From the November 2005 issue of Entrepreneur

When your website visitors subscribe to your newsletter, send you an e-mail or place an order, do they get only a boring confirmation e-mail in response? If so, you're missing easy promotional opportunities. Keep visitors' attention and get a competitive edge with creative autoresponders.

An autoresponder is an automatically generated e-mail triggered by your site visitors' action. You can set up multiple autoresponders, each with a valuable message. Make your auto-responder copy appropriate for the actions visitors take. Offer educational tips in response to information requests and buying incentives to sales transactions. See how many of these examples fit your business:

  • In your e-zine confirmation e-mail, include part or all of a previous e-zine's content.
  • Send people who download a free report and give you their e-mail address an important fact along with a link to your web page that sells a relevant product or service.
  • Send a "first-timer" discount offer to people who request a catalog.
  • Highlight your top shopping deals in order-confirmation e-mails.
  • Offer a few how-to tips in response to customer-service requests.

And remember the pizazz! While it's important to immediately confirm and thank people for taking action on your site, punch up your autoresponder copy with personality. Just double-check your language with a focus group to ensure what you say is hip with your target audience. It also helps to write autoresponder copy as a letter from a company representative to create a sense of one-on-one communication.

One autoresponder can be used to send multiple, timed e-mail messages. Then a special offer mentioned in the last e-mail of a series will be received by a more receptive audience. You might be able to turn this system into a fee-based subscription, too.

Whether your autoresponders send one e-mail or several, use this tool to better your brand with site visitors who are ready to take action.

Speaker and freelance writer Catherine Sedaowns an internet marketing agency and is author of Search Engine Advertising.