June 4, 2014

Who Killed the Auto-Responder?

The auto-responder has been used for years as a way of both engaging the potential customer and keeping them “in the loop.” The concept behind the auto responder, that the prospect will be sent a series of pre-written content pieces, each of which further expanding upon a central theme, was revolutionary in its time. But, recent changes in the way consumers interact with companies over the Internet may have spelled the end for the auto-responder series concept as we know it.

Just years ago a simple formula was employed by tens of thousands of businesses on the Internet, meant to introduce a prospect into the company’s “world”. First, the prospect encountered an advertisement from the company, which directed him or her to the company’s landing page. This page was written in order to motivate the potential customer into providing their name, e-mail, and perhaps the telephone number, in exchange for e-mailed content. Usually this content was delivered as either a free report or as an auto-responder series.

Chances are many of the readers of this article have several installments of one or more auto-responder series currently sitting in their inbox. This subtle fact not only points to the ubiquity of auto-responder series, but also to what may be their ultimate downfall. People simply do not desire to continuously receive more and more emails about a given topic, even when said topic is of interest to them. Most of us have a hard enough time keeping our inboxes clean of all the junk that continuously flows in, and auto-responder series simply make such a task all the more difficult.

If the death of the auto-responder series is truly upon us, what will take its place? There are several contenders. One likelihood is that apps will be used to do the job that the series were previously employed to do. For example, it is easy to imagine that, after installing a particular app, you would be delivered valuable content periodically directly to the app, much like an auto-responder but minus the e-mail component. By using an app, the customer could keep all of their information from a particular source grouped in one convenient place.

Another potential replacement for the auto-responder series would involve social media. Though Facebook and Twitter are not necessarily geared towards delivering bite sized chunks of content over time, enterprising application developers could potentially create a solution. Or, a company could simply broadcast, on its fan or groups page, the uploading of the latest installment of a given series, and provide a link to the relevant page of its website.

Overall, the move away from auto-responders is a move toward giving the potential customer more control over the information they consume, and how to interact with it. Companies which embrace this change can ensure that consumers actually read and interact with content at a deeper level by giving them an unobtrusive way of accessing it. Though there is no way to know what will eventually replace the auto-responder, it is all but certain that the concept, in its current manifestation, is dead.