I’ve spoken to many business owners – smart, seasoned “warriors” who have a great product and work hard and are passionate. Most of them still need a large degree of convincing or explanation about Google My Business that borders on frustrating.
Two reasons why you need to spend time on improving Google My Business:
The further you drop from the #1 listing in Google the more drastically your visitors declines. Especially if it falls to the dreaded “page 2 of Google”.
While there are alternative ways to get to the first page or #1 in Google, Google My Business is a valuable and easy-to-use tool that will truly help you get there.
Over our careers, Craig and I have been involved in the implementation of many marketing automation tools. We’ve been on the ground floor of Marketo, Pardot, Hubspot, and Mailchimp implementations, creating entire marketing automation workflows from scratch.
We’ve been part of both the technical and creative implementations, as well as creating all of the nurturing paths, workflows, and sales automations that connect with the Customer Relation Management (CRM) systems attached to the marketing automation systems.
We have been using SharpSpring for our own business since September 2018. Very quickly we realized that this tool had everything we needed in a marketing automation system, and all of the capabilities we needed in a CRM.
In the 18 months since we started using SharpSpring, we’ve watched the platform grow, adding new features such as sales optimization, incredible reporting, and more trendy features like a Chatbot.
SharpSpring is the marketing automation solution that small to medium sized businesses should be looking at.
The Price is Reasonable
Compared to any of the marketing automation platforms out there, SharpSpring is the most affordable solution with the most comprehensive toolset.
The base price for SharpSpring including 100,000 contacts, 25,000 emails a month, and unlimited end users is $950(USD). This includes a full featured CRM, email system, landing page builder, blogging tools, social media content calendar and posting, marketing automation, sales optimization, reporting, and integrations with other platforms.
Unlike other platforms, SharpSpring isn’t a “plus, plus, plus” situation where you keep on adding extra features and get nickel and dimed to death, all of their basic features are included. You pay extra for email synchronization (you get 3 for free with the package), and integration with Salesforce ($150/month for Salesforce sync).
That’s where the extra pricing ends though. Other platforms can easily get you into the thousands very quickly.
Marketing automation can help you to warm your leads, identify hot prospects, and improve sales. If you’re doing e-commerce, marketing automation can help with cart abandonment and improve your overall sales. A marketing automation tool will pay for itself tenfold.
The Tools are Very Good
No tool is perfect. There are frustrations with every single system out there, no matter how great their ratings are.
SharpSpring’s tools are made so that an average marketer can build end-to-end solutions without getting a coder deeply involved.
While this means that things are simplified, they are also robust enough that you can make them do very interesting things.
From an automation perspective, we haven’t run into any examples where an idea we’ve come up with can’t be executed.
Every marketing automation tool has limitations, there are only a finite number of triggers, and there are a finite number of actions you can take.
However, the reasons that SharpSpring uses the triggers they do, and allows the actions they do are backed up by very solid logic. We’ve had instances where we wanted to do something specific, and after consulting with SharpSpring’s fantastic support agents, we were told why our request was not built into the system, and their logic was good.
In large markets, you could advertise for a “Hubspot Expert”, and get a ton of people replying to your ad. Is hiring a tool specific person the right solution? In other industries you don’t hire a “Sherwin Williams painter” do you?
Looking for marketing automation experts is a better idea. If someone understands marketing automation and CRM tools, they can apply that knowledge to SharpSpring’s easy to use and simple to understand platform, what’s more, you can do things inside of the tool without deep technical expertise.
Companies shouldn’t be hiring tool experts, they should hire marketing experts who understand the in’s and outs of marketing, not how a particular tool works. Tools change, but the fundamentals of marketing will always be the same.
The CRM Features are Very Good
SharpSpring’s strength is its integration of Sales AND Marketing. You get deep insights into customer behaviours, as well as great note taking tools, appointment setting, meeting tools, built-in integrations with Zoom, and much more.
SharpSpring’s Smart Mail feature allows your marketing team to develop great sales collateral which your sales team can send with one click, they can also customize the email that they send, and even schedule it for a specific time.
The sales pipeline is fully customizable, allowing sales management to create custom deal stages to track the progress of an opportunity from the beginning to end of the sales cycle. Opportunities also allow you to create deal forecasts, and a full pipeline view.
When combined with SharpSpring’s powerful Sales Optimizer tools, you can create events, tasks, capitalize on lead engagement, keep your team accountable with powerful reporting, and close more deals.
SharpSpring’s CRM tools out of the box are better than any we’ve seen in other solutions (outside of Salesforce itself).
Constant Development, New Features and Improvements are Regular
We’ve been impressed with the rapid changes that have happened in just the past year.
They just rolled out a sales dialer feature in January, and there are many new features in the pipeline. Later this month they will be releasing a brand new Chatbot which will integrate with the Life of the Lead and the powerful automations already built in.
The Downsides of SharpSpring
Lack of Deep Customization
If coding up custom templates is something that you really want to do, then SharpSpring isn’t right for you.
We’ve had no problem making SharpSpring look and feel like our clients’ websites, but there is no templating language for SharpSpring, which means you need to build things inside of the editors provided.
Likewise, if you really like configuring Salesforce and creating your own Salesforce objects, you’re not going to have that ability in SharpSpring.
Again, we’ve had no problem creating very advanced optimization routines for sales, but if you’ve got your heart set on digging into some code, these are not the droids you’re looking for.
Mobile Tools are Not Great
If mobile is a show stopper for you, then SharpSpring is not the right tool for you. The mobile app is only available on iOS, and mobile is a lower priority development goal for SharpSpring currently.
With the SharpSpring iOS mobile app you can:
View, edit, and add leads, pipelines and opportunities
Place calls and send emails
Browse and edit your contacts
Take notes on contact records
View life-of-lead events
View lead scores
Set task notifications
The old IT saying was “Nobody ever got fired for choosing IBM.” The same goes for Hubspot, Marketo and Pardot.
However, you pay for those brand names, and we have found that the more functionality you require, the more you will pay.
To be truly useful, you’ll be paying $3,200/month for Hubspot, plus $300 for CRM, plus onboarding fees, plus setup fees, plus training fees, plus, plus, plus. It is easy for the first year of a Hubspot account with 90,000 contacts to hit $62,000(USD), and they require a minimum one year commitment.
We can have you up and running in your first month!
We’re confident about this one because we’ve done it multiple times. We’ll get your system turned on, build your first email template, your first landing page template, and show you the nuts and bolts of how to use the system in days, not weeks, not months.
Quite often we’ll hear from a business that their website just doesn’t work for lead generation. Either it doesn’t generate leads or if it does they are just plain bad. They tell me they’d rather stick to referrals, or cold calls. They also usually complain that growing their sales is difficult.
The truth is the problem here is not the medium but the execution. Your website should be your BEST driver for generating quality leads. If it’s not there is usually something wrong.
One of the things that boggles my mind about modern websites is the lack of contact information, or even worse, a hostile contact us form. I have found many contact forms that require far too much information, don’t work, use anti-spam technology that doesn’t work, or simply don’t exist.
It’s almost like the people behind the websites don’t want to be bothered by their customers.
We have two separate contact forms on NorthIQ. One is a simple Contact Us form, the other is Get a Quote.
We decided early on that these forms would be light, and easy to fill out. The idea is to give us enough information to have a conversation. Every form that is filled out on any of our websites goes into our CRM (Hubspot). When we are on a call, we open up Hubspot and write notes. (more…)
With some services you can easily see they’ve done a poor job for you, if your car starts making a clunking sound after visiting the mechanic, you’ve probably got a bad mechanic. If your haircut looks horrible, you probably have a bad hairdresser. If you get the wrong leg amputated, you probably have a bad doctor.
Digital marketing can be a little more difficult to come to that conclusion.
How can business owners avoid being preyed upon by unethical digital marketing agencies?
The following are sure-fire things to watch out for when working with your digital agency, or to keep an eye out for when trying to procure services from one. (more…)