These days, it’s impossible to run successful email marketing campaigns without the help of autoresponders.
Because autoresponders are perhaps the cheapest, easiest and most effective way of converting your subscribers into customers.
Picture this: you run a consultancy. A visitor comes to your website and registers to download a free eBook. You provide them with a link to download the eBook – but is that really where you’re going to leave things?
Of course not!
It’s a golden opportunity to keep nurturing and building the relationship with someone who has indicated a potential interest in your services – so why would you waste it?
But you’re probably not going to pick up the phone and call them – other than being a little creepy, you just don’t have the time for it.
And that’s where an autoresponder comes in.
Autoresponders are simply a sequence of automated emails that are sent to a subscriber, based on a trigger event. That event can be a download or sign up (as in the above example), a specific date (such as a birthday or anniversary), or another action taken by the subscriber (e.g. email click, web visit, product purchase, or even abandoned cart).
Autoresponders work because they’re targeted – after all, you’re only sending them based on a relevant action or event. And once you’ve set an autoresponder up, it should, in theory, run with virtually no maintenance required.
But the real icing on the cake? If they’re done well – that is, if you’re sending interesting and useful content – they can also help to convert subscribers into customers.
The great news is that autoresponders don’t have to be expensive. In fact, some newsletter tools provide them for free.
That’s what we’ll be sharing with you in this article – the top email marketing tools that let you use autoresponders, without paying a cent.
But first – some quick examples of different autoresponders you might use.
An autoresponder welcome email from Wix
The eBook example is just one instance of how you might use an autoresponder. There are plenty of other ways you can use them in your email communications:
And the list goes on…
Hopefully that’s given you a few ideas!
Ready to start setting your autoresponders up – for free? Check out our list of the top free tools below.
Here’s our roundup of the best email marketing software for free autoresponders. More detailed reviews are available below the table.
It’s worth noting that most of these tools offer autoresponders as part of a wider marketing automation solution. To access the more advanced automations (e.g. complex workflows, moving subscribers from one campaign to another), you’ll usually need to upgrade to a paid plan.
We’ve listed the autoresponders available on their free plans in the last column.
|Provider||Sending limit||Autoresponders available|
|MailerLite||Unlimited emails for up to 1,000 subscribers.||You get your basic autoresponders, such as subscription-based emails (e.g. welcome emails), anniversary or date-based emails. As a bonus, you can also send autoresponders when a contact field gets updated, or when a contact clicks an email link. (Full review)|
|SendPulse||15,000 emails per month for up to 2,500 subscribers. 10 free SMS included.||Subscriber and date-based, as well as trigger-based (email opens, clicks, email not opened). Advanced automations are available on higher plans. You can also send SMS as part of autoresponder campaigns.|
|MailChimp||12,000 emails per month (daily limit of 2,000), for up to 2,000 subscribers.||MailChimp’s autoresponder range is comprehensive. It includes basic autoresponders (welcome, date-based, RSS etc), as well as more advanced options (e.g. ecommerce, tag-based). The main drawback – their autoresponder editor isn’t the easiest to use. (Full review)|
|Benchmark||14,000 emails per month for up to 2,000 subscribers.||Simple autoresponders – welcome, birthday, anniversary and date-based reminder emails. More complex automations are available on their paid plans. (Full review)|
|SendInBlue||9,000 emails per month (daily limit of 300) for an unlimited number of subscribers. You can have a maximum of 2,000 subscribers in your automated campaigns at any time.||A good range of advanced autoresponders is offered on the free plan, including welcome, anniversary, page visits and ecommerce (such as product purchase or abandoned cart). You also get an allowance for free transactional emails. SMS can also be added for an extra cost. (Full review)|
|Drip||Unlimited email sends for up to 100 subscribers.||Advanced. You get all your basic autoresponders, as well as ecommerce and web visit-based sequences. You can even set up autoresponders based on events that happen in other integrated tools (e.g. Shopify, PayPal, Unbounce).|
We make no secret of the fact that we love MailerLite at EmailToolTester. And it’s for good reason – this simple newsletter tool is a breeze to use, and comes packed with handy features such as landing pages, forms, and – of course – autoresponders. Its free plan gives you access to most features (and unlimited emails too!).
What we liked: MailerLite’s ease of use makes it an ideal tool for getting started with autoresponders – even beginners can master setting up emails and campaigns fairly quickly. And it’s great that you can use most of the features completely free of charge (as long as you have fewer than 1,000 subscribers). If you do need to upgrade, it’s one of the most competitively priced providers on the market – so it’s a great way to set up cheap autoresponders.
Where they should improve: Unfortunately, you don't get access to email templates on their free plan, which is a big drawback. And they don’t offer spam or design testing.
SendPulse is a versatile platform that offers not only email, but also web push notifications, SMS, Viber and transactional emails. It’s no surprise then that they’d also include autoresponders as part of its offering. These are available to use on SendPulse’s free plan, which allows for 15,000 emails per month for up to 2,500 subscribers. Impressive!
What we liked: Aside from autoresponders, other cool features like A/B testing, advanced reporting, web push notifications and transactional emails also come as part of the free plan.
Where they should improve: Autoresponders would be easier to manage if they could be edited in a multi-path workflow view – the current editor is just a little too basic.
Mighty MailChimp also make our list of top tools that offer a free autoresponder. Their autoresponders are decent, too, with options to set up automated ecommerce, RSS and tag-based campaigns.
What we liked: 12,000 emails a month for up to 2,000 contacts ain’t half bad. Plus, their autoresponders extend beyond the basic welcome and anniversary emails to include advanced campaigns such as abandoned cart and retargeting emails – awesome news if you’re an online store.
Where they should improve: Like SendPulse, MailChimp lacks a visual workflow editor for autoresponders, which can make managing them a bit messy. We’ve also noticed that their emails often go to Gmail’s Promotions tab, rather than the main inbox. If you do need to move beyond the free plan, MailChimp's paid plans are quite pricey.
Benchmark’s clean interface is easy on the eyes, and like MailerLite, it’s also a super simple tool to use. The free plan lets you use basic autoresponders (they call this ‘Automation Lite’), forms, surveys and reports. Advanced automations, however, are only available if you upgrade.
What we liked: This is a provider that really puts design above all else. Their email templates are stunning, and editing emails is just such an easy, streamlined experience.
Where they should improve: Unfortunately, this ease of use doesn’t apply to the autoresponder editor. You can’t view autoresponders in a workflow, and they’re not very flexible (you can’t send autoresponders to send after an hour, for example, and you can’t set sending time ranges). Historically, Benchmark haven’t performed so great in our deliverability tests, either.
This transactional email provider includes some advanced autoresponders as part of its free plan, including those triggered by web events, purchases and abandoned cart. If you buy SMS credits, you can even send text messages as part of your autoresponder campaigns.
What we liked: SendInBlue’s autoresponder options (and automations in general) are top-notch – surprising, given their extremely low pricing. You edit them in an intuitive visual editor, and can even test campaigns before launching them.
Where they should improve: On the free plan, there’s a daily cap of 300 emails, which might be limiting for those with larger lists. SendInBlue imposes a limit of 2,000 contacts in any automated/autoresponder campaign at any time. We also experienced a few issues with SendInBlue’s deliverability.
This brightly-branded email provider prides itself on creating ‘delightful customer experiences’. They’re serious about it too, with an almost dizzying array of automation workflows and rules on offer. As a bonus – Drip also includes free autoresponders triggered by events that happen in third party tools such as Shopify, Facebook, Stripe, Unbounce and many more.
What we liked: Apart from the aforementioned autoresponder and integrations options, Drip’s automations editor is an absolute delight to use, with a full workflow view and fun, dynamic interactions.
Where they should improve: Unfortunately, Drip’s free ‘Starter’ plan isn’t really designed to be free forever, with a measly 100-subscriber limit. The range of template designs is also on the skinny side.
So there you have it – our round-up of some solid (and free!) email marketing tools for running autoresponder campaigns.
Which one is right for you? It really depends on the kinds of autoresponders your subscribers (and your business/website) would benefit from.
If a simple, yet powerful autoresponder system is what you’re after, MailerLite is hard to beat.
So pick one that you think will work for you, and give it a whirl – then let us know about your experiences in the comments below!