Autoresponders – What are they & how or when to use them.

by Paul Robison

An autoresponder (sometimes called a Mailbot or Infobot) is a program that automatically sends a file to anyone who requests it. This program resides on your service provider’s computer. The service provider is usually the same company who hosts your website. (Depending on the hosting package that you have, the autoresponder may be included or available at an extra charge).

If you don’t have an autoresponder from your website host (or if you don’t have a website) you can get them from other providers. These may be free or you may have to pay for them. If they are free, they may be advertiser supported — any time you use it to send a document, an advertiser’s message may accompany your file.

While an autoresponder can send any type of file, it is most commonly used (in marketing) to send documents (usually plain text-based documents) to anyone who sends a request to its email address. That’s an important point: Each autoresponder document has its own email address. The process is automatic. Someone sends a blank email message to the document’s address and the requested document is automatically sent back. It takes only minutes (often only seconds). No human intervention is required.

Think of this scenario. In normal business, you may receive a phone call, requesting a brochure about one of your products of services. Think of how expensive it could be to fulfill that request. First, the call may have come in on an 800# — so you have to pay for the phone call. Second, you had to pay someone to answer the call (and if the call came in after your normal business hours, you may have had to depend on an answering service or voice mail system). Next, someone has to get the brochure (which you had to pay to have designed and printed), get an envelop (not free), and lick a stamp.

What if you had an employee who could answer requests for information, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, who never called in sick, never took a vacation, required no insurance or other benefits, needed no training, and never got the return address wrong? Additionally, they could supply the requested information in seconds, without the cost of time, paper, or postage. And, they worked free required not salary or supervision!! This is what an autoresponder can do for your business.

The operation of an autoresponder is relatively simple. You write your information in any text editor or word processor. Don’t spend any time worrying about formatting, because you are going to save your information as an ASCII or text-only document.

Once you have completed writing your information, save it as a text-only document and give it an email address. For example, you might call it or You then upload your new autoresponder document. The method of uploading differs with each autoresponder and the instructions will be provided for you when you signup with your host.

Now, on your website, or in your email messages, or your classified ads (however you go about promoting your business) tell prospects that they can receive further information by requesting the autoresponder document at Prospects send an empty email message to the address and the information is automatically emailed back to them immediately. (Some autoresponders require that a specific word be entered in either the subject or body of their request. For example, “To receive further details, send an email message to Place PRODUCT in the subject line.” Obviously, this type of autoresponder is slightly less user-friendly than the type which response based on the address only.

Now, for an important point about autoresponders: People rarely buy the first time that they receive information about a product or service. Follow-up is important. This is one of the keys to the effectiveness of an autoresponder. Since the autoresponder sends an email message to your prospective customer, it automatically captures their email address — allowing you to send follow-up messages. (Some autoresponders have the capability to automatically send follow-up messages at set intervals. (If you use this method, be certain to send additional, or amplifying information in your follow-up messages. Don’t beat them over the head with a barrage of the same information, over and over again. This will not make friends.

To summarize the operation of the autoresponder: Let’s say that you want prospects to be able to request information on products X, Y, and Z. You would create three separate documents. Prospects would then request information by sending emails to:,, and Try to avoid the use of the type of autoresponder that requires something to be entered in the subject or body of the message, because, if your prospect misspells the required word, they will either get the wrong information or nothing at all.

Most people use autoresponders to send out free information and sales letters. This will make you money, but it is of limited use compared to the autoresponder’s potential. But, that is the subject of another article. For now, put your information on autoresponders. In a future article, We’ll show you how to put major parts of your business on autopilot.

Paul Robison has been marketing online since 1992. He built his first website in 1994. You can subscribe to his FREE bizopz newsletter at Subscribers are eligible to WIN a FREE, professionally designed website for business or personal use. Winners are notified, by email, during the first week of each month. The buzz web site,