Great question! In my 13 years as a marketing professional, I have used all the shapes and sizes of CRMs, triggered messaging, email dashboards, and more tools necessary to button them all up. But the last few years have brought us some amazing systems which are both lightweight and incredibly comprehensive in that they can operate as a sales and marketing CRM.
*Note: I AM NOT AFFILIATED with any of these companies in any way other than I have used them in one instance or another.
So, to answer your question, here are my top 3 favorite CRMs with marketing automation functionality and why:
Agile CRM is like a little brother to me because, although it was a little tough to handle early on, it’s been such a great experience watching it come to maturity in the US these last few years, and it has impressed me so much in the multiple use cases/accounts I have been running it for. These are the main aspects of Agile which make it ideal for sales tracking, sales automation and marketing automation in B2B SMB companies:
- CRM automation – you can setup the triggers, and the system will
- Separate dashboards for Sales, Marketing and also Support
- Separate automations for Sales and Marketing
- Plenty of triggers to start automations – from status changes to web page views.
- Their support person Jeff in Chicago is hands-down the most knowledgeable support person I’ve ever worked with across any CRM. He use to build enterprise data security systems so he knows a ton about domain verification and backend.
- Integrations galore – they integrate with every other app I love to use.
- Domain health minimums and sending from Gmail or Microsoft – IF you do some cold emailing (like I do from time to time…), you need a marketing automation tool setup to send through your google apps or microsoft account, and you need to be able to send if your domain health drops below 90%. Agile allows for this.
Dislikes about Agile:
- Somewhat limited on the setup and customization breadth of company accounts and contacts attached to companies.
- They are out of India so they do not spend a ton of time/effort on UI design. It’s not the prettiest dashboard you will use.
- Forms especially are ugly out of the box so you have to CSS those.
Active Campaign is basically Agile CRM with a better UI/UX, but slightly more expensive and less freedom to cold email. Active is great for small teams marketing B2C. It has tremendous functionality for ecommerce automations, and the ability to pull people in and out of lists (similar to hubspot). Aso, they are out of Chicago 🙂 What I like most about Active is:
- Their UI is easy and seamless.
- They have just about every integration you could possibly need for marketing activities.
- Ability to set conditions on aspects of the emails.
- Pretty good on-site chat UI (it’s no Intercom, but it works).
- The price is right.
- The dashboard is the same They do not allow you to send cold emails.
- Active only save images in your library alphabetically so if you send a lot of emails and add a lot of images it becomes a pain in the ass to find them once you upload them.
I’m not as familiar with Sales Sleek as the others, but I have to mention them as a necessary CRM for an awesome new marketing stack I’m excited to build on – CRM w/ marketing automation + Intercom + Aircall… This is a system which is both lightweight (inexpensive) and offers everything a startup with phone sales/support will need to both sale and support customers. Sales Sleek has native integrations with both Intercom and Aircall so you can use the three together seamlessly.
This platform is new so I have not spent enough time with it to give you as great of a breakdown as I feel I will be able to in a few months. But, what I like about it is:
- Its native integration with Intercom allows you to run both systems without issues.
- The way they allow you to visualize the prospects in the system is very unique.
- Price places it right on par with Agile and Active.
- It’s new, so there are some shortcomings in terms of customization.
I will be recording an episode of The Marketing Automation Discussion podcast next week so I will update this with a link to that so you can hear more about these platforms.