What Is Cloud-Based Autoresponder Email Marketing?

This article is Part 2 of a 10-part series on Email Marketing: Self-Hosted vs Traditional Cloud-Hosted Options.

In our introduction to this subject we talked about the potential problems that businesses face if their email hosting is not properly optimised. In an effort to ensure the real meat of this report provides best value, we’re going to start with a look at cloud-based email marketing as an option for your business and weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of “off the peg” solutions.

If you’ve followed Preneur Marketing for a while, you’ll know that we’re big fans of AWeber and MailChimp. Both of these platforms have served us brilliantly and it’s important to know that this type of email marketing solution is an ideal choice for businesses for a number of reasons. We’ve also checked out other options for cloud-based email marketing and we’ll give you an overview here.

Cloud-based email – Overview

Marketing your business can be difficult especially when it comes to managing your contact lists, dealing with unsubscribe requests, sending a high volume of mail out to multiple client lists and If you’re starting out as an email marketer, a cloud-based solution is exactly what you need to start your journey. We’ll explain later why we decided to opt for a self-hosted solution!making sure you stay compliant with regulations to retain a spotless email reputation. There is nothing worse than having your mail server blocked for sending out large numbers of outbound emails, effectively preventing you from communicating with your customers.

Cloud-based email is ideal for those businesses that prefer to hand over the entire process to experts who will manage the system on their behalf, making sure that emails reach their destination, and handling all of the administration associated with the process.

The easiest way to understand a cloud-based email solution is to think of it as an external agency handling your email communication. It’s like hiring FedEx to deliver your packages instead of managing your own fleet of drivers.

Advantages of this type of system include:

  • “Guaranteed” delivery of your emails; cloud-based email providers have agreements with the major ISPs to ensure that messages reach their destination without being blocked.
  • The peace of mind that comes from outsourcing your entire marketing process to a firm and letting them take care of “unsubscribes” and “do not contact” requests.
  • Having metrics delivered to you so you can analyse the effectiveness of mail campaigns and tailor your strategy accordingly.
  • A simple fee-based charging system based on the number of contacts managed or the number of emails sent.
  • A secure and reliable service that is backed up by agreements with your chosen vendor.
  • A customer support service that provides advice, marketing support and troubleshooting whenever you need it. Many vendors offer additional premium marketing support, such as helping with the crafting of a campaign.
  • The benefit of knowing that uptime, deliverability, services, software, SMTP, hosting and reputation are all taken care of, leaving you to focus on running your business.
  • Easy integration with the major plugins you’ll need for your business; most cloud-based services integrate well with apps such as PopUp Domination and List Eruption so you don’t need to pay additional costs to a developer to customise your processes.
  • No need for software licensing or other additional expenses.
  • An “out of the box” solution allows you to get your email marketing and autoresponder campaign up and running within minutes.

These benefits make cloud-based email marketing solutions a really good option for small businesses, start-ups and newbie online marketers looking for a simple and hassle-free online strategy for maintaining customer contact.

When we were considering our options for Preneur Marketing, we checked out a number of different vendors and compared the features and pricing for each one. Here’s what we found:

aweberAWeber
constant-contactConstantContact
get-responseGetResponse
icontactiContact
infusionsoftInfusionsoft
mailchimpMailChimp
autopilotOfficeAutoPilot
Monthly Pricing Options
Monthly Fee checkmark checkmark checkmark checkmark checkmark checkmark checkmark
Trial Period $1 for 30 days 60 days 30 days 30 days None Unlimited Cancel within 90 days for full refund
Pricing $19 per month to 500 subs. $149 for 10,000 to 25,000. $15 per month to 500 subs, then $75 for 5001 to 10,000 – after that you
need to contact them.
$15 per month to 1,000 subs. $145 for 10,001 to 25,000. $10 per month for up to 250 subscribers. $109 for10,001 to 15,000. Above
this call them.
$1,999 one off fee plus $219 per month for up to $2,500 subscribers to
a max of 12,500 mails per month. A total of $369 for up to 30,000 users
sending 137,500 email per month.
Free up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails/month for life (no autoresponder
option and other features).
For unlimited emails it starts at $10 per month for 500 subscribers,
$150 per month for 10,001 to 25,000 subscribers.
$297 per month fir 25,000 subscribers and 100,000 emails.
Features:
Mail Templates More than 600 checkmark More than 500 checkmark checkmark checkmark checkmark
Schedule Email checkmark checkmark Yes (smart scheduling adapts to different time zones) checkmark checkmark Yes (smart scheduling adapts to different time zones) checkmark
Split Testing checkmark checkmark Premier accounts only* No (it’s been on the radar for at least 3 years, but not a priority!!!) Yes (limited) checkmark
List Segmentation Yes (broadcast emails only) checkmark checkmark checkmark Yes (unclear about how comprehensive) checkmark checkmark
Blog Broadcasts (RSS to Email) checkmark Can be done through API, not straightforward checkmark checkmark checkmark
iPhone/iPad App checkmark checkmark checkmark Yes (free and paid) checkmark checkmark
Import Mailing List Yes (requires opt-in from imported subscribers) Yes (no opt-in required if permission already obtained) Yes (no opt-in required if permission already obtained) checkmark Yes (no opt-in required if permission already obtained) Yes (provided they opted in) checkmark
Require Opt-in Single/Double Single/Double Single/Double Single/Double Double Single/Double Single/Double
Supports Unicode (required to support some character sets e.g. Chinese) Can add emoticons in title checkmark Unknown checkmark checkmark
Image Hosting 100MB 50MB for $5/month 1GB 5MB checkmark
Create Surveys Yes (from $15/month) checkmark Limited Integrates with a number of third party surveys
Integrate with Google Analytics (for conversion tracking) checkmark checkmark checkmark Premier accounts only* checkmark checkmark Unknown
Customer Support Phone, email and live chat support Phone, email and live chat support Phone, email and community support Phone, email and live chat support Phone, interactive support community and your “Success Coach”. Customer support is through live online support. Live online support/Zendesk/Community
Other Notable Features Email to speech, Video email.
Includes 1,000 iStockPhoto images
* Can’t find any info on Premier Accounts on the website
Android application also available.
Some product options include CRM and/or ecommerce. Can send out postcards for additonal credits

The option of a free or low-cost trial offered by many of these vendors means that you can get up and running, risk-free, in order to find out how it works and whether it’s right for your business. For example, MailChimp offers a free trial that allows you to get set up and familiarise yourself with the interface, and AWeber can start you off for just $19 a month for 500 customer emails.

We’ve mentioned that one of the advantages of a cloud-based hosting solution is the ability to link up with a wide range of plugins that top-tier software providers offer. There are plugins available, for example, that can help you increase your web traffic, improve opt-in and conversion rates and enhance your ability to upsell.

These tools have been developed by people who have seen the potential benefits of a certain function, or identified a gap in the effectiveness of software, and come up with practical, helpful tools to meet the need.

We reckon that, if you’re forging ahead with your email marketing strategy, these are some of the most useful plugins you should incorporate into your activity stream. Here’s a quick look at the principal players in the cloud-based email marketing arena, and the plugins with which they are compatible:

list-eruption-logoList Eruption

List Eruption is a list-building WordPress plugin that leverages incentives, friend referrals and social sharing to rapidly grow your list. It features: clean and easy to use UI, responsive/mobile-friendly squeeze page designs, fits perfect in FB tabs, mobile and tablet devices, unique referral URL creation and tracking, reward/incentive delivery, reward level creation and tracking, unlockable badges (gamification concept), auto-responder integration.

optimize-pressOptimizePress

OptimizePress is a WordPress theme (and plugin) that allows you to easily create landing pages, sales pages and membership areas inside WordPress. It has over 30 pre-made page templates to choose from and works perfectly with different tools and platforms like AWeber, MailChimp, iContact, iMember360, WishlistMember, and others.

popupPopUp Domination

PopUp Domination is a WordPress plugin that allows you to create lightbox popups for your site to increase opt-in rate and build your list faster. It give you the ability to target specific pages for your popups to appear, to customize the look of the popups, to do split A/B testing, and to see which pages and popups are yielding the best results.

nanacastNanacast

Nanacast is a content delivery system that provides automation tools for web-based businesses. It allows you to create membership sites and digital products, to fully automate your e-commerce sites, safeguard your download and video link, manage your affiliates, implement custom sales funnels (upsells, downsells, coupons and others), integrate the system with different autoresponder solutions, and integrate with any third-party script or platform using Nanacast API.

wishlistWishList

WishList Member is a WordPress plugin that allows you to turn a WordPress blog into a secured membership site. It give you complete control over access to your site’s content: pages, posts, comments, sneak peeks. With this plugin, you can create unlimited levels of membership access, to charge for each level of membership access, and to manage these. It integrates with different shopping cart and list services like AWeber, MailChimp, iContact and others.

leadplayerLeadPlayer

LeadPlayer is a WordPress plugin that allows you to add an email opt-in form and a call-to-action button on top of your embedded YouTube videos and have them appear at a specific moment in time in your video. You don’t have to pay for the bandwidth fees associated with Amazon S3, Vimeo, Wistia, and others. LeadPlayer videos are hosted free of charge on YouTube.

scarcity-samuraiScarcity Samurai

Scarcity Samurai is a WordPress plugin by Noble Samurai (the creators of Market Samurai) that gives you the ability to convert your once-off promotions into non-stop profit machines that run all day everyday, completely on autopilot. Once a prospect opts in, he will receive a series of e-mails letting him know about your offer and when it expires using a countdown timer. Every time he clicks on the e-mail and visits the offer page, he will see how much time he has left before the offer expires.

leadpagesLeadPages

LeadPages is a software that allows you to easily create squeeze pages, landing pages, launch pages, sales pages, and other ‘conversion pages’ for your business. It includes built-in templates which you can modify and does not require WordPress. With a click of a button, you can publish your landing page to Facebook, WordPress, or your own server, and they’ll work effortlessly on iPhones, iPads and Android devices.

contest-dominationContest Domination

Contest Domination is a WordPress plugin that helps you grow your list by giving you the ability to set up and publish contests without messing with codes, track everything automatically, and even help you pick a winner. This tool integrates with Twitter and Facebook, and rewards prospects when they share your offer or message. It works without a mailing list provider, but works smoothly with AWeber, Infusionsoft, MailChimp, facebook contests, GoToWebinar and other services and platform.

Even though we ultimately decided on the self-hosted email route, this should in no way detract from the benefits and advantages of a managed cloud-based solution. Hassle-free, economical and reliable, it’s well worth considering a fully-managed package to optimise your email marketing and support your ongoing communication strategy.

In the next section, we’ll take a look at the various types of autoresponder services and provide you with a comparison of some of the key solutions available.

about-pete
Pete Williams is an entrepreneur, author, and marketer from Melbourne, Australia.

Before being honored “Australia’s Richard Branson” in media publications all over the continent, Pete was just 21 years old when he sold Australia’s version of Yankee Stadium, The Melbourne Cricket Ground For Under $500! Don’t believe it? You will! Check out the story in the FAQ section (it really is our most asked question).

Since then, he’s done some cool stuff like write the international smash hit ‘How to Turn Your Million-Dollar Idea Into a Reality’ (+ the upcoming ‘It’s Not About the Product‘) and he’s created a bunch of companies including Infiniti Telecommunications, On Hold Advertising, Simply Headsets and Preneur Group.

Lots of other people think he’s pretty good too! He’s been announced as the Global Runner-Up in the JCI Creative Young Entrepreneur Awards for 2009, the Southern Region Finalist in the Ernst & Young 2010 Entrepreneur of the Year, and a member of SmartCompany’s Top 30 Under 30.

Download Pete’s First Book For FREE!

“Now that I've got the rights back from the publishers, if you enter your email address below, you can instantly download a free audiobook version of my first book, How to Turn Your Million-Dollar Idea Into a Reality.” - Pete