In February, we discussed the ins and outs of marketing automation. Among the variety of topics, we discussed the importance creating a workflow that allowed the appropriate department to follow up with the appropriate inquiry to ensure that all leads were nurtured accordingly. However, when it comes to the automation workflow, many of these follow ups are automated, at first. Whether the user is redirected to a Thank You page after completing a form, or they receive an email, it’s hard to know if the effectiveness of these autoresponders in cultivating leads. Optify can help here.

Today, Optify has released the results of its Marketing Automation Best Practices: 2013 Autoresponders Study.

In it, the best practices for many popular autoresponse elements were examined and how they are being followed by online marketers. Optify randomly surveyed 500 B2B marketing companies among the Inc.’s Top 5000 2012 fastest growing businesses. The companies selected all had revenue between $US 1,000,000 and $US 100,000,000 and operated in the advertising, marketing, IT services, software or business services industries.

How Are Autoresponders Being Used?

Only 37% of companies utilized an autorepsonder system and sent follow up emails after an online form submission. Perhaps this means that most companies are following up manually to forms that are submitted. But for almost a quarter of the companies surveyed, there isn't a form on their website to collect visitor information and generate leads at all.

Of those with autoresponders, a majority send a follow up email within the first hour of an online form submission, with the average response time for these companies being just over 3 minutes. If you thought that the initial autoresponder was there to bide time before a real person could follow up -- you’d be wrong. The report found that most companies send more than one follow up email -- the average number of follow up emails sent in the first week was 2.54 and the average interval between the first and second email was 30 hours and 33 minutes.

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Is this too much too soon? Whether it is or not, most companies followed a similar template that accounted for a Thank You page, relevancy, timelessness and personalization of the email. However, most overlooked basic elements of email etiquette and marketing 101, including failing to show users how to unsubscribe (only 18% of emails), displaying a clear call-to-action (47%) and providing expectations (only 8% of companies who sent multiple emails clearly stated that in their emails).

Rewriting the Best Practices of Marketing Automation

What can we glean from this? While the Optify study doesn’t provide too much commentary, it seems fairly obvious that if you’re going to use an autoresponder to help nurture leads from your website, they should be just as well-thought out as your marketing strategy. 

The Autoresponder Assembly Line

If we learned anything from our month-long examination of marketing automation, it’s that it should provide meaningful, valuable information that can help further improve your outreach and communications.

  • Are you providing ways to collect information about those who visit your website and are interested in your services? If so, what happens to that information and how are those individuals contacted? We know that personalized follow-ups can positively impact lead generation. Yet, we also know you’re pressed for time.
  • If an autoresponder makes sense, use it wisely. Be sure to not only thank the individual for their time and interest, but to also give them a clear call to action. Users like to have tasks, provided they are useful and help them fulfill their goals.
  • Respect their time. Don’t pester them with follow up emails, unless they are relevant to their original inquiry or help you learn more about them.
  • Set expectations. What happens after they receive a Thank You email? What can the user expect -- will someone follow up with them or will they receive a few more emails helping them gain more information? What can they do if they have questions? By letting the user know what to expect provides an additional layer of transparency to your lead nurturing process.
  • And don’t forget to let them know that they can unsubscribe at any time, without penalty or annoying follow up calls or emails. More than anything this speaks to how well your systems are communicating internally. Keep everyone in the loop so as to avoid awkward follow up calls and communication.

Autoresponders can help you streamline lead nurturing, but they also make it seem as if your company is too robotic. They are designed to provide you an opportunity to follow up with inquiries in a timely, efficiently manner. Don’t abuse it by letting them do the dirty work for you.