By John Eberhard

An autoresponder is a system that can be set up that sends a person a series of emails. There are a number of useful and important uses for autoresponders.

There are a number of email services available online that include autoresponders, including Aweber, iContact, and Mailchimp, where you pay a monthly fee for the service.

Drip Emails

One of the first ways to use an autoresponder is to create a series of emails that will be sent to someone after they fill out a more-information form on a web site. This is often referred to as a series of “drip emails,” so called because it’s like dripping water on the person’s head, each drip being a communication. Usually these are HTML emails, meaning they can have graphics and links in them like a web page.

Let’s say you have a contact form on your web site for someone who wants more information on your products or services. What I often do is create a series of 3-4 HTML emails. The first one goes out to the person as soon as he hits submit, and will say basically “Thanks for filling out our form, we will get back to you right away or you can call us at ____.”

Then I set it up so the second email goes out say 4 days later after the person filled out the form. This is more of a sales letter and sells the person on the services or products, and urges him to call in. This assumes that he hasn’t been reached yet. But even if he has, no harm done. He has just received more sales text.

Now the third email can go out say 4 days after the second email, or 8 days after the person filled out the form. This can be anything from a longer article about the products or services, to a listing of testimonials, to a link to a video. And depending on what content you have to send, you could also send out a 4th, 5th and 6th email.

Basically the purpose of setting up a drip email system like for sending to people who fill out a form on site, is that you are sending them sales oriented communication. And it can help in cases where you call but fail to reach the person or he doesn’t call you back.

In all cases, when someone fills out a form and it starts the whole drip email system like this, I also add him to the general email list for the company and he will receive all other email communication, such as an email newsletter or other sales oriented emails. If you use one of the online services like Aweber, Mailchimp or iContact, the service will automatically add a link at the bottom for people to opt out of the list. I usually tell the recipient in the first email that he is being added to our general email list and he can opt out at any time.

Offering Free Reports

A very effective technique in terms of collecting names and email addresses is to create some kind of free information property such as a free report or “white paper” (a fancy name for a free report), on a topic related to your products or services. Then you offer that on your web site for free, but the person has to fill in the form and give you his name and email address to get it.

So with this scenario, you create a series of drip emails just like above, but the first one gives a link where the person can download the free report you are offering. You put the report in PDF format, put it online, then link to that in the first email. Then the person clicks on it and the PDF opens in their web browser, and they can save it to their hard disk. In this way you don’t have to be bothered with manually receiving the emails and emailing them the free report, which is especially important if you get a high volume of responses.

In this type of situation I would still create a series of emails, not just the one sending them the link to the free report, as that gives you an opportunity to send them sales oriented material about your products or services.

Pre-Written Articles or Newsletters

I have one client who has written a year’s worth of articles and has his autoresponder set up so that when a person fills in one of his online forms, that starts a series of over 50 articles that are sent to the person. This is a really good idea, especially if you have a lot of content that you’ve already written.

For myself, I write an article and send out a newsletter every week, so people who contact me about services, or who request one of my free reports, all get added to that list and receive my email newsletters. In my case I haven’t written a ton of them in advance but the people just receive the new ones I write every week.

Top of Mind Awareness

The goal with all of this is to get the person to buy something from you right away. But if that doesn’t happen – and some people aren’t ready to buy right away but still could buy later – then you will be creating top of mind awareness. That means that when the person thinks of your product or service category, he will tend to think of you, because you are reminding him of your company on a regular basis.

And don’t forget that any autoresponder email you send out should include your phone number, your physical address (that’s a US law), and links to your web site. The whole point is that you’re trying to make it easy for someone to contact you and buy from you.

Good luck with your email marketing.