Are you completely in love with your current CRM or ecommerce platform? You shudder at the thought of having to migrate all that information into a new platform, just because you now want to capitalize on marketing automation. With so many marketing automation software options, finding “THE ONE” doesn’t mean you’re stuck with software that doesn’t play nice with others. SharpSpring came on the market in 2014 and was built as an affordable, open system for agencies to use to provide marketing automation to clients and integrate with all client systems. In this SharpSpring review we'll see if this platform provides a full set of tools for lead generation, lead nurturing, contact management, sales management and analytics.
For agencies with ecommerce clients, the open system gives the platform flexibility to integrate with Shopify, Magento and other major ecommerce platforms and features shopping cart abandonment. With over 1,000 agencies using SharpSpring, businesses are finding their way to SharpSpring for these same reasons.
An Introduction to SharpSpring: The Basics
Sharpspring identifies itself as a CRM and email marketing tool. That basically means that it can help with everything from building landing pages, to tracking what’s going on with customer sentiment and perception in the back-end of your website.
Unlike other email marketing tools that simply act as a basic environment for automating your emails and delivering CMS functionality, SharpSpring is all about helping you to connect with your audience on a deeper level.
One thing that really sets SharpSpring apart, is the fact that it tries to support customers in everything that they might need. This is true regardless of whether you’re a big business looking for a landing page builder, a small company in search of lead scoring and customer support. The list of features that you can get from this solution is very strong, making it an excellent potential alternative to Salesforce.
At first glance, SharpSpring might look a little expensive. Particularly when you compare it to other all-in-one drag-and-drop solutions on the market today. However, the SharpSpring plans differ in their ability to offer support for unlimited users on every package. This is a big change from most of the CRMs that offer prices on a per user basis.
Overall, SharpSpring is probably best-suited for larger teams, with a feature set that will support almost any business you can think of.
- Excellent CRM solution
- Great range of email automation features
- Unlimited users on every package
- Cost-effective solution for big teams
- Lots of ease of use built in
- Various website tracking tools
- Lots of campaign tracking for your marketing campaigns
- Not the most intuitive for people who don’t know how to automate
- Hard to find some information on SharpSpring.com
- Occasional bugs in the software
- Landing page and email building tools could do with a boost
SharpSpring Reviews: How Many People Use SharpSpring?
SharpSpring launched in 2014 laser focused on digital marketing agencies as its target audience. The SharpSpring customer base spans 56 countries with more than 14,000 total customers, of which 1,000 are digital marketing agencies.
SharpSpring’s focus on digital marketing agencies, its affordable agency model, and it’s month-to-month licensing structure are its main differentiators in the marketing automation competitive space. By 2016, SharpSpring leaped over nearly all other providers in ratings for “driving agency new business efforts,” trailing only HubSpot which has dominated the market for more than 10 years. SharpSpring went from 5% of agency market share in 2015 to 27% in 2016, while HubSpot dropped from 87% of agency market share to 63%. (Mirren 2016)
SharpSpring Reviews: Features
So, what can you do with SharpSpring?
Well, like many of the leading marketing automation tools and lead management tools on the market today, SharpSpring identifies itself as an all-in one solution for business growth. Offering everything from follow up services for email marketing, to Party CRM integration, this service is likely to go above and beyond what most SMBs need from their CRM.
SharpSpring’s features are built to delight users from a range of backgrounds, with access to things like Google, Infusionsoft, and LinkedIn integrations, as well as Universal CMS compatibility, so you can design a website wherever you want and link into your SharpSpring solution with ease.
Although this platform can be a little too unintuitive for some smaller companies that are just getting started, the range of features could be enough to keep you interested, no matter what kind of business you might be running.
- Marketing automation from end-to-end
- Email marketing solutions
- Web forms
- Visitor ID
- CRM functionality
- Landing page builder
- Social media marketing
- Multi-device tracking
- Reporting and analytics
In other words, you get a system that covers all of the basics when it comes to the tools your’re going to need to design an effective web presence.
Simple is the key to this platform. The interface is clean and straightforward. When the platform was developed, SharpSpring had to make it easy enough for agencies to onboard their own clients. The key to the platform is the “New” button which quickly takes you to building anything new including contacts, campaigns, forms, sites, landing pages, tasks, workflows, lists, emails, sends, imports, media and custom fields. WYSIWYG editors help you build any content and the UX is intuitive in maneuvering within the app.
The app does not autosave your work. If you are working on anything you have to hit the save button or it will disappear. On the other side, if you accidentally start writing over someone else’s work, you can choose not to save it and it’s like you never touched it. If integrated social media content management is a must for you, SharpSpring doesn’t currently include this in the platform.
Building automation is also easy to navigate whether it's a simple form autoresponder, or a multi-step nurture campaign that stretches over a few months. SharpSpring’s platform allows you to create automations based on your lead's behavior. Automations in SharpSpring are composed of Tasks (triggers and filters) and Workflows (actions and events). Creating automation is a linear process. For those that prefer a visual whiteboard for creating campaigns, it’s on the roadmap for SharpSpring.
SharpSpring Landing Page
Another call out feature is the ability to build dynamic landing pages and emails with a WYSIWYG editor – no developer needed. On top of the ability to build an email linking to a landing page into your campaign, you can engage visitors with content designed just for them. For e-commerce this allows you to go directly to the products of most interest to the lead. All you have to do is right-click to swap out images, headlines and body text. You put the effort in to build one email or page that is customized by the lead’s behaviors and preferences automatically allowing you to tailor content based on specific interests or buying behavior.
SharpSpring Visitor ID
SharpSpring’s VisitorID allows you to connect visitors to your CRM and track their behavior and visits to better understand the visitors interest and motivation. It also uses reverse IP lookup to identify the companies visiting your site and provides you the visitor’s information including names, emails and phone numbers. You receive a list of the day’s hottest leads in your inbox when the lead is deemed ready to convert to sales. It’s a marketers dream to get those names and numbers to increase qualified lead generation.
You may already have a CRM you love which is fine. SharpSpring (read our SharpSpring CRM review) can quickly connect via API and integrate your contacts with full two-way syncing, but SharpSpring also has a built-in CRM.
The two features that are standout on the CRM are:
- Once a new contact record is added, the app pulls in the lead’s social profiles including picture and complete tracking to every page and content open, clicked, visited or downloaded. You can then personalize and build automations off this information.
- The Life of the Lead timeline is a great visual to quickly see how engaged the lead is and what actions they’ve taken including web visits, form fill-outs, email sends and opens and so forth.
SharpSpring Marketing Analytics
SharpSpring provides enough metrics and customized reports for you to make marketing decisions and show ROI on your marketing efforts. Understanding end-to-end conversion costs and revenues are a lifesaver when you’re facing that c-suite meeting to show marketing is pulling its weight for the company’s bottom line. While the charts and graphs are great for a quick gut check, right underneath you have all the data to dig deeper.
Are you a marketing agency?
Normally, you might not include an agency model as a feature, but SharpSpring was built with agencies in mind. You can buy the platform for your business or you can buy the platform for your agency and put clients on the platform. What makes it a good choice for agencies?
- Your clients are yours. SharpSpring doesn’t get in between you and your clients. You can charge your clients as you please.
- You can provide more services to your clients through marketing automation from creative services to marketing automation management.
- You create monthly recurring revenue for your agency and can move away from just project work.
- You can prove your value to your clients with complete lead-to-revenue reporting.
- The app is completely rebrandable.
- From a single sign-on, you can manage your clients from one console with a few clicks.
- Your agency is listed on the site where you can capture clients interested in marketing automation, but not interested in managing it.
What other cool things are included with SharpSpring?
- The website and platform are available in nine different languages
- The SharpSpring blog builder is a great tool to reach deeper engagement
- The media center allows you to track engagement on suggested articles on other websites or your own content. Share and track engaging content even it’s not hosted on your site.
- The SharpSpring App Marketplace is vast thanks to the platform’s open architecture. Get discounts and deals on other apps, software and platforms.
- Phone support is unlimited and available for all customers on all plans. Same goes for the features. No limitations based on your plan.
All the SharpSpring features can be found here if you are interested.
SharpSpring Review: Pricing
SharpSpring comes with five plans, two of which are unpublished – agency pricing and enterprise pricing. You won’t be able to find the pricing for these segments until you participate in a demo (30-60 minutes long) on the product.
With feature to feature parity and at a fraction of the cost of most competitors SharpSpring wins big against competitors.
No matter what plan you choose, the features, unlimited support and unlimited users are the same. The price changes based on the number of contacts you are managing. Another cool thing about SharpSpring is there is no contract. All billing is month-to-month. Their philosophy is to earn your repeat business instead of trapping you into a contract.
Feel free to check our SharpSpring pricing guide to learn more.
SharpSpring Shopping Cart Integration
Example: Integrating with Shopify: There are two ways to move information back and forth.
- Use Zapier or another type of middleware to move information between the two platforms.
SharpSpring’s Shopping Cart Integration allows you to automatically record web transactions from your online store and attribute those sales to SharpSpring Campaigns. This enables you to measure your end-to-end marketing ROI for eCommerce based businesses.
After you successfully integrate your Shopping Cart code and run a test transaction, you will see the Shopping Cart tab appear under the Sales menu at the top of the page. This is where you can access information for all of your online transactions.
The Shopping Cart page displays all of your recent transactions as well as any historical transactions, and includes information on:
- Name and Email address of Lead who made the purchase
- When the transaction occurred
- The details of items sold during the transaction
- Total purchase value
By clicking on the number total in blue you can see the details of the transaction.
If a lead completes a web transaction and is associated with a SharpSpring campaign, you will see their sales attributed back to that individual marketing tactic on the Campaign Insights page.
This allows you to measure which campaigns are creating the most online transactions and enables you to make marketing decisions based off this information.
SharpSpring Reviews: Setup and Design
Most marketing automation platforms worth their salt, require onboarding to ensure success getting set up. That’s true for SharpSpring as well. The onboarding process is done in four sessions. You can go as fast you want or extend it out to 60 days if that’s what you prefer. There are no requirements for certification or endless videos you have to watch before you can use a feature. It’s all in the platform with a Partner Portal full of help articles, webinars, white papers, case studies and their version of app webinars called “SpringBoard Live” which takes place weekly. You can choose to use these or not. The app also has a page overlay for help in finding what you need and a tour guide that quickly shows you in less than a minute how to use a certain function. If all else fails, you can call support to walk you through anything anytime. They’ll even help with HTML code! While the UX is intuitive and you can get around without help, it’s nice to know you can call and talk to human if you need to and it doesn’t cost extra.
If you use a WordPress site, putting in the tracking code is quick and painless and you can immediately see real-time tracking as visitors come to my site and visit those pages. The VisitorID kicks in right away and new leads, names and companies showing up on your site in real-time.
If your sales team is on the go, it’s also nice to know that SharpSpring has a mobile CRM designed to facilitate sales even if you aren’t at the office.
SharpSpring Reviews: Managing Your SharpSpring Contacts
While we’ve already covered the CRM component of SharpSpring, it’s important to note for marketing automation purposes how easy it is to create custom fields to capture relevant information off your forms. There’s a bit of an ‘aha’ moment when you see information automatically populating in fields and you get a little giddy at the thought of using that data for your next campaign. Seeing the faces and profiles of people interested in your product is also validating.
Even more exciting is watching your sales team take those leads into their pipeline and watching them convert. The sales management feature includes pipeline, opps won, shopping cart, accounts and reports. It also shows a nifty conversion report that lets you see which sales are likely to close and by when.
Giving your CEO sales projections and calculating commissions is easy with the pipeline conversion report.
Who is SharpSpring Best For?
Ultimately, SharpSpring offers a compelling alternative to SaaS from Salesforce and similar CRM providers. It’s not going to be the right option for most small businesses looking to save money on their website development. However, if you’re a bigger business that needs an easy to use customer relationship management too, then this could easily be the option for you.
Our favorite thing about SharpSpring is likely to be the fact that it’s so open and flexible for bigger companies. When it comes to serving big enterprises and agencies, there’s going to be practically no learning curve at all for this user-friendly tool. It can even integrate with a range of other services to become the ultimate 3rd-party CRM.
We would recommend SharpSpring for larger companies that want to experiment with advanced drip campaigns and dynamic content. If you’re a smaller company, then you should definitely stick with things like the Square online store or Salesforce instead.
Notably, we also like the fact that there’s a lot of support available from the actual team at SharpSpring for beginners. However, it’s a shame that you need to pay a fortune for things like onboarding to get you started. It would be easier if there were more documents online for companies who don’t need as much hand-holding, or can’t afford it.
Still have questions about SharpSpring?
Although there are help articles online that can assist you with some of your queries, it can be difficult to track down everything that you need to know.
How do you find help articles?
A: You can see the help articles from SharpSpring by visiting help.sharpspring.com and browsing through the in-bult help center. Although the number of documents and resources is growing, keep in mind that there are some limitations on what you can actually find here. On the plus side, you should be able to track down some of the information that you need quite easily, thanks to category organization and unique sections.
How much does SharpSpring cost?
A: You can expect to pay around $200 to $800 per month on your technology. Compared to other CRM solutions, SharpSpring stands out as a pretty expensive tool. Although it can be quite powerful for enterprise companies, it’s likely to be too expensive for small businesses. Saying that, it is a good idea to remember that you’re getting functionality for a range of users, not just one, when you buy SharpSpring.
How SharpSpring works?
A: SharpSpring is an all-in-one email marketing tool and CRM. It works very well with virtually any third-party app you can think of, and a bunch of existing CMS platforms and systems. Although it’s targeted at small and mid-sized companies, we think it’s better suited to mid-sized businesses, agencies, and larger businesses.
Can I get a Demo of SharpSpring?
A: If you want to try SharpSpring before you dive in with a subscription, then you can visit the website and ask for a demonstration with the company’s contact form. This is an easy way to get an overview of what SharpSpring can do.
How to cancel SharpSpring?
A: There’s very little information available on the SharpSpring website about how you can cancel your account. Even the pricing quotes are set up to reflect annual pricing. You’ll need to contact the support team for more advice on how to close down your account and avoid paying over-the-odds for your subscription.
Is Sharpspring a CRM?
A: SharpSpring does identify itself as a CRM, but it’s also a lot more than that too. With SharpSpring, you’re getting a complete email marketing automation platform, CRM tool, and more. You can even integrate the platform with a range of other tools that you rely on to get your business up and running.
Where do I change my settings?
A: If you have any issues with how SharpSpring is set up, then you can find out how to change your environment on the My Account settings. Here, you can configure your notifications, and even change your timezone information.
What do I get in every price plan?
A: Although SharpSpring’s pricing can seem expensive, it does come with a range of important tools in every price plan, including access for unlimited users, campaign tracking, marketing automation, behavior based email marketing, blog building tools, and CRM and sales automation. There’s also anonymous visitor IDs, dynamic form builders, analytics and reporting, and so much more.
SharpSpring Reviews: Conclusion
All in all, for what SharpSpring offers, it’s a great value compared to industry giants in the marketing automation space. When choosing marketing automation platforms there are many factors to consider, but in the end you’re looking for the essential features you need at a reasonable price and feels like a “safe” choice.
The system is easy to use and you’re free to leave whenever you choose. SharpSpring is a good fit for companies or agencies with clients that:
- Have ecommerce and other marketing platforms in place and want to layer on marketing automation without disrupting current systems,
- Are looking for a full-featured marketing automation platform to jumpstart lead generation and nurturing programs and integrate with other systems as they grow. SharpSpring's month-to-month contract/billing and open architecture, further lowers the total cost of ownership compared to marketing automation competitors.
If you are just learning to use marketing automation this is a great place to start because you’ll get the training you need and a flexible tool packed with the marketing automation horsepower you need to accomplish your goals.
SharpSpring is a young company that just appeared on the scene in 2014. New features and platform improvements roll out weekly making it hard to keep a current list of features for comparison to competitors. As a customer you’re getting more for your dollar with every new feature add-on. Priced lower than most competitors, SharpSpring is a good value with it’s flexibility in architecture, month-to-month billing, comprehensive features and flexible open architecture.
Share your thoughts in the comments section below if you have any questions about our SharpSpring reviews. Have you ever used SharpSpring? Do you plan on checking it out after reading this?