Email marketing: harness the power of valuable autoresponders

Autoresponder email sequences are an underused lead generation tool for many of us in the small business world, and, if written well, a great example of valuable content in action. In this article business coach Lee Duncan explains how a carefully crafted autoresponder sequence will benefit your business: motivating subscribers to become paying customers.

First, for those of you not familiar with the term, here’s a quick definition for you. Autoresponding is just the process of  writing and scheduling automatically sent emails to contacts who have signed up to your list. Before you start hollering about ’email overload’ and ‘the death of email’ have a read of Lee’s experience.  He might just change your mind.

Introducing Lee Duncan

Lee Duncan is a valued contact of mine and a master of internet marketing. You’ll see him online as the Double Your Business Coach at When it comes to S.E.O. this man really does know his stuff. In fact, if you type in the term ‘business coaching’ to Google he comes up second – and this is an extremely competitive space.

But that’s not all Lee knows. He is also an expert in the the use of autoresponder emails to boost sales. Autoresponders are a very powerful email marketing technique that bring Lee and his coaching clients a high degree of success.

1. Autoresponders are an under-utilised tool for small professional businesses. Why?

“I remember getting my first email account and the excitement of receiving an email.  Time has moved on and most of us hate receiving junk mail into Outlook as much as we hate junk mail on the doormat.  As a result, in our minds I think we tend to classify all commercial email as junk, when if fact a lot of it isn’t.

I love the emails I get from Perry Marshall, the Adwords guy, because they’re often informative and provocative.  Meanwhile I get driven to distraction by emails from the many spammers who simply self-promotes products like a jack-hammer into your mailbox almost every day.

One of my clients said his wife told him that the emails we built for his business wouldn’t work, “because people never read that junk”.  So he was delighted to remind her that she always books her next spa treatment at the local beautician in direct response to a regular email she gets from them!  If they’re interested, they’ll read it.  We just need to take the time to make it interesting.

For professionals in business, I suggest that the key to success with an autoresponder is to imagine you’re having a conversation with your subscribers.  Then, when you do take the time to promote your services or a new product via email, you’re not likely to suffer a lot of unsubscribes.”

2. What did you want to achieve for your own business with the authoresponder sequence set up?

“I have used autoresponders for several years now, in fact, as a business coach I’ve been encouraging clients to use them for even longer. As with so many solopreneurs, I’d not really spent as much time on them as I wanted.  I knew that putting a good autoresponder sequence in place would increase the number of leads I generate from my website.  It was a bit of a struggle to write them at first, as I like to provide high quality content rather than an incessant sales pitch, so each email took an hour or two to write.

I realised that I had some capacity for more clients and so I pushed myself to get the autoresponders done.   It took me about a month to get a sequence of 20 in place.”

3. You know your audience well. How do your readers benefit from these emails?

“My goal with every email is to offer some practical insights that the owner/manager of a small can use to improve their business.  It’s my aim to educate and inspire in a practical way.  I write about topics that my audience can relate to: how to improve your cashflow through better credit control; why giving employees shares doesn’t motivate most of them; why your business grinds to a halt when you go away on holiday.

I want to touch on the hot topics for most people in business and give away some useful advice, obviously following the Valuable Content concept that educating and informing people helps to build a relationship that turns into business later on.”

4. What process did you use to set up your autoresponder?

“I noticed that a lot of the “big boys” of Internet marketing use a service called Infusionsoft.  At first I thought it was a bit expensive, but as I looked closer, I realised that it does so much more than my old email service, Aweber, and this persuaded me to switch.  I noted down the top challenges that people running a small business tend to experience and wrote an email message to cover each one.”

5. What advice can you offer for success with autoresponder email messages?

“The secret I’ve found is keeping the message personal and very simple.  Don’t write as if you’re addressing a crowd, aim it at the individual and personalise the message to make it more intimate and engaging.  Make it simple too: the more you try to pack into a message, the more clumsy it becomes.  A single topic, covered in 500 words or less, is very powerful.  Alternatively, a short message that links to content on your website, a survey or similar can be equally effective at engaging your subscribers and building a relationship with them.

Also remember that you’re doing this for business, not pleasure – make sure you put a call to action in every message so that your readers know what to do next!

6. What results have you seen for your business?

“I put my new sequence into play in March 2010, since then my coaching client base has more than doubled.  I often get messages of thanks back from readers and they will respond to particular messages with queries about how I can help them to solve similar issues in their businesses.”

7. What can small businesses learn here?

“I strongly believe that every business should have at least a basic autoresponder set up to capture leads and keep in touch with them.  Every single client of mine is encouraged to use autoresponders and their results speak for themselves – I’m not called the Double Your Business Coach for nothing!”

Thanks Lee. For those of us not tapping into the power of autoresponder emails (that’s me included) it seems like we are missing a trick. Perhaps Lee’s advice will get us thinking seriously about this valuable form of marketing.

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  1. Eli Barbary

    This is a great post – thanks, Lee and Sonja. I have just set up my first sequence of free autoresponders – a two week course of organisational tips for creative people (We Have Ways of Making You Productive: 14 Ways to Make Your Right Brain Work For You). The response has been fantastic and it’s one of the best marketing tools I’ve ever used.

    I use it on the resources page of my website and also as a ‘free sample’ when I’m contacting leads and prospects, to give them idea of who I am and what I do. One of the best elements of setting up the series has been the interaction with people. I often get replies from people to say one of the tips has been particularly useful or asking me if I can expand on something I’ve said. The opportunity for a dialogue with a potential or existing customer is one which should never be dismissed!

    I can highly recommend the use of autoresponders – they’re working for me! Thanks to Lee and Sonja I can now make my next batch even better.

  2. Sonja Jefferson

    Here’s a great article on the subject from the brilliant Sonia Simone on Copyblogger:

    Meet the Lazy Marketer’s Best Friend – The Email Autoresponder:


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