Everyone should have a mailing list that they keep in touch with regularly, end of. It’s a vital tool to help grow your customer base and increase conversions.
But did you know it can do so much more than that? It can nuture your leads through the sales process, provide onboarding information and tell your story – all automatically!
How do autoresponders work?
The majority of email platforms have this capability, my favourite for multiple flows being ActiveCampaign just because you can do so much with it, but even for simpler list structures, Mailchimp has the capability too!
Autoresponders are effectively little automated processes that perform an action when a certain criteria is met. For example, an automation of 10 emails over 2 weeks might trigger when someone joins your list, or a 2 email thank you sequence might trigger when someone buys a product.
You can choose the content, design, frequency, triggers and everything in between to make it truly personalised for your needs.
Why use them?
Autoresponders are a really effective way of building that relationship with your customers on a fairly hands off basis. You’re giving them all of the information they need to know in a series of emails or actions automatically based on their behaviour.
It pays to bear in mind that automations aren’t a replacement for regular emailing of your list, you should still do that. But they are a supplementary way to nuture your audience
Isn’t that a bit cold and impersonal?
Not at all, people who join your list understand it’s not for you to email them manually directly – a few might use it for that, but the majority won’t. But that doesn’t mean your emails are cold and impersonal just because they’re automated.
The way automation triggers work means they’re directly responding to a set of parameters you have defined, usually based on the direct actions of your prospect. You can also personalise each email using the data they have submitted to you.
For example, if they have provided their first name, you can set it up so the autoresponder addresses them as their first name.
Think about your audience
When you’re designing your autoresponder, make sure you keep your audience in mind. Think about how you promoted the list, did you tell them they’d barely get any emails? In which case, change that, and let them know your email frequency will be increasing.
Perhaps they signed up for one purpose only, maybe you told them they’d only get 1 email a year with key end of year information, in which case an autoresponder might seem out of place.
Always bear in mind what expectations your prospects have of your list and how you can adhere to those expectations without annoying them.
What can you use them for?
Wouldn’t it be lovely if you personally emailed every person who joined your list manually to say thank you? Your prospect handing over their email for marketing is a big deal and a privilege so they deserve to be thanked.
But we live in the real world, that’s not possible, productive or a good use of your time. So by using a welcome series you can offer that personalised touch without having to do it manually.
I love a good welcome series because they tell me more about a business in a digestable way. A typical welcome series will cover a brief thank you, a history of the business, a personal anecdote, something that sets them apart from competitors, and more information about what I can expect from being on the list.
Typically a welcome sequence triggers from the moment they join your list and includes a number of emails over a period of 1 – 2 weeks covering the information above.
Another great use for autoresponders is education. Using an autoresponder can almost be your lead magnet is some scenarios if the content is educational.
For example you could offer “10 weekly recipes” that you send once a week automatically, or a quick 5 day email challenge that you send over 5 days.
One really effective use of an autoresponder is to share your favourite resources. I could share my favourite 10 apps, for example. It’s a great way of passing on information that makes it feel exclusive and secret to them.
By using your autoresponder you’re passing on knowledge and building that know, like and trust factor in a personalised manner without much ongoing management from you.
Onboarding is one of the best uses for automations. This is a great way to convey crucial information to your customer ahead of any service you might offer.
A great example of this would be if you sell workshops. Let’s say before each workshop you need to send all attendees a copy of the terms and conditions, a welcome pack, a contract, information form and a resource pack.
You could in theory email each attendee manually, or you can set up an autoresponder to do it for you so when a contact buys or books the workshop, it triggers the onboarding sequence and sends them all the information they need to know without you lifting a finger.
When a customer buys a product from your website, it pays to think about the entire process. Once they’ve received the product, then what?
Perhaps it’s a technology product and the customer would benefit from a series of videos showing them how to use it.
Maybe it’s a skin care product you could supplement with various skin care tips.
You can also follow up to ask for feedback, remind them to leave a review and let you know how they’ve gotten on with your product. Using an autoresponder as a feedback method increases the likelihood customers will leave a review exponentially.
Using follow ups ensures that your relationship with the customer doesn’t just end when they have received their product. Just make sure they gave consent to be contacted after purchase in accordance with GDPR!
Again, as with the follow ups, make sure you have permission from the customer to be contacted after purchase for marketing purposes.
Using autoresponders to upsell or cross sell is a really lucrative way of using your list.
Let’s say your customer purchased a moisturiser from your website, but you sell a whole range of skincare. You can use an upsell sequence to show them the benefits of buying a clenser and a toner now that they have their moisturiser to complete their skincare routine.
This can be used in a whole bunch of applications, you just have to think about the logical retention rate and the product they’d buy next.
Sell gadgets? Upsell a case.
Sell flowers? Upsell a vase.
Sell a digital product? Upsell the next tier version.
Think about what problem the customer had when making the purchase and then think about other products you have that will solve the same or a similar problem.
Date based autoresponders can be used in two ways; using data they provide to you upon sign up, or using data they have amassed whilst being on your list.
For example, if you ask for date of birth upon sign up, you could create a birthday sequence that emails them a discount code on their birthday.
If as they’ve been on your list they have purchased a product with a recommended repurchase period, follow up with them just before that date. For example, insurance or an annual subscription box.
Think about when you purchase greetings cards online, it always asks if you want to add the recipient’s date to your account. That’s so they can email you in a year and say “Hey, this time last year you bought a card for Aunt Polly. Don’t forget to get her one this year”.
It’s absolutely golden for increasing conversions because you’re mimicking their previous purchase behaviour.
For businesses that have had their list for a while it can be really beneficial to have a reconnection sequence.
Perhaps your open rate has dropped and their are people on your list who haven’t opened a single email from you in a year or who haven’t purchased from you for 2 years, you can use a reconnection sequence to try and win them back as a customer or reader.
Subject lines are key for those who don’t open your emails, after all, the content inside could be gold but if they’re not opening them then you’ve fallen at the first hurdle.
You can entice them with a coupon to come back or you could ask for feedback. If they still don’t engage or open, if you want to you can set it up so that the automation removes them from your list.
Remember, removing people isn’t a bad thing. If they’re not opening emails, there’s no point them being on your list.
Hopefully after reading this blog your mind is whirring with ideas of how you can leverage the automations and autoresponders to build that relationship with your customer.
The next step is to look into segmenting to further personalise your list for regular one-time campaigns.
However you do it, just make sure you have and use a mailing list.