There is a tool that lets you build content once and reap the benefits over and over.
There is a tool that helps you be fresh and new each time a prospect engages.
There is a tool that automates the grind so you can focus on other areas of your business. And you probably have access to it already.
It’s an autoresponder sequence.
An autoresponder sequence is more than just a “click here to verify” confirmation email. It’s a powerful way to give your audience ongoing value and maintain top-of-mind awareness. And we’re going to show you how it works.
You need to be able to build an autoresponder sequence that engages your audience.
What Exactly Is an Autoresponder Sequence?
Simply put, it’s a scripted sequence of automated content triggered by marketer-defined conditions.
So what isn’t an autoresponder sequence?
One thing people often mistake for an autoresponder sequence is a trigger email. That includes messages for things like abandoned carts, welcomes or upsells. Those emails are set to send when a trigger occurs, like a purchase or an abandoned cart. Triggers are extremely useful, but they are usually a single message as the result of a specific condition.
Autoresponder sequences are usually a series of messages, sent at set intervals, meant to educate, motivate and build a relationship with the recipient. Trigger emails are the opposite — they’re usually sent because of an action and focus only on one specific condition.
Why Care About Autoresponders?
Set up an autoresponder once and you have an ongoing, permission-based marketing solution that engages your subscribers — and you only have to do the work once.
Imagine you’re a marketing firm (like Rainmaker Digital). Someone downloads your whitepaper. You collect their email.
A week after they download it, you start to send them a series of articles. All of them provide more details on something you covered in the whitepaper. You don’t have to do any work after the autoresponder is set up, but you’re still feeding your subscribers content they want to see as they join, maintaining top-of-mind awareness and demonstrating value.
The example above is an email course. There’s a reason for that. Email courses are one of the best uses for autoresponder sequences. One of our clients, CoupleStrong, uses this all the time. If you sign up for a specific relationship counseling course like “Eliminating Self-Defeating Attitudes” you’ll receive lessons from an autoresponder sequence at regular intervals.
Here’s how you can build an autoresponder sequence of your own.
How Do You Create an Autoresponder Sequence?
There are a few areas you need to consider when you create your sequence. Let’s look at them through an example. I like to stay fit, so we’ll use a sequence called “One Week to a Fitter You.”
What to Say
The first step in building an autoresponder sequence is deciding what you’re going to talk about.
Focus on a subject that you can boil down to a series of messages. Most autoresponder sequences have five to seven emails from start to finish, though yours can be longer or shorter based on the content you need to share.
For our “One Week to a Fitter You” example, we might walk through how to do basic calisthenic exercises. So:
Day 1: Squats
Day 2: Pushups
Day 3: Situps
Day 4: Pull ups
Day 5: Chin ups
Day 6: Burpees
Day 7: Combining exercises into a program (with a CTA or signup for our newsletter)
That’s our campaign design for content and timing.
How to Say It
Your email will usually have all the content included — you’re not trying to push people to a link.
For “One Week to a Fitter You,” the email content would revolve around that day’s exercise — say, “Situps.” You’d include all your images, text and video related to that lesson in the video. Then if you wanted to put a link in there, you could link to a workout that uses that exercise.
The content needs to reflect your goals. For example, if your goal is to get people used to going to a new destination like your website or social media, your autoresponder can be more link-driven. You can use some content as a taste test in the email and put everything else after the link, though that’s not the normal approach.
Where It Starts
Getting people on your autoresponder list works just like it does for any other marketing task. Have something with a CTA that promises a benefit for them, get them to click it and sign up. Done. The only variable is the location.
If I were a fitness influencer, I’d set up the “One Week to a Fitter You” CTA as a popup on my site, a blog post or even a social media ad. Another great benefit of ARs is that if someone were to sign up for another course like “Basics of Healthy Diet,” you could also automatically enroll them in this one as a bonus. ARs, like all other permission emails, must include unsubscription links, which makes list management easy.
How to Set It Up
When you set up your autoresponder, each platform has different technical details. You’ll need to consult your platform to find out how to set it up. A general recommendation: keep it simple. Most tools, including RainMail, provide conditional triggers for which emails people get in the sequence. These add a lot of complexity to the logic flow. The truth? It usually doesn’t matter.
Complicated doesn’t mean better. Stick to the basics: people get the sequence until they receive all of the content you want them to have, they take an action you want them to take or they unsubscribe.
Building the Emails in Your Autoresponder Sequence
Now you want to create each email in the series.
The Welcome Email: Setting the Stage
Your first email should clearly lay out a few things:
- Why your audience is receiving this email.
- What this autoresponder sequence includes.
- How long this sequence will run.
Then, and only then, you can get into the actual content. You might go a little lighter on the first one since you’re already having to explain it up front.
The Pillar Emails: Providing Value
Most sequences tend to be five to seven emails long. You may have more emails built if you have conditional logic in the sequence (for example, if someone clicks on a link you might have a fork in the road as opposed to someone who doesn’t), but the overall sequence will be around that length.
Each message has to have enough content to keep people engaged. Your goal is to serve people enough content that they’re interested in taking action — which may mean moving on to different courses, signing up for your newsletter, buying your product or service.
In our “One Week to a Fitter You” example, each of these emails would have a meaty explanation of what exercise we’re working on that day and why they matter. Then there could be a link to a workout that uses that exercise.
Get in and get out. You already laid the groundwork. Now’s the time to pound home the value.
The Final Email: Closing the Deal
Your email sequence leads to a climax — but it doesn’t always have to be a CTA. If you’re trying to drive action, you have a number of options.
- Sign up for another course. Easy, simple, continues to build rapport.
- Sign up for your newsletter. Go from a temporary relationship to a permanent one.
- Download a whitepaper or ebook on the subject of the autoresponder sequence. If the content is truly evergreen, maybe this is where you offer all your email content rolled into one piece. Or perhaps it follows on from the content you’ve offered.
- Engage elsewhere. Social media, webinars, community groups.
- Buy another product, service or course.
In some cases you may not want a CTA. You may just be advising them of an action they’ll benefit from (for example, “now that you’ve completed this sequence you’ll be signed up for our newsletter”). Make sure you thank them for engaging.
Embrace the Power of the Autoresponder Sequence
Once your sequence is set up, you can mostly set it and forget it — but you can’t completely leave it alone. Look at feedback and statistics. Is it performing? Play with the length, the offers and the content if it’s not performing the way it should be.
Autoresponders are useful, powerful and VERY underutilized. They aren’t complicated and shouldn’t be made complicated. Don’t think tactically with them — use them strategically. Great strategy, poor tactics still wins … poor strategy, great tactics fails.
You can use autoresponder sequences to build up your audience contact with very little maintenance. They’re a great way to keep your audience engaged and move them towards action. And if you need a hand, reach out — we’ll help you get yours set up.
Rainmaker Digital Services