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[Podcast] What’s the best CRM?


subscribe-with-itunes-buttonWhat’s the best CRM?

In this podcast episode, Barbara Griffin reviews Mailchimp, Aweber, Office Autopilot, Salesforce, and the best e-commerce and mailing list platforms.

Barbara Griffin: 

Hi, it’s Barbara Griffin here from the Business Marketing Agency, and today, we’re going to talk about CRMs. 

Firstly, we’re just going to define; what is a CRM? It stands for ‘customer relationship management’ – and it’s basically usually software based. 

It’s a system that’s used for managing your business’s interactions with your current and future customers; and also can manage the sales process and the fulfillment process.  It’s basically a 360 view of your customer data. 

Typically, the software will help you organize, automate and synchronize your sales, your marketing, your customer service and your technical support.

So, which are the best CRMs to use? 

Now that is the question.  We can answer that two ways, and we can answer that if money is no object which is the best; and if money is an object, which is the best? 

But actually, you should be thinking about ‘money is always an object’, because ‘profitability is always an object’; and it also depends on the size of your business and you process; your sales and marketing and customer communication process – as to which one of these – that we’re going to review – that you’re going to need.

So let’s go through some of the common top contenders; and also some of the common uses for a CRM.

So let’s say you are creating a membership portal for your business; and you need a CRM software to manage your prospects and customers as they go through the sales cycle.

And let’s say, ideally, you want something that your sales people can use to manage their interactions with your members; and let’s say you would like it also to integrate with the membership portal, and allow your business to send emails – or perhaps integrate with services like Office Auto Pilot (Ontraport) and Aweber.

So let’s talk about Salesforce first; because Salesforce is the biggest one out there. 

Firstly, what you need to know about Salesforce – which you can check it out at – is that you can’t even watch the demos of the software without signing up. 

Secondly, they do offer a free trial for 30 days, but you cannot access that without signing up. So, let’s say you take a free trial, and you start building out your Salesforce platform – what will probably happen is that you will receive a 24-month contract to sign.

If you’ve done the demo period with several seats, you actually can’t downgrade.  If you do a search on the internet for ‘salesforce scam’, you can find pages and pages of businesses getting really rorted by what I would call bully techniques.

That’s what happened to one business that trialled Saleforce.  Needless to say, they didn’t proceed. 

Another business almost signed up with Salesforce. Salesforce wanted $6,000 to help them set it up. So…Salesforce is complicated and it’s expensive; and it’s probably more than you’re going to need if you’re a start-up.

If you’re not a start-up and you really do still need something more powerful to manage your CRM, what are the other options? 

Unfortunately, Salesforce is not the only CRM that is going to try and lock you in to a 24-month contract.  SugarCRM is the same. 

Some of the other alternatives are HighRise and Capsule.

Capsule has got really good reviews from people that I know that have used it. 

It’s easy to set up.  You can do it in about 15 minutes, and you can be ready to rock with all your contacts in a very easy to use CRM tool. 

It integrates very well also with Google Apps, Zendesk (which is a customer support system) FreshBooks and Xero (which are accounting systems) and it has a nice ‘crunchy’ price too.  If you want to check out Capsule, the website is

The professional edition is $12 a month per user, and there’s a 30-day free trial.  And there’s also a free edition which has up to two users, 10MB of storage, up to 250 contacts, unlimited opportunities and unlimited cases. 

And… it doesn’t have any long term, lock down contracts, you can cancel at any time. It’s just pay as you go.

Here’s a quick case study from a business that is using Capsule CRM. This is a quick summary of how they’re integrating it into their sales process – and this is a consulting business with 5 to 10 grand plus projects.

So; the lead comes in from the contact page of the business’ website, the lead details are then automatically inserted into Capsule CRM via contact form integration, which is – they’re using Wufoo. 

The lead details are then automatically shared with Quoteroller, which is a quote generation software. 

The proposal is then sent, via Quoteroller, to the customer.  The new ‘opportunity’ – which is jargon for Capsule CRM – is created within Capsule CRM, which relates to the proposal. 

You can then assign a ‘track’ – which is also jargon inside Capsule – so you assign a ‘track’, which is essentially a sales to-do list, which prompts follow-ups and so on. 

Then that pushes to iCal (and other calendar applications) and ensures that the proposal is followed up. The client then accepts the proposal, via Quoteroller.  An automatic invoice is then generated via FreshBooks (or you may want to use Xero). 

The client then pays online using FreshBooks using the eWay payment gateway integration.  And eWay is a credit card processor so that you can sign up for. Automatic payment notification is then sent to Xero; and then the project starts.

This business is also using Zendesk as their support desk; so a Zendesk ticket is then created for the project by the project manager. 

And then, after that all client correspondence is via Zendesk.  You can even BCC and email dropbox within Capsule CRM, which then captures all the email correspondence and ties it to the contact. 

That business owner is really happy with that system, because he can always see what his project managers are up to at a glance – either thru Zendesk, or thru Capsule CRM.

So now, let’s talk about one of the other contenders to the CRM market which is OfficeAutoPilot or ‘OAP’.  OfficeAutoPilot – you can check this out at

Their pricing is $297 a month for 25,000 contacts, 100,000 emails a month, and two users; or $597 a month for 100,000 contacts, 100,000 emails a month, and 10 users. 

So for most businesses, the Pro version is going to be enough – which is up to 25,000 contacts.

So, what can you with OfficeAutoPilot? 

You can recharge all your declined transactions; you can assign a contact to a sequence (and a sequence is a kind of a pre-written series of emails). 

You can remove a contact from a sequence.  You can remove a contact from all sequences – because of course, you may have multiple sequences. 

You can pause a client’s subscription to a sequence.  You can un-pause a subscription to a sequence.  You can add a product to a person’s purchase history.  You can notify someone with email; 

You can add a context to a tag. So let’s say you have products such as you’re selling Cashmere, and you have a men’s hoodie jacket. You can actually assign somebody that bought that to the tag ‘men’s hoodie jacket’.

You can also remove a contact from a tag.  Let’s say you’ve got different levels of membership and you have a silver and a gold – if somebody upgrades their membership and they’re tagged as silver, you can remove the tag and assign that contact to gold. 

So, they will get different communications from your business whether they’re on silver or whether they’re on gold.

So that’s an example of the types of actions that you can do in OfficeAutoPilot.  But you can also automate the ‘triggers’ that start that action.  So for example, if a contact leaves a sequence, you can use that as a trigger. 

So, this is a list of triggers; Let’s say a contact that you have on your list, they may have signed up for your mailing list, but now, they have purchased a product.  You can actually use that as a trigger to move them to a different sequence; or to do any of the other actions that we mentioned before – and so on.  OfficeAutoPilot is very superpowered.

I guess the question to ask, which is something that I could’ve asked at the beginning or left till the end, but I’m just going to drop it now is – How big is your business?  How many leads do you have?  What management do you need, for where you’re at now, and where you want to be in a year or two years? 

Is this kind of solution going to cause more of a strain on your infrastructure? 

For example, does this mean that you have to hire an outsourced agency such as us to manage this for you?  Or, are you going to employ someone in house to manage this?  Or – do you already have someone in house that has hours free per week to manage this for you?

And I guess the bottom line is; if automation can automate processes that are currently taking your staff resources, then you’re probably ready for a CRM. 

If you don’t have enough customers and clients yet and you don’t have enough systems in place that are being undertaken by humans, then it’s probably not going to be worth the ROI to install one of these systems given that there is going to be an integration cost or changeover time period to basically smoothly transition to this new system. 

We’re basically talking about economies of scale. 

There comes a point in your business where it’s worth making a move to one of these systems; but you may not be at that point yet.

Let’s now talk about email management software such as Aweber which will only cost you about $19 a month for the basic package. 

So; Aweber does allow you to create an action when a user moves from one list to another; however, OfficeAutoPilot can automate this process. So what that means is that in Aweber, you can set up an automation role; for example, ‘active response’, or within a sequence.  So Aweber can check if someone has opened a message that you sent, or clicked a link within the message.

So you can have a trigger that – if they’ve opened it zero times within a particular timeframe -, so, basically, you can a trigger to send them another message that might be something like “Hey, just a reminder, check out this new offer that we’ve got.” 

You’re sending that to them because you know that they didn’t open the previous one. However, if they did open it, then obviously, they wouldn’t get that sequence.

So, Aweber, you can automate certain tasks.  And so don’t discount email management software like Aweber or Mailchimp – because often they’re a lot more price-effective and will be perfect for what you need, without having to go to the expense of a fully fledged CRM.

The other thing to mention about OfficeAutoPilot is that it actually has a shopping cart; although the people that I know that are actually using OfficeAutoPilot are not using it for a shopping cart. 

They’re using shopping carts that have much better features that they prefer, such as starts from – I think it’s $97 a month – and it also has built in affiliate program.

Business that are using OfficeAutoPilot but are not using the cart think that the system needs a little bit more work; because the auto forms are ‘ugly’ and have all these mandatory fields that you have to fill in. But at this stage, most businesses that I know that are using OfficeAutoPilot are still using Nanacast for their cart.

Some more feedback about OfficeAutoPilot is that their support is fantastic and they are quick to help.  There’s a chat feature if you have an issue, and there’s almost always someone there to speak to. 

OfficeAutoPilot also supports memberships via WordPress; so if you’ve got a WordPress site and that you’re doing paid memberships similar to Wishlist, you can control this all via OfficeAutoPilot.

So let’s say you’re doing a promo.  Someone visits your site and doesn’t buy, but they come back a couple of days later. So they may have opted in to get something for free; and then two months down the road, they’re back looking at your site again. 

You can actually have OfficeAutoPilot notify you about that, so that you can reach out to them via email – and then you can move that person to another sequence, tag them; and you can even send them an email (since they just showed up again). 
So OfficeAutoPilot can do cool stuff like that.  You almost have to be careful and not spook people when you have that kind of intelligence on them.

Lead scoring is cool too, and this is something that OfficeAutoPilot has that  I don’t know if many of the other solutions offer.  Basically, it’s comparable with InfusionSoft, but without the complexity and programming required, which brings me to InfusionSoft.

So, InfusionSoft is considered to be a ‘ridiculously cumbersome’ software that has probably the best superpowers on the market.  Basically, the issue was that it’s cumbersome. 

It’s not that it isn’t capable, but it requires programmers to make it work and customize it – whereas compared to OfficeAutoPilot, that’s all sort of ‘point and click’ within the web interface, and it’s pretty easy to set up. 

However, as we mentioned before, OfficeAutoPilot lacks in the cart and affiliate area; which is why most of the people that I know that are using OfficeAutoPilot are using Nanacast for the cart and the affiliate side of things – compared to InfusionSoft.

Probably the most telling feedback about InfusionSoft is a $3 million a year business owner that I know that’s an online internet marketer.  He used it three years ago.  ‘It was a nightmare.  He said there was no support.  There was no ability to work with PayPal, only through a merchant.  It was kind of impossible to figure out.’ 

It’s probably great for a large business who cannot justify Eloqua (which is the best).

Eloqua is kind of like the king of CRMs; but the pricing is from $2,000 a month for a ‘marketer’ and $4,000 for ‘team’ and for enterprise, it’s ‘contact us for pricing’! 

It’s not cheap.  However, I do know an Eloqua specialist, so please get in touch if you do want to try out their system.

If you’re using OfficeAutoPilot for lead generation, it does work pretty well if you’re selling leads to different clients.  

For example, a finance site business; they have set up different roles depending on what drop down he would choose, which allows their business to instantly provide leads to different lead buyers – depending on what finance solution the user requested. 

That’s for a business that is in lead generation.

Another thing OfficeAutoPilot can do that Aweber can’t do is; they can actually count unique opens – because Aweber just counts multiple opens – like, from the same person. 

The other thing is OfficeAutoPilot can split-test sequences.  Aweber can’t do that, unless you split up a split URL test on the front page of your website – which is a separate issue.

OfficeAutoPilot is basically more powerful for upsells because it identifies what products your customers already have or don’t have. 

So, if you’ve got multiple products, you just have one record per customer and the clever tagging system. That’s what makes it amazing.  Basically, the people that are using OfficeAutoPilot and really getting the benefit from it are businesses that have say 10,000 – 200,000 customers on their mailing list. 

It allows them to tag and segment their lists in a much more elegant way than just by using mailing list software (such as Aweber).

Basically, OfficeAutoPilot is very powerful; and if you are moving to OfficeAutoPilot, if you’ve previously been on Aweber and email management software, you can move people from lists to labels. 

That’s basically the different way that OfficeAutoPilot handles customers. So basically, we can set up OfficeAutoPilot for you.  There is also a sort of starter version of OfficeAutoPilot called SendPepper.  I probably wouldn’t recommend that, as it’s quite buggy and not as good as Aweber. I would not recommend that. 

If you want a smaller … just an email system, with sequences that you can send out, I would use Aweber.  So, only use OfficeAutoPilot if you want its superpowers.

So let’s briefly talk about email sequences. 

There are many good mailing list management softwares out there.  One of them is Aweber, but the one that I like most of all is MailChimp

Now, MailChimp scales no matter what your business size, and it’s really great and easy to use. You can have groups.  You can have lists; and you can have sequences, autoreponders and everything that you’d want. 

But best of all, there’s one thing that MailChimp does that none of the others do – or, very of the others do – which is, it allows you to import your mailing list from another software – without getting them to double opt in.

For example, let’s say you’ve got a list of let’s say 80 people, that you’ve collected their business cards, you know them; you want to import them into MailChimp.  You just check the box that says “I have the permission to email these people”. 

But Aweber, a lot of them – won’t let you do that. They’ll require those people to be sent an email saying ‘we’d like to add you to our list, please confirm if you are allowing us to send you information’.  Now, by doing that, you’re going to lose probably 60% of your list by double opt ins.

So MailChimp is best for importing a list that you already have – either you’ve got it on your computer from offline; or let’s say you do the Easter show and you have a stall there, and you have people signing up on a piece of paper – you can import those people into MailChimp without double opt in.

So that’s why I would recommend MailChimp, for that reason alone; but it gets better! Because MailChimp is free up to your first thousand members – provided you don’t mind their quid pro quo of having the MailChimp badge in the footer. 

If you want to remove that badge in the footer, you just become a paid member; and you can either pay, like, pre-pay credits every time you want to do a mail out; or you can go monthly. 

Monthly is cheaper if you’re doing regular mailouts, but if you’re not doing regular mail outs, the cheapest is pre-pay.

Okay; MailChimp isn’t a fully featured CRM – however, if you’re saving the $297 a month that OfficeAutoPilot costs, you can decide whether that’s good ROI for your business – or whether you’ve got the scale to warrant that extra spend to be able to automate certain things.

Now, let’s talk about eCommerce. 

There are so many different sites out there; but let me just give you a quick rundown. 

I put most of my clients on WordPress (using the Shopp plugin which is a paid plugin) because it’s free (WordPress is free). 

It’s open source.  There are no ongoing costs (even with a paid Shop plugin) – and it’s very easy for the customer to log in and update the site themselves.

Also it works with PayPal – which is the free payment processing gateway – which is quite accepted in the world.  If you haven’t got a big budget to get an eCommerce site going with no ongoing costs, I would recommend WordPress and an ecommerce plugin.

Another advantage of WordPress is that it’s very SEO friendly; but also is commonly used.  WordPress consistently gets voted the top content management system for a reason.  It’s open source.  There’s so many plugins and templates available for it. 

It’s easy to operate from anyone that knows CSS and HTML.  And, like I said before, it’s quite easy to use for clients that want to learn how to update their own website.

Probably, another common type of ecommerce site is built on something called Bigcommerce.  This a hosted solution that can be made to look like it lives on your website, but actually, it’s in a subdomain; which is where the problems come, because – let’s say people land on your home page of your website, then the store is actually on a separate subdomain – which basically introduces conversion issues and SEO issues.

Also, Bigcommerce charges $30 a month; which is hardly going to break the bank. but I’ve know quite a lot of clients that have made no sales using Bigcommerce.  The site just didn’t work. 

However, clients on WordPress site eCommerce, that did zero advertising – just because of the superpowered SEO effects of WordPress, were making sales!  So that pretty much says it all for me.

I’ve got clients that have $20,000 worth of sales selling chocolate online!

Another common hosted platform is Zen Cart. Zen Cart is a bit like Bigcommerce.  It lives on a subdomain, and it’s sort of problematic because it’s like having two sites on the one site. 

So you have your main site and then you have /store, that takes you to your Zen Cart installation – which looks completely different to your website; because otherwise, you have to kind of pay a coder to code two sites – because basically, having a shop and installation on a subdomain is essentially a different site. 

So what we like about WordPress is it’s one site; people never leave the site.  The look and feel stays the same.  The menu stays the same; the banners, the graphics, the artwork.  With WordPress, eCommerce is integrated into your site.

Probably my second favorite (if you don’t want WordPress) is Joomla with ecommerce.  Joomla is probably slightly more complicated than WordPress; probably more likely for you to need us to make changes for you, but it’s quite a good, stable platform.

You might have also heard of DotNetNuke, which is a Microsoft platform.  I would say that DotNetNuke or ‘DNN’ is kind of comparable to Joomla but it’s the Microsoft version. 

I wouldn’t recommend that platform, because it needs Windows hosting and it’s a bit clunky.  Don’t tamper with DotNetNuke unless you have a particular reason for it! And the expense of having it coded is going to be a lot more.

Another cart system that we’re using currently with a client (that we inherited that already had a site built in this language) is OpenCart.  OpenCart is open source software. 

Technically, it should be as popular as WordPress, but it’s not because OpenCart hasn’t really caught on. It doesn’t have any really good training so it’s not very user-friendly if you don’t know CSS.  It’s not easy for a client; so we don’t recommend OpenCart (even though it’s open source) – unless you are skilled in FTP, CSS, HTML.  Otherwise, it would probably be beyond you.  But if you have some basic skills, you can probably handle it.

But..why would you use OpenCart when you can use WordPress?  OpenCart isn’t really SEO friendly and it has other issues.  I wouldn’t recommend it. 

However, the client that we have an OpenCart cart for; recently, we did sort of a mail out, and that client made $6,000 worth of sales in a week. So what I’m saying is -it does work but, that client does pay more than is probably normal for website maintenance, because they’re unable to do it themselves.

Another cart system is Magento.  I recently built a site for a client that’s got quite a few different shops built in Bigcommerce and WordPress. 

He wanted to have ‘supersite’ that combined all his products.  The decision was really either WordPress or Magento.  Magento is a little bit more complicated to install. 

It’s probably not as easy to operate.  This site had 630 products so it wasn’t a small site but it wasn’t really big enough to warrant Magento; like if you have maybe 5,000 products, then you probably want Magento. 

But for under a thousand products, WordPress is fine.  Also this client already knows how to use WordPress.  So; we just made the site in WordPress. And as we’ve already proven for that client, his WordPress site that we’ve built that has about 300 products on it – we haven’t done any advertising – but just because of the SEO-friendly nature of the WordPress eCommerce system, the products are getting indexed all by themselves – and showing up in search results.

(and he’s making sales!)

If you just have one or two products, I wouldn’t recommend Magento, unless you are planning to grow to a thousand, 5,000 products.  Otherwise, it’s overkill. 

Our quotes for Magento would typically be about three times the prices than setting up a WordPress ecommerce site.  This is because Magento coders are a little bit more thin on the ground; and we have specialists that just do Magento; and they cost a little bit more than your generic WordPress HTML CSS coder.

If you hire us to built you a Magento site, you can rest assure that our coder Sasha – he’s an Eastern European coder – and he’s actually one of the best in the world at Magento coding, if not the best.  When you work with us, I’ll tell you all about why we make that claim and show you some proof!

So if you ask my coders the question should we built this client’s site in Magento or WordPress?  The coders would answer “Magento!” because it takes them longer and they get to bill more hours! 

But if you ask me, should you build your site and WordPress or Magento, I would say “WordPress” because I’m concerned about giving you ROI – and I know that you’ll make just as many sales on a WordPress site than a Magento site at probably a third of the cost.

There a few functions that Magento has, natively.  However, we can do them in WordPress – either by custom coding or by using a plugin. 

So don’t worry about anything that you’ve heard about that Magento does that WordPress doesn’t do; because if that’s one of your wishes, we can probably make WordPress do what you want it to do. There will just a couple of hours of custom coding.

Another thing that we’ve mentioned in this discussion but we haven’t really gone into in detail is Helpdesk.  There’s a couple of options for this, but I think the best is Zendesk.  If you’re wanting to have a Helpdesk or a support desk for your customers, this can work almost like a project manager and you can assign tickets to different staff and sort of oversee the whole process.  So I would recommend Zendesk.

And I’ve forgotten to mention one of the quite popular shopping cart systems; which is Adobe Business Catalyst.  Business Catalyst sites look quite nice – they can be styled really nicely.  Hosting will typically cost you about $70 per month. 

So it’s kind of twice the price of a Bigcommerce type of site per month which again, isn’t really going to break the bank, but what are the benefits of Business Catalyst? 

Well, it does have a content management system.  It reminds me a little bit of Joomla or DNN inside.  It’s modular.

However, I have client that has a Business Catalyst site.  They’re employing us to do their website maintenance because basically, even with training, the client doesn’t have enough expertise to update the site themselves – so this kind of defeats the purpose of having a CRM. 

It’s okay if you just want to log in and change some content but if you want to remove things from the page templates, that really has to be done by a coder.  If you looked at an average list of tasks that the clients send me, out of 10 of them, there’s probably one or two they could do themselves.  I could show them how to do it.  But eight out of ten, you’d probably need somebody with some CSS or HTML skills.

Lastly, let’s talk about InfusionSoft.  InfusionSoft is probably one of the best CRMs that there is.  It’s expensive to set up.  It’s complicated to get your head around it initially, but what it does is gobsmacking.  It does lead scoring, task management, automation of everything.  However, if you’re familiar with OfficeAutoPilot, that will do the job.

In conclusion, the best value is WordPress because it’s so user-friendly and has great SEO capabilities.  It integrates with many shopping carts including PayPal which is the cheap, free, low cost version.  If you’re a client that has not too much budget and not too much skill, I would recommend WordPress.

If you want to do a membership site plus integrate with a mailing list, I would still recommend WordPress probably with Wishlist member and using MailChimp for your email management.  If your mailing list gets big and segmented, let’s say over 30,000 people with more than five segments, then you would probably be ready to look at OfficeAutoPilot. 

OfficeAutoPilot would be the choice if you’ve got a big mailing list because that’s what it does best.

I would not recommend Salesforce because of it’s prohibitive contracts and also because there’s other software that does just as good a job and also, the expense of set up.  However, almost every system that we’ve talked about today, if it’s not free, it has a free trial period so don’t take my word for it, try them for yourself.

Cheers!  I’m Barbara Griffin from the Business Marketing Agency. 

If you’d like any help with the set up of any of the systems that we’ve talked about, email address is

Just please get in touch.  Cheers!

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