Tips For What To Include In Your Newsletter Autoresponder Series

newsletter-autoresponderIn my last post, The Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Newsletter, I detailed the why and how to get started with a newsletter for your blog or online business. I’ll have to admit that I’m quite proud of that post (with 5 hours and 4000 words invested into it), however there’s one thing that I did not touch on that is probably the most important element to understand when it comes to your newsletter: what to put in it.

That’s what I’m here to discuss today.

Specifically, I’ll be going over what to include in your follow-up/autoresponder series – not your broadcasts. Broadcasts are one-time emails that get sent to your entire list at the same time. Your follow-up series are the emails that you write that get sent one after the other, in a time interval that you determine, immediately after someone new subscribes to your newsletter.

The beauty of the autoresponder is that you can write any number of emails once, and they’ll be sent to new subscribers as if they were brand new. A person who signs up for your newsletter today and a person who signs up a year from now will be taken through the exact same series of emails.

But the question still stands: what do you include in your newsletter?

Below are some thoughts and ideas that I use for myself. Feel free to borrow them as you wish.

Exclusive Content

You should do your best to make sure the primary content of your newsletter is exclusive to the newsletter itself. If the content isn’t unique, then there’s no point in staying a subscriber.

It might will be hard, at first, to determine exactly what you want to write about because you’ll think that you’re wasting valuable content that could be potential blog posts or articles for your website – but, you have to remember those famous words: “The money is in the list.” And even though you may not be using your newsletter to generate an income, you are using it to do something useful – aren’t you? Either way, the list is a powerful tool for your blog or online business and you should not discount the content of your newsletter. If anything, the content should be just as good, if not better than the normal content that you produce.

A “Filter” Email

The number of people on my list is not as important as the quality of the people who sign up. That’s why my first follow-up message after the welcome email is what I like to call a “filter email”, where I actually encourage people who I do not want on my list to unsubscribe. It may sound like a weird tactic, but having a filter email helps me in several ways:

  • It makes the people who are still on my list after the filter exactly who I want to help.
  • It makes the people who are still on my list after the filter feel like they are invested in continuing to read my emails and listen to what I have to say, because they were given the choice to unsubscribe and they did not.
  • I don’t waste people’s time with content they don’t want to receive.
  • It makes my subscriber numbers more realistic. My open rates, click-throughs rates and all other statistics become more honest.
  • It tells people right away that I mean business, and at the same time it tells me that my continuing subscribers mean business too.

Filters are used in business all of the time. Zappos.com, for example, offers $2000.00 to potential employees during training to just get up and leave and never work for the company. This makes sure that the employees who do stay on board are in fact the ones that really want to work there. This tactic seems to be working because I hear that the company culture at Zappos.com is awesome, not to mention the rapid success of the company as a whole.

If you’re interested in exactly what my filter email says, feel free to subscribe to my list by entering your name and email in the sidebar of this blog if you haven’t done so already. After a confirmation email and the initial email with a free copy of eBooks the $mart Way, you’ll see the filter email a day later.

What you write in your filter email obviously depends on your niche and exactly who you want subscribing to your newsletter. You don’t have to have a filter email in your follow-up sequence, but I hope you can see why I like to use one.

Over-Deliver On Your First Real Followup

Filter email or not, when you finally get around to writing your first real email with real content on it, you’ll want to really impress your subscribers. I mean really impress them. Like, blow their minds!

Under-deliver, and you give people an opportunity to feel the need to unsubscribe. They might think to themselves, “Is this really what I have to look forward to in each newsletter? No thanks.” [Click]

Over-deliver, and you will never have to worry about people unsubscribing. They might think to themselves, “Wow! This is awesome, I can’t wait for the next one!” [Drool]

One thing to remember is that the content you’re providing in your followups will be read via email, which is different than content that is read on a website. Try not to go overboard with the length of your email, since most people are used to reading and replying to emails that are only a few sentences long. If you write an entire novel, it won’t be read.

Ask Questions

If you don’t mind getting a number of high-quality replies from your subscribers, then feel free to (sparingly) ask your subscribers a question in your autoresponder series. They are probably your most dedicated followers who may have the best insight on whatever it is you’re trying to find out.

Here’s a secret that I use:

One question you’ll see from me in my followup series is “What would you like me to write a blog post about?”

Instead of asking this question in a single blog post to everyone at one moment in time, I can get a number of high-quality responses from my most dedicated followers in the same time interval that people subscribe to my newsletter. So, I will never run out of new blog post ideas, since they keep coming in as long as new people keep subscribing.

How awesome is that?

So What Do You Think?

If you’re subscribed to any newsletters, what kinds of emails make the most impact on you? What kinds of things do you like to read about?

Does exclusivity matter to you?

Also, am I crazy for using a filter email? I think I may be the only one at the moment who does has one. I’m interested in what you have to say.

Thanks for your support everyone! SPI is growing so fast, thanks to you! Cheers!

  • http://www.webbizfinance.com Tyler WebCPA

    Chris,
    I haven’t made it through the steps on the last post yet so I am a still the “beginner” in the “Beginner’s Guide” but the few occasions when I have signed up to a newsletter it was because I read something that the author wrote somewhere else, like their blog, and I found it really applicable to what I wanted to know, about business on the internet.

    • Pat

      Thanks Tyler – I appreciate the insight. I think that’s the reason many people sign up for newsletters, which reiterates the fact that we should always be producing great, valuable content for our readers.

      Cheers!

  • http://www.bravenewlife.com TJ – Brave New Life

    Another informative post, Pat. I especially like the part where you didn’t give the content of the filter email, instead asking us to sign up for your newsletter to see it ourselves. Tricky, and effective because i’m going to sign up now. :)

    • Pat

      Thanks TJ! Enjoy the weekly newsletter!

  • http://www.keenee.com Alex

    Thanks Pat! Can you do an article on the conversion rate of the List. I mean how many people from the List actually read and come to the site. I find that conversion rates are very low for any mailing list. So they just look like spam to people.

    • Pat

      Alex, open rates and click-throughs all depend on who is on your list, what you write in your emails, and more importantly, what the subject line of the is too. There are things you can do to make your emails look less like spam, and more like something useful or something that people have to open to read. As far as an entire post about it, we’ll see – I have a queue at the moment with many posts coming up.

      Thanks for the suggestion!

  • http://www.yumcha.com.au YC

    Another great write-up and so timely too as I am now in the midst of setting up my site’s newsletters. Thank you Pat!

    • Pat

      Great YC! Glad I could help!

  • http://experimentsinpassiveincome.com Moon Hussain

    Pat,

    I didn’t get a chance to read the first part of this post (on Monday) so I’ll have to go back and do that. I like your idea of the email filter as it gives a chance for both parties to benefit. If the subscriber was only there for the ebook, then it’s no good for him to stay on your list (not for you, not for him).

    I like the idea about blogs posts as well. I thought people would approach a newsletter as spam. The number of subscribers you have, that doesn’t seem to be the case…?

    • Pat

      Nope – the emails apparently don’t come across as spam. If they did, I wouldn’t have any subscribers, but I’m quickly approaching 3000. If you tell people what to expect and hit them with some great content in the beginning, then you’ll lower your chances of being spammy.

  • http://www.theskooloflife.com Srinivas Rao

    Pat,

    Thanks for sharing this. I’ve been kind of at a loss as to how to improve my newsletter. I have an auto-responder setup with a sequence of 6 emails, but haven’t been able to figure out how to improve them. I’ll be working on that over the weekend and implementing some of what you have setup here.

    • Pat

      Awesome! Glad some of my tips can help you out, Srinivas! The newsletter is again a really important part of any online business or blog, so working to improve it will ultimately improve your blog or business too! Thanks!

  • http://genywealth.com/ RJ Weiss

    As far as the emails that make the most impact, I have enjoyed a few newsletter that give you a series of quality information right from the start. Generally, the newsletter series will help me solve a problem.

    • Pat

      Great! That’s good to hear, RJ, cause that’s exactly what I do

      ;)

      All the best to you! Cheers!

  • http://www.cpamarketingcenter.com David Rachford

    I think the Filter email is debatable. Everyone knows they can opt out at any time via the unsubscribe link; – if you’re already using double opt-in, it might be overkill. But hey, Test, test, test.

    RE: the purpose of the newsletter –

    I agree that many say “the money is in the list” – but perhaps that’s a nice way of saying that the “money is in the customer’s pocket”. The purpose of the business relationship is to provide superior value to the customer, so that when you ask for them to purchase something, they are glad to because they know, like, and trust you, and will gladly pay something like $39 for something they value at $300 for a product or service that will solve a problem they have.

    So, the newsletter’s purpose, (like a blog or other website) is to 1) assist in the “know, like & trust” functions, and 2) bring those friends, customers, buyers, whatever you want to call them, back to your “store”. In other words, you want the newsletter to drive traffic back to your site, because that’s where your products and affiliate links are.

    For me, it’s not the emails that have the most impact. After all, the action is on the blogs, where the discussion is. That’s where we connect. A newsletter might bring me back to the blog, or remind me to check in; but I’m going to go to the source, unless I know for sure the email is exclusive and very relevant to me.

    • Pat

      Hey David – great, informative comment. I appreciate it!

      I view the double opt-in as having a different purpose than the filter email. One is really to improve spam and confirm people are actually human, the other is to confirm that people are there for the right reasons, and also as a mindset tool to get people to connect with me more because they make the decision to stay on board, if that makes sense.

      As far as your thoughts on the purpose of the newsletter – I completely agree! Good stuff.

      Thanks David!

  • http://BetterLearningBetterEarning.com Steve C

    Pat,

    Why “filter out” subscribers? It doesn’t cost anything to send them the series of emails, and there’s a small chance the less-than-serious subscribers may revisit your site linked from one of those emails. After all, they have given you permission to email them and that’s a lot better lead than several dozens of casual site visitors.

    • Pat

      Actually Steve, it does cost extra depending on the number of people you have on your email list. But the money isn’t really an issue.

      It’s more of a mindset trick, getting people to commit a certain way to really appreciate the emails and exclusive content I send them in the future.

      It’s like answering “everyone” to the question: “Who do you want to sell to”. Try to get everyone, and you’ll end up with general information and often times responses from people who just don’t understand because they don’t have the right mindset. I’d rather get those people off my list.

      Maybe it’s just me, but that’s how I see it.

      Thanks!

  • http://BetterLearningBetterEarning.com Steve C

    P.S. – that “What would you like me to write a blog post” email was automated?!?! Dang, I thought you wrote to me personally! ;-)

    • Pat

      It was something I wrote to you personally, it was just included as part of the auto responder series so I could ask other people the same question too

      :)

      Cheers Steve!

  • http://www.jewelry-secrets.com Richard Scott

    lol your emails do some across as very personable, but I guess that’s the point. I only subscribe to 2 newsletters, yours and one other. The reason being; I hate spam emails. I’m very picky at who I give my email to. I really have to believe in someone and trust them. The last thing I want is a virus from opening the wrong email, or just spam affiliate links.

    Your newsletter is very effective and you give great advice in it. I love the tips and tricks. I’m always surprised at the quality and effort you put in. But again, that’s why I come here. :)

    • Pat

      Thanks Richard, I appreciate your kind words! May I ask you what the other newsletter you subscribe to is? I’m always looking to absorb great content, so if you feel it’s helpful which I’m sure it is, it would be cool to be on that list too. Cheers!

      • http://www.jewelry-secrets.com Richard Scott

        James Richmond -TheInfoPreneur. Great Guy, Great Posts, Great Motivator.

        • http://www.theinfopreneur.net TheInfoPreneur

          Thanks for the massive compliment on such a great site and Pat if you’re reading this, we need to work on something together

  • http://GetYourBizSavvy.com Alex

    I think it’s great that you use a filter email. I have actually never heard of it before, hence I am learning a lot for your posts. Another great addition to the newsletter post. Top work man!

    • Pat

      Thanks Alex! It may not be suitable for everyone or certain niches, but for the “make money online” niche which I am apparently in, I don’t want anyone on my list looking to get rich quick or the easy way out. If you’re subscribed to my newsletter, you’ll know what I mean. Thanks again Alex!

  • http://www.webuildyourblog.com Andrew@BloggingGuide

    “The money is in the list.” Yes, the money is in the list and you should do everything you can to satisfy those on that list.

    • Pat

      Yes yes yes! :)

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    Love the filter approach, pro tip! My favorite newsletters are ones that are fun and exciting. Sometimes its fun to see how great marketers construct their newletters (even when the content isn’t super useful). I play a game called “how does this email make me feel” and take notes often! One of my favorite lists is Frank Kern’s, I’m always excited to see what he’s written or pointed me to.

    • Pat

      Yes, Kern’s list is amazing, he’s got some great stuff in there. Hope all is well in the PI dude! Keep rockin’ it, and let me know when you make any new videos – I love those!

  • http://visualartgifts.com Christopher

    Since the reader is already double-opt-in, do you really think the “filter” is needed?

    • Pat

      For me and my blog, I think it is. I know a lot of people come onto the list to get the eBook, but they may not be suitable for the newsletter, so I don’t want them on there. Plus, it acts like a “transaction” that subconsciously gets my subscribers to become even more committed to what I have to say, by them choosing to stay aboard.

      :)

  • Tony

    I have enjoyed the discussions about a newsletter. I find that I have limited time to writing blog posts, which I post about once or twice a week. It would be difficult to come up with extra time and content to fill a newsletter, though I do see the value in the list.
    Also, Aweber looks really good and have great functionality, but it comes at a cost. I think it’s about $20-30 per month, which is a little much for a casual blogger. In my opinion, to be really successful at a blog, you need to almost commit to it full time. A post a day, newsletter once a week and invest in Aweber, page and click tracking, etc.

    Great work Pat!

    • Pat

      Well, you can slowly add content, and maybe even only have a monthly newsletter if you wanted, as long as you keep the content coming consistently, which you can do by writing everything before you launch your newsletter.

      Regarding your last comment, being committed doesn’t necessarily mean posting once a day, or even having a newsletter. Glen from http://www.viperchill.com doesn’t do either, and he’s seeing a lot more success than those who write more often and have newsletters.

  • Pat

    Nice Ken – it sounds like you’ve got a solid newsletter working for you. I like the surprise bonuses, that’s a great idea I might have to borrow from you!

    ;)

    As far as offers, I don’t really send them out. I know how sacred the newsletter is, so I wouldn’t dare touch it with anything that is only meant to generate an income. If I can eventually land on an offer that I believe will help people, and I’ll possibly make a little too, then I’ll send something out.

  • http://evengrounds.com/blog Julius

    Interesting point about the filter email idea. I think it would really help a site owner determine who is truly interested in reading his content.

  • http://www.FirstHomeBuyerSecrets.com D’MarieF

    Valuable info, much appreciated.

    Creating a newsletter has been on my mind a lot lately so this series is perfect timing for me. I especially like your idea of asking what future blog posts subscribers would like to see.

    I’m very protective with my time so currently only subscribe to a couple of newsletters – real estate investing and Internet marketing. Lately I’ve been leaning toward subscribing to your newsletter and now your clever [obviously effective!] use of this series was the trigger for me to make it happen.  :)  

    I can see your logic with the filter email idea, but probably wouldn’t implement it myself until after I had a subtantial list of 3-5,000. Although I see how a more committed list that was built using this filtering system could be effective for accomplishing higher conversion rates which could then be useful in attracting advertisers. (Am I right?) I’ll keep thinking about this one and may change my mind about waiting… :)            

    I appreciate your commitment to delivering quality content.  

    Kudos!

  • http://visualartgifts.com Christopher

    I forgot to mention earlier that your SPI list is the first one that didn’t spam me with a sales pitch in the first message. It was a nice surprise to actually look forward to an e-mail message.

  • http://earnwebrev.com Jim A

    I recently read this article based on A/B testing and utilizing the “Thank You” page to really connect with readers.

    The basis of the article said that if someone signs up for something, they are reaching out to you, but too often we reach back to them with a static HTML page that says “Thanks for signing up”. It’s sort of like “don’t call us, we’ll call you”. It’s kind of silly when you think of it, huh?

    I totally like the idea of replying back right away, but if you look at this article, they highlighted their FB fanpage on the “Thank You” page and increased fans by 10 TIMES!

    This is “Low-Hanging” fruit that could totally be taken advantage of.
    http://bit.ly/dcYswO

  • http://www.freemanlegacyllc.com Ms. Freeman

    The use of a filter email is a great way to ensure you are only communicating with folks that are actually interested and listening. I would imagine knowing that we are actually interested would be of great benefit to you when it comes to creating the content for it. No one wants to create email content if they think it will be deleted without being read.

    Great tactic! :)

  • Martin

    Hi Pat,

    I’ve been subscribed to your RSS for a very long time and also I think I’ve been subscribed to your mailing list since start. Very good stuff. I love it very much.

    I actually preach against comments like “I love this article”, but I can’t write anything else. :)

    I also had to dig in the e-mail archive to see the “filter” message, as I didn’t remember it. And you are also very good in explaining the advantages of the deterrent message…

    Managers actually use “filters” in their daily lives. If you want to reach someone in a large company, you have the first “filter” in form of receptionist, then the admin and only after “defeating” those two you see the actual person you are looking for. I really hadn’t thought about implementing “filter” to the mailing list.

    Thank you!

  • http://www.highertrustmarketing.com/blog/ InfoGuy

    I have found that placing interactive elements in my autresponder follow-ups has been extremely popular. For example, surveys, contests, or posts to come back to a video or blog post have all done very well to break from the normal “feed me information” mentality that most publishers assume readers want, but that send them scrambling for the delete button.

    Jeff

  • Shawn

    Hey Pat,

    Great series you’ve got going here!

    In this post, you mention that you can’t have the emails too long since readers are used to sending and receiving emails that are a few lines.

    Could you please tell me the number of words or lines you like to stay within for each email?

    Thanks so much for the great work!

    Sincerely,
    Shawn

  • http://www.brockstarlife.com Brock @ BrockStarLife

    Pat,

    Great series. I always struggled with thinking my emails wouldn’t be good enough or long enough or whatever, but I realize now that they don’t have to be very long or fancy. It can just be a quick “hey I found this cool post from SPI that I just had to share with you” or something like that.

    One easy email to put together is the “best of the web” for a specific topic – like “Top 10 SEO articles of 2012″.

    -Brock

  • http://www.mozakdesign.com Jocelyn

    So now I need to unsubscribe just so I can re-subscribe and watch what you do :)

  • http://www.ideasbasicas.com Manu

    Hi Pat!
    I’ve been subscribed to your list for several months. I read your posts about newsletters before starting my own list, but I’ve noticed that I don’t have a Filter on my inbox.

    Is it because I deleted it (honestly I don’t remember :) ) or you don’t do that anymore for some reason? If that’s the case please explain why, it seems like a great idea. How did you do it? A single email for the purpose of filtering, or a paragraph or something included in a ‘content’ email?

    Sorry for all the questions, but this is really interesting!

  • http://www.zzzprofits.com Moe

    Well thanks for putting all these email marketing posts together. I just finished reading all of them.

    I get a really good amount of opt-ins on my site, but i have been unsure how to approach speaking to my list since the beginning. I think now i have a better idea how to tackle it.

  • Daniel Howell

    I have also read that a good rule of thumb is the 80/20 rule. Give quality content away 80% of the time and only sell 20% of the time. This helps your readers know that you are not sending them emails to get their money, but to truly benefit them. One of my favorite newsletters is from Jim Cockrum at SilentJim.com. He has one of the least invasive and most engaging newsletters I have been a part of.

  • http://www.superstaryourlife.com Lisa Jackson

    Thanks Pat, this article has really helped.
    I’m in the process of having a more consistent newsletter and I will take the tips on board.