Autoresponders are a boon to those of us who want to communicate via email with large numbers of people.

Handled carefully, they automate very effectively the process of keeping in touch with a large network, promoting products, distributing information – and all of this with “personalization” features such as being able to insert the person’s first name in the greeting.

So instead of Dear All, or Hi All, I get Dear Des, or Hi Des.

We all know the sender is not sitting there typing in our individual names, but it’s not unpleasant.

Still, autoresponders are a two-edged sword. You need to be sure everything is set up properly before you hit the Send button.

For example, the other day I received an email, full of great offers, but was disinclined to read it through, no doubt largely because of my reaction on reading the salutation:

Hi <$firstname$>

I think it’s those dollar signs that did it (yes, I know it’s a coding convention, but nevertheless…)

Actually the email was from a colleague for whom I have a very high regard and I’ve sent an email back, just in case no one else had pointed out the glitch.

But then a couple of days later I received an email from someone I had met a few weeks ago at a conference. We’d had a chat in the foyer during one of the session breaks, about coaching as I recall, agreed to keep in touch and exchanged cards. Then when I returned home I did the right thing and emailed all the people I’d met and where there’d been an agreement to keep in touch, including said coffee break person. A personal note, which among other things asked her opinion of the conference, offered a couple of thoughts of mine. Not via autoresponder.

So when I received the email from this person yesterday, I thought at first, how nice, a reply!

But no, it was a promo for an event and various products, sent out apparently on a bcc list – you know those ones where the sender has done a group in Outlook or some such and the listed addressee is one of their own email addresses? And it began, Hi There (yes, “There” with initial cap). And no unsubscribe option. At least with an email from an autoresponder I might have been addressed as “Des” ( OK, or <$firstname$>), but “There”??? and I would probably have had a link to unsubscribe.

That’ll teach me to exchange business cards with strangers.

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