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auto responders reviewed, choosing the right autoresponder for your business

Dear Colleague,

If you want to ...
tickconvert more leads into sales
tickretain subscribers on your lists
tickprotect your business from spam complaints and
tickget your emails through spam filters
... then your list management system (aka autoresponder) must be able to perform certain advanced tasks.

In the past two years I´ve been using 7 different auto responders: One autoresponder was free, 3 of them were included in hosting packages and the remaining 3 auto responders were paid services.

The autoresponder software I´m currently using is AutoResponsePlus, probably the most feature packed auto responder software on the market, but I won´t recommend it to everybody (you´ll find out why in two minutes).

Here are the most important advanced features an auto responder must have and why:

1) Tracking the source of your subscribers

You want to retain as much subscribers as possible, right ? So in order to send them targeted messages only, you better know what exactly they are interested in.

Example: When you subscribe to my newsletter from this page, my autoresponder will tell me that you came from the autoresponders - review page. Or when you subscribe from the search engine optimization course I´ll know it, too.

PSST: Subscribe now ---->   You´ll automatically be redirected back to this page after your subscription.

Now when I´ve got important news about autoresponders or search engine optimization, I can filter my list of subscribers and tell only those who are interested in these topics. This way I´m not going to bother all the marketing newbies with specialized information and only send highly targeted information.

The use of this type of tracking tag also allows you to test the performance of your lead generation pages in combination with the traffic sources.

2) Automation rules to improve your professional appearance and credibility.

A common use of autoresponders is to follow-up with potential customers in order to get more sales. In every message you inlcude a call to action to make them buy your product or service.

Now imagine someone buys after the second or third follow-up and keeps getting sales messages from you, telling them to buy your stuff - VERY BAD ! And I bet you wouldn´t want to waste hours of time just for deleting emails from your prospect autoresponder list once they get on your customer list.

The worst thing you can do is to keep sending sales follow-ups to someone who already bought from you. That´s why you must have the ability to create automation rules in your autoresponders that allow you to automatically remove people from the sales follow-up once they land on your customer list.

3) link tracking and open rate statistics

Successful email marketing is all about testing and tracking. If you don´t know how many people actually open your emails and click on your links you won´t be able to improve your headlines and messages.

Just a tiny change in a headline can mean a 300% higher open rate and click-through rate or a few hundred more prospects visiting your sales page.

Positioning your links within the email body also makes a huge difference in click-through rates and convertion rates, but you won´t know exactly unless you are able to track your autoresponders.

This is probably one of the most important advanced features that very few autoresponder services offer.

4) optional double opt-in

Most list owners fear the double opt-in procedure because they "lose" a certain number of subscribers. But in reality this "loss" is only apparent and the benefit you get from the double opt-in process is big.

I´m using double opt-in only for subscriptions from webforms or ezine directory listings and highly recommend it in this case for two reasons.

1. protecting your business from list bombers:
Anybody can use other people´s email addresses to sign them up for your autoresponder email lists trying to get serious business owners like you and me into trouble (also called: list bombing). Sure, I mean - you don´t do anything wrong and you are legally on the safe side. But it sucks having to deal with false accuses (waste of time and energy).

2. keeping your list clean of spam emails:
Sooner or later it happens that a spambot finds your autoresponder´s email address and your list will get spammed, filling up with junk email addresses. The only way to prevent you from this is to use double opt-in.

5) Spam Filter Check and a reputable DNS

If you want to get your message actually delivered to your prospects and prevent it from being spam-filtered by the ISPs, then you must not only have the ability to check your emails for bohemian spam probability and other spamfilter rules before you send it out, but also the domain from where you send your messages plays an increasingly important role.

All major ISPs are using so called DNS blacklists. If your domain is on such a list (and it just takes one subscriber reporting you to such kind of list) then say good-bye to the responsiveness of your opt-in list.

Fortunately - Aweber and GetResponse have a good reputation and are recognized by the major ISPs for being honest email senders, which translates to a high delivery rate for your messages.

Now the final question is whether you should choose to have your own autoresponder software installed on your domain or use one of the remote hosted autoresponders.

Pros and Cons for owning the software:

The advantages of having your own autoresponder software like AutoResponsePlus (the one I´m using) are very few. The fact that you actually own the software and don´t have to pay monthly fees doesn´t really safe you money as the cost for such a professional script is pretty high (it used to be only 97$ per year, but now the prices start at 195$).

So the only advantage I see is that AutoResponsePlus is the most feature-packed autoresponder software script I´ve seen on the market.


1.) The price isn´t for everybody: 195.00 $ for a single domain license (with only one year of upgrades and support), plus another 50-100 bucks for installation (recommended if you´re not a techie). For 5 years support / upgrades you´ll pay 395.00 $ and if you want the script to run on several domains, then it´ll cost 495.00 $.

2.) If you ever need to change your webhost you´d need to move this huge script, which isn´t 100% compatible with every web host, so your flexibilty is limited.

3.) All emails are sent from your domain, which looks good but eats up your resources and some webhosts will shut your site down after the first UCE complaint (even if you have proof that your leads are opt-in - they just won´t ask).

Facit: I only recommend AutoResponsePlus if you are 100% sure that you won´t change your actual web host within the next two years, if your business is already well established (at least you are sure to be around for a while) and if you only use 150% safe lead sources.

Remote hosted autoresponders:

The big advantage of remote hosted autoresponders is that you have much more flexibility. As the internet is a very fast changing medium, flexibility is a very important aspect for our businesses. And if you have several domains with different lists (newsletters, ecourses, ..) then I´d definitely prefer a remote hosted autoresponder.

The only two services I can recommend are Aweber and GetResponse. They have all the important advanced features as described above and are the only ones who are really dedicated to serving you best, ´cause their business is focused on autoresponders only.

Unlike other autoresponder services that offer you unlimited autoresponders, follow-ups and leads (note: they do so, ´cause they know that the average business doesn´t have more than 5000 contacts) ... only Aweber and GetResponse have such stable servers that your messages will be delivered smoothly.

I´ve been subscribed (not very long) to several ezines who often sent their newsletters twice, ´cause their autoresponder server crashed in the middle. Don´t jeopardize your business credibility by using a poor service.

So the only choice to have your business in a safe environment is to use only those services whose business is autoresponders and nothing else.

The reasons I would prefer Aweber´s autoresponder is that they have a very good reputation. When I see someone using Aweber - I know that it´s a serious business !
And they also give you a great bonus audio seminar (not advertised on their website) by one of the most respected email follow-up experts: Jonathan Mitzel. He´ll show you how to maximize your profits with your autoresponder follow-ups.

GetResponse is two bucks cheaper and they´ll also give you a great bonus DVD with an email marketing video seminar.

Well my friend - it´s your choice. All three autoresponders above are top and deserve the maximum rating of 5.


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Guido W. Stiehle

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