As a small business owner, you should be building your email list – you get that.
You worked hard to nail your ideal customer profile and you spent hours creating that perfect opt-in offer that is working like gangbusters. Is your work done?
Not by a long shot.
You still need to make sure that the people who just signed up to your email list are indeed the right fit for your business (and not freebie seekers) and that they stay subscribed long enough to make a purchase.
You know the likelihood of someone getting on your list and buying something straightaway is small, unless they make a low dollar, impulse purchase.
It’s like asking someone for their hand in marriage on the first date. You have to woo them first. Send them a few gifts and show them what a great catch you truly are.
You need to nurture your leads so they stay connected, build their confidence and increase trust.
You need to have a sequence in place which does all those things.
If you wait till the next time you update your blog post or send out a promotion, your subscriber would most likely have forgotten all about you.
What you need is a strategic, pre-planned sequence of emails to keep your new leads warm and happily waiting to consume more.
Let’s learn how to do this.
What is an autoresponder?
Autoresponder is a series of email content that gets delivered every time someone subscribes to your email list.
Unlike other automated emails, it goes out in a certain sequence, on certain pre-determined dates.
This sequence is delivered over time with the goal to develop a deeper relationship with your new audience.
An autoresponder tends to be purely content-based or mostly content with low key offers for service-based online professionals but it can be straight up warm up and promotional content for companies selling software or physical products.
Creating a consistent experience for new subscribers
Think about your core message for a second, and think about the various ways you are pushing it out.
You have your home page, your about page, and services page. You publish relevant content on your blog and you also push content on various social media platforms.
Now think about somebody who discovers you for the first time.
What is the best way to let them know everything you do in your business, what you stand for, and what your core message is? Is it your newsletter, is it your website?
If you look at your newsletter, it takes a while for someone to truly get what you are all about because your next five mailings might not contain a sales message.
If it’s your website, people won’t sit down and open each and every page systemically. They neither have the time nor the inclination to do that.
The most efficient and cost-effective way to educate your new subscribers is to take them through a series of specially designed emails that take them from point A to point B in a sequential order.
By taking them through this series, you want them to get to know what you have to offer, how you can help them and what makes you different from your competitors.
By putting the right autoresponder series together, you are making sure that your 105th subscriber will get the same experience your first one did if that’s what you want.
Every time you create an autoresponder series, it should take a subscriber on a journey. It should take them from being a lead to a prospect to a customer.
Understanding your subscriber psychology
Think about the newsletters or lists you are subscribed to. Then think about how many do you open? I am guessing you are a busy person like everybody else. And you only open emails for two reasons:
- You recognize the name of the sender, or the subject line catches your eye.
- It offers some value or arouses your curiosity.
And that’s what you need to do to get new subscribers to open your emails. Except, they don’t know you very well. Unless you are a big brand, they don’t even remember who you are if they signed up last week and you sent them a link to your latest blog post after a week.
Research shows it takes 7 to 10 communication encounters before somebody starts to get notice you. And every time you send them an email, they click it open and they start to develop a habit of doing so.
Habits are formed when you repeat three steps over and over again. There is a trigger (they see the subject line), then there is the behavior itself (they click open) and they get rewarded for taking action (the benefit gained as a result of your behavior).
Autoresponders are great for getting your subscribers in the habit of opening your emails and clicking through.
The important bit is to send the right content.
Putting the right content in your autoresponder series
So what kind of content should you choose for your autoresponder series?
Any content that is concise, useful and rewards the reader for taking action.
But you also want to make sure that you cover all the foundational content that you want reader to know.
Think about it in this way.
Ultimately, what are the things somebody must know in order to do business with you?
You can educate your subscriber on the underlying cause of their problem. You can make them aware of the possible solutions. You can let know about the pitfalls and what will happen if they choose not to solve this and you will, of course, position your product or service as the right solution for their particular need.
What you are doing is you are further qualifying a lead.
You are taking someone who signed up to receive free content from you because they want to solve a certain problem or at least move towards finding a solution, to someone who is actively looking for a solution to someone who makes a decision that they want to buy from you.
- Generally, you can do a series of tips such as ‘7 ways to solve —————- problem’ etc. Numbered lists work great because they create anticipation and your readers look forward to them.
- You can send them an ecourse with a new lesson every day. Each lesson builds on the last one and keeps people in the habit of opening your emails. This works great as an advertised opt-in also. You can send them how-to guides or video tutorials.
- You can do a mix of content and promotional emails which is what most businesses do. You can only do a series of promotional emails if that’s what you promised (more about that in a minute).
- You can also send more messages in the beginning when they are most engaged and decrease frequency as you go or you can drip your content, one tip per week.
Different types of autoresponder series
How you want to create your autoresponder series depends upon your goal.
What is it that you want to accomplish with your series? Do you want to sell a product? Do you want to develop a relationship with your subscribers and move them further into your sales funnel? Do you want to launch a new service?
Your goal will determine the content of your autoresponder. It also depends on what kind of business you are.
For example, for someone operating a software business, their autoresponder email sequence might look like this:
- Email 1: Introduce yourself and say thanks for subscribing
- Email 2: Give them a big benefit of subscribing
- Email 3: Share with them a customer success story
- Email 4: Give them informational content related to your product
- Email 5: Give them another benefit of using your product
- Email 6: Make an offer
- Email 7: Make the same offer in a different way
If you are selling an information product, your strategy is going to be different from someone selling kids birthday party invitations and supplies. If you are B2B, your tone will be different. Your sequence can be anything you want it to be.
Normally, they look like this:
Welcome message -> Content -> Content -> Content -> Promotion -> Content -> Content -> Content -> Promotion
Or, you can be a bit more aggressive.
This one will work if you set the right expectations up front, you are a purely ecommerce website or if you are launching the sequence to existing customers.
Welcome message -> Content -> Promotion -> Promotion -> Promotion
Lastly, you can deploy this sequence if you are a blogger and primarily use content marketing to promote your services.
Welcome message -> Content -> Content -> Content -> Content -> Content -> Content -> Promotion
You might ask what a good number for an autoresponder is.
The answer is, it will depend on your industry, your business and generally your audience. For some people, it may be 7 emails (which is a good number), 10 or even more. Some businesses have autoresponders in place that go on for 6 months and over.
If you have more than one type of customer, segment your list and put them on a different autoresponder sequence.
Writing an autoresponder that gets results
Focus on the reader. What does your subscriber need? What are their main problems that you can help solve? Approach it from their point of view with a purpose to be of service.
Consider the ‘from’ line. Use a genuine email address people can reply back to. People pay attention to where the email is coming from so stay consistent. You can use the company’s name or your personal name with the business email – both are fine.
Make it personal. Don’t think of a subscriber as a number, you are talking to real, live humans here. Talk to them as if you would talk to a friend. Personalize your emails and include a salutation. Write informally, use contractions. Ditch the corporate lingo or industry buzz words and don’t sound like a spammer. You want to sound like you are writing an email and not a press release.
Highlight the benefits. Don’t talk about how great your products or services are, show it. What do they get after using your thing: more time, more money, less overwhelm or stress, better life or health? Tell them that.
Craft an attention-grabbing subject line. State a benefit or make them curious.
Proofread your emails. Keep your email short and use correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation. The quality of your marketing materials makes a statement about you being a true professional. Get help if you want.
Make your emails easy to read. Always preview or test your emails to make sure everything looks right. The images should be appealing, the links should be working and paragraphs should be short and to the point. Use bulleted lists and lots of white space.
Call to action. Always add a call to action. What do you want them to do? Do you want them to click on a link, share a piece of content, or buy something? Say it and say it clearly.
Don’t spam. Don’t ever send email if the person has not given you permission to do so and never share their information with anyone else. Don’t go crazy with affiliate offers or promotions, either.
Acknowledge responses. Lastly, the whole purpose of writing an autoresponder is to keep people engaged so when they respond to an email, always respond back promptly.
Noted? Don’t get too comfortable. There are more email campaigns best practices worth keeping in mind.
The aim of an effective autoresponder is to create trust in your business. Start with the autoresponder framework first. Think about your offers and then use your autoresponder as a way to create a story.
Help your subscribers understand their problem by telling them you discovered the solution, talking about the failures you faced on the way and how you are qualified to help.
That’s the job of your autoresponder.
Are you doing it well?