Why SharpSpring is Perfect for Your Company

Why SharpSpring is Perfect for Your Company

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.

I don’t want to bury the lede – we updated our Marketing Automation Vendor Comparison grid with pricing for 2020, download it now and book a demo with NorthIQ today.

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.

Hiring Experts

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.

We have seen major updates to the Email system, a complete Task Manager system, an online meeting booking system, an entire Sales Optimizer solution built in,

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

Brand Recognition

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.

Check out our recently updated 2020 NorthIQ Marketing Automation Comparison.  This tool will help you figure out what capabilities you need, and aid you in your selection. If you have any questions, please book a demo with NorthIQ and we’ll answer any questions you have.

 

 

The 2020 NorthIQ Marketing Automation Comparison

The 2020 NorthIQ Marketing Automation Comparison

Update – January 15th, 2020 – we have updated the Vendor Comparison with prices as of January 2020.

When you decide to invest in a marketing automation platform, you’re faced with a massive challenge figuring out which vendor will meet your needs. This Vendor Comparison Tool will show you a side-by-side comparison of prices, features, and key variables.

In a few short minutes, you’ll have everything you need to make a decision by answering a few simple questions.

  • How many marketing users will need access to the system?
  • How many sales users will be accessing the system?
  • How many admin users do you need?
  • How many contacts/leads are you currently managing?
  • How many new contacts/leads will you add in the coming year?

With those questions the Comparison Tool will generate pricing for the most popular automation tools including Hubspot, Marketo, Act-On, Pardot, and Infusionsoft.

The tool also includes actual reviews from TrustRadius, as well as the star ratings from Caterra, G2 Crowd and Software Advice.

We’ve included a tab with things to consider before selecting your marketing automation solution, including questions about key features, contract length, total cost of ownership, and exactly what is included with Onboarding.

When NorthIQ provisions a Sharpspring install for you, it is a true turn-key solution, we set up your templates, create your initial emails, landing pages, and automations, and you hit the ground running within your first month!

Download your copy of the Marketing Automation Vendor Comparison tool below.

Generate More Higher Quality Leads in 3 Steps

Generate More Higher Quality Leads in 3 Steps

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.

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Five Signs You Need Marketing Automation

Five Signs You Need Marketing Automation

We recently launched our Free Marketing Automation System, it’s a simplified version of the system that we provide for our clients. One question we got was “Who is this intended for?”, while a couple of other people asked “How do I know I need it?”.

Let’s start with who needs marketing automation. I think the basic answer is “anybody who is looking for leads”.  In its simplest form, a lead is someone who is going to get in touch with you about a product or service that you offer. The thing about leads is that not all leads are created equal.

The “Buyer’s Journey” says that people go through stages when they are making a decision. Awareness, Consideration, and Decision.  First, they need to be aware that they have a problem, and that there are solutions to that problem. Then they look at who can provide the solution. Finally they come to a decision on who will solve their problem.

The buyer’s journey can take minutes, or it can take years depending on the type of purchase they are making. The thing is, you need to be able to contact the buyer at the right point in the journey.

If you introduce yourself after they’ve bought something else, you’re too late. If you make an incredible offer before they’re considering buying, you’re too early.

This is what marketing automation is good at. It pairs up the buyer with the right information at the point of the buyer’s journey they are currently in.

How will you know that you need marketing automation? Here’s five warning signs.

1: You frequently hear “Website Leads Suck” from sales people

Website leads should be the “Glengarry Leads”, and if the sales team isn’t treating website leads as gold, then there is a major problem.

We can learn more about someone who comes to a website than we do on literally any other source. If you’re hearing from your sales people that they are talking to people who aren’t ready to buy, or if your sales people are dealing with far too many leads, this is where automation can really help.

With a good marketing automation program, you can deliver the right information to potential customers at the right time, and help them to make key decisions.

In some cases these people will decide you’re not the right solution for them, that’s actually a really good thing. If we give them the information that helps them they’re not the right fit for your product or service it doesn’t waste any more of their time, and you’re not trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

In other cases, the key information will help them realize that there is a good match there, and they will raise their hand, asking to further the conversation.

Businesses who nurture leads make 50% more sales at a cost 33% less than non-nurtured prospects. (Strategic IC, 2017)

2: You don’t send out regular emails because even when you send them out, it doesn’t seem to change anything

Consider how you interact with people on a daily basis in your real life. Chances are you have different conversations with your co-workers than you do with your partner, your children, your friends, or the barista who made your latte this morning.

If you were to greet everyone with the same message, they would look at you like you’re an alien. Go ahead, try talking to your co-workers as if they were your significant other the next time that you want to spend an afternoon with the lovely folks in HR (say hi to Julie for me).

Your marketing is the same way. You can’t treat everyone the same, and you can’t deliver the same messaging to the person who just met you, as you would to the person who has been doing their research on your company for the last year and are ready to make a decision.

You need to be sending out the right information, at the right time, to the right people. To do this, you need to identify your audience, put them into groups, and deliver them tailored email to exactly where they are in the buying cycle.

This is called segmentation, and it will have a massive impact on your email campaigns.

Recipients are 75% more likely to click on emails from segmented campaigns than non-segmented campaigns. (MailChimp, 2017)

3: Sales growth isn’t as fast as you’d like

There are only so many levers you can pull to increase sales, one of them is investing more in marketing.

We often caution against companies throwing money at ads, the websites we work with regularly convert organic traffic at a rate of 5-7% across the entire site!

We find often that incremental improvements to the way that the website is being crawled by search engines, improving inbound links with media outreach, and building a strong lead generation capabilities show better, faster, and more impressive results than chucking a bunch of money at some ads.

Once you have leads in your system though, what are you doing with them? Are you throwing them directly over the fence to Sales? Is the sales team burning through leads? Do you have insight into what is happening with those leads?

Marketing automation can really help boost sales by engaging prospects and turn them into excited potential buyers with your nurturing programs. It also helps identify the very best leads and enables you to route them very quickly to your sales team. Gone are the days of slogging through cold calls all day long.

Businesses who nurture leads make 50% more sales at a cost 33% less than non-nurtured prospects. (Strategic IC, 2017)

4: You don’t know what’s working and what’s not

You have 20,000 followers on Facebook. Your InstaTweet post from last week got five hundred upvotes. You were recently featured on that hot new YouTube show by that super cool lady who does the thing with the stuff.

Then what happened? Are your 20,000 followers in your target demographic? Does InstaTweet success equal more prospects in your funnel? Do your Facebook followers actually buy your product or service? Are you paying to promote posts or running a contest that is boosting your follower count but actually reducing the number of people who are seeing your messaging?

You need end-to-end insight into the entire marketing funnel and sales pipeline if you’re going to affect any meaningful change. We often find that closely held assumptions end up being false. For many companies, a large follower count has no bearing on the quality of the leads they are generating.  Likewise, many websites have incredible Google page ranks, but they are unable to translate that page rank into leads. Many lead sources you initially thought were great can turn out to be under-performing (and vice versa).

You need a solid digital strategy, and good tools that will help you gain insight into what a good prospect looks like, vs someone who is just a dreamer.

With good analytics tools (like those provided by a good marketing automation tool), you will know where your best leads come from, the behaviors that end up converting them into customers, and how to create a repeatable process to develop more sales ready leads in the future. You need to establish a direct correlation between leads in the door and actual revenue.

48% of consumers start mobile research with a search engine. (Smart Insights, 2016) 

5: You are losing sales to the competition

Here’s the scary, dark secret. Look around your industry at your competitors. If you’re not taking advantage of marketing automation, the chances are that one of your competitors are…and if they’re not right now, they will be in the next 12-18 months as marketing automation is one of the biggest trends in marketing right now.  If you are ahead of the curve, you will beat your competition.

In the next two years, an additional 21% of marketing leaders plan to use a marketing automation platform. (Salesforce, 2017)

Marketing Automation is Not Scary, Not Doing it is Downright Terrifying

Marketing automation doesn’t have to be expensive. The software that will allow you automate your lead nurturing is incredibly affordable, and will make significant changes to your business.

Things that cost more than One Year of Marketing Automation Services

  • Coffee for a 100 person office for 1 year
  • A company Christmas party for 50 people
  • A golf tournament for a company of 40 people
  • Losing one sale for a product with an average sales price of $9,000
  • A 2 month Adwords Campaign that generates 100 leads/month at an average lead cost of $45/lead

We are here to help. Check out our free download – How to Create a Free Marketing Automation System, and discover how you can get something set up today that will start you down the path to better leads, and more sales.

Free Download: How to Create a Free Marketing Automation System

How losing a promotion was the best thing that happened to me

How losing a promotion was the best thing that happened to me

I’m going to give you the secret sauce on how to make a marketing automation system for free. It has all the bells, though none of the whistles of the ridiculously expensive services where you can pay $2500 a month just for the software to run this plan. Most small businesses won’t need the whistles anyhow.

First, let me tell you a quick story.

3 years ago I had the unfortunate experience of getting passed over for a promotion to a marketing director role at the company I worked for. A role that at the time I really believed was what I wanted. It was not a great experience, and was the second time this had happened at this company. Obviously, that particular goal wasn’t ever going to happen.

It was a wake up call.

I didn’t respond how most people do in this circumstance. I did something unusual which looking back on it three years later was a bounce pad for where NorthIQ is at now – a successful and growing business.

I took an entire week off and spent it working with a former colleague (my now-NorthIQ partner Brian Garside) to begin building what is now NorthIQ.

Only we didn’t know it at the time.

That week was exciting because we launched an ebook and sold several copies within the 5 day window we gave ourselves. We hit our goal of building a database of 50, and we also landed a customer who ended up being a significant partner in our growth as an organization.

It was crazy. We barely slept. It was interesting and engaging and unlike anything I did in my 9-5.

If you’re sitting there right now unsure about how a very small change in your life can lead to huge things I will tell you right now it can be astronomical. Life changing. It can be the difference between you hitting your goals and just continuing along where you’re at now.

At the time I’d have loved to be where I am now. It was such an elephant to eat I didn’t really see how it was possible. 

Intermission:

If you just want the How to Create a Free Marketing Automation System go ahead and grab it, but we’d love if you would continue on the story (don’t worry, we’ll remind you about the download below as well).

Back to the story.

We decided let’s just do one small thing at a time. Set the bar so damn low we’d have things to accomplish, over and over.

Brian had already done the brave thing and taken the plunge – he quit his day job to start NorthIQ. He had provided what would be the foundation for what we’d build. I always joke “What took you so long to quit.” but that’s a very brave move to take. We didn’t have the dollars or customers to pay for both our salaries so I went back to work and patiently supported NorthIQ as an evening job.

Another big game changer for us occurred that week, and thinking back on it it’s a funny story.

During day 1 Brian had mentioned to me that he had a prospect who was wanting a new website but also more – a lot of marketing work. At the time it wasn’t his area of expertise but I talked him into providing a proposal. We barely knew how to make proposals of this kind. We weren’t sure how we’d get the work done, since I had a full time job and he was still learning the marketing side.

They accepted. To this day they are a top customer. The impact this company has had on NorthIQ, and the relationships we built from this is vast.

Two seemingly minor things in the space of 2 days that changed our lives.

The simple fact is that just getting out there, doing, executing  is so valuable. You can accomplish anything if you just get in and try.

A lot has happened between now and then. We moved into an office. We have awesome staff. Great customers. During the ride we’ve accomplished so many things that seemed outside my safety zone. I dare say it…we’ve even become (uggghhh) sales people.

No road is too steep for somebody who is determined and patient.

Let’s get back to marketing automation…

I learned marketing automation on Marketo, then Pardot, then Hubspot, then I built my own free version and NorthIQ used that for awhile. Finally, last month we  partnered with Sharpspring and I implemented a full system for us. I have thousands of hours of experience in all the platforms combined.

Automating your marketing is incredibly powerful. Even a simple automated email nurture when somebody fills out your form can prove extremely useful. Add in lead capture forms, lead magnet, lead scoring, lead routing, CRM, sales pipelines, reporting and you get a tool that most companies should really invest in at some point.

When I see the reasons for saying no to using this type of service I am frustrated.

Don’t I need to be a marketer?

The honest truth is that any small or medium business owner needs to wear…not just a lot of hats but every hat. All of the hats need to be worn. Chair falls apart? Fix-it hat. Somebody didn’t get paid? Finance hat. Need more friends (customers)… yeah… marketing hat.

You don’t need to BE a marketer, you just need to act like one long enough.

My company is too small.

Too small to engage and delight future customers so they love you before they even spent a cent?

Isn’t it expensive?

You can build a solid system for free. NorthIQ used it for a couple of years. There are even paid options that fit inside the budgets of small companies. It’s no longer just for big companies. That has ended. The industry has changed and nobody has told the small businesses.

Don’t let the big boys snap up every prospect while you rail against the unfairness of it! You can compete! If anything automation just evens the playing field. It’s enabling David’s everywhere.

We’re already doing good business.

Yeah, that’s awesome. What if you could be doing even better? When you are doing well you likely have more money to invest in ways to make your sales more predictable and take less effort.

It’s complicated! We’ll never be able to take advantage of all the features.

Implement a piece at a time and before you know your system will be humming along.

I don’t have the time.

Of all of the excuses, this one I understand the most. Time is the one resource that none of us seem to have enough of. The thing is, you can start today with a little bit of time, and build it small, piece by piece. Each piece will add incremental improvements, which multiply exponentially. It is amazing how a series of small changes can have major impacts.

The NorthIQ Free Marketing Automation System

I initially figured this out because NorthIQ needed a budget solution for our own business. Then we ran across other companies who also needed a budget system. They were all at a point in growing their business where it would help them grow but the dollars and internal knowledge were not there. They could not afford to pay NorthIQ to implement for them, but we’re really passionate about seeing other companies succeed. That’s why I built this as a free download.

DOWNLOAD THE NORTHIQ FREE MARKETING AUTOMATION SYSTEM

The “How to Build a Free Marketing Automation System” does not give you all the advanced features that a fully paid program gives you but it does give you the most basic ones that a small or medium business will need.

The more important features for a small business:

  • Collect prospect data via forms
  • Automate nurturing emails to those prospects
  • Store prospects in a CRM for optimizing sales funnels

So from very small organizations (I’ve implemented this easily with 1-2 person companies) to medium organizations with limited budget and limited experience this is actually a really good solution. It gives you the basics of a marketing automation platform and is easy to learn.

You’ll get:

  • A free CRM that is actually really good for both sales and marketing
  • An email tool that is as good as the pro tools
  • Automation that is just limited enough to make it easy
  • Forms to collect your leads
  • Simple behavioural based triggers
  • Flexibility in terms of customized properties and values that your
    internal team might require
  • Real time web tracking
  • Reporting for you to understand what’s going on
  • And it’s all free, if you’re smart and careful about the whole thing.

You won’t get:

  • Extremely detailed workflow capabilities
  • Advanced behavioural based triggers
  • A content strategy
  • A large database (if you’re working with more than 2500 leads, this becomes cumbersome)
  • An all-in-one tool
  • Support

Last Paragraph: Let me Put on my Sales Hat

NorthIQ has implemented professional Marketing Automation solutions across many organizations, and works with most of them monthly to generate leads and boost revenue. We’re proud of the work we do and the companies we get to do it with. The companies that we work with have doubled, triple, and even quadruple their revenue in one year of working with us.

If you want to explore having NorthIQ implement this free version for you or a service with more functionality (we offer this at surprisingly reasonable rates) you can book a time to talk to us here. No pressure, no pushy sales promotions, just a chat where we’ll find out a bunch of things about you and tell you if we can help you out.

The NorthIQ Free Marketing Automation System