Introduction to autoresponders

Autoresponders are emails sent to subscribers automatically, when triggered by certain events.

In this article we'll explain the different ways autoresponders can be triggered to send, give you some ideas on how to use them, and walk you through the basics of setting one up.

On this page:

10 ways to use autoresponders

There are many ways you can use autoresponders to offer more value to subscribers, and create more free time for yourself in the process! Here are a few ideas:

  1. Deliver a paid training course [new subscriber autoresponder].
  2. Send a sales email when a free trial period has run out [date-specific autoresponder].
  3. Remind customers when a yearly membership is due to expire [anniversary autoresponder].
  4. Share content archives from your website with newcomers [new subscriber autoresponder].
  5. Guide potential customers through a free "test drive" of your website or product [new subscriber autoresponder].
  6. Pre-promote a new product, service, event or e-book that will be available to buy soon [date-specific autoresponder].
  7. Deliver a multi-part report, or break up a free e-book instead of giving it away in one hit [new subscriber autoresponder].
  8. Send subscribers a birthday message [anniversary autoresponder].
  9. Automatically follow-up with new customers to seek product or service feedback [new subscriber autoresponder].
  10. Reach out to customers who have been inactive for a certain period of time, to entice them back with a special offer [date-specific autoresponder].

Autoresponder settings and email design

This section is an overview of setting the triggers to send autoresponders, and how to create the emails for them. For step-by-step instructions, refer to the links listed in the section above.

Getting started

Open the Lists & Subscribers tab where you'll see your list names. The Autoresponders column shows the number of autoresponders created for each list, which includes any that are "paused" or haven't been activated yet.

Click view to access active or draft autoresponders. Click add to create the first autoresponder for a list.

Note: Autoresponder emails are tied to one specific subscriber list. So, you can send the exact same welcome or happy birthday autoresponder to more than one mailing list, you just have to set it up separately for each one.

Defining the autoresponder details

When creating a new autoresponder, the first thing you're prompted to do is label it with a name. This is to make it easy to identify if you have multiple autoresponders for one list, as shown here:

Keep in mind that an autoresponder could contain several emails. The example pictured below is named "Welcome emails" so you can see at a glance that it is an autoreponder series containing multiple emails, instead of a single email:

Next, you'll make a selection for "How should this autoresponder be triggered?"

There are 3 ways an autoresponder can be triggered:

  • When a new subscriber joins your list by signing up through a form linked to the list. The email, or emails, your autoresponder contains are now fired off automatically according to the timing you set. 
  • The anniversary of a date is near. This type of autoresponder is for any annual, recurring date. Think birthdays, tax time, dental appointments. You can set the autoresponder to send on, before or after the anniversary.
  • The exact match of a date triggers the autoresponder to send. Like the anniversary trigger, you can set it to send on, before or after the specified date which is unique to each subscriber. It could be a purchase date, the date that a free trial period ends, a client's next appointment date, etc.

Creating the emails

This is done the same way that regular email campaigns are created, with all the same options for importing or creating the campaign content:

  • import a completed HTML design
  • create the email content using one of your existing templates
  • use the template builder to design a new layout from scratch
  • send plain text emails

Stop or edit active autoresponders

Because each email is set up independently with its own trigger rules, and you can edit or delete one or more emails in a series, without deleting the whole autoresponder.

Click Edit to make changes to any email in your autoresponder, as shown here:

If emails are triggered at the time of editing, the autoresponder will automatically send the currently saved version.

Editing will not affect autoresponder reports. If new links are added to an email, they will be listed in addition to the previous links, which are viewable from the Clicked menu.

Stop emails sending

When you click the Start autoresponder button for an autoresponder it changes to a pause button. Click it any time to stop emails from being triggered:

This also stops any emails that were already triggered. For example, say you have a new subscriber autoresponder made up of five emails. Someone joins your list and gets the first two emails. Then you click Pause autoresponder. This person will not get the remaining three emails.

You can also delete an autoresponder, but keep in mind that this will delete all the reporting data for it as well. Unlike regular campaigns, you cannot export the report data.

To delete an autoresponder, open the Lists & Subscribers tab, and click the corresponding view link:

On the following page, hover your cursor over the autoresponder row, and then click the trash can icon that appears on the right.

Autoresponder reports

When an autoresponder starts being sent, reports will be generated. Reports are viewable from the same page that you add, edit, preview or delete emails in an autoresponder. Go to Lists & Subscribers, click view in the "Autoresponder" column, then click the name of the autoresponder to open it.

At the top of the page are summary statistics for the email activity. Click the View activity for menu to switch from All time to Last 30 days. The graph is interactive, too. Click the arrow next to Total sent to display Opens, Clicks or Unsubscribes instead.

You can also drill down to see which links were Clicked in each email, as shown here:


How many autoresponders can I set up?

You can only have one new subscriber autoresponder per list. But you can create as many emails as you like within that autoresponder series.

This is not the case for autoresponders triggered by a date, which are:

  • The anniversary of a date autoresponder
  • The exact match of a date autoresponder

With these two, you are only limited by the number of custom date fields set up for each subscriber list. For example, a list must have a date of birth field in order to set up a birthday autoresponder. For the same list to have an appointment reminder autoresponder, it must have another custom field to record appointment dates.

How do I update the template for an autoresponder?

If you create an autoresponder using an existing template, editing the template will not update the autoresponder automatically. This is to prevent broken autoresponder emails from being sent while a template is being updated.

To apply template changes to an autoresponder that uses the template, open the autoresponder and click Edit on the individual email. Then make a change through the content editor and save it.

The process of saving a new version of the email is what makes the new template load. You can check that the new template has been applied by clicking preview.

Note: If you are updating a template used in an autoresponder series (containing more than one email) you must edit every email.

If I create a new subscriber autoresponder, will it be sent to people already on the mailing list?

No, because a new subscriber autoresponder can only be triggered by the sign up action.

Will importing subscribers trigger a new subscriber autoresponder?

No, importing subscribers from a file will not trigger the autoresponder, nor will adding new subscribers to a list by manually typing them in.

However, if you have the recipient's permission, you can sign them up through a public subscribe form for the list. By adding them "organically" the autoresponder will be triggered.

Regarding new subscriber autoresponders for people added via the API:

  • Importing subscribers using the 'batch import API method' will not trigger autoresponders (but this can be overridden, see details below).
  • Adding people individually via the API will trigger autoresponders.

To override the default setting for the batch import API method:

  • Add the QueueSubscriptionBasedAutoResponders parameter and set it to true.

Will an autoresponder be triggered if sign up is through an opt-in checkbox on another form?

Yes. If your client has multiple lists, opt-in checkboxes for those lists can be added to an HTML subscribe form. If a subscriber checks any of those boxes and the selected lists have active new subscriber autoresponders, the subscriber will be sent the autoresponder email.

Can I change how an autoresponder is triggered?

No, because an autoresponder is defined by its trigger type: new subscriber, anniversary or specific date. If you need to change that, you will have to set up a whole new autoresponder.

If someone unsubscribes then resubscribes, will it start the autoresponder again?

No, if a person has unsubscribed from your list, subscribing again will not trigger the autoresponder again. If the person resubscribed when they were part way through receiving a series of autoresponder emails, they will get any that are still due to send but it is not possible for them to go back to the start.

However, if you are using the API you can override this. Please refer to the subscriber import documentation.

What time of day are autoresponder emails sent?

By default, autoresponder emails are sent at 12 midnight on the date that is specified. For example, if you have an anniversary autoresponder set for a birthday email, it will be sent the first minute that it is the subscriber's birthday.

To have the email sent at a different time, use the "When should this email be sent" settings to have it delivered some time after 12 midnight, as shown here:

An autoresponder email set to send 10 hours after [subscriber birth date] would go out at 10 a.m.