How to Choose the Best Marketing/CRM Service for your Business: Part II

The next two marketing service providers we are going to compare are Salesforce and ActiveCampaign. These are some of the most recognizable names in the Marketing automation and SaaS industry. While they are both great options, determining which is a perfect fit for your business will vary on your size and needs. I will go through their features, pros and cons as well as my own personal recommendation.

Salesforce 

  • Brand Recognition
  • Scalability
  • Classic Features, Functions and Integration Opportunities
  • Experience and Established Presence 

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Brand Recognition

Salesforce is one of the more recognizable brands in SaaS and CRM. They’ve built a reputation for being a powerful provider with plenty of customizations and integrations.

Scalability

It was designed for larger businesses, but has since followed the demands of the SaaS world and tailored some of its services to be accessible and affordable to smaller businesses. The pay scale allows to for smaller operations to add onto their plan. It is designed for businesses to build increasingly advanced/ sophisticated systems as they grow.

Classic Features, Functions and Integration Opportunities

Salesforce, like many of its competitors, offers integrations and customizations through the Salesforce AppExchange. Their store has a comprehensive list of software customizations and third-party app integrations (prices range and some are free). What makes Salesforce’s store stand out is its expansive software library and wide-range of available features.  Finding add-ons is easy. Search by product names an/or industry-specific product pairings. Salesforce has established their reputation and collection. The industry-specific section has a whole separate section for smaller businesses. Many of those add-ons are free.

Because there is such a wide-range of customization options your business’s setup process will vary. The more nuanced and complex system you require the longer the implementation process takes. However, after it is set up the system is designed to run smoothly. The intuitive nature of software and the sophisticated design make for a smooth transition for even non-experienced users.  The layout is simple and clean. Users can navigate through popular tabs like the home page, their contacts, leads, accounts, campaigns, and opportunities.

Admin controls allow your team to regulate access levels and establish different workflows for different departments. While it may take some training, even those with intermediate admin and tech experience should not have issues onboarding users and running the program. However, help is available through Salesforce.

Experience and Established Presence

Salesforce has established their position in the industry. They offer compliance solutions and integration services for proprietary and legacy institutions. They've been around the block and that's a major advantage. Especially for those in health care, financial services, and communication where there are stricter and established software compliance standards. Their record and experience give businesses peace of mind. Salesforce has dealt with a multitude of issues and industry regulations. Chances are whatever issue or complex customization your business requires it will be familiar to them.

SALESFORCE CONS

  • Complex Setup
  • Expense/Add-On services Add Up
  • Customer Support Complaints
  • Busy interface

Complex Setup

Salesforce is an advanced and powerful system. It can be challenging in the beginning to take full advantage of all of its features. For first-time users it can be especially difficult to navigate all available integrations.

You will run into more issues if you don’t understand the full extent of the product’s capabilities or what exactly your business needs from a CRM service. Just like we discussed with your goals, your tech cannot solve problems you don’t know you have. Make a comprehensive list of problems you need your tech to address. 

Expense/Add-Ons Add Up

Salesforce is on the more expensive end of Saas and CRM providers. Because they’ve set themselves to be a leader in the industry their service doesn’t come for free. They have affordable options for startups and businesses easing into the world of CRM, but those prices quickly rise after you customize it. Like any good service the best features and upgrades aren’t free. Understand that the initial price tag probably won’t be what you end up paying.

Customer Support Complaints

Any business that is established has its critics. Salesforce has plenty of glowing reviews, but also it has a reputation for frustrating/lacking customer support. This is to be expected with the volume of businesses and enterprises they serve. It is important to note that not every negative and/or unsatisfactory review can be verified, but it is important to listen to peer experience. If having a guaranteed intimate and immediate support staff available is high on your priority list it may be better to go with a smaller-scale operation.

Busy Interface

Salesforce has been available since 1999. This may account for some users finding their interface to be busier than more modern providers. While they have updated and kept up with the demand of a modern business, there are reports that their layouts are cluttered. This makes navigation and using the product less convenient. Users report wanting a simpler, cleaner, and modern look.

 PRICE (Billed Annually) 

  • Essentials $25 USD/user/month
  • Professional Complete  $75 USD/user/month
  • Enterprise  $150 USD/user/month
  • Unlimited $300 USD/user/month

FEATURES

  • Manage all Accounts and Contacts- Keep all customer information in convenient individual records. Combine engagement history, key contacts, customer conversations, internal account logs, and social media activity to gain insights.
  • Opportunity Management- View all your team’s activity in one place. Check in on project stages, product development, competition, quotes etc.
  • Track Leads- Optimize your campaign strategy with real-time feedback and tracking. Make informed investments.
  • Sales Reports- Partnered with Data.com, users can connect with key decision makers and strategically set territories. Increase sales and increase marketing precision with accurate data.
  • Mobile Salesforce- Take Salesforce on the go. Log onto calls, act on hot leads, and check dashboards. mySalesforce customizes the mobile experience to fit your brand aesthetic.
  • Workflow Approval and Management- The Visual Workflow is designed to automate business processes with simple-to-use features and drag-and-drop design. Flexible approval process to streamline discounts, expenses purchases etc.
  • Sync and Share Files- Share info securely, comment, edit, and publish within your team. Track it’s performance with alerts. Find content quickly with tags.
  • Analytics through Reports and Dashboards- Get detailed reports of your business from the big picture down into the little details.
  • Sales Forecasting- Get reliable and real-time information about your sales. Editing, override visibility and multi-currency support help your business operate in the modern world.

RATINGS

Average 4.45 out of 5 Stars

Overall, Salesforce is a veteran provider with robust capabilities and powerful features. It is a great option for businesses of varying size and degree. Users agree that it is a top provider for a reason. It provides excellent lead generation, data tracking and reporting, workflow management, and social media collaboration capability.

ACTIVECAMPAIGN

PROS

Interested in getting an in-depth assessment of your business's unique needs and optimum marketing/SaaS compatibility? Reach out today! 

  • Industry-Leading Automations
  • Classic Features, Functions and Integrations
  • Multi-Channel Marketing Capabilities
  • Accurate and Detailed Reporting

Industry-Leading Automations

ActiveCampaign provides robust automation services. Creating any type of campaign is achievable: sales follow-ups, triggered email campaigns, automated segmentation, engaging email content, newsletters etc. Active Campaign also boasts some of the highest deliverability rates in the industry. Meaning not only will you be making great content it will get to your customers without fail.

Classic Features, Functions and Integrations  

ActiveCampaign combines advanced automation capabilities for email and marketing needs. Email campaigns are created using a straightforward, visual builder. Messages can be edited and updated with unique and specific message variables. Create a personal library of plain text or HTML codes that you can insert into automated messages. Update coupon codes or even links to your latest content with this feature.

Its built-in sales CRM software assists in engaging, retaining and gaining customers. It is designed to help maintain and grow your business organically. Targeted email messages can make each potential customer feel like they’re getting a personal, VIP experience. Store contact information as well as personal and site interactions for each individual customer profile in one convenient place.

ActiveCampaign currently has over 700 apps and integration services. Whatever your business is looking to accomplish from lead generation, sales, support, accounting, and analytics, there are integrations to assist you.

Multi-Channel Marketing Capabilities

If you’re looking to break-out of the inbox and reach your customers through multiple avenues, ActiveCampaign has you covered. Reach customers through SMS, personalize your website with personalized chat windows, and manage your ad displays across social media. Centralize your marketing and make multiple, personalized connections with potential clients. Remember, the average client needs multiple touch-points before they commit to buying a product or choosing a business. Increase your interactions by marketing beyond emails.

Thorough reporting

ActiveCampaign provides click-maps, geo-tracking and page visits on most of its basic service tiers. More advanced metrics and reports are available with premium service tiers. The reporting is comprehensive. It will provide users with a full picture of how effective their current strategies are.

CONS

  • Complex Setup and Features
  • Automation Requires Training/Adjustment Period

Complex Setup and Features

For users that are new to CRM and marketing software the setup period might be overwhelming. ActiveCampaign has a lot of customizations, features, and integration options. Users may not know how to use the product’s capabilities to their fullest potential. This leads to a loss of value. Make sure you and your team are willing to invest time into understanding ActiveCampaign's capabilities. Avoid paying for features that aren’t useful to you.

Automation Requires Training/Adjustment Period

Email campaigns are built from scratch. This allows for maximum customization and creative license. However, if you’re unfamiliar with how to identify and remove inactive contacts, deliver lead magnets, adjust subscription preferences, create compelling call-to-action content and other automation nuances you will have to spend some time familiarizing yourself with ActiveCampaign’s Automation builder. For more inexperienced users this may be a daunting challenge. It will take time to make the perfect campaign, but once perfected it has the potential to be a powerhouse.

PRICE

  • Lite Starting at: $9/mo Paid yearly (USD) Up to 3 Users
  • Plus Starting at: $49/mo Paid yearly (USD) Up to 25 Users
  • Professional Starting at: $129/mo Paid yearly (USD) Up to 50 Users
  • Enterprise Starting at: $229/mo Paid yearly (USD) unlimited users

FEATURES

ActiveCampaign Marketing

  • Complimentary Migrate Service-Transfer all your contacts, emails, and records from previous providers for free.
  • Track site & events in real-time- Follow-up automatically.
  • 5-version Split Testing- Test subject lines, images, from contact, and content up to 5 versions per campaign.
  • Contact-Conditional Content-Adjust content on a per-contact basis.
  • Recipes- (Unique to ActiveCampaign) automation templates to assist with lead generating sequences, abandon cart reminders etc.
  • Landing pages- Create high-converting landing pages quickly with customizable templates.  
  • Unlimited sending- Send as many messages to your clients as you need.
  • 300+ integrations- Enhance your basic plan with the best and most popular apps like: Shopify, Slack, Twilio, Slack, Typeform, and many more.
  • Advanced reporting- Identify strengths and areas of improvement in your marketing strategies
  • Curated web experiences- Customize any web page with data tags (demographics, interests, past purchases etc.)  
  • Score Leads- Rate content based on engagement and content interactions
  • High-converting forms- Choose from 4 different form types to collect contacts and trigger specific automations.

ActiveCampaign Sales

  • Pipeline permissions- Delegate access levels to individual team members within different  sales pipelines
  • Chrome extension- Sync your Gmail account with ActiveCampaign
  • Score Leads- Prioritize your better and best leads based on engagement
  • Auto Create Tasks- Auto-create tasks based on content clicks, views and other engagement actions
  • Team Notifications- Alert teams with real-time reminders and notifications.
  • Multi-contact deals- Designate a single primary contact and unlimited secondary contacts.
  • Pipeline Flexibility- Choose the stages of the pipeline based on your unique sales cycle.
  • Auto create deals- As soon as a lead qualifies, create new deal record and assign to a team member
  • Visualize Pipeline- Check status of deals and pipeline’s health
  • Collaborate & discuss- Tag teammates with important deal progressions
  • Automated pipelines- Automate pipelines to maintain functionality and reduce labor maintenance
  • Site & event tracking- Keep in the loop of contacts’ website activity and interactions

ActiveCampaign Service

  • Multi-channel support- Communicate through web chat, email, or Facebook (and coming soon) Messenger
  •  Site & event tracking -Keep in the loop of contacts’ website activity and interactions
  • Flexible pipeline- Choose the stages of pipeline base on your unique needs
  • Chatbot automations- Automate messages, answer FAQs, pre-qualify leads, and collect data on or offline.
  •  Integration- Gather data from 300+ apps to enhance customer service
  • Collaborate- Tag team members and/or assign ownership to specific conversations and tasks
  • Automated tasks- Create tasks based on urgency and key event developments
  • Automated workflows- Use triggers, actions, and logic to automate outreach based on contact actions.
  • Consolidate records- Keep all customer info in a single-contact record

RATINGS

4.3 average out of 5 Stars

Overall ActiveCampaign has established itself to be highly regarded and popular in the industry. Many users and experts agree it has robust features and performs excellently. It scores big in automation and deliverability. It provides quality CRM services as well. The major drawbacks are it is a more sophisticated product and operating it at its highest level comes with a learning curve.

Salesforce vs. ActiveCampaign Features

Similarities

  • Convenient all-in-one-place client records
  •  Integrations with popular apps  
  • Analytics: Data Tracking, Dashboards, Records, and Reporting  
  • Sales Forecasting
  •  Mobile App
  • Site Tracking
  • Landing Page Builder
  • Lead Scoring
  •  Access Level/Permission Granting Capability
  •  Team Collaboration, Progress Tracking, and Communication 
  • Sync Google Account

Differences

  • Complimentary Migrate Service (AC)
  • Recipes (AC)
  • Split Testing 5-Version (AC) vs. 2-Version (SF)
  • Sending: Unlimited (AC) vs. 5,000 external/day Unlimited internal/day (SF)
  • Chatbot/AI Automation Integration Service Conversations (AC) vs. Einstein AI (SF)
  •  Sharing and Syncing Files Dropbox Integration (AC) vs. Included in Salesforce Files Sync
  • Price Point Starting at $9 (AC) vs. $25 (SF) 
  • Specialization- Automation and marketing (AC) CRM and Saas (SF)
  • Scalability-Small to midsize (AC) small to enterprise (SF) 

Salesforce vs. ActiveCampaign Final Recommendation: ActiveCampaign

These are both quality products, but my recommendation is ActiveCampaign (and I’m not biased just because I’m a Chicagoan!) This Chicago-based company continues to score highly as an essential marketing product. Their automation and deliverability are some of the highest in the industry. The CRM component adds to the attractiveness of this software. The lower price-point also makes it a more affordable (and attainable) option for a variety of business sizes. Because their main focus is marketing their CRM service may not be as robust as some of their more CRM-focused competitors, however most users can still achieve desired results with it. While it is suited best for small to mid-size operations, it still is a powerful service. 

Still overwhelmed?

Not every team or business is equipped to create and maintain a functional market funnel with SaaS. If you’re looking for help, reach out.

We can help create an optimal market funnel for your business.

Have another goal for your business? We can assist in whatever goal you’re trying to achieve for your business. Reach out for a consultation where we can strategize where you want your business to go and how you’ll get there.

If you're wondering where to go next, reach out. Together we can build a marketing funnel that brings your business to ultimate success.

Book a free 1-hour Breakthrough Consultation with us.

Erickson Business Coaching

Erickson Business Coaching, Inc. is a training and coaching company dedicated to helping skilled professionals build successful practices.

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October 17, 2020

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