Educational Autoresponders: The Newsletter Substitute?

By Jessica Albon

Have you balked at the idea of starting a newsletter because you just don’t see how you could stick to a regular schedule? Does the idea of committing to having something to say every Wednesday at 8 a.m. just sound flat out uninspiring?

If you’ve put off launching a newsletter because you simply don’t like the idea of being expected to show up in a certain way at a certain time, you’re not alone. And you just might find an educational autoresponder to be the approach your rebellious streak can put to work.

What’s an Educational Autoresponder?

An autoresponder is a program that automatically sends an email in response to an email trigger. So, if you’re away on vacation and set up an automatic away message, you’ve just created an autoresponder.

An Educational Autoresponder is a bit different. This is an email (or, more often, several emails on one topic) that people sign up to receive. It’s almost exactly like a newsletter except that you’ve already written all the messages *before* people sign up and the emails are scheduled to go out automatically at the interval of your choice.

So, you might set up your Educational Autoresponder to send out 5 email messages, one each day, for example.

How do you create an Educational Autoresponder?

When you’re ready to write up an Educational Autoresponder, start with your topic. Then, narrow it down as tightly as possible. So, let’s say that you are creating an Educational Autoresponder to promote a report you’ve written on identifying different types of insects. You might write an Educational Autoresponder dedicated to five different types of wasps and how to identify each.

It’s really important that you keep your topic tightly focused–you want to be able to present a complete and compelling “course” within just a handful of email messages.

Think of your Educational Autoresponder as a sort of Signature Article in five parts–an article that you could easily use to represent who you are, what you do, and why people should hire you (or buy your product). It needs to teach something complete so that readers don’t feel strung along, but you also want to make sure you don’t “give away your crown” by getting in so deep that your new readers won’t be able to apply what they’re learning.

Brainstorm the 5-6 components involved in your topic (if there are more than 5-6, your topic is probably too broad) and write each one up as a mini-article. End each mini-article with an action step or two along with a teaser about the next mini-article or how readers can get in touch with you for support.

How often should you send the emails?

Do your prospects generally make up their minds quickly or is your product or service something they need to consider at length?

For an industry like real estate where people often choose their agent very quickly, you’ll want to send your messages out in short succession–leaving a gap of 2-4 days between each message. For an industry like consulting where clients tend to take their time making hiring decisions, you’ll want to leave more time between messages and might send one message every 1-3 weeks.

In each email message, you’ll want to remind the reader when they can expect the next message.

How will you send the messages?

There are lots of great programs out there including 1-2-All (the program I use to send my own newsletter) and Aweber. I recommend both.

Some shopping carts even come with an autoresponder program built right in, so if you use a shopping cart, look there first. Also, most assistants these days are trained in setting up an autoresponder program, so if your assistant has a preferred program, start there :-).

The important thing is to use a program that’s designed to send “sequential autoresponder messages” so that you can simply schedule your messages and they’ll go out automatically.

If you’ve been really struggling with the idea of publishing a newsletter because it just plain feels too scheduled, an Educational Autoresponder can be a great compromise. It’ll keep your name in front of readers on a regular basis, build a list, and save you from having to think of something new to write on an on-going basis.