answer might be useful to others.  These services are mass email sending programs – each has different features and applications.

Creative Agency Secrets uses FeedBlitz…..

  • Firstly because they did RSS to email first before others offered the service.
  • Secondly they were a client for a couple of years – we did a lot of copywriting for them.
  • Thirdly they do not require double opt-in for new list imports (AWeber does).
  • Fourthly they enable an autoresponder to end and then you can migrate people onto a mailing list from the autoresponder (so lists mutually build)
  • Fifthly they allow you to pick a random subscriber for prize draws (very cute)

Downsides of FeedBlitz

Mailchimp and Campaign Monitor do most of these same features.  I like the templates in these services better than FeedBlitz’ options.
I also like the mail-as-many-times-as-you-like during a month with FeedBlitz where you pay once and just mail.  Whereas Campaign Monitor charges $5 plus every time.  But depending on your list size and mailing frequency other services may give you a better price.
You can import a list but FeedBlitz insists on mailing the people and checking they know you’ve added them to a list before you can send messages to them.  It has high anti standards.
It doesn’t make creating and managing a large number of lists easy. This is because it’s principally a publishing/sharing platform not a mass email service.
Happy to amplify further or give readers a guided tour inside the services we use most and some of the cute nice-to-have features like who your social media influencers are.

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The DOs and DON’Ts of newsletters for accounting firms

Newsletters are an essential form of communication between companies and their stakeholders. More often than not though, those that sign up to a newsletter are (potential) customers who are interested in what you do. Many accounting firms are adding newsletters into their regular marketing activities and we’re here to help you build your newsletters for new business success.

We’ve taken time to analyse a couple of newsletters from accounting firms around New Zealand and we’ve noticed one major pitfall – these newsletters are LONG!

They often involve several articles, a lack of links and often their content just isn’t well focused on their business or those who may be signing up to their newsletter.

For a broader picture, lets take a look at the common successes and mistakes some accounting firm newsletters are making…

 

Successful elements in accounting newsletters

Relevant content: accounting firms are experts in their field and they show that well through the article content they provide in newsletters.

1Great use of spacing: the newsletters we’ve seen space out their content well and use headlines or boxes to separate content. Making content discernable is a good thing as it draws readers eyes in and encourages them to read. Content that is jumbled or squished together deters readers, and you should want your newsletters to be read.

Well planned structure: titles, headlines, blocks of content and different sections are commonplace in accounting firm newsletters. This differs from spacing as a coherent structure helps a reader flow from one piece of content to the next, until they’ve read the entire newsletter. It’s simply another way to encourage readers to read all the way through.

Include social media/ web page links: newsletters help drive website traffic, and so integrating links to online presences is vital. What’s more is that accounting firms include these links well by using images. These links are often included in sidebars or at the bottom of the newsletter so as not to distract from main newsletter content.

 

Common mistakes

Text-heavy/ too much content: often entire pages are included in accounting firm newsletters for any one of the articles they include. This is more so for less frequent, quarterly newsletters than regular monthly ones but does still happen. Entire articles belong on web pages or blogs, and we’ll tell you why after pointing out some more common mistakes.

Content Heavy Newsletters Risk Losing Reader Interest

Content Heavy Newsletters Risk Losing Reader Interest.

3Irrelevant or unnecessary content: we’ve seen accounting firm newsletters that point out nearby office areas to buy or that their neighbours or friends are raising money for a charity and would like some help. While this content may be great to share with your readers, it isn’t NEWSLETTER content. Share these bits of information in email blasts to your email lists (possibly including your newsletter mailing list) instead. Your newsletter subscribers subscribed to a newsletter for information about YOU, not about local news.

Lack of an introduction or voice: some newsletters we’ve seen don’t include introductions or conclusions at all. Instead they’re collections of potentially exciting articles lumped into a series of pages.  This is a great place for the marketing partner to be the voice of the firm and to give a good face, tone and feel to the newsletter.

No website link backs or calls to action: one big thing missing from accounting firm newsletters to date are links and calls to action. Newsletters do more than inform, yes, but more importantly they exist to bring readers closer to the sender.

 

Our suggestions / good practice for newsletters

Short is successful: newsletters aren’t books. Newsletters are in fact short notes and pockets of information that a company provides its readers to keep them informed of their expertise and activities. Short is the key word there, and there are many ways to shorten a newsletter while also keeping it informative!

One great way to do this is to post articles or news reels on your blog or website, while linking to them in the newsletter along with an excerpt of the article – this encourages newsletter readers to navigate to your website and helps with google page ranking so that people searching for accounting firms find YOU!

Call to action: while you shouldn’t flood your newsletter with links it’s a good idea to link back to your website in some way shape or form. Getting newsletter readers (people who are interested in YOU) on your website improves the chances of them becoming a future client! You don’t necessarily have to develop a call to action or sales pitch but newsletters a good place to redirect readers to such a thing. A blog (if you have one on your website) is a great example of an opportunity to include articles in your newsletter and include a link back to your website that entices readers to click and read more.

 

Sidekick accounting brand mascot.

Build a brand, use a voice and provide colour: a newsletter can be the essence of your firm and how you share your company culture with stakeholders. Use it to build a brand by creating a voice and an image! Sidekick Accounting achieves this with their superhero icons and friendly writing style.

 

Conclusion

In short – accounting newsletters should embrace a short and unique style of presentation while providing links back to their website and social media as they beware of including irrelevant content. If they follow these guidelines it’ll result on a more engaged audience and better chances for turning a potential customer into a full client!

 

Interested in this article or accounting marketing in general?

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OR

Contact us to talk about marketing your business

 

Need accountancy marketing help?

Creative Agency Secrets are experts in accountancy firm marketing.  We can tutor you and teach you what to do if you want to do the marketing yourself.  Or we can do the firm’s marketing for you.

Learn more and join our free Accountants Marketing Newsletter