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Friday, March 7, 2008

Autoresponder software & mailing list manager solutions & reviews


Direct email marketing and the use of email for information delivery has become increasingly popular, not only judging by industry authority statistics, but my own inbox! Autoresponder and list management software has evolved from a simple one-response application to a vital follow up and marketing tool.

While many people have questioned the effectiveness of email marketing due to the rapid increase in unsolicited mail in recent years, it still proves to be a very effective means of promotion on a budget.

As the popularity of this marketing strategy has taken hold, so has the range of autoresponder and mailing list manager software packages available.

Our picks of the pack

Remotely hosted mailing list management software

Intellicontact Pro - (see service review below)

Server based autoresponder/mailing list software:

Send Studio (see details below - used by TTB!)

Desktop based autoresponder applications:

FollowUpXpert (details below)

What can I do with autoresponder/mailing list software?

Here's a few examples:

- Deliver courses via email with all the lessons prepared. The autoresponder software/mailing list manager will send out the lessons at pre-defined intervals. The software can also handle subscriptions and unsubscribe requests.

- Send single marketing messages and request for information responses based on a form input from your web site, or on an email subject line.

- Handle subscribe/unsubscribe/subscription confirmation functions for a regular newsletter and maintain mailing list email addresses.

- Send out a marketing email based on a request for information, then follow up with a series of messages spread over time. This is an especially useful aspect to those involved with marketing as it's well known that most people do not purchase a product or service the first time they are exposed to it. Autoresponder software makes it very easy to follow up on leads.

Autoresponder software/mailing list manager functionality

Not all autoresponders can handle all the above functions. Some are only capable of replying with a message based on very simple rules. e.g. "if email subject line= food, then send message with subject line=recipe". No mailing lists are maintained or follow up messages are able to be issued. If you are seriously into web marketing, then you may want an all-in-one solution offer fast delivery rates.

To make choice of autoresponders and list managers more confusing, some applications can be hosted on your own site, remotely hosted by another company on their site or also come as desktop software that you run directly from your computer.

Pros and Cons of remotely vs. locally hosted and desktop software.

Remotely hosted autoresponder/mailing list management services:

Pros: The service provider has the responsibility of ensuring that the software is running properly and is secure. You'll always have the latest version running and it's a great deal simpler to get started. Dedicated list management services usually offer fast delivery of emails.

Cons: The company can go broke overnight taking not only your hard work, but also your valuable mailing lists with them. The price of remotely hosted applications can also add up over time to be very expensive - especially if the service provider suddenly jacks up the subscription price. There's also the question of privacy as some companies have been known to sell off mailing lists to others. If you are going to use a third party list management solutions, carry out appropriate research.

Recommendation - Intellicontact Pro (read review below)

Locally hosted autoresponders & mailing list managers:

Pros: Total control over the application and a high degree of customization is achievable.

Cons: Technical knowledge is needed for setting up and upgrading. Can take a long time to customize and implement. Security of lists can also be a challenge.

Our recommendation - Send Studio (read review below)

Desktop autoresponder solutions & list management software.

Pros: Very easy to set up and maintain. High degree of customization. Your mailing lists are always on your own computer, so you have total control

Cons: You need to be online to process subscriptions in the case of double opt in (although there are several simple workarounds for this).

Recommendation - MailXpert - FollowUpXpert (read review below)

Software/Solutions Recommendations

locally hosted (server based) autoresponder software:

Send Studio, is a locally hosted (meaning you run it on your own server space) autoresponder software solution with also regular mailing list features. I've used a number of their products and have always found them to be of excellent value and quality, easy to install and backed by equally good after sales support and user friendly documentation. This is the list management and autoresponder software used by Taming the Beast.

The company offers a guided tour and demo on their web site that you can use to review the powerful features of their application. The Send Studio autoresponder software package also comes with a 30 day money back guarantee, free installation, support and updates.

Partial Feature List:

* PHP/MySQL based
* Unlimited autoresponders and follow ups
* Create plain text and HTML messages
* Optional double opt-in function
* Highly customizable
* Send single messages
* Scheduling function
* Powerful targeted sending
* Easy to use HTML editor
* Personalize autoresponder/list messages.
* Supports file attachments
* Supports unsubscribe function
* Subscribe/unsubscribe notifications
* Customizable fields
* Advanced click tracking and reporting
* Create multiple accounts/logins
* Bounced message handling
* Mailout send rate throttling
* List export functions
* Free software upgrades
* Many more powerful features.
* Free installation included
* 30 day money back guarantee

Take a trip out to view the Send Studio autoresponder solution and try out their guided tour of the software.

Remotely hosted mailing list managers

Combining powerful list management and autoresponder features, Intellicontact Pro is well worth a mention.

Decent remotely hosted email list management services are usually horribly expensive and fairly limited in options, whereas Intellicontact Pro has some great features and fast delivery rates at very sensible prices. They also offer a 15 day free trial so you can really test out the software. One very important feature is Intellicontact's whitelist agreements with national ISPs; helping to ensure deliverability of your campaigns.

The feature set of this list management solution includes:

* Unlimited number of lists
* Detailed contact management system
Send HTML or text email
* Create and send emails from any web connected computer
* Import subscribers from your current lists or database
* Send personalized emails using mail merge fields
* Create your own mail merge fields for further personalizing
* Create autoresponder welcome messages on subscription
* Subscribers are able to manage their profile
* Manage subscription/unsubscribe link automatically inserted in each message you send
* Software is regularly upgraded
* Detailed activity and subscription reports reports
* Complete list add/remove/sent/open/click statistics and activity reports
* Bounce-back email handling - no more dead addresses on your list
* Deliverability reports
* Email drafts & archives
* Very fast delivery of list emails (T3 servers)
* Fully searchable database
* Forward-to-a-Friend email feature (very effective)
* Wide selection of HTML templates, or create your own
* Powerful template editor

Intellicontact Pro provides real-time stats on sent messages, unique and total clicks, opens, bounces, forwards and delivery rates.

The pricing of Intellicontact Pro is very reasonable and is based on the number of subscribers, not on the number of messages you send. Prices start from as little as US$12 a month. The company also appears to take privacy very seriously, i.e. they state a strong commitment to the security of your lists.

If you don't need a full powered autoresponder software solution, just a good email list management service offering fast delivery, it's definitely worth while investigating. Try out the free trial Intellicontact Pro service.

Desktop autoresponder software:

FollowUpXpert. FollowUpXpert kindly provide free demo versions of both their autoresponder solutions so you can really test them out. I found this software to be very easy to implement and had it up and running very quickly.

Features:

* Quick setup, very easy to use
* Support for both one time messages and sequential follow-ups
* Unlimited autoresponders and follow ups
* No banners or "sponsor ads".
* No monthly fee.
* Fully personalized messages that will insert the client/prospect's name into the message and subject line.
* Fully automatic operation, will even connect to the Internet at pre-defined times if you aren't around if you wish.
* User-defined custom fields. Include banners, ads and often repeated text statements.
* Connect to any number of servers to download your messages.
* Send text or HTML e-mail messages.
* Use any kind of attachments.
* Opt-in and opt-out via email support.
* Simple integration with web forms
* Looping protection

Download your free demo copy of the FollowUpXpert, it's well worth considering.

MailXpert. If you're looking for an all-in-one desktop software solution; Consider MailXpert. It's a mailing list manager, email forwarder, autoresponder software, opt-in mailer all rolled into one easy to use package.



Send text or HTML e-mail


Built-in SMTP server


Very fast email sending engine


Archive messages for repeat use


Supports attachments


Email address importing features


Easy integration with web subscribe forms


Looping protection


Features to prevent virus infection


Up to 64 customizable fields


Basic autoresponder features


Simple to use message editor (or use your own)


Many customization features


Double opt-in features


Custom headers and footers


Multi-language support


Backup/restore support

Download your free demo copy of MailXpert, and review the many other features of this powerful mailing list/autoresponder software!

In the months ahead, I'll be publishing further reviews and information on low cost, all-in-one autoresponder and mailing list manager software solutions.


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