A followup autoresponder is essential for any web based business. The question is should you sign up for an autoresponder email service or buy a software or script with a one time investment?

To answer this simply: It really depends on your needs.

If you’re just starting out, with no special or unusual requirements, then I would highly recommend that you go with an autoresponder email service.

I myself started out with a service and later converted to a script. If I knew then, what I know now, I would have stayed with a service and saved myself much unneeded headaches.

Here’s just several reasons why you should go with an autoresponder service:

  • Access to the latest

    With a service, you don’t have to keep up with everything that’s going on in the autoresponder and bulk mailing world. It’s the autoresponder service’s job to keep track of what’s happening and to make sure that they offer you the latest features and that they keep in line with the latest rules and regulations. All you have to do, is log in and read about it in the nice yellow announcement box on your main page.

  • Deliverability

    Let’s face it. This is probably the biggest problem that anyone doing bulk mailing faces. Most say that it is easier to just install a script on your own servers and increase your chances of getting through ISP filters and having your email delivered. The reason being because you are on your own servers and therefore, have your own unique IP. As opposed to sharing IPs with every other autoresponder user who could be spamming addicts.

    It is not uncommon, however, for you to get blacklisted by ISPs even if the script is on your own servers. And when that does happen, an autoresponder service with qualified staffs would probably be in a better position to "negotiate" with the ISPs to get unblacklisted.

    But the reality is, there’s more to increasing mail deliverability then just your IP address. According to Gary Ambrose in a forum post,

    Deliverability isn’t as simple as it might sound, and there are many factors that go into it. There is the server sending the email, the content of the message, the URLs in the message, the DNS and other technical settings of the machine, the input rates, and a host of other factors … you have to put in some serious hours in order to make sure your mail gets through and it requires technical know how that most people simply don’t have, or don’t want to learn.

  • Affordable monthly fee

    Surprised? This is probably one of the main reasons why most would switch to a software or script – to run away from the monthly fee. But believe me when I say, in the long run, it’s cheaper to pay the monthly fee. You’ve got to consider firstly, the initial investment, and then there’s the hiring of someone to repair it when it "acts up". And don’t forget the fee you have to pay to upgrade to the "latest" version that includes the latest cool features. Remember, we are working on the internet where the law and technology is changing ever so quickly. Oh, and there is, of course, the cost of herbal medicine to get rid of your persistent headache as you try to keep up with your script’s "attitude".

The above reasons should be enough to convince you to go with an autoresponder service. The only reason that may require you to have your own autoresponder script installed on your own server is if you need more control over how your script works. Here are my reasons for switching to my own script:

  • Integration with other scripts

    I needed my subscriber database to synchronize with my membership database. When someone subscribes to a certain list, they would automatically be subscribed as a member. And when someone subscribes as a member, they would automatically be subscribed to the special list. I needed this to work with unsubscriptions as well.

  • More control over autoresponder features

    At the time I switched to a script, I needed more features than was offered by a service. The script allowed me to have unlimited autoresponders with unlimited messages with tracking systems and rss capability. All of which, is now available with a service .

    So, if you think you need a feature that is lacking from a service, you can be doubly sure that you’re not the only one and that the service will quickly pick this up. It would probably take a bit more time but it will turn up.

  • Control over subscriber list

    I had build an email list of a few hundred when I decided to change over to a script. By the time I realized that I should have stuck with a service, I had then build my list to a couple of thousands. I did try to make a switch back but list imports to reliable autoresponder services require people to double opt in. Which reduced my list number to about 30 people.

    They say that if people wouldn’t bother clicking on your confirmation link, it’s because they don’t want to be on your list. They probably just haven’t had the chance to click on your unsubscribe link.If that’s the case, then this reason would be invalid.

To sum things up … just stick to an autoresponder email service … unless you desperately require a unique feature that is critical in determining the success of your online business.

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