How to plan an Autoresponder Sequence

The success of a good autoresponder sequence is in the planning.

Before you head over to your email provider and start dropping email after email in your flow, get your planning hat on and a piece of paper to design an effective path to take your subscribers to your goal.

I’m including a worksheet at the bottom of this lesson to help you.

To plan a good sequence, you need to yourself a few questions:

  • What is the goal for this sequence?
  • What’s the strategy to move people from point A to point B?
  • What content are you going to include?
  • How many emails are you going to send?
  • How frequently are you going to send them?
  • How are you going to measure success?

Let’s go step by step:

1) Goal

What is the goal for this sequence?

Like I said before, autoresponder sequences are used with different purposes:

  • Are you trying to establish yourself as an authority in your filed by building trust and credibility?
  • Are you building momentum for a product launch or an upcoming event?
  • Do you have a flagship product you are trying to sell?
  • Are you trying to move people from a free trial of your product into a paid plan?

Forget how we are going to get there for now, just focus on the end goal.

2) Strategy

The goal makes the strategy obvious. Let’s run a couple of quick examples:

For my Facebook Ads premium course, we wanted to get targeted prospects and get them close to the decision of buying the course, so we created the following strategy:

  1. Offer a free course about Facebook marketing to get targeted subscribers
  2. Deliver the lessons via email on a daily basis to build momentum
  3. Create engagement points throughout the course to keep people active
  4. Pitch the premium product at the end of the sequence

A startup that offers a web service with the goal to move people from free trial to paid plan will create a completely different strategy:

  1. Welcome new users and make sure they complete the set up
  2. Deliver a series of educational campaigns to learn how to get started
  3. Deliver case studies to show them how other users had success using the platform
  4. Let them know when the free trial is about to end
  5. Pitch a special offer to join a paid plan

3) Content

With a clear goal and a strategy in mind, you already have an idea of what of content will need to be included in the sequence.

A blogger that wants to establish authority in his field will have to put out his best advice. For this, a good idea will be to look at a few things:

  • The best blog posts according to traffic and social analytics
  • Content should be timeless (no posts that might be obsolete)
  • Other types of content. Maybe you have slideshare presentations or infographics
  • Social proof, testimonials, media appereances, etc.

And going back to the startup example:

  • A series of video tutorials can be delivered as lessons
  • Engagement campaign to motivate questions
  • Case studies
  • Benefits

For the SocialMouths free course:

  • We produced brand new video lessons
  • It has a survey in the middle of the course
  • Testimonials

When it comes to content then, you will have to make a list of:

  • What you have and can use as is
  • What you have but will need a little tweaking to adapt it
  • What you will need to produce from scratch
  • What you can acquire from others (testimonials, case studies from clients, etc.)

4) Length, frequency and other stuff

Now, the logistic part of how this content is going to be delivered. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How many emails are you going to send?
  • How long is the sequence going to last?
  • What is the frequency of the emails?
  • Are you going to send short or long emails?
  • Are you going to stay in the inbox or send traffic somewhere else?

For the SocialMouths course:

  • 10 lessons, 1 survey campaign in the middle, 1 pitch at the end = 12 emails
  • 12 days
  • Daily – it’s the honeymoon period and people want to keep getting their lessons
  • Short emails, just a teaser
  • Send the traffic to a page on the site to get the lesson on video

I also want to mention something very important: When you start, you probably don’t have the data to determine some of these items, you probably don’t know if you should send every day or every two days, or if they should be 7 emails (as many people say) or if you should go with 15.

Use common sense to get started, don’t get stuck. You will be able to adjust if something is not working. We have a lesson on how to optimize the sequence later in the course.

5) Map it

Alright! You have a goal, a strategy, your content, and you’ve decided on length, frequency and all that stuff. The whole thing is pretty much planned…

Now, let’s map it.

To do this, I recommend 2 things:

5.1) Spreadsheet

The first thing is to have a simple spreadsheet where you can line up each email in order. This will give you and your team visibility of how things are supposed to go.

Here is what included in this spreadsheet:

  • Order #
  • Subject line
  • Goal of each specific email
  • Trigger (this will most likely be how many days each email is sent after the previous one)

Also, you are going to use this spreadsheet to enter your analytics (we’ll talk about this is a separate lesson).

Autoresponder sequence spreadsheet

5.2) Flowchart

The second item is a flowchart, the main objective here is to be able to visualize how parts are going to move in the engine.

There are both free and paid tools to create flowcharts:

Here is an example:

Autoresponder flowchart

Of course your version of the flowchart will vary depending on how simple or complex is.

6) Metrics

You know everything in marketing should be measured and analyzed. But when it comes to your autoresponder sequence, you’ll have be watching it very closely, at least until you have optimized every step and you are sure it’s working exactly as intended.

As I said before, we’ll go into this in a separate lesson ahead in this same module, for now I’ll just share with you the metrics that are essential to measure success.

  • Open rates
  • Clicks
  • Other kind of engagement (surveys, page views, video views)
  • And of course conversion

Very important: In a sequence, you must track these metrics on an individual basis, just measuring the overall results will not give you enough data to optimize. You’ll see why soon.


Are you ready? Go get a cup of coffee and your planning hat.

Now that you’re comfortable, get the worksheet to get started.

You can also get the spreadsheet to start mapping your sequence here: Spreadsheet

To get these resources, simply make a copy and save in your Google Docs or download them to your computer.

  • What happens after the sequence – what type of content do you send to your list? I have been writing a bi-weekly newsletter, but I have had doubts if this add the subscriber engagement. Is the newsletter necessary to gain responsiveness of one’s list?

    • It really depends, the end of a sequence can serve to segment the subscribers that completed and the ones that didn’t, and trigger new sequences.

      In regards to the newsletter, do you send other kind of campaigns, or only the newsletter? And, have you paid attention to the analytics? How is your newsletter performing compared to other campaigns?

      • Yes, I’m sending announcements of my newly-released books. The open rate for newsletters is anything between 15-30%. For other campaigns, the open rate is around 16-20%.