autoresponders are the most powerful email marketing tool
available to the online business. But, as with any tool, users
always want to keep costs as low as possible. So, with free
autoresponders available, why not use them? Or to state it another
way, who should use free email autoresponders and who should opt
for paid autoresponder services or autoresponder software?
There was a
time when the choices were somewhat simpler. If you were in
business, you wouldn't bother with a free service because it
didn't look professional. However, as the free autoresponder
services have changed, that distinction isn't quite as sharp.
Let's look at some of the issues involved. By the way, it isn't
possible for this overview to cover all the factors that go into
choosing a free autoresponder or a paid service. To get the entire
picture, you need to see a side-by-side listing of
all the available products.
Autoresponder You Already Have
considering the universe of ways you may
autoresponders, don't ignore the one you probably
already have. That is the 'unlimited' autoresponders usually
supplied by your web host, if you have a web site. The address of
these autoresponders will take the form of
email@example.com, where 'name' is the name you select for a
particular autoresponder. They are unlimited in number, but
limited in function. They, in fact, only provide the basic
autoresponder function of sending a reply to a message sent to the
autoresponder address. No follow-up messages can be sent, no list
of names is kept of those who queried the autoresponder, and
consequently no method to send a message to all those who used
your autoresponder. Thus, this autoresponder is limited to the
simple function of sending out information on request. But there
are lots of uses for it, nevertheless. Use it to send copies of
articles, background information, reference information, FAQs,
etc. Being able to use your domain name in the autoresponder
address can be a real advantage, and may be something you find
impossible to do with some paid services.
Dealing With Ads
A major reason
not to use free autoresponders is the fact that most free services
include an ad with every autoresponder message. Having an ad is
bad enough; you may even find that your message carries an ad for
your competitor's product! Some free autoresponders limit their ad
subject to the autoresponder service itself. The more professional
you want to appear, the less you want to be doing advertising for
someone else, even if it is only the autoresponder company. But,
depending on your needs, you may well choose a free autoresponder
for some portion of your business. It is rare for a growing
business to use only one autoresponder - you will probably find
that your autoresponder needs change right along with your
business. This means that a good free autoresponder may continue
to fill a role in your business.
The Ezine Issue
the major uses for an autoresponder or email list program with
autoresponder functions is to produce and distribute an online
newsletter or ezine. Producing an ezine is a time-consuming
process and you don't want to make it more so by choosing the
wrong autoresponder. If you want to maintain an ezine and send
broadcast messages to your subscribers, you have imposed a major
new requirement on your autoresponder product. If you want
to send emails using HTML, you need to look for that feature.
Frankly, there are few free autoresponders that can meet even the
minimum needs for distributing an ezine, but a few may be able to
fill that role for you for some period of time.
The Big Picture
whether a free autoresponder will fit your needs, you need to
think ahead and decide all you expect it to do. Will it need to
function as your ezine list handler? How many follow-up messages
do you expect to send? Have you thought about how many total
messages you might send in a month? Do you need to have your
autoresponder track the response to the messages it sends? These
are just a few of the questions that you will need to answer to
determine whether a free autoresponder might fit your needs or
Would you like
to see a
of the available free and paid autoresponder?
in this series:
Autoresponders - Where do they come from?
How to use autoresponders - What can they do for me?
Autoresponder follow-up messages - How to write them
to use autoresponders - Right and wrong times
Structuring an autoresponder series - How to!
Customer relationships - Grow them with autoresponders!
Spam problems? - Stop it with autoresponders!