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For many small businesses email marketing gets put on the ‘to do’ pile somewhere down the bottom near the ironing. You know you ‘should’ be doing it. After all, staying in touch with your customers can lead to more business, referrals and a better working relationship / customer service. Plus you could be reaching out to new potential customers, or engaging new leads better. But sometimes our email marketing platform is the exact reason why it isn’t happening. They make it hard. But it is a TOOL isn’t the job of the tool to make it easier? Enter Active Campaign.
What is Active Campaign?
Active Campaign is simply an email marketing platform similar to Mailchimp, Aweber or others you may have heard of. However what Active Campaign is really great at is making ‘automations’ or email sequences really simple. It also has a CRM (customer relationship manager) for those that want to keep on top of new leads, sales opportunities, etc. But for many small businesses it will be the email marketing automation that is Active Campaign‘s big draw card.
What’s behind the pretty landing page?
Anyone who has trialled a few online platforms will know that a pretty or captivating landing page can oversell a tool that you then spend hours finding out isn’t all it promised to be. So let’s have a look behind the landing page at what Active Campaign actually does. A quick heads up, they actually have a series of video walk-throughs like this one on how to add or import contacts.
1. Email Marketing:
Want to create an email newsletter and send it? If you have less than 100 contacts,Active Campaign is free, then it is USD$8.99/mth. You will need to setup an account, then create a list such as ‘newsletter’ then add your contacts. You can import your contacts or add them one by one, you can also sync them with other applications you have like Xero which is pretty handy, although not always perfect due to the way different platforms file contacts.
Active Campaign will guide you through the steps to create your email newsletter, which is simply:
– Choose a campaign type from: Standard (an email newsletter or one off email), RSS based (an email is sent whenever you add a new post to your website), automated (see below), auto-responder (sent when someone subscribes to your email list), split-testing (compare multiple emails to see which works best) and date-based emails which can be sent on birthdays, anniversaries, etc.
– Then you choose which list you want to send it to. For instance you may setup various lists for different customer segments, your wider newsletter list (which might include colleagues, suppliers, friends and contacts you have met at networking events) and you only want to send your email to one list in particular.
– Then you can choose a template from the selection and customise the look and feel, copy, etc. This is one area where I felt a little let down by Active Campaign, I felt like there should be more options to customise me emails (I know there are a LOT but as a professional designer I am used to have lots of ability to tweak designs!!!). Then I discovered in the ‘campaigns’ tab there is ‘manage templates’ where you can setup a series of custom templates ready to go for your marketing, all with your branding colours, logo, etc. ready for different purposes.
– Want to get personal and social? When you are customising your email check out the ‘personalize’ button in the editor bar. It lets you add social links (including social sharing links), any field from a contact (first name, last name, company, etc.) and more.
It isn’t perfect, but there are some really powerful options along with the standard features.
2. Marketing Automation:
Active Campaign also differentiates between ‘Campaigns’ and ‘Automations’ with the latter being a sequence of emails that are automated to send at different times and under different conditions. Automations are basically sequences of emails versus a one-off campaign. For instance, if you have an event coming up you might set-up a 30-day sequence such as: a “save the date” email followed 7 days later with an “registrations now open” email, then a fortnight later “just one week to go, register now” email and finally a “last chance” email 1-2 days before. You can even add conditions to the email sequence so that once someone has registered they receive a separate series of emails, that say “looking forward to seeing you there”. You can do a lot of this in Mailchimp but our belief is that it is A LOT more intuitive to do this in Active Campaign, which means that you WILL ACTUALLY DO IT! Even better… you can just duplicate a sequence from one event to the next…
Not every business needs or wants a CRM (customer relationship manager). But if you do, having one that plays nicely with your email marketing software is a bonus. To have the CRM you will need to step up to the USD$49 (at time of writing) plan. Since this article is about email marketing usingActive Campaign we won’t go into it too much. But it is nice to know it is there and USD$49 is a much nicer price tag than many of the product suites on the market.
You can check out more reviews of Active Campaign here. You will also be happy to know it plays nice with:
- Gravity Forms (which we also happen to love). You can check out the Active Campaign / Gravity Forms integration.