That’s the number 1 question I get asked by clients who are either just starting out in the online space or those who are scaling their businesses. And it’s no surprise because we all know that email marketing is one of the most powerful ways to stay connected to our communities. CRMs are one of the most powerful tools you could use to track those relationships. It is a really crucial system to have in your business.
What is CRM?
CRM is an acronym for Customer Relationship Management Software. A CRM quite often has email marketing capabilities but would also combine data tracking such as conversations, sales, and a host of other customer activities. Some email marketing systems simply do email marketing and nothing more.
Things to Consider with Choosing an Email Marketing System or a CRM
One of the problems I see quite often is business owners blindingly following the email marketing system recommendations of either their coach or their peers in say, a mastermind. And while this is a good way to find out what is working or not working for someone else’s business, there are other factors to consider when deciding on which email marketing system (or any system for that matter) will work for your business.
1. Where are you right now in your business and where do you want to go?
There are email marketing systems that are more suitable for people who are just starting out and then there are those more suitable for people who are in the process of scaling or who have scaled.
You need to think about where you are now and how quickly you want to grow. This may save you having to pick a system that caters to you right now but having to migrate later because it doesn’t meet your future needs.
2. What do you need this system to be able to do (functionality)?
Obviously, you want a system with email marketing capabilities – that’s a given. But what if you have a sales team and want a system that is able to track leads or commissions? Or you may be a coach in the process of scaling your business and as a result, might have several affiliate collaborations. Not all systems are able to track these.
3. How robust of a system do you need?
This is linked to the paragraph above. How robust a system you need would depend on how quickly you want to grow your business and if you want a system that is able to grow with you.
If you have a small team (or none at all), there are systems like Active Campaign who have a sliding scale and are a lot more intuitive and user friendly at the back end. That would make it easy for your VA (who may not know much about CRMs) to figure out. Systems like Ontraport or Infusionsoft are a lot more robust and would typically be more suited to a scaling coaching business that has a team of skilled tech people proficient in that system.
4. What is your budget?
If you are a coach just starting out or even scaling but is looking to streamline your costs to boost profitability, you may be looking for something more economical for you and your business. Perhaps even a system that offers a free pricing tier, like Mailchimp and ConvertKit. That said, I typically do not recommend MailChimp because it offers a ‘list-based’ email marketing system, which can be very limiting. ConvertKit is a much better option as it offers a ‘subscriber-centric’ email marketing system.
With a ‘list-based’ email marketing system every contact that’s in your database is counted as 1 contact in each list they are on. So if you have one contact who appears on five lists that is counted as five contacts. And anytime you want to send an email to multiple lists you would have to duplicate the email and send to each list.
On the other hand, in a ‘subscriber-centric’ or ‘contact-based’ email marketing system, everything is based on the contact (subscriber) themselves, not the list they are on. In the subscriber’s record, you will see what campaigns they are in, what lists they are in, and what automation they are a part of. You can send an email to a group of contacts based on shared conditions rather than on just what lists they are on).
5. Would you prefer a system that offers everything on one platform (all-in-one)?
Just as you have stand-alone systems that interact with each other (say, Active Campaign for email marketing, ClickFunnels for landing pages, and Kajabi for course management), there are also systems considered to be ‘all-in-ones’ like Ontraport. On systems like Ontraport, you have a landing page builder, email marketing, affiliate marketing, order processing, sales, and leads tracking all in one place, and even course management. Another example is Kajabi.
So you’ll want to consider if you’re someone who wants to get an all-in-one, (which could be more economical for you), or is happy with stand-alone systems probably because you have had these systems in place for years. I would imagine that the last thing you probably want is to have to migrate all your data to another system.
After all said and done though, If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the five years of working in hundreds of online systems, it is this: every system has its pros and cons. So I recommend trying out systems. Get your team- or at least the person who will be working in that system- to try it out. It is why most- if not all- software systems have a trial period. Take a test drive. Try out the main functionality you are looking for and see if that particular interface works for you.
My Favorite Email Marketing Systems
Active Campaign: I love Active Campaign not only because it is designed to cater to people just starting out but it is a system that can grow with you. It has a lot of robust features even at the lower tiers. I particularly love its visual campaign builder, SMS marketing, and the fact that you can build landing pages on the platform if you need to (though I don’t necessarily recommend it for that purpose), which might just be ideal if you’re just starting out.
Ontraport: If you’re in the process of scaling your business, meaning, you have a bigger team, a bigger list, and running an affiliate program amongst other things, the system I recommend to all my clients is Ontraport. Ontraport offers all that Active Campaign does and a whole lot more. It is considered an all-in-one and they have been around for a really long time. It is very much a CRM with robust email marketing functionalities that enables you to track sales and leads. But even then it has a shorter learning curve than say, Infusionsoft, for instance.
From its ability to set up affiliate centers, order forms, and membership sites, integrate with Stripe and PayPal, Ontraport has it all. Yet, it is offered at a fair price making it a very good value for money, considering all you get in it.
But my favorite thing about Ontraport has to be their customer support- they probably have one of the best I have personally come across.
And they are constantly upgrading and up-leveling their system to support their users more efficiently.
Whatever system you decide to use, take the time to do some research and think about what core features you need and where you want the system to take you in the next couple of years. It will save you a lot of time and hassle in the long run.