If you’ve stepped into the world of email marketing, you’ve probably heard how important it is to have an email autoresponder or welcome series to start nurturing your email subscribers from the moment they sign up to join your list. But this series of emails isn’t something you can set and forget. It’s something you need to review and tweak to make sure your content stays fresh and relevant and to identify any technical glitches and areas that need improvement.
That’s why one of the best business tasks you can focus on this week is to review your current welcome series and autoresponder sequence to find out what’s working and what needs to some TLC and improvements.
Ready to get started?
Here’s are the steps. 🙂
Step 1: Sign up to your own list and review the process
You can’t truly review if your autoresponder is working properly if you don’t experience it. So sign up with any email account you like and get ready to start reviewing.
You can use any email account you like. I usually use my Gmail account because it’s very searchable, meaning it’s easy to search and quickly find things using keywords instead of digging through all your emails.
Once you’ve decided which email account you’re going to use, grab a pen and paper, go over to the opt-in page/form and get ready to sign up for your own list. We’ll address some of these things in more detail in other steps of the review, but start to pay attention and try to look at each piece of the process from your subscribers’ perspective.
Before you sign up, consider these questions:
- How attractive is the opt-in offer?
- Is the headline catchy?
- Do you help your readers solve a problem with your freebie?
- Are you hitting on pain points in your copy?
- How attractive are the graphics?
- How visually appealing is the form/page layout?
As you’re signing up, look at how easy and smooth the process is. Look at and reevaluate how much information you’re asking for in the form. Is it all necessary? Does the landing page and opt-in email making sense? Are there things you could improve or clarify? Does it fit with the overall look and feel of the rest of your website?
What about the confirmation message? Will your readers know what to expect and what they need to do next?
If you’re using a single opt-in, check that you receive the email delivering your freebie. Does the download link work? What about everything you’ve written in the email? Are you creating a strong first impression and starting to build a relationship with your subscribers?
If you’re using a double opt-in, what is the email confirmation like? Is the tone friendly and is it clear to subscribers that they need to click a link or button to confirm their email address and receive the freebie? Once you confirm your opt-in, you should land on a Thank You or download page. Review the page and determine if you’re using it to your advantage. It should be easy to find the freebie download link, but this isn’t the only thing you can do on this page. Start to think about using this space to create a relationship with your readers and to turn them into customers (we’ll go into more detail in Step 3). Check that all the links on the page work.
Last but not least, head to your email account and review the welcome email you received. Going forward, look at each message in your autoresponder sequence as it comes in. Make sure the links are working, the offers are still valid and the messages make sense. Change and tweak as needed.
That’s it for step one. Next we’ll take a closer look at your freebie and how well it’s working when it comes to drawing new subscribers into your funnel.
Step 2: Review your freebie
Now that you’ve got a pretty good overview the current state of your opt-in freebie and email series, and a list of things you want to change or fix, it’s time to take a closer look at your freebie, also known as a lead magnet or opt-in gift. This is the thing you’re giving away as a thank you when people join your list – the incentive for subscribing.
It’s a good idea to change your freebie from time to time so that you’re always offering something relevant, valuable and enticing to your readers. Note: that does NOT mean you need to create new freebies every week or even every few months. But you do need to evaluate your freebie’s relevance and effectiveness at growing your email list. If it’s no longer relevant or it’s not attracting the right people to your list, then you need to carefully consider if you’re offering the right incentive to your ideal subscribers.
That’s why it’s a good idea to start with your target audience, i.e. your ideal subscribers, in mind. You don’t want to appeal to the largest audience. Instead, you want to attract the right people who will love your products and recommendations. In short, you want your email list to be made up of future customers and loyal fans. Do you know who your ideal customers are? If not, now’s the time to figure it out and form a clear profile of who you want to help with your products and services.
Once you know who your ideal customer is, think about where they are at right now in life. What’s going on with them insofar as it relates to what you have to offer and what they want in the not-too-distant future? For example, let’s say you’re building an audience of budding authors whose goal is to write and publish their first novel. What questions would these people would ask themselves when they are just getting started and the questions they’ll think about as they start writing? What problems are they likely to face?
Spend a little time today to brainstorm some ideas for questions and solutions around this whole concept for your own target audience. Along the way, think about how your existing opt-in freebie fits into that picture. Is it a good fit? If not, you’ll need to come up with a new one. Think about the format as well. Is a downloadable PDF booklet attractive to your target audience? Would they prefer a video course or interactive quiz? Look at what your competitors are doing as well as what others who target the same audience but for different reasons are doing. I’m not saying to copy them, but just to take a look and see if you notice any trends that you might want to adopt. You can also ask your current subscribers directly about this and run social media polls.
If you need to, don’t be afraid to create a few new opt-in freebies and test them out to see which one performs best for you (getting the highest number of subscribers that fit your ideal subscribers profile). It’s time well spent when you find the opt-in offer that helps explode your list growth.
Step 3: Review your download and thank you page(s)
Now that you’ve reviewed and tweaked your existing offer, or created something new for your audience, it’s time to tackle another important piece of the puzzle… the download or thank you page.
If you’re using a double opt-in
If you’re using a double opt-in (meaning people receive an email asking them to confirm they want to be on your list), then this will be the page your subscribers land on after they confirm their opt-in. It’s also typically the page where they can access and download freebie.
If you’re using a single opt-in
If you’re using a single opt-in, you have some choices as to how to thank subscribers and share your freebie:
(1) redirect them to a thank you and download page after they hit the subscribe button
(2) use a short thank you message that activates in your opt-in form after people subscribe, telling them to check their inbox for an email from you with a direct link to the freebie
(3) same as option 2 but instead you email them a link to the thank you and download page where they can access their freebie.
If you email your subscribers a link that takes them directly to the freebie, then skip down to the next step about welcome emails. 🙂
If you are using a thank you and download page (options 1 or 3 above), know that this page is prime real estate on your site and you should take full advantage of it!
Why is it prime real estate? For two reasons. The first is that just about every single subscriber is going to visit that page. They want their freebie, so they will click through to the download page to pick it up. In short, this will likely be one of your most visited pages. The second reason is just as important and it’s about the quality of website visitors. The people that see your thank you page are hot leads. This means they are very interested in what you have to say and they trust you enough to hand over their email address. You can take advantage of that fact and present them with an offer right on the download page while they are open to taking you up on it.
So, if you’re using a thank you and download page, make sure to to audit it and see if there’s room for improvement. At the very least, you want the following elements on your page:
- A “thank you” message for your subscribers – It’s not just a nice thing to do—it also lets them know that their subscription was successful. This is one of the first impressions you’re going to make with your subscribers, so make it a good one.
- Access to the freebie – Next, it’s time to keep your promise and deliver the freebie. This could be a PDF download, access to an embedded video, or the information they need to access a course on a site link Teachable, Thinkific or Kajabi. Make it easy to get the freebie and provide help on how to access it. Not only does this avoid frustrated subscribers, it also saves you on quite a few support emails.
- A way to contact you – No matter how much information you provide or how thorough you are with the help you provide on the the download page, people may have questions or feedback. Make it easy to get in touch with you by providing your email and links to your social media accounts. Getting emails from subscribers is actually a good thing. It allows you to continue to build that relationship one-on-one.
Optional – but can be highly effective! As I mentioned before, your thank you page is visited by “hot” leads, so you can use this page to make an offer for a paid product. Ideally this will be your own product, but you could also make an offer for an affiliate product. The idea is to move your readers from subscriber to paying customer as quickly as possible. A customer is a much more valuable lead than a freebie subscriber. Right after they sign up, you have their full attention and you know exactly what they want and need. Come up with a product or service that’s closely related to the freebie they just signed up for. Keep the product/service highly targeted and relatively inexpensive. You don’t want to offer a high ticket item here. This is the very beginning of your product funnel and you want to make it an easy yes for subscribers and get them on your customer list. The list you’re building will be more valuable and you could even use some of the income you’re generating from your thank you page to pay for some targeted advertising to grow your list even faster.
Step 4: Be honest – how welcoming is your welcome email?
Your welcome email is the email you send to subscribers when they first join your email list. This means it could be the actual email you send them to direct them to the freebie or it could be the email that’s sent after the email that delivers the very first freebie your subscribers ever sign up to receive (meaning that they only get this welcome email once even if they subsequently sign up for other freebies).
Many times welcome emails get written quickly during the process of setting up our email lists and they are never looked at it again. And this is unfortunate because the welcome email is almost always the email that has the highest open rate of anything you send and is seen by just about every single person that signs up for your list. More importantly, those readers are hot leads. They just found you and signed up for your list and your lead magnet. They are very interested in what you have to say and what you can do to help them. In short, you have their full attention. Don’t waste that.
Take this opportunity to nurture your relationship with your subscribers. You can set expectations, create a personal connection, and invite subscribers to reply to you with their questions, observations and feedback.
So what are the different components of a good welcome email?
- A clear subject line. It should be to the point and let subscribers know exactly what the email is about and who it’s from. One way to do this is to make reference to your site or your freebie in there.
- Warm and welcoming message. Make sure to make a good impression on your readers, thank them for subscribing, and make them feel welcome and appreciated. Tell them a little about you and your site, and why you’re the best person to help them.
- Introduction to what’s coming in future emails. You can greatly improve your future email open rates if you set expectations with your readers, let them know what’s coming and what you’ll be sending them in future emails, and why they won’t want to miss out on receiving those emails. If you send a regular newsletter, you can share a little bit about what’t will be in those newsletters and what day of the week they’ll usually be sent.
- Mention your welcome series. If you have a Welcome Series set up, tease your subscribers about what’s coming in the first email and let them know when to look for it. You can also hint at exclusive content, coupons and other cool things that are coming in other emails in the series.
- Invitation to connect. Encourage your subscribers to hit reply and email you. Ask them a question, suggest that they share a tip, or ask them to just introduce themselves. Not only does this allow you to take the relationship to the next level and give you a chance to get to know your audience better, it also greatly improves your overall email delivery rates. You can also tell subscribers where they can find and connect with you on social media.
Look over your current welcome email and use these points as a guideline to revise it (or create one if you don’t have one yet) in a way that suits your brand and your target audience. As your understanding of your niche and your target audience grows, you should revisit and tweak the messaging in your welcome email. Have a look at it every six months or so to make sure it still serves you and your readers well.
Step 5: Determine if your welcome series is serving your subscribers
You’ve already reviewed and updated your welcome email. Now it’s time to tackle the rest of the emails in your autoresponder/welcome series. If you sign up for your own list, you can edit and work through these emails as they hit your inbox. Or you can just open them in your email marketing account and edit them one at a time . Either options is fine, but make sure the tech is working and that the emails are actually getting sent.
Look at each of the emails from the point of view of our subscribers and customers. Review both the content and the offers you are presenting to your readers. Spend a few minutes defining your ideal subscriber. The more you know about this “person” and what they want to achieve, the easier it will become to edit these messages and craft new ones going forward.
Here are some questions to ask yourself as you read through each of the email messages in your autoresponder series.
1) Does the subject line grab their attention? The subject line is a huge determiner in whether or not your subscribers open your email. It can be helpful to look at the stats in your email marketing software to identify which emails have high open rates and which ones don’t. Rework the subject lines of underperformers and see if you can find a way to grab your readers’ attention.
2) Are you serving your subscribers with the content you’re sharing? Review the content you’re sharing in your emails as well as the content you’re directing them to in your messages, e.g. blog posts, PDFs or videos. Examine each piece of content and ask yourself if it serves your audience. Are you helping your readers? How? Are you answering their questions, addressing their concerns, or entertaining them? All are fine but make sure they suit your ideal subscribers. Is it something they would want to receive? If something doesn’t serve them, take it out of the series or edit it as needed. Remember, you’re building a relationship here and you have to earn your subscribers’ trust before they will become customers and fans.
3) Does the order and timing of your emails make sense? As you are working your way through your emails, it’s also a good idea to review the order in which they’re sent. Is the order logical? Are the emails presenting your readers with information, tips and offers in an order that makes sense? For example, you don’t want to present the solution to a problem if you haven’t discussed that problem with your readers. Don’t forget to also review the timing and frequency of your emails. You don’t want your subscribers to hit the unsubscribe button because they’ve received too many emails in a certain period of time. Equally you don’t want them to unsubscribe because they’ve forgotten who you are. Do you think the time you send your emails is appropriate? Have a look at the open rates for all the emails you’ve sent. If you sent some at different times, did the open rates vary? Try to get inside your ideal subscribers’ heads and think about whether the time you send your emails works for them. Don’t be afraid to do some split testing. You could even ask your subscribers what time and day suits them.
4) What else would your readers need and and want to know? Answering this will not only help you with the order of your emails, it will also help you to come up with more useful emails for your series and content for your newsletters and blog posts.
5) Are the recommendations you’re making the best ones for your readers? Always have your subscribers’ best interests in mind when making recommendations. Are the products or services you’re recommending worth the money? Are they a good fit for your readers? Don’t make offers just for the sake of making offers. Make offers because you know this is something that will provide true value to your audience.
Go through each of the emails in your series and improve everything you can. Don’t be afraid to delete entire emails if they don’t serve your subscribers. Quality trumps quantity and you should be protective of your readers. Nothing kills an email list quicker than a bunch of crappy offers! You’re in this for the long run and that means taking care of your subscribers.
Step 6: Review whether your welcome series is serving you and your business
In the previous step, you looked at the messages in the welcome sequence to make sure they are serving your audience. But in addition to serving your audience, the emails you send should serve you and your business, and they should ultimately help you to make money.
This means that your emails should not only provide valuable offers, but they should be crafted in an enticing way so that readers will take you up on your offers and invest in the products or services you recommend.
Your best friend here analytics—so that means analytics from your email series (which you can access in your email marketing software) and from anything else that you measure, e.g. click-throughs on affiliate links. You can also review your Google Analytics to see what helpful data you can find there. Setting up goals for example is a good idea to see what’s working and where in a funnel you’re losing people.
It helps to track three different metrics.
The first metric is the open rate. If your subscribers don’t open your emails, you need to do something. Start by looking at the subject line and see what you can do to improve it. If that doesn’t work, it may be a problem with the subject matter. In that case, try replacing the message with something different. Also make sure your emails aren’t ending up in spam folders.
The second metric to keep an eye on is click-through rates for any links in your email messages. If you’re not getting clicks, chances are that you’re either not writing a strong enough call to action or the content or offer isn’t interesting to your readers. In either case that’s something you should focus on fixing. Revisit all the information you’ve gathered about your audience and what interests them and what they need to solve their problems. Revise your calls to action with that information in mind. Keep going back to the questions of what they need to know and what they need next.
The third metric is your unsubscribes. This doesn’t mean deleting emails from your series just because they’ve have some unsubscribes. Look at the big picture—you’ll always have some people unsubscribe from your list at various points in your autoresponder sequence as well as in your regular email newsletters. That’s normal. But look for spikes in unsubscribes associated with any particular emails. Look at those emails. Is the topic different from what you usually share? Was the wording too salesy? Rework the copy or even replace the message with something better suited to your target audience and see if you can improve your stats.
There’s a lot you can learn from analytics and from what your readers tell you. If you can pay attention to all that info and start taking action, you’ll become a more effective email marketer and business owner.
Step 7: Develop a game plan for the future
While an audit like this is a great way to update and improve things, it’s just as important to keep an eye on things and tweak them more regularly going forward. That being said, it’s easy to put this task on the back burner and focus on new and exciting or more urgent tasks instead. And this is why it’s important to make a plan to keep improving your autoresponder series going forward.
It’s a good idea to review your freebie every three to six months and change it if necessary. Go ahead and put some reminders in your calendar to do this.
If you want to add new autoresponder messages to your series, block time off in your schedule to do it.
Make it a habit to look at your opt-in stats. You can learn a lot from them. Review your open rates and unsubscribes, and how many people take you up on your offers. Study any email offers or solo emails that are converting well for you and try to do more along those lines. Set yourself a reminder to review your stats every few weeks.
Look at your opt-in conversion rates. Play around with your opt-in forms and pages, the placement of the forms, the copy etc. and see if you can get that percentage to go up. Most email marketing services give you the ability to split test your forms and pages. Take advantage of that. Set up tests and always have one running. Continue to try to beat your previous conversion rate.
Last but not least consider setting up different opt-in funnels. You can target specific subsets of your target audience with special funnels designed just for them. This allows you to speak directly to them and their particular needs. Continue to grow your list by setting up new funnels and new autoresponders on a regular basis.
Make these tasks a priority. Put them in your calendar and get them done. Your list and your business will grow that much faster when you do.