Jul 12, 2011

Countdown To A Special Date Using Autoresponders

Autoresponders offer a great opportunity for engaging your subscribers over an extended period of time. You may have heard of this strategy referred to as drip marketing, but it doesn’t necessarily just refer to a series of campaigns that extend forward into infinity. It can actually work particularly well in the context of counting down to a special date, like a wedding or the birth of a child. So let’s take a look at how you’d set up this type of campaign using MailChimp’s autoresponders.


Preliminary Steps

When you’re setting up your drip campaign, planning is actually just as important as creating the content you’ll be sending out, apparently. So before you get started, the fine folks over at Marketingsherpa urge you to consider some of the following questions. (Seriously, I’m not an expert on this stuff but am happy to point you toward helpful resources from folks who are.)

What’s the goal of your autoresponder campaign? For example, if you have an ecommerce site, you might want to remind someone about the items they’ve left in their shopping cart and encourage them to come back and purchase. Do you have your content sorted out? Content is still king, and having well-written, informative and relevant content will help engage your subscribers and keep them interested. What’s the trajectory and duration of your campaign? What key marketing messages are you trying to convey? What’s the time period over which you plan to send your emails? Are they leading up to a specific event? These sorts of questions will help you figure out how often you want to send, and the specific content in each message.

Getting Started

Let’s imagine that you’re a wedding photographer who finds potential clients through word of mouth, via a signup form on your website, and by using Chimpadeedoo for iPad to let interested parties sign up at bridal shows.

You’ll want to make sure your signup form is capturing all the pertinent information for your autoresponder series– first and last name, email address, date (which I’ve relabeled so it refers to wedding date) and gender. Perhaps even use the 2 line description to entice people with a special offer for signing up, as I’ve done here.

chimpadeedoo wedding signup form

Setting Up Your Autoresponders

Remember, the whole point of this tutorial is how to count down to a special date using autoresponders. Since we’ve collected the wedding date of our prospective clients, that’s the date we’ll base our series of emails on.

select autoresponders from the top menu

When I created my signup form in Chimpadeedoo, I offered an incentive– a free wedding photography consultation. In order to make good on that offer, I scheduled my first autoresponder (containing the free consultation offer) to send a few days (3) after signup. This gives the subscriber enough time to process all the information from the Bridal Show, but not so much time that they forget they ever signed up for my list. (Note: Experiment here! Is five days the sweet spot, or do you get better results from waiting a week or maybe even nine days? Leave a comment and let us know what you discover, as my guess is that things will vary by industry and use case.)

autoresponder will send 3 days after signup

Then I created my campaign:

first email one week after event

Next, I’ve decided that to stay in contact with my subscribers and help pique their interest in my services, I’ll send out a "tips" type newsletter one month after the subscription date. Again, in my autoresponder setup screen I’ll click the big "add autoresponder" button, then select the list I want to send to– Georgia Bridal Show 2011. Under "send settings" I’ll set my autoresponder to send 1 month after the subscriber’s signup date:

autoresponder will send one month after signup date

And again, I’ll then go in and create my campaign full of wedding tips and tricks. I’ll segment this one by gender, because let’s face it, you guys need a lot of help when it comes to wedding stuff. I’ll include pointers about how not to look like a total goofball in your photos, how far in advance of your wedding you should get your hair cut so you don’t have that "freshly shorn sheep" look, and even some common dance steps so that you’re not as nervous while twirling your lady during that first dance.

Once you’ve set up your autoresponder and are ready to jump into the design process, simply set the segment of your list you want to send to in Step 1 of the Campaign Builder.

segment by gender

Next, you know that (according to the wedding planning checklist) couples will be seriously auditioning photographers nine to ten months prior to the date of the wedding. In order to capitalize on that, I’ll set up two autoresponders– one that will send 10 months before the date of the wedding, and the other that will send 9 months before the wedding. These are specifically intended to remind my subscribers that it’s time to pick a photographer, while also suggesting my services.

autoresponder settings for 10 months prior to the wedding date

Ten months out, I want to remind the subscriber where we met (the Georgia Bridal Show on June 26, 2011 at Gwinnett Center), provide some education and links to my website and portfolio, and offer my photography services for the big day. Since I collected gender information on my signup form, I might even consider segmenting on that criteria and including a bit more concrete information for the men on my list. Guys don’t always understand the nuances of wedding planning, so it might behoove me to educate as opposed to trying the hard sell.

There’s a lot that goes into planning a wedding, so when my autoresponder sends 9 months prior to the date of the wedding, I want to assure my subscribers I know what they’re going through and that LauterCo Photographers are here to help. This might be a good time to include offers from dress shops, tuxedo rental places or caterers that my company has prior working relationships with. You can even make sure those companies know you sent them business by using Google’s URL builder to generate a unique link for each vendor.

google url builder

Google URL builder

Some other ideas you might want to consider

• 8 months before the wedding, send a PYOW-powered QR coupon code to a segment of those folks who "opened or clicked" your email from the 9-month autoresponder offering a discount on your photography services

Post a QR Code outside your studio so that visitors who stop by can quickly signup for your email list