The Simple 7-Step Autoresponder Sales Sequence
1 – Start Here
About The Author
Julie Boswell operates Rebel Enterprise, a copywriting and consulting agency that helps rebellious entrepreneurs grow their businesses through powerful sales copy, effective marketing strategy and compelling direct response marketing campaigns.
What You Need To Get Started
This Execution Plan lays out a simple way to build an autoresponder series that sells a product or service.
An autoresponder series is a set of emails that are triggered by an opt-in to an email list. Once a new lead opts in to an email list the emails are sent automatically based on the sequence you have set up.
For example, the day a lead opts in is DAY 0 and your autoresponder could be set to send them email on DAY 1, DAY 3, DAY 4 and DAY 8.
In other words your new lead will receive a separate email 1, 3, 4 and 8 days after opting in to your list. This is how you build sales on autopilot.
Your autoresponder series might look like this:
To take full advantage of this Execution Plan you’ll need 3 things:
1. An understanding of Customer Value Optimization – If you aren’t familiar with the Customer Value Optimization process read this article from Ryan Deiss first.
2. A Lead Magnet – A Lead Magnet is a small chunk of value given in exchange for contact information. Learn more about building your first Lead Magnet in this Execution Plan.
3. A Landing or Squeeze Page – This autoresponder series will rely heavily on the Video Sales Letter (VSL) or text sales letter you’ve created for the product or service you are selling. Learn more about writing your first landing page in this Execution Plan and more about creating a Video Sales Letter in this Execution Plan.
You’ll also need an email service provider such as MailChimp, AWeber or InfusionSoft. If you are just getting started I would recommend starting with a paid version ofMailChimp. The free version of MailChimp does not give you the ability to set up autoresponders.
MailChimp has an excellent tutorial showing you exactly how to set up an autoresponder using their program.
2 – 7-Step Autoresponder Sequence
How to Use This Section
You can use this Execution Plan to sell ANYTHING with auto-responders.
But I’m going to structure this Execution Plan around making that first sale to a new lead.
Let’s assume that our emails are following up with someone who has just been offered your Tripwire. They took your Lead Magnet and now we’ve given them a high value, very low cost, no brainer sort of offer that they should jump at. But they haven’t.
I’d like to start there because the relationship is still very new and the newer the relationship, the harder the sell. And if we’re going to be breaking this down, we might as well look at it from the worst case scenario perspective.
Let’s also assume that your Tripwire does NOT have a deadline associated with it. Although it’s smart to add urgency to your offers whenever possible, adding fake urgency is a sure way to turn people off. They can smell phony a mile away. So, if you do offer special pricing for a limited time, stick to that and change the price when your offer period is over.
For the purposes of this Execution Plan though, we’re going to proceed as though you offer your Tripwire widget for X price ($1-$20) always, not temporarily. And with that in mind, we’re not locked down to a specific timeframe for follow-up. Again, I’m working with this assumption because it’s the hardest/worse-case scenario for us to tackle. You’ll have to decide on your own how long to follow-up about the offer because there isn’t a deadline associated with it. I’ll walk you through that decision making process.
You’re finally going to get the answers to the questions that plague just about every person who ever sits down to write auto-responders …
What’s the mentality of an Internet Lead?
How Long Do You Follow Up?
How Often Do You Email?
And of course …
What do you say to them to make them buy?
Let’s start by talking about your prospect’s mindset …
Step 1 – Understand The Mentality of An Internet Lead
There are lots of resources that’ll tell you how to treat an internet lead, but not a lot of them telling you what’s going on in your prospects minds. So, in order to better prepare yourself for the task at hand, let’s take a look at the state of the relationship.
By the time they get to your Tripwire offer they’ve requested and received your Lead Magnet. Have they read it or used it? Maybe, maybe not.
Do they trust you? At this point, if your Lead Magnet is good (even if they haven’t read it and the title is good) they’re beginning to trust your authority on your subject.
You’re THE guy (or gal) who has expertise enough to create such a Lead Magnet and they were interested enough in that to request it. The transaction that’s taken place there is exciting because doors are being opened for the two of you. You’re not friends yet. But you’re associated in a positive way. Good things to come.
Step 2 – Decide How Long You’ll Follow Up
Most Tripwire offers will have a deadline associated with them. By definition they are very low priced offers (usually $1-$20) and so typically you can find a good reason to have a “fire sale” or “flash sale” as Digital Marketer likes to call it. Those are clearly deadline driven and run for just a few hours or a few days.
In those cases it’s very easy to determine how long you’ll follow up. You’ll do it as long as the offer is in place. If you put a Tripwire offer out there on a Tuesday and say it ends Friday … well, you follow-up until Friday.
But there are instances when Tripwires don’t have deadlines associated with them. It’s the $11 eBook that you really can’t justify giving away for free (because it’s thatgood) or the $5 report that’s worth $500 but you don’t “do” that part of your business anymore so you just have it there, collecting $5 a pop to pay for the real estate it takes up on your website.
These are invented reasons for the price point, but they’re reasons. It’s important to give one. If you don’t give a reason for your deadline it can come off as phony.
But, as I said, we’re going to move forward in this execution plan under the assumption that you do not have a deadline associated with your offer.
Typically, you want to follow-up for 2-3 weeks from the time someone first sees your offer before backing off.
Specifically, I like to follow up with 7 emails that go out every 2-3 days over a 2-3 week time period.
The reason behind this timeframe and quantity of follow-up has to do with the mental state of your prospect.
They expressed interest in the subject when they took your Lead Magnet … you know they’re a good candidate for it just for that reason, so these folks are warm … really warm.
But something got in their way. Was their decision not to buy intentional/psychological or did life get in the way?
We’ll get to that when we talk about what you should say to these people to entice them to buy. But for now, assume that it’s a combination of both. And really, whether they got busy and realized they were burning dinner and had to click away or they don’t really trust that your “thing” will work, following up with them over the next few weeks makes sense while the experience is relatively fresh.
After 2-3 weeks the discussion isn’t really relevant anymore and you risk becoming a PEST if you keep beating a dead horse. You don’t want to do that to the people who truly belong on your list or they’ll remove themselves.
Step 3 – Decide How Often You’ll Email
Again, this’ll depend on the length of your offer. If your offer is only good for 48 hours, you’re gonna email every day, maybe even twice on the last day. But when it’s a long standing offer you wouldn’t do that.
I like to follow-up with a specific offer every 2-3 days because these are gentle reminders. I tend to do a lot of take away selling and positioning that make my offers something that people want to “qualify” for. Because of that I don’t have to (and its not appropriate to) hard, in your face, sell the way an everyday email reminder about an offer does.
And I advocate for that stance no matter what your industry or niche. If you don’t have a deadline associated with your Tripwire, then emailing every day stinks of desperation and used car salesman. Those poor guys get a bad rap. What a tough gig. But the image we conjure up when we think of them ultimately ends up as someone we don’t trust, someone that’s pushy, and isn’t really on “our” side. That’s not the position you want to be in to sell your stuff.
What you want is an alignment between you and your prospect that so clearly puts you and that person on the same side, that it’s unmistakable that you’re on the same team. Don’t worry. I’ll show you some examples.
And that brings us to the fun stuff …
What Do You Say To These People To Convince Them To Buy?
Step 4 – Write Your Subject Lines
Subject lines are like truly like envelope copy in direct mail. They’re not just like headlines. Headlines and subject lines are similar but they don’t do the same job. A headline’s job is to get the first sentence read. A subject line’s purpose to get the email opened (just like teaser copy on an envelope). Check out the post on this to get your idea juices flowing.
This could be the longest Execution Plan we have in the Digital Marketer Lab if I covered every different kind of sales approach.
But you’ve already made your decision about how you’ll approach the sale in your sales letter and we’ll use what you’ve already created in that sales letter to build out your email body copy. (Don’t have a sales letter? Check out this Execution Plan on writing your first Landing Page)
Now we need to figure out how to get their eyeballs back on that offer by getting them to open your emails. And the best way to do that is to be relevant.
What I mean by that is that you already have a conversation started with these people. You have subject matter in common and you know some things about them. Use that!
Reference the promises you made in your Lead Magnet opt-in copy.
Take a look at this opt-in page for my client’s Lead Magnet:
It offers a FREE Permaculture Design Course and the page talks about renewable energy, greywater and rainwater catchment, soil regeneration and so on.
When I follow-up to these opt-ins about acting on the Tripwire offer (which happens to be a Permaculture Fundamentals DVD for free, just pay s&h), I’m going to reference these things that they obviously care about.
Here are a few subject lines that would work in this scenario …
Renewable Energy Miracle
Advanced Rainwater Catchment
For True Garden Lovers
Regenerate & Restore Your Property
Garden Soil Regeneration [EASY]
If you’re not familiar with or interested in Permaculture these may seem like pretty boring subject lines. But remember, the people who opted in for that course really care about this stuff. Don’t under-estimate the power of this …
They have ALREADY told you what’s important to them by opting in to receive your Lead Magnet. You need to use that information to connect with them.
Let’s look at another example. Take a look at this opt-in page for an InfusionSoft demo…
When following up with folks that sign up for the demo through this page use subject lines like…
Grow Sales. Save Time. Get Organized.
How Andy Increased Revenue by 300%
23,000 small businesses can’t be wrong
Automated, All-in-One Sales & Marketing
Know when customers are ready to buy
Get Automatic Email Follow-up
Sell online using E-Commerce Shopping Carts
Get it? This might be the most simplistic approach to subject lines you’ve ever gotten, but remember, these are NOT cold leads. They’ve already told you plenty about what they want.
So, go to your Lead Magnet Opt-in Page and write as many subject lines as you can. I’ve given these example 7 subject lines each because that’s how many emails I’ll send. But you’ll need more for split testing.
SNEAKY TRICK: If you send out an email with a really low open rate, you can change the subject line and resend the EXACT same content to everyone that did not open the email. They haven’t seen the content of the email… switching up the appeal in the subject line will get more people to open.
Now let’s talk about how to structure the sequence and the copy inside each email so you’ll know exactly what to say.
Step 5 – Decide On Your Body Copy Structure
I like to follow this really simple structure because it’s conversational, engaging, and easy to follow …
EMAIL 1 – Reconnect, if you care about X, this is exactly how you’ll do/get that.
“Maybe you didn’t have a chance to read through the entire offer. You need to do that so you can get X NOW.”
EMAIL 2 – Benefits (bullets)
EMAIL 3 – Explain ease-of-use, Show speed to results, Future cast
EMAIL 4 – Show Your Credentials, Get Social Proof
EMAIL 5 – Build Value, Add Bonuses
EMAIL 6 – Reminder, warning
EMAIL 7 – Reconnect, use everything you know about them to do that. “If not now, when would be a good time for you to get/do X?”
This is a structure I like, but you can take a look at your offer page and decide what elements you’d like to point out and in what order.
I often use an expanded version of Perry Belcher’s 21-step sales letter formula to write sales copy. So, when I go to choreograph the autoresponder sequence I’ll look at the formula and the copy and then decide based on the strengths of each element which ones make the most sense to utilize.
If you’re not using a formula to write your sales copy (be honest), you have to change that. Check out this post on the Digital Marketer blog for an easy one to start with and stick to. Once you’re using a formula everything about writing your sales page AND writing your auto-responders gets MUCH easier.
Step 6 – Write Your Emails
Its finally time to dig in. You’ve got some subject lines to work with and you know essentially what information you want to include in each email. Time to write these things.
So, let’s just start at the beginning, with email #1. You’ll have to choose one of the subject lines you created to use or tweak to perfectly fit the actual subject of the email.
We have already decided that the content of email #1 is going to be about reconnecting. Remember, you want to align yourself, and your product and/or service with your prospect. So your prospect will feel like you’re on the same team. To do that and get their attention you need to talk about what you already know about them.
So, use their first name wherever possible and reference the promises made on your opt-in page. Like this:
See the references to the same content we saw in the Lead Magnet opt-in copy?
Now let this play out the same way for each of the subsequent emails. Lets move on to email #2 …
And I’m sticking to the formula I decided on in step 5 so this easy. It’s just a matter of copy and paste and in fact, there’s very little new writing aside from transitional phrases and statements and calls to action (CTAs).
Onto Email #3 where I’ve already predetermined that I’ll be explaining ease of use, showing speed to results, and future casting.
Notice how each email has at least 2 links included in the copy? That’s important because if you don’t include them your prospects won’t be able to get to the offer to buy it.
But it’s important to include at least two. In fact, three is better. But these emails are pretty short and succinct and I don’t want to overwhelm the eye or seem like I’m shoving my link at these folks. So, two it is.
Now, onto email #4. I’ve already pre-determined that I’ll focus on showing credentials and social proof so I choose one of my pre-written subject lines that’ll work and allow me to connect the dots easily (sometimes it can be a stretch). I’ll connect the subject line to the actual subject of the email (this is called transitional copy) and then it’s a matter of cutting and pasting the credentials/social proof from the sales letter.
Onto email #5. But guess what? I’ve got to veer off the predetermined path because I didn’t spend much time building up value on this offer page. There are no bonuses. I had already decided that I would focus this email on those two things, but upon review of the sales letter I realize I’ve got to change the plan and do something else.
If this happens to you, just figure out what the strongest parts of the offer are (that haven’t already been covered) and create an email on that part using the same method we’ve been using all along: pre-written subject line tweaked to fit the subject, opening/transitional copy, copy and paste from the sales letter, add the call to action (two links).
At this point in the sequence my emails usually get shorter and a little harder hitting. Email 6 is about a reminder and a warning. If your Tripwire has a deadline associated with it you should be mentioning that along with at least one of your calls to action within the email. And even if you’ve been doing that all along, when email #6 comes along you’ll want to revisit the deadline in a bigger way.
But we’re working under the assumption that my offer does NOT have a deadline associated with it so my warning is not going to be about a deadline …
And finally, here we are at email #7. This is the easiest one to write if you’ve got a deadline associated with your offer. You can simply say “this is your last chance to get X at Y price. If you care about this, then today is THE LAST DAY. Order your X NOW.”
My email #7 has a very similar tone. I’m essentially saying the same thing but I’m not mentioning a deadline. I’m just sort of hardcore about my approach to motivating them. I’m trying to light a fire to finally get them to act. “NOW is the time.”
Step 7 – Check All Links For Accuracy
You’ll be tempted. Don’t do it. You have to check each link to make sure it works properly or you’ll blow your chance at getting the sales that your autoresponders could have gotten you.
A Final Note
This process can be used to sell anything that has an existing sales letter or video sales letter.
You’ll simply chunk the sales letter into pieces and use that copy for your autoresponder series.
Remember, according to the Customer Value Optimization process, the Tripwire offer is about turning a lead into a buyer, not about earning income. That comes later. The idea here is to connect with these people and take the next step in the relationship. Give them every reason to feel comfortable doing that. That’s what these autoresponders are all about.
Notice that my emails were easy to schedule every 3 days exactly and extend to almost 3 weeks. But I’m not looking at a calendar like you will be when you go to choose your days. I’d prefer not to have emails go out on the weekends so you’ll need to make adjustments. That’s why I say every 2-3 days.
Word on the street is that emails should go out between 10 and 11am Eastern Time or between 3pm and 4pm Eastern (or your local time if your business is local). Sometimes folks will send in the morning and then send again to all of the undeliverables in the afternoon. My clients have found that this works for them but you must test for yourself to find the best timing.