Autoresponders - What they are & how to use them
In this article I’m going to give you an introduction to autoresponders, and explain why you should be using them in your business.
Read on to find out about…
what autoresponders are
the business benefits of using them
the apps you can use to send them.
And I’ll finish off with some top tips on how to make the most of automated email marketing. Right, let’s begin with the key question: what is an autoresponder?
What is an autoresponder?
Autoresponders are e-newsletters that are sent automatically to your subscribers on your mailing list. They are ‘triggered’ based on rules and time intervals that you define.
For example, you could design a programme of autoresponders so that
when somebody signs up to your mailing list, they immediately receive a welcome message from your business
exactly one week later they receive discount codes for some of your products
three weeks later they receive an invitation to follow you on social media…
…and so on.
Why are autoresponders important?
When you use autoresponders, a lot of your email marketing gets automated – if you set things up correctly, subscribers receive key messages from your business without you having to worry about manually sending these messages out.
So the main benefit of autoresponders is clear: they save you time – a lot of it.
Not only that however, autoresponder emails can generate a lot of income for your business — if you’re clever in how you use them.
Sophisticated applications of autoresponders
The above example of sending out a series of timed promotional emails automatically after somebody signs up to a mailing list is an important one, but there are more sophisticated things you can do with autoresponders, based on what you know about your subscribers — or certain actions they take online.
For example, you can:
switch a subscriber from one type of autoresponder cycle to another if he/she clicks on a particular link within an email
move a subscriber from one cycle of communications to another after they buy a product (i.e., move them from a ‘prospect’ style series of emails to an ‘upsell’ cycle of communications)
send people emails exactly one year after they bought a product (for example, to encourage them to renew a policy or warranty etc.)
automatically send people emails about individual products based on the page of your website that they signed up to your list from
use autoresponders to send birthday greetings (and related offers) to people on your mailing list.
Using autoresponders in these ways can generate significant income and maximise the value of your mailing list.
How do I send autoresponders?
To send out autoresponders, you need to use an email marketing app. There are loads available.
Well-known ones include
These are all solutions for building mailing lists and sending autoresponders to them.
Of the apps i've used to date, I’d probably suggest trying out Getresponse or AWeber, if you need advanced autoresponder functionality — in addition to simple autoresponder cycles, you can use it to create very sophisticated subscriber journeys. Find out more about this product by reading our full Getresponse review.
Hubspot is a good option for businesses looking for a tool that combines CRM and autoresponder technology (the functionality provided is excellent, but it can work out expensive for businesses with large mailing lists).
If you are on a very low budget, Mad Mimi is worth a look as it allows you to host big lists very cheaply on the platform.
(It’s worth noting however, that Mad Mimi’s autoresponder functionality is extremely basic by comparison to its competitors — you are basically limited to ‘drip’ campaigns that are triggered by the number of days between emails).
Does using autoresponders mean that I should stop manually sending out e-newsletters?
No! There will still be many occasions when it makes absolute sense to send out an e-newsletter manually — messages marking festive occasions, seasonal promotions, sale announcements and general news updates will often need to be covered off by sending out a ‘normal’ e-newsletter.
But used well, autoresponders will allow you to automate a lot of ‘nuts and bolts’ marketing activity, and tailor your messages to suit particular segments of your mailing list.
All while you’re in bed, or doing something more interesting, or both!
Top tips for sending autoresponders
Don’t overdo it: keep the intervals between your email autoresponders reasonably long, unless there is a very good business reason to bombard your subscribers with emails.
Keep things relevant: use data supplied by your subscriber when they signed up to send content which they are most likely to be interested in. For example, if they expressed interest in Product X, think twice before adding them to a cycle about Very Different Product Y.
Don’t just ‘drip’— use the full arsenal of marketing automation features available to you. Autoresponders have come a long way since the days of basic 'drip’ campaigns triggered by time intervals. You can now use a whole host of triggers such as opens, clicks, web page visits and purchases to create really sophisticated user journeys that maximise profit.
Be mindful of data protection rules. In the era of GDPR, it’s more important than ever to stay on the right side of data protection laws. Be aware of your obligations on this front, make sure you always have explicit consent before adding any subscribers to autoresponder cycles and allow users to unsubscribe easily from your mailing list.
And that’s it!
Article credit: Style Factory