Finding the email autoresponder for you:  Which of the three main types do you need?

by Sherry Gordon


You probably know what they are...  You get those email messages that are shot to you automatically - maybe several in a row.  That's done with one of a host of email "autoresponders".  Need some help understanding the differences between all the different options?

I now think in terms of three main types, even though you might say there are only two:  online and on your computer. ...But it's useful to divide "online" into free and paid services, because, after a good deal of research and many months of practical application, I see them as different animals.

If you're wondering what the pros and cons of using the different models are, maybe I can be of assistance...

Free vs. paid online autoresponder services

With an online autoresponder service, it happens all online, from -their- servers, 24/7.  That's nice for you - it means that you have nothing to do after the initial set-up.  (Though it should be easy enough to tweak your messages if need be.)

A good service allows you to send both one-off and sequential e-mail messages...  This double facility is an essential tool for those who do any sort of follow-up marketing.

There are now many fee and/or paid online autoresponder services.  One of the easiest to use and best-featured free services is one some big-name marketers (and I ;^) like:

GetResponse offers both a free version and not-free version (i.e., you pay a monthly fee for each message series).  Your "payment" for the free version is the inclusion of one well-demarcated short ad at the top of each of your messages.

If you're building a Web business on a shoestring, free may be what you feel you need to begin with.  And in any case, you may feel that there are some types of messages that don't warrant the expense of paying to remove an ad - such as articles people have already read in online article directories and want to order so as to be able to easily copy the text for their websites or e-zines.  (I.e., they're already "sold".)

But that advertising is a bit of a distraction.  (I say "a bit", where other advisers might say "a huge"...  I think such ads are comparable to banner ads on websites - and that people tend to ignore them as much these days.) 

As with websites, if you're going to share advertising space with others...

  • It's better to be able to choose the others.  (You can do this to some degree with various types of ad exchanges, for instance - by selecting categories of businesses to accept or deny as advertising partners.  Not necessarily so with free autoresponder services.)
  • It's better yet, if you're going to set aside advertising space of some sort, that it makes money for you.  (People sell ad space in their own e-zines - why not in their email autoresponder messages?)
  • Even better is when that "ad space" is taken up by you! ...If you don't use a free autoresponder service, you can put your own ads (for your own products, website/s, affiliate programs, etc.) into your messages.

So, free autoresponders are cool... but not nearly as cool as ad-less ones.
If you think you'll have multiple autoresponders - for instance, for one or more courses and/or for other e-mail applications - you'll probably want to do one of two things:  Use your own autoresponder software (we'll come to that in a minute) or use an online service that gives you unlimited autoresponders...

The folks who designed this next relatively new online service have really positioned themselves to rake in the customers:

It doesn't offer any free autoresponders...  But for under $12US a month, you get as many as you want!  And other notably sophisticated features, including customizable signup forms, easy scheduling, the ability to contact your list whenever you want (making it something of a contact management database), various demographic controls, and an ad tracking system for links you include in your messages, plus the ability to split-test mailings if you wish.  (There are some really useful bonus ebooks, too.)

There are video tutorials to help you get familiar with the system (which includes a very helpful assortment of statistical reporting visible on the left side of the control panel)... a good introduction to which is available in a video tour on the website.  I suggest you look at this, as you'll pick up a lot of information about using autoresponders this way.

One facet of this company that's quite impressive is their dedication to deliverability of your messages.  (And that's one of the downsides of using your own software - you'll have to rely on your own ISP's capability to handle your messages, and many of them might be rejected by the recipients' ISPs as suspected spam; sigh!)  WizardResponderPro claims to be white-listed with all major ISPs and offers an RSS technology option that bypasses such email problems altogether.

Really, I don't see a downside with this service.  (They've come into the market late enough to have one-upped a lot of other companies - that can be a good thing for customers!)

If you're ready to get to work on your autoresponders, you can sign up for a 30-day free trial. (I suggest that you have your first message/s already written - and a "test" in mind - before beginning, if you're really thinking that you need to try this before committing yourself.) ...Bet you'll get hooked!
The other option that many multiple autoresponder users choose is...

Your own autoresponder software

Utilizing your own software instead of a more limited online service opens up more possibilities for your business.

I've done quite a bit of research on the choices, and I feel that Postmaster Express is the best bet in this category.  (You may have heard of Mailloop, which has been around for a few years...  It's good - but Postmaster tops it, in features, ease of use, and reported customer service issues, and it costs about $100 less!) 

Postmaster Express manages any number of autoresponders, filters contact information from your email and any web forms directed to you from your site/s, and can automatically handle deletes and undeliverables.  It lets you send text or HTML messages (and if the recipient can't read HTML, the text version will automatically be chosen for them).

It even includes a contact manager and appointment scheduler...  Which make it extremely handy for salespeople and others, who wish to bring an added layer of automatic online follow-up to their business. ...Or for webmarketers who wish to bring an added layer of contact management and appointment scheduling to their business. ;^)

Visualize having these capabilities...

  • You can set up filters for incoming emails and shift chosen bits of information directly to one or more designated autoresponder series.  (For example, a new customer might be entered into a generic customer category, a specific product category, and a monthly opt-out e-mail tips category all at the same time.  These are all listed in the customer's record, along with any other information you had the filters pull from the email message:  contact info, demographic data, comments... whatever.)
  • You can also easily manage e-zines with this same software - just send a one-off message to the appropriate group of contacts.  (Unlike an autoresponder series - of e-course lessons, tips, or sales letters - most e-zines are real-time, so no one would be starting at the beginning of a canned series of messages...  Each is "broadcast" to the e-zine subscribers' group.)
  • You can store all kinds of information about the individual contacts in the records (e.g., note what type of business/website they own, that they're joint venture partners, that you sent them articles or e-books for their review, what their favorite color is, etc., etc.). ...Information you input by hand as well as that extracted from a webform-generated email...  Very useful!
  • ...And you can take any relevant bits of information from the contact record to use in an outgoing email message. ...Good stuff in, good stuff out! (So you can create demographically-differentiated messages for John in California and Jackie in Washington, DC, whose needs for, say, winter lawn products are quite dissimilar.  Or use your imagination to dream up situations in which you might like to reflect people's own words back to them...  I get an e-zine from someone who reminds me what my once-stated goals are - that's a big help to me.)
Really, this is highly effective stuff!  Still, because this is software that resides on your computer, there are some possible downsides to going with this over a monthly online service...
  • Your computer must be on, and your internet connection accessible, 24 hours a day to run your autoresponders such that they'll be sent out immediately.  (You can set up the software to automatically connect to the internet and check every so often for new incoming messages to filter and new outgoing messages to send.  Or you could just "manually" make it check once or twice a day when you're online.)
  • If you have an "iffy" ISP, the automation of your outgoing emails (even with your computer on continually) might get hung up when your email connection dies.
  • And there's the message deliverability problem, over which you have no control.
  • If you need to travel while you work, you'd have to install the software on a laptop to take with you if you need to have "fingertip control".
  • And, of course, you have to pay a larger amount of money up front...  But only once!

These issues might be unimportant to some. ...You might have a great satellite or DSL internet connection.  Maybe you use a laptop anyway.  Or, you might be home all the time with your computer always running (and really have fun playing around with this powerful software)!

See the very informative Postmaster Express site (and try it risk-free - when you can set aside some time to delve into it) at:

(I have used this software - and even after many months, I still got a kick out of the things it can do...  The things I could do because of it.  Though perhaps I should say too... it does make life more complicated. :^)

The best of both worlds?

Some people might actually want to use a combination of such versatile at-home software and an online service. 

...You might have some types of autoresponder messages that you feel can wait a few hours, or even up to a few days - and some that can't.

For instance, if your website e-zine or affiliate program signup already confirms the new contact's registration, somewhat delaying a longer welcome message might be okay.  And the spacing of messages in a multi-part autoresponder series might not be very critical.  But in other cases, you want to make certain that the person who expects to receive an immediate response can always do so.

It usually puts my back up when the webmarketing gurus say "you've got to do so-and-so"...  But about adding email autoresponders to your promotional mix, mmm - yes, I'd say that it's almost a "got to".  It's very, very smart, anyway.

Maybe this comparison has helped you see "what" and "how" as well as "why".


Gordon Pioneering - Copyright 7-2002, 1-2010



You are very welcome to reprint this article in its entirety, including hyperlinks, if you'll also put this resource box at the end:

Sherry Gordon is the learn-it-and-pass-it-on creator of "The Affiliate Marketing Primer", at


Many thanks for your interest! 

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