What The Heck Are Autoresponders Anyway?
Autoresponders are simply computer programs that automatically send out an email response. The actions that solicit this response can be as varied as the response itself. They can be very simple or extremely complex. Often handling a large part of a businesses email without constant human effort.
The original autoresponders were created within the computer and software programs that sent out the earliest emails. Email messages are quite often not deliverable. The reasons are varied and may range from incorrectly typed email addresses or non-existent email addresses, to the email inbox being full or blocked to temporary technical problems with the server. When these programs encountered an email they could not deliver to the given address, they created a bounce message. Bounce messages are automatically generated responses stating "your email could not be delivered because …".
Today these are used for many different reasons and by many different types of businesses. One of the most common uses is as an email marketing tool. They are also used to verify subscriptions to forums, mailing lists and other membership web sites. They can also be incorporated into electronic mailing list software. These software programs can handle subscription and unsubscription confirmations, as well as sending out notifications of new forum and message board posts and other list activities.
Server-side autoresponders are installed on the users own web server. These programs require technical skill on the part of the user for configuration and implementation. For this reason, these types of autoresponders are generally the least popular. And not recommended for novice users.
Many web hosting companies provide limited autoresponders for their clients. These can be set up to respond to emails received by the administrative email addresses. These are among the easiest to set up and use, but have the most limited usage. Usually they can only be set up to send out one message per email address. These are generally used to acknowledge receipt of an email and to let the sender know they will be hearing from a "real person" soon.
The most popular and commonly used autoresponders are those provided by companies dedicated to providing this service. These companies charge a monthly fee and provide varying services. Most of these companies can accommodate different sizes and types of businesses. Providing complicated email acknowledgment and follow up responses.
These are a valuable email marketing tool since they allow the marketer to almost instantly provide information to a potential customer. They then allow the marketer to follow up with that prospect at preset intervals of time.
Autoresponders allow forum and message board owners to verify email addresses, which reduces fictitious accounts. They also allow members to request notification of replies and new posts.
They are able to handle many of the repetitious email tasks with a speed and response time that can not be matched by people. Or, at least not at a price most businesses could afford to pay.