Autoresponder Basics

    February 19, 2004

What is an autoresponder? An autoresponder is simply an automated email program that responds to an incoming email automatically, with a pre-written message.

One-time autoresponders

At the beginning, autoresponders only allowed you to send one automatic message. These simple autoresponders were based on the old fax-on demand systems (where you would dial a certain number, plug in a code and get back and automated fax message).

Nowadays, almost any web host lets you set up one-time autoresponders. If your website is, you can set up an autoresponder email address that looks like:, so that users that send messages to that address automatically receive an email with information about product 1.

There are several ways you can effectively use one-time autoresponders. For example:

  • Distribute price lists
  • Send your company profile
  • Give driving directions
  • Distribute your latest article
  • Send confirmation letters
  • Send welcome letters to new subscribers
  • Distribute product data sheets
  • Etc.
  • Sequential Autoresponders

    Autoresponder technology evolved and sequential autoresponders were developed. Sequential autoresponders can let you set up a whole sequence of messages to be sent out at any time you choose. For example, message #1 might go out immediately, message #2 would go out 3 days afterwards, message #3 on day 7, and so forth. You just have to type-up the whole email series once, and set up your autoresponder program to send the messages at your desired timeframe.

    Sequential autoresponders are a great selling tool. Sales pros insist that you need at least seven contacts with your prospects before they will likely buy something from you. I don’t know if that number is accurate or not, however, I do know that (especially on the Internet) very few people will buy anything before they are fully familiar with the merchant. Sequential autoresponders, provided that they are used responsibly and are not overtly intrusive, can be a big help (side note: always provide clear instructions on how readers can opt-out of your emails).

    Other common uses of sequential autoresponders are:

  • Online courses: You can send one chapter every day (or every week…)
  • Regular content delivery: tip of the day, daily cartoon, etc.
  • Pre-programmed seasonal promotions
  • Reminder services
  • A powerful sequential autoresponder should allow you to:

  • Send unlimited follow up messages
  • Run unlimited email campaigns
  • Personalize your messages
  • Send messages in both text and HTML
  • Offer ad tracking features.
  • Etc.
  • Although there are some good free autoresponders around, like Freeautobot or Sendfree, they are supported by advertising, which makes them not recommended for business since ISPs tend to block them. You can, however, sign up for powerful and reputable autoresponders like Aweber and Getresponse for a small monthly fee (usually under $30).

    Autoresponder-Enabled Shopping Carts

    These advanced online selling tools start with the basic concept of sequential autoresponders, and take it to the highest level by integrating it with a shopping cart system. Advanced shopping cart systems can in fact put your internet business on autopilot. For example, if you have different products: A, B, C … X, you can write down a whole series of autoresponder messages for each product. You can then start by sending your opt-in mailing list the message series for product A. Then, when a prospect buys product A, the system will automatically remove her from the autoresponder series for product A, and start sending her the autoresponder series for product B. The process can be repeated indefinetely for all products without any involvement on your part.

    This kind of system has allowed many internet marketers to build thrieving businesses with minimal personal involvement.

    As a side note, however, we must remember that it all starts with collecting a prospect’s email address, and that the best way to do that is to build a high-quality opt-in list by giving your prospects something of value, like access to a content rich website or to a regular newsletter that gives away useful advice instead of just pitch products.

    The more value you give your prospects, the faster your prospect list will be, and the more you will be able to benefit from the powerful autoresponder technology.

    Mario Sanchez publishes The Internet Digest ( ), an internet marketing content site packed with useful articles and resources, and SEO Tutorial ( where you can learn the basics of search engine optimization in four easy steps.