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Growing Customer Relationships With Autoresponders
Glenn Gordon


How do you build and maintain a good relationship with your customers?

Practice relationship basics - remember that relationships depend on communication, and that communication is a two way street. And don't imagine that a constant bombardment of ads is constructive of a relationship. It only says to that customer that all that matters to you is whether he buys.

You may be saying, "My customers are automatically put on my ezine mailing list so they hear from me regularly. I don't have time to do more than that." My answer is, the ezine is a great start. Now use my favorite tool - the autoresponder - to its full, time saving advantage to personalize the relationship. I have put together some steps that I think will build these relationships more quickly than any other

  • Personalize your communications
  • Generate feedback
  • Exceed expectations

    1. Personalize your communications

    Make sure you use the personalization feature in your ezine list manager and your autoresponder to full advantage. You know, [firstname], how you like to see and hear your own name. Whether you realized it or not, it's your favorite word! But don't overdo it. Just as you don't begin every sentence in a verbal conversation with the other person's name, use the name sparingly in your emails. Make it flow naturally by placing it in sentences that are more personal in nature (note the sentence above where I used your name, for example).

    2. Generate feedback

    Look for ways to generate feedback from your ezine subscribers. As you noted above, I have started features soliciting your feedback in form of your personal biographical background and information about your website. Anytime you can get your subscribers to share something important to them, they have come another rung on the relationship ladder. It should go without saying that you need to share yourself to encourage feedback. Communicate simply as you would if you were talking to a friend - you will find that your subscribers will come to consider you their friend! Don't be afraid to take a stand on issues, again, just as you would with a friend. It is difficult for your subscribers to develop a friendship if no personality emerges from your emails. If you are by nature a more private person (as I am), you may need to work at being more open in your communications. Have a friend or spouse read some of your emails to give you honest feedback as to how your personality is communicated. Obviously the latitude you have in expressing yourself is enormous. I receive several ezines whose authors always start out by writing about their children's braces or their dog's cancer. While that isn't my style, if you have a let-it-all-hang-out personality, then go right ahead. It communicates who you are. The personality you project won't be the favorite of all your readers anyway, but that's not the point.

    Use a spell checker and have someone else proof your emails if grammar and sentence construction give you problems. You have a message to communicate to your subscribers - bad grammar or incomplete sentences obscures that message. Even worse, it says that you didn't consider the message (and its recipient) important enough to get it right. Don't expect significant feedback if you don't respect your subscribers enough to pay attention to details.

    Autoresponders also allow you to easily get feedback on site issues such as HTML/plain text, or whether to publish on Tuesday or Saturday. Simply set up separate autoresponder addresses for each reply, or one address with different subject lines.

    3. Exceed expectations

    Assuming you are already doing the basics such as delivering a good product that does all it claims, and promptly following up on support issues, nothing builds good relationships and customer loyalty better than doing little things that are pleasant surprises.

    For example, your customers deserve first rate support and you should by all means deliver it. But why not anticipate as many of their questions and potential problems as possible by including a FAQ/support email in your autoresponder instant message that immediately follows up your sale? It will not only save you tons of support time and effort, it will deliver the message that you want your customers to have answers at hand before there are questions.

    Use another of your follow up messages to offer your customer another product that is a natural follow-up to the one you just sold him. It is not only smart marketing; it says you know what he is likely to need and are not just pitching whatever else you have to sell.

    Another message could ask for a testimonial in exchange for some item of value. This tells your customer you value his feedback and are willing to pay for it.

    Here's the biggest relationship-builder. Before you put your product on the market, think in advance what other less costly but closely related products your customer is sure to find useful. Offer these products as bonuses through your autoresponder follow-up series. By doing so, you will immediately set yourself apart from 95% of your competitors. Nothing I know of matches the pleasant surprise of receiving unannounced bonuses that are immediately useful and valuable. It speaks volumes about your thoughtfulness and the value you place on your customer and his needs. Even if you have to pay to get these follow-on bonuses, it will be more than worth it in the long term. One is great; if you can manage it two or three would be even better. Ideally you could continue to provide articles or tips on a continuing basis that relate to that customer and his needs. Autoresponders make it simple!

    This is just a sampling of the kinds of relationship-building jobs you can set up your autoresponder to do. Does this kind of approach call for considerable planning before the sale? You bet! While your average customer may not appreciate the fact that you spent the extra time to set up the post-sale autoresponder sequence, he will get the overall message that you care about him as a customer and have gone out of your way to see that his needs are met. As you build a relationship of trust and respect by applying methods such as these, that position you hold in your customer's subconscious relative to your competitors will move higher and higher. While this is an invisible, intangible thing, it will translate into future sales and a growing customer base. Combined with a continuing flow of good products, this is a recipe for online success. It's time to crank up the autoresponder and start putting in the ingredients!


     

Other tutorials in this series:

Autoresponders - Where do they come from?
Free autoresponders - Should I use one?
How to use autoresponders - What can they do for me?
Autoresponder follow-up messages - How to write them
When to use autoresponders - Right and wrong times
Structuring an autoresponder series - How to!
Spam problems? - Stop it with autoresponders!

Would you like to expand your knowledge on the areas discussed above?

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