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Autoresponders on ‘Roids

This post was written by the Web Marketing Ninja—a professional online marketer for a major web brand, who’s sharing his tips undercover here at ProBlogger. Curious? So are we!

Darren has written a lot about how he has evolved his autoresponder sequences on his blogs. But I want to take this a step further and describe how you can turn a good auto responder into a great one.

Step 1: Segment your subscribers when they give you their email addresses

When you ask users to give you their email addresses, you should keep the process as frictionless as possible. If you can, just ask for the address itself. If you really need to, ask for their name so you can personalize messages—but that’s it.

Given you’ve only got one piece of information, how can you segment your audience?

  • Segment A: Existing Customer: match the email address to your list of orders and see if the person is an existing customer or not.
  • Segment B: Blog Commenter: if you’re requesting people include their email addresses when they post comments, match against that to determine how connected they are to your blog.
  • Segment C: Community Member: if your blog includes a forum, chances are you’ll have a record of user email addresses from your forum signup process. Use this to determine if they’re already part of your community.
  • Segment D: New Subscriber: this is the bucket for anyone who doesn’t fit into the above segments. These are fresh faces to your blog.

Step 2: Tailor an autoresponder for each segment

You’ll probably follow a similar process to the one Darren created here. However, you should create a sequence that’s specific for each segment. For example, you might welcome a new subscriber by sharing with them some of your most popular posts first. Then, you might send them a copy of your latest newsletter. Finally, you might send them an offer on one of your products. Alternatively, you might simply send an existing customer the content they gave you their email for, as they’re already in your sales cross-sell and up-sell cycle.

As a starting point, try to put yourself in the segment’s shoes, and create a process you’d like to see if you were them.

Step 3: Test and refine each segment’s autoresponder

This is where it gets a little harder and, sometimes, a little confusing. It’s time to refine your autoresponder sequence to find that optimal conversion rate for each segment. Some of the considerations you need to take into your testing could include:

  • Sequence of events: e.g. free ebook –> links to popular blog posts –> latest newsletter –> paid ebook
  • Email delivery time: during business hours/outside business hours/weekday/weekend
  • Delay between emails: one month, one week, one day, one hour
  • Email format: HTML, rich text, or plain text
  • Email copy: long or short, informational or sales-focused

Warning: when you’re testing, you can easily get out of control creating variations. For example, if you had three different test cases for each of four segments, you’d have 12 tests running simulations. And if they have four emails each, that would be 48 emails you need to write! I’d start with what you think is right, and over time evolve your approach—just like Darren has.

Now unfortunately I’m not sure of any email services offering this level of depth when it comes to allocating people to certain lists based on their customer profiles (if someone knows of one, let me know). So you might need to have something custom-created for you to take an email address, decide what segment the user fits into, and assign that person to the appropriate list. However, a little investment up front can pay huge dividends in ongoing reader-to-customer conversions.

Even if you’re only getting a handful or subscribers each day, putting them through a focused autoresponder program that’s been tailored to them will, without doubt, increase your conversions.

Stay tuned from most posts by the secretive Web Marketing Ninja—a professional online marketer for a major web brand, who’s sharing more of his tips undercover here at ProBlogger over the coming weeks.

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Comments

  1. markco says:

    This is a great idea, thank you very much for the information.

  2. Very informative. The only thing that is stunning is the amount of email one needs to write and the amount of time that will be needed to do the same.

    But that is unavoidable!

    Thanks Ninja.

  3. Riaz Sidi says:

    I hope my cyberpotency isn’t affected:P

  4. I mostly tend to get just one piece of information and will be in a puzzled state even with that

  5. Cool ideas! I love the concept of testing the sequences to optimize conversions…but it does seem like a lot of work. As a developer, my mind is already spinning with ways to build a tool to help with that. Hmmm…

    Seems like an auto-segmenting tool would be a no brainer as well.

    Are there any existing tools out there to help with these things?

  6. To Darren and the Web Marketing Ninja,
    Autoresponders are great but as the some of the above people mentioned the learning curve can be steep.

    As a non tech person it has taken me time to learn how to set my software up and make it effective. Good news is that now what used to take me a hour to do before I mastered the system basics I can now do in about 15 minutes minutes. Now I am at the point that I am able to teach clients how to make best use of the same software which is a huge time saver.

    By the way, I ask for the reader’s country of origin in one of my forms so I know where my reader’s are coming from and this question is usually answered.

    All the best to you,
    David

  7. jason says:

    Very interesting post on autoresponding, as I haven’t even really thought about the concept. May have to take this advice and start from now on.

  8. Interesting article. I use aweber and simply ask for name and email address – try to keep it simple.

    This is an area I need to look at in greater depth.

  9. Angela says:

    all these steps are detailed , very useful and good information,i have to read them carefully, thanks for your great release!

  10. I had never thought of segmenting my members- I do have an email that goes out to first time subscribers and a Thank you page on my blog that pops up after new visitors leave a comment.

    Great info- thanks!

  11. ronism says:

    I just starting to build my list and I actually deactivated my autoresponder because its sending marketing emails as well. I should have paid more attention to their policy. lol. anyway, this is a gold mine of information for a start-up like me. Thanks

  12. Connie Myres says:

    I’m not sure if this exactly fits the bill, but if you use Joomla there is an email autoresponder extension that can filter users based on the fields, for one, and subscribe them to different mailing lists. It can automatically generate email newsletters. And it has an automatic follow-up campaign that will send a series of emails at different time intervals based on the subscription date. I haven’t tried this extension yet because I don’t have enough people visiting my site. It’s called AcyMailing and you can find it at acyba.com or Joomla.org. Thanks for the post!

  13. Seems I use an email service provider that doesn’t let you segment autoresponder messages, only one-time broadcasts. Bummer.

  14. Tom Durkin says:

    I think getting the name as well as the email is really important.

    It just makes the emails you send out look a lot more genuine.

    Anyone else have any thoughts on this?

  15. Matt says:

    Ninja,
    SendPepper/OfficeAutoPilot will automatically segment as you mention. They have the option for rules to place and remove people on campaigns based on actions they perform, like visiting webpages or opting into different campaigns. What I like is they use tagging instead of traditional lists so you give people multiple tags instead of sticking them into multiple static lists.

    It is by no means perfect, for example they still don’t have RSS to email, but I don’t know a service that is perfect. I think they work to be more of a marketing system than just an email system. I wrote a review of it here a while back, if you want to look:
    http://insurancemarketingonline.net/sendpepperofficeautopilotinfusionsoftreview

  16. Steven says:

    This is an area I need to look in greater depth in too because I plan on releasing a product within the next 2-3 months. I want to make sure conversions are as good as they can be.

  17. I think getting the name as well as the email is really important .as I haven’t even really thought about the concept. May have to take this advice and start from now on

  18. @Stevefogg says:

    This is a great beginner post, I’d really be interested in how you integrate this into a cycle where people buy from you – tell me what works/doesn’t work in terms of driving sales.

    Also I want the downside too of something like aweber or similar comparison as I know there are limitations to what they can do.

    What about compare autoresponder systems!?? I’ve only seen aweber and I think mailchimp?

  19. Reading this post I admit I was frowning heavily at all the work this needs in the coding. Seems like a total “no go” for the non technically inclined.
    But, being a person who tries to avoid extra work when she cans, I thought of a solution that would let my customers do the work for me. The idea is to add a couple of (non mandatory) tick boxes to the subscribe box, where users can tick any that apply (or drop down box/radio button if you only want one anwser) and thereby segment themselves nicely for me in any categories that I favour. :-D
    It will not have 100% accuracy, depending on how meticulous the customers are about it, BUT it is almost 0% work, so I’m willing to make some concessions… ;-)
    (The day where I have a good idea is a good day for me. Thank you for inspiring it!)

  20. Web Marketing Ninja says:

    Thanks everyone for your comments. I hadn’t heard of a couple of the suggestions people have make with regards to software solutions. I’ll be sure to check them out.

    As for the couple of comments talking about the effort to write all the emails, I know it’s tough, but it’s something that will deliver a return on investment. So it’s effort in — money out.

    Math that works for me :)