How to Change Your Email Follow-Up Sequence

Yesterday some members of my newsletter received a message with a broken link in it. That message was not supposed to be sent out. I was not careful enough, when changing messages in my existing follow-up series of emails.

Do not mess up with your autoresponder follow-up series

A autoresponder follow-up messages are sent in defined intervals to someone, who has just joined your email list. This feature of an email marketing service provider like Aweber, GetResponse, … is used for various purposes. For example for a 7 day, a 30 day, or a 4 week email course. It could be used for promoting affiliate products or simply for pointing readers to older blog posts or other resources that they might not read otherwise.

Before starting to change your existing series of messages that is already in use, beware that there are 2 types of operations:

* Safe Operations and

* Unsafe Operations

Let's have a detailed look at this. You must consider that the follow up list of emails is linked to your subscriber database. Each user has associated the number of the message that was sent to him last. When you change the order of messages, delete, or add some things might get a little weird as you will find out from receiving the complaints of your subscribers.

Safe operations

There are only 2 of this kind.

* editing a message

* adding a new message at the end

Dangerous operations

Before doing any of the following you need to change the last message numbers of selected members in the database to avoid the side effects I am talking about here.

(1) Deleting existing message: All subscribers who already have received the message you delete, will miss one message in the following sequence.

(2) Reordering messages: Some subscribers will get the same message twice and miss another one.

(3) Inserting a new message in between: Some visitors never see the message you have inserted and will get another message twice. For example all members who have finished the follow up sequence already will receive the last message again.

What can you do about it?

I already told you about the trick, "Re-assigning last message numbers in the database" does not sound like an interesting job at all.

Without your service provider or software supports you in this endeavor with some automatic or semi-automatic mechanism – I have not heard of any service that does – Do not get into this! It's ugly, painful, time consuming, if you have more than 100 subscribers. And you might get it wrong anyway.

(1) Select the users, who get affected depending on the case.

(2) Increment or decrement the last message number index.

(3) Change the follow-up sequence.

(4) Optionally: Schedule the message for members, who might miss this info otherwise.

As you can see, it's kind of a complicated task that you really need to think about in great detail. Draw the scenario on a piece of paper to help visualize how the sequence changes and how various members get affected.

Quite honestly, when I messed with my sequence yesterday, I did not think about second about re-assigning message numbers.

I learned my lesson: I will stick with the safe operations only.

You can do some workaround with the safe operations

Safe Workaround

Delete: Why delete. Just replace the content of the message you wish to delete with something that appends to the previous message or prepares the next one.

Reorder or Insert: Sorry, there is no real way. You always can send a broadcast message for important things. But it might be best to start a new follow-up sequence with all messages in the new order.

Best practice is to plan the setup of a new follow-up series accordingly. It's not hard to safe your subscribers from accidental emails.