The best autoresponder

One of the reasons I’ve always delayed communicating with my client list is that the autoresponder products on the market make it hard, frankly.

I know that the can-spam acts in various countries apparently make it necessary to double opt-in to lists. I found that enormously frustrating, because my one-on-one clients actually give me a piece of paper with their signature on it, that is, in my book, worth more than a mouse click. None of the most-used autoresponder companies would accept my hundreds of personally-signed papers as evidence that the people whose email addresses I had actually wanted to hear from me.

So for the last four or so years I’ve hopped from one service to another to see if any of them were easier to use, offered useful features or whatever. And really, I think they’re all much of a muchness, copying one another’s features and presenting them in a different way.

And then I found the holy grail, the perfect service I’d been searching for, for years! Now I’m no woosy searcher, I can make Google give me the best results its got for any given subject, but this one had never popped up, someone told me about it. And I tried Sendpepper‘s free 15 day trial. loved it, signed up, and still haven’t found the limits of it!

So I thought I’d write this little review that Google might index and you might find, if you’re on a similar quest as mine, and maybe it will solve problems for you, as it has for me. Just being able to add my clients in to my autoresponder easily and without a double optin has sparked my enthusiasm for my business marketing, a spark that was needed! Since converting to this service in late August 09 I’ve sent regular newsletters that my clients love – I get about a dozen or more comments and thank yous from them every week, which is unheard of in my previous attempts!

So what do I like about Send Pepper’s autoresponder?

Obviously since it was top of my list, double opt-in is optional – you just add a field to any form or newsletter where you want that very useful feature. When would you use double opt-in? When you’re giving away something that is really valuable to you, in exchange for the person’s email address. If you don’t use double opt-in you may get junk emails.ย  Is that all bad? If someone wants the freebie so badly they’ll give you a junk email address, they will probably never be a buyer of any of your products or services anyway. I do use double-opt-in for most things, but I have the flexibility to enter in my clients or even contacts from networking events and so on, without needing them to confirm.

I was able to import all my lists and autoresponder sequences very easily, which with an earlier switch to another provider, was an absolute nightmare of losing hard-earned subscribers, and followups for weeks to get maximum conversion. Send Pepper offers a really reasonably priced do-it-for-you service to assist with this process if you’re not techie or are time challenged.Their autoresponder video training series is excellent, very clear and helpful.

The manual part of my business is me adding new clients one by one to my database, and where I most DON’T want the double opt-in – I have a signed piece of paper saying the person wants my newsletter, why should I also force them to opt-in again? It is SO easy to do – as soon as you sign in to Send Pepper you see the contact list you were last working with. But at the left hand side you see a little form where you can immediately enter the person’s name and contact details, and hit the add button. As soon as you do that, the system takes you to another screen where you can optionally choose to add more information, including subscribing them to an email sequence, or to a mailing list for future contact.

Tagging to Define Lists

And that’s the next bit of oh-so-easy coolness! It works like this – everyone goes into one big autoresponder database. Of course the gurus say don’t do that, you must segment your list, and they’re correct – I probably don’t want to tell a male client who saw me for a quit smoking program about a new flower essence to help PMT. Well, probably not anyway ๐Ÿ™‚

Send Pepper lets you add a tag to each client’s name, with just a couple of clicks. You can add as many tags as you like, of course, as many as make sense to you. And you then use that tag to filter all your contacts into groups. So I can create a group of people who’ve been through a stop smoking program or who have consulted me for phobias or who have had severe PMT. Heck, I could even segment right down to clients who had severe PMT, phobias, and wanted to stop smoking – and all with just a couple of clicks! You can save every group as well, so it’s just one click to send them an email.

So that means Send Pepper recognises that people do lots of different things, and have lots of different interests, and you can communicate directly and easily with them, any time you want to, with just a few clicks.

You can easily email a single person from within Send Pepper as well; their search feature is really accurate.

Of course, they have great click through tracking and open rate tracking and so on – you can see all that easily in graphic chart from from the dashboard.

Keeping Track

One other feature I love is that for each person, the system tracks the contacts you’ve had with them. So for example if I look up Michelle Smith, I can see she’s had my weekly newsletter since a certain date, information about a workshop, a special email about Bruce Lipton who was visiting our city and I thought she’d like to go see him, and a copy of my personal peace journal, which I gave as a thank you gift to all my clients when I released it. No other system I used allowed me to know all that without running queries! Plus, I can add a note, or as many notes as I like, to Michelle’s or anyone else’s data.

I use Send Pepper when someone signs up for a positive body image course through a form on my other website, Send Pepper adds them to the list autoresponder automatically, with the correct tag, sends the welcome email and if I’ve set one up, starts the email sequence.

Simple Sign Up Forms for Your Website

Because making sign-up forms easy is the other functionality you expect from your autoresponder. Now I learned to code HTML in 1996, so I don’t mind getting down and dirty with hexadecimal and radio buttons, but why bother when Send Pepper does all the work for you? Again it’s a few clicks to get the most-used fields into an autoresponder form, and a few more if you want to customise the information you collect. When you save the form, Send Pepper gives you three form code options – a single line of code, a bit more code, or a whole swag of code that you can style to your heart’s content. After trying all three I go for the single line of code because then I can modify the form anyway I want to, within Send Pepper, and when I save it, it’s automatically updated anyhehre it appears on my site. Now that’s kewl!! Also, Send Pepper has a great range of graphical buttons etc that you can choose from, or you can upload your own. Don’t like the way a button looks on your site? Go back to your form in Send Pepper and choose a different one, save it, refresh your site – voila, whole new look! Love that!

Negatives – Yes There are Some

What don’t I love? Well, all emails come from Sandy Kumskov (info@sendpepper.com). That was confusing for my clients at first. There is a way to solve it: register another domain name, similar, and point the name at Send Pepper. Let their techs know, and they’ll set up email addresses for you on their servers as well. I like to have complete control of my email accounts, so I haven’t done it for this domain. (Update: From Feb 2010 you can now add whatever domain you like to your emails – yeh! ๐Ÿ™‚ )

What else don’t I love? It took a lot of thought to come up with this one, but I wanted to be as honest as possible with my review. It logs you out quite quickly, and then it tries to reconnect all the time – that is just annoying when you’re multi-tasking and using up computer resources, like I do with ten applications open at any one time when I’m in full flight. So I just log out of the system instead of leaving it open for hours. (Update – sometime during 2010 this stopped happening, now it’s about every 24 hours or so, if you leave the system open that long).

What else? Well, there isn’t anything else – I had a couple of issues early on, I contacted their help desk and the response came back super fast. Once they politely pointed me to a page in their online documentation that very clearly explained the solution, and the second time they gave me the answer in an email, in plain English! Great service I thought. The person who told me about it says their phone support is excellent too, I prefer the email method myself, or you can get their techs on live chat. I’m in Aus and I can get a tech live from 8am to 4pm any work day.

The Autoresponder

What haven’t I talked about? Oh yes, the autoresponder bit ๐Ÿ™‚ – what Send Pepper calls email sequences. Now, there are no fancy HTML templates here. As I said earlier I don’t mind getting into HTML, so when I want pretty colours and fancy graphics I set up the page in my HTML editor and then copy the code straight over into the HTML editor within Send Pepper. For some people this could be an “I don’t like this feature” but it isn’t for me, because I decided about a year or so back that I’m happy to send out plain text emails. Hard as it is to believe, some people still use email software that doesn’t read HTML. So for maximum readability you need to prepare two versions of your email, one for HTML and one for plain text. I honestly can’t be bothered, so I just send a plain text one. No one has complained! And some gurus say plain text is absolutely the way to go for maximum impact – if people are on slow connections or public computers, they don’t want to waste time downloading graphics in their emails, and it’s less corporate and more friendly – I guess it depends what kind of relationship you have with your people. Fair point, I think.

If you’re absolutely sure you want an HTML template, Send Pepper can help you with that for $199, then you have a template that you use anytime you want to. The autoresponder I was using until the end of August 09 wanted hundreds of dollars to provide a customised HTML template. I did my own, and then just started using plain text because their system was slow, and the html editor was a narrow little thing that meant I had to scroll sideways! No thanks… I switched to plain text and that’s what I’m still doing. SendPepper’s HTML editor is close to full screen width. If you use anchor text (that is you highlight a couple of words in your text, and attach a hyperlink to that – the Send Pepper link below is that kind of link), SP will track your links and show you how many people clicked on what. If you do use an HTML email template, it’s a one click deal to create a plain text version of your email, so you get the best of both worlds anyway.

Getting Your Emails Delivered

Email deliverability is HUGE! No matter how much time you spend crafting the perfect subject line, if the email never gets past your subscriber’s spam filter, what’s the point of sending it? Email providers talk about a few things, like deliverability, and inbox delivery and it’s important you understand the difference between the two. Deliverability means it gets past the ISPs spam filter, but that doesn’t mean will get to your subscriber’s inbox – it might only get to their spam folder. Send Pepper have a tech whose job it is to make sure as many emails as possible get to the inbox – that’s his only job. And their inbox rates are really high – if you’d like to know what they’re currently running at, just ask them – the number’s going up all the time, it’s in the high 90s as I write this review.

Other Great Features

There’s a couple of other features about Send Pepper that are worth mentioning, I think. One is that they also offer a postcard service. Yes, they’ll print and send real postcards to your selected contacts. With whatever message on it you want. You access this by buying extra credits, it’s not part of your subscription, so you’re only paying for the service you want.

Another feature is the price – $29 a month for up to 2500 contacts on the Jalapeno plan. If you have up to 5000 contacts you switch to the Habanero version for $79 a month, and up to 10,000 go to the Pro version for $139. Habanero also allows you to build landing pages with just a few clicks, and has automated split testing, and loads more. Pro has all that plus task management,ย  integration with your shopping cart to manage upsells and so on. And if you want even MORE, you can go to the big brother, Office Autopilot, which has multi-user logins and permissions, fantastic task management, up to 25,000 contacts, more detailed tracking and so on. And then there’s the even bigger brother, Office Autopilot pro, more email addresses, more users, more tracking etc. It’s worth mentioning that you can send as many emails as you like, provided you’re complying with the can-spam laws of course.

Most online marketers will cope very well with Send Pepper as their autoresponder, and when your list is getting up into the bigger numbers you will need the extra management and automation that the higher levels give you. What I most like about it then, is that it is very easy to use, quick, and highly scalable with your business, and as you upgrade you just see more features on new tabs, not major changes to the interface you already know. I don’t know about you, but I get really tired of learning new things, I just want to get on with business!

SendPepper Review

Well that’s the review, as honest as I can make it. Send Pepper has made a huge difference to my business communications and autoresponder use, I love it.

Try it free for 15 days, it just might solve some of the problems you’re not solving at other providers. Yes, that is an affiliate link, if you choose to use SendPepper using that link I will get a small commission for recommending you. If you’d rather not give me the commission just type sendpepper.com into your browser bar.

9 Comments

  1. Rose on 30 March 2010 at 5:49 PM

    Thank you very much Sandra, for taking the time to write down a so detailled description. I’m reading from Italy. I’m starting my own online business and I was just looking for which responder I should use. Your review has been very very very useful to me. Thanks a lot!

    • Sandy on 30 March 2010 at 7:42 PM

      Hi Rose – you’re very welcome. And I can tell you that there are continual small improvements going on as well – little changes to the interface, small things like a button appearing beside the contact tagging area, so you can add a tag right there instead of going into the tagging screen – they do listen to their users, and are really responsive, in my experience. I’m sure you’ll find sendpepper as useful as I do ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Steve Mochel on 25 May 2010 at 7:18 AM

    Wow…this is a great review Sandy – thanks for taking the time to write it!

    • Sandy on 25 May 2010 at 7:41 AM

      @Steve Mochel: Thanks Steve ๐Ÿ™‚ Finding Send Pepper released a lot of stress for me about my communications with my clients, and it may do the same for you. I noticed the other day when I was in there that they’ve made some new little tweaks to the interface, making it easier to use double opt-in or not, for any particular form or newsletter. Nifty I thought ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for commenting ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Andrew Nicholls on 19 October 2010 at 9:53 AM

    Hey Sandra,

    Thanks for taking the time to share your experience.

    I have wasted soooo many hours on bangin’ my head against the wall with dud programs… now I wont buy anything without reading reviews and yours is one of the best!!

    Thanks heaps,
    Andrew.

    • Sandy on 9 November 2010 at 9:58 AM

      Andrew, I agree – and there still isn’t a perfect service out there!

      • Sandy on 13 November 2010 at 6:58 AM

        OH! The upgrades coming in this service are *amazing* I’m currently beta testing! Watch this space ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Roger Due on 27 October 2010 at 6:15 PM

    Sandra,
    I really appreciated your review. Today I signed up for one of AJ Silvers’ coaching courses and he loves SendPepper. I have been unhappy with other autoresponders and on the lookout for something better. I will be signing up with the SendPepper trial tomorrow. It is late and I must get some rest.
    — Thanks, Roger

    • Sandy on 9 November 2010 at 9:58 AM

      You’re welcome Roger, there’s a lot to like at sp ๐Ÿ™‚

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