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Sunday, 18 February 2018 07:15

E-mail marketing automation: AgileCRM vs. ActiveCampaign vs. Autopilot. #MarketingFridays. Ep 18

Hello, welcome to Marketing Fridays episode 18.

Today I'm going to be going through the differences between three major CRM and email marketing software and that is AgileCRM which you see here as well as ActiveCampaign and Autopilot.

So here internally I'm already using for the company for our digital marketing agency AgileCRM and we love it, but there are some limitations based on the plan that we are in and we really wanted to test other email marketing focused CRMs. So all other tools, in fact, Autopilot is not really a CRM, it's really just more for automated email marketing.

ActiveCampaign is definitely a combination of both... like AgileCRM, it is both a CRM as well as an email marketing automation software. Then, of course, the one we already use called AgileCRM which really has a lot of different features and we really love it for that. 

Note: This blog post was created from the transcription of the video shown above. We recommend that you reference the video in order to understand the concepts we'll be mentioning below.

So in this video, I'm going to be focusing on comparing two main things, the CRM side of things we are actually using the tool for managing your contacts and everything related to basically the sales process for managing contacts but only at the very top level. Then I'm going to be focusing on comparing things for the email marketing automation feature. 

So to be very clear with everyone watching this, there are way too many features in all of this software. I'm not going to be comparing all the features. I'm going to be focusing on marketing automation and a CRM for its basic purpose of getting in touch with people and reminding yourself, what you need to do for them. There are many other things like opportunities or deals and many other things related to the use of a CRM which we're not going to discuss here.

So let's get started. Let me show you here first, how it looks in AgileCRM when you're creating an email marketing automation campaign. So this is how the actual user interface looks like when you want to create a series of flows based on different things that you can do when you're creating a campaign. In this case, this is our campaign for requesting reviews from clients. 

So you begin the campaign, you send an email then it checks whether the email gets opened or not. If it did get open, then we can wait a few days and then we can check whether or not something got clicked and on and on and on. This is how it looks like. It's a pretty nice interface. If I want to open the settings I click on the little Settings button and I can see in this case we're going to be waiting for 8 days in this case. 

Each of these steps is called nodes. Then if I want to go in here and actually edit the email, I can click on this little icon. I can create both the text email and an HTML email. I can actually type in the HTML here or I can click and load to the template without a what-you-see-is-what-you-get editor, which is pretty good. It's going to load actually a very simple editor but from there I'm actually also going to be able to load any of our templates that we already built into the software.

So that's a really great thing which you're going to see that other software doesn't have, so you see right here, this is the what-you-see-is-what-you-get editor. It's pretty simple but we can actually click here on templates and then it will load the list of templates then I will click just the one I want and it will load my template there. 

So that's the pretty good thing because I can actually create the templates first separately and then I can load them in here, which is something you can also do in ActiveCampaign, but it doesn't really work the exact same way. That's why we're going to be comparing these things. 

In any case that's how you edit an actual email here on AgileCRM, then you get to actually put who's it coming from, the subject, if you want to BCC or CC anyone else and some additional settings. In terms of the time zone and if you want to track clicks or not, you can really get very specific into each email so that's pretty good.

Now, let's see how that looks actually in ActiveCampaign. So in ActiveCampaign, this is part of what's called automation and this is what the user interface looks like. You can do a lot of different things as well. In their plans, you can do an unlimited amount of steps and then a limited amount of automation. The limit here for this plan is actually the number of contacts that are included in your account. 

So they start for usually the light version 500 contacts but most of the time for their standard packages, it's minimum a thousand contacts. So for a thousand contacts, you can actually email as much as you want based on either, one time newsletters or campaigns, or through automated email marketing, which is what I'm showing here. 

I just created a few things so that you can see how it looks. It's pretty user-friendly and I like it. We're going to be switching to this shortly and I'm going to tell you soon why, so stay tuned. So this is what the interface looks like and it's very easy also to add steps in between, you click the plus button and then you get to see a lot of different things that you can do. Send emails, send the site message which is like a pop-up, you can now also send SMS or you can notify internal people or other people based on what's happening. 

Then there are conditions and workflow related steps, you can check if this happens and do this, or check this or check that. There's a lot of different tools here that lets you check for actions for example whether somebody opened an email or they clicked on it or didn't click on it. There's like a lot of options, so this is really a great tool to be very detail-oriented for your marketing automation. 

So you can obviously take a trial to see how this looks like. You can add scores to your lead score. You can do a lot of different things based on which type of account or plan you're in. You can also start and add people from one automation into another one or they come out of the automation as well. There's really a lot of things including adding contacts information based on tags, so adding tags, removing tags, unsubscribing them from the list. Really a lot of the things that you really want to do, if you want to automate your sales and marketing. So that's again a brief look into that.

Now let's explore Autopilot; so autopilot is actually a fairly new system. It's based on what is called journeys or creating a set of steps that are going to keep the users through a journey. The user interface is amazing. I really love it. It's super easy to move stuff around. There isn't like a set structure of lines. It's completely flexible and it really is great and it also comes with a set of journey templates or thinks about it as a set of automated email campaign templates. 

So if you wanted to create a whole workflow of emails and then save it as a template, you can do that here on Autopilot. So that's amazing; that's something you cannot do at least, as far as I'm concerned, on AgileCRM or ActiveCampaign. So that's a really great feature. 

In terms of what you can do for adding additional things into the marketing automation here on Autopilot, you can do almost the same on ActiveCampaign and on AgileCRM. You know there are lots of different types of triggers based on information that changes on the field or if people click on these or not, or if they visit a page or not. There is a lot of different triggers in here as well as a lot of different actions. 

So those are pretty similar; both systems like ActiveCampaign, Agile, and Autopilot. They all have integrations with third-party tools, and here Autopilot has specific integrations with Salesforce, Recurly, and segment. So there are a few things in here as well as for sending Slack messages or SMS. In this case here on Autopilot, it's through Trello. 

So now that you've seen this, I want to mention you know how easy or not so easy it is to create the email template or the email messages first before you add them to an email automation campaign. So here we are in AgileCRM and this is the list of email templates, that we've already created and then we use not really just for the marketing automation, but for every day manual follow up with our contacts. 

So that we don't have to be writing manual emails all the time. We just create a lot of templates and that's a really great way to not have to recreate every message for every client. This is something that I actually love about Agile. 

AgileCRM you know it's got the CRM as part of the name and for a good reason. They really have an amazing CRM, which is not going to be the topic of this video but as a CRM, AgileCRM wins 100 percent compared to ActiveCampaign or Autopilot which doesn't even have a CRM. So here is again the list of all these different templates; it was actually kind of hard for me to find the email manager on the active campaign on autopilot. I had to go really look it up and see how it is that you do it, but here on Agile, there is a place where you click on email templates, you see the list of all your templates. 

When you are on ActiveCampaign, you can also see the list of all of your templates as well, but you can only have them in one category, at least in the main template, then you can create subcategories and sort them differently. Not every email message that you use for automation automatically gets saved to a template. So for that, you have to actually do that manually. 

So here for example in this automation, this email that I created, let's click on it here. If I click on the settings, I can actually go in here and save this email as a template so that I can reuse it for other campaigns, but it doesn't get automatically created as a template, but you could, which is a good thing, if you wanted to go to Autopilot and actually go and look at the email manager. There really wasn't the place for me to find it easily. There wasn't the place right here on the menu that said click here for looking at all your email templates. Then what you do here on Autopilot, is you have to click on any of the email nodes to try to edit and then you have to click on manage existing, in this case obviously emails and then you get to see a pop up of all the different emails that you have, but getting to this email manager wasn't so easy to get to, so that wasn't so good. But you basically get a list of all the different emails. So that's fairly simple. 

So now I've shown you the UI of how the actual automated campaigns look like. I showed you now on Agile what the email manager looks like. I've shown you here how it looks on ActiveCampaign as well as how it looks on Autopilot? So for people that are going to be doing a lot of emails as part of their email marketing strategy; managing a huge list of email templates is very important. So that's the reason I'm going through this. So that's kind of its based on the CRM aspect related to email marketing automation.

Now, I'm going to spend some time on ActiveCampaign showing you the CRM part and then on the one on Agile because on Autopilot we don't really have a CRM. So we're going to leave Autopilot for now. It's a great email tool but it doesn't have CRM. So, here we are on ActiveCampaign and if I click on contacts, this is actually a trial that I'm doing an ActiveCampaign, so it doesn't have actually most of our contacts, it's going to have only a very limited amount of contacts. 

While that loads, I'm going to load the same here on AgileCRM to show you what the list of contacts looks like. Now, that we finally have the actual pages loaded. So this is what it looks like when you're looking at contact information inside ActiveCampaign. You can see their main information, then you can go down here to look at the tasks, notes or any emails related to that contact. 

If you click here to send email, it opens up a little compose area for you to actually create a manual email, here it comes with your signatures. The only thing right now with ActiveCampaign, for example, you're not able to choose to send a single email with one of the existing templates. So that's not a feature that they have. It's kind of a bummer because I was hoping to really use ActiveCampaign for more than just email marketing. So I am not really able to send a single email by choosing to use a template. I have to actually type the email one by one. 

But, if I am here on Agile, I can click on the email and then I can load a template but before I do that I'm going to show you, here you can see a timeline of everything that's happening related to that contact. It pulls all the information from Gmail in this case, because I've been using Gmail for this CRM and then there are many other things that you can see for the contact which I will not show here. 

On ActiveCampaign you can also see the timeline here on the right side, everything that's happening you can also see it here; but, the CRM really is much more basic on ActiveCampaign compared to AgileCRM. So we will not leave Agile for our CRM purposes, it's really great. So I'm going to show you when I click the email of the contact, then I'm going to get to the area where I can actually send a single email, but the beauty of this is that yes, I can choose to send an email based on a template. 

So, when I click here, select the template I will be able to see the entire list of all the templates that I have which is great. So I simply get to choose an email, then it will load the information and once it loads I just got to click send, so it's pretty easy.

So to try to keep this video short. I'm going to then move on really quickly now to the pricing differences between these three systems. So AgileCRM starts at free forever for ten users, but a very limited set of features, but if you really want to start paying, you can actually afford it for $9.99 a month per user, if you buy for one year which is what we're on. We have three users at ten dollars a user. We're paying 30 bucks a month which is great and you get to start 10,000 contacts which are amazing and, you get pretty much all the features or all the really most important features of AgileCRM for a very affordable price and that's great. 

But, if you go down here and you're really focusing on the email marketing part of it, which they call campaign workflows, you're only limited to five which is very bad because if you want to do proper email marketing automation, five is not enough. Then for each of these five, you only have ten nodes or ten steps that you can create and that's really bad. Because for example here or earlier when I was showing you the marketing flow inside AgileCRM, I was limited to ten steps and that's it. Unless of course, I upgrade to a different version or I can transfer one of the nodes to a new campaign out of the five; but still very limiting which is why we cannot continue to use Agile for email marketing purposes unless of course, we decide to upgrade. 

But for this specific case, it's not going to be worth it for us to jump from ten bucks a month to either thirty bucks a month per user or fifty bucks. So for that reason, we're going to show you the actual pricing model of ActiveCampaign. 

ActiveCampaign doesn't charge per user, instead, it charges per contact which is a different business model but here for 1,000 contacts, you get to pay $50dlls but you have unlimited sending and unlimited marketing automation which is great. That means you can send as many emails or make your automation as long as you want, without having any limitation, but you can only send it to a thousand people which is more than enough especially if you're getting started. 

As you grow your list then, of course, the price grows with you but that makes total sense and is totally fair. In this case for the lite version you get up to three users and then the plus version, you get up to 25 users. We're going to be actually using a combination of both AgileCRM because it's a great CRM as well as ActiveCampaign for email marketing automation. 

Autopilot starts actually at twenty bucks a month, which is great for a thousand contacts. So price wise, of course, Autopilot is amazing twenty dollars a month for a thousand contacts as opposed to 50 bucks on ActiveCampaign. The reason we did not go forward with Autopilot is that it lacks the feature called tags. So there's no way to tag people on Autopilot and because our tags are a great way to filter people inside of CRM and marketing automation software, we decided not to go with Autopilot but ActiveCampaign and AgileCRM they both use a tagging system. So it's really great that they are both very similar. So through Zapier, we're going to be connecting ActiveCampaign with AgileCRM, we actually already have the integration ready. That's pretty much it. 

So to summarize it, AgileCRM is a great CRM and it's also a great all-around software for marketing sales on automation, but based on the price, you get a very limited amount of emails for a campaign. So if you want to do a really complex email marketing campaign, you should definitely consider either ActiveCampaign or Autopilot. In this case, we're deciding to stick with two systems, AgileCRM and ActiveCampaign.

That's it for now, hope you guys learned a few things and this comparison was helpful. Thank you so much for joining Marketing Fridays, I'm Jaime from Bloominari, I'll see you next time. 

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Jaime Nacach

Marketing Strategist

I love helping small businesses with their digital marketing and business strategy. I'm a young man with a passion in entrepreneurship and international experience in business development, marketing, sales, and web/graphic design. 

Find me on: Team Page | LinkedIn | Google+Personal Website

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