With great power comes great responsibility, or so we are told. Such is the case with autoresponders, the heart of e-mail marketing. No doubt they have revolutionized e-commerce and information marketing. However, as with so many great innovations, autoresponders are susceptible to abuse and misuse. Nothing represents irresponsible autoresponder use better than unsolicited commercial mail (UCE), and unsolicited bulk mail (UBE).
…Also known as spam.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate legitimate Internet marketers from spammers. The large internet service providers (ISPs) have sophisticated anti-spam technology that frequently traps proper messages; smaller businesses also employ spam filters. Today, standard practice within most e-mail systems is moving questionable messages into a ‘Spam’ folder or in some cases deleting them outright. No questions asked.
To ensure that autoresponder messages reach your subscribers’ Inbox safely, use the following three tactics:
1. Create a ‘White List’ Thank You Page.
Don’t assume that your list-building is safe after prospects enter their contact information into your opt-in page. Once they click your ‘Subscribe’ button, redirect them to a web page that gives clear instructions for confirming their request. If you are using a double opt-in procedure, tell them what to look for in your confirmation message’s From: and Subject: lines. Consider putting in specific instructions for getting onto Google (G-mail), Yahoo!, AOL, and MSN whitelists, since many subscribers use these services.
Even if new subscribers confirm their opt-in, remind them about whitelisting in your first (“Welcome”) message. It’s also a good idea to have your own accounts with large web-based e-mail clients, so that you can test and verify that your white-listing plan actually works.
2. Put each of Your Messages through a Spam Checker.
Successfully adding new subscribers and being placed on whitelists does not give you free reign to write e-mails as you please. Avoid your subscribers’ Spam box by pre-testing each message before scheduling it in your autoresponder. Several third party e-mail deliverability services include automatic checking software with your membership. Otherwise, consider downloading a leading spam checker; many are no-cost and web-based for convenient use. With experience, you will learn to recognize words, phrases, and writing styles that demand editing or in the extreme case, a complete rewrite.
3. Send Subscribers an Appropriate Mix of Content and Offers.
Internet marketers are regularly targeted as spammers, so it behooves you to do everything possible to maintain a good score with subscribers as well as their e-mail clients. After all, what’s the point of being white-listed and using spam checking software if you’re going to blow it with 100% hard sell e-mails? Stay true to your original intentions by demonstrating your expertise to readers, building real relationships, and making appropriate offers that solve problems. You will be doing the industry, list members, and yourself a great service.