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Death of autoresponder (DOA)

This is anti-autoresponder, death of the automatic email reply.

Digital marketers have relied on the autoresponder for years. It has commonly been used as an engagement tool to send automatic messages to users when they sign up for a free trial, attend a webinar or request a monthly newsletter.

Autoresponse: A brief history

To understand where it has all gone wrong, we should first understand why it was created in the first place. Initially, the autoresponder was created in mail transfer agents to create ‘bounce back’ emails so users knew when an email wasn't getting to its intended recipient.

Digital marketers are great at recognizing technology that can be re-purposed to make their lives easier. This was the case with the autoresponder. Instead of being used as an operational email, it is being used as an engagement tool. This is where the issue arise.

To be clear, autoresponders still have their place. For example, password resets and operational emails make great use of this technology. The reason it works here is because you already have an established relationship with the user when they are resetting their password.

Where autoresponders go wrong

It’s when you utilize the automatic reply upon capturing the email that you run into trouble. So you may be asking yourself, “I want to thank my user for signing up, what’s the big deal in sending an autoresponder?”

Let’s think of this situation. A user enters their email address on your free trial form:

autoresponder trigged off of form

You can see that I've incorrectly entered my email address above. Now, when I hit the ‘submit’ button that autoresponder goes into the internet purgatory, creating four possible problems:

  1. Your email bounces.

You know this feeling if you have ever received one of these emails:

This is when you have a major issue on your hands. For every one of these emails you send out that bounces back, you run the risk of destroying your sender reputation, and after a long enough period of time you could be marked as a spammer, and lose the ability to send emails all together.

  1. The user doesn't get your message.

If you've created an autoresponder in the first place, I’m assuming you had something important to say. If you don’t put any systems in place to ensure the users are receiving your emails, you are likely creating a fragmented experience for the user.

  1. Your marketing automation is rendered useless.

Whether you use HubSpot, Eloqua or Marketo, an autoresponder is likely a first email in your nurturing campaign, or workflow. Unfortunately, if you don’t capture the correct email address, not only is your autoresponder rendered useless, but also the entire nurturing track you have setup will never be seen.

How you can avert the autoresponder conundrum

The best way to safeguard against the issues that arise with autoresponders?

  • Remove them from your information capture forms i.e. when you haven’t established a relationship with the user. You take on an unnecessary risk of sending automatic emails using contact data that you haven't validated through prospect interactions.
  • Validate the emails entering your database. Different types of solutions, with varying levels of complexity, exist. You could use a simple syntax validation using a jQuery library or implement a full-scale, real-time email validation solution that prevents incomplete addresses from being entered.

This is death of autoresponder – moment of silence.

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