SharpSpring Review: A Flexible, Open Architecture Marketing Automation Platform

sharpspring review

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 how 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.

SharpSpring review: integrations

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 Review: Features

Platform: 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.  

SharpSpring review: platform

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.    

Automations: 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 review: submission

Dynamic Landing Page Builder and Emails: 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.

VisitorID: 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.

CRM: You may already have a CRM you love which is fine. SharpSpring 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 1) 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. 2) 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 review: CRM

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.

SharpSpring review: analytics

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 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 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.

Try-Shopify

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.

SharpSpring review: pricing

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 out the pricing page here to learn more.

SharpSpring Shopping Cart Integration

SharpSpring can integrate with ecommerce platforms through custom javascript. The script is platform agnostic and built on web standards, so you can use your language (Java, Ruby, Perl, PHP, Python, etc.) of choice.

Ex: Integrating with Shopify: There are two ways to move information back and forth.

  1. Use Zapier or another type of middleware to move information between the two platforms.
  2. Use javascript provided by SharpSpring.  Shopify is a ruby application that uses liquid objects.  To allow the cart integration to work, the parameters in the integration script should be replaced with liquid objects.  On the thank you page, the javascript provided in app should be used to capture transactions as with any cart.  The liquid objects are used to populate the variables in the script.

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.

SharpSpring review: Shopify

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

SharpSpring review: value 

By clicking on the number total in blue you can see the details of the transaction.    

SharpSpring review: 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 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.

SharpSpring review: insights

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.

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.

SharpSpring review: contacts

Giving your CEO sales projections and calculating commissions is easy with the pipeline conversion report.

SharpSpring Review: 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: 1) have  ecommerce and other marketing platforms in place and want to layer on marketing automation without disrupting current systems, 2) 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 this SharpSpring review. Have you ever used SharpSpring? Do you plan on checking it out after reading this?

SharpSpring Rating: 5 - Review by

Catalin Zorzini

I'm a web design blogger and started this project after spending a few weeks struggling to find out which is the best ecommerce platform for myself. Check out my current top 10 ecommerce site builders.

1 Response

  1. Sounds interesting, though I’d like to compare it with GetResponse. I’m probably going to get it. They have an easy to use marketing automation.

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