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This article was published on May 6, 2014

How to successfully use email autoresponders without being obnoxious

How to successfully use email autoresponders without being obnoxious
Brian Honigman
Story by

Brian Honigman

Brian Honigman is a marketing consultant and an adjunct professor at NYU. Get his free Content Marketing Style Guide. Brian Honigman is a marketing consultant and an adjunct professor at NYU. Get his free Content Marketing Style Guide.

Email autoresponders are one-to-one emails sent to a subscriber on your list that are triggered to add value to the experience a person has with your business online.

Autoresponders are triggered by an action taken on your website or by a timer set by your team, whichever best suits the circumstances of the message sent to a user.

A happy birthday message, a reminder to return to your shopping cart, an email re-introducing old content to your subscribers, an alert announcing new products to a customer based off of their past shopping habits and similar emails are all common forms of autoresponders businesses use to communicate with their customers.

In order to achieve success with the use of autoresponders, it’s important that your emails accomplish the following goals:

  1. Building a long-term relationship with your subscribers.
  2. Your messaging is engaging and unique to your business.
  3. Increase the open-rates of your email campaigns.

Here are three strategies for best achieving these goals with your organization’s autoresponder campaigns. 

1. Create an autoresponder series

One of the best strategies for achieving success with autoresponders is delivering them to your customer base in a sequential manner with a specific goal in mind.

For example, Pat Flynn, the author of the Smart Passive Income Blog, suggests that your autoresponder campaigns should focus on utilizing a smart sequence of messages with a distinct goal. He details four different approaches to autoresponders he regularly uses himself to achieve success with his list.

One of these approaches to autoresponders is called the bait and hook, which is an effective series to emulate since it allows your organization to build a long-term relationship with your list.


As described by Flynn above, the bait and hook approach to email autoresponders looks like this. It starts with someone subscribing to your list and then automatically receiving a welcome email. 

After they’ve received a welcome email, drive ongoing value by sharing emails with them featuring helpful and informative content that drive awareness around certain issues in your industry.

Once you’ve been driving value to your audience using content focused emails, begin to share a promotion on your products or services. Your businesses offerings should act as solutions for the issues you’ve been discussing in previous emails. 

After this, reengage your audience with autoresponders focused on more content to help increase awareness, especially with subscribers that didn’t convert the first time. 

Be careful to only share valuable and informative content that helps educate your audience to prevent them from feeling like your messaging is solely focused on getting them to make a purchase in the future.

2. Differentiate your brand from others

According to Radicati Group, 100 billion emails were sent and received per day in 2013 – a majority of these from businesses. Every day it gets more difficult for your autoresponder emails to stand out from the dozens of email a person receives everyday.

Email autoresponders are important since they help automate important messaging and free up time to focus on other tasks, it’s important to avoid becoming lazy with their use.

To ensure your messaging is engaging and unique, try your very best to think how you can craft your email autoresponders to be simple, clever and original with each and every message. 

Focus first on remaining consistent to ensure your very first subscriber has a similar experience to your 1000th subscriber that’s just as original and valuable. 

To ensure consistency, use copy that’s personal and engaging but with your own voice. Don’t sound robotic or too formal, but instead add personality to what you’re saying whether it’s a content or promotional email.

The imagery your organization decides to use in your email autoresponders on a regular basis will also affect the consistency of your messaging as well as how they stand out from other emails. 

If possible hire a designer off of Dribble or Behance to create original visuals for your email marketing that help reflect your brand, as well as the content of each specific email. When working with a graphic designer, they’re creating visuals that will be exclusively used by your business. These original visuals will certainly help differentiate your email autoresponders from others.

If you don’t have the budget for a graphic designer, be extremely selective with the types of imagery you’re selecting from a stock footage site like Shutterstock or Getty. There are also some free options like Unsplash or Compfight to find visuals to include at no cost. 

modcloth autoresponder

3. Identify weak points through consistent testing

Analyze the series of email autoresponders that you’re sending to your list and identify any messages that result in a decrease in the click-thru-rate, open-rate subscribers or on-site conversions – depending on the content of the email of course.

Autoresponders are all about personalizing the experience your organization has with your list. Sometimes, your messaging isn’t coming off incorrectly, but you won’t know until you receive feedback from your list.

Consistently monitor the metrics mentioned at the beginning of this section to see which part of your series of autoresponder emails isn’t working.

Replace this ineffective email with two versions of a similar message to begin A/B testing these emails with your audience. This way, you can find out which of these two versions of the same email resonates more effectively with your audience and go with the version that drives better results.


In some cases, the entire autoresponder email series is what’s not working. If no matter how you alter certain part of your series, it still isn’t working; it might then be time to trash it and start over.

Sometimes it becomes to evident that you’re providing content to your audience simply to push them to a product later on, which can be really off-putting to subscribers.

Restart your campaign by only including content that really adds value to your audience before eventually driving them to a product focused email. 

In some cases, it might be a softer sell to include more content emails before driving a subscriber to a product or promotional email. Engaging content can help reestablish a connection with your audience overtime.

How is your company using email autoresponders to cultivate a relationship with your list and drive results? What email autoresponder series has your business found effective and why? Share your thoughts in the comments below.