As marketing has become increasingly digitized, organizations are becoming increasingly aware of the impact of marketing efforts with audiences.
Gone are the days of putting up a billboard or printing an ad, and just hoping for the best, and storing specific customer information in a filing cabinet. Now, customers acquired through digital means can have all their information stored digitally, on a customer relationship management (CRM) system.
InfusionSoft is one of the top names in CRMs for small businesses, but like any kind of digital tools, it’s not going to be right for everybody.
Here, we take a look at some alternative CRM options for your business, focusing on one of InfusionSoft’s noted strengths: email marketing.
HubSpot is one of the top names in overall digital marketing tools these days. It’s justified – they’re responsible for an awful lot of cool stuff. Their certification is well worth a look, their blog is a very reliable source for the latest research about digital channels, and they have their very own CRM.
I find HubSpot a little sneaky though. They’re great for telling you how free their CRM is and always will be. However, and I can never say this enough times: you get what you pay for. So HubSpot to really start converting into some cash for you business, you will have to throw some money at it.
It’s not a bad approach. The idea is that you’ll start using the free version when you’re starting out, and Hubspot will enable you with the tools you need to better manage your contacts as your business grows. It makes sense to me.
In terms of emails, the free version will integrate with Gmail and Outlook accounts, meaning that any of your sales contacts will be at your fingertips if you’re using either of those. If you contacting a customer in such a personal way, it’s likely that you’re still a small business.
HupSpot have different packages for those who want to focus on sales or marketing. The marketing package includes email marketing, but you have to pay for the Basic package, which starts at $200 for 100 contacts. The price will increase as you get more customers on your contact list.
If there was going to one CRM to rule them all, it would most likely be Salesforce. If you’ve done any research at all to date, you’ll at least be familiar with the name. One of the reasons that Salesforce is such a dominant name is that it tailors the product for everyone, from big business to nonprofits, to small and medium businesses.
For small businesses, Salesforce have three options: sales, service, and marketing. Each come with their own unique set of features, and the prices vary greatly between packages, so it’s important to sit down and working out what you primarily need your CRM for.
They offer a basic sales package for small businesses, which starts at $25 per month. If you want to get your email marketing game on, you may need to look at their second tier, which start at $75 per month. It might seem like quite a jump, but if you compare the tiers side by side, you’ll actually see a jump in the amount of services it offers.
Unlike HubSpot, where you apparently had to select a different service for email automation, Salesforce gives a lot of bang for that $75 in terms of automation features.
The other package you might want to consider for email is the marketing one. I have to be honest, I’m not 100% convinced of it. It seems to be focused entirely on automating everything, and prices start at $1,000 per month.
I like automation and all, but I also like to see what’s going on all the time. They do offer some great integrations with other applications though.
If there was a particular company that stands out as directly squaring themselves up as an alternative to InfusionSoft, it’s the folks over at Agile. They literally have a page on their website demonstrating the differences between them and InfusionSoft to highlight why they’re better.
Now, let’s be realistic, you have to take this with a grain of salt. This webpage is written by Agile, and obviously isn’t going to flag up the ways that InfusionSoft might be better. But in saying that, if InfusionSoft hasn’t completely inspired you, it might be some kind of a starting point if it looks like Agile is doing things you found InfusionSoft to be lacking.
The main thing that will attract people to Agile is the price difference. They have four tiers, the lowest of which is free – surely a win for anybody entering the world of CRMs.
I have to say, I’m very impressed with what they offer in their free tier. It certainly looks very usable, particularly in terms of features for email marketing.
It has sufficient email integration so that recipient actions can be logged on the CRM for later remarketing efforts. With Agile’s second tier, costing $8.99 per month – which is still ridiculously cheap – it gives you a little help with your email design, giving you access to a drag-and-drop feature.
I feel like they’ve gotten that a little bit backwards. I always feel drag-and-drop is easy to use if you’re new to marketing email design, so by the time you’re moving on with your business and upgrading your SaaS packages, you’d be looking to refine your designs beyond the capability of drag-and-drop.
GetResponse is predominantly an email marketing tool, and I’ve chosen to include it here because I always feel like it wishes it was a CRM. It feel like the developers made a CRM, then stripped it down to leave it more focused on the email marketing capabilities that CRMs usually have. That’s not a criticism – they’ve been on the go since 1998, so they know what’s going on.
For each of GetResponse’s packages they offer 18% off if you pay for 12 months and 30% off if you pay for 24. They have four tiers, with the lowest priced at $15 per month. That’s let you contact up to 1,000 subscribers. It lacks the freeness of Agile, but I still find $15 to be very reasonable.
The most curious feature of GetResponse is its inclusion of a webinar function. I can see some benefits, but it’s certainly not a standard CRM function. I’m not going to dwell on it here.
So if you’re looking for a light CRM, or a CRM/email marketing hybrid, or something like that, GetResponse will do some pretty cool things for you, like segmentation, automation, and tracking.
A minor point of contention for myself is that the level of analysis isn’t very deep compared to some other CRMs and email marketing tools. I feel like it could do better, but at the same time, not everybody has the interest in utilizing analytical information to find out what to tell their customers next.
I always tend to consider ActiveCampaign close to GetResponse, because they share that “light CRM” feel, as in, they’re email marketing tools, but can easily be considered in terms of a CRM. In the case of ActiveCampaign, it’s especially so from their second tier.
The lowest price possible on ActiveCampaign is $9, but that will cap the number of subscribers you can contact at only 500. Beyond that, pricing is determined by which tier you select, relative to the number of people you want to contact, as as the prices go up, especially through the tiers, I’m not entirely convinced of the price difference.
At the second tier, you get a bunch of features for customizing your communications – most importantly, being able to remove ActiveCampaign’s branding.
It also give you more automation for your digital comms work. Although you have some marketing automation at the lower tier, in the second tier this gets more focused on sales, and taking actual money off your audience.
If you’re completely new to the world of digital marketing and CRMs, I won’t pretend that ActiveCampaign is going to be the easiest one for you to use. There’s just something about it that feels a little unfriendly, like some prior knowledge or experience would be beneficial.
If you go all the way to ActiveCampaign’s top tier, they essentially become an agency, where you’ll have an SLA, account rep, access to design services, and telephone support. If you get to that stage though, it’s unlikely you’re classed as a small business anymore, and might want to look at a more heavy-duty solution like Salesforce or something.
Insightly comes across as a very ambitious CRM. It claims to to absolutely everything, whatever the size or nature of your business. Quite frankly, it’s a first impression that I can’t decide whether to place it as arrogance or confidence. Let’s not dwell on it, and take a look at what they actually do.
They have four tiers, starting with a free one. I feel like there’s a bit of a recurring theme here. Of all the services we’ve looked at with a free package, I feel like this one might be the skimpiest in terms of features.
You can store 2,500 records of your customers, and send up to 10 marketing emails per day. I guess that’s fine to get you started, and to give you a feel for the processes involved in having a CRM.
Obviously, as you move up and start giving them cash, you get more stuff. Most of Insightly’s paid features seem to rely on segmentation, automation, customization, and data analysis. All important features, and the second tier starts at $29 per month if you pay annually – it’s $35 if you pay monthly.
So what about Insightly’s email marketing capabilities? Well, pretty impressive I think. It’s probably the best about their free tier. You’ll have access to custom templates from the get-go, as well as tracking.
If you go to the second tier, you’ll be able to remove Insightly’s branding from your beautiful and engaging emails. You’ll also be able to integrate it with MailChimp. As one of the most popular email marketing tools around, this is a smart move, especially for those already using MailChimp.
Its name is derived from the sales pipeline model, which puts this as a sales tool more than a marketing one, right from the outset. The entire process it wants to help you with is based around this model.
Additionally, like InfusionSoft, Pipedrive favors custom from small and medium sized businesses, and I feel like that’s something that they’re reflecting in their pricing.
They have three tiers, with the lowest one starting at $10 per user per month if you pay annually – as is standard, each tier charges a little more for monthly payments. Their top tier costs $63 per month, and I’m not sure I see the value for in what they offer at that level.
Compared to some of the CRMs on this list, Pipedrive feels quite light, I guess it’s to go with an interface that keeps thing simple. Most small and medium businesses won’t have full-time IT support, so that approach will be especially beneficial for them. In that respect, it’s a little bit reminiscent of GetResponse.
In terms of email marketing, the lowest tier will give a little bit of tracking info, so you can monitor a recipient’s user journey, and what they do with your email. The middle tier allows you to send marketing email from within Pipedrive itself, while the top tier provide some templates for you in designing your emails.
Email capacity is actually one of the few features that increases as you go up through the tiers. The vast majority of stuff is standard across all packages.
It doesn’t specify it as such, but just looking at the pricing options for Zoho CRM, it looks like it is aiming itself at small and medium sized businesses. It has four tiers, and the lowest one only costs $12 per month if you pay annually.
At that price, you get what looks like pretty much the standard for entry-level CRM package across all we’ve looked at so far, namely, some cool stuff, but not quite as cool as it would be if you gave them more money.
In saying that, compared to others on this list, that entry level package is quite impressive. You can have a maximum of 100,000 customer records. I think any small business with that many customer or prospect contacts would be thrilled! As soon as you move up to the next tier though, the number of records you can store are unlimited.
With that entry level tier, you can send bulk emails from within the CRM, but as soon as you go to the next tier, you can integrate it with other email clients, such as MailChimp. They integrate with a bunch of other things too, including WordPress, Google Apps and Evernote.
|Pricing options||Five tiers for the marketing solution; three tiers for the sales solution; all starting with a free package ||Three tiers, starting at $25 per month||Four tiers, starting with a free one||Four tiers, starting at $15 per month
|Features||- Gmail and Outlook integration|
- Email scheduling, tracking and notifications
- Smart send times
|- Focus your CRM on sales, service, or marketing|
- Dedicated app
- Extensive automation across most features
|- 50,000 contacts on free version|
- Integrations with other applications only available on top tier
- Email tracking and templates
|- Forms for signing up subscribers
- Landing pages
|Usability||Clear and well-guided for new users||A powerhouse of features; patience needed to be familiar with all of them||Light and easy to use||Simple and intuitive
|Conclusion||Good for building CRM knowledge at your own pace||It’s one of the best-regarded CRMs for a reason||Good for those on a budget||Good for sales professionals
| ||ActiveCampaign||Insightly||Pipedrive||Zoho CRM
|Pricing options||Three tiers, starting at $9 per month||Four tiers, starting with a free one||Three tiers, starting at $10 per month ||Four tiers, starting at $12 per month
|Features||- Standard email marketing functionality|
- Unlimited sends at lowest tier
- Some branding features for your company
- Complimentary design service
- Dedicated account rep
|- Email templates and integration with MailChimp|
- Lead and sales management
- Project and task management
|- Pipeline focused|
- Integrates with other software
- Can be managed from iPhone or Android app
|- Great budget CRM
- 100,000 records can be stored at the lowest tier
- Integration with email marketing providers
|Usability||Straightforward, but prior digital marketing knowledge would be beneficial ||Cool, concise and functional layout|
|Great, as long as you want to focus pretty exclusively on sales ||Respectable all-rounder, but not without its limitations
|Conclusion||Good for salespeople||Good all-rounder||Definitely one for salespeople ||Will likely work best with the rest of Zoho’s products