Email AutoResponder 101 – Aweber

Email autoresponders play a key role in creating your newsletter and growing a database of fans, customers and clients. Aweber is probably the best email autoresponder service out there.


Steve Dotto here. How the heck are you this fine day? Me? I’m feeling pressed for time because we have a lot to cover. Today, I want to spend some time looking at email autoresponders with you. This is a class of software that includes Aweber, which is the tool that I’m going to show you, but it also includes MailChimp, Constant Contact and Emma Mail and a whole wide variety of services that are designed to help you manage an email list, which they can be customers, they can be prospects, they can be fans of whatever product that you’re delivering or whatever channel you happen to have. But many types of business need to manage their mail list and these autoresponders are the tools that really serve that market well. It’s fraught with challenges because of spam laws and that sort of stuff so each of the tools have their own ways of dealing with those issues.

Now I’ve actually outgrown Aweber. I’ve been using Aweber for the last year. I’m about to migrate to a more advanced application but before I leave it, I wanted to make sure that I documented how I use it so that you can see whether or not this application is a tool that might work for you. Regardless if it’s Aweber, another autoresponder indeed might also serve the purposes but for today we’re going to look at Aweber. So it is email autoresponders today on DottoTech. I have just logged into my Aweber account here as an email autoresponder. Now email autoresponders serve a wide variety of purposes. First of all, they manage your list but they’re all designed to automate a process. Now when I talk about your list, I’m talking about a list of prospects, a list of people who are interested in what you have to offer.

If you were a church, it would be your parishioners. If you are an internet marketer like me, it’s the list of people who want to subscribe to my newsletter and get information that I’m sharing, my videos, information about my webinars, and this sort of stuff. At some point, we often want to take this list and monetize the list. We want to instead of just sending out free information and engagement to this list, we want to send them an offer to sell so it’s an important part of our entire business. Now there is a challenge attached to all autoresponders, and that is that we don’t want to run afoul of spam laws, which are very aggressive where I live in Canada but increasing in strictness throughout the world. So we have to make sure that whoever is on our list is legitimately there, that they’ve chosen to opt in to our list.

Typically, we use something called double opt-in where people say, yes, I would like to receive your newsletter and then they have to verify that in an email a little bit later on to verify that yes, they indeed want to receive email from you. If not, you can be considered a spammer and that is bad. It’s especially bad when you belong to one of these services, because we all painted by the same brush to a certain extent.

If the email client starts to recognize all the email coming in say from Aweber or that there’s a few people from Aweber that are sending spam, well they’ll start to flag all the email coming from Aweber as spam and then all of sudden it’s a service that doesn’t work for any of us. So companies like Aweber, MailChimp and ConstantContact are very diligent to make sure that none of their customers are indeed spammers.

They put rules in place in order to make sure that that is indeed the case. Now sometimes those are so strict that they make it difficult for us to do business, which is what I’ve bumped my head a few times in Aweber on that side of the ledger. But you have to understand that they are protecting your best interests as well when they have these rules in place so you have to kind of take them all with a little bit of a grain of salt.

Let me just walk you through the basic, some of the basic processes. They’re fairly advanced applications but you kind of follow a path through and you will grow with these applications. Things like Aweber, I think Aweber gives you the first month free if you sign up or the first month for a dollar and some of them like MailChimp, up to your first 500 subscribers, that if you send to them like three or four times a month, that’s free. So they’ve got a variety of different ways to lead you in and lead you down the path. But ultimately once your list grows to any size, you’ll end up paying anywhere between $19 a month all the way up to you can easily spend several hundred dollars a month if you’re successful in building a large email list.

I’m not going to talk about the marketing side today, how we market, how we build our email list. Instead, I’m going to talk about the physical infrastructure, the actual tool itself. Now I’ve got my Aweber account open here as you can see and at the dashboard here, at this dashboard level I just get a snapshot on the health of my account. In this particular case, I’ve had 33 new subscribers today and my subscriber counts can be fairly high over the next few days personally because I’m still using Aweber as my main tool. I haven’t migrated yet but we’re in the process of registering people for a new webinar so I’m using Aweber as a tool in that registration process. That’s why my numbers are a little bit higher than they normally would be.

On a typical day, I’ll get maybe 30 in a full day, between 20 and 30 new subscriptions in a day with my normal activities and then a variety of people who’ve unsubscribed. This is a good thing. When you start out with an email list, sometimes you think oh so many people have unsubscribed, four or five people have unsubscribed today. They don’t love me anymore. Great, because the more people you have on your list, the more that you’re paying for that list to send that email out and you don’t want to be sending to people that aren’t interested in what you happen to be doing so it’s just better to get rid of them. I know it sounds harsh to get rid of them. It’s just better not to have them on your list. You will soon appreciate the people unsubscribing as much as you appreciate the people subscribing because a clean and efficient list converts well and it’s almost like reducing. When you’re cooking, you’re reducing and you’re adding flavor. The tighter your list is, the higher percentage of opens that you have of your overall list in your emails you sent means that you can generate that much more momentum from whatever it is you’re offering.

So unsubscribes are not a bad thing. Then I have here my total subscribers. Now this list I started just a year ago and it’s grown quite well. The total subscribers is a little bit of a misnomer as far as this goes. This isn’t the actual number of people that I have. If we were to line them up, there’s not 6,800 people in my account. It’s closer to like—what is the number? I can tell you right here—it’s about 5,500. So about 1,300 or 1,400 of these people are in multiple lists and it’s the way that Aweber, which is a bone of contention for me with Aweber, but it’s the way that Aweber counts subscribers. Whatever list you’re on counts as one instead of the individual counting as one. It’s something that I don’t like because it basically pushes you above thresholds for payment a little bit in advanced.

So I think it’s nickel and diming, frankly, that’s kind of the things that makes it easy for me to leave when it’s finally time to go. I don’t have as many warm and fuzzies as a result. Now this list, stats area here, this is a list of my lists because you don’t just have a single mail list but instead you create kind of campaigns where you create and you enroll people into your program based on an activity that you’re doing.

For me, most of my activities are webinars that I launch around products or around special features that are going to be covered. So we see here when I started the 3stepstoinstant1, 3stepstoinstant2, these were all webinars that I was doing supporting my 3 Steps to Inbox Zero. I did a little online course when I first started doing internet marketing, teaching people how to reduce their email to zero, their email inbox to zero and these were the activities that I did around that, the different launches. You can see that I have a variety of different numbers of people that have subscribed to those different mail lists. You can also see they’re very stagnant. There are no new subscriptions because I’m not actively marketing these anymore. The odd time somebody finds and stumbles across the list, but for the most part there’s no activity in it. So these lists are very stagnant and indeed they are slowly shrinking overtime as people unsubscribe because what happens is people signed up into my program for these lists, then I sent a series of emails that were specific to that particular product launch or that particular webinar that I was delivering, and then I just include them in my general email missives that go out, which is my weekly newsletter and that sort of stuff and very time that I’ve sent out another newsletter, a few more people unsubscribe.

Now I haven’t cleaned up my unsubscribes in a couple of weeks so the numbers look big there but typically speaking I’d probably have 25 to 30 people unsubscribe a week. So my list is growing faster than it’s shrinking but there is a constant churn happening in the list. Now when we call this an autoresponder, one of the keys to understand with these tools is when we deliver messages, when we send out messages, we can send out messages either as a single email or in Aweber they call it a broadcast.

They’ll call them different things in different services. But they call it a broadcast. That’s what I do with my email. I send out a broadcast. But you can also set up automated sequences hence the term email autoresponder. We can set up automatic sequences and the simplest of sequences is the subscription sequence. Somebody clicks on a link that says I’d like to subscribe to your newsletter, Steve, and then this automatically sent an email that says, are you sure you want to confirm? And then once they confirm that, then they’re enrolled in the system.

So that first email, that’s the first sample of an autoresponder, the email is automatically sent. Now we can take that, we can use that for marketing or for content delivery in a variety of different ways. So what you see here, this is actually my course. I’ve got a course called the Evernote Made Easy. It’s a ten part course where I teach people how to use Evernote and I deliver it all by my email autoresponder. And look here, this is the sequence that I created. So the first email as soon as you give me your money and you enroll—see, it’s sent immediately—is I welcome you to Evernote Easy and I send you the first email. The next email is sent that evening at AM and it’s the second lesson. Then plus one, and we can see that it’s set one day after the previous message, is the next email in the sequence.

We proceed all the way through—we actually have a total of eleven emails with the welcome and ten lessons—we have all of the different emails automatically setup. Now what does this mean? What does this look like? For me, what this means is I sell a course to somebody. Because I’ve set it all up this way, I don’t even touch that product or that individual really in any way, shape or form.

I get a notification that they’ve purchased. I don’t have to do anything. I just notice that they’ve done it and then they’re automatically sent the first email. As soon as they verify their subscription, they’re automatically sent the second email and then at that point there they’re in the sequence and then day 3, day 4, day 5 all the way through day 11 are sent automatically to those people. So it’s a beautiful system. It’s all completely automated. Now I’ve spent quite a bit of time setting it up, put a lot of thought into the setup but the delivery at the end is absolutely brilliant.

So this sort of a delivery system is something that can repeat over and over again and can really end up being quite profitable. Now I have over 200 people now that have taken the course. I’m getting statistics here and you see that the open rate on the email is exceptional. It’s over—it should probably be a little bit higher but this reflects the people that have just kind of recently got these emails—but early 90% of every one of these lessons gets opened. My people are reading their email, they’re taking the course and I haven’t had any feedback, any negative feedback so it seems that everybody is very happy with the way it’s proceeding. Me, as the content creator, I love the system. It just works really, really well. So that’s a look up at how the follow up series goes. Sending out broadcast messages, let me get over to the broadcast. This is where your email will go. This is the thing that most people are probably going to start with is broadcast messages where your email, where your newsletter will go out if you’re setting up a newsletter.

Let’s just create a brand new newsletter. I’m just going to go into my main email list which is called DottoTech News. This is just the general, the kind of general inbox that I bring everybody into if you’re not attached to a specific program that I’m doing. So here, this is my newsletter that just went out a couple of days ago. Oh no, sorry. That’s a draft where if I go back in my Home—sorry, navigating my way around—this is the newsletter that went out just a few days ago, How I Create My Videos and a New Webinar.

You can see that this was sent to 5,500 people and 2,000 have opened it so far, 319 people have clicked and a few email addresses are bad and nobody has complained. Ah complaints. Before I show you how to create a newsletter, let’s talk a little about the complaints because that is a very important part. You see I’ve had complaints before. Complaints are when people say this is spam and they identify an email as spam. Now a lot of people mistakenly will say instead of just unsubscribing to something, they’ll say this is spam or they’ll put it in their spam folder. Then the email systems identify that as being classified as spam by a user who it’s been sent to and that’s basically a negative point against you. Now getting 1 or 2 people saying it’s spam in a list of 5,500 people going out, that’s not going to hurt your reputation at all. But if you have any significant numbers at all, then Aweber’s going to start clamping down on you. They’re going to come and say look whoa, we can’t be sending out email that’s being identified as spam so let’s take a look at your list and let’s take a look at what you’re sending.

Let’s take a look at your opt in. Let’s figure out how to reduce that number or we’re going to have to suspend your account in some way. So there’s actually going to be a process that you’re going to go through to make sure that you are reducing the amount of spam. They actually tell you how spammy your email is. They have a spam score as you send it out and if you’ve got lots of external links or things that sounds spammy or words that sound spammy like “Buy now.

It’s an awesome deal” or something like that, they might be identified as spammy. But by and large, they’re looking for the interaction with the end user, with the recipients. That’s the thing that’s going to count most strongly against you if you indeed end up being quite, being heavy in the spam. And also email addresses that bounced, that indicates that your list is stale or hasn’t been maintained properly.

If you’ve got a lot of bad email addresses in it then they’re also going to look at that because they don’t want to send email that just bounces around on the internet, that keeps trying to be delivered. That just looks bad for our list as well. A little rambling today—I apologize for that—but let’s jump now back into the broadcast messages. Let me show you if I go in to create a broadcast what that looks like, the process, because what will happen is when you into your messages, you’ve got the ability to start a brand new email newsletter or something like that and you can work with it either as a—oh let me just go back because I started this one with just a plain text one I think. You can do plain text and I’d say that most of my emails is fairly plain text.

A lot of my stuff, all of my lessons go out as plain text but you can also send out something called HTML email which will allow you to basically dress up the page an awful lot, add graphics and add more fun choices and all that kind of stuff. So let me go create a broadcast. Drag and drop email below, that is what I wanted right there. So when I open this, now we see one of the keys to all of these apps is how good their templates are.

This is the template selection area for all of the different types of templates that Aweber has, allowing me to structure my newsletter with their templates. So if I go into here and I click—that’s a pretty nice template actually; I kind of like that—here on the side, I can go in and now I can view all of their templates.

I can say categories and now we see their roster. There are lots and lots to choose from. They’ve got kind of a Whizzywig HTML editor here that allows you to apply these templates. Now I’ve used three different email programs in my tests. I’ve used Aweber, which is the one that I’ve chose and the one that I’ve used. It’s good and solid. Its delivery is great. Its support is excellent. It’s a little bit rigid as far as its rules go and they nickel and dime a little bit. But their templates are good as are the templates in MailChimp that I’ve seen. But the best templates are in ConstantContact is another service that I’ve used a lot.

Now I don’t recommend ConstantContact to very many people unless you’re looking for really simple and really elegant looking newsletters. For people like churches and schools and stuff like that, I think Constant Contact might be the best choice because they hold your hand better and I do like their template editor an awful lot more in their editor. Aweber is I think for anybody who’s fairly technically competent like myself. I think it’s a great choice. MailChimp I think is probably the best overall choice because of the way that they structure their business and how their accounts work.

If I had this all to do over again, I would probably choose MailChimp right out of the gate but Aweber has served me very, very well. If you’re a little more technically inclined then you’re able to roll up your sleeves and kind of figure things out a little bit occasionally, there are no problems at all with Aweber. Now the folks at Aweber might disagree and say, oh we’re just as easy to use as MailChimp.

Well, I respectfully disagree with that. And there are a few technical pieces that I just don’t like, the fact that I can’t combine lists. For example, I can’t take people are grouped on different lists. All of my 3 Steps to Inbox Zero people, I can’t pull them all together into a single list. Aweber won’t let me modify the lists that way so that severely limits this as far as kind of advancing it to a more customer relationship management tool. Mail Chimp does a lot of that sort of thing. Having said all that, once you’ve built your newsletter then you go through a little bit of a validation process. You send yourself a test email and you proofread it like crazy and then you can either schedule it for some time in the future or you can send it yourself. The send is almost instantaneous. As soon as you click Send, within a few minutes it’s been populated out to your network and you get quite a bit of feedback coming back from Aweber. The statistics are an important part of these tools as the list management and as the email builder because when we click on here—let’s just take a look at my last newsletter that went out and if you’re a subscriber to my newsletter, you would’ve seen this letter in your inbox—we can see it had 5,300 people and it went out yesterday.

We had 1,900 opens and this number will continue to increase. Actually, I can see how many times different people opened the email. I don’t know why some people open the email so many times but there are always a few people that open it more than once. But even more important here is if I click down on the Clicks, I want to see what people have clicked on. I’ve got several links within it and this is my video, the video link that I put in my newsletter, which is kind of my highlighted video of the week. This is registration for my next webinar coming up. This is another video that I posted. So I can see what people clicked on within the list. Here we start to see some real marketing tools being applied as well because if this many people clicked on just this video, I could actually send a message just to those people.

So it will parse out those people and allow me to send messages just to those people. It allows me to on the fly make subsets. I wish that Aweber would extend this sort of control out into the main list area and allow me to tag people within the main list area and create subsets there but they do it based on the email. And it works. It’s an elegant system and it will work for in some cases. If I was selling a product and I had a whole bunch of people that clicked on the demo video, I might want to send them a special offer very quickly afterwards and this identifies only people who are interested. So it works pretty well from that perspective. Let me think. What else should I show you? They’ve all got integration into other tools, the sign-up forms, how you sign people up for your lists. You can create a little embed codes that you can put on your website and depending on what other tools you use, you could also have API level integration or fairly deep integration with this email autoresponder.

So all of the pages that I create, all of the landing pages for my webinars and stuff like that, those automatically create opt-in boxes. Let me just go to my site and I’ll show you what an opt-in box looks like. It automatically creates these sorts of pages. Actually, there’ll be two places. Right here, this is generated, this Subscribe button is generated directly within Aweber. I created that, it sits here on my page and it actually identifies how many people subscribe here. Quite a few people subscribe just right from this link here. The next level, the next type of opt-in for people to sign up for the list, I have here within each of my posts and this will go in on different landing pages. Now this one here, this opt-in page is created using page creation tool I use called Optimize Press.

I could’ve chosen different standard formats but it integrates directly with Aweber. So all I do when I create it I say I want it to go to Aweber and I can actually select which of my lists in my Aweber this registration will reflect. So it works quite elegantly from that level there. Once you’ve chosen it, it really integrates nicely with all of your other tools. The same can be said for ConstantContact, for MailChimp, for all of the other services. Most of them have this level of integration with all of the other page building services and with WordPress and that sort of stuff.

So from that perspective, it works really well. So I’m going to wrap things up a little bit now. I’m not going to spend too much more time in Aweber because this is already a little bit longer demo than I anticipated but I hope you have a sense now about what you can do with an email autoresponder. I didn’t even show you the lists. I said I’m going to quit right now but instead I’m going to back and I’m just going to show you subscribers just briefly. Also, this is where we see and manage all of our different subscribers.

They’re all chronological. These are my most recent subscribers. But you can actually go through and you can sort your subscribers based on a variety of different criteria and based on what different information you’ve collected from them. So it does give you a modest amount of control over the subscribers. But this is the area here, Managing Subscribers, that really once you’ve realized that you need to do an awful lot more massaging of the different information of your subscribers, that’s when you bump your heads into the ceiling with a tool like an email autoresponder and you have to start looking at a CRM. So I’m looking at applications like InfusionSoft and Ontroport in order to allow me a lot more control and allow me a lot more management capability with those subscribers. But until you reached that point, you can’t beat having a tool like Aweber, MailChimp Constant Contact in order to build your list because the bottom line for internet marketing and for a variety for other businesses is the value that you have as a business is built into that list, having that customer list.

Especially for those of us that are doing a lot of our business building and community building on services like Facebook and YouTube, allowing those services to own your customers because they’ve only given you a Like or only given you a subscription puts you at risk because all they have to do is change the rules and you can be completely disenfranchised from your customer base. So behooves us to get those people into our own list. Choose one of these tools, run with it. I don’t think that at the end of the day that if you choose Aweber versus MailChimp that your business will succeed or fail because of that service.

There are going to be some benefits and some negatives to each one. Bottom line is get onto one of them, start to use it, build your list, and fortunately all of them will allow us to migrate upstream when we need more advanced applications, which is exactly what I’m facing here at DottoTech right now. I hope that you found this video useful. It was an overview of email autoresponders. There are three ways for you to stay in touch with us here on DottoTech and several of them include using those autoresponder. The first of course is subscribe to this YouTube channel. Second, sign up for the newsletter and if you sign up for the newsletter you’ll be going through the process of enrolling currently in Aweber.

If you watch this in a couple of months, it’ll probably be with a different autoresponder or different application but you’ll get a sense for the process from the end user’s perspective. And finally, DottoTech is a community-funded site. We’re supported by our friend at Patreon. If you value the content here and you’d like to become a participating member of our community, drop by the Patreon page. For as little as a dollar a month, you get some awesome perks and you ensure that DottoTech will continue to provide great content like this for the foreseeable future. Till next time, I’m Steve Dotto.

Have fun storming the castle!.