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How to be Sequentially Superior

by Michel Fortin

Email is certainly an important aspect of marketing on the web. But a single email is never enough -- and in fact can be more costly down the road. Like all marketing messages, it takes repetition in order to get people to first absorb the message, understand it and then take action. Naturally, some people will immediately respond while others need to see the message more than once before they even think about responding to the offer.

The reason for this is that each person, with each marketing message and for each different type of product, has a specific responsive behavior. Virtually all markets can be divided into several, graduated segments based on such behaviors. They generally consist of five, which are: 1) Innovators, 2) early adopters, 3) early majority, 4) late majority and 5) laggards.

Innovators are risk-takers and venturesome, and consist of about 2.5% of the whole market. They usually respond to new offers almost immediately and without giving them much thought. On the other hand, early adopters respond to new ideas early -- taking action soon after the innovators do, albeit carefully. They represent 13.5% of the market. While the third and fourth groups (i.e., the middle majority) constitute the largest segment, the early majority specifically typically respond to new ideas before the average person does.

The early majority represent 34% of any given market. The late majority, which consist of another 34%, are skeptical, careful and slow. They take their time, usually shop around and need to see offers more than a few times before giving them any consideration. The final segment (or the laggards) take action only after some time has elapsed -- usually after everyone else has done so. They consist of the remaining 16% of the entire pie.

Ultimately, the important thing to note here is that the middle majority altogether consist of a whopping 68%. A marketer's goal is therefore to effectively reach, persuade and incite this larger segment, which is often difficult to do with a single mailing. Repeating your marketing message -- and sometimes doing so more than once -- is essential with this group. In the end, you will not only increase the response but also multiply it.

One ... Two ... Three Steps, You're In!
As you likely know, statistics prove that the bulk of most sales occur in the follow-up process. However, following up with your prospects is more than just a process -- it's an art. You need to do so in a timely, consistent and compelling manner. As Jim Rohn once said, "Without a sense of urgency desire loses its value." Like a blacksmith you must hit the iron while it's hot.

For example, if you were ever late in paying your debts you may have received at some point those nice reminders collection agencies love to send. First, you get a letter with the typical request to pay your debt and to "govern yourself accordingly." If you don't respond soon after, a second letter appearing in the form of a reminder is mailed to you a few weeks later. And, if you happen to be as persistent as the agency, you then get a third letter with that big, red "Final Notice!" stamped in the upper right-hand corner.

Sequential direct mail has been just as profitable an endeavor for entrepreneurs as it has been for collection agencies. Even though I've first heard of this technique from marketing guru Dan Kennedy, I still didn't believe in its effectiveness until I actually used it in my own practice. Tested in one of my client's businesses, our first mailing conducted to approximately 7,000 recipients generated a response rate that was less than 1%.

It's not much but typical for most one-time direct mail campaigns. However, the surprise came when the rate climbed to about 7% following the second mailing and over 3% after the third, which were targeted to the same group of people. With all three mailings totaling 11%, the overall response was a tenfold improvement over what could have been a single mailing.

The first letter had a special time-sensitive offer and an invitation to enter a draw. The second letter, which was mailed out 15 days after the first one, had a "sorry we missed you" and "we're concerned" flavor to it. It offered additional incentives in order to help nudge unresponsive recipients into action -- such as a free, bonus product worth only a few dollars.

Thirty days after the initial mailing, the third letter boldly stated the words "this is your last chance" and "deadline around the corner" right at the top -- similar to the collection agent's final warning stamp. The content of the letter reinforced the urgency of the offer and, along with an extra incentive that was not offered in the previous two mailings, emphasized the negative outcome that would result if the recipient chose to remain idle.

It's Worth Repeating
Incidentally, the prize drawn in the previous campaign was for one of my client's products -- priced at about $1,500. Shortly after the draw however, we decided on a fourth mailing to all those who did not respond and offered a discount on the very same product. It said: "Congratulations! You've won the second prize -- a $250 rebate on [the product drawn]." As a result, the response rate had finally risen to a total of 16% -- and even more, since sales continued to trickle for months after the campaign was over.

The mailing was indeed a success because a 16% response rate is a far cry from the 1% that we would have normally achieved with a mere mailing. But the power of such a process lies in the fact that subsequent mailings tend to make the offer more valuable. When an offer is repeated, people have the natural tendency to assume that the offer is important and not a fly-by-night spiel. In fact, repetition not only helps to emphasize the importance of an offer but also aids comprehension and reinforces its urgency.

If you can, transform your next direct email marketing campaign into a sequence of messages and you will likely see a substantial improvement over single mailings. However, keep in mind that such campaigns refer strictly to those made to opt-in subscribers. Just as sequential direct email helps to multiply the potential response, sequential unsolicited email -- or "spam," which in itself is very risky -- multiplies the risk and its consequences.

With the help of the Internet, campaigns can also be entirely automated with what are often called "follow-up" or "intelligent" autoresponders (or "autobots"). After someone has responded to your offer or asked for more information from your company, autobots can automatically deliver your series of pre-written follow-up email messages in preset intervals. This strategy can become quite effective, provided that users are properly notified -- they are subscribing in other words -- and given the ability to stop the flow at any time.

Another great strategy is to use smart autoresponders for delivering a series of informative articles over a period of time, which can be offered freely or even marketed as entirely separate, stand-alone products -- such as a course or a reminder service. Nevertheless, there are many providers of these types of automated, sequential email systems. Some include:

   - http://www.freeautoresponders.net/,
   - http://www.aweber.com/,
   - http://www.getresponse.com/,
   - http://www.autobots.net/,
   - http://www.autoresponders.com/,
   - http://www.myreply.com/,
   - http://www.autocontacter.com/,
   - http://www.mailtrail.com/,
   - http://www.automailer.com/,
   - http://www.fastfacts.net/,
   - http://www.databack.com/,
   - http://www.silverquick.net/,
   - http://www.sendfree.com/,
   - http://www.smartbotpro.net/,
   - http://www.sendthis.com/,
   - http://www.prosperity2u.com/,
   - http://www.reply.nu/,
   - http://www.followupexpress.com/,
   - http://www.ultimateresponse.com/,
   - http://www.ipsarion.com/,
   - http://www.mailboost.com/,
   - http://www.responders.com/
   - And http://www.myautobot.com/.

A Little Nudge Can Budge
Tom Kulzer of smart autoresponder provider AWeber Systems once wrote: "Consistent follow-up gets results." In fact, by creating a sense of urgency with your email marketing campaign (such as by making your offer time-sensitive) and reinforcing that urgency in subsequent mailings, you add weight to your message and nudge unresponsive prospects into action.

More important, by adding an extra incentive with each mailing your offer becomes more valuable and more difficult to ignore. And since information is the currency of the Internet, these additional bonuses could simply be comprised of special reports, articles, ebooks, freeware, reviews or even courses delivered incrementally via smart autoresponders. (However, don't forget to remove recipients from the system once they become clients.)

Remember that, if some prospects have not yet responded by the end of your campaign, you could still send an additional email message in order to gather some useful information. For example, your final follow-up message could simply ask why your prospects did not order from you. You could turn your final message into a survey to which people can respond and offer one of your free bonuses as a way to thank them for their valuable time.

As an aspiring marketeer, you know that feedback in your online business is precious. It could help you to modify your offer or refine your follow-up messages so that prospects will indeed order from you next time. Incomplete sales and poor results should never be regarded as failures but as wonderful opportunities to gather important marketing intelligence.

Ultimately, be relentless like a collection agency. The largest part of your market (the middle majority) need to see your offer more than once. Send at least three messages instead of one in order to get more mileage out of your email marketing campaign.

About the Author
Michel Fortin is a consultant dedicated to helping businesses turn into powerful magnets. Visit http://SuccessDoctor.com to receive a free copy of his book, "The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning." He is also the editor of the "Internet Marketing Chronicles" ezine delivered weekly to 90,000 subscribers -- subscribe free at http://SuccessDoctor.com/IMC/.

Tags: E-commerce and Internet



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