"Without an auto responder in today's internet your business is dead in the water."

It's essential to be able to maintain a dialogue with your existing and potential customers. But engaging with clients and leads individually is so time consuming it can often product a negative return on your investment. An autoresponder can often turn that negative into a positive.

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Of course, all this could seem confusing if you don't yet know what an autoresponder is or what it does. So let's take a look at what one is and how you can use it for your business.

An autoresponder is piece of software, which is almost always web-based. This means the software resides on a remote server (not on your own PC), and you access it via your web browser. The mail goal of the software is to facilitate and automate email communication between you are your subscriber list. There are two main ways in which the software accomplishes this: via newsletters, and via autoresponders. Let's examine each one in detail.

Newsletters are one-off email communications between you and your subscribers. Traditionally, they have been used to send out company news but in fact a newsletter can contain information about anything. It can contain product reviews, links to new articles on your site, even an amusing story or joke. In fact, it's very important to keep your newsletters interesting to avoid your readers unsubscribing. Of course, writing a newsletter with new and topical content every week can be very time consuming. You have to do the research and spend time writing. Wouldn't it be better to have a 'newsletter' send out automatically to each of your subscribers every week? This is where an autoresponder comes in.

An autoresponder is your private email secretary, working on your behalf to send out emails to your subscribers. Every time a new subscriber joins your list, she will email them a welcome email. The next day (or week, or however many days you require) she will send them another email of your choosing. And so on every day, week, or month after that. Each email will of course be personalised to that recipient. In this way, you can create a series of emails that automatically follow-up with clients and prospects.

Let's examine some different potential uses for an autoresponder:

  1. Most commonly, it is used to collect the names and email addresses of potential customers via a signup form on a website.
  2. Auto-responders are often used for training. Pupils can be fed an information course, with new elements delivered over time.
  3. Publishing. People often don't have time to read an entire website in one go. An auto-responder can be used to provide them with bite-sized chunks of information over time.
  4. Downloads. An auto-responder is often used to provide downloads to users. Instead of a difficult download process, a user just has to enter their email address to receive the download automatically.