Autoresponders are the hardest-working, unsung heroes of content marketing. They’re a series of emails you write once and set up to send out at pre-set intervals to anyone who asks for them.
They keep working day and night, continuously reaching out to your audience with valuable content and relevant offers.
They work for you whether you’re writing, eating, sleeping, or playing with your pooch. They never get tired, and they never give up.
That’s pretty heroic.
When used correctly, autoresponders can add serious momentum to your business. But when you sit down to actually write your own autoresponder series, you may feel stuck or confused.
To clear up any bewilderment, here’s a clear list of email autoresponder recommendations, with practical advice about how to actually write the damn things.
A lazy approach to marketing that works
Sonia Simone, the reigning queen of email marketing, defined autoresponders this way in her flagship article, Meet the Lazy Marketer’s Best Friend: The Email Autoresponder:
An autoresponder is just a sequence of email marketing messages that gets sent to subscribers in the order and frequency that you decide.
An autoresponder could be:
- The welcome message a prospect receives when she signs up for a free report on choosing the right dog walker for her pet.
- A three-part series of recipes that feature chocolate as a main ingredient.
- A 10-day email course that tells people how to declutter their homes quickly and easily.
If you’ve already started building your email list, many of you probably already have at least one autoresponder in place — and that’s a welcome message.
A welcome message is delivered automatically when someone signs up for your list; it most likely welcomes people, sends a free gift, and/or explains what to expect from your email content.
You’re missing a huge opportunity if you stop at a welcome message, though. There are many reasons creating a longer series of autoresponder messages is a smart move.
- Let you continually showcase your best content, including content from your archives.
- Deliver the same high-value experience to every new subscriber.
- Are great places to mention relevant offers without sounding sleazy.
- Allow you to build trust with your audience slowly and ensure your new subscribers don’t forget you.
Browse these autoresponder ideas
- Share your story. Sharing who you are, why you started your business, and who you serve is a great way to teach people about you and your business.
- Offer a quick tip. Give your subscribers a tip they can implement in five minutes or less that lets them move forward in a noticeable way. A “quick win” makes your new fans associate your emails with getting a rewarding experience.
- Ask a stimulating question. Ask your subscribers a question and invite them to reply to your email to answer. You could ask what they’re struggling with (related to your topic), how they found your site, or what challenges they’re facing right now. This information is also marketing gold for you — it gives you ideas for more autoresponders, blog posts, podcast episodes, and other content.
- Provide a resource list. Present a short list of resources (sites, blogs, books, gadgets, online tools, etc.) that will help your subscribers move toward their goals. People love to know about the tools you use every day and the books you read.
- Deliver a case study or success story. If you’ve got a compelling story about the success of a client or student who has gotten clear, measurable results from your products or services, write the story in a short case study. The case study should include advice subscribers can implement, whether or not they buy from you.
16 Autoresponder do’s and don’ts
The autoresponder’s most important function is to take people who are curious about what you do and turn them into raving fans.
When you write your email series, do:
- Give subscribers what you promised. If you say you’ll give new subscribers a free report, case study, or video, provide an easy-to-use download link so they can instantly get their free gift.
- Add some personality to your messages. Autoresponders don’t need to be boring. Spice them up by using your own voice and personality in your message. Be funny, quirky, and interesting — as long as it fits your brand.
- Help your audience get to know and trust you. With each message, reveal a little glimpse into who you are and what you stand for.
- Become a fantastic teacher. Your emails don’t have to be lengthy or fancy, but they do need to be useful to your subscriber. If possible, teach your subscriber something in every autoresponder message you send.
- Open a two-way conversation. Invite your subscribers to respond to your emails or join the discussion on your website. Ongoing discussion can help turn your subscribers into your biggest advocates.
- Share other ways to connect with you. If someone joins your email list, it’s likely he or she will want to connect with you on his or her favorite social media platform, too.
- Keep adding to it over time. Your autoresponder series should be a living “document,” so review, edit, and add to it over time. Confirm that your messages are still relevant and useful.
- Plan out the entire sequence before you start writing. Write a quick outline of how many messages you want to include and how far apart those messages will be delivered. Your outline will keep you on track as you write the whole sequence.
Here are the actions you’ll want to avoid. Don’t:
- Stop at a welcome message. Many people write a welcome message only and never continue their autoresponder series. You will stand out from your competitors by sending at least three-to-five messages in your email series.
- Send multiple autoresponder messages in one day. You only need one message a day (at the most) to make a big impression, so unless you have a really good reason, don’t pummel your subscribers with multiple autoresponder messages in a single day.
- Overshare. Yes, you should add your personality to your messages, but don’t use your email series as a therapy session or a chance to unload on your subscribers. Oversharing doesn’t build relationships; it just scares people away.
- Clutter your autoresponder messages with other emails from you. Set up your series so people don’t get your newsletter or content notifications on the same day as your autoresponder emails.
- Stress about people who unsubscribe. People who opt out of your autoresponder series aren’t a good fit for you and your business, so don’t worry if people drop off your list.
- Oversell in every email. It’s fine to add some relevant offers to your series, but if you turn every note into a big sales pitch, you’re not going to earn the trust of your subscribers.
- Try to please everyone. If you try to write an email that fits every member of your list perfectly, you’re going to have a hard time. Instead, picture yourself writing to your one perfect client, and go from there.
- Be afraid of the technical part. Autoresponders are relatively easy to set up. If you have trouble, simply get in touch with your email service provider and ask for assistance.
How to plan and create heroic autoresponders
Here’s a quick, five-step guide to getting your autoresponder series done:
- Plan how many autoresponder emails you want in your series (starting with three-to-five emails is a good guideline).
- Decide how far apart each email will be sent.
- Dedicate time to writing the whole series.
- Queue them up in your email service provider.
- Test the series to make sure everything works properly.
Once you’ve finished those steps, you can drive visitors toward your opt-in form and start getting sign-ups.
Then you can breathe easy, knowing your opt-in form is automatically handling an important part of your marketing for you.
And little by little, subscriber by subscriber, you’ll be on your way to building a strong and long-lasting relationship with the members of your list.
And that truly is content marketing heroism.
Read other posts in our current email marketing series
- How to Choose a Solid Email Service and Build Your List on a Firm Foundation
- Your Top-to-Bottom Email Checklist: What to Include Before You Hit Send
- Email Newsletters vs. Content Notifications: A Head-to-Head Comparison
About the Author: Beth Hayden is a content marketing expert, author, and speaker who specializes in working with women business owners. Want Beth’s best blogging tip? Download her free case study, How This Smart Writer Got 600 New Subscribers by Taking One Brave Step.
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