Have you ever received an email telling you that the person you emailed is on vacation and will not be answering his email for the next week? What about a company that answers with an email thanking you for your interest and that they would get back to you in a day or two? Or even an email saying that the email you tried to send could not be delivered?
Each of these is a different version of what we commonly call an autoresponder. An autoresponder is simply that, a computer program that automatically answers email sent to it. This simple definition, however, belies a world of difference between the different types of autoresponders in use today.
The first autoresponders were incorporated into mail transfer agents or email providers. When they could not deliver a piece of email, they would send an autoresponse to you letting you know as much. These types of emails were helpful, but not particularly sophisticated.
That has all changed radically in recent years, as autoresponders have been incorporated into the marketing strategies of many companies. Today autoresponders are used by companies to immediately give feedback and information to prospective clients. This might include sending an autoresponse to email inquiries which include pricing information, more details about a product, and a timeline for when they can expect someone from the company to get back with them.
These ‘client touches’ are a valuable commodity in the world of marketing because they improve conversion rates in the purchase of goods by keeping the product or service in the mind of the purchaser for a bit longer, as well as provide the company with an additional opportunity to provide the potential customer with more information on the product.
Autoresponders are set up primarily in one of two ways, with an outsourced ASP model, and a server-side model. The Outsourced ASP model involves the company or provider who would like to incorporate an autoresponder into their business model contracting with an outside provider. The outside provider will then typically provide the user with access to a web-based control panel. From there the company or individual can dictate exactly what they would like the autoresponder to say to each email received as well as how to deal with different types of emails and other variations. For these services, the company typically pays a monthly fee to the autoresponder provider.
The second category of autoresponders is server-side. Server-side autoresponders simply refer to programs that instead of paying for someone to implement for you on a monthly basis, a company can install the system on their own server and run it for themselves. While this process is typically not as simple as purchasing a program out of a box and uploading it to the server, it has become significantly simpler in recent years.