The best CRM for web designers

The marketing automation tool we chose (and why)

The world of marketing automation is a big and somewhat scary one. There are so many tools to choose from and it seems more are being added all the time.

We’ve played with a lot of them and have just never been happy.

Here’s the one we landed on, and why…

What’s all this CRM nonsense anyway

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (sorry if you have), you’ll have heard people throw around one or more of these terms:

  • Marketing automation
  • Autoresponder
  • CRM

Depending on who you talk to, these are often used interchangeably. Technically, there are differences between them all, but the lines are blurring as products expand their feature sets.

bigstock Crm Business Customer Crm Man 140208611

Gone are the days of throwing all your leads into one big buckets and marketing to them all the same way.

Everyone is sick of that. Do that and you’ll get unsubscribes as fast as people can click the dreaded link.

Instead, you should be segmenting people based on what topics they are into. This is now all done with tags, rather than the old school list system. That means you need a tag based product to make this happen.

The most well known ones in the small business space (according to me) right now are:

  • Infusionsoft
  • Ontraport
  • Active Campaign
  • Drip
  • ConvertKit
  • AgileCRM

Some popular autoresponders have been intentionally excluded. These are the ones that are old news, or just haven’t really kept up with the times. The ones I usually have a little giggle to myself when someone says they are using them. In particular… MailChimp and Aweber.

Where we settled

tl;dr: Active Campaign. Infusionsoft is too clunky and expensive. Ontraport is too expensive and has an interface that has brought my almost to the point of fist-caused keyboard destruction on several occasions. Drip is basically a cut down version of AC. ConvertKit is still too basic. AgileCRM support is woeful, pricing is sneaky and I don’t like the interface.

The Longer Version

I remember the first time I really dug into Active Campaign. As a software guy, I’m extremely picky when choosing software that our business is going to rely on. While playing with Active Campaign for the first time and seeing how it compared to the market, I have never been as happy with a tool as I was with AC.

I have never been as happy with a tool as I was with AC.

It’s not meant to be an “all-in-one” offering like some of the big expensive players. It does not include landing pages and payment gateways. This is what makes it special.

Consider AC best-in-class for what it was designed to do – email marketing automation. Think of it as a specialist rather than a jack of all trades. Complement it with other other specialist apps to handle the other components, and you end up with a complete package of best-in-class apps (and still end up paying less than the expensive CRMs).

All in all, Active Campaign is one of the most easy to use marketing automation platforms out there, and the CRM component makes it even better.

Building Automations & Sequences

The Active Campaign automation builder is just… nice. Sometimes when you use a product, it just feels great to use. This is because someone has taken the time to sit down and really think about what people will be doing inside the software, and considered were each and every option should go. This is the wonderful world of UX design.

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This interface makes it super easy to see all of your logic. When you add new nodes, it lays them out automatically and clearly.

This might sound trivial, but freedom isn’t always a good thing. If you are a stickler for things lining up like me, tools like AgileCRM that allow pixel level freedom, you’ll spend more time making sure items are lined up than actually building your sequences.

When it comes to building automations, Drip is also pretty nice. In fact it looks almost suspiciously similar.

The CRM

This piece comes on their mid price tier, which is still very affordable at $49 a month at the time of writing.

crm for web designers

We use the CRM to visualise our sales process. As leads move through the various stages, you’ll move them along (drag and drop) which can be used to fire off automations.

For example with websites you might have a few stages:

  • Warm lead
  • Initial sales call
  • Brief completed
  • Proposal sent
  • Job Won

If you are using online forms for your brief, you could automatically move someone into “brief completed” when they’ve finished. That could then create a task for you to create the proposal or quote.

In our process, we have additional stages after the website is completed. These ask how happy they are with the service and prompt for testimonials and referrals if they answer positively.

When used like this, a tool like Active Campaign becomes much more than just an email autoresponder.

Final Notes

This is only a very basic introduction to Active Campaign.

Just know that after a lot of research and playing around with different tools, this is the one we settled on. In several marketing automation groups, I am seeing more and more people switch for all kinds of reasons.

There are a huge number of things, big and small, that make AC an amazing choice. I’d be here all week to go through them all. Maybe future blog posts can dig into the various features.

The best bet is to head over to Active Campaign and sign up for a free account. Start playing around and you’ll see what I mean quick enough.

One thing is for sure – I’ll be sending web design specific funnels/sequences that help you get more jobs in the door and have to do less work throughout the process.

Subscribe below to make sure you get them.

James Rose

James is the co-founder of Content Snare and Aktura Technology. Once a web designer, his new priority is to help web designers and developers regain their lives, work less and get better clients.

He does this by writing helpful posts, building software and working with web designers to deliver the complex web development that they don't normally handle.

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