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5 Tips To Personalize Your Online Communication Using Automation

By Leslie Samuel
27 Comments

One of the great things about blogging is that it has such a strong personal aspect. Most effective (and popular) bloggers are that way because their subscribers are able to identify with their personalities.

The more you blog, and the better you get at it, the more people subscribe to your blog and newsletter (hopefully). People want to follow people who are interesting, and who they can learn a lot from about topics they are interested in.

Here’s the thing – the more subscribers you have, the harder it is to communicate with each person individually.

The potential problem this poses has to do with the reason most people come to your blog – the fact that they can identify with your personality. The question is – how in the world are you going to communicate effectively with a thousand, ten thousand, or even ONE BILLION SUBSCRIBERS (Austin Powers voice).

The answer to that question is simple – Automation.

With services like Aweber, automation becomes a cinch, and if used effectively, you’d be surprised to see how much value you can add to the relationship between you and that individual subscriber.

Ok, I know what you are thinking. How can automation make me more personal? Great question! And there are several answers to that question. What follows are five tips for doing so, and examples of how I’ve applied them to my business.

Tip #1: Speak To One Person, Not Everyone

When someone subscribes to your mailing list, they are most likely doing so to receive communication from you. However, there are so many mailing lists out there that bulk people together with statements like “Hi guys”. This tells the individual that you are communicating to a group and, at some level, makes them feel they aren’t important.

My recommendation is this. Whenever you write a followup email, or broadcast email, think of what you would say if you were writing to a friend that asked you about the topic you are going to write about. Keep it simple, but personal. Here’s an example of an email that I’ve sent out to my subscribers:

Hey FIRSTNAME,

I just finished writing an article on my blog, and I thought that you would find value in it. It really questions what most people think about starting an online business and says something that most people won’t say. You should check it out.

Here’s the link!

Let me know what you think by leaving me a comment.

Leslie – The Freebie Guy

Short, sweet and to the point, but the important thing is that you don’t feel as if that’s going out to thousands of other people, even though it most likely is. When I send an email like that, I’ve clearly noticed that my clickthrough rates are SIGNIFICANTLY higher than when I don’t have the personal element in there.

Tip #2: Reveal Who You Are And What You’ve Done

The more people get an insight into who you are, the more they grow to trust you (if you deserve their trust). This is a great thing for both parties. Great for you because you get a stronger following that can grow quickly, and great for them because if you are providing value (which you should be), they can benefit by learning things to help them reach their goal.

One of the things people identify with is other people who also make mistakes. There are so many so-called gurus out there that appear to never make a mistake that when people see individuals on the path to success that share their mistakes and lessons they’ve learned, those individuals really stand out, and are more interesting to the average Joe (like myself).

In one of my followup sequences, soon after someone subscribes to my list, I send them a link to a video, where I talk about how difficult it was for me to get started online, how I invested college tuition money and money that was supposed to go towards my wedding to start my online business, and how I lost it ALL in the process.

I know what you are thinking – “Wow, that was stupid!”. Well, that’s exactly how I felt, and that’s exactly what I shared. Then I told them the lessons I learned and how that contributed to making me a better (and hopefully smarter) entrepreneur.

Here’s one of the comments that illustrates the kind of feedback that was left on that video:

Leslie, first off thanks for opening up and sharing your story. I too have made some silly decisions with everything that I have done… Just listening to your story lets me know that there’s a light at the end of this dark tunnel.

Is it likely that the person who left that comment (along with the others) are going to open my next email? I’d like to think so :)

Tip #3: Provide Value Before Asking For Anything

Let’s be real – there are a ton of blogs out there that are competing for attention. Many of them try to get people to buy something from them, but don’t contribute much in terms of value.

I’m a strong believer that growing a successful online business is not about what you can get, but what you can give. Everything you do should be because you are trying to provide value. With every email you send out ask yourself the following question – “What am I saying in this email that will help Bob or Sue (the individual) move towards reaching their goal?”

When you sell something, are you selling it just to make money or is it because you know that buying that product will help someone reach their goal? If it’s just for the purpose of making money, you might want to re-evaluate what you are doing.

I’ve done this in my business by providing lots of video training, where I teach specific concepts in a way that attempts to make it easy for anyone to understand. They receive all of this valuable training before I even sell them anything.

I’ve gotten tremendous feedback from these training videos and I strongly believe they have contributed to making my relationships with my subscribers much stronger.

Tip #4: Ask For Input

Have you ever been in a relationship with a talker? You know the kind of person I’m talking about. The kind of individual that doesn’t need anyone around to have a conversation. I’ve been in that situation before and let me tell you – it didn’t last long AT ALL.

A effective relationship is a two way street. It’s not all about you sharing. It’s also about them sharing. When there’s that “give and take” situation, both parties feel as though they are valued, and the likelihood of the relationship lasting goes up significantly.

People are more likely to stay connected to something or someone if they have a vested interest in that thing or person. When you get someone’s opinion on what direction you should take, they are more likely to feel like they are a part of the process.

I’ve seen this firsthand in a very strong way when I ran a forum. When making a number of key decisions, we opened those decisions up to suggestions from the community. Whenever we did that, the members were more supportive of the changes we’ve made.

I’ve also done this by conducting surveys among my subscribers, asking them to help me make certain decisions. The fact is that every decision I make about my business will affect my subscribers in some way. I might as well get their input on some of these things.

Tip #5: Communicate Regularly

Way too often, when you sign up to a mailinglist, you get what you signed up for, and then don’t hear from the individual again for a very long time. In the last two weeks, I’ve received emails from two marketers saying something like:

“Hey, remember me. I’m the guy whose list you signed up to a few months back. I just wanted to let you know that . . .”

At that point, I went back to their website and couldn’t even remember who they were and what I signed up for. This is BAD business. No, this is TERRIBLE business. Yes, it takes time to develop content for your newsletter, but it is definitely worth the investment. You always want your subscribers to have you in their minds. You can do this by communicating with them on a regular basis.

In the past, I’ve done this by doing regular broadcasts. However, it is much more efficient to work on setting up a weekly follow up sequence so that every person who signs up to your list a year from now get the benefit of going through your content in a predetermined sequence, and you get the benefit of not having to do any additional work in that process.

The Alternative

There are some people out there that believe that automation is a terrible thing. They would prefer to deal with every person individually. I used to share the same sentiment, until I was spending COUNTLESS hours attached to my computer, trying to deal with the demands of a growing following.

When I reached to the point where I didn’t have enough hours in my day to keep up, I was super stressed, and my wife started complaining about the time that I WASN’T spending with her, I knew that something had to change. However, I never wanted to loose that personal touch.

That is why I did it in the way I outlined above. My followers started receiving better support than they had received before, and my business continued growing in a way that didn’t mean more stress for me, or for my wife.

(Side note: They say that if you can keep your wife happy, you will be happy too :-) )

I know there are varying opinions on automation out there. What do you think? Is it good or not? Do you use it? Let me know in the comments below.

About Leslie Samuel

Leslie Samuel is a blogger who believes that the internet can change the world. He runs an Interactive Biology website that Makes Biology Fun and teaches people how to grow their online business in his Learning With Leslie podcast. He also runs a Become A Blogger - A blog dedicated to helping people Change The World with their blogs. Follow Leslie Samuel on Twitter.

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27 Comments

  • Really disappointed in you Yaro – can’t believe you are promoting Kajabi. I’ve tried the free trial – the support is awful. When adding a new post it randomly gets an error and support tells me I must be doing something wrong.

    Have you read their Terms & Conditions – there are no backups and if you ever want to leave Kajabi they keep your content.

    I can’t believe you would have promoted this awful product if you had actually tried it.
    My estimation of you has dropped significantly.

    • Sally I don’t appreciate you leaving a completely off topic comment here on Leslie’s article. I’ll let it come through because I want to reply to you and I can’t move the comment to another article.

      If you want to talk about Kajabi, go to my blog post about it and leave your comment there. If you read my review you will see I talked about the good and the bad points. There are plenty of negative comments left by other readers too that I’m quite fine to have on my blog so people know what kind of experience others are having.

      I’m not ready to write-off Kajabi yet. If Andy wants this to be a viable product he will respond to the feedback and fix the problems. That’s why I will be playing with the software myself and I believe others should too. If the problems are not fixed then obviously the product will not succeed.

      People are so quick to judge online – yes Kajabi’s launch could have been done better, I agree with that, and my blog post exists as a place to leave feedback about it so we can highlight the good and the bad.

  • I recently stumbled upon another blog who mentioned it is better to write as if you are speaking to one person instead of everyone (Your number 1). I love that and I’m going to use that from now on. Also, since I am in California and it is still Oct 19, I wonder if my comment will be posted before your actual post (Oct 20). Hmmm. Love the blog Yaro.

  • I’ll just pretend I don’t see Sally’s comment and Yaro’s reply to the comment.

    That said, I love this article. In fact, I’ve noticed many Email marketers use this automated technique, and yes indeed do they get personal. All newsletters that I receive from John Chow, Yaro, Michael Dunlop have my name on it. I know all that’s automated and stuff, but it feels nice. It’s nice when someone calls you by name.

    I’m yet to use Aweber. The reviews are great. Will def use it someday.

  • Leslie, Looks like your comments got hijacked, LoL. Anyway, just wanted to say thanks for the post. I too hate when you sign up to someone’s email list and they provide no value with promotion after promotion. Then, there’s some that you never hear from, when i do, i usually don’t remember who they were so i end up unsubscribing on the spot. You’ve gotta bring some value to your readers in more ways than one.

    Dwight Anthony
    Financially Elite Blog dot Com

  • The tips provided here in this post for online communication is wonderful. This will help to many bloggers. These are very small things but are very important from the blogger’s point of view.

  • Leo

    I gotta say, I agree with most of the points although the personalization thing I think is pointless in certain markets that are aware that “personalization” is pre-fabricated. In these markets, I believe that using these personalization variables does nothing for you. Besides, if you sign up for a newsletter, you have to realize that chances are they are very aware that there is likely more than one person on a list and if not, you list is is very sad shape.

    In regards to value, I think that that is in the eye of the beholder, right? I love how bloggers throw around “value” like is actually something tangible. It isn’t. It never has been. Value changes from person to person. For instance, some people view giving away something for “free” as valuable. Under most circumstances in my market, “free” typically means more of the same old same old. I rarely bit anymore. And I know that there are folks who feel the same way.

    All the other points, sound good. Those two are debateable though, at least to me.

    • Hi Leo,

      Thanks for your input. I would tend to disagree with you, which is fine. I’m in the Internet Marketing Niche. That’s MOST DEFINITELY a niche where people are very much aware that personalization can be pre-fabricated. However, people still appreciate that personal touch. Just as an example (and I have many of these), right before reading your comment, I just read an email from someone who said that they “appreciated my sincerity”.

      Yesterday I got an email from someone saying they felt like I was talking directly to them, which to some extent, I was.

      I also get a bunch of emails telling me that they can’t believe how much “value” for free. So yes, I do see your point, but I do think that because what you said is what’s expected, when you go against that thought, it can help you stand out.

      Do you need personalization to make money? Absolutely not. However, I strongly believe that the personal touch can definitely enhance what someone does online.

  • Hey Leslie,

    Thanks for the great post! I can especially relate to the the first tip and how important it is. I think it’s something that you especially need to keep in mind when you’re first starting out.

    For me, I would (and still do from time to time) send out emails, do videos, etc. where I would address the group with something like “hey everyone”, and I think the reason I would do that is I wanted to communicate that other people were following me when I may have only had like 20 people on my list.

    Now when I see those videos, it really does give me the feeling as a visitor that I’m just a face in the crowd vs. a valued person in a conversation. Thanks for reminding me how important it is to write as if I’m speaking to a close friend.

    Have a great day Leslie,

    Brian
    Regenesis Health and Wellness

  • hey great tips, specially the 3 point, as everyone wants something, and if your not providing good value you want get anything in return. Totally agree. Its like the saying “treat others how you want to be treated”

    Thanks

  • Great post Leslie, really enjoyed it… Leslie, i do have one quick slightly off topic question for you, do you write ALL the newsletters yourself too? It seems a MASSIVE amount of content to produce if you are blogging and video blogging too. Or is it ok to outsource this and lose the personal voice a little?

    Regards,
    Duncan

    Oh and Yaro, just so you know, I think these guys you have got to fill in while you take are doing an EXCELLENT job for you and your brand.

    • First off Thanks for the compliment :)

      Secondly, yes I do write ALL my newsletters myself. Is that necessary? Not really. If you can find someone to write it in a way that you are comfortable endorsing, then sure go ahead. I just prefer to do it all myself because I’m somewhat insane, lol.

      I do blog, do guest posts (obviously) and produce a significant amount of videos. However, I try to be as efficient as possible when it come to getting down to business. You’d be surprised at how much you can accomplish if you are very focussed for 2 hours, know exactly what you want to accomplish and take massive action.

      Hope that helps!

      Leslie

  • Great article Yaro, especially app for myself since I was in the middle of writing my weekly newsletter.

    You have an incredible relaxed conversational style of writing, an easy on the eye blog design and some killer content and so it is now wonder that you are quite a popular blogger.

    I had not been giving your blog much attention in the past but that will no doubt change in the future. Love you work.

    • This wasn’t me Jonny – your props should go to Leslie!

      Maybe you should pay a little more attention to my blog ;-)

  • “Speak To One Person, Not Everyone”. Yes I know what you mean. I am not in promotion but the chance that I will open a promotional email or webnewsletter or anything that has my name on it is far higher than something that simply says “buy cheap wine”. Seriously, some days when I am having a bad day, email subjects like “sarah we have something for you” even sometimes cheered me up!
    Good job people…keep promoting in more and more creative ways. You always may not get the appreciation but sometimes we do like them.
    Nice blog!

  • Good article and good points. Be honest and to make it simpler, apply the golden rule. Karma. The law of equivalent exchange. treat others how you want to be treated.

  • Leslie, thanks for the tips, and tricks. I think trying to keep up with demand without automation is impossible without a full-time staff. Who has money for that? I think autoresponders are great. Just learning how to use my Aweber effectively. Really appreciate your openness here. I’m going to create my email series for personalization. I really like the video you sent out. I would believe the open rate for a video is higher than a written piece. What do you think Yaro? Not sure if guest bloggers follow comments on their post or not.

    Scott

    • Hi Scott,

      Yep, I do follow up on the comments :)

      When it comes to open rates, I find the biggest determinant is how interesting the title is.

      When it comes to click rates, that’s something that I’m always testing and I find that it depends on your niche and your audience. I find that my audience seems to respond best when I have a very short email with One simple call to action.

      In terms of the video, my readers definitely seem to respond better to video. There’s just something about having the visual in combination with the audio that seems to cause them to feel like it’s more personal (I Think).

      The best I can say is take action and test it.

  • Leslie,

    Great post. There is immense power in personalisation and reciprocity. So many people I speak to just don’t get how important these factors are to a successful business. It’s NOT about what you can GET, it’s what you GIVE that counts. I’m not going to even be monetising my site in any way in the first 6 months – why? because my audience is THE MOST important core aspect of my business. I’ll always be giving loads of free stuff away and let them get to know me,although of course my focus is on THEM. Personalisation therefore is everything because you can help that person and in doing so, help many others at the same time who read that personalised comment, reply or whatever etc. It’s immensely satisfying to help others reach their goals – even if I was a millionnaire I’d be doing what I do – I don’t see it as ‘work’ although you bet I use every moment I can to work towards my bloggin goals. The key to giving and personalisation comes back to PASSION – you absolutely have to be passionate about what you’re doing – (Gideon’s headhodge concept is a great read/listen here). Remember, what goes out…..comes round…and the money follows after. Thanks Leslie – love your approach to bloggin AND I really enjoyed checking out your Biology site btw…great stuff! Rebecca

  • About newsletter frequency…. It depends which niche you’re in and what your people like and what you personally can handle.

    My niche is more a hobby than business advice, so you have to think about what would suit your audience – would it be one short weekly plain format tip with a call to action like you see in MM online niche like Yaro’s great weekly emails , or a monthly bumper HTML newsletter with a whole host of tips and advice linking back to my blog … for me in my niche I know the latter is what I’d prefer to recieve. That being said, you still have to ask your readers too what they want and think…and adapt over time, but always, always be giving away great value unseen elsewhere…that’s what is so much fun…thanks Leslie again.

  • Don,t mind Yaro , but what i dislike about your site is the “Free Copy of blogprofits blueprints” appears whenever i open your blog.

  • I’ve been here for the first time now and I already like tour blog and your way of doing things.

    One question though, since I’m building a list myself for a week now ;-).

    What would be a good way to treat your list with the info sharing and marketing and everything else in mind?

    Right now I have an autoresponder set up, that sends information to my subscribers, not marketing anything yet.

    Keeping it short, I have 2 questions:

    1. Shouldn’t I “train” them to receive and welcome paid offers (that are of course of value for them)?

    2. With what regularity should I send out information to my list? I do it now about every other day.
    – However, I’m wondering if it isn’t too often?
    – And whether it is too regular? (With too regular I mean that I do it too
    predictable. One day they receive info, the other they don’t. Isn’t it better
    to vary a bit with the days in between…)

    Thanks for any enlightenment in advance!

    All the best,
    Rens

  • Automation is really a big help for business but if there are tools which can automate individual level conversations, it would be better.

  • direct, active voice speaking directly to my reader, whether through my website, newsletter or blog has lead to best success for me

  • I have used Aweber for some time now and it has been great.

  • Ok so I have to concede that you completed a few fine points there. I did a search on the issue and found nearly all folks will have the same opinion with your page.

  • Nice one Leslie.
    GetResponse is also pretty good, but I reckon Aweber is the way to go.

    I like your thought: “I’m a strong believer that growing a successful online business is not about what you can get, but what you can give.”
    That’s definitely a good area to focus on: Giving good value! (with the personal touch)

    Thanks,
    ~ Rory

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