Categories
Systems & Tools

How to Choose An Email Marketing & CRM Platform

In order to conduct email marketing, you need an email marketing platform used to collect and nurture legitimate leads (following GDPR and CANSPAM regulations).  You then conduct email campaigns to the leads on your list.

Depending on your budget and needs, there are a number of platforms that vary in sophistication and features from the most basic to “all in one” solutions that include lead generation, marketing automation, nurturing and sales all together in one platform.

At the minimum, you’ll want to ensure your platform of choice allows:

  • double opt-in or confirmed optins – Have you ever opted into to a list and then gotten an email, “please confirm your email”?  That’s exactly what confirmed opt-in is.

    This best practice is recommended as part of email list hygiene to ensure that the lead absolutely intended on signing up for your list.  You’ll find that your list open rate is higher,and your complaints are lower if you employ confirmed opt-ins.

  • list segmentation – Each platform will have a slightly different mechanism for segmentation.  You’ll see this listed as sub-lists, tags, etc.  

    Segmentation allows you to send relevant information to your email list based on each contact’s interests or other information collected by your system (which form they used to sign up, what did they download), location, purchase history, etc.  

  • form builder, email builders and optionally, landing page builder – Most modern platforms allow for drag and drop asset creation and mobile friendly formats.  Some are better than others, and you may need to plan on hiring someone with technical ability for custom forms and emails to match your branding, depending on your platform of choice.

  • integrations and accessibility – For the most flexibility, you’ll want to choose a platform that integrates with other similar or complementary systems and platforms to extend functionality or add features that other systems handle better for your business.

    ie: Zapier, WooCommerce, Analytics 

Here are my favorite marketing automation systems below.  

keapInfusionsoft is a small business software that up until recently, was also the company name.  Now, the company name is Keap and it has two product lines: Infusionsoft by Keap and Keap (Pro and Grow).  The differentiator between the different products is related to the complexity of your business needs.
 
In 2016, I became an Infusionsoft Certified Consultant, and I’m admittedly biased towards the original flagship product (Infusionsoft) which offers a powerful “all in one” marketing automation/CRM/eCommerce solution.  But all of that comes at a significant price tag, and it’s not simple to set up, manage and maintain.  So if you’re not quite at the 6-figure level, then you’ll want to look at the simpler and more cost effective Keap options.
 

Features of note: Powerful segmentation via tags and automations in Campaign Builder.  Email Marketing, CRM and eCommerce all in one solution for powerful marketing automation.  Advanced marketing and sales automation for every step through the customer lifecycle.

Infusionsoft integrates with Membership Management software like Memberium and Accessally for powerful program and member management.

 

ActiveCampaignActive Campaign was designed to be easy to learn, set up and use without a huge learning curve.  It’s a fantastic solution for non-techie folks who want to automate their online marketing.

Features of note: Segmentation is simple, easy to use and incredibly in-depth. You can see all of the automations in your business in a single view.  Site-tracking allows for follow-up and triggered messages to leads based on actions they take on your website.

I also love that they have real-time support.

Active Campaign also integrates with my favorite Membership Management System: Memberium.

The only thing missing is eCommerce.  Instead, you’ll want to integrate WooCommerce (or Shopify) with Active Campaign in order to create order forms, sell products, and sync with your CRM inside Active Campaign.

 

ConvertKitConvertKit is an amazing option for those on a budget or don’t have a large online presence already.  It’s also super simple and intuitive to use.

Features of note: Customizable landing pages and web forms.  This is great if you don’t already have a service like Leadpages, or don’t have a website.  This feature alone (landing pages) is what makes ConvertKit a standout in my books.

Also, don’t overlook this feature: Tag-based segmentation to organize and understand your subscribers for powerful email marketing automation.  

For those on paid plans, visual automations for marketing campaigns similar to what you’d see in Active Campaign are available, making this a solid marketing automation platform.  

Their pricing structure is hard to beat (for smaller lists) as well, with a robust free plan, making it a great option if all you’re looking for is email marketing and not an all-in-one solution. 

If your list is already over 5000, I recommend looking at Active Campaign or other alternatives instead.

 

For tools that provide email marketing automation at a lower budget and less complexity, take a look at these listed below.

Your turn: What’s your favorite email marketing or automation platform?

Categories
Systems & Tools

Project Management Systems & Tools for Your Online Business

When it comes to project management systems, I’m sure I have tried them all! And, not surprisingly, almost all systems have their good points.

It is essential to have a PM Tool or System in place that works for your team, if you want to get out (or stay out) of Firefighting mode and to set your business up to scale successfully. 

As an Online Business Manager (OBM), I use project management systems as the center point of the virtual office for my clients’ businesses.

Take a look at my favorite tools below. 

TeamworkTeamwork is my Go-To project management tool, and has been on the top of my list for more than 5 years.  I have successfully set up and managed teams of 1 -10 using this platform and believe it has the “best of all worlds” features.

Features of note: task list templates, recurring tasks, tasks and subtasks, and a robust built-in time tracking for task, projects and teams.

I also love that Teamwork has an entire suite of complementary products, which allows me to pick and choose the extensions that work best for my clients’ business needs.

Teamwork Desk is a fantastic support ticketing system.  It’s reliable, easy to use and very well-priced.

Other available products: Teamwork Chat, Spaces and CRM.

 
ClickUPClickup is a relatively new tool for me.  I started seeing more about it and paying attention just before the release of Clickup 2.0 in 2019.  This new to me tool seems to have it all, and more.
 
In fact, it’s so feature-rich that I’m still learning all the ways to use Clickup for online business management. Clickup’s motto is “one app to replace them all”. So, while it’s easy to use, I am finding that using Clickup to its full potential will be a constant learning process.

The developers seem to be very responsive, with new updates and features being rolled out consistently.  Their communication is very clear as well for a SAAS.  In fact, they have a features request board with a real-time estimate of future updates.

Features of note: multiple views, including lists, boards, and gantt.  Something Teamwork tacked on to their existing product with poor results.  A game changer feature I love: automatic remapping of subtask due dates when the parent task is changed.  

I also love the modern, clean feel of the app interface, and the usability of the mobile app.

I have a feeling this platform will replace Teamwork as my #1 in the near future!

While not my personal preference, I would be negligent if I didn’t mention the other platforms for project management.  There are features in each that I love, but they just don’t make the cut for me to replace my top two picks above.
  • Basecamp
  • Airtable
  • Asana
  • Trello

Every business is different and is going to have different needs. It’s okay to take some time in choosing and testing out different systems until you find the one that works best for you. And quite honestly, nothing will be absolutely perfect – meaning –  you’re not likely to find one thing that has every feature that you want

Bottom line: Do
n’t let the fear of choosing the wrong Project Management tool hold you back from using anything at all.

Do you have a favorite project management system or tool?  Share below!

Categories
Business Operations Systems & Tools

The Essential Cornerstone of Your Virtual Office…

At any given point, there are a number of activities that are occurring in your online business. And the bigger your business gets, the busier the day to day operations.

A snapshot of activity in one of my clients’ coaching businesses might show the following concurrent and overlapping activities:

  • coaching and training programs are being delivered or accessed,
  • product launches are being planned or are in progress,
  • marketing campaigns and activities are being planned or executed online and in print,
  • live and virtual events are being planned or are happening
  • content is being planned, curated, and delivered (articles, speaking events, marketing pieces

… the list goes on

Without a properly set up project management system in place, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s actually going on in any given project or activity. Balls get dropped. Clients get frustrated. Revenue is lost.

You Need a Project Management System

As an Online Business Manager (OBM), I use a project management system to manage all the projects, milestones and tasks associated with the activities in the business on a daily basis. It is the center point of the virtual office for my clients’ businesses.

The PM System gives me a bird’s-eye view of what team members are working on and where they’re at on tasks. I use the system to plan ahead and make sure everyone (including the business owner) has what they need coming up tomorrow, this week and beyond. I check it at the start of each day, and it stays open in my browser all day long. It’s that essential.

For any project management system to work, you need to follow two very important rules:
  • The system must be managed and updated regularly. I recommend daily.
  • Everyone on your team must use the system, including you, the business owner!

To be clear: that doesn’t mean that you (the biz owner) should be the one in there setting up projects, managing milestones or following up on tasks. Your team lead, or in many cases, your Online Business Manager, should be doing this for you. But you need to know where to go (how to log in) so that you can see what’s going on at any given time.

You’ll need to be able to have a high-level sense of the activities that are going on so that you can make educated decisions in your business planning on an ongoing basis.

What Tool or System Should I Use?

There are a number of different systems and combinations that I’ve seen clients use for managing their business and virtual office.

There are options that are free or have free plans (which are great to try out a new tool), but for robust features that support your business as you scale, you’ll need to plan on paying for a project management system.  Budget will vary, but plan on $15-50/mo.

Here are a couple of my favorite project management systems:
(learn more about each here)

  • Teamwork
  • Clickup

While not my personal preference, I would be negligent if I didn’t mention the other platforms for project management.  There are features in each that I love, but they just don’t make the cut for me to replace my top two picks above for business-wide project management.

  • Basecamp
  • Airtable
  • Asana
  • Trello

Every business is different and is going to have different needs. It’s okay to take some time in choosing and testing out different systems until you find the one that works best for you. And quite honestly, nothing will be absolutely perfect – meaning –  you’re not likely to find one thing that has every feature that you want.

Bottom line: Don’t let the fear of choosing the wrong Project Management tool hold you back from using anything at all.

Ready to implement a project management system into your business but not sure where to start?  I can help!  Learn more about my systems set-up packages here.