This is the 4th in a series of posts about individual sessions attended at ProBlogger 2015. We have previously summarised Darren Rowse’s tips for making your blog shine, Jadah Sellner’s advice for building your community and Benjamin Mangold’s explanation of metrics that matter in Google Analytics.

Have you considered using automated email responders? This #pbevent session was an eye opener for me & led to immediate action. Check out these strategies.

I have to say that Alita Harvey-Rodriguez’s session on email autoresponders was one I was eagerly looking forward to. Alita is from Milk It Academy and is a master digital sales and marketing trainer. She knows her stuff about email marketing, an area I am not at all comfortable in.

You see, building an email list and setting up autoresponder sequences has been on my to-do list for more than a year now. And as yet, I haven’t fully got my head around it all. As much as I’ve tried, I just haven’t been able to sit down and develop a sequence of emails. I haven’t even been able to drill down to what I want to share, other than my blog posts. It’s been one of those things I’ve let go because it’s felt way too hard.

However, with Alita’s advice ringing in my ears, I came home and finally set up my email list and a series of introductory emails. There’s still a lot of work in order to achieve the level of automation I desire, but I’ve started the ball rolling. And that would not have happened without Alita’s session.

The session itself was divided into logical steps and contained practical examples of how to set up your sequence and what to include in each email. Here’s a run down of my take on the main parts of the session.

What are email autoresponders and why you need them

There are many compelling reasons why email is such a powerful and persuasive force in marketing.

The main reason is that 77% of us prefer email as our primary channel of communication (me included!). Email is viewed as a trusted channel so it’s imperative that all of us treat our subscribers with the utmost respect.

On average, for every $1 spent on marketing, email provides a return of $39.40 – that’s an amazing return. Especially when compared with a return of $22.38 for a $1 investment in paid search, $19.71 for display advertising and a measly $12.90 for social media.

It is true what they all say – your email list is gold.

Given the great return on investment for email marketing, it makes sense to consider an automated, customer-centric email series to further boost this return and engage more fully with your subscribers.

An automated, customer centric series, which is built to respond to the individual behaviours and responses of your subscribers, is far better than traditional static autoresponders.

Digging deeper allows you to connect with your subscribers at a one-on-one level, yielding more conversions and better results. Taking the time to build a customer-centric autoresponder series also frees up your brain space and time and encourages your subscribers to move through a continual and evolving cycle where you acquire, nurture, convert and retain them.

Best of all? Alita revealed that effective autoresponder series have helped bloggers increase revenue by 403% in 30 days. And she went onto to reveal the exact strategies to implement this effective and profitable autoresponder strategy.

What follows really is the ultimate “how to” guide!

How to build an engaging email series

Before you start you need to understand what you are trying to achieve – what is the purpose of building your list? What are you hoping to do for your clients? What do you want them to do for you?

Once you know your “why” (that concept came up over and over again during the conference!) you need to research your customers inside and out. What do they like, what do they hate, how are they feeling right now, what problem do they have, how can you help them, etc?

Then it’s time to segment your information. Make smart decisions with the data. If you have a third of your list interested in recipes, find out who they are and target your emails to this particular audience. If another third love your lifestyle posts, identify this list and send them more targeted emails about this niche.

Finally, with everything in life, you must test. Test. TEST! Ensure your autoresponder series is developed in the right sequence, with the segmented emails being delivered to the right segment of your list. Take the time to ensure everything is completely right before launch.

How to leverage specific content to build trust and value

Building an email list is not just about collecting email addresses. It’s about welcoming, educating, collecting, connecting and making offers to your audience. A good email autoresponder series will nurture your subscribers and lead them on a journey.

It should begin with a welcome series of emails where you gain trust and start to collect information about your subscribers. These emails should aim to educate by sharing your story and featuring valuable, visual content – prove your value to them.

They should also be a means to collect information from your subscribers to help you make your emails more targeted and relevant. Emphasise all the ways in which you can connect – include different channels and highlight multiple touch points for them to contact you.

In your unsubscribe confirmation email (yes, you will need one of those too 🙁 ), be proactive and include links to alternate social media channels so you can keep up the conversation outside of email. And include a valuable offer to encourage people to stick around and not unsubscribe.

Even before you start getting to know your subscribers, you can find something about them by analysing the page they visited prior to signing up to your list. In this way you can start tailoring the content of your autoresponder series to the on-site behaviour of your reader (in this case what topic or post brought them to your subscribe page).

Always remember to love your tribe and provide the utmost value to them – never treat their email address with disrespect.

Content of an effective welcome email responder series

Why bother with a welcome series? The facts are clear. There is a 50% conversion rate when using an automated and targeted, customer-centric, welcome series.

Alita made it SO easy by laying out the steps and suggesting what could be included in each email:

  1. Your first welcome email should be sent in real time, as soon as they sign up to your list. Thank the subscriber. Reassure them about what they will be receiving in exchange for giving you their email address. From the start, build trust by educating about the products and services you can provide. Be real. Make them a welcome offer.
  2. Your second welcome email should be sent between 3 – 7 days after the first. It should remind subscribers about your welcome offer if it hasn’t already been used (it’s great practice here to only include this reminder to those that haven’t converted – this is possible through most email providers). Remember to always place an expiry date on your offer. Feature your best posts in their line of interest (depending on the page that led them to signing up in the first place). Tell them what other subscribers are saying about you and your service/product and recommend related products/services.
  3. Your third welcome email should again be sent 3 – 7 days after the second. This time around, introduce subscribers to your social channels – invite them to find you there. Include tips and tricks to further prove your value. Start suggestive selling – if you have an e-product, service or other offering, mention it and how it could benefit your subscribers. Also take the opportunity to ask for more information from them – this will assist in further segmenting your list and identifying what they are really interested in.
  4. Your fourth welcome email should again be sent 3 – 7 days from the third. Remind them of your social channels. Provide a free tool or video – something that will really be of use to them. Make them a special offer if they have not redeemed your initial welcome offer and, again, include an expiry date for redemption.

Content of an effective retention email autoresponder series

Retaining active subscribers is just as important as attracting new ones. Paying attention to your existing customers and being more individual and targeted in your interaction can drive loyalty and turn subscribers from occasional customers to active brand advocates. But it’s also vitally important to maintain the health of your list.

  1. Activate – consider sending an activation email to those still not converting after your welcome series or who are not at all active on your list. Present an offer they just can’t refuse. Talk to them directly.
  2. Re-engage – look at re-engaging those who haven’t purchased or read your emails in quite a while.
  3. Review – activate reviews of your list and your content. Ask for feedback, seek reviews of their experiences, encourage them to share reviews with their contacts.
  4. Share – make it easy for subscribers to share your emails and content with others. Encourage them to do so using a competition, discount or other incentive.
  5. Congratulate – be there for milestones like birthdays or anniversaries (launch a trigger email based on the information you collected throughout the welcome series). Congratulate them on finishing your course and encourage them to share this achievement with others.
  6. Upsell – Use the opportunity to upsell to other products. Introduce them to services/products of most relevance to their circumstances.

Tailor these emails to each subscriber to get the best result. And take the time to identify your core activation metric – the method you will use for initiating a activation email series. For instance, you may choose to email customers who haven’t taken action within 60 days of signing up to the welcome series.

Above all, make your call to action direct and make it EASY for customers to get help or contact you. Don’t give them a reason to become inactive.

The Blueprint

I have included a screenshot of the blueprint which sets out exactly what you need to do to develop your automated email series and how to proceed based on the response and behaviour of your subscribers.

Have you considered using automated email responders? This #pbevent session was an eye opener for me & led to immediate action. Check out these strategies. - The ultimate email autoresponder blueprint - www.smarterhappier.com

For instance, there are three possible actions after the first welcome/thank you/freebie email is sent out. And then following on from these actions, further steps follow.

This is such a fabulous way to visualise the email series and identify the next best action for a variety of scenarios. Plus, Alita has provided concrete examples of what to include in each email and the best value offer or approach to take in each instance.

This provides a great base to develop your own individual email series.

Elements of a successful email series

  1. It must be instant – respond while their attention is caught and their interest is high.
  2. It has to be behaviour based – know what they are interested in and what they want from you.
  3. It needs to provide relevant content – see the point above.
  4. You need to fill the gaps in the customer journey – identify where interest fails and market to address this.
  5. Map it out – make your own blueprint.
  6. Be personable – make your emails sound authentic. Use your own voice. Be funny and relatable. Think of your emails as a social media status update and write in that vein.
  7. Be regular – once your welcome series is over, aim to send out emails about 3 times a month which is identified best practice. Also be sure to ask subscribers for their preferences in relation to frequency of emails.
  8. Provide 5 – 6 links in each email. Include these as visual buttons too, to increase the chance of conversion. Pepper both links and buttons throughout your email.
  9. Set up a dedicated landing page on your website where customers can come through from social media and easily sign up. Remember to provide them with an incentive to sign such as a useful, value add opt-in.
  10. Use tools – MailChimp can segment your audience & includes an autoresponder series (not in the free version). SenderScore can identify the true health of your email list. Google Analytics can also provide information on your email list (through email provider linkup & UTM code). Metrics to watch are open rates, conversion rates and click through rates.

Alita’s session was highly valuable and truly useful. While I haven’t yet started on an automated series (mainly because I’m baulking at having to pay for an upgraded MailChimp account!) I have already used her tips in putting together my standard email responders for new subscribers. Which is something I did not have before ProBlogger – so a definite win for me!

Do you have experience in setting up an autoresponder series? Have any tips to share?