Introduction to autoresponders

Autoresponders are emails sent to subscribers automatically when triggered by certain events. For example, a welcome email for new subscribers sent immediately after they sign up or a membership renewal reminder sent annually.

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 some 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 options and settings

This section is a brief overview of what you can do with autoresponders and how to set them up. For step-by-step instructions, please see the links listed above.

Autoresponder triggers

The "trigger" is an event that signals the autoresponder to send, or to start sending if it's a series of emails. There are three trigger options to choose from:

Here's how they work:

  • When a new subscriber joins this list: This type of autoresponder is triggered to send when someone signs up through a subscribe form, or when you add them individually using our API.
  • The anniversary of a date: This is triggered by a date associated with the subscriber that marks the day of an annual, recurring event. Date of birth is a common example. So if a subscriber's date of birth is 29 May 1974, we ignore the year and send a birthday email on (or near) May 29 each year.
  • The exact match of a date: This is also triggered by a specific date for each subscriber but the year is taken into account. It could be a purchase date or a next appointment due date, where the autoresponder is set to send sometime on, before or after it rolls around.

Note: The last two date-based autoresponders are only available to choose if your list has a date custom field to work with.

Autoresponder series

Autoresponders can be a single email or a series of emails that are triggered to send one after the other. For example, a website designer could use a date-specific autoresponder to deliver a series of tutorials to new customers:

To build a series, keep clicking Add a new email to this autoresponder. The example above could be expanded from three tutorials to 10, or more. There is no limit to the number of emails you can add.

Segments in autoresponders

See the example autoresponder series pictured above? It's set up to send to "Everyone in the list," but you can also create separate emails to target segments of your list. This can be done with any type of autoresponder. Here's a simple way you could segment a new subscriber autoresponder:

This could be used by a clothing retailer for men and women. Both emails are triggered to send immediately after signup but the female version goes to women and the male version is sent to men.

To do this you need to have male and female segments set up before creating the autoresponder. It doesn't matter if the segments are empty to start with because people will be added to them when they sign up. In this case it would be done by capturing gender information on the subscribe form:

Tip: To ensure new subscribers are added to one of the segments you have created an autoresponder for, set the custom field on your form to "required" (meaning the form cannot be submitted until the field is completed). 

If you already have segments set up for your list they will all be available to choose from when you're setting up an autoresponder, as shown here:

Note: If you select more than one segment it means the email will be sent to people who are in segment A, or segment B, or segment C. To email only subscribers who fit segments A, B and C, first create a segment using AND to group people who match criteria A, B and C, then select that segment when you're setting up the autoresponder.

Stop or edit active autoresponders

Because each email is set up independently with its own trigger rules, you can edit or delete one or more emails in a series, without deleting the whole autoresponder. To access active autoresponders, open your Lists & Subscribers tab and click the corresponding view link:

Click through to the autoresponder you want to make changes to and, on that page, hover your cursor over the autoresponder email. This will display the controls, as shown here:

If an email is triggered to send when you're editing, the last version you had saved will be sent – not the version you're currently working on.

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 (pictured above).

Stop autoresponder emails from sending

When you click the Start autoresponder button 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 autoresponders 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, then click the trash can icon that appears on your 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, and an interactive graph below that. Clicking the View activity for menu will switch the graph from All time to Last 30 days. You can also 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:


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?

Date-based autoresponders (for anniversaries and the exact match of a date) 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.