My Pop-Up Strategy, Part 2: The Autoresponder Series

email autoresponders

Last week, I discussed why I added a pop-up form to my site (which gathers email newsletter subscribers); the following post explains what happens once people join my list. What you do after the sign up is important as the pop-up itself.

First, my newsletter call-to-action doesn’t offer a freebie.

When asking for someone’s email address, it’s extremely common to offer something free in return, such as an ebook, tip sheet, or other instantly downloadable benefit. I don’t do this; my theory is that it leads to high churn, or a significant number of people joining my list just to get a free-something-or-other. If I offer something for free, I’d rather not have any strings attached or make it contingent on getting someone’s email address. (That said, I know this strategy works, and I don’t begrudge anyone who uses it.)

What I do instead: Once people have joined my list, my thank-you message and page tells them that I believe every professional author should learn how to read basic contract language. I then offer a link to a PDF download of a Contracts 101 article I published a few years ago. I’d rather delight people with something they didn’t expect, not bribe them at the outset.

Next, subscribers receive a welcome series of emails.

Since my Electric Speed newsletter is only sent once every two weeks, it’s not uncommon for people to forget they signed up, especially when they quickly join with a pop-up. If someone has only visited my site once and hasn’t seen my work before, they may not even remember my name.

So last year I began using an autoresponder, which is a way of automatically sending emails based on certain triggers. I created a welcome series of three messages that introduce people to some of the most key posts and information I make available for free.

Here’s a screen capture of the first message:

first welcome email

This message is sent immediately after someone signs up for my list, and I make it clear the message is part of a welcome series. I keep it short and sweet.

The next two messages—also very short—offer resources on topics that I’m often asked about: how to build an author platform, and where to find process checklists for publishing and marketing. (Each of these are sent once 5 days have passed from the previous message.)

I make it clear on the third message that it’s the last one in the welcome series, and the next message will be the Electric Speed newsletter. I also welcome people to email me if they’re looking for specific information or advice they haven’t been able to find at my site.

Here are the aggregate open and click rates for my autoresponder series, before and after I added the pop-up to my site. (The blue bar represents the volume of new subscribers.)

Before Popup

Autoresponder series: open and click rates BEFORE the pop-up was added to my site (top line is open rate).

After Popup

Autoresponder series: open and click rates AFTER the pop-up was added to my site (top line is open rate).

As you can see, the behavior of subscribers has remained about the same after adding a pop-up to my site. This indicates I’m getting quality subscribers.

My Electric Speed newsletter open and click rate has remained healthy, although there is a perceptible decline in both metrics as the list size doubled. However, this may have more to do with changes in my subject line strategy than the quality of pop-up subscribers. Time will tell.

Electric Speed trends

Electric Speed newsletter open and click rates

I’ve been using an autoresponder series for less than a year, and I haven’t done any A/B testing, or even closely studied best practices. But my primary goal is to stick in people’s minds after they subscribe, be demonstrably helpful with free information and resources (without asking for a purchase), and show that I’m available to answer questions.

If you have experience with autoresponders, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Last week, I discussed why I added a pop-up form to my site (which gathers email newsletter subscribers); the following post explains what happens once people join my list. What you do after the sign up is important as the pop-up itself.

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Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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