An AutoResponder is an automatically generated email message that is sent out through an email marketing tool. Today, autoresponder are a standard for online businesses. They are email marketing and automation to equal parts, hence the name ‘auto–responder‘.
They are an excellent tool to gain attention for your business. You can set up a unlimited number of these auto-generated email messages ahead of time. But what makes them so important today, is, that they allow to transfer knowledge to new email subscribers and help to build a relationship with them.
A well-written autoresponder email sequence trains your subscribers to habitually open your emails. This not only improves your click-through rates but will bring positive results for the offerings you make in future emails. An autoresponder is an important part of your marketing strategy.
Yet, there’s an also a tricky part about autoresponders:
You need to think through what you actually would like to achieve with them.
To train your subscribers that your emails are well worthy to open, your emails need to have valuable content. We all get already too many emails – many of them never get opened. Making sure your email sequences bring something extraordinary to your subscriber’s inbox, is a great starting point for a long-lasting and successful relationship.
Having said that, let’s have a look at how you can setup an email series that introduces your business to new visitors on your website and teaches them something they didn’t know before.
Guidelines For Setting Up an Autoresponder
How can you use email to enhance the experience in a way that is aligned with your business goals?
A Newsletter Welcome Series might be the answer. A welcome series consists of a certain amount of single emails that make up a series of 3, 5, or even 7 mails. Whatever you find suits best.
To start off, start small. If this is your first autoresponder sequence, it’s probably best to opt for a series of 3-5 emails.
Determine your purpose. This is the email where you set the tone, both for what is to come and who it’s coming from.
Always keep in mind that people feel it when you push too hard. And people don’t like being sold out at the first opportunity.
Say something with substance.
You don’t have to perform an emotional striptease to get attention. You can state who you are and what your business is about in a light way, and still offer a friendly introduction.
If there is an email where you can include a photo from you, this is the one. You can also add a link to your about page.
In-Between-Emails = Content of your Series
In my example image above, Email 2 and 3 contain a curated list of popular articles.
Always keep in mind how you can serve your audience best.
Is it your aim to be helpful to your readers? – One way to be helpful could be to handpick popular articles you have written. This way they can save tons of time and get right to the good stuff.
How do you know what to include? A good starting point might be to think about the “jobs” that your best content performs. Maybe you have a few pieces that make your products look like the painkiller they are? – Make recommendations based on what you want to project.
Any email in a curated content chain is directly impacted by the previous one. This is where you have to make a decision. How many content-focused emails should you send? And how many links in each mail?
Be considerate to not overwhelm your readers. After all, it’s a welcome series.
Also, be sure to complement the content of previous emails, and do not repeat them.
In a series of five emails, the fourth email could be a late-runner. If you plan to offer a special of one of your products in the final email, the fourth email is the perfect place to remind readers beforehand of what your product does and why the results are worthwhile.
The fourth email could contain a product review, customer testimonials or a customer story. You could also show your expertise and genius with a small portfolio of your work.
Success stories are also great for addressing pain points.
Remember, don’t make it too heavy. This is not a pitch email. But it is okay to include a note about a surprise that is coming your reader’s way in the next email.
Final Email Sequence (from the Welcome Series)
The final email in your welcome series could well contain a pitch.
If you feel some initial hesitation about it, remind yourself that you are running a business. You don’t need to be apologetic about it.
After all, you have provided a lot of useful content and thus proven that you are the master of your subject.
Whether people consider the special offer to your product(s) as worthwhile is not in your hands, anymore. There are too many factors that make them say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, or maybe ‘not now’.
The soft benefit is that even if readers who don’t accept your special offer immediately, have received your message that clearly lays out your expertise and explains what you can give. They’ll remember you when they need it.
Whatever your offer is in this final email sequence, state it as plainly as you can.
Then make it easy to get it.
E-Mail Marketing Terminology Explained
This is an email sent out by your email marketing system, which goes out automatically when triggered by a certain event like a newsletter signup. For example, if someone signs up for your newsletter, they’re sent an autoresponder email that thanks them for signing up and asks to confirm their email address.
A collection of subscribers who have opted-in to receive correspondence from you.
The act of someone granting permission to be added to a list.
An HTML-file that serves as the starting point for a new campaign. This is the container for the campaign’s content where the design layout and all content reside.
Alternative Ideas for Autoresponder Email Sequences
I have used the above example of a welcome series, to explain how autoresponder can be aligned with your business goals. But that is just one of many options that you have. Here are a few more:
- You can re-purpose popular blog posts and create a series of how-to guides. That’s an effective way of providing value.
- You can set up an e-course with a new lesson every day. This is an excellent approach if you have lessons that build on previous lessons. This way you can create anticipation for what’s to follow in future lessons.
- You can create a mix of educational and promotional content. That can be very effective when you run marketing campaigns and have special offers to announce.
Tools & Tips
Now, let’s have a look at what is needed to set up an autoresponder – apart from valuable content.
The automation of emails is a common feature amongst email marketing tools, nowadays. As much as I am aware, however, the use of this feature isn’t free with any of the popular email marketing providers.
MailChimp is one of the most popular email marketing tools today, and it’s probably your best option when you are in the beginning phase of your business and cannot afford to pay big monthly fees.
The reason why MailChimp is a favorite for many is because it offers its basic services for free until your subscriber’s list hits the magical number of 2’000. From this point on, it is assumed your business is so successful that you can afford to use its paid services.
Even though the automation feature isn’t included within Mailchimp’s free account, there is an alternative available. The Pay-As-You-Go plan is your best option when you are on a low budget. It allows you to buy email credits and use them on demand.
For example, you can purchase 300 email credits for $9 or 1’000 email credits for $30, and use them up on your autoresponders. Depending on how many subscribers you get, you will have to buy more credits over time. But at least you don’t have to worry about squeezing value out of a monthly pricing plan that doesn’t fit your needs.
In the MailChimp’ universe, another terminology is being used.
Autoresponders are called ‘Automations’ there – just in case you need to search their support site to familiarize yourself with things work there. 🙂
If you decide to use MailChimp for your first autoresponder email series, you will want to have an eye on its design. In MailChimp, there are templates available you can choose from. But besides this, you will need a banner image.
Creating banner images directly relate into branding your business, so don’t skip this step!
MailChimp requests a banner image in the format 900x160px.
If you aren’t that familiar with Photoshop or other professional graphic tools, you can jump over to Canva and create a banner image for free.
When selecting the image format, just choose the custom dimension option and enter 900 x 160 px. Canva is easy to use and offers many graphic elements for free.
Should your knowledge of autoresponder and automation tools be a little more advanced, you may want to read my article of how to set up an autoresponder with Gmail. It came out of a request to streamline email inbox activities by reducing the usage of external tools.