Auto-Responders, What Are They and Which One Do I Choose?

In this article we will be looking at auto-responders – what they are, and what they do. Then we will look at the advantages and disadvantages of some popular auto-responders.

An auto-responder is a service which manages your email list for you. They look after the technical side of things when subscribers opt-in to your list. They also make it really easy for you to contact large numbers of prospects, customers, and affiliates effortlessly. Many auto-responders track stats such as sign up rates, click-through-rates (CTR’s) and email open rates.

You can use an auto-responder to create email lists, manage member subscriptions, avoid spam complaints (with a double opt-in arrangement) and allow you to test and track email campaigns. One of the best ways to keep in touch with customers and prospects is with an auto-responder. If you are not collecting email addresses through an auto-responder email service, then you could be wasting money and making more work for yourself…. let your auto-responder do it, that’s what it’s for!

An auto-responder is the backbone of your email campaigns. With an auto-responder you can email just one person or use a list-mailer to contact a multitude of contacts – and you can’t do that from Yahoo or AOL. Once you get your auto-responder email steps set up, and the sending frequency and groups to receive the emails, it all happens pretty much automatically. It’s basically set-and-forget except for tweaking some things occasionally.

An auto-responder is one of the most important parts of your online business and you will need one sooner rather than later. It is possible to build and maintain a list without an auto-responder, it would however be a monumentally difficult task and bordering on impossible when your list reaches a large size.

What can you do with an auto-responder?

Send emails and replies,
Sales letters,
Thank you notes,
Adding and moving prospects between different groups, plans and lists.

There are both free and paid auto-responders and email management applications available. I do not recommend free auto-responders however, the service provider may put a lot of ads on emails that you send out to your customers. This is the price you pay for a free service. If you must go for a free auto-responder, I suggest trying FreeAutobot. It allows unlimited follow-up emails, does not place advertising on your emails and is 100% free. In time you will want to go with a paid auto-responder service, just for the benefit of additional features.

Lets look at a few auto-responders and compare features:

The number one (according to market research) is Aweber. Awebers’ main rival is GetResponse. Oprius is another good auto-responder, however it doesn’t seem to have the same following as the previous two examples. Although Oprius doesn’t get the attention that other email management services do, it is a great service. It has many of the features found in Aweber and GetResponse, with a few others thrown in and is very intuitive and easy to use.

Some Strengths of Aweber are:

* Full reporting suite for email campaigns and email delivery.
* Monthly fee is around $19.00). This is based on the number of subscribers that you have and increases
with subscriber numbers.
* Free customer service and free phone support.
* Unlimited free email campaigns and message length.
* Unlimited auto-responders and unlimited follow-up messages.
* Personalized emails. Save up to 25 fields of custom data with each lead.
* Automatic processing of subscribe and un-subscribe requests.
* Send messages automatically at specified date and time.
* Keep tracking features and advanced statistics.
* Send email attachments.
* Free training videos to access and use to set up your accounts.
* You can take the AWeber “test-drive” to see if it suits you.

GetResponse features are as follows:

* Closely resembling AWeber, but a little easier on the wallet (especially for large lists).
* GetResponse allows subscriptions through email, but blocks many co-registration services.
* You can create a custom thank you page when leads confirm opt-in.
* There are a dozen or so email templates for email bodies, ie, sales, newsletters, product support, etc.
* You can add your own logos to customise your pages.
* Unlimited follow-up emails automatically sent, based on your mailing schedule.
* Unlimited email message length.
* Unlimited broadcast emails to your list.
* Send newsletters to your subscribers.
* Customised remove or un-subscribe page.
* Redirect subscribers to a confirm page on your site.
* html message conversion to plain text for non-html email software.
* Import or export your mailing list database.

Oprius features are as follows:

* Competitive pricing – $15 per month fixed price (does not increase for large lists).
* No limit to the number of subscribers you can have, or emails you send.
* Try it free for 30 days.
* Create opt-in widgets to add to your site or blog.
* Calendar – add one off or recurring appointments and tasks for each day, week or month.
* Task organiser.
* Phone assistant.
* Contact list management.
* Relationship builder.
* Free training videos for each area.
* Free support.
* Create landing pages.
* Notepad feature – handy for jotting notes while calling contacts.
* Follow-up alerts.
* Create custom thank you pages.
* Unlimited number of auto-responder email steps.
* Ability to redirect subscribers to a particular web site or blog page (i.e. confirmation page).
* Edit emails in html or plain text.
* Import contact list from PC or Mac, some web sites, or excel/CSV file.
* Export contact list to an Oprius account, PC or Mac, or some web sites.
* Unlimited number of email campaigns.
* Save up to 16 fields of data for each lead.
* Automatic processing of subscribe/un-subscribe.
* Ability to send email attachments.

The above examples are all paid services, for a free service try FreeAutobot, as described earlier. Remember to add one new and extra thing each day (if possible) to your marketing to increase your list. If you do this, after the first month you should have around 30 different processes working for you.