Having an effective autoresponder series can help to champion your business. In the world of content marketing, it is the series of emails that you write and then send out at certain pre-set intervals to people who want them that do the most work for your your brand. No matter what you might be doing, these emails keep representing you.
The only problem is that not every content marketer uses their autoresponder correctly. Instead of adding momentum to their business, they create brand negativity. This is often because the actual creation of the emails is rushed. Instead of plotting out an approach that works, marketers settle for subpar content to save time.
Creating the perfect autoresponder sequence starts when you’re willing to tell your own story. Share why you’re doing what you’re doing. What does this opportunity mean to you? How has it changed your life? How has it changed the lives of people who have already tried what you’re offering?
These emails aren’t trying to establish relationships. They aren’t even really trying to build brand awareness or establish niche expertise. The goal is simple: to move a prospect to the next step in your sales funnel.
When you realize that, then you’re ready to begin implementing these key points so that you can have the perfect autoresponder sequence.
#1. Determine your end goal before you start writing.
It might seem like common sense, but this key point is often skipped by content marketers when creating an autoresponder sequence. In order for you to tell your story, you must be able to understand what the value proposition of your products is going to be. You must define a finish line.
How do you define a goal for your autoresponder sequence? It boils down to the purpose you have for creating the sequence in the first place.
- Do you want to sell products? Are you selling a service? Or are you just providing information?
- Do you want to establish long-term relationships with your autoresponder prospects?
- Are you trying to create excitement about your business, brand, products, or services?
- Is there a new product that you’re trying to launch?
- Do you want to establish yourself as an industry expert?
The answers to these questions will help you find the goals that you’ll be working to achieve. Once you’ve set those goals, then you’re ready to have your autoresponder sequence start bringing you closer to them.
#2. Fulfill the promises that you’ve made.
When an autoresponder doesn’t offer the value that it initially promised, then you can bet that many people will unsubscribe to the emails. This key gets to be a bit tricky because many marketers use the wrong words or terms to help promote the autoresponder sequence.
Here are some key examples of errors that are commonplace, but aren’t always seen as errors.
- Sign up for free to receive this report. Except your prospects have to give you personal information [an email address] in order to receive the promised video, case study, or download. It’s not a free gift. It’s an information transaction. If it was truly free, you’d be offering it without the need to provide an email address.
- You’ll receive valuable emails. Except the only emails that get sent out redirect people to purchasing links. An autoresponder must offer value to claim it is valuable. Asking people to buy your stuff doesn’t qualify.
- It’s easy to sign-up today. Except that when an email address is provided, the individual receives a message that asks them to confirm their subscription. Then another email is sent to welcome the person. Then another email is sent that confirms the schedule of your autoresponder sequence. By the time the person gets what they want, they’ve gone through 3 separate unexpected messages.
Be clear and precise with your wording. Instead of saying you’ll give someone a “free report,” say “in exchange for your email address, we’ll send you a link/download for valuable report.” It will help to establish your honesty.
#3. Establish an appropriate messaging schedule.
Far too many autoresponders only offer subscribers a welcome message and that is it. There’s nothing else in the series. Others will send out email blasts 7 times per day, overwhelming a subscriber’s email account. You don’t need quantity to make a big impression. You need quality.
And you need to actually write something.
So how do you write an effective message that can make a big impression with just one email per day?
- Create a two-way conversation. Ask your subscribers to respond to your messages. Encourage them to join forums or community discussions about what you’re offering. By creating conversations, you’re creating relationships. When you create relationships, you’re creating brand ambassadors.
- Connect with people for real. People who sign up for an email list want to add you to their personal networks. Give them that opportunity by giving them a chance to connect through social media platforms as well.
- Let people see who you really are as a person. The best content today tells an authentic story. You’ve got to be a little vulnerable in order to make a lasting impression. You don’t have to tell a lengthy story. You just need to share a little bit about yourself and what you’ve learned about the materials you’re covering.
When your messages cover these points, then all you need to do is send one message per day and you’ll be able to fulfill that initial value promise you made.
#4. You need consistency.
Creating consistency means you’re creating trust. When creating an autoresponder sequence, the topic of consistency often involves scheduling. Send out your emails at the same time each day, each week, or whenever and people will begin to trust you.
Maybe. But consistency in content will certainly establish a trust factor for you.
To create content consistency, you need to prove three things.
- You have leadership skills.
- You have wisdom.
- You are honest.
How you do that through your content can be in virtually any format. You can tell personal stories. You can share testimonials. You can share critical reviews. As long as you are consistent in your leadership traits, your wisdom is meaningful, and you’re honest to a fault, your autoresponder sequence will have an impact on people.
#5. Don’t just wing it when it comes to sequencing.
You might enjoy a little improvisation every now and then, but an autoresponder sequence isn’t a comedy act. It needs to have a map so you can properly navigate your sequence. That leads to one of the most common questions that get asked about autoresponders:
How long should my sequence be?
There is no absolute answer to this question. It all depends on what the return on your investment is going to be. Don’t be fooled: even if you’re writing these emails on your own, your time is just as valuable as the freelance copywriter you might be tempted to hire. The return you receive must make sense. If your return goes down after a certain number of emails, then your time and money would be better spent doing something else.
The sequence itself also requires mapping to make sure that you’re answering this question in the best possible way. Think of your emails as if they were a novel: the purpose of the sequence should be to tell an overall story in various chapters. You might start with the welcome message and talk a little about who you are. Then you might talk about the benefits you’re able to offer. Share a success story. Offer a testimonial. Show people what the experts say.
Just do your best to avoid repeating yourself. No one wants to read what is basically the same email two days in a row.
If you can follow this schedule, then you’ve just created a 5 day autoresponder sequence. See how easy it can be?
#6. Share… but don’t overshare.
Having people connect with you on a personal level can be a great thing. Adding your personality to the emails you’re writing can help you to make your point quite effectively. Sometimes, however, content marketers can take the desire to build relationships to unhealthy levels.
Your autoresponder sequence isn’t supposed to take the place of a qualified therapist. You shouldn’t be so open that subscribers can share their every burden with you because you’re willing to give them personal feedback.
Oversharing also creates a very dangerous trap. It makes marketers thing that they’re developing quality prospects, but it does the opposite. People who look at emails as personal therapy aren’t generally going to purchase anything. They’re going to look to have their needs met with your responses.
On the other end of the spectrum, the individuals who would be prospects are driven away by these interactions. It literally scares them away from being a customer because they see you overstepping professional boundaries. If you’re willing to be a counselor for someone who isn’t buying something, what would you do for people who do make a purchase.
Emails shouldn’t make people shudder. They should make people excited to see how they’ll be able to benefit from what you say. Share, but set boundaries to avoid oversharing.
#7. Squishing writer’s block one step at a time.
Writer’s block is a very real issue. Some writers might try to deny it exists or call it an excuse for not working, but there are times when you run out of creative ideas. It happens.
When creating the perfect autoresponder sequence, you’ll find that writer’s block will often set in as you’re trying to create the right series of events. This actually happens because you’re trying to be perfect with your writing.
There is no such thing as perfect writing. There is only effective writing.
Here are some ways that you can work on removing writer’s block if it begins to affect the quality of your content so it becomes less effective.
- Be creative in another way. Go paint something. Go take some pictures. Go take a walk. Sometimes all you need is the chance to be creative in a different way and the ideas you’ve been missing for your emails will appear out of nowhere.
- Give yourself a focus point. Many writers recommend ambient noise or classical music as a tool to help them stay focused. Anything that let’s you work on the sequence without distraction is going to help you out so you can put down clear thoughts.
- Procrastination will be lurking. Writer’s block can become the cornerstone for procrastination. “I can’t write, so I’ll go watch a move, play video games, go shopping at the mall, etc.” Be wary of this so you can keep writing.
Getting rid of writer’s block can sometimes be difficult, but it’s never impossible. You have ideas that are great and deserve to be shared. If they’re not coming out now, then be creative in some other way and they’ll likely come pouring out.
#8. Keep adding content.
The best autoresponder sequences aren’t static. They are living, breathing entities which evolve as subscriber preferences evolve. Keep adding to it. Keep editing your emails. Review them periodically to make sure each email in the sequence is useful and relevant.
The content in each email doesn’t have to be lengthy. Even 100 words can be effective if it is structured in the right way. As long as you’re willing to teach something useful to your target audience, then your autoresponder sequence is going to be able to do its job for you.
#9. The subject line still matters.
The first thing subscribers are going to see is the subject line for each email in your autoresponder sequence. If you don’t have a punchy and attractive subject line, then there’s a good chance that your email is going to be deleted – even if the information is something that the subscriber wants.
To add another level of complexity to this key point, many email servers and programs are filtering out emails from autoresponders because of their subject lines. Certain words and phrases can trigger an email being sent to a spam folder. Even the reputation of the server you use can cause emails to not be delivered as intended.
Of course you’ll want to encourage subscribers to add your emails to their safe list. There are also some strategies that you can implement right now to give yourself a chance at a better overall open rate.
- Avoid repetition. Many autoresponder sequences start strong, but finish weak. This is because the content doesn’t feel fresh. Keep your email subjects unique and on-point with the content.
- Keep it short. A common recommendation is to keep your email subject line under 50 characters. To be even more effective, try to summarize your content in just 3 words. The Rule of Three is something that is structured into our global culture. When it’s in your subject line, it creates a sense of familiarity that can encourage a click.
- Make it unique. You can use merge tags to help personalize the subject line with your content. Many use names in autoresponders, but consider using cities instead. Research from Mailchimp indicates that the city merge tag can be more effective.
Even the best subject line can be affected by a “from name” that might feel silly, inappropriate, or strange. People don’t open emails from sources they do not know very often these days. Keep your name consistent over every platform and not only can it help to increase your open rates, but it can also benefit your brand awareness as well.
#10. Test your autoresponder sequence.
Just because you’ve written a thorough autoresponder sequence doesn’t mean it’s going to be an effective sequence. People can react very differently than you might expect. Sometimes what you think is the worst thing you’ve ever written is what your subscribers think is brilliant. The reverse is also true more often than not.
Testing requires more than a day or two. You’ll need at least a week or two. Some autoresponder sequences might need 6-8 weeks of testing before you can really take a look at it. Here are some of the issues that you should be looking at during the testing process.
- Do you have low open rates? If your autoresponder sequence is seeing a 20% open rate, but you’ve got one email that has a 4% open rate, then there’s a good chance you might need to change the subject line.
- Do you have a low CTR? If you have emails that are seeing a lower than average CTR, then there’s likely a structural issue. The email might be too long, the links might not be noticeable, or the content might just be boring. Fix up the email and try again.
- Do you have lots of unsubscribers? Some autoresponder sequences are designed to filter out people who don’t meet specific criteria. In that instance, a high unsubscriber rate is normal. If you aren’t trying to eliminate subscribers on purpose, however, you’ll need to take a second look at your value proposition.
Test it out. Test it some more. You should be seeing your interactions and sales beginning to increase over time.