Automatic for the Profits

These two automation secrets can help you achieve more growth and higher profits for your e-biz.

By Corey Rudl

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Have you ever switched off your computer at the end of the daybut found the "to do" list you started with that morningwas still as long as your arm? You answered tons of customere-mails, fulfilled some orders and updated your newslettersubscriber list.

But what did you really achieve during the day? Did you generatemore sales? Did you develop improvements to your products orservices? Did you come up with some ideas for your next reallyprofitable campaign?

The fact is, many small-business owners get so caught up withrunning their businesses that they have no time to grow it.Answering e-mails, fulfilling orders, and updating your subscriberlist are all essential tasks--but they will not increase yourprofits.

The only way to grow a business is to market it. And the secretto being able to grow your business and still run it at the sametime is automation. Automating key tasks so they happen without youlifting a finger doesn't just free you from doing some of thedaily chores involved in running your business; it actually growsyour business, too. In fact, I'd go so far as to say thatautomation is essential to your website's growth.

Automation is the perfect solution to providing great customerservice and freeing up your time to develop your business. Andautoresponders, in particular, are amazing tools for handling allthe mundane e-mail chores that can take up so much of your time.They allow you to:

  • Sell your products or services day and night, meaning moresales and more profits.
  • Build your credibility by impressing your customers with thespeed of your response to their requests for information.
  • Increase your chances of making more sales by answeringcustomers' questions immediately.
  • Make sure more customers buy from you again by providing greatcustomer service through the instant confirmation of orders.
  • Instantly confirming orders or fulfilling orders for electronicproducts like software and e-books leads to happier customers whoare more likely to buy from you again.
  • Increase your sales by automatically upselling backend productsto your customers.

And the faster you automate your business, the better--so youcan concentrate on growing your company. Once you're automated,you can handle thousands more customers without being bogged downby thousands more administrative tasks.

Getting Started

The best way to automate all your daily chores is to use"autoresponders." Autoresponders are pre-written e-mailsthat are automatically sent on your behalf--for example, inresponse to a customer e-mail sent to a particular e-mail addressyou set up, or as confirmation when an order goes through.

Autoresponders take care of the tasks that would take you hoursto do yourself and leave you free to concentrate on building yourbusiness. All you have to do is write the e-mail messages inadvance and set them up to be sent out when you want.

Unfortunately, some autoresponder services charge for everymessage you send, which can get really expensive. The good news isthat there's a cheaper, more efficient alternative, whichI'll talk about in more detail later.

First, I'd like to run through the two areas of yourbusiness that are essential for you to automate and tell you howautoresponders can help you do it.

1. Automate your ordering and fulfillment process. Yoursales and ordering process is crucial to the success of yourbusiness, and it's critical that you automate it from thebeginning.

It's likely that when you start your business, you find thatyou want to handle the orders yourself. After all, it'ssatisfying to see those first few sales come in and to deal withyour first customers personally--it means all your hard work ispaying off!

After that initial honeymoon period is over, however, andyou're handling hundreds and thousands of orders, you won'tfind the hands-on approach so fun. Just think how long it takes youto handle one order manually, and multiply that by 100 or1,000.

Put simply, your business won't grow unless you automateyour entire ordering process. And this is where autoresponders comein--they can manage all your most time-consuming tasks,including:

  • Confirming orders. Many people are nervous about buyingonline, and they like to be reassured that their order has gonethrough without any problems. You can set up an autoresponder tosend an e-mail that confirms you have their order and thatreassures them everything is on track. Receiving an instantconfirmation leaves your customers with the impression thatyou're running a highly professional business, and it stopsthem from calling or e-mailing you to check up on their order.
  • Notifying customers that their order has shipped. Peoplealso like to know their purchase is on its way. So you can set upan autoresponder to tell them, which saves you the trouble andprevents more phone calls and e-mails from customers asking iftheir item has been shipped.
  • Fulfilling orders. If you sell downloadable software,access to a password-protected area of your site, or an informationproduct like an e-book, you can also use autoresponders to fulfillyour orders and automatically e-mail your customer a link to wherethey can download their purchase. Or if you sell subscriptions toexclusive content available on your site, you can e-mail yourcustomers a password to let them into a members-only area wherethey can access the content. This "instant gratification"factor is a great incentive for all those impulse buyers andimpatient online shoppers to purchase your product.
  • Sending follow-up e-mails. One of the most effectiveafter-sales techniques is a simple thank-you note. Of course, itwould take you far too long to send an e-mail to every customer afew days after they placed an order, thanking them for buying fromyou and inviting them to come back again some time. So you can setup autoresponders to do this for you.

In the same autoresponder, you can tell your customers aboutother related products they might want. For example, if you sold acustomer a camera, you might ask if they'd be interested in anextra lens. This type of product--sold on the back of a previoussale--is known as a "backend" product, and automatingthis process can potentially generate thousands of dollars in extrarevenue for you, with no extra work on your part.

Now, you could do these things yourself. You could write orderconfirmations, send thank-you messages, fulfill orders and so on.But online customers are a very demanding bunch--they want to beable to browse for, order and receive the items they buy online asquickly and easily as possible. So it's in your best interestto make it easy for your customers to order and receive yourproducts, as well as to make the whole process hands-free so youcan concentrate on growing your business.

2. Automate your customer service. As I've justmentioned, online customers expect quick service. The fact is, ifyou wait a day or two to respond to a question about your productsor services, you could lose that customer to your competition. Sogood customer service is a vital component of a successful onlinebusiness.

And once again, autoresponders are crucial to the process. Theyallow you to:

  • Answer your customers' questions automatically. Youcan set up an automated FAQ using autoresponders. Just create ane-mail address like and invite visitors to e-mailyou with any questions they have. They then receive an automaticresponse containing answers to all the most common questionsyou're likely to receive from your visitors about your productsor services, your ordering process and so on. This way, you saveyourself the hours you'd spend answering the same questionsagain and again. And your visitors will be impressed by yourinstant response to them, increasing the chances of them buyingfrom your site.
  • Send more information on your products instantly.Another way to provide an extra service to your site visitors is tosend them free information. You could write a useful article andpromote it on your site. For example, 10 Hot Tips for aStress-Free Holiday would be great for a site selling travelaccessories.

Just invite customers to send an e-mail for their copy, and an autorespondere-mail sends them the free information. The result is thatyou've established contact with a potential customer, sent theminformation about your product, and impressed them with yourprofessionalism, all of which you've done instantly andautomatically.

The secret to great online customer service lies in providing astress-free buying experience and giving potential customers allthe information they need to make a quick buying decision. So Ihave to emphasize again the importance of automation. If you canmake your customers' buying experience as quick and easy aspossible, and make your fulfillment and follow-up efficient andinstantaneous, you can significantly boost your sales.

But how do you go about automating your business without havinga lot of downtime or spending a lot of your hard-earnedprofits?

Automating Your Business

There are a number of ways to approach setting up your ownautoresponders, but you essentially have four choices:

1. Your web host. Some Web hosts will offer a fewautoresponders as part of your hosting package. This can be a goodoption if you require only one or two responders.

2. Autoresponders with rotating ads. You can get freeautoresponders if you're willing to let other companiesadvertise in your message, so each of your responders includesthird-party advertising.

3. Paid autoresponder services. You could also use a paidautoresponder service. This can give you flexibility in decidingexactly what autoresponder plan is right for you without beingforced to include advertisements in your message. You'll alsohave greater flexibility to customize your autoresponders than ifyou were to use a free autoresponder service.

4. E-mail management solutions. A good e-mail managementsolution will include sophisticated autoresponder technology. Ifyou're going to be doing any e-mail marketing, you can simplyuse the same tool to set up your responders.

Remember, the huge benefit of automation is that it allows youto spend more time coming up with new ways to grow your businessand increase your profits. It's not impossible to make moneyand grow your business without automation, but it's verydifficult if you spend hours every day answering e-mails,fulfilling orders and taking care of all the other daily choresyourself. You'll become a secretary in your own business--whichI'm guessing is not what you set out to do.

By automating your business from the beginning, you have thetime you need to grow your business, test new strategies andtechniques, and spend more time with your family, all while yourbusiness runs itself.

Corey Rudl, president and founder of the InternetMarketing Center is the author of the best-selling course Insider Secrets to Marketing Your Business on theInternet. An internationally sought-after Internet businessconsultant and speaker, Corey focuses his energy on the researchand development of practical, cost-effective Internet marketingstrategies and software for the small and homebased businessowner.

Corey Rudl

Corey Rudl, president and founder of the Internet Marketing Center is the author of the best-selling course Insider Secrets to Marketing Your Business on the Internet. An internationally sought-after Internet business consultant and speaker, Corey focuses his energy on the research and development of practical, cost-effective Internet marketing strategies and software for the small and homebased business owner.

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