Nurtured leads produce a 20% average increase in sales opportunities compared to non-nurtured leads. Original Source [forrester.com](https://www.forrester.com/report/The_Forrester_Wave_LeadToRevenue_Management_Platform_Vendors_Q1\* _2014/-/E-RES95221?kui=itOucWF1PwA8VavmZl2QqA%23_ts=1526328452844)
What are autoresponders?
Autoresponders are a valuable tool in the kit of any performance marketer or brand wishing to maximise conversion rates and ROI. Specifically, autoresponders are a set of pre-created marketing materials designed to be automatically sent at a given time as part of the lead nurturing process. This primarily refers to the period of time between the first point of lead generation (such a submission of details on a form) to the eventual conversion of the lead buying a service or product. There are also additional ways to use autoresponders as part of up-selling, cross-selling or renewals, depending on the product or service on offer.
How to use autoresponders to boost sales.
The effectiveness of autoresponders can vary depending on the offer in question. If you’re generating leads for a product or service which has a typically short lead nurturing process then the need and impact of autoresponders will be less than those products and services which typically require greater nurturing. In this sense, autoresponders used as part of a B2C Campaign typically require a shorter funnel than their B2B counterparts. However, the value of using autoresponders as part of B2C Marketing relates to the sheer volume of leads and eventual sales which require further assets - such as follow up emails or SMS messages - to complete a lead’s journey to an eventual sale.
As evidenced in the statistic at the top of this page, lead nurturing can result in a huge difference to conversion rates and ROI and absolutely should make up part of any high performing lead generation campaign.
Best practices for using autoresponders
1. Use Personalisation
When it comes to performance marketing, many make the mistake of prioritising the chase of metrics such as CPL and Volume of Leads over their relationship with the people behind these numbers. Such a way of operating will inevitably lead to a false economy. Indeed, building a relationship between people and brands will not only likely lead to an increase in conversion rates by campaign, but offer considerable long term potential in terms of maximising the lifetime value of a lead or Earnings per Visitor (EPV).
In relation to using autoresponders, the key to optimising your lead nurturing in terms of building a personal relationship with leads, is using Personalisation in your marketing assets. What is Personalisation in marketing? Well, in short, personalisation is adding that personal touch to your marketing assets that create a rapport between brand and lead.
In very simple terms, this can be something as straightforward as pulling through the name of the lead from the form and using that information as a Personalisation Token to ensure the messaging reads “Hi [First Name].” This entire process can be automated, meaning each and every lead receives a bespoke message personalised to them, with this generally increasing the chance of conversion.
This can be taken further in a number of ways, depending on the information acquired about the lead generated and the messaging you believe will help nurture that particular lead.
2. Create Personas and Build Bespoke Funnels
Following on from this, creating personas and building a bespoke funnel of autoresponders is a great way to get more granular - and more personalised - with your lead nurturing.
In essence, this means segmenting your leads by “Type” given some key characteristics of said lead, and tailoring your autoresponders to appeal directly to each persona.
For example, let’s say you’re generating leads for Car Insurance and as part of your form you ask the prospect what kind of car they are looking to insure. Following on from this, you may find certain offers and messaging gets a far better reaction from one type of car owner compared to another. In this instance, you could create a persona built around the type of car they wish to insure and build separate autoresponders which directly appeal to that lead.
There are no limitations to this, with data segmentation commonly built around gender, age, income etc. You can get as granular and as bespoke with your messaging as you are able to, up to the point of maximising conversion rates for each persona, providing you are able to understand your prospects well enough.
3. Split-test Your Autoresponders
Following on from the previous point, the only way to maximise the impact of your autoresponders and optimise your lead nurturing is to test your messaging and refine your formula.
One of the easiest (and most accurate) ways of doing this is to split-test your autoresponders and measure the results. By doing this in a more simple A/B setup as opposed to testing results over separate time spans / campaigns, you are able to remove variables and get a more accurate picture of which of your autoresponders is getting you the best results.
4. Deliver Value
One idea to try and consider when creating your autoresponders is to aim to always deliver something of value to your leads. What constitutes “value” may well vary from industry to industry and from lead to lead, and in that sense shouldn’t be seen as too restrictive. However, if you notice you’re getting low conversion rates or high unsubscribe rates on a particular autoresponder, then it is worth questioning if the message is 1 - Necessary and 2 - Delivering Value. What you want to avoid is a lead missing a great offer because they had previously been turned off by a less valuable message. The solution to this problem is simply to revert back to point 3 and test, test, test!
5. Try SMS autoresponders too
When it comes to autoresponders, many simply refer to email marketing. This can be limiting. Indeed, all evidence suggests that SMS autoresponders can achieve even greater results. We’ve seen open rates in certain lead generation campaigns of up to 98%, a figure which massively outperforms the open rates of most email campaigns. This is not to say that SMS is in any way better as a form of autoresponder than email, it is simply to say you must explore it and decide if it works for yourself, for your industry, and for your leads.
At the very least, you must be away that the term Autoresponders refers to more than just email marketing.
For more on SMS Autoresponders, check out this article: Embrace the Power of SMS Efficiently, Effectively and Compliantly!
6. Combine With Retargeting
One simple and relatively inexpensive was to optimise your lead nurturing is to combine the use of autoresponders with retargeting. In simple terms, this means placing a pixel on your landing page and using this to target visitors to that page with Ads that will run in conjunction with your autoresponders in an effective lead nurturing 1-2 combo. You may even wish to get more granular with this and can do so by placing a separate pixel on the Thank You page, allowing you to hone in on actual leads (rather than visitors in general). Compared to the cost of the initial adverts designed to drive traffic to this page, the cost of these ads will be small. What is more, they have already expressed an interest in your Offer and may simply need some nurturing to take them to the point of conversion.
What are Autoresponder Leads?
At this point, you may be wondering about the phrase Autoresponder Leads. Hitherto, we have looked at using autoresponders to help nurture other leads such as PPC, Native, Paid Social etc., but does that make them Autoresponder Leads? Well no, it doesn’t, and in fact this is a mistake many make. There is a difference between leads that are nurtured using autoresponders and Autoresponder Leads.
Let’s take the car insurance example used above and extend it slightly further. Let’s say you have a lead generated from a landing page with a form that requires a person’s name, the fact they want car insurance and the renewal date of their insurance policy. However, in this scenario you are missing their model car as it wasn’t submitted at the point of generation. You could send an email that's pre-configured in advance based on this event happening that asks the lead what make and model car they drive. You could then append that information to the original lead and distribute it with that additional information.
By doing this you can gain a clearer picture of your leads based on the additional information you can acquire from then using autoresponders. It might not be specifically for a sale, but in order to append the information so that you can create a stronger relationship with the lead, filter into a more accurate persona or workflow, adjust to other verticals and drive a higher CPL based on the additional information you now have. At this point, your lead moves from solely being a PPC, Paid Social, Native lead, but can now also be termed an Autoresponder Lead as part of the generation of this lead came solely from your autoresponders.
Lead Nurturing Shouldn’t End With Conversion
A final idea to consider is the idea of using autoresponders beyond the point of the initial funnel to first conversion, and instead, to use them as part of a long term relationship between brands and people.
For example, an autoresponder can be used for something as simple as a Happy Birthday message to a lead (providing that information was acquired from the first form). This is a form of personalisation that will help build a connection with the lead in a way that allows you to maximise the lifetime value of that lead. And if not the leads’ birthday, a more practical application of an anniversary responder may simply be the renewal of a subscription, ensuring that lead stays “live” and again, could increase the lifetime value of the lead.
Finally, providing you operate in a compliant and expected manner (with clear opt-ins and full transparency at the point of initial generation), you may use autoresponders to cross- sell other products that you believe the lead has shown a legitimate interest in, or up-sell new iterations of your product or service at a later point. When we talk about optimising your lead nurturing, this refers to more than initial conversion, but to such opportunities moving forwards. The creation of autoresponders as part of a lead generation campaign is a great way to constantly maximise the value of every single lead without having to do a great deal after the initial setup.