Email autoresponders have long been the online marketer’s primary weapon. To this day, despite all the other platforms available to communicate with prospects and customers, email remains the most popular—and effective—marketing tool.
Rarely will you find a marketer without an email list. Indeed, of the biggest regrets marketers have, the most common, is not starting to build their list earlier.
But this post is not to convince you of the benefits of emails—you already know how necessary they are.
This post will focus on how to go about creating an autoresponder series that works—that attracts sign-ups, that gets subscribers excited, that gets them further down the sales funnel.
An autoresponder is the simplest—and one of the most effective—types of automation. But it poses many questions:
- How long should it be?
- What should you discuss?
- How many days should you space the emails apart?
Here are some answers to the most common issues so you can plan and launch a more effective autoresponder.
Choose Your Software
Start by choosing your preferred email marketing software platform. There are many to choose from, and they all do more or less the same thing, but you will definitely need one because you cannot run an effective email campaign without one.
MailChimp is one of the most popular. It’s easy to use, quick to set up campaigns and has all the tracking tools you need. But others include:
There are plenty more, so try them out for yourself—sign up for their free trials and see which works best for you.
Create a Signup Form / Content Upgrade
Most of these tools make it easy to create signup forms, which you will need in order to collect emails from your website.
We won’t go into details of this here. Just know that you will need to create some kind of form to collect emails, and you will often want to create a landing page that follows conversion optimization principles to get as many sign-ups as you can.
Another option is to use content upgrades—we’ve written about these in detail in this blog post.
Choose the Type of Sequence You Want to Create
There are many options when you come to creating an autoresponder sequence. The shortest series will present a quick introduction to your business and products, the benefits subscribers will get, and information on how often you will be in touch. You might even throw in a special offer.
But you can choose a different format if you prefer, such as:
- An email course
- A series of your best blog content
- Answers to the most common questions your customers have
- Detailed information on how your product works
- An onboarding sequence for your SaaS product
You might also create various autoresponder series depending on where and how you sign people up to your list.
The Confirmation Email
Once you’ve decided what type of autoresponder series you will create, it’s time to start creating the emails. And the first thing you should do is plan the confirmation email.
This is the email that you send to subscribers the first time they fill out your email form, and it’s where they confirm that they want to be on your list (if you’re using a double opt-in rather than single opt-in—here’s a good comparison of both options).
Your email software provider will usually send this out automatically, and it will say something bland like “Click here to confirm you want to be on the list.”
But you should be able to edit it, and in doing so you can make it work a bit harder. After all, this is one email that you can be sure subscribers will open, so why not make the most out of it?
Add some personality to the email. Remind your subscribers that, after they confirm, they will be able to download their free bonus or access your course. Highlight the value of this.
Don’t assume that everyone who has filled in your form will the go ahead and confirm their email address. It’s another job to do, after all. By injecting a bit more personality into your confirmation email—and reminding them why it’s a great idea to sign up—you can start to build the relationship earlier and potentially get more people to sign up.
Create the Perfect Welcome Email
After your subscribers have confirmed that they want to be on your list, the next email to create is the welcome email.
This is the first official email in the series, and it’s also one of the most opened emails in any series (50-60% by some estimates)—so make it count.
Use it to set the tone, get subscribers excited about future emails, link to your lead magnet and provide instructions for how they should access it so there is no confusion.
Let them know how often you will be in touch, whet their appetite for the next emails in your series. Ideally, you want them to be looking out for your next email in their inbox, but they will only do that if you provide them with something valuable and you make it clear that they don’t want to miss it.
Plan Out Your Series
With the first two emails out of the way, now you can create your series proper.
There is no set length for autoresponder series—it depends on the type of autoresponder you are creating, your product, target audience, and other factors.
Some marketers set up autoresponders to run indefinitely, adding new emails every week so that new subscribers always receive the whole series from the start. But the typical length is between 5 and 15 emails.
It all depends on your goal. This is probably ultimately to move your subscribers down your sales funnel, but it could also be to build a relationship with them or encourage them to trust you more.
It doesn’t matter what your goal is—just make sure you have one, and then you can plan the series more effectively.
This is the stage where you should brainstorm everything you want to include in your series. Don’t worry yet about the length, and don’t restrict yourself to a certain amount of emails.
Simply plan your idea for each one, and add details about what you want to include, products you want to promote, links to add, etc.
Once you’ve got a basic plan in place, write them all out together so they all follow on from the last one and work well as a series.
You should have an overall goal for your autoresponder by now. But when you create your emails, have a goal for each email as well, such as getting subscribers to click on a link, try out your product, reply to a question, etc.
You may find that after five emails you have covered everything you need to. Or you might think of new things that you want to include, and this could take you up to 10, 20, or more.
Decide How Often to Send Them
Once you have planned out your sequence, decide when you are going to send each one. Once a day? Once a week?
Again, there are no set rules here. However, there are some guidelines to follow.
For a short email course, it’s usually better to send emails closer together so subscribers don’t forget the last lesson. Once a day for five days could be fine, or once every two or three days for longer sequences.
For more general value-building sequences, where you share content, tips, advice, etc, one every two or three days is a good option.
Of course, you can test it. If you send one a day and unsubscribes start going up, you’ll know you’re doing something wrong.
If your goal is to simply stay top of mind, you could send one a week or even one a fortnight. That’s enough to keep your name in front of your prospects without annoying them.
General Autoresponder Best Practices
Finally, there are a number of things that you can do to improve your autoresponder. Here’s a quick list of tips to help you:
- Personalize your emails. Make sure your name is in the ‘From’ line, and use a personal tone. Emails from real people get more opens and help to build relationships.
- Use curiosity in your subject lines. Use the “open loop” method where you hint at something interesting inside without giving it away. E.g. “This is how you win more customers in 30 minutes a day.”
- Use shorter subject lines. They should be readable on mobile devices.
- Focus every email on one specific goal. Don’t try to accomplish too much with each email. One goal makes it clear and simple, and it helps with conversions.
- Break up the copy. Write long emails if you want to (contrary to popular belief, people will read long emails if they are valuable). But break up the copy using short sentences and paragraphs. There should be lots of whitespace.
- Always focus on the value for your subscribers. Make sure the email focuses on what they get out of it. No one cares about you, they only care about themselves.
Create Powerful Autoresponder Sequences
There is a lot that goes into creating a powerful autoresponder sequence, and this blog post only really scrapes the surface. But you should now have enough to go on to create an effective autoresponder that gets your prospects excited and makes them want to open future emails you send.
Lose them at the autoresponder, and you’ve lost them for good. But create an amazing autoresponder series, and you will have them eagerly keeping an eye out for your future emails.