Autoresponders 101: How to “set and forget” your marketing

By Jack | email strategy

Feb 06
Autoresponder guide

crock-pot

I love my Crock-Pot.

Seriously. It’s my second favorite kitchen appliance. (After my Aeropress coffeemaker.)
Here’s why…

In the morning, I just throw in:

  • A bunch of veggies
  • A big ole chunk o’ meat
  • Some salt & pepper
  • And tons of garlic

Then I close the lid, turn it on and… “Set it and forget it!”

And here’s the best part: When I come home, I’ve got dinner ready (and my whole apartment smells amazing.)

Okay…

…I know what you’re thinking:

“I should probably get one of those Crock-Pot things… And what does this have to do autoresponders?”

Well, Crock-Pots are kinda like autoresponders.

Because you can “set and forget” your autoresponder… And it turns your leads into paying customers. (Even when you’re not working.)

Seriously. Just throw in a few carefully written emails, set the schedule and BOOM! Your email marketing is on autopilot.

After reading this post, you will:

  • Get an overview of what an autoresponder is
  • Understand why you need one for your business
  • Learn how an autoresponder can make you money
  • Get some tips and tricks for setting up your first autoresponder
  • Hear about my 2 favorite ESP’s for autoresponders
  • Get some advanced tips for A/B testing and optimizing your autoresponder

What is an email autoresponder?

Aweber Follow Up Series

Aweber’s definition of an autoresponder

You can call it an “email autoresponder” or “drip email campaign” or “follow up series” but at the end of the day it’s just an automated series of emails sent to your subscribers.

Let’s look at an example:

As soon as you sign up for my free newsletter, my autoresponder will send you a welcome email immediately.

Then 3 days later, you’ll get another one…

And another one… and another one… and another one…

Meanwhile, I could be surfing in Puerto Rico or taking a snooze in a hammock. But you’ll still get those emails because of my trusty autoresponder.

autoresponder marketing

I could be sleeping in this hammock while my autoresponder makes sure you get my best emails.

Make sense?

Here’s a question I get asked:

“So what’s the difference between an autoresponder and my current email campaign?”

Basically, you can only send two types of messages:

  • Broadcast messages
  • Automated messages

Broadcasts are best for sending your list recent updates. And an autoresponder is a pre-scheduled email series.

Do you need an autoresponder?

Answer these 3 questions:

  1. Do you have an email list of leads or customers?
  2. Do you plan on building an email list?
  3. Do you have a website?

If you said yes to any of those questions, you need an autoresponder.

Why?

First off, it takes too much time to send each reader the right messages (in the right order) by hand.

I mean sure…

If you only had one subscriber…

You could send her updates when you wanted. But when you have 10, 100 or 1000+ readers, let’s just say you’ll have a hard time keeping up.

Think about it this way. An email autoresponder is the closest you can get to building a high-performance sales team that doesn’t take weekends, holidays or sick days.

How does a drip email campaign make sales?

Think about your autoresponder as your chance to tell every new lead a story about your company.

How would you want that story to go?

(This is your chance to tell your new leads why they should be your customer.)

[themedy_alertbox colour=”red” custom_colour=””]But here’s the catch: Every email you send must add value, entertain AND sell to your readers. [/themedy_alertbox]

The trick to creating an email autoresponder that sells is connecting your selling points to your readers pain points.

How exactly do you create a drip email campaign that sells?

There’s 4 steps to writing an effective email autoresponder:

1. Determine the #1 goal for your autoresponder.

To sell stuff right? Well, not so fast…

If you’ve got a product to sell that costs less than $200 – then yes – it’s fine to set a sales goal. But if you’re selling consulting or other high dollar items or services, your email campaign goal should be to get them on the phone with you or a salesman.

[themedy_alertbox colour=”red” custom_colour=””]Important: Write down your goal and make sure it’s specific so that you can measure it.[/themedy_alertbox]

2. Identify what your leads need to “Know” and “Feel” before they’re ready to buy.

When you start working on creating content for the drip campaign, ask yourself this:

“What do my prospects need to know in order to take the step I want?”

Talk to a few current customers first, send out some surveys or do anything you can do to “step inside your reader’s heads” a bit more. Basically, you want to answer these 4 questions:

  1. What are my leads struggling with right now?
  2. What objections to buying do my leads have?
  3. Before buying from me, what do my leads need to know about my offer?
  4. What goals do my leads have that I can help them with?

Ian Brodie calls these the “know and feel” factors. He does a great job explaining this in his book, Email Persuasion.

3. Map out your campaign 

You’ve got your autoresponder goal. Good.

You’ve got a list of your leads and you know what they need to “know and feel” before they’re ready to become a customer. Good.

Now it’s time to “map out” your campaign.

It’s basically a storyboard or outline for your entire email campaign. Just make sure you address each “know and feel” factor with an email.

Here’s a quick overview of how a basic drip email campaign works…

  • Thanks for signing up! Welcome to the family, here’s what’s coming up.
  • Here’s some great content that will make your life better.
  • What are you struggling with? (I’ll send you tips so you struggle less.)
  • Here’s a case study that will help you with what you’re struggling with (plus a testimonial from my happy client.)
  • If you’re looking for more help with that, here’s the next step. (Call to action.)

Provide tips that solve your readers problem to build trust and “expert status” with your list.

Then use case studies or stories to show how you’ve helped others like them.

Finally, ask them to take the next step and complete your autoresponder goal. (Ask for sale or call for consultation, ect…)

How long should an autoresponder be?

No solid answer here. (But most of my drip email campaigns are about 10 emails long.)

Try this. Instead of thinking the answer to, “how long should my autoresponder be” as exact number, think about what you need to communicate before you’re subscriber is ready to become a customer.

When do you sell in your autoresponder sequence?

In every email. Kinda.

Let me explain…

Think about the last relationship you had that went south. Did it feel like one of you was just giving, giving, giving while the other was just taking, taking, taking?

Didn’t work out, right? (I’m guessing you were either frustrated at how selfish the other person is or you just get bored.)

So keep this in mind when you’re building a relationship with your email subscribers.

I wrote about building relationships with your readers in this post, but remember that you want a win-win relationship between you and your readers. Don’t just give, give, give. Instead, ask your readers to do something for you in almost every email you give them.

Seth Godin, author of Permission Marketing, writes:

sethWalking into the singles bar, the Interruption Marketer marches up to the nearest person and proposes marriage. If turned down, the Marketer repeats this process on every person in the bar.

A Permission Marketer goes on a date. If it goes well, the two of them go on another date. And then another. Until, after ten or twelve dates, both sides can really communicate with each other about their needs and desires. After twenty dates, they meet each other’s families. And finally, after three or four months of dating, the Permission Marketer proposes marriage.

Permission Marketing is just like dating. It turns strangers into friends and friends into lifetime customers. Many of the rules of dating apply, and so do many of the benefits.

So when I say you should sell in every email, I’m talking about asking for small commits upfront (like follow you on social media, respond to a quick survey or tell you what you’re struggling with).

That way they are more likely to take action when you ask for a larger action (like buy or schedule a consultation.)

What can’t autoresponders do?

The money’s not in the list, it’s in the relationship. And if all you do is set up your autoresponder and wait for sales to come in, you’re limiting yourself.

Will you still make sales? Probably. But you’ll do better when you use your autoresponder to build relationships, get feedback and find out what your list really wants.

My favorite Email Service Providers for autoresponders.

If you’re setting up an autoresponder, you need and email service provider (or an ESP) to get send and track your emails.

Personally I use Aweber to handle my autoresponder. But GetResponse is worth looking into because it makes it easy to segment your list based on what links they clicked or what emails they opened.

Optimizing Your Autoresponder: Segmenting and Open Rates

Optimizing an autoresponder takes work.

But it can make your campaign more profitable. I’d suggest starting with setting up a simple 10 part autoresponder then go back and include these advanced autoresponder tactics:

1) Segment your campaigns

When you segment your list, you’ll be able to send even more relevant content to your subscribers. And the more relevant your emails, the more opens, clicks and sales you’ll get from each one.

ConversionXL offers a simple strategy to use:

“Create several parallel campaigns – most of the content can remain the same – but tailor them as much as possible to the specific segments, addressing their concerns, needs and wants.”

For instance you can create 2 different landing pages for 2 different segments and so that when they join your email list on a particular page, you send them particular drip emails.”

2) Get higher open rates for your autoresponder series

After you roll out a new autoresponder, odds are that a handful of your emails will have crappy open rates.

Which emails should get optimized for open rates? Rank your emails by open rate. Then start by optimizing the worst 20% of your emails.

Fact: If you improve your subject lines, you’ll improve your open rates.

Here’s how to optimize your subject lines for higher open rates.

You’re going to broadcast each message that you want to improve with a new subject line. But you’re only sending it out to subscribers who never opened the first time.

You can split test new subject lines in your broadcast. The subject line with the best open rate will get added to your auto-responder.

According to ConversionXL, “If you’re worried that re-broadcasting your messages will increase your spam complaints, remember, the people on this segment never opened your message in the first place.”

Any questions?

If you’ve got a question about setting up an autoresponder, just leave your questions in the comments and I’ll help you out!

About the Author

Jack Reamer is a B2B SaaS lead generation expert who focuses on growing his client's MRR via powerful cold email campaigns. He lives (and surfs) in San Diego, California.

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