In the old James Bond flics (and every other cheesy spy movie based on them,) I absolutely love the point in the film when the evil villian reveals - in completely unnecessary and damning detail - to the seemingly helpless hero his plans to take over the world. I especially love when he reveals his outrageous secret weapon which will no doubt bring the nations of the world to their knees should the evil mastermind simply press the red button!
Well, prepare yourself, fellow evil content marketers poised for imminent global domination, I'm about to reveal...
The Secret Weapon of Content Marketing!
(The expectant hush becomes a collective sigh of disappointment and aggravation...)
But I'm serious!
Autoresponders have been a workhorse of online marketing for well over a decade, and they've existed in various forms in the direct mail world for generations. Considering the famously test-happy nature of all direct mail and e-mail marketers, there's only one valid reason for a tool to last that long:
What is it?
Even if the name doesn't ring any bells for you, I can pretty much guaranty you have received one or more autoresponder messages.
Basically, if you've ever put your e-mail address into a form on a website and received personalized e-mail messages in return, you're on an autoresponder. It's different from a daily, weekly or monthly newsletter because everyone receives the same messages in the same order and at the same intervals based on when they signed up.
Sometimes, marketers will make it plain that you're going to receive these e-mails by letting you know you're signing up for a "ten-day e-course" or some other series of tips at regular intervals. Most, however, choose to keep the automation behind the scenes to maximize the personalized nature of the messages.
Both methods have their high points, and both can be extremely effective.
What makes it so powerful?
It's a deceptively simple tool that accomplishes at least four things marketers salivate over:
It's Personalized: Generally, the form you fill out to receive an autoresponder includes a field for at least your first name, if not more detailed information. With some simple fill-in-the-blank magic behind the scenes, the messages come out addressed to "Dear John" or "Hey John," and the body can include any number of little personalized touches like the name, the city where the prospect lives, the approximate date when they filled out the form, etc. Any direct marketer will tell you, personalized mail gets opened, read and acted upon FAR more often than generic mail.
It's Requested: This isn't unsolicited junk mail or spam. (Please, please PLEASE tell me you're not one of those guys, because I don't even want you reading my blog if you're sending spam to people.) You've filled out the form and requested to receive these messages. That automatically means you're at least somewhat interested in what the messages contains, and you're now a warm prospect rather than a cold one.
It's Over Time: Since the autoresponder messages can be spaced out in whatever intervals the marketer chooses, it provides a perfect opportunity to stay in touch with prospects who have shown enough interest in your product, service or information to fill out your online form, and it keeps you and your message on their radar for as long as it takes to reel them in.
It's Automated: Perhaps the most potent power of this secret weapon is that it truly is a "set it and forget it" technology. You write the messages, you set the intervals and other settings, you upload the form to your website, and you forget about it. (Until your new customers move forward based on the call to action I KNOW you included in your messages, of course...)
So what are you waiting for? Press that red button!
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