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A lot of people come to my blogs looking for advice and help to start their own Internet business. In order to help you make more informed decisions I’m producing a series of reviews of the software, web services, e-books and other online resources I use to manage my business and educate myself.
You can find a listing of all the reviews and links to the products and resources I use in the Resources Section of this website.
Purpose: Email autoresponding, list management
I’m starting my review series with probably the most important component, the glue that keeps my business together – my email autoresponder and list builder.
A few people left comments in my recent podcast interview with AWeber CEO Tom Kulzer asking whether the podcast would help them decide to use AWeber or not. It was not intended to be a review of AWeber, rather an insight into the CEO entrepreneur behind the company.
This article is intended to help you reach a decision on whether AWeber is the right email autoresponder for you and whether you need one in the first place.
Before reading on if you have no idea what an email autoresponder is or why you would need one or how you would use one please read my introduction to email autoresponders which you can find at my other blog about Small Business Marketing.
The reason why I first decided I needed an autoresponder was two fold:
I went out looking for an autoresponder and was blown away by Marketers Choice (aka 1shoppingcart). What excited me was how all-inclusive the service was. It includes a shopping cart, autoresponder, affiliate manager, a click-tracker and much more, all linked together. It’s basically the best all-in-one online marketer solution. As you would expect there is a hefty monthly subscription fee broken down into different tiers.
My problem was that I really only needed the autoresponder but I didn’t let that discourage me and figured eventually as my online business empire grew I would make use of all the extra tools. I signed up for the cheapest plan at $29 USD per month and used that for about a year.
I know this is slightly off topic but it should still be relevant for you if you are deciding on which autoresponder to go with because Marketers Choice should be a major contender. There is really only once question you need to ask yourself (and no, it’s not “do you feel lucky, punk!”) –
Do you need just an autoresponder or all the other modules that Marketers Choice comes with?
If you have products you can affiliate sell, if you need an online shopping cart and an autoresponder and you want it all nicely linked together under the one system using the one database then Marketers Choice is for you. It’s a good system, used by some of the top online marketers (including Perry Marshall who I recommend a lot on my blog) and it’s very convenient to have all the services under one roof.
However if you break each module down individually they do have issues. It’s not the most intuitive system to use, although there is extensive documentation and instructional videos when you need help, and I found it a bit “clunky”. As a whole you can’t compare it but when you break it down module by module there are better options out there. This is one of the reasons I eventually decided to switch to AWeber.com.
In a nutshell there were three reasons why I choose to move away from Marketers Choice.
As usual I did some due diligence first and looked around forums to see what people were saying about AWeber and it was very hard to find a negative comment. Most of it was glaringly positive, in fact it felt in most cases that AWeber was the de facto standard email autoresponder, which only happens when a product keeps its customers very happy.
I have no way of proving this, but since I read it in many places from different sources, I’ll mention it here. There is a big concern in email marketing circles about mail deliverability, which refers to whether emails sent (broadcast) to your lists make it through. The problem is a lot of mail servers block mass emails sent out and unless the email responder service provider has pre-arranged to be whitelisted your mail won’t get through. That’s pretty detrimental to any online company.
AWeber has the enviable record of the highest percentage of email deliverability, which means AWeber is doing a pretty good job to make sure your emails make it to your customers. This fact alone is enough of a reason to choose AWeber.com.
I won’t lie to you, there is a learning curve to using an email autoresponder, but you will find that with any system and you just have to learn your way through. I find AWeber’s system a lot less clunky than Marketers Choice. It’s simple in design with all the core features available through tabs at the top. It took me about an hour of playing with the system to get the hang of it.
One feature that’s not available that I would like to see is a one click back-up of all your mailing lists. I’ve emailed the support crew and it’s apparently on their to-do list, but for the moment backing up is a painfully slow manual process with lots of clicks.
One of the best features is when someone unsubscribes for one of your lists. Yes this is not a good thing but what makes it a good thing is that they are given the opportunity to leave a comment telling you why they choose to leave your list. As a business owner I’m sure you know how valuable feedback like this can be. It’s so nice to know why someone doesn’t find what you do satisfactory and often leads to some big improvements in what you do simply because you didn’t realize there was a problem until someone told you about it.
Currently I use AWeber for all my online promotions and it controls all my email lists. I use it to distribute a Free Report at BetterEdit.com, which collects the email address of any person who downloads the free report and I then keep in contact with a series of autoresponse emails. I also collect the details of anyone who submits the contact form at BetterEdit and of course of all clients that register to use the editing service.
AWeber is behind my latest project, Blog Traffic King. AWeber allows me to distribute my traffic tips newsletter to all my subscribers on a week-by-week basis and I can do once-off broadcasts whenever I need to.
A new feature AWeber recently implemented is an RSS-to-email service. This service is very helpful because I can create an email mailing list for people who want to stay up to date with my blogs via email. I just plug in my RSS feed, tell AWeber how many blog articles to send out in each broadcast and it will automatically control the mailing list. The service is not branded either and I have complete control over the presentation of the broadcast emails which makes it superior to almost all the other RSS to email services out there.
I also have various other small lists to keep in touch with certain groups. It makes it a lot easier to control your email contacts. From a sales point of view it’s a very powerful resource because it keeps you connected with your prospects and clients.
It took me about 1-2 hours collectively to master AWeber. I’m not a programmer but I am very fluent in HTML and online business. AWeber has been built to be as “cut and paste” as possible and you certainly do not need to know HTML to implement it. Most of the interface is simple forms you fill out and once you have a play you will understand how everything works. Of course there is a very good helpdesk and live support if you need it.
If you are not familiar with web basics like online forms you may need help. Read through the instructional materials now and then until you get the hang of it – I did a few times when I first started using the system.
You can find AWeber’s pricing breakdown here. Since I knew I was going to use email lists extensively in the future I chose the yearly option with the heaviest discount (it works out to be $15USD per month). There is a money back guarantee so if I didn’t like the service I knew I could get a refund.
I don’t think of email autoresponders as the most complex programs yet they are a vital tool for successful online business. The main considerations for me are email deliverability, reputation and ease of use – AWeber satisfies me on all counts.
I recommend before choosing an autoresponder you do your own due diligence and read forums and ask for opinions from current customers. Narrow down your list of potential providers based on your most important criteria and then test one out. Remember making a purchase doesn’t lock you in, most online companies offer 30 day money back guarantees (just make sure there is one before buying).
*** UPDATE ***
July 2006 – Due to demand AWeber has created a one-step back-up function to back-up all your email list and autoresponder data. Hence the one complaint I had about AWeber is no longer a problem at all!