If you run a website which gets traffic then a very good way to build on that audience to create a long-term relationship is to collect their email address. This gives you a one-to-one way of communicating with them to share new content or to promote services or products they might be interested in.
What are autoresponders?
Autoresponders are emails that are sent automatically send emails to subscribers when a certain event or action is triggered. If you want to email folks the week after they sign up to see how they're enjoying your content you can easily do that with one of the many email autoresponder services that are available.
Note: A few years ago, the term autoresponder was used to only mean those automatic replies you sometimes get when somebody is on holiday. For example:
I'm on vacation until the 5th of January. Any urgent messages can be forwarded to John Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.
These are still technically an autoresponder, however they are more often referred to as an auto-reply since email marketing software has become commonplace.
What can an email autoresponder be used for?
There are dozens of ways that you can use triggers and events to set up an autoresponder depending on what you want to achieve with your website. A few examples of this include:
- Sending a new subscriber a link to your archived content when they subscribe to your site.
- Promote a product, service or new article that you're publishing soon based on a specific date.
- Let a customer know when a free trial they signed up for has expired.
- Remind a customer if their annual membership is due to expire or be renewed.
- Send a free report or ebook to subscribers as a thank you for joining your newsletter.
- Wish your subscriber a happy birthday each year.
- Contact customers that haven't been active for a while and invite them back with a special offer.
Chances are you may have seen some of these types of email in your own inbox. With email autoresponders you can do this yourself as well.
Free email autoresponder services
The autoresponder feature is just one of the many features included in popular email marketing software today. There are a number of free or inexpensive options available as well, which means that autoresponders and email marketing newsletters are easy for any webmaster to create themselves.
Here are a number of email marketing solutions that will allow you to set up autoresponders for your newsletter, sorted from free at the top, to cheap, and to more costly solutions at the bottom:
- MailChimp. This is an excellent place to start your email autoresponder and newsletter building. For the first 2,000 subscribers, your account is completely free and you're allowed to send up to 12,000 emails a month to your list.
It's very easy to use and set up an autoresponder campaign right away. For more advanced autoresponder options, you would need to upgrade to a paid account however if this is your first email newsletter then the free options will be more than enough. Plus, prices start from as little as $10 when you do want to get more serious.
- ReachMail. I haven't tried this piece of software myself, but it is another free option that allows you the full email marketing package, including autoresponders. Their free account allows you up to 5,000 subscribers and 15,000 emails per month – which is very good.
My personal recommendation would be MailChimp, as I've used them and enjoyed the product. However this is a good alternative if you've used MailChimp previously and want to try something different.
- Aweber. This is like the gold standard of email and autoresponder software, but there is a small cost involved. However, if you want to deliver a professional email newsletter with advanced autoresponder options, Aweber is one of the best.
Prices start at $1 for the first month and then $19 for your first 500 subscribers. It comes with a very easy to use interface and plenty of templates you can use to customize your autoresponder design. This would be my second pick after MailChimp.
- Campaign Monitor. This is another paid offering, and one I haven't used but it's very well priced at $9 per month for up to 500 subscribers. The focus of the Campaign Monitor autoresponders is a high quality design and they have some really good looking templates to choose from.
I have heard that these templates are a little more difficult to modify and design than MailChimp, but it may be a great choice if you're a designer.