A Simple 4-Step Plan for Building
an Email Autoresponder that Works

image of number 4 painted on brick wall

Imagine you’ve just won the luxury car of your dreams.

You could never afford this premium ride on your own and now it’s going to be all yours. As an additional reward, you are invited to the factory to watch the experienced automotive craftsmen assemble your beautiful driving machine.

At the end of the assembly tour, four men push your car off of the final inspection station. An engineer in a white lab coat greets you warmly and hands you the keys.

He then reaches into his pocket and pulls out an unrecognizable piece of steel about the size of a grapefruit. He extends it toward you saying, “This is a piece of your engine. We aren’t sure exactly where it goes but we think it’s pretty important. Your car probably won’t run the way it should without it. Anyway, congratulations …”

Not quite the car of your dreams anymore, huh?

Even if you inserted the keys into your shiny new set of wheels and it started, you’d know that you are missing something vitally important and will feel an impending sense of doom in regard to your almost-assembled dream ride.

For many business owners, that neglected engine part is your email marketing plan.

You are so close to the online presence of your dreams, but you’re not quite there …

The missing piece of your content marketing plan?

You have a beautiful website. You’re active on social networks. Your content is well-written and interesting to your readers.

You are even increasing your website traffic and have seen your organic search results improving for your most important keywords.

However, your email list is growing slowly and your site isn’t generating your most important goal … sales.

Just like your dream car, you are certain that the missing piece is the key to peace-of-mind and peak performance.

Not knowing what to do next, you stand frozen with indecision staring at the keys in your left hand and the mystery part in your right hand.

Suddenly, another engineer races from behind a towering parts rack and shouts, “Wait!! We can fix it!!”

It turns out that the missing part happens to be in an easy-to-access location and the engine can be fixed with just a few careful steps. However, they are short on help and you will be forced to participate in the repair.

Would you possibly choose not to participate in fixing your dream car? Of course you’ll help!

So let’s retire this car analogy (or is it a metaphor?) and get on with fixing your email problem …

Step 1. Create your email content

Why create your content before you have a large, targeted list? So you don’t miss anyone!

Your first step is to employ the magic of an email autoresponder.

Here’s a simple trick for getting started with your first autoresponder. Decide 3 problems that you were going to solve with your next 3 blog posts. (Or one problem you are going to solve in 3 steps.)

Create an introduction email. Add your 3-part problem solver. Then write one final email that will give you more insight into your audience than you have ever gained before. (More on that in Step 4.)

Once complete, you will have five emails that will go out to every new subscriber until the end of time without having to create another email.

We all do better with examples. Subscribe to Internet Marketing for Smart People and see how the folks here got more than 85,000 very smart people engaged with their autoresponder.

Step 2. Make it easy to subscribe

You always want to make every call to action clear and obvious, with an easy response option.

The easiest way to do this for email subscribers is with multiple subscription boxes in conspicuous locations. You can have a developer design and code these for your website, or buy a premium WordPress theme that’s already built around the importance of email marketing.

You can sync your subscription boxes with your email marketing provider and easily capture and track subscribers. Your autoresponder is built within your email provider and drips out to your new subscribers automatically and according to your predetermined settings.

Step 3. Optimize your emails

Now that you have created useful, problem-solving content for your new subscribers, take the time to optimize each email for maximum results.

Take these steps to gain even more benefits from your new system:

  • Write a specific headline stating the subject of the email: In this context, specific works best. Let your subscriber know who you are and what this email is about. Because it will solve a problem, it will automatically be interesting to your reader.
  • Make each email short: Your readers don’t want a long email. Even if it’s useful, they will convince themselves that they will get back to it later and it will sit in their inbox until it gets deleted. This doesn’t mean the content is ultra brief, just the email. You will simply link to the full content.
  • Store the full content on your website: When users click through to read the entire email, they will be taken to your website where the full article is published. This allows your emails to be simple and your site to benefit from additional search engine optimization. After all, you want to be known for your problem-solving ability and shouldn’t lose the organic keyword search benefits of your valuable content.

Step 4. The final email

After giving your subscribers such useful, problem-solving content, you now get the chance to give them one final gift. You will also give yourself more insight into your readers than you have ever gained before.

If you do this right, you will know what to write for your next autoresponder, ebook or other digital product that your subscribers will be ready and waiting to buy.

In your final email, thank your reader for subscribing to your series. You will have invited feedback every step of the way. Now, invite them to be a key part in creating your next offering.

Simply ask them what they would like to see next.

Something like “Now that you have conquered Problem X, what would you like to conquer next?”

Get in your car …

After completing these four steps, you can now sleep at night knowing that every subscriber is getting a problem solved, you are maximizing your website by building your email list and improving SEO, and you are about to get insight into the exact products your readers want you to create.

Now take the keys and drive off into the sunset. (Wait, were we done with the car thing?)

Print Friendly

What do you want to learn?

Click to get a free course and resources about:

Reader Comments (39)

  1. says

    Email marketing is one of those things I really have to strap down and start working on it.

    This article can definitely start to help me to take off with email subscribers.

  2. says

    I think we all feel that way Samuel!

    The nice thing is, once you set some of this up, it takes very little maintenance to achieve some impressive results. Thanks for the comment!

  3. says

    Good stuff Vince. I know your space was limited in the above article but it’s also essential for email marketers to come to grips with the analytics, testing and tracking side of their email campaigns and discover previously hidden information about their list (plus splitting buyers from freebie-hunters etc).

    • says

      Absolutely Terry!

      Analytics, testing and tracking are extremely important. Those topics definitely deserve their own posts.

      Thanks for the comment!

  4. says

    Getting people into the list is half the battle.
    Would like to point out that an autoresponder sequence shouldn’t be used to bombard a list with offer after offer. Instead it’s important to strike that healthy balance between providing value and promoting a product.

  5. says

    Couldn’t agree more Shamelle!

    Everything should be designed to add value to the lives of your readers, including an email autoresponder. One way to not bombard your readers is to make your autroresponder a completely different list than your blog subscribers, etc… That way, you guarantee they only get the information they want.

  6. says

    I think email marketing is one of key aspect in online business. It helps you build engagement with your audience. It help them recognize your branding overtime. When it is used wisely, it help to build a loyal reader that will respond to your offer.
    Thanks for the great article.

  7. says

    Thank for the reminder about the email autoresponer. I too need to step up my email marketing. I switched to AWeber a few months ago and have been muddling through it. I find it to be a bit more technical than Constant Contact and other email marketing services. I need to take a weekend and immerse myself in it. When I do, I’ll keep my emails short. As a consumer, I have a tendency to say, “I’ll read that email later.” Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. I appreciate links to the content.

    • says

      It always takes a little extra time when you are learning a new program but it shouldn’t be too hard to set up. I have heard that AWeber is very responsive so I’m sure you’ll have no trouble at all.

  8. says

    I totally agree that the email list is essential. What would you do without such an important asset? Surely you won’t want to put all of your trust in your Google traffic? I think the biggest takeaway from this post is solving problems for people. When you solve problems for people, they really put their trust in you. Sadly, I still do not use autoresponders as much as I should. I kind of prefer to just wing it.

    Thanks for the insanely useful tips, though. I will surely put them to use when I get around to creating a few autoresponder series.

  9. says

    One thing that strikes me is that there are many opinions on email Autoresponders. Everything from the lure to the content, And worse, different techniques seem to contradict each other so question – does what you put in your autoresponder depend on your niche’s reading habits?
    And the other thing that sometimes amazes me – what happens after your Autoresponders are finished sending. Many people forget that they need to maintain that beautiful car.

    • says

      You definitely want to build your autoresponder based on what your readers want or for an audience you would like to attract. And you are correct, it’s always good to prepare for the end of each autoresponder.

      Thanks for the comment!

  10. says

    Thank you for this article! I just purchased a book on email marketing by the numbers but have not really read it yet. This article has really helped me see how important this step truly is. I kept thinking that you would need a 15 email newsletter to get started but if this is the best way to get started, then I will get started with your suggestion.

  11. says


    Great motivational post. I’ve always struggled with email marketing. However, this post has broken the process down into such simple steps that I think even I can tackle this. What I always struggled with was what to write about. I can’t believe you’ve made it look so obvious – write about solving a problem. Duh. Thanks for the kick in the butt:)

    Travis Van Slooten

  12. says

    I keep seeing auto responder being used as plural. Do most email providers allow multiple auto-responders? Is this something you would target to a different segment or perhaps a follow up series after the first one is completed?

    • says


      Spell checker does not like the term “autoresponder” but I use it anyway. An autoresponder is just an email triggered by a certain activity like someone subscribing to your newsletter. Technically, if you had a series of emails, they would each be an autoresponder targeted sequentially at the same list.

      Does that make sense?

      Thanks for the comment!


  13. says

    Great Post. I was also looking for a book specifically for writing auto-responder articles, how to sequence them and how to create a personal realtionship with the reader. However, there seems to be little informtion on the subject. I think that one of the best ways to learn this is to have a look at how the professionals are doing it and then simply take some of the things and apply them to our own material. Just suscribe to their emails and carefully look at what they are doing. Thanks for the information.

  14. says

    Question on a downloadable item when signing up. Better to give upon signup or better to have them wait until the end of the autoresponder series to get it? Thanks for the guide, really enjoyed it


    • says

      Good question Adam.
      I guess it depends on what it is (both the item and the autoresponder). If it adds to their enjoyment of the autoresponder, then before. If it will be a distraction, then after.
      If the download is completely unrelated, you could save it for the end as a thank you.
      Hope that helps!

  15. says

    I thought I’ve read almost everything about e-mail responders (because we haven’t gotten to it yet, just like Samuel), but number 4 just made me go “Niiice!” Thanks for the insights! This will definitely be helpful for us when the time comes.

Comments are open for seven days. This article's comments are now closed.