The exponential growth of the internet has created new-found opportunities for millions of businesses that previously would have never been able to compete in the global marketplace. Yet while the low-entry and marketing costs have leveled the playing field for many entrepreneurs, it has also created a staggering amount of competition.

Consider this: The average person--at least those who live in metropolitan areas--is exposed to more than 3,500 marketing messages daily. That's 24,500 messages a week and 1.2 million a year.

To make online sales even more challenging, marketing studies have shown that it takes nine or more impressions for your business to be remembered by a potential customer. This means consistent follow-up is essential. But in today's world, this type of relentless follow up is not practical for the average business owner. Fortunately, there's a solution that many online businesses are using every day--online automation.

Imagine being able to capture new leads on your website, build customer confidence through automated sequential responses, deliver products digitally while you sleep, and track all your prospects and clients without lifting a finger. For thousands of savvy online businesses, this is a daily reality.

In today's competitive environment, automation is not a luxury; it's a requirement for keeping a competitive edge. In fact, the benefits of automation are so numerous, you can't afford to ignore them.

Tips for Effective Automation
Use the following four tips to guide your decisions on using automation effectively.

1. Build your mailing list 24/7 with a prominent opt-in box and a compelling offer. Your list is your goldmine. It's critical to all your marketing and is your most valuable asset. To capture names and e-mails, it's essential that you make an irresistible offer. "Sign up for my mailing list" is no longer enough. Try something like this: "Free Special Report: How to Dramatically Boost Your Website Traffic in 30 Days or Less."

With auto responders (preprogrammed e-mail responses), you can offer digitally downloaded special reports, audios, product information, teleconference numbers, or free trials to entice visitors to share their names and e-mail addresses. When your prospect's data is entered, it's automatically placed in your database and can be programmed to trigger a well-crafted response, such as "Thank you for subscribing. Here is a special report: The 5 Most Costly Mistakes Markets Make With Google AdWords. We hope you enjoy it!" Be sure to display your privacy policy below your opt-in box as well as assurance that they can unsubscribe at any time. And of course, never spam anyone.

2. Deliver valuable content over time with sequential auto responder messages. A very effective way to build trust with your prospects is to offer a "mini-course" that delivers content-rich and relevant information to your opt-in subscribers. For example, if you're running a site that sells golf equipment, you may over time send the following courses:

  • 7 Tips Guaranteed to Take 10 Strokes Off Your Golf Score
  • The 5 Secrets to Finding Your Perfect Golf Partner
  • Your Daily Energy Booster: Daily One Minute Audios That Will Help You Stay Energized All Day Long

These automatically distributed e-mail messages not only provide pre-programmed content but also motivate prospects to revisit your site for the latest offers. And, of course, once they click through to your website, you can offer more content delivered via audio, video and other multimedia options, as well as offers for your products and services.

Since studies show that 48 percent of salespeople give up after the first contact and 25 percent after the second, this is a perfect way to make sure your follow-up stays consistent. Best of all, after you program the series, it will perform flawlessly for you for years to come.

1. Take payments online. It has never been easier or more affordable to set up an online payment system through PayPal.com or your own merchant account. Once you set up your account, it's simple to sell products or services online by purchasing an online shopping cart. A shopping cart allows you to capture e-mail addresses, automate responses, track leads and sell your product to customers around the world 24/7. These systems are surprisingly easy to setup, operate and maintain.

2. Track and measure your marketing efforts. Over the years, I've trained and coached hundreds of business owners in marketing through my Guerrilla Marketing Coaching Program. Through a series of assessments, it's become very clear that most businesses fall short in the area of marketing measurement.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • How many unique visitors come to your website?
  • How many visitors opt into your mailing list or order your products?
  • When you send e-mails, how many are opened and how many people actually click through to your website?

The answers are important because they'll tell you what you need to improve, such as the pulling power of your headlines or copy or your website's navigation. You won't know until you start measuring. Many of today's automated shopping cart systems include ad trackers, which automatically calculate your click-throughs and conversion statistics. Some good integrated shopping cart systems can be found on websites like EasyWebAutomation.com, AWeber.com, and Infusion.com.

Benefits to You and Your Business
When you automate daily tasks, you have more time to focus on growing your company. Best of all, your money-making activities don't grind to a halt and you don't have to hire or train any staff.

Also when your business becomes automated, your presence becomes optional, leaving you time to actually take a vacation while making money at the same time. With most systems, you can quickly and easily check your sales and orders from any web browser.

The internet is a competitive, ever-changing marketplace. The right strategy combined with powerful and practical automated systems gives you an edge over your competitors. You'll attract more customers, and spend less time, money and energy winning them over. Automation services and software leverage the best technology available to make you money day and night, whether you're there or not.

Mitch Meyerson is the author of Mastering Online Marketing, available from Entrepreneur Press, with Mary Eule Scarborough and seven other books. He is the founder of The Guerrilla Marketing Coaching Program and three other online education programs. For more information, visit MasteringOnlineMarketing.com.