Frequent flier e-miles: Incentivize your auto-replies
By Julie Bernhard

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It's summertime, and the livin' is easy. 'Tis the season for exotic trips, fun in the sun and raining out-of-office replies. Nothing says I am on vacation like an automatic response. Of course, it serves its purpose — but have you ever thought it could even do your job while you are gone?

INDUSTRY PULSE

How do you set up your out-of-office email?
  • 1. Standard automatic response
  • 2. Promote product or business
  • 3. Mention vacation or make a joke
  • 4. Guide recipient to help

While the standard auto-response — "I am currently out of the office until Monday, July 22nd and will respond to your message upon my return." — delivers the message, it also turns on the snooze button. It looks like all the rest — with a one-way ticket to the recipient's junk box. Just because you're on vacation doesn't mean your business should join you.

Small business marketing budgets are usually nonexistent, so why not make the most of your messaging? There are several ways you can grab the recipient's attention while sipping your cocktail on the beach.
  1. Use the auto-reply as a sneak peek. About to launch that new product or service? Tease that audience a little with a link to a YouTube video or article on your webpage. Those emailing you will most likely be those you communicate with frequently or are interested in your business. Why not give them something to look forward to?

  2. Let them know where you are headed. While the first reaction might be, "Why would I want them to find me?", don't discount it just yet. Usually your email communication consists of business-talk, so here is your chance to let them know you are not really a robot. Everybody loves a good vacation story to live vicariously through (especially when they aren't on one). It is surprising how many business relationships have emerged by simply sparking a friendly conversation about leisure activities. For example, "[Jane Doe] has escaped to the beach. She's not coming back until [date]. If you can't take some time off to relax as well, then take 30 seconds to reconsider." [And attach a picture of an ocean sunset].

  3. Crack a joke. Heck, it doesn't even have to be a funny one. Humanize yourself — let them know you aren't all business, and more importantly you will stand out above the rest. As they say, first impressions are lasting ones.

  4. Sell yourself. Well, not literally. But a little self-promotion never hurt anybody. Provide the mission statement of your business and link to your website. It might just answer the question that prospect might have. No need to worry about missing that next business opportunity, provide the info upfront.

  5. Introduce your wingman or wingwoman (in the office of course). Maybe your customers like human interaction, so let them know who can help them right away in your absence. Give a brief synopsis of their position to put their mind at ease with contact information included. Even in an "information age," that personal touch can go a long way.
Whatever route you decide to travel, OOO's can work for you, and more importantly your business. With just a little a thought and a little creativity, you will be more than free to move about the country sans hotel Wi-Fi.

Julie Bernhard is the editorial development manager at MultiBriefs.