Marketing automation previewAn In-Depth QA with a Client After a Year of Use

SharpSpring is a complete sales and marketing automation platform that is very powerful, user friendly, and affordable for any organization. We recently became a reseller of the SharpSpring platform, which allows us to sell it at a discounted rate and provide our clients custom support as needed.

Our first client actually had a great deal of experience with a number of similar tools and has managed his installation himself. So after his first year of using the tool, we asked him for an honest evaluation. Did SharpSpring meeting his needs? Did it compare well with other tools he had used? How could it be improved? Here is the summary of that conversation.

What is your experience with sales and marketing automation platforms on the market?

I have used all of the “big hitters” when it comes to sales and marketing automation platforms: HubSpot, Pardot, and Marketo. Those are probably the three biggest, and I’ve had extensive experience with all three of them. They each have their benefits and downfalls.

HubSpot is good because it’s a full-fledged CRM (customer relationship management) tool with a content management system built in, and it offers automation platform elements. Your email service provider and all of the automation that comes with that integration.

Pardot is the automation side of Salesforce. When you get Salesforce, you get Pardot. It’s equally powerful, but only when you’re using it for Salesforce.

Marketo is probably the closest to what SharpSpring offers in that it’s a landing page builder, lead management tool, marketing automation system that you plug into your existing website to track visits and nurture leads and then follow up to engage with them. Marketo is one of the industry leaders, so I think it is good to compare SharpSpring to it.

When I first saw SharpSpring, I was coming off of using Marketo for about four years, I noticed really quickly that the back end is much different from Marketo, which was something that really intrigued me. Marketo, like a lot of digital tools, looks very cool up front, but on the back end is very complicated. There’s a lot of detailed processes you have to go through to get certain things done. So it’s very difficult to bring somebody else alongside of you and say, “Hey, can you help me build this landing page?” or “Can you help me set up this funnel for leads?” if they don’t have extensive training in Marketo beforehand.

What piqued your interest into making the move to SharpSpring?

Right off the bat, I saw that SharpSpring has a much more user-friendly and a lot more intuitive database. They spent a lot of time on the user interface design, so you can go in and make changes fairly easily and build things really quickly. But then also, I can take somebody who knows almost nothing about SharpSpring and within probably five to six minutes, I can show them exactly how to do what it is that they need to do and how to accomplish it.

After using the SharpSpring sales and marketing automation platform for a year, what are you noticing?

Innovation

When you look at the competition, the only one that is constantly evolving is Hubspot. Pardot and Marketo both kind of stay the way they are. The add-ins that they have are never anything really spectacular, whereas the add-ins that SharpSpring continue to evolve. Like they just added a chatbot feature a few months ago, so now it’s really simple to incorporate a chatbot on your site and really flexible. With Marketo, you have to purchase an app or an add-in from a third party to bring that in. But now SharpSpring has that natively within it, and it does everything from chatting… you can set up auto-respond messages. The big part is you can also determine the exact cut-off point for when it goes to a live person. That’s really helpful.

Easy Lead Scoring

One of the things I also noticed with SharpSpring is the lead scoring capability is a lot easier to set up than it is with Marketo. It’s on one single page. It’s really easy. First of all, it gives you what it thinks should be your base model. For instance, 15 points for filling out a form, three points for visiting a landing page, five points for visiting a key landing page, and maybe three points for coming to the site from an email… something like that. Their base model of points was good enough that I didn’t have to adjust it very often.

Whereas Marketo almost gives you like a blank slate. They do some point attribution, but not a whole lot. You kind of have to build it from the ground up. I think they would call that a “feature” because then you get to customize it for your specific organization. But for me, I would rather take something that is almost completely done, just turn the knobs a little bit, tweak it here and there, and get it exactly the way that I want it.”

Automated Follow-Ups

Another thing that is really helpful is how you set up the process for someone to be followed up with after they take a certain action. It is much simpler than on any of the other big industry automation tools. So, for example, when somebody fills out a form, I want an email to come to them that says, “Thank you for filling out the form. Be sure to check out this section of our site.” And then two days later, I have another email going to them that just kind of follows up with them. Based on the action they take on that follow-up email, I have one of two other emails that go to them.

With SharpSpring, it’s literally just a drag-and-drop feature. You build all of the emails first, and then you just drag them into a nice little page where you’re dropping them in. Then you hit a little plus sign to say, “I want two days to elapse” or “I want four days to elapse.” Or instead of wanting days to elapse, I want a trigger to happen. And that trigger is they have to click this link or they have to take this action, and then I want them to get this email.

It was really easy to get set up. It’s a little different automation in that way. That’s one of the key benefits of using a marketing automation tool is that it’s doing all of that work for you.

Personas

Personas is another really huge one; you can set those up. In Marketo and Pardot; it’s pretty difficult.

SharpSpring has a Personas page. Right off the bat, it has a wide array of Avatars for you to select and prebuilt templates for really simply adding things like what kind of salary range would this kind of person have, here’s the description for this kind of person… (We have five personas on the back end of our website.) SharpSpring makes it really easy to then pull those into a dropdown to where one of two options can happen: (1) Somebody can fill out a form, and then there’s a dropdown to where they can self-identify as a certain persona, or (2) I can very easily go into my Contact Manager, which is where all the leads that are in queue in SharpSpring, and I can assign them to a certain persona. That makes it very easy.

After playing with SharpSpring for a little bit, it very quickly became clear that it’s leaps and bounds above what I was able to do in Marketo in the same amount of time.

Landing Pages

Another nice feature is that the SharpSpring landing page builder is very, very easy to use. I’ve really enjoyed doing that. HubSpot also had a really nice landing page maker. Marketo is a nightmare to build landing pages with. It feels like you are constrained around every single corner.

SharpSpring has really nice landing page templates that you can use. There are just a lot of features and functionality to make it look really nice and drive people to a really nice-looking page from a specific campaign and then track them.

Are there any downsides to the SharpSpring sales and marketing automation platform?

I would say one of the downsides of SharpSpring probably is that its email builder is not very comprehensive. It’s more than enough for an average-size company or maybe even a big organization. But if you’re wanting to send out very specifically customized emails that are highly designed, you’re going to probably build them in another tool and bring those into SharpSpring.

But all that to say, they have plenty of templates; lots of drag-and-drop features, buttons, text boxes, and ways you can drop images. The SharpSpring email builder has been more than sufficient for us. I think even as we scale upward, it’s going to stay fine. But we may eventually have to find a supplement for that. But it is still on par with MailChimp or Constant Contact with its email capability.

What about integration with other tools?

It is nice that Zappier integrates with SharpSpring.

SharpSpring also has an open API, so you can tie it in with anything that’s also open as long as you have someone who knows how to code.

Because they have the Zappier integration, it’s very easy. We have a donor tracking tool, NeonCRM. It’s very simple to go to Zappier and integrate the fields I want to integrate between NeonCRM and SharpSpring.

Many of those other tools don’t have that; none of the big ones—Marketo and all of those don’t have that. But it’s really easy to tie in SharpSpring to integrate it not just with our website, but also other tools. It’s very simple.

An open API is a big deal—to be able tie it into whatever you want as long as the thing you’re tying it into also has an open API.

How would you compare SharpSpring with competing sales and marketing automation platforms in terms of pricing?

SharpSpring is the least expensive of all of the automated sales and marketing automation platforms I have have used.

When I was working with Hubspot’s Enterprise package, it was close to $50,000 per year. For Marketo, it was around $22,000 per year. We were pretty maxed out on what Marketo could do, so we might have been close to the higher tier. So compare that to what we are now paying for SharpSpring, which is less than $8,000 a year because of the reduced pricing the partnership with Left Brain Media gives us. The benefits far outweigh Marketo. There’s really no comparison as far as price.

What types of organizations would benefit from SharpSpring the most?

Every organization could benefit from SharpSpring. The organization that I just came from had a major multimillion-dollar revenue every year. They were using Marketo. If I were to have seen SharpSpring when I was there, I would have immediately abandoned Marketo and plugged in SharpSpring.

I think a lot of bigger organizations would really benefit from SharpSpring, but they are getting drowned out by big marketing budgets. Hubspot has several of its own conferences.Marketo has the Marketo Summit every year. So they have not just tons of advertising, but they have tons of people partnering with them to learn and grow in marketing automation and digital marketing. SharpSpring doesn’t have that kind of hold yet. And Pardot is tied to Salesforce, which is the biggest sales tool on the planet. So every single one of SharpSpring’s competitors has some big marketing efforts that SharpSpring just doesn’t have.

I can also see like a startup that has four or five employees; somebody that’s being handed the marketing duties who isn’t really a marketing person. They’ll benefit from SharpSpring too.

Any closing thoughts?

SharpSpring has been a great tool. I’ve really enjoyed it. I would certainly be able to do my job without it, as I have before.

Conclusion

So you can see from this candid interview, we are really psyched about how great of a tool SharpSpring is for our first client in this arena. Based on this success, we are looking to expand our sales of this tool and build this part of our business.

So why partner with Left Brain Media?

The first reason is that we can give you lower pricing than if you buy directly from SharpSpring. SharpSpring knows having an integration partner who helps clients as needed and gets the word out is a great way to compete with the players in the market that have much more expensive tools and millions to spend on marketing. They would rather get organizations like ours working to sale their tool, and have made discount pricing available to us. There are no strings attached for this pricing.

The second reason is optional additional support. You can still do all of the set-up and maintenance work yourself if you like, and you will only be charged the monthly reduced cost fee. But if you need a helping hand on anything, you can reach out to us for support on an hourly basis. You still receive all of the built-in training and support from SharpSpring that is included in the package you choose.

There is really no downside. Just the bonus of reduced pricing and a helping hand if you need it. Contact us today so we can set you up with a full demo of SharpSpring and give you a quote on custom pricing based on your needs. We think you will be just as impressed as others have been.

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