Answer This Note

People ask me all the time, what’s the one thing I can do now to grow my Internet business?

My answer is simple and direct. Answer your e-mail! Answer it now and answer it well. Everyone who e-mails you is looking for an excuse to buy from you, or looking for a reason to trust you. If you give them answers, they’ll give you money.

Now, I understand this is easier said than done. As a business grows, so does its e-mail traffic. Sorting through all this traffic is a pain. But solutions have been around for a long time.

Brightware Inc., Novato, California, has been offering a server that sorts and answers most e-mail for two years. It was originally called a personalization product. Now it’s being touted as an “e-service” offering.

What you do with this software is fairly simple. You load it with answers to frequently asked questions, with rules identifying whether an e-mail is most likely coming from a prospect, a disgruntled customer, or a spammer, and routing instructions for all these messages. The server does the rest. If the message is spam it’s tossed, untouched by human hands. If it’s a question with a simple answer, it’s answered automatically. If it’s a hot prospect it goes to sales, and if it’s a support question it goes to customer service. Your job is then to make sure someone’s around in all these departments 24/7, and advertise the fact.

Sure, if your e-mail traffic is light you should answer each message directly. As your traffic grows, make sure there’s someone in each department to respond to incoming messages. You also want to manage this process with online and offline meetings. You don’t really need a mail-handling server until you are getting hundreds or thousands of messages each day.

But take a lesson from the old Nike ads when it comes to e-mail. Just answer it. Answer it now, answer it intelligently — I guarantee that investment will pay immediate dividends.

What do you think? Let’s talk about it.

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