What is ActiveCampaign?
ActiveCampaign is a marketing automation system that actively tracks the behavior of your prospects, takes their actions into account, and helps you build personalized communications and sales funnels around the behaviors of each unique customer segment.
As much as marketers love to talk about the power of social media, the truth is that email marketing remains the most effective form of outreach. A well-designed email campaign far outpaces any social network in terms of messages read, links clicked, conversions achieved, and continued customer engagement over the long term.
Before I started using ActiveCampaign, I managed my contact list on one platform, my email automation on another, and my tracking and insights on a third. It was an absolute logistical nightmare.
Yeah, don’t do that. It’s not a good idea.
ActiveCampaign imported all my data from each of the three platforms – and while it lacks some of the functionality that each of those more specialized tools had, it brings together a wide array of helpful analytics and automation tools into one streamlined, centralized platform.
When it comes to pricing, I’m not gonna lie – there are more affordable options out there. That said, each of ActiveCampaign’s subscription plans falls within what I’d call a reasonable range, in terms of what it provides in relation to other platforms.
There’s no free basic plan, or even a free trial. If you want to get started with the simplest set of tools, you’re going to have to shell out $15 a month – which, in all fairness, does get you unlimited emails, along with a fairly robust marketing automation platform.
Beyond that, you’re basically looking at three different levels:
Lite: $15 USD per month
Plus: $70 USD per month
Professional: $159 USD per month
Enterprise: $279 USD per month
The biggest upgrade is the one from Lite to Plus. Once you’re paying $70 per month, you’ll gain access to the full suite of CRM and sales automation tools, along with automated lead scoring, and even one-on-one training from ActiveCampaign’s own staff of experts. The main reason to upgrade to Professional is to double the number of available users (if you need a staff of 50 people to be able to use this platform), and Enterprise is really only worthwhile if you need a full-time marketing staff by your side for a large-scale rebranding of your company.
In short, the Plus plan will probably handle most of what you need, if you’re a small business. And given the value you’ll be able to derive from automated customer segmentation and adaptive campaigns, that $49 a month will probably pay for itself in short order.
Managing a large email list can quickly turn into a more-than-full-time job – and ActiveCampaign’s automations can save you huge amounts of time by putting repetitive tasks on autopilot.
Say, for example, that a new prospect signs up for your email list. You can use automation’s to deliver a personalized follow-up message at exactly the right time – and the analytics embedded in these emails will give you deep insights on that audience member’s clicks and other responses.
Automations are also handy for delivering personalized offers and relevant content to specific audience segments, or even moving contacts to the next stages of your sales funnel when they complete certain trigger actions. You’ve even got access to an automation flowchart interface, which makes it easy to drag-and-drop different emails into specific points within your overall conversion funnel, so they always get sent at the right times, in response to the right customer actions.
Between real-time testing, read and click tracking, reply tracking, and advanced Google analytics for every email, automations are one of the most helpful tools for staying personally connected with thousands of prospects at once, and gaining an up-to-the-minute overview of how they’re reacting to every message you send.
Even the most brilliantly written email is only as effective as its place within an overall campaign. ActiveCampaign gives you tools and templates for designing a variety of different campaign types, all of which can easily adapt around your goals and audiences.
From the “Campaigns” menu, you’ve got options to create a standard campaign, which schedules a one-time email, like a newsletter or announcement. An automated campaign, on the other hand, sends a series of emails in response to specific triggers, like links clicked or time passed. Autoresponder campaigns are somewhat similar – they’re set up to send a welcome email, or to follow up with another email after a certain amount of time has passed.
You’ve also got tools for split testing campaigns, which enable you to compare the performance of different versions of a message. For even greater streamlining, you can launch an RSS-triggered campaign, which automatically pulls RSS content and places it into an email. Or you can set up a date-based campaign, which sends certain kinds of messages on specific days, like clients’ birthdays.
All these types of campaigns can be segmented according to customer attributes – for example, you can set up a campaign to send certain messages to specific groups of customers, on certain dates or in response to certain triggers. Once you set up the campaign, it’ll make sure the right messages are always delivered to the right people, without any intervention from you.
If you’ve been in marketing for a while (like I have), I’m sure you’ve got a massive list of contacts in all kinds of different formats, on a range of different platforms. ActiveCampaign makes it simple to import large, complex contact lists from CSV files with just a few clicks – and immediately start building campaigns around them.
Or, if you’d rather capture new leads via an on-site form, or from a third-party lead generation service, those options are just a click away. If you use a custom solution to organize your contact list, ActiveCampaign seamlessly syncs data with your other app. It can also grab entries from SQL databases on your own server, and merge them with your ActiveCampaign contact list. You can even add contacts manually, one-by-one – as I sometimes do after a long day of swapping business cards.
This contact integration ability can save you a huge amount of time, because it essentially treats every file and database format, on every platform, as a component in one central contact management solution. When you’re ready to plan a campaign, all your contacts are right there, waiting for you.
ActiveCampaign calls its CRM component “Deals,” because it’s designed to move your prospects smoothly through each stage of your pipeline, essentially automating your entire sales process.
The process starts by automatically consolidating all the information you have about each contact, particularly in terms of your past communication with them. This gives you a centralized overview of every interaction you’ve had with that contact, what you’ve offered them, how they’ve responded, and what the next steps are.
As you move forward in your sales pipeline, the Deals system integrates with the email marketing automaton component. This means you’ll be able to automate a lot of the followup process, and never miss a crucial call or meeting with a prospect – and save a lot of time and money you’d have otherwise invested in chasing down leads.
In short, the Deals component lets you focus on building relationships and closing sales, instead of spending all your time managing contacts, tracking down contact info, and wondering whether now is a good time to follow up.
Site and Event Tracking
Email marketing is only one component of a full-featured CRM and marketing strategy. It’s equally crucial to track how customers behave while on your website.
For example, if a certain customer visits the same product page multiple times, you can set up a trigger to automatically tag that person as “interested” in that particular product, and add them to a customer segment to be targeted with a follow-up sequence of emails containing offers and other content relevant to that specific product.
This type of behavioral targeting can save a huge amount of time and guesswork, because it basically tells you how to design your email campaigns, based on hard data about your visitors’ actual behaviors and interests. It can also help you segment your audiences much more precisely, based on the pages they’ve visited and the links they’ve clicked – so you can target them with content that hits their interests right in the bulls-eye.
Site tracking can also be helpful for examining the behavior of individual outliers, so you can address their needs, too, and minimize the number of customers who slip through the cracks.
One of the trickiest parts of marketing automation is agreeing on which metrics actually matter. Everyone wants a high conversion rate, of course – but what do you do with prospects who aren’t taking the “right” actions within your sales funnel?
This is where ActiveCampaign’s “Goals” feature comes in incredibly handy. Goals work as components of the standard drag-and-drop campaign automation workflow – you can just drop them in at any point in your conversion funnel – but unlike typical triggers, Goals activate specific events only when a prospect doesn’t take the action you want them to take.
For example, say you want a prospect to register for your event. If they don’t take that action at the point in the funnel where you’re hoping they will, the automated campaign can wait until certain additional conditions are met before proceeding to the next steps – or it can bump the customer out of that particular campaign, place them in a different segment, and send them other types of communication tailored around their geography, traits, behaviors, and all kinds of other data points from your customer database.
If you’ve watched a lot of leads “bounce” from your sales funnel, you know how frustrating it can be to have no idea what to do with them next. Goals make sure you’ll never have that problem again.
Contact and Lead Scoring
Every lead in your database has a unique mix of traits. They vary by geography, interests, behaviors, demographics, and a wide range of other factors. Not all are qualified to buy from you, and not all are engaged, or anywhere near ready to buy – though some definitely are.
Classifying your leads can be a hugely time-consuming process – but ActiveCampaign takes a lot of the grunt work out of your hands. All you’ve got to do is set up a system of lead-ranking rules, and the software does the rest. You start by deciding the minimum criteria for a lead. Then you define your target market, ideal touchpoints, and any other factors that might raise or lower a lead’s ranking.
Once you’ve set up your custom rules, ActiveCampaign combs through your entire lead database, and assigns every lead a score based on the rules you’ve specified. From there, it’s easy to pull out lists of leads with certain scores, or who meet other criteria that make them especially qualified for certain campaigns.
This kind of automated lead scoring makes it a snap to pinpoint the leads most ripe for nurturing, to identify fans, promoters and advocates for your brand, to pre-qualify leads to pass along to your sales team, and (of course) to tailor your on-site and email marketing around each lead segment.
Every email list’s size and conversion rate depreciates over time – in fact, most email lists depreciate by 25 percent, on average, every year. This is why it’s crucial to track engagement, in order to keep your deliverability and conversion rates high, even as your lists shift in size and composition.
Engagement is a word that gets thrown around a lot – but it basically boils down to a short list of concrete factors. You need a clear, concise opt-in. You need to follow up with welcome emails. Unsubscribe links need to be clear and easy to find. You need to keep testing every email on your list, to make sure it’s still operational. And, of course, you’ve got to keep A/B testing subject lines and message content, so your audiences keep opening the content you send their way.
Tracking all these metrics might sound like a job for a whole team of marketers. But ActiveCampaign actually provides automated tools for analyzing the engagement of all your contacts, based on a variety of behaviors, from open and click-through rates, all the way out to variations in behavior over long periods of time – so you can take action before you lose ‘em.
In light of the range of features ActiveCampaign offers – some of which, like Goals and the Deals system, I haven’t seen on any other platform yet – I can definitely recommend it as a solid investment for a growing business.
I’ve built quite a few sales funnels with the drag-and-drop interface, and it really couldn’t be simpler. I feel like I’m working with enterprise-level marketing automation tools, right from my laptop at home.
StickyMarketers is an authorized agency reseller, bringing you the complete ActiveCampaign experience along with value added services