I was looking for an autoresponder to handle my lists. Aweber and GetResponse are the common hosted service. They are considered easy to use and effective. However there are two major drawbacks:
- Every subscriber must be a confirmed. My subscribers already gives their consent when they signing up. Using Aweber/GetResponse would mean treple opt-in which normally reduce response rate by 75%.
- There’s a running cost of $15~20/month, which can be high given the low usage of my opt-in list.
Given that an autoresponder and all the data it collects are vital to any internet services, you’ll have to own your own software together with the data on your server. Over the long-run, you save a ton of money.
So I set off to look for an autoresponder for myself, with the following criteria in mind.
- Easy to use, if I’m going to live with it for a long time.
- Comprehensive statistics. This is essential to understand your subscribers and improve your messages.
- Well established. Have been around for some time and most bugs have been ironed out.
- Reasonable price. I’m not going to pay over $200 for this software.
I first tried the free version Infinite Autoresponder. It works, but the interface makes it feel like a stone age tool. Most critically, it doesn’t have the stats such as email opening rate, link clicking rate etc. I wouldn’t recommend it for any business use.
Secondly I came to the Ultimate Autoresponder Pro by Larry F. Dorsey, Jr, for $100. It’s a great piece of software with PhP & MySQL, running on all shared or dedicated Linux hosts. It came in as a .exe file which contains an auto-installer. This auto-installer is tailor for shared hosts with cPanel. But I have a bare Redhat box, even without FTP (SCP only). So it didn’t work for me. It took me a while to get it installed.
The good features of Ultimate Autoresponder Pro are those multimedia attachment capabilities. For instance, you can attached audio to the email and play when the email is opened. But it really lacks stats such as open, link click, subscriber stats, etc. It should work for most other people, but a no go for me.
After wasted much time playing with those auto-responders, I became a little cautious and started reading reviews. AutoResponse Plus is getting a lot raving praises. The support was considered especially good. It has been around since 2000. Some big-shot IM marketers are also using it.
Lucky for me, it’s on sale at $197 for 10 domains, which works out just $19.7 per domain. Interesting enough, this software is not sold in association with Clickbank. I forked over $197 and got the software and license. This one requires Perl, Php and MySQL and cron access. It requires a bit of Unix/Linux knowledge, but it came with free installation. I’s not a problem to me and I’m up and running in a matter of minutes.
AutoResponse Plus’s layout is very professional. Document is detailed and to the point. It allows extensive customization. You can use a different domain and email id for different auto-responder. It runs smoothly as soon as I got it running. Beautiful software.
Here’re the key features that are essential to me.
- Tracking: there’s extensive track of users, e.g. IP, web/email subscription, date; and links (display and click rates).
- Stats: every message is logged on a per subscriber basis. You can easily find out who has received which messages and taken what actions.
- Grouping of subscribers: one of the most comprehensive of its kind. It does the rudimentary group by lists, and by state (active, user canceled, e.g.), messages (sent, opened), tracking tags (sign-up tag, confirmation), format preference, email domain, name (e.g. all the John), link clicked, and previous broadcast. This is one of the most powerful capability.
- The support is excellent as people said. I had my own ideas of handling bounced email and Neil Morgan, the creator of AutoResponse Plus, responded promptly (even over a weekend) and helped me completing the setup.