Email marketing should be an essential part of any blogger or marketer’s plan. During my first few years as a blogger I didn’t even attempt to build an email list, and it was a big mistake. Over the past 2 or 3 years my email lists have become a priority in my business, and as a result I’ve seen more stability in traffic, and I’ve been able to more effectively promote my own products and affiliate products.
Although I started building email lists a few years ago I really didn’t give much attention to the autoresponder sequence until the past year. Now I am using autoresponder sequences with email lists for three different websites/blogs and I’ve found them to produce outstanding results.
Related Reading: 15 WordPress Plugins for Growing Your Email List
An autoresponder sequence is a series of emails that you set up to automatically go out to new subscribers at specific intervals after they have joined your list. You could set it up to send one email each week for a year, an email every day for the first 30 days, or whatever you want. Email marketing provides like GetResponse and AWeber make it easy to set up autoresponders for your list (the free accounts at MailChimp do not include autoresponders, which is one of the reasons I recommend that you pay a little bit for a better service like GetResponse or AWeber).
Autoresponders can be extremely useful for getting more visitors to your site, developing rapport with your subscribers, promoting your own products, and promoting affiliate products. However, every email you send gives your subscribers the chance to unsubscribe, so you will need to put some thought into your autoresponder sequence rather than just blasting out a lot of unfocused emails.
In this article we’ll take a look at how you can get the most out of your autoresponder and make it an extremely valuable aspect of your business.
How to Set Up an Autoresponder with GetResponse
Before we get into the tips for using autoresponders effectively, I also want to show exactly how you can set up an autoresponder with GetResponse, the service that I use and recommend. If you already know how to set up autoresponders you can skip ahead to the tips.
When you are logged in to your GetResponse dashboard (you can get a free 30-day trial if you don’t already have a GetResponse account) go to “Messages” and then click on “Create Autoresponder”.
From the next screen you’ll be able to select the details of your email.
For the purposes of this article we are talking about time-based autoresponders. Where it says “on day 0”, you can set that number to whatever you want. If it is set at 0 the email will go out to new subscribers right away. If you set it to day 1 it will go out 1 day after they subscribed, and so on. Use the dropdown menu to select the list (if you have more than one list in your account) that you want to receive this email. You can then uncheck any of the days that or the week that you don’t want the email to be sent. For example, if you uncheck Thursday it will not send this autoresponder to anyone on Thursdays. If they are due to receive the message on a Thursday they will receive it the next day.
Then click on the link that says “create new email” (bottom of the screenshot below).
From there GetResponse will lead you through the process of creating the email. You’ll set the subject line and from address, and then you can choose an email template or create a plain text email. Once your email is saved and published it will be a live autoresponder.
Tips for Setting Up an Effective Autoresponder Sequence
Now let’s look at some tips to get the most out of your autoresponders.
1. Know Your Purpose
In order to be effective with your autoresponder emails you will need to know specifically what it is that you want to accomplish with them. Your primary focus could be to help you sell a product, to get signups for a membership website, to promote affiliate products, to drive traffic back to your site, or simply to brand yourself as an expert and establish the trust of your subscribers.
Your main purpose should be used to determine the types of emails that you include in your autoresponder, and without knowing your purpose you are likely to wind up with an unfocused and ineffective series of emails.
2. Determine the Frequency of Your Emails
Decide how close together or far apart you want to set the emails in your autoresponder. This can also be influenced by your main purpose. If you goal is to sell your product or to get subscribers to purchase a membership to your site you will probably want to set frequent emails to go out shortly after subscribing so you can stay in front of the prospects when you know they are interested. You may even want to send them an email each day for a week, or at some other frequent interval.
If your main purpose is to drive traffic back to your site or to develop the trust of your subscribers you probably will not want to be as aggressive with the frequency of your emails. An autoresponder sequence that includes an email every 5 days for the first 3 months could be very effective at increasing traffic to your site.
There is no right or wrong decision when it comes to the frequency, you just need to choose what you think will work best for your situation.
3. Consider the Frequency of Unscheduled Emails
As you are determining how frequently you want to send the autoresponder messages also think about how often you will send unscheduled emails or campaigns. For example, you may send a weekly email to your list. Keep in mind that people in your autoresponder sequence will also receive these emails.
With most of my current sites I send a weekly email to the list. I don’t want those emails to go out too closely to the autoresponder emails, so I choose a particular day of the week for my regular weekly emails that are not part of the autoresponder. For example, on Thursdays I send a newsletter to my biggest list. That newsletter includes links to new blog posts, mentions of new products, or whatever is current and relevant to subscribers. I have the autoresponders for that list set to be sent every day of the week except Thursday. By doing it this way no subscriber will receive two emails from me on the same day. If an autoresponder would be scheduled to go to them on a Thursday they will get it on Friday instead.
4. Link to Pillar Content
One of the biggest problems with blogs is that old content often gets forgotten. And one of my favorite ways to extend the usefulness of an important blog post is to link to it from an autoresponder.
If you have a pillar post on your site providing evergreen content that will continue to be useful for months and years to come, make sure that post is featured in your autoresponder sequence. Set up an email with a link to that post and it will continue to get exposure as people on your list go through the autoresponder sequence.
You can also use this to work backwards and come up with great blog post ideas that will serve as pillar posts. For example if your email list targets people who are interested in learning more about photography you may want to set up an autoresponder sequence with 5 or 10 articles that cover the basics of photography. You could write articles on how to choose the right camera for you, how to take sharp photos, how to get the correct exposure, composition rules, etc. Now you have a list of articles that you can write for your blog, and after they are written you can set up an autoresponder email for each one and link back to the article on your site. This will be helpful for your subscribers and it will keep visitors flowing to important content on your site rather than letting those posts die off as they get older.
5. Don’t Sell Too Hard
From my experience it is best not to overdo it when it comes to selling with your autoresponder. Even if your main goal is to sell one of your products it can be very beneficial to also focus on providing value through you autoresponder and developing the trust of your subscribers.
If your autoresponder emails include helpful emails with a sales offer mixed in here and there you may find that you make more sales and retain more of your subscribers.
6. Offer Something Special
The best results I have had with autoresponders include a special offer or discount. If my main purpose of an email list or autoresponder is to sell a product I will usually include a custom coupon code just for subscribers and I’ll provide that code either in the emails or on the thank you page after they subscribe (or both).
This gives you the chance to get your product in front of your subscribers while offering them a deal that they wouldn’t get unless they had subscribed. I’ve found this to work very well. It can also be really effective when it is combined with a free bonus for subscribers. For example, a musician or band could offer a free song download to anyone who subscribes to their email list. Then after a visitor subscribes they get a coupon code for 20% off a purchase of the album. The free download will draw people in to the list, and if they like the free song they may be excited to get the coupon code that can be used to purchase the full album.
7. Use a Footer or PS
One easy way to get more exposure for an important link is to include a footer or PS at the end of your emails.
8. Watch the Statistics
As time goes by you should check your dashboard every now and then to see the stats of the individual emails in your autoresponder sequence. Check the open rate, click rate, unsubscribe rate, and complaint rate. Compare the different emails to each other to see which ones are generating the most interest from your subscribers.
With this knowledge you can have a better idea of what your subscribers want from you, and you may also see some topics that don’t interest them. You can tweak email subject lines to see if that improves performance, or replace ineffective messages with other emails.
9. Maximize Optins
In order for your autoresponder sequence to be effective you will need to be attracting subscribers on a regular basis. The more subscribers you get, the more your autoresponder emails will be seen, and the more impact they can have.
Work to maximize conversions so you will be constantly placing new subscribers in your autoresponder sequence.
10. Keep Adding to Your Sequence
I’ve found it helpful to keep adding emails to increase the length of the autoresponder sequence. My largest list includes about 20 emails that are sent over a period of 4 months. Originally I started with 5 or 10 emails that went out over the first 30 days, but over time I have added new emails to extend the sequence and I have seen traffic and sales increase as a result.
What’s Your Experience?
Do you use autoresponders? If so, please feel free to share any tips from your own experience.
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