It’s Web Wednesday, and I’m going to bend the rules a little bit.
I got a question that came in the ol’ mailbox from Tony Zare, a copywriter who will be joining us in Lincoln next month for my workshop.
It’s about writing email autoresponders.
And so I’m going to answer Tony’s question, and just dive in on the topic of autoresponders today.
But before I do, I have to say that I’ve been seeing all the comments on Facebook and elsewhere about getting to Delray Beach for AWAI’s Bootcamp. It’s like a family reunion for me every year, and I’ll definitely miss you guys — my copywriting family — this year!
Alright, on to Tony’s question…
I love your blog, and I’m waiting with bated breath for your workshop.
Over the past few years, I’ve gotten very confident about most types of copywriting, but I’m still getting tripped up by email autoresponders/orbits — and I can’t seem to find a good book or course that covers them.
How would you recommend I study and improve my email autoresponders? What did you do to master them?
I’m going to start by saying…
Autoresponders are one of the best “income autopilot” tools that exist online today…
I say this because they allow you to build a system once that will continue to generate income for just about as long as you throw traffic at it.
And Tony called them autoresponders and orbits — they can also be called drip campaigns, or automated email follow-up sequences, or who knows how many other things! At least in the “internet marketing” world, they’re most commonly called autoresponders, so that’s what I use and will go with here.
If you’re unfamiliar, an autoresponder campaign is just a timed sequence of emails set to go out after a prospect takes an action. The most common is filling out an opt-in form on your website. But it can also be triggered to customers currently in your database when they click a link or visit a certain page on your website. It’s an auto-response.
These emails are used for a variety of different purposes…
– To deliver a sequence of educational content.
– To deliver a sequenced sales message in parts.
– To communicate with someone regularly over a set time period after their first interaction with you and your business.
… And probably a lot more. If you could automatically send a series of emails to someone over weeks or months or even years, what would you use it for? The applications go as far as your imagination!
Now that you know the mechanism, let’s get to the thinking behind a great autoresponder series…
One of my core principles is that great copy comes from great thinking. Actually, it’s numero uno!
“‘Writing is refined thinking,’ Stephen King. To write the copy that gets results, we first need the thinking that gets results.” That’s what my first operating principle for writing copy says!
What does an autoresponder need to do?
And because an autoresponder is basically a marketing email — what does a marketing email need to do?
Well, usually you’re not actually making the sale in the email.
You have to fulfill on any promise you made to get someone to sign up for the emails in the first place, but then…
You just need to get the click to the actual sales message!
What a huge relief! Because you can forget about so many things you might otherwise do to actually make the sale.
I don’t remember who I got this from — I want to say Ted Nicholas or Joe Sugarman — but they taught that the purpose of the headline of an ad is to get you to read the first line. The purpose of the first line is to get you to read the second line. And so on…
In this regard, the whole reason to send out an email is to get a click.
And if you remember this, writing autoresponders (or any marketing email) becomes much easier.
For the purpose of getting that click through to your sales page, your autoresponder needs to accomplish a few other goals.
First — it needs to get delivered. This may go without saying (or not), you should be using a reputable email service provider like Aweber. I know in many cases the client already has this in place, but it’s important if you’re making the decision to choose a technology provider who can actually get the emails delivered.
Second — it needs to get opened. For this, the “who” is most important. The “From” field in your email is best when it’s an individual person. And further, a person the recipient asked to get communications from, and has a relationship with (imagine you get an email from me and an email from Google — all else being equal, whose are you most likely to open first?). The subject line also matters, and principles for writing good headlines also tend to work for subject lines. There are also a ton of free reports out there on the internet that provide dozens and dozens of tested subject lines that work.
Third — the email needs to be read, or at least scanned. You have to pay off what was promised in the subject line, and keep it interesting. (More about this shortly.)
Fourth — the reader has to make a decision they want more. There has to be a clear, compelling call to action for what they get on the other side of the click.
Fifth — you need to have at least one (at least!) link to where you want the reader to go. Preferably with action wording and a promise. “Watch the video now and get my biggest secret to writing winning autoresponders” tends to far outperform “Click here.”
If you fail on any one of these goals, it doesn’t matter what else I may tell you — your autoresponder failed to get response.
Within the context of what I’ve just told you, there are a ton of ways to approach writing an autoresponder…
Among the best autoresponder copywriters I know, personal stories tend to be the favorite. Why? Because they connect the reader with the author. It may seem illogical, but an emotionally-charged personal story with a weak connection to the product or sales message can often get more clicks than anything else. The key is that you have to loop it back before asking for the click.
This speaks to a challenge. If you’re a copywriter-for-hire and not the person behind the business, what do you do? Well, you have to dig deep. You have to interview the person you’re writing for. And you have to get them to agree to share a few stories. It’s not necessarily easy (at first) but it pays dividends if you pull it off.
Along this line, rants also work. Take a stand on a topic. You may alienate some readers. But those that agree with you will be all the more connected. Again, find a way to tie it back to the pitch before you ask for the click.
There’s also the valuable information approach. Depending on the market, this can work quite well. In my project in the model airplane niche, this is most of what we do. I dug through the 2-hour instructional video we sell, and pulled out a bunch of tips. These are the kind of things you’d write bullets about. But instead of writing bullets, I’d write a short email revealing the tip. At least, most of it. And promise the full demonstration in the video.
In a longer autoresponder sequence, I also like to mix in a grab-bag of different approaches to keep it fresh. There can be specific details of your offer — for example, “Why we can offer such a bold guarantee.” You can do a FAQ email — answer questions about your market and your product. You can use an email to solicit questions directly from the email subscribers — this is something I use to figure out what questions I’m not answering, and use these questions to write later emails. You can do almost anything you want.
The most important thing to do is to keep it feeling personal, and embrace your own style…
There are a million ways to do email marketing right — autoresponders included. Ultimately I could give you a million formulas and they could fail because you spend too much time trying to write autoresponders like Roy, instead of like yourself. So you have to figure out what works for you, and embrace it. (This is true of ALL copy — and is something especially hard for gun-for-hire copywriters to do in client work.)
And remember — you want these emails to feel personal. Although they are an automated campaign that may be coming out weeks, months, or even years after you first wrote them, you want it to feel like something you just jotted off to this one specific person. If you can pull this off, what you’re writing about is actually far less important.
Which gets to an important point — how did I get good at this stuff?
I created my own side project. Not for the purposes of making a ton of money — although it has made me a not insignificant amount over the years. But for learning how to do all this stuff, without worrying about pleasing clients.
Create a little internet marketing biz where you’re selling even a cheap ebook or interview recordings on some topic that interests you. Without worrying about pleasing your clients, sit down and write out your own autoresponder sequence, in your own voice.
Experiment with some of the ideas I shared here. If there’s something that works for you, do more of it! If there are things that don’t work for you, either figure out how to make them work, or stop trying to make them work.
If you remember what an email has to do — get a click — and the set of goals that get you there, you’ll be in good shape.
In terms of who you can learn more from… I’m a fan of Jay White — his autoresponder program through AWAI is a good one. I’m also a personal friend, too — so I’m biased!
But remember — and I know Jay would agree with me — no matter what you learn about how to write autoresponders, learn how to translate it into your own voice and approach. That’s what will get you truly breakthrough results.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets