What is an autoresponder? By definition, it's an email server program that sends automatic responses. In internet marketing, an autoresponder refers to something a little more specific; a series of emails to a group of subscribers at a specific interval. It's a vital feature to keep in touch with your subscribers, therefore all major email marketing service providers have an autoresponder feature.
Because the word "autoresponder" email marketers use is not quite what it's supposed to mean originally (i.e. not automatically "responds" exactly), many service providers use different terminology such as "Marketing Automation", "Automation Emails", etc. AWeber calls it "Legacy Follow Up Series".
Autoresponder - Why Do You Need It?
While a single email campaign (i.e. newsletter) is used in order to deliver a seasonal message or any timely content, for example "Sale starts tomorrow", autoresponder contents should be evergreen. You only have to write your series of emails and set the sequence once, so that everyone will receive the same messages as they subscribe to you, one after another at the specified interval in between.
So you'll see how powerful and convenient an autoresponder is. Regardless to the time of opt-in (time of the day, day of the week and throughout the year), all your subscribers will get the same information from you in a step-by-step manner.
An example of your autoresponder emails can be;
- (Day 1 - Immediately after the opt-in): Welcome email "Thank you for your subscribing!"
- (Day 2): Introducing subscribers-only discount offers
- (Day 5): Tips & advice from industry experts
- (Day 8): Ask the subscribers for their opinions/requests
- (Day 10): Recommended products with a video link... and so on.
By default, each of your email template should have an "unsubscribe" link at the bottom. Your subscribers will receive all your emails according to this schedule until they hit this link to unsubscribe.
Set Time to Send Your Autoresponder
Many service providers allow you to set a specific time or time window to send each email. You can set it either as per your local time, or each recipient's local time.
This is a very useful feature because you'd rather want your emails to be delivered during general waking hours, preferably during lunchtime (12pm-2pm) or after work (5pm- ).
Considering not everyone's inbox is well-organised - some people receive 100's of emails a day, and they simply don't open them unless notified 'in their face'. So you may want to avoid setting it to "any time" and risk your email delivered when most people are asleep, 4am for example.
You can also specify the days of the week to send, because people tend to open emails at unusual times over the weekend. If you choose to avoid weekends (Saturday and Sunday), and the next autoresponder is due to go out on a Saturday, it will automatically delay by 2 days and go out on Monday instead.
This is from my personal experience but if I have a link to a product/service in my email that needs to be looked at more closely before purchasing (such as free demo), I make sure to send it over the weekend and normally see higher conversion rates.
How Often Should You Send?
1-2 times a week, no more than 3 times a week is recommended. Having said that, many marketers send the first few emails daily, and reduce the frequency thereafter. It's best to clarify your intention with your new subscribers; tell them how often they're going to receive your emails and promise that they will not be spammed.
How Many Emails in a Series of Autoresponder?
You can set as many emails as you want. You can create 52+ emails to be sent every week, spread over a year, or more. But there are a couple of disadvantage of a long series;
- The contents will have to be updated from time to time; it can be a messy job to monitor and make sure the information in each and every email is up-to-date.
- It's pointless; there will be different types of subscribers. Those who have clicked a link in your email and purchased products at earlier stage, those who click some links occasionally but never purchase, those who open your emails but never take action, etc.
For these reasons, the best way is to keep an autoresponder not too long. When it's been up & running smoothly for a few months, you could start segmenting your subscribers by their behaviour and create a new set of autoresponder for each group, although it would be a pretty huge task!
Use of Autoresponder in Conjunction with Single Campaigns
You can use an autoresponder as well as a single campaign feature ("newsletter" or "broadcast") at the same time. You can either;
- Only use an autoresponder to send the first 'welcome' email to newly registered subscribers, and send single campaigns whenever you decide to send,
- Use a single campaign feature only to send seasonal greetings or promote seasonal discounts, or
- Use both features fully.
Whichever method you take, use of the both features can cause a timing-clash on some subscribers; where your single campaign newsletter is sent out is the moment an autoresponder is gone out to some of your subscribers. Or there can be a very short time period between the two deliveries. So it's advisable not to use both the autoresponder and single campaigns too many times, too often.
What is an Autoresponder and How Can I Use it Most Effectively?
Autoresponder allows you to engage with all your subscribers simultaneously. When creating a series of emails, try not to bombard your subscribers with too much information, and try thinking about entertaining them as well as helping them in order to reduce the number of unsubscribes.
It's very important to monitor the open rate of each email. If the rate of an email is lower than others, the reason can be (a) the subject line does not sound appealing (b) wrong delivery time of the day or (c) being delivered too soon after the previous email. You can change one of these factors and see the open rate improves.