A powerful email marketing service and CRM, conveniently packaged together in the one tool?
That’s been one of ActiveCampaign’s key selling points, ever since the marketing automation provider launched its CRM feature in 2014.
But how is it different to any other all-in-one email marketing and CRM tool in the market?
Well, for one thing, most of these tools are a CRM first, with email marketing tacked on to the main offering.
And as you can imagine, they don’t always give the same amount of love to their email marketing product as they do to their CRM.
ActiveCampaign’s main focus is email marketing – something it does impressively well. Their CRM was designed to complement this. They wanted to offer a simple way to automate the back-and-forth between marketing and sales when managing opportunities. And, when compared to some of the better-known CRM giants, their pricing makes them a very attractive option for small-to-medium sized businesses.
Want to know if it could work for your business? To help you find out, we tested it out on ActiveCampaign’s Plus plan (ActiveCampaign CRM is available on all plans except their Lite plan).
Read on to find out the six key things we learned about ActiveCampaign CRM (plus an extra one at the end), to help you make the right decision.
CRMs are often overly complicated. They can be crammed with unnecessary features and sometimes even require entire training courses to be able to master.
Refreshingly, with ActiveCampaign CRM, this isn’t the case.
ActiveCampaign CRM is a tool that really simplifies the process of deal management. In fact, the whole CRM is organized around the concept of being able to create, edit and progress deals – which is probably why they refer to it as the ‘Deals CRM’.
Anyone familiar with Trello will be able to quickly get their head around ActiveCampaign CRM’s card-based pipelines, where deals can be easily moved from stage to stage with a simple drag and drop.
Deals are easy to create and associate with pipelines and stages, with your standard fields for description, value, stage, contact details, and assigned deal owner.
Stages are fully customizable, so you can create as many as you’d like to match your existing sales process. If you have multiple sales processes (e.g. for each product or service you sell), you can also create a pipeline for each of these.
Overall, there’s a good amount of flexibility baked into the product – enough to accommodate businesses with both simple and more complex sales processes.
If you’ve ever used Salesforce, you’d probably know how confusing it can be. For example, why are there different sections for opportunities, leads, contacts, and accounts – and what’s the difference between them anyway??
For larger businesses who receive plenty of enquiries, making these distinctions might be important. But if you’re a small-to-medium businesses, you probably don’t need to sweat whether someone is a lead or a contact. In fact, all you need is a quick and easy way to be able to view and manage all your active opportunities.
Here’s where ActiveCampaign’s simple approach really stands out. The concept of leads and accounts doesn’t really exist within the tool. Everyone is a contact, and anything to do with a deal/opportunity – whether it’s the deal itself, or the contact(s) associated with that deal – is all managed from the one place.
And that’s within the deal record, which you can easily access from your within your pipeline.
Everything to do with a deal is managed here – in the deal record
As with other CRMs like Salesforce, you have the option to perform different actions on each deal – add tasks, notes, and send email. Whenever you perform any of these actions, they get logged to that deal, so you can keep track of what’s been done and what’s outstanding.
By decluttering the tool and removing any potential sources of confusion, ActiveCampaign helps businesses focus on what’s really important – getting sales and marketing to work together to progress deals.
It’s exactly what you’d hope for from a tool that offers both email marketing and CRM under the one roof. ActiveCampaign’s marketing automations are some of the most advanced out there for the SMB market, and it’s a huge plus that these can be tightly integrated with your sales processes.
How, exactly? Let’s take this example: your business sells website design services, and you have a form on your site that lets visitors request a quote.
You have an autoresponder set up to let the prospect know you’ll be in touch soon, but you also want anyone who submits the form to enter your pipeline as a deal – and specifically, at the ‘Inquiry’ stage.
ActiveCampaign has no trouble setting up this kind of automation. In fact, it gives you a couple of options for doing this.
Here’s the easy one, allowing you to set up follow-on actions when you create a form:
And, of course, you can set it up as an automated workflow:
But it doesn’t stop there. The automations go both ways – from marketing to sales, and back from sales to marketing.
Say I want to set up a marketing automation for when a contact has reached the ‘Quote sent’ stage, a little further down the pipeline.
The process assumes that the quote has already been sent by email (via another ActiveCampaign automation). My automation should check whether the contact has responded after 1 day. If they haven’t, the automation should send a follow-up email, asking if they need more information.
Once again, that’s pretty straightforward to set up:
Remember those deal tasks/notes/emails I showed you earlier? You can also use these to enter a contact into an automation. So, once you mark one of these as complete, you can program these to trigger entry into an automation.
Let’s say I want to add someone to the same follow-up automation as above, but this time I want to add them as soon as I’ve sent the proposal. That can be done as an automated action by clicking ‘Automate this email’ below, and then choosing the automation I want to enter them into.
As you can see, the integration between sales and marketing is really designed to be seamless. It’s something that a lot of tools make difficult, but I think ActiveCampaign have done a really nice job here by giving you lots of simple, easy-to-manoeuvre options.
This feature isn’t unique to ActiveCampaign CRM, but it’s an absolutely killer one to have. You can connect existing email accounts (Gmail, Outlook etc) to ActiveCampaign, so that any emails between your team members and your deal’s contacts will automatically show up on the deal’s record.
This is obviously handy for keeping an eye on where deals are at, and even for transferring knowledge if deals need to get re-assigned.
But the integrations don’t stop there. ActiveCampaign also allows you to sync calendar tasks from Google Calendar, Outlook and Apple Calendar, so that they also show up within your CRM. This shows up as a calendar feed which can also be synced back to your calendar tool, ensuring that you get the same view in both.
ActiveCampaign is one of the few tools we’ve reviewed to offer lead/contact scoring (a feature you usually only see with enterprise-level software). These can be set up via rules or automations, and let you assign scores to contacts based on their demographic, or actions they take (e.g. page views, email opens, email clicks).
Contact scores are useful earlier on in the sales process (that is, before a deal is created), to help you flush out individual contacts who have a higher chance of converting into opportunities.
But what about for later in the process, once you have an active deal in the pipeline? For this, ActiveCampaign offers deal scoring.
Similar to contact scoring, deal scoring also assigns scores to contacts based on characteristics or actions – but this time, it does so only to contacts linked to open deals.
This can help sales teams identify deals more likely to close, and allocate resources accordingly.
Everything sounds pretty good so far – but there is one thing I think ActiveCampaign could improve.
ActiveCampaign CRM offers a handful of useful reports and dashboard views, all accessible from the main reporting section in the tool.
The overview (similar to a dashboard view) gives you deals over time, and total deals by value bracket – each of which can be filtered by pipeline, owner, status, date etc. You also get funnel overviews, and deals by owner reports.
But you really miss out on the level of customization or granularity that you’d get with CRMs like Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics. It’s not possible to export your list of deals from the tool, either (you’d need to set up an API call for that).
So, if having easy access to these kinds of reports is important, you might find ActiveCampaign a little limiting.
While I tested out ActiveCampaign on their Plus plan, it’s worth noting that the Professional and Enterprise plans offer extra features, such as win probability and attribution. I wasn’t able to test these features out, however, you can learn more about how win probability works here.
ActiveCampaign is an email marketing tool first, and a CRM second. But does that mean it’s right for you?
My answer would be yes – but only if:
While it might not be as advanced as some of the other specialized (and more well-known) CRMs in terms of reporting, it has a few really strong points: slick automations, seamless integration of sales and marketing tasks and an unmatched email deliverability. So if that’s something that you think could really benefit your business, it’s definitely worth a try.