Allow me to start with an apology. The subject line of this email uses an old phrase that is gender specific. I tried to make it non-gender specific and say something like, “The tools do not make the person” or whatever, but it just didn’t sound right. In the end, it was easier to just use the phrase everyone was used to and move forward.
Just kidding, I’m just having a laugh. I didn’t try other titles at all. Honestly, people who are that easily offended probably shouldn’t be reading my stuff anyway – they should get some non-dairy soy milk, heat it up with their off-grid heat lamp and have a nice warm glass of get over yourself.
Ok, now that we got that out of the way…
Today we’re going to talk about marketing tools and the proliferation in particular of funnel software. In yesterday’s post, I touched on people implementing systems and processes before they understood how their customers would interact with their business. In particular, I said something about badly implementing marketing automation and/or funnel software.
Strangely enough, I had a number of people come back to me and ask which marketing automation tools they should use and asking me about things like Clickfunnels and LeadPages. I started answering those questions by saying, “Hey, you missed the point” but then it dawned on me that some people are genuinely struggling with this stuff, so I figured that I’d roll up my sleeves and talk about my own experiences with this stuff.
I’m going to start with the disclaimer: generally speaking, I think that 95% of people who get hung up on this stuff are lost. They don’t need any of it or could go with something really simple and have the same, if not better results initially. Most of the time the tools over complicate things.
Let’s go forward then shall we – I am not sticking any affiliate links in here, I could probably make a few bucks, but this is really more of an FYI piece.
First I’ll talk about email marketing and marketing automation tools.
I use ActiveCampaign. I like it and I use it every single day. I log into ActiveCampaign and I write these emails by hand. I routinely send out over 100,000 emails per month with this product. It just works, which is a great thing to be able to say.
ActiveCampaign is great because while it has a concept of “email lists” it’s more akin to a CRM tool where you have contacts that appear on lists. Rather than segmenting by list, it’s actually better to use tags. This plays into the power of ActiveCampaign as a marketing automation tool because it allows you to set up easy campaigns and automations that can be triggered by events that occur based on other actions taken by contacts or other automations.
Automation is pretty complex if you’re not really familiar with the concept. Tools like Aweber or Mailchimp primarily use autoresponder sequences based on lists – the flow is pretty logical and sequential, as the user gets on this list, they get these emails in this order. With ActiveCampaign, it is far more dynamic, a user visiting a web page on your site or clicking on a link in an email can set a tag on their contact record which fires off a new automation campaign and potentially removes them from several others.
Marketing automation is really pretty powerful and when you combine it with things like lead scoring and date based automations, you can build a very elaborate marketing machine.
We’ll go back to my comment earlier about people getting lost – if you’re new to building a list and don’t have much experience with these tools, then it’s probably better to start off with something simple like Aweber. It will get you up and running, building your list and giving yourself the ability to do some simple campaigns which are all you need while you get your feet wet.
The marketing automation environment has tons of players in the space now. I was a long time user of Infusionsoft before switching across to ActiveCampaign about two years ago now. Infusionsoft is a good product, but it tries to be all things to all people – I didn’t need their affiliate modules, their shopping cart or a bunch of other features. And being perfectly transparent, I had repeated issues with performance and availability – being in Australia, they were doing backups of their environment right in the middle of our work day.
From a cost point, I was paying three times more for Infusionsoft and it was only when I said I was leaving that they made me an offer that they were giving away to just about every new customer that joined. There’s a lesson in there. I was an Infusionsoft customer for over 4 years and was paying $350/mth. New customers were getting the same plan at $259/mth and when I asked how I could get that price, was told that it was only a promotion to generate new business – except it was grandfathered in for life, all of those new customers got a better deal than those of us who’d been there for years. That’s stupid business and it was worse when their “customer reactivation team” offered it to me when I cancelled.
Other tools in that space are OntraPort, HubSpot, Drip and ConvertKit. They all have their various strengths and weaknesses. For me, I like ActiveCampaign because they’ve been in the market for a number of years and the product is solid at a fair price point.
Moving on to Funnel Software…
I honestly don’t use any of it anymore. I was a customer of LeadPages when they launched their beta. I’d used it for a number of years and really enjoyed it. Then I think they got complacent and lost a bit of focus – they didn’t really innovate in their core product, the market caught up to and arguably passed them.
This opened the door for Clickfunnels to come along and pick up a bunch of customers away from LeadPages. The entire process behind how Clickfunnels works is pretty solid – it really can really help you build entire marketing funnel pages and steps relatively easily right inside the tool.
Clickfunnels can also do some rudimentary email marketing automation now with an add-on and they have a serviceable membership capability as well.
What Clickfunnels did was make the design side of customising your pages and your funnel layout easily yourself. It’s very visuals and really easy to conceptualise how your funnel will work.
I said I don’t use any of the tools in this space and that’s only partially true I suppose. I am currently starting to deploy some of the tools from ThriveThemes. I’ll use that to do landing pages and sales pages going forward along with my standard Divi Framework themes (Sean’s Note, January 2018 – I have moved away from Divi and now use GeneratePress as my go to theme.). I’m not particularly interested in complex upsell and downsell sequences – so I’ll get by with the odd landing page or long form sales page. I’m also looking at some membership capabilities and for that, I’ll just use a product that integrates with ActiveCampaign and my existing theme for consistency.
There are a host of other funnel specific tools. I don’t really have much to say about them aside from buyer beware. Most people have no need for them and they just complicate your workflow.
The last thing I want to talk about is shopping cart technology.
This is the bane of my existence as I’ve mentioned before – very few things work the way I think they should and often for no reason that I can fathom.
The most common shopping cart tool I see people defaulting to now is SamCart, It’s kind of a hybrid between funnel software with a shopping cart. It’s got plenty of features and is quite clever at what it does. It creates pages that do the transactions for you via Stripe, Paypal or even some merchant gateways. It has one click upsells and allows you to do some sales funnel workflow that you can make people go through. It integrates nice with a bunch of other products, so it’s easy to see why people talk about it.
For me, it has a couple big setbacks. The biggest one is that I run a recurring revenue business and the way that SamCart works, it chooses to store my customer profiles in its database rather than in say Stripe or Paypal. If I choose to leave SamCart then I have to go through this export process and try to import those recurring profiles in wherever I’m going – that’s just too high risk for me.
The next biggest problem is the price. I personally think $99 for SamCart is just too expensive for what it does. If you look at Casual Marketer from a physical newsletter recurring revenue business model, I charge $39/mth and so I would need to have five customers to cover my cost of SamCart plus my printing, shipping costs.and transaction costs. That just doesn’t make much sense for me.
I have a pretty simple payment system for Casual Marketer, I use Gravity Forms on a WordPress page and just wire it up to Stripe and Paypal. I can do recurring and one-time payments and it’s pretty straightforward to get working. Gravity Forms costs me like $100 per year in maintenance. It’s not the prettiest solution and it doesn’t have any of the great bells and whistles of something like SamCart, but it was easy to setup and does the job.
There are some other tools in this space – ThriveCart is coming along from what I’m told, it’s no relation to ThriveThemes if you’re curious. There’s WooCommerce for people who need a more complete shopping cart on WordPress. Plus there’s a ton of other options like 1ShoppingCart and others depending on what your needs are. (Edited On May 7th, 2017: I chose to go with ThriveCart back in early 2017).
So there’s a short rundown of some of the tools available that you can use plus I’ve talked about what I use and why I chose them. That should give you something to think about when you’re looking at these things.
However, the takeaway that I really want you to gain from this is, focus on simplicity. Just solve the problem you need to solve and do it as easily as you can. The more complexity you add by way of tools to your business the harder and more expensive it becomes to run and manage.
You’re going to be successful because of the quality of your products and services, not because of the marketing automation tool you use or how cool your funnel software is. You need to remember again that the tools don’t make the man…
Or gender non-specific person…
Whatever you identify with… You get the point.