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How to Figure Out What People Want To Buy From You
Last Updated February 23rd, 2012

One of the easiest ways to make money from a blog is to sell stuff.

However, you’ve got to sell the RIGHT stuff.

What’s the right stuff?

That’s easy. The right stuff is whatever your readers want to buy :-).

Question is how do you know what your readers want to buy? Keep reading.

How to Discover What To Sell Your Blog Readers

There’s one simple tactic I developed last year, and I since proved that it’s one of the best ways to figure out what people buy.

Here’s the deal:

When people sign up to my mailing list, they receive a “Welcome” email.

(For those of you unfamiliar with that email marketing jargon, a welcome email is the first email people get “after” they confirm their subscription to your newsletter)

In that email, after telling people exactly what to expect from their email subscription, I tell them to reply to the email and tell me what they’re struggling with right now.

And that’s the tactic.

The “What are you struggling with” question.

The Power of the “What Are You Struggling With?”

Most bloggers who want to figure out what their readers will buy may run a survey… or worse… they’ll GUESS.

But people lie on surveys, and guessing can be costly.

The “What are you struggling with” question, on the other hand, is the PERFECT tactic for figuring out what people buy.


Because it’s conversational!

Most people who sign up to email newsletters are accustomed to the broadcast mentality—the blogger broadcasts emails without ever inviting conversation.

However, this question positions you as a friend AND expert. That’s why people respond.

And when people respond, they tell you their problems.

And when you know their problems, you can either create content OR products and services to solve those problems.


4 Steps to Implementing the “What Are You Struggling With?”

By now you’ve got a broad understanding of how the “what are you struggling with” question works.

However, how can you implement it in your business the RIGHT way? And by the right way, I mean how can it help you build your list and increase sales?

I’ll walk you through it right now.

Step 1: Craft An Email That Invites Conversation

Before I tell you how to craft your email, let me show you the exact email I use.

What’s up {!firstname}?

Thank you for signing up. Every week, you’ll receive valuable advice that shows you how to turn web traffic into leads and sales.

And if you’re not getting traffic, I have advice for that too.

Right now, I want you to do two things.

Thing #1:

Reply to this email and tell me what you’re struggling with right now. Even if it’s something really small, don’t hesitate. While I can’t reply to everyone, I read every single one of these emails.

Thing #2:

Prepare yourself. I whipped together some great stuff for you, and you’ll receive it soon, so keep an eye out.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Talk soon,
Derek Halpern

Now that you’ve seen that, let me break it down for you.

Do you notice how conversational the email is?

I don’t sound like some boring corporation… I write as if I’m talking to a new friend.

And that’s key!

When you craft your “what are you struggling with” email, you want to write it as if you’re writing to a brand-new friend.

That’s how you ensure that people respond to you.

Note: I don’t recommend you copy my email word for word. I suggest you read it, analyze it, and adapt it for your readers.

Step 2: Include The Email In Your Lead Generation Sequence

Here’s the deal:

If you’re using an email service provider like AWeber, I like to make this welcome email the first email people receive from me.

However, if you’re not using an email service provider that allows you to set a welcome email, like Feedburner, I suggest you get one.

Building an email list is the MOST important thing you can do for your online business. It’s more important than RSS, SEO, and heck, I’d even say it’s more important than your blog itself.

But let’s say you don’t want to sign up for a mailing list provider, what can you do?

Instead of automating this, you can simply write a blog post that invites your readers to share what they’re struggling with in the comment section.

While this works it’s not preferable because people don’t like to air their problems in public.

Step 3: Interact With People Who Respond To You

This part is VITAL.

This is your opportunity to get your readers to dig deep inside themselves and tell you exactly what their problem is.

It’s also your opportunity to WIN a loyal reader for life, thus increasing the loyalty of your readers..

When people respond to you, it’s your goal to try and help them out. How can you do that?

Well, first, you can share an article that you may have written in the past that answers their question.

Or if they have a quick question, you can simply answer them in email.

What you SHOULDN’T do is try to sell something to them right off the bat. That turns people off.

Note: As your readership grows, it often becomes impossible to answer every single question. So, as a rule of thumb, try to answer the people that really took the time to respond to you.

Step 4: Find The Common Thread Amongst Your Subscribers


Here’s how you figure out what you can sell your readers.

As people start responding to your “What are you struggling with” question, it’s your job to keep track of the problems.

Eventually you’ll notice a trend.

You’ll start seeing that people struggle with the same things… over and over again.

Different people, and the same problems.

When you find that thread of similarity, that’s your chance to create a product to solve that broad problem that most people have.

And you can have a best-seller on your hands.

Here’s What You Need To Do Next

Now you have a decision to make. Are you going to take action and test this quality advice right now or will you procrastinate? Ball is in your court.

However, if you’re an action taker—and I’m sure you are, you’re reading Social Triggers—here’s what I want you to do next:

  1. I want you to brainstorm how you can implement the “what are you struggling with?” question in your business. Remember, don’t just copy what I do. Adapt it to your business.
  2. Then, if you plan to use this tactic (or already have used it), leave a comment and tell me about it.
  3. Finally, if you haven’t subscribed to Social Triggers Insider on iTunes, go do that now. I’ve got a new episode coming soon, and if you’re not subscribed you may miss it. And trust me, you don’t want to miss this one. It may be the best one yet.


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114 comments Leave a comment
Tony Gutters

We’ve been looking to implement auto responders into our marketing campaign so this is great advice. Question, what software do you recommend to start an auto responder series? We’ve looked at some lower priced options like aweber and mailchimp, but have also looked at sendpepper and the higher end infusionsoft, which seems to be very robust. Your thoughts are appreciated.


    Hey Tony,

    Check out ActiveCampaign … I was on MailChimp until about 2 weeks ago and gave AC a try when I heard it was closer to infusionsoft but at pricing closer to Aweber or MailChimp … it’s actually cheaper (starts at $9 per month) and is unreal how easy it makes marketing automation.

    (I’m not affiliated in any way, shape or form, just loved the software)

    Hope this helps!


Maegan Anderson

Thanks for sharing your ideas Derek! I agree with you, we cannot sell anything if we don’t know want they want to buy. I’m very excited to use this strategy for my campaign.


i have Lovely Teacup Yorkie Babies Ready For their new homes they are very playful and loves to give kisses.They are akc registered, potty, paper house trained and has all their shots,health and vet papers, they are very friendly to kids and other pets,very mellow and of good temperaments, they will be a good companion and playmate into your home,


This is a great post! I am right now in the process of determining what products I want to create to sell on my blog, and tweaking my email list building and marketing techniques.

Implementing immediately!

Janie Howard

This is exactly what my butt needed — a kick! I’ve already fixed my “welcome email” to a version of yours. I can’t wait to see how it goes – I’ve decided to quit being boring and start being myself. Thanks for your help.

Stuart Miles

Love this advice! Too many people do guess work and forget to just ask their market what they want.


Hello Deren,

Great strategy. Can we use this strategy on the thank you page instead of welcome email, in case our welcome email deals with a free email training or something if they signed up for that.

Lance Clancy

Hi Derek,

You really mesmerize me with the simplicity of your advice yet they are so powerful and dynamic. Looking forward to more of it. More power!


This is great, a few weeks ago I was looking all over the place for an effective welcome email since my list is pretty new and that search yielded nada. Thanks so much for this Derek, I’m adjusting it to my audience and using it asap.


Strictly awesome blog! Great information and warmth with your subscribers.
Thank you!

Mark Conger


This is such a frickin’ simple tip, but so brilliant.

Can I share a quick, but relevant story?

Literally on a whim a few weeks ago I decided to ask the members of a local small business networking group I belong to to give me their top 5 technical questions, problems, or interests. I gave out note cards and collected them our lunch meeting. It’s a small group of diverse businesses and backgrounds so the answers should be pretty accurate, even though statistically a small sampling.

The answers were COMPLETELY not what I was expecting. Suffice it to say I had totally missed the mark on where I thought these people were at. Now I can more accurately market myself to them and the local area businesses.

The point is that the method of simply asking people what they want not only works, but it will likely humble you in how off the mark you likely are with what you think they need.

Keep the good stuff coming, Derek!

Alan | Life's Too Good

Love it Derek,

great clear, actionable advice as always.

Though I’m doing something similar, I don’t want to let you down on your call to action 😉 so here is my comment and I’m off to make sure my welcome email is conversational enough (it’s always a good idea to revisit these things every once in a while anyway),

cheers dude,


If you don’t mind sharing, about what percentage of people respond to your conversational e-mail? I put a similar strategy in practice with my last 150 subscribers, and got 3 responses – it was a little surprising to me.

Eric mcshannon

Thanks for the article. i am going to work this into my system. i am debating doing it as reply to email or go here and post i like the idea of go here and post to build more value to site. I am also going to play with question variation.


Great tip! It makes a lot of sense to ask that simple question and no a days readers treasure getting a response from a blogger they feel can help them. Even if it’s short and brief knowing that the person you’re reaching out to took the time to response is a huge win for many bloggers.

There is something that is infinitely more personal about having a blogger respond to your email than a response to a comment.

Asking them right from the beginning what they are struggling with sounds so simple yet it also seems extremely useful for both the blogger and his/her readers.

I’m sure this simple technique would boost sales significantly for any serious blogger.


Nice. I’m going to go implement this right now. I have such a diverse list because I haven’t broken it down into smaller niche groups that this will give me a little incline into the common thread that everyone has – of course I have a guesstimate as to what it is – but this will let me have better than a guess…:)


@Nick: You sorta answered your own question. Still not clear? Here’s what Dan Kennedy famously advised would-be consultants:

“Be the Wizard.
Beware the Wizard.”



Can I be honest? I’m frustrated. I’m new to blogging. Great websites like yours Derek, are where we newbies go to learn how to do it. But something recently dawned on me: It may be my misconception, but it seems like most of the people teaching all of us how to blog only have blogs about how to blog. Do you see what I mean? Its like a snake eating it’s tail. In other words, the person I go to for advice on how to blog, gets his experience in blogging with a blog about blogging. So how can we be sure the social triggers that work inside the great big world of “how to blog” and SEO type websites will work for a blog about Railroading? I do appreciate you though, I hope you’re not offended by my question.

Walter Martin

Great information! I am actually reading the book Why She Buys right now. It is very interesting to understand why certain people buy certain items. You just have to know what to sell them! 🙂


I changed my autoresponder right after reading this post. Wow! what a difference. I’ve gotten a few emails just thanking me for having such a warm welcome email! Ha! Thanks!


As promised in my previous comment, I came back to report on my results after changing the follow up email for both my blogs.

Result: Derek was right.

I receive more feedback and more in line with what I’m expecting to receive. I’ve already setup a folder in my mail for these messages, so I’ll can get back to them easily to give my readers what they want.

Thanks (again) DH!

Blog Tyrant

Nice work Derek.

I signed up to your list a few months ago and immediately noticed that little message. I thought – clever boy!

Might have to give it a go.



Hi Derek,

I just want to say thank you for putting your things out on the internet! I made a little video for you to show you my appreciation: http://youtu.be/OmOyDvlxv8E

Watch it, it’s cool 😉

In that video also the results I had so far (in 3 hours) with sending out an e-mail with that same ‘struggle’ question. (only then in Netherlands, no that is no Arabic)

Thanks, have a great day! Mitch!


Thank you for the tips in this article. I haven’t started building a list yet, but when I do, I’ll definitely be testing your technique.

By the way for those of you who weren’t sure, MailChimp has autoresponders but you need to be on a paid plan to get access.

Christian Bossert

Hey Derek,
when I signed up for your newsletter last June, I saw your method and applied it to one of my lists with great success! It’s a small list, but 40-50% of the people are responding! However, my primary goal is not to sell anything but to find out what content my readers are interested in.
Thanks for the tip!


Thanks Derek,

I did this when I set up my recent email newsletter and we’ll see how it works as my list builds.

I was shocked when you responded to my email when I signed up to your list, and definitely appreciated the effort you went to, to answer me personally. Based on that, I’d say it certainly creates good feeling with some people.

Great insights as always!


Kristen Tammaro

As a massage therapist who is trying to implement social media, autoresponders and e-books and into my brick and mortar service business I found this information phenomenal. I truly love your advice and you have made me go back into my email and change some key wordage, that is getting a better click through rate. TY

Chris Oatley


I started doing this a few weeks ago based on some advice I heard from you and Ramit Sethi (it might even have been in your ST Podcast).

I also asked a similar question a couple of times in recent broadcast emails.

1.) The responsiveness of my subscribers shot THROUGH THE ROOF.

2.) The open rate has increased significantly as well. I think I was at 117% last time I checked.

3.) I think EVERYONE who has subscribed since I changed the first message has responded.

4.) Just yesterday I received 56 responses in just a few of hours from posing a specific version of the question “What are you struggling with?” in a broadcast email.


I have always been conversational in my emails, but I think this question is perfectly calibrated for the kinds of people who are subscribing to my list.

Thanks for the advice and for your great site. I’ve been implementing several other ST strategies and we’ll be launching those soon. I cannot wait.

…and for all the work you do for DIY Themes.

I have become a DIYT and ST evangelist.

You are awesome.

Chris Oatley


Ok, totally revamped the welcome letter! Since I sell jewelry, I asked the subscriber to answer 3 questions:
How did they find us
What type of jewelry are they looking for
If you didn’t find what you are looking for, let us know and……..

I thought that might spark some conversation rather than just offering a coupon.

Love the suggestion!


    And I said we are a family company and will personally respond to your email and we welcome you into the “family.”

      Derek Halpern

      Asking three questions may seem like too much work. I kept mine one question because I wanted people to reply on impulse.

      However, you can test 3 and let me know how it works!

Mary | A-List Blogging Bootcamps

Hey Derek – great article as usual.

I’ve got a Welcome email like this for WritetoDone.com. At first, I was hesitant about creating it because I get a flood of emails each day and it takes two to three hours to respond to them (time I would rather spend creating new stuff).

However, I’ve changed my focus in the last couple of months. I’ve changed from focusing on the macro view (like: How can I get WritetoDone from 30k to 40k? Or, how can I grow the membership of the A-List Blogger Club from 800 to over 1000?) to focusing on the micro view (like: How can I be of service to individual readers or members?)

This has changed how I work. And how I feel about the ‘daily grind’ parts of my work. Instead of thinking “Not ANOTHER bl..dy question!” I now think, “Great to get to interact with this person. Let’s see how I could help them…”

Focusing on the micro view is much more satisfying – and readers and members appreciate the personal attention.

I think it’s important to understand that this kind of Welcome message will crank up your workload. So, only create such a message if you are ready to embrace contact with your readers wholeheartedly – and are willing to put time aside for it.

    Derek Halpern

    The best part about focusing on the micro is this: when you help one person, they become fans for life.

Charles Specht

I’m fairly new to your blog, but I’m impressed by your content. This is some good information. Now I just need to put something together that people might actually want to buy! 😉

    Derek Halpern

    Yep — and now you know how to figure out what it is people want to buy.

Spatch Merlin

Firstly, I agree an email list is the most important part of an online business. One can take away my site, my domain just leave me my email list and I can start another blog again with a good traffic flow. About the implementations that I should be doing for my online business, I guess I need to improve my social media marketing. I mean, I’ve been doing what people does but I strongly feel that I need to do more in this area.

    Derek Halpern

    Interacting with your subscribers is definitely a secret sauce of people who have highly engaged email lists


I’m using that questione since the first mail I received from your autoresponder. Great idea! The problem is that this first question only gives me a direction. I’m having trouble creating some good questions for a survey so that I can get concrete info for a sales letter (fears, benefits).

My questions are:
– what are your biggest fears and frustrations trying to do X, how you feel and how you react when you face them?
– how would your life change if you’d have X
– if you’d like me to answer a question that would help you do X what would that be?

The answers I get are way too general and don’t help me in a concise way.

What would you recommend?

    Derek Halpern

    You’ll have to ask more specific questions. I use general questions, and then encode them all in spreadsheets, and then I go through them and read through them for threads of similarity. Once you know the thread of similarity, you can ask more targeted questions to delve deeper.


Hey Derek! 🙂

I used both: The survey and the “What are you struggeling with” question – and I agree with you: The “WAYSW” 😉 question is way more “authentic”.

In a survey people often choose what they “like” to struggle with. It is like in the little quizzes in the magazines where other people (not we of course 😉 ) choose the answers based on how they liked to be – not on how they really are.

So mega thumbs up for that question.

Right now I am building my first product around the WAYSW question. Really curious how it will do!

Thanks for sharing,


By the way: Your course for Appsumo really rocked!! Gained so much insights from that course!! (and new ways to get subscribers 😉

    Derek Halpern

    Awesome. Glad you enjoyed the course.

    I’ve got a premium course coming out soon too — and I’m sure you’ll dig that too.

Koren Motekaitis


What’s Social Triggers Insider?

    Koren Motekaitis

    I figured it out. I thought that was Master Class. I do love the interviews and what you are doing here. You are providing an OUTSTANDING resource for me!

      Derek Halpern

      Glad you’er enjoying it Koren.


Thanks for the tip. I use Constant Contact and will implement this strategy. I’ll see how it works for me and my business.

    Derek Halpern



BTW, Thanks for a fantastic post!


Derek–Last night this time I was actually responding to your email. And was impressed to get your response today. The conversational tone really struck a chord with me–even though I usually find it a little phony under corporate banners. Maybe it’s the “writing to a brand new friend” bit?

I’ll definitely try this out with my mailchimps…

What’s your strategy for checking in on your subscribers’ needs temperature once they are past the welcome email phase? In other words, how do you keep assessing current needs/challenges as the needs evolve and your list grows+accumulates time?

    Derek Halpern

    Yea, that’s it. Write to a friend, and they’ll treat you like a friend.

Dan Sumner

Hi Derek,

Thanks for the advice. I’m off now to ‘can’ my AR sequence!

I did notice your email to me when I first signed up and thought about how engaging you were and how different your approach was.

Thanks Derek, great tips and one I am most definitely going to use. Awesome!


    Derek Halpern

    Awesome, and you’re welcome.

    Glad that you’re here commenting Dan.


I just signed up with MailChimp this week so I can engage in more email list marketing. I’m a little overwhelmed with learning the new program, but realize I must surge ahead. This is good information to know. I was trying to come up with an idea for a subscription incentive, something with high perceived value, but not expensive to me. I decided to create a series available only to subscribers, but I don’t know if I can do that with MailChimp. I guess I’ll find out.

    Darlene Cary

    Angie – MailChimp offers autoresponders for paying accounts. Good luck!

    Derek Halpern

    I’m not sure how MailChimp works. But I’m sure they have autoresponder functionality.


Thanks Derek,

I think I will put that in my autoresponder. AND I might test your sign up box cta: if you enjoyed this post, get email updates (it’s free).
You don’t mind if I use something along these lines?


    Derek Halpern

    You can use it.


Brilliant! I have a welcome email that I originally modelled from you…its just not up to par. I’m going to go fix that bad boy right now! Thanks for publishing awesome content!


    Derek Halpern

    You’re welcome.

    Do let me know how it works out for you


This was great advice. I only just implemented my aweber strategy and got someone to respond to me right away. Great site btw, found you on Annas Traffic generation cafe blog when you gave her advice on her site

    Derek Halpern

    Glad to have you here Michael. And I’m glad it’s working so well for you so fast.


Exactly what I did today on your mailing list and responded. Then changed my welcome email right then. Now to include more stories based emails as the suggestion in your interview with Ramit. Now that’s a little tricker

    Derek Halpern

    Yep. You’ve got to find the stories, and then tell them. That’s when you simply just ask your readers to share them with you.


Hi derek, great post!
First- What is the problem with runing a survey?
And second – My website is a blog witch contains free courses for bulding a wordpress sites, seo, facebook fan pages and more.. My blog is still new and i dont know yet on what i want to focus in the blog so if i ask them to tell me “What Are You Struggling With?” after they signed uo to one of my courses then i thing no one will replay because this question is to generic.. Do you have any advice how to be more specific?
(Sorry for the bad english i am from israel)

    Derek Halpern

    You can be more specific by being more specific. I left my question open ended because it’s specific enough to each individual person who reads it.


Hi Derek
As you will see by my Web I am a newbe. How to specify my Blog to one
product when I have so many to choose from is insurmountable to me.

It’s difficult with certain products on a web. If I want shoes I’ll browse the
internet to be visually inspired or I’ll go to a shop to be inspired by visuals.
The way I see my case is to host as many ads as possible, thereby giving
my customers choices and inspirational material.

    Derek Halpern

    That’s why you’re supposed to talk to your customers.

Karen Sager

I’ve got a few autoresponder series that go on for weeks, but I never had what I felt was that good introduction to an audience. Thanks, Derek, I will be adapting what you’ve shared, it’s a great launching platform.

I’ve also found that the best autoresponders are stories that we tell where we aren’t attempting to sell anything. Give first, fill their needs and ask for something. When you eventually ask, you’re response rate will be better. My last conversion using this strategy: 37.1%..

Thanks again.

    Derek Halpern

    Storytelling is always a great strategy. Thanks for commenting Karen.

Debra Torres

Okay, going to stop dragging my feet with this AWeber thing. I’ve been with Feedburner too long, and now it’s time to start moving forward. My blog is growing, but I need to find out what my readers need. Up to this point, I’ve had no clue what to sell them. Like you said, a welcome letter should be just the thing to find out.
Thanks Derek!

    Derek Halpern

    AWeber really is a great service.


Thanks Derek,

I will implement your idea this week.We launch our new site next week. Our auto responder will be set to mimic yours, but for our niche.


PS. I’m liking your Social Triggers.

    Derek Halpern

    Thank you David. Glad you’re’ enjoying the site.

Brian Bennis

Great post, as always. There’s no time like the present, so I’ve immediately amended the words on my welcome emails in line with your thoughts. Looking forward to increased interaction with my visitors. Thanks. 🙂

    Derek Halpern

    Awesome Brian. Do let me know how it works out for you.


Great post as ever, Derek.

I’ve always admired your conversational, approachable tone and think that this has been fundamental to your success.

I currently use Feedburner, but am shortly due to have a new site design implemented and will be using MailChimp to start sending autoresponders.

Any reasons I should go the AWeber route as opposed to MailChimp?


    Mailchimp doesn’t allow affiliate marketers, so if you plan on selling affiliate products, go with Aweber.


    I had been struggling with whether to go with AWeber or MailChimp for awhile. I came across this article http://thinktraffic.net/why-i-switched-from-mailchimp-to-aweber and it helped me make up my mind.

    Derek Halpern

    I prefer AWeber because I like their interface. There was also a little more control over how you email your subscribers. These features may be available in MailChimp, but I wasn’t sure how to use them.


    Ooooh, I’d love to know the answer to this question too!

Ankesh Kothari

Thanks Derek.

I ask a similar question: what is your most pressing problem right now?

And then I follow up with a problem interview adapted from Ash Maurya’s Running Lean book.

Try to ask open ended questions to dig deeper into their problem. And get them to rank their problems (problem analysis). And finally ask what they are doing – if anything – to get rid of the problem (competition analysis).

Ben Suarez – who runs one of the biggest direct marketing companies – he used to dig deeper into the problem this way: write 3-5 headlines or product ideas based on the problem. Then call 20 people and ask them to choose 2 of those headlines. And if he creates the product, he would send in a free copy to them.

    Derek Halpern

    That’s a smart strategy.

    Dave Doolin

    Ankesh, Ash has done a brilliant thing. I’m reading Ries’ book as well, it’s the more strategy to Ash’s nuts-and-bolts.

    Ben Suarez is a true pioneer! He was doing scientific marketing way before the internet. I don’t refer to “7 Steps” as often as I should.

      Derek Halpern

      It’s like real-time market testing. Something some online marketers never do, for some reason.


Great timing Derek as I started writing a series of autoresponder emails just the other day and I’m going to put your advice to good use. Thank you.

    Derek Halpern

    You’re welcome Sharon!

Rich Russell

Thanks for this Derek.

I just went straight to my welcome email and added the question.

Also noticed that the plain text version had my next 2 follow ups tacked onto the end of it. A little glitch with the copy and paste there.

Not too disastrous. It’s a new list.


    Derek Halpern

    Awesome. Two birds with one stone.

Rachel Poling

I have been asking this question to specific people who email me for other reasons. I’ve been getting some great questions. 🙂

I see now I need to start implementing a more widespread approach. I make it very easy for people to contact me on my site, but I can see that I really should be asking every person I can, “What are you struggling with?”

I also love the idea of a blogpost on that topic. I honestly hadn’t thought of that. I think I’ll do both. haha

How do you manage to pick exactly the right topic at exactly the right time, Derek? I was just randomly thinking about this 20 minutes before I saw your post in my RSS reader. 😉

    Derek Halpern

    Well, I’ve got thousands of responses to the “what are you struggling with question?” After analyzing those responses, I know exactly what people want from me.

Conor Neill

I agree with Guillermo – response rate is low; but what I do see is that when people do respond and we have a 2-3 email conversation, their level of engagement is bigger across all stuff I do – videos, Meetup group, blog.

I did do a specific message last year where I asked my whole readership this question tied to a specific month – and the response rate was excellent – and gave me writing material for months 😉

    Derek Halpern

    Yea, you can do it in the welcome email, or you can do a blog post or email update, and get a HUGE response rate.


I just, before I even finished reading the post, went into Aweber and updated my followup email. I think immediately it clicked with me that I needed to be more specific and TELL my readers to email me. I had something a little more generic “don’t hesitate to email me” kinda thing but you are right – we need to be more direct and I like your approach.

    Derek Halpern

    Awesome Bethany.

    Make sure you sign up for Social Triggers Insider too 🙂

Will Kriski

I teach guitar online and almost no one responds to the first email. And when they do they ask for really bizarre and unique things that a) I’ve never heard of b) have no interest in and c) probably not worth creating for one offs

I was hoping they would ask for an improvisation lesson, blues guitar lessons, or shred, or whatever. Another idea is put stuff out there and test it but don’t too much time creating the products.

    Derek Halpern

    You might need to lead them down that path better. If you want them to ask for tips on blues guitar, then offering a freebie about blues guitar, and a specific question about blues guitar would help you get just that.

      Will Kriski

      Great point! I think niche lists would make more sense so that each group has a particular interest.

        Derek Halpern

        Well, not necessarily niche lists… But, you’ve got to make sure whatever you’re offering is pulling in your target audience.

Laura Upcott

Hi Derek,
Great tutorial!
I’m going to implement your strategy right now. I use Mailchimp, and I’ve been concerned that my autoresponse to new subscribers is weak. Now you’ve given me the perfect strategy for crafting an email to welcome new subscribers.

    Derek Halpern

    You’re welcome Laura.

    That’s why you’re subscribed to Social Triggers, after all. Gotta deliver the value 🙂


The advice is great and I tend to think it works for many niches.

I’ve implemented this sometime ago and I found two things very particular of my niche:

1.- The reply rate is very low.
2.- When they reply is because they want something for free: “Please take me to Canada”, “Please find me a job in Canada”, “Please tell me how to go as a refugee” and a long list of “WTF?”

F$#@ I write for an awful niche!

Great post as usual Derek!

    Derek Halpern

    You might be inviting people to ask for something for free. Maybe you need to be more clear that you’re not just going to give out free advice to ward off some of the freebie seekers.


      There must be something like that. I changed the autoresponder to follow your guidelines.

      I’ll keep a close eye on the answers.

      Thanks for the feedback

Jason Anthony

Excellent, Derek. I think paying attention and crafting your approach to fit your audiences wants and needs is crucial. Btw, joining Insiders has some great benefits.

    Derek Halpern

    It sure does! Social Triggers Insider has been a huge hit so far. I’ll have to write some more specific stats about it soon.


      Definitely looking forward to that (and incorporating an audio element)

        Derek Halpern

        Yes, audio has been great. I just upgraded all of my audio equipment too. My quality wasn’t top notch, so I got all new stuff!

Ryan Shell

This is a fantastic tip to highlight, Derek. These types of emails, and auto responders in general, seem to be vastly underused.

Then again, there’s part of the crowd that has gone auto responder crazy. It would be interesting to see you do a post that highlights the email breaking point.


    Derek Halpern

    Email marketing breaking point? What do you mean by that?

Cory Huff

I’ve been doing something similar to this for a while. It’s been super useful.

    Derek Halpern

    Tell me more!

      Cory Huff

      My confirmation email gives a surprise bonus link to a free recording and asks artists to tell me what they’re trying to accomplish by joining my mailing list.

      I get direct responses on a high percentage of my email opt-ins. Nearly all of my mailing list is warm leads because of this.

Gregory Ciotti

Breaking it down my man, one of the most refreshingly ‘to the point’ posts on subscriber interaction I’ve read.

What would you guess is the percentage of people who respond to that first email for your list?

    Derek Halpern

    That depends. When I first started using it, it was as high as 30-40%. But since, it has went down, partly because a lot of people began using it I suspect. Or maybe because I’ve talked about it enough 🙂

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