Email Marketing / Marketing Automation

The Art of the Autoresponder

July 31, 2016 , 9 minutes

An autoresponder is simply a series of email messages that you create ahead of time and then schedule to be sent out at certain time intervals or in response to certain behaviours of your subscribers (such as making a purchase). This allows you to manage communication with your email list automatically, without having to send a 1-to-1 email to every person on your list.

If you are looking to create your own autoresponder, it might seem overwhelming at first. But it doesn’t have to be. This article will detail how to create and sequence a powerful autoresponder series to make your subscriber list more responsive and profitable with every email you send.

Welcome Them to the Club

Most people have a lack of certainty about their ability to make good decisions. So you want to immediately acknowledge and congratulate your subscribers when they join your list in order to validate their decision. By putting their insecurities at ease with a great welcome email, you lay the foundation for a long, profitable, and valuable relationship between you and your prospect.

This is also the perfect time to manage expectations. You don’t want your prospect to unsubscribe because they started receiving emails in quantities or subject matter that they don’t want. Tell them if you’re going to be sending daily, weekly, or monthly emails, as well as what kind of content to expect from you.

Finally, include a call to action that links directly to your product, service, or website. This gets them engaged immediately with your offerings and gives them a chance to jumpstart their journey with you.

Your particular style and approach will vary based on your business, but a general outline to follow is:

(Customize the content between the “{ }” brackets to match your own brand, product, or service)

“ Hey {name}!

Welcome to the {your brand name} Newsletter! Congratulations on taking the first step toward { achieving the end result your subscribers are hoping to obtain}.

Now you’ll receive {daily, weekly, etc.} emails with great news and tips on how to {accomplish their goal}.

And don’t forget to check out our blog post on {topic relevant to their interests} at {the blog post’s URL}.

Let us know if you have any questions, we’re always here to help! (This reaffirms that you are committed to helping them solve their problem, thus raising their confidence about being on your list). “

Now that you know how to sufficiently welcome them to the club with the first email, it’s time to work on the next part of your autoresponder.

Give and You Shall Receive

Now is the time to offer immense value to your subscribers before asking them to make any purchases. This is for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it establishes your authority and knowledge on the subject matter that your subscribers are interested in. But also, you are using the law of reciprocity, which essentially means that when you offer something that helps your prospect, they feel obligated to repay the favor. Don’t worry, the time will come for you to reap this reward later on in the autoresponder series, but right now just focus on delivering nuggets of value.

These value-giving emails can be in the form of inspirational stories, actionable advice, or simply entertainment. Anything that improves the quality of their life and trains them to open further email from you is fair game here. But remember, don’t ask for a huge purchase or commitment in these first few emails yet, as you want to use the following autoresponder techniques to prime your list appropriately first. (Bonus tip: you can simply repurpose your blog posts, videos, or other content at first if you are short on ideas for value-giving emails!).

Create Unresolved Tension

Think of your favourite tv series. It always cuts to commercial or to another scene right at the height of the drama, leaving you in suspense. This is called unresolved tension, and it’s so effective in keeping an audience’s attention throughout a story that virtually every great show uses it relentlessly. And you can use this technique in almost all of your autoresponder emails as well. The way to create this unresolved tension with your email list is to pose questions and otherwise leave “open loops” that your readers must resolve in later emails.

For example, if you have a nutrition blog, you may mention that you will be revealing an amazing new low-fat smoothie recipe in a later newsletter. To build the tension and create desire in your audience to find out what exactly is in this recipe, you can tease them by mentioning the benefits of it.

Like this:

“…And later this month we’ll be revealing the delicious, fat-burning recipe of our Secret Smoothie! This incredible concoction will make your mouth water, help you lose weight while you sleep, and even improve your memory!”

This creates the open loop, the tension, the question they must find the answer to. And you don’t need to answer it in the next email. You can space out this tension among two, three, or even more emails, building the excitement and encouraging them to open up every new email you send out so they can finally resolve it.

The Autoresponder Big Ask

Now that you’ve effectively provided value to your list, and built desire for your offerings with tension, it’s time to cash in. Here is where you ask for the sale, the trial, or the other big action you want them to take. But remember, it needs to be framed in a way that highlights the benefits for your subscriber. You can use a variety of persuasive techniques here, such as limited time offers, social proof, and more to entice them to take you up on your offer.

For example:

“Subject Line: Get Our Entire Selection of Leather Jackets for 50% Off (Sale Ends Friday)


Hi {name}.

From now until Friday, you can choose from any of our quality, hand-made leather jackets for half off! Each jacket is {list the benefits and features}. Join the {number of customer who have already taken the action / purchased the product}  happy customers who have already purchased theirs! But hurry, there is a limited quantity available and time is running out! Get yours here now: {link to the product}.”

Your “big ask” will vary somewhat, but the point is that now is your chance to really get your subscribers to take the action you’ve been wanting them to take all along.

Segment Your List

In a perfect email marketing world, your autoresponder would have a 100% conversion rate. Every prospect who subscribed to your list would buy every product you promote. But in the real world, we know that only a certain percentage are going to end up buying any particular offer, and so we need to respond accordingly.

The best way to improve your conversion rate of your autoresponder over time is to segment your subscriber list. This means that each time you make an offer, you want to track who acts on it and who doesn’t. Sending out relevant emails can mean that your campaign is 18x as effective.

For example, let’s say you run a blog that offers real estate advice. After tracking the behavior of your list (how they respond to your email offers), you notice that about half of your list are only clicking on links that are related to commercial real estate, while the other half only clicks on links related to residential real estate. Now you have two segments 1) Prospects interested in commercial real estate and 2) Prospects interested in residential real estate.

From here, you can more precisely target each segment with ultra-relevant offers. You can choose to send a customized offer for an ebook about the “Top 5 Tips to Investing in Commercial Real Estate” to your first segment, and a different ebook titled “How to Get a Better Price On Your New Home” for the second segment.

Then, over a period of weeks or months, you may find that certain subscribers in either segment seem to purchase offers more regularly, while others never take action. Thus, you can further segment your list into prospects who are worth spending time on (and customizing more offers for) vs. those who won’t take action regardless of what you do to entice them.

This step, segmentation, is what can take your autoresponder from “good” to “great”, so don’t neglect it.

Sequencing Your Emails

Now that you know the strategic tricks to make your autoresponder more effective, you need a blueprint of how to schedule (sequence) your emails. While each business is different, there is an overall structure you can use as your starting point:

  1. The “Welcome” Email (day 1)
  2. Value-Giving Email (day 2)
  3. Value-Giving Email (day 4)
  4. Big Ask Email (day 6)
  5. Value-Giving Email (day 8)
  6. Value-Giving Email (day 10)
  7. Big Ask Email (day 11)
  8. Value-Giving Email (day 14)
  9. Value-Giving Email (day 18)
  10. Big Ask Email (day 21)

Of course, each email should be unique and offer relevant information, advice, or entertainment that helps your subscribers. And you aren’t limited to just 10 emails, continue to add on to your autoresponder once you’ve got the bare bones in place.

Congratulations, you’ve now done the hard part of creating an epic email autoresponder. All that’s left now is to schedule it up in your email marketing software of choice. With your newfound knowledge of the art of the autoresponder, you can provide more value, keep your audience engaged, and ask for big action in the right order. As a result, your subscriber list is set to be more active and profitable than ever before!