If you want to engage with the people who opt in to your email list, you don’t want an autoresponder. You want lead nurturing. The term, autoresponder, has been so over-used, many people think that lead nurturing and autoresponders are the same. They’re not. The difference between them could be the difference between hitting your revenue goals for the year and… not.

Yes, both are a series of emails sent on a schedule, usually triggered by some action and sent automatically – the “automation” part of marketing automation. But that’s the end of their similarity.

The fundamental difference is this: an autoresponder sends emails no matter what. Lead nurturing gives you the ability to send – and to stop sending – emails in response to the actions of the email recipients.

Autoresponder emails are all about the SENDER

Have you ever met someone who just starts talking AT you – and doesn’t seem to hear a word you’re saying? Assuming you can ever escape, how do you feel when you finally walk away? Impressed? Ready to be that person’s best friend? Or are you thinking something along the lines of “Wow, the ego on that guy!” or “Note to self – never get cornered by that gal.” Right?

Take it a step further. Imagine that person asks you something… like “Do you like olives?” but doesn’t even pretend to listen to your answer. You could be the foremost olive expert on the planet, or you might detest olives, but your conversational companion just keeps going on and on about olives without paying any attention to your reaction.Autoresponder

That’s what autoresponders do. Autoresponders are simply a way to string a bunch of emails together, schedule their send intervals, and send them no matter what.

In fact, there’s at least one popular email marketing system with online user guides that guide you in how to create your autoresponder emails – each with different content and a different call to action. That’s because the autoresponder system has no way of knowing if you respond to the call to action. Since it doesn’t know what, if anything, you did in response to email #1 in the autoresponder sequence, email #2 should not ask you to do the same thing – so it’s a different call to action in every email.

For example, if the first email says “Get our newest guide to the best olives,” and you love olives and download it right then and there, an autoresponder can’t “respond” to that. So the second email in the sequence is all about the wonders of olives – but you don’t need to be told that, because you already have the olive guide. The sad thing is that the autoresponder doesn’t know that and can’t adapt to your action.

In other words, the recipients of an autoresponder sequence get what the sender wants to send, without regard for what the recipient might actually want to know.

Doesn’t sound very engaging, does it?

Lead nurturing is all about the RECIPIENT

Now imagine that you’ve met someone else who asks you “How do you like olives?” and you respond “I don’t like olives at all.” If the person you’re with then says “Okay, what pizza toppings do you like?” and then switches the conversation to talk about something you DO like, how do you feel? Acknowledged? Heard? Respected? Do you start to feel a sense of trust with this person?

That’s what lead nurturing is all about. It’s like having a conversation with your best friend, a trusted colleague, or a relative stranger who is genuinely interested in what you have to say. When you say you love olives, lead nurturing says “I love them, too, and here’s a great olive resource for you.” When you download the great olive resource, lead nurturing says “You know what else I do with olives? Muffuletta sandwiches! Here’s my recipe.” And when you politely decline the sandwich recipe, lead nurturing suggests that a cheese and olive board might be more up your alley.

BUT – and this is a biggie – if you opt-in for info about olives, then take the muffuletta sandwich recipe, lead nurturing can automatically switch from sending info about olives to sending info about cooking with olives. See how that works? Or if you start looking at olives and switch to looking at sun-dried tomatoes, lead nurturing will shut down the olive sequence and offer you a sun-dried tomato sequence instead.

Because lead nurturing LISTENS and ADAPTS.

Now replace my example pizza toppings with whatever you sell and all its many flavors. Whether you sell complex solutions to big businesses or online courses to home-based entrepreneurs or anything in between, you want to email people about what they’re actually interested in, not what you want to say.

Increase your revenue

The key to email marketing is getting your emails opened, READ, and acted upon. The money – your potential for increased sales – is in the click (not the open rate, as we discuss in other posts). You want your email recipient to click, because clicks are not only trackable, they are actionable. A click in an email – and the ability to track page views caused by that click – set you up to really LISTEN to the people on your list and respond accordingly.

When the people on your list feel listened-to and valued, when you’re sending them information that they’re truly interested in, when it’s all about THEM, not you… what happens?

They buy.

And that deserves a pizza.