In general, it is true that the lifeblood of any online business is its email list. So building an email list is a must-do right from the start. List building can be a very simple process, if you have a few tools in place before you begin. One of the most important tools you will need is an autoresponder. Without an autoresponder, building your list will be much more difficult, if not impossible.

Fortunately, there are a few different autoresponders and they are generally easy and inexpensive to obtain, some are even free. And most are extremely easy to use. You won’t need to spend a lot of money to get started, nor will you need specialized skills.

What is an Autoresponder?

Autoresponders are messages that you configure to automatically send to your email list. They help you by automatically sending 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 appear on your list in a sequence set by you. You can decide which messages are sent by which campaign and even control the speed at which they are sent. For example, you might want to send emails to a new subscriber on days 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and then slow down the emails to say 7, 10, 14, etc. Autoresponders are invaluable because they allow you to type your messages in advance and keep track of who they have been sent to and when.

They also give you a breakdown of how many of your recipients opened 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, it would be nearly impossible for you to collect and manage email addresses. It would also be a nightmare trying to keep track of the messages you have sent to each individual address.

There are two types of autoresponder services …

Self-hosted autoresponders

Self-hosted autoresponders will normally not cost you a monthly fee. They will generally have an upfront charge for the automatic reply. However, what you save initially may cost you later due to the problems that can arise when using this method.

First of all, with self-hosted autoresponders, you have a very real chance that all of your messages will be delivered to your recipients’ spam folder. This is because a self-hosted autoresponder typically does not have the ability to prevent messages from being filtered as spam.

Second, you will have to deal with spam complaints yourself. When you use a hosted service, they will generally deal with any spam complaints that you may receive on your behalf. Also with a hosted service, you have the option of using dual option. This ensures that you will have additional protection in the event of spam complaints.

Third, hosted services generally give you the ability to back up your lists in case something goes wrong. With a self-hosted autoresponder, this is solely up to you. Add to that any maintenance you may need to perform and all of a sudden the money you are saving may not seem so good after all.

Hosted autoresponder services

Hosted autoresponder services are much less complicated to use. Not only are they generally whitelisted by most major ISPs, but they also ensure that you are protected from spam complaints. They also have many useful additional features that you wouldn’t get with a self-hosted autoresponder.

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

With this in mind, I am going to give you a brief overview of the five most popular autoresponder services available today. You can then better decide which one is right for you. Remember, once chosen, you will generally have to stay with the same service for as long as you are running your business. If you decide six months later 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 an awkward and time-consuming job. Your new autoresponder service may require you to ask your entire list to reconfirm their subscription. At best, this could take a long time; At worst, you could lose a large chunk of your email list in the process.

Obviously, if you’ve spent the last six months building your list, this would be a huge setback. As you can see, it is important to choose the right autoresponder service from the beginning.

Popular hosted services

Aweber.com

Aweber has been the most popular autoresponder service for a long time. The reason is that they are a very reliable service, with some great features and a pricing plan that will grow with your list. So it’s not too expensive at first, in fact at the time of writing it’s free for 30 days and then only $ 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 6,000 stock photos, it’s worth considering. It also has an excellent customer service system.

GetResponse.com

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

iContact.com

Like Aweber and Getresponse, iContact offers a 30-day free trial. With packages starting at $ 14 a month, competitively priced, and 15% off if you pay annually, it’s worth checking out. They provide a very reliable service and although they are 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 offering a very attractive autoresponder service. Another great point to keep in mind 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, it 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-sized image library, templates, and a phone app. They are a bit disappointed in the lack of features compared to Aweber and Getrsponse. But with a really good support network, they certainly offer a service worth considering.

MailChimp.com

Finally we have Mail Chimp. Mail Chimp is somewhat different from other autoresponder services, because they offer a free service aimed at startups. If your list stays below 2000, you won’t have to pay anything. After 2000 names on your list, you can move to the paid plan that starts at $ 10 a month. However, with the free version, you are limited to the features you have access to, so you may want to start the paid plan earlier to access the additional features.

Bottom line

The autoresponders that I have listed have really good integration features and work great with WordPress. As WordPress is used to build around 28% of all websites on the internet, being able to integrate with this platform is an important feature.

Although I’ve listed what are probably the five most popular autoresponder services, that doesn’t mean you should ignore the others. Of course, take a look at some of these and decide for yourself. We all have different wants and needs and you may find a service more suited to what you need.

Have you started using an autoresponder service? If so, which one and how do you find it? Do you use a self-hosted autoresponder? What problems have you faced and how have you overcome them?