Using Auto-responders in B2B Demand Generation

Auto-responders have been around for a long time and in B2C marketing they have been used to engage customers, convert them into repeat buyers, to up-sell and cross-sell and to increase the value of every customer on a continual basis. In short, B2C marketers think of auto-responder as a killer app.

How about in B2B marketing? Unfortunately, they are used rarely other than sending out an automated thank you for subscribing to a newsletter or registering for a white paper download. I think B2B marketers can learn something from B2C marketers.

Auto-responder is an automated marketing follow-up solution that can dramatically improve conversion rates and ROI. In today’s Web 2.0 world, engaging customers and prospects over time with relevant messaging is critical. There is a new term for it, “engagement marketing.” (Source: Silverpop).

What is an auto-responder?
According to Eloqua’s “The Official B-to-B Demand Generation Dictionary,” an auto-responder is an email message, containing pre-written content, which is automatically sent after a triggering event has occurred. Triggering events may include completion of a web form, purchase of an item or inquiry to customer support.

How can you use auto-responders effectively?
Let’s look at a few ways they can be used in B2B marketing:

  • Send out an auto-responder message to every inbound lead and every website visitor that can be identified. Take it a step beyond just personalizing the email with the person’s name; make it relevant to their interest(s) and/or the page(s) they visited. This should go out within the hour after their visit and never more than 24-hours later.
  • If your sales team is organized by territories or geography, trigger an auto-responder to the sales rep that is responsible for that prospect’s area. He or she can follow up with a phone call to qualify further. If the prospect is not ready to buy, add the name to a list to receive additional auto-responders.
  • If you depend on channel sales or affiliates; keep them motivated and informed with a series of auto-responder messages.
  • Instead of having your site visitors subscribe to a newsletter that they receive monthly, ask them to sign up for a series of messages delivered to them everyday over a period of 7-10 days. This strategy works very well for complex sales where you can provide easily digestible chunks of messaging centered on your solution.
  • Break up a long white paper or an eBook into a mini-course. Create auto-responder massages of no more than 400 to 600 words each and deliver them every other day to maintain top of mind awareness and not overwhelm your prospects with information overload.
  • Use auto-responders to send out a recorded presentation to all webinar attendees and to those who registered but couldn’t attend because of scheduling conflicts. You can use this opportunity to send additional materials such as Q & A materials.
  • If you are a business consultant or coach, you can use auto-responders to build credibility and establish expertise. They work much more efficiently because the program works on autopilot unlike a newsletter that you have to create each time.
  • After using auto-responders, if appropriate, follow up with a direct mail piece that can sit on the prospect’s desk (hopefully they’ll save it) as a reminder.
  • Continue to nurture these leads by adding them to your CRM database with scheduled initiatives.

These are just some of the ways to use auto-responders in B2B marketing.

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