The Autoresponder – A Beginners Guide

autoresponders. a beginners guide

It’s generally true that the lifeblood of any online business is your email list. Therefore building an email list is something you need to be doing from the outset. List building can be a very simple process, if you have a few tools in place before you get started. One of the most important tools you are going to need is an autoresponder. Without an autoresponder building your list is going to be much harder if not impossible.

Fortunately, there are a few different autoresponders out there and they are generally easy and inexpensive to obtain, Some are even free. And most are extremely simple to use. You won’t need to outlay too much money to get started, nor will you need any specialised skills.

What Is An Autoresponder?

Autoresponders are messages set by you to go out automatically to your email list. They help you by automatically sending out emails and newsletters to recipients who have signed up to your list.

You can schedule each individual set of messages, (known as a campaign) to go out to your list in a sequence set out by you. You can decide what messages are sent by which campaign and even control the rate at which they are sent. For example you may want to send emails out to a new subscriber on days 1,2,3,4,5 then slow down the rate of emails to say day 7,10,14 etc. Autoresponders are invaluable because they enable you to write your messages in advance and they keep track of who they have sent them to and when.

They also give you a breakdown of how many of your recipients opened the messages, clicked on links etc.

The best autoresponders also give you the ability to create and manage newsletters, even providing you with hundreds of templates.

As you can see, an autoresponder service is really an essential part of your list building arsenal. Without it, you would find it almost impossible to collect and manage email addresses. It would also be a nightmare trying to keep track of what messages you have sent to each individual address.

There are two types of autoresponder services…

Self-Hosted Autoresponders

Self-hosted Autoresponders won’t normally cost you a monthly fee. They will usually have an upfront charge for the autoresponder itself. However, what you save initially may cost you later down the line because of problems that can arise when using this method.

First, with self-hosted autoresponders, you have a very real chance of all your messages getting delivered to your recipients spam folder. This is because a self-hosted autoresponder does not usually contain the ability to stop messages being filtered as spam.

Second, you will have to deal with any spam complaints you get by yourself. When you use a hosted service, they will usually handle any spam complaints you may get on your behalf. Also with a hosted service, you have the option to use double-opt. This ensures you will have extra protection in the event of any spam complaints.

Third, hosted services usually provide you with the ability to back up your lists should anything go wrong. With a self-hosted autoresponder this will be solely down to you to attend to. Add to that any maintenance you may need to carry out and all of a sudden the money you are saving may not seem such good value after all.

Hosted Autoresponder Services

Hosted autoresponder services are much less of a headache to use. Not only are they generally white-listed with most of the  major ISP’s, but they also ensure you are protected in the event of any spam complaints you may get. They also have lots of extra useful features that you would not get with a self-hosted autoresponder.

There are numerous hosted services for you to choose from and each comes with their own pros and cons. If you have never used an autoresponder service before, it can be very difficult to decide which one is best suited to your own personal needs.

With this in mind, I’m going to give you a brief summery of the five most popular autoresponder services available today. You can then better decide which is the right one for you. Remember, once chosen you will usually have to stay with the same service for as long as you are running your business. If you decide six months down the line that you want to change your autoresponder, you will have the unenviable and somewhat complicated task of transferring your list to your new service.

Transferring your list to a new service can be a very time consuming and awkward job. Your new autoresponder service may even require you to ask all of your list to reconfirm their subscription. Best case scenario, this could take a long time, worst case you could lose a large chunk of your email list in the process.

Obviously, if you have spent the past six months building your list, this would be a major setback. So as you can see, it is important to choose the right autoresponder service from the start.

Popular Hosted Services

Aweber.com 

Aweber has been the most popular autoresponder service for a very long time now. The reason is they are a very reliable service, with some great features and a price plan that will grow with your list. Therefor its not too expensive at the outset. In fact at the time of writing it’s free for 30 days then just $19 a month. As your list grows your monthly fee will increase. Aweber is also fairly easy to use and with access to over 700 templates and 6000 stock photos it is well worth considering. It also has a great has a great customer support system.

GetResponse.com

GetResponse is second only to Aweber in terms of popularity. They also boast some great features including a fairly substantial image library as well as over 500 templates. As with Aweber, Getresponse is simple to use and also has plans that will grow with your business. Starting at $10 a month they are cheaper than Aweber, and also offer the option of getting an 18% discount if you pay for 12 months in advance. Again at the time of writing they are offering a 30 day free trial.

iContact.com

Just like Aweber and Getresponse, iContact is offering a 30 day free trial.  With packages starting at $14 a month they are competitively priced and with a 15% discount if you pay annually are well worth a look. They provide a very reliable service and although not as user friendly as Aweber and Getresponse their autoresponders are still very good. Add to this the fact that you can manage a list of up to 15,000 subscribers they offer a very enticing autoresponder service. Another great point to take into account is the ability to import your existing list and add contacts manually.

ConstantContact.com

Constant Contact also offers a free trial period, but unlike the others this is a 60 day trial. Like Aweber and Getresponse they offer a service that grows with your list, with packages starting at $20 a month. They also offer a good size image library, templates and a phone app. They are a little let down by the lack of features compared to Aweber and Getrsponse. But with a really good support network they certainly offer a a service worth considering.

MailChimp.com

Finally we have Mail Chimp. Mail Chimp is somewhat different to the other autoresponder services, because they offer a free service aimed at startups. If your list remains below 2000 you will not have to pay anything. After 2000 names on your list then you need to move onto the paid plan which starts at $10 a month. However, with the free version you are limited to the features you have access to. With this in mind you may want to start on the paid plan earlier in order to access the extra features.

Bottom Line

The autoresponders I have listed all have really good integration features and work really well with WordPress. As almost 28% of websites on the internet are built using WordPress, being able to integrate into this platform is an important feature.

Although I have listed what are probably the five most popular autoresponder services out there, that’s not to say you should disregard the others. By all means have a look at a few of these and decide for yourself. We all have different wants and needs and maybe you will find a service more suited to what you require.

Have you started using an autoresponder service yet? If so which one and how are you finding it? Do you use a self-hosted autoresponder? what problems have you faced and how have you overcome these?

 

About The Author

Darren J Russell

Full time internet Marketer and Product Developer living in Birmingham UK. Join my Mailing List for information, tips and advice and get 'Three Steps to Online Success' FREE.

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