I recently made one aspect of my online business more efficient. This technique demonstrates the power of an email autoresponder. In this case I turned something that used to be a relatively mundane manual business annoyance into a resource. Best of all it took about 10 minutes to get set-up and it’s been doing a great job ever since.
If you don’t know what an autoresponder is go ahead and read an article I wrote a few months ago about the subject – Using Autoresponders To Grab Clients. In a nutshell, autoresponders are email capture and broadcast tools that allow you to stay in touch via email with people that opt-in to receive communication from you. All the emails are set-up to be sent automatically at specific time intervals so you don’t have to do anything once the initial work is complete. They can also be used to manage newsletters.
My original article on autoresponders is due for an update and in fact I have plans for two more articles on autoresponders because I believe they are one of THE most crucial elements to success online. If you currently run any online enterprise then you need to be using them. My original article recommended the Marketer’s Choice system but I have since changed my autoresponder service of choice to Aweber. I’ll be explaining why in another article but put simply I believe Aweber to be the best autoresponder available by far and happens to be a lot more affordable than Marketer’s Choice if all you need is comprehensive email autoresponding (Marketer’s Choice also has a shopping cart, affiliate module and a bunch of other stuff that I currently don’t need).
I bet a lot of online service providers have the same problem I had – random strangers soliciting for employment. Many a time I have answered my phone to the question “Is this BetterEdit?” to which I respond positively, excited about the potential new client I may be speaking to, only to be disappointed two seconds later when I hear the line “I’m looking for proofreading work” or a two minute life story that is supposed to convince me to hire them immediately. The same situation was repeated on email almost every other day with a random application sitting in my inbox.
I have nothing against people looking for employment, I think it’s great they are being proactive. In fact I can’t really label this a real ‘problem’ since every six months or so I do hire new staff. The issue was the random nature of the queries that often annoyed me and that I had no good way to control it. I felt bad for the poor (often literally) soles desperate plea for work that I simply couldn’t help. I hire only two times per year and while I wish I had enough work to always need more editors it’s just not the case.
After signing up with Aweber and moving my old mailing lists to the new system I started hunting around for places where an autoresponder could enhance my current systems. The first place that came to my was the recruitment section of my website. I had in a place a page that described our hiring policies, stating we only look for new staff twice a year but that didn’t seem to stop the random queries. In most cases I kept the emails in a folder and when it came time to hire individually emailed each person that had contacted me. A laborious activity ripe for an autoresponder.
The implementation was easy. I set up a new autoresponder with a basic name and email address opt-in form that prompted potential applicants to join the announcement list for notification of when I hire new staff. Upon signing up the first email reiterates our usual hiring practices and they can rest assured they will know if any job openings become available.
From my point of view I gained a fantastic list for recruitment purposes. I will never have a problem finding staff with a list of editors eager for work at my finger tips. I send a broadcast email to the list, collect applications and choose the best using our usual hiring process.
The amount of random employment solicitations has dropped significantly. I still get the occasional phone call from an extra eager bunny and direct them to the web form to sign up to the list. This makes the recruitment process much easier to control.
An unexpected benefit, one that I haven’t made use of yet but may one day be an opportunity, is the potential to monetize the list. Currently my job openings list is growing faster than any other list on my site. I get close to double the amount of people looking for work than potential customers signing up, which is the nature of the industry at the moment (the supply/demand relationship is not good for editors and proofreaders).
My list is not only great for HR but is also a steadily building targeted mailing list. Now I understand that I can’t abuse this list as a spammer and send out product announcements every week, but if I find something that can really help people looking for editing work it might be appropriate to use my list. For example I may produce an ebook designed to teach proofreaders how to land contract work online, a how-to guide to using Elance to get work perhaps, and sell it through my list. Or perhaps I could use it as a recruitment service for other proofreading companies, sending job announcements to the list in exchange for a commission for filling positions. These are hypothetical situations, but clearly the potential exists and I wouldn’t have had the opportunity if I didn’t use an autoresponder to control this aspect of my business.
I am totally convinced of the value of targeted mailing lists. Businesses thrive and grow on their ability to communicate with people. The more people you can reach with your message the more customers you can get. If as an online business owner you are still using manual communication techniques to stay in touch with your prospects and clients take a step back and see where an autoresponder could take over the job for you and create a valuable mailing list at the same time.