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My Business Problem
Does this sound like your small business problem?
We had a wealth of contacts feeding into the pipeline from a variety of marketing sources. An extensive newsletter list was housed on one site, and a list of past customers in another.
Prospects feeding into a third database made communicating messages about new products and services a lumbering, time-consuming, soul-sucking manual process.
Losing track of leads and missing sales opportunities were the reasons I explored customer relationship management (CRM) software. With so many choices today, it’s hard to know which will best meet any set of needs.
I knew we wanted a cloud-based system we could access from any of our computers or mobile devices. We needed a system that could manage the inflows from the various sources of leads, and one that could generate marketing messages without duplication of effort and lost time. My primary software at the time was Clickfunnels (also reviewed here) which didn’t quite have these capabilities yet.
You can find my review on how these companies compare on my Infusionsoft vs Clickfunnels page if you are split between the two.
Infusionsoft seemed to have the flexibility we wanted. The other side of that is making the right choices to set up your business. That is a multi-step process, further complicated by my lack of patience in learning new technology.
But – we needed to get a better handle on the sales we were losing.
Once we broke through the complexity and set things up to meet our needs, Infusionsoft improved business flows in sending emails, picking up dropped leads, and turning the process that could work 24/7/365 without human intervention. All in all, this translated into better customer relations, with the added benefit of an automated process to run it. As Warren Buffet said –
“If you don’t find a way to make money while you sleep, you will work until you die.”
We aimed for greater efficiencies and higher productivity, and to accomplish this, we worked through almost every facet of this software’s capabilities. It was a trial and error training effort, with constant questions to Infusionsoft to figure things out. Their customer support folks must hate seeing my name come up on the screen!
I have the image below taped to my desk and I think it really applies to Infusionsoft – show patience and some grit and you will be richly rewarded!
Read on to see what we’ve learned about the software’s capabilities.
The Odd Buying Process
The first step in testing the software logically would be to buy the lowest price (fewest features) package. For example, I was willing the try the basic starter package, $80 per month for up to 500 contacts. (As I write this, Infusionsoft is running a special, discounting the first three months at 20% off for all levels right now.) It wouldn’t meet all our needs, but we could automate the more cumbersome and out of control parts of our processes.
Unfortunately, Infusionsoft doesn’t let you sign up for service outright. You must register for a demo and speak with a sales representative who goes through the various features. Through this, I learned that the basic package wouldn’t do what we wanted, since it lacked sales pipeline automation and e-commerce features.
To meet the needs of managing our entire database (over 6,000), I ultimately chose a higher level of contacts package, allowing us to load our full databases of leads and send out a volume of emails each month, plus sales messaging would be automated.
Sales automation and e-commerce are add-on features, though, further pushing up the monthly fee. The current discounted price for these add-ons is $41 each across all levels of contacts (usually $59 each). (You can see how the monthly rate can vary, based on the number of contacts you want to maintain, and the add-ons like sales automation and e-commerce you choose to purchase.)
I will also note that one of the reasons I picked Infusionsoft was its reputation for being easy to understand. Activities such as setting up new contacts and managing their information were thought to be intuitive in many of the reviews I read.
That might be the case for some users, but my kind of intuitive didn’t always integrate well with how the system works. Training has been very important as a result. The system seems to be simple enough for a business like ours expanding from small to growing customer management, but it doesn’t have as many features as the single function packages.
Clearly, it’s best to think about this CRM system as a business investment, not just a software package. Getting back to the complexity for a moment, Infusionsoft makes the case that, with so many bells and whistles in its system, their customers wouldn’t use the system fully or well and would become frustrated without guidance. They offer a mandatory Kickstart program, where a trainer/consultant works with you to show you how to set up the features and learn the tools.
Initially, this seemed like double-dipping. After all, we were paying a steep monthly fee already. Maybe they heard my frustration, because they’ve now discounted that fee to $299 (on sale from $1,999). I found it to be well worth the investment to learn how to use the software. The trainers are good, you learn more quickly, and you understand the nuances of what the system can do that you might miss otherwise.
If your business needs are more complicated, meaning you want to launch not only email campaigns but an e-commerce webpage and a robust sales pipeline strategy, there’s a Kickstart Pro program for that too. For $1,999 (currently a thousand dollars off the regular price), you work with a pro level trainer to set up your system and learn how to use it. The trainer will also integrate applications you buy from the Marketplace, the home for add-ons by outside designers, into your package.
It’s important to note that Kickstart does not mean they set things up for you, like take your processes and present you with the fully loaded product. They show YOU how to do it. But it does save time and energy in trying to figure it out on your own and making mistakes you then must spend resources undoing.
When I made our choice, I was reliant on outside reviews that were often in conflict, and demonstrations by biased sales people were the only ways to learn about the software. It was hard to test drive the software around the block and kick the tires before buying.
Since I started to develop this website however, Infusionsoft have changed their policy. A free 14-day trial period, brand new as of January 2018, is available and has never been offered before.
A free trial is great, it gives a look under the software’s cover – something I didn’t have starting out.
There are caveats however.
Simply, there is no possible way a person can test the many features of this software in two weeks of use. This free trial also does not give you access to the eCommerce feature and only provides very limited functionality for the sales pipeline feature.
You might miss valuable components, or you might think it doesn’t do something it actually does. But two weeks does give you a general feel for some of what Infusionsoft can do.
By all means, use the free trial to get a feel but remember..
You will be working with limited features and no crucial Kickstart training so be wary of making final decisions without all the info at hand.
Is The Price Worth It?
If your company wants to integrate your customer relationship management functions, like lead tracking and sales follow-ups, with its email marketing efforts, Infusionsoft could be the way to go.
It was for us.
If you are starting out however and are just looking to drive online sales, i would be considering more focused marketing funnel platforms like Clickfunnels which I also use in my businesses.
Other CRM packages offered the customer side, or the email functions, but not both. And others weren’t tailored to small business users trying to harness control over their marketing activities.
Previously, leads coming into our databases for various services or products would load into separate mail lists. When we wanted to send a message about new products or remind people about an upcoming event, there was no easy way to get the message to everyone without combining the lists (a manual process), or sending multiple messages, one to each list (also manual).
We also kept various other systems to track sales and marketing activities. None of these ‘talked’ to each other. People appeared in multiple places. No structure to when information was posted to one tracker or another meant follow-ups fell through, losing potential clients, or multiple messaging went out, confusing or annoying them.
Our small business had grown past the point where distributed trackers for leads and sales were going to be effective.
I wasn’t crazy about the price tag, but as we’ve been using Infusionsoft, the value has become clear. Where we previously had the same people listed in multiple databases, meaning they were receiving the same message multiple times, we now have a single place to look at everything we’ve done with a single contact. Infusionsoft checks for duplicates and merges records.
The system now makes it easy for me to queue up one email, sending it to everyone who meets the criteria for that marketing message. This software also includes tailored responses, autoresponders and reminders based on how and where the lead entered the pipeline.
Automating what were previously manual processes means customers aren’t getting lost in our weeds and tracked sales activities makes following up a lot less painful and cost effective. Overall, the market automation is working well for us.
Can I quantify the benefits as compared to the costs? Not yet, but we aren’t losing track of leads, meaning our sales efforts yield greater results. We’re saving time, probably as much as a day a week for me and time for my other employees too, because we’re no longer hunting in multiple places to find an answer to a single client question. And our customers are delighted with the timelier and more appropriate communications.
In short, Infusionsoft is expensive because it does so much. Current packaged Infusionsoft service levels go up to 50,000 contacts (individual records), though you can request more. Prices are set based on the size database you want and the add-ons you purchase.
There are plenty of great points about Infusionsoft. Our return on investment scratches the surface because we’re always exploring, learning and pushing the envelope of what the system can do.
We have broke down the important benefits below:
Sales automation is a high-end feature I thought would be constraining but now love. While every contact lives in the same database, they can be segregated based on interest, like a specific training program. If they’ve attended an event in the past, we can notify them of a new offering with a single campaign (series of activities). The widgets representing the various actions in a campaign are easy to understand and drag-and-drop into place in a workflow.
We have a style adopted for our brand, one that resonates with our audience. We were able to use the templates and campaign builder features to generate that look to use with our messaging.
Similarly, follow-up letters and other types of communications can be designed easily and saved as unique templates. There’s even a YouTube link feature which I love since I make short videos to embed in our newsletter and emails.
Email broadcasts are easy to put together. Infusionsoft includes templates with drag-and-drop flexibility to make designing a message a breeze. Each contact record includes an activity history, which means we can set triggers for follow-up messages or lists of calls for the marketing staff based on criteria our company designs.
While we bought the e-commerce package, we’ve yet to fully implement the storefront and shopping cart functions. We understand from the user community that it isn’t as robust or flexible as other shopping cart systems, but at least it’s integrated.
Another feature we’re just digging into is the analytics capability. When the same campaign goes out to people who might have found us from different sources, we can now see if there’s a difference in the open rates on emails depending on the group or segment. We hope to learn how many convert regularly to sales with the same ease.
Tags and Categories
Infusionsoft offers a tag and category structure for contacts. You can set up activities (tags) that clients will move through in a workflow (campaign), from initial contact to live prospect to sale. As we complete a tag with a client, it’s marked in their record with a date when it’s done. Our autoresponder emails can be sent out based on when the tag is completed.
We can also group clients in categories. Clients that come to us from a conference might need different outreach activities (tags within campaigns) than those who only belong to our newsletter list. Email messages (broadcasts) can be sent to specific tags or categories.
The Lead Score feature for contacts has proven to be a fun new tool. Before, we couldn’t always cross-reference the same contact on multiple lists. Chaos!
Now, we apply a score (scale of one to five ‘flames’) in the integrated database for those individuals based on their prior expressed interest in another program or other feedback.
When contacts reach a specific Lead Score, we can send them an assessment, which in turn generates a follow-up message specific to their responses and interest. Setting those trigger points in a way that makes sense for your business is an important factor to consider in the learning curve about the software.
‘My Day’ Dashboard
Another tool intended to keep users focused on what they need to do is the dashboard called ‘My Day’. It offers a single place to look at what needs to be accomplished, like calls to follow up on sales, reminders about creating marketing campaigns and nudges if a client hasn’t been contacted in a while. It is customizable within a reasonable range of options. If it only blocked the time for activities in my calendar, it would be a true game changer!
The system offers everything in one place, meaning we’re not jumping between systems to make sure we’ve sent the right emails to the right clients, and offered the newest products to the people most likely to buy them. Gone is the need for elaborate checklists and flowcharts to make sure we didn’t miss a crucial step, and I don’t think anyone is sorry to see them go. This saves us time as well as earning us revenue that used to slip through our fingers.
Infusionsoft offers a mobile app on IOS and Android, which admittedly, we’re not yet using. However, we’re attracted to how well this could be used by our virtual sales force as they meet prospects at events and in the field. Being able to call and text key contacts quickly and easily from the app will work well for our interactive team. Again in our comparison with our original platform, Clickfunnels, these kind of next level features were missing.
Because Infusionsoft is being used by so many small businesses, the user community is a terrific resource. We’re finding others might have tried a trick we’re thinking about, and we can learn from what they share. Regular events and supplemental training bring users together, where we pick up tips and meet others who have found innovative ways to make their customer process more effective. There are also very informative Facebook groups which are free to join.
For us, the pros have outweighed the cons, but they are still important to note.
First and foremost, you cannot ignore the price of the package. While it is intended for small businesses, many if not most are managing databases much larger than 500 contacts. Having a newsletter list of any volume would force a user to buy a pricier level of service. That price point probably scares off businesses who would benefit from this CRM.
Secondly, this system isn’t something you can pick up in a weekend or even a couple of weeks. That investment in time and effort might scare some people off and frustrate others.
I know I wish we could have gotten to “the good stuff” faster. Infusionsoft is complex – but then, it does a lot too. Some serenity is definitely required early on!
Confusion Defining Tags and Categories
Tags and categories can be confusing. Before we set up a new broadcast (email) or campaign (workflow), we needed to think through how a client moves through our processes and what we want to have happen as they do. How each activity is triggered, by Lead Score or by tag or category, can make things complicated.
In some cases, multiple triggers require the same email message. Sometimes we still duplicate what we do because of the narrow ways tags and categories work. Of course, we had nothing like this with manual processes, meaning we lost clients through the cracks in our systems. Spend time with your Kickstart coach understanding tags and categories and how to make them work for you and not against you.
Canned Layouts and Reporting
While that tag and category features will probably suit many small businesses in terms of managing contact information, some may find it to be too basic. This software isn’t designed to be as intricate or as flexible in contact fields if you’ve worked with advanced CRMs before. Even if you don’t use them, the fields still appear in the contact manager.
Probably because you can’t hide fields you aren’t using, reporting is also more canned than many would hope for. It would be nice to be able to point and click for the fields you want in a report. Again, many standalone email marketing systems have more detailed reporting metrics and are easier to use.
While the number of already-included templates is constantly growing and in a pinch, a user can create their own, there are some limitations in style and design for outgoing messaging for the more sophisticated user. Email marketing features are not as robust or as user-friendly as systems designed with this alone in mind.
Take Clickfunnels as a competitor – they have numerous tried and tested templates for their sales pages and funnels which suit all types of marketing campaigns like webinar promotions and lead gathering. You can read more about how these two software platforms compare on our Infusionsoft vs Clickfunnels page.
An example of this with email is sending out comparative messaging and seeing how each will perform. You can segregate your lists with a tag or category and send each group a different message, then look at conversion rates. This workaround takes multiple steps, though, and you might not be able to easily divide your contacts into comparable groups based on how your tags and categories are set up.
Lots of Clicks
Another complaint I’ve heard from our staff is that it seems to take a lot of clicks to get through a function in the system. For example, importing contacts takes a few clicks. Getting to the point of creating an email draft also takes a few clicks. But hey, no system is perfect!
The additional costs might not end with your decision about sales automation and e-commerce. Other add-ons are available through the Marketplace from outside designers. Some of these might be necessary to run integration with your WordPress site, for example.
Infusionsoft customer support and staff try their best to find no-cost solutions for your needs. However, they also offer to build something unique for you – at a price, of course – if the system doesn’t already have a capability that’s critical to your business.
Is Infusionsoft for You?
Any time you incorporate a software system into your business, there’s a cost. That price isn’t for the software alone, but the conversion time, learning effort, and unavoidable delays or problems in your business when you get something wrong. The more complex the system based on your level of technology savvy, the greater the upfront implementation cost.
That’s why it’s important to make sure you really need a CRM system before you implement it, and in the case of Infusionsoft, make sure you need the sales automation and integrated email marketing capabilities too. Then dedicate the time to learning it up front, so you won’t make mistakes once you have things up and running.
What happens when we get in trouble? We call customer service. Those people work hard to figure out what’s gone wrong with the system or how we’re using it. They get us back on track. I wish all customer service was so easy to work with!
A hidden benefit I haven’t mentioned elsewhere is that automating our sales and marketing in a single system used by everyone in our company has meant we do not need to hire as many administrative staff to monitor things. The people we have on board get to do more enjoyable, fun tasks that have a direct impact on our company’s sales success.
Infusionsoft simplified our business systems and helped us hold on to those hard-won leads. No small business can afford to lose a sale in this competitive age, and using Infusionsoft means the difficult parts, tracking and monitoring and reminding, is now automated. We don’t have to pick through multiple systems to figure out what’s most important in our client contacts that day. Our system reminds us, letting us focus on generating emails that convert opens into click-throughs and talking with contacts to convert them from leads to clients.
Infusionsoft is what it says it is, an integrated system of customer relationship management, marketing and sales automation, and e-commerce functions. Its user market is small businesses, perhaps best suited to those who have yet to leap fully committed into automated email marketing and sale management. If you’re ready to take that leap, though, it might be the package for you.
If you need more help choosing visit our decision page for a concise summary or just leave me a message in the box below!
Of course Infusionsoft might not be right for you at all.
Maybe you have a small enterprise with a fledgling client base and you would benefit more from just driving sales rather than a technical CRM system.
Our Clickfunnels review could be helpful in this case as this is the software that drove my early sales before i knew what Infusionsoft was!