Many entrepreneurs and business owners ask my opinion of Infusionsoft now that I’m no longer an exec at the company. Some simply want to know the dirt, but most really want to find out if Infusionsoft is right for them. Yes, being one of the originals at Infusionsoft lends itself to plenty of insider information as well as deep understanding of the software and what kind of businesses it works for. Is this review biased? Probably. I’ll leave it to you to decide. My hope is you’ll find it helpful in your path to success.
As this review has grown over the weeks, I have broken it into the following sections:
- Who Is Infusionsoft For?
- Infusionsoft Product Review
- Infusionosft Support Review
- Infusionsoft Company Review
Infusionsoft is not for everyone. If any of the following describe you or your organization, Infusionsoft will not be a good fit:
- No revenue (or cash reserves) in the business
- Nobody on staff that will ‘dig in’ to learn the software
- Looking for a ‘silver bullet’ (marketing automation is amazing, but if your marketing & sales processes don’t exist or aren’t working, software isn’t going to help you)
- Busted for SPAM in the recent past (if you’re a spammer, don’t even bother signing up for Infusionsoft as they have internal controls in place to automatically stop email batches that start to receive too many spam complaints… and will shut you down permanently)
- Very complex shopping cart needs or hundreds of product SKUs
- No desire to do nurture/drip/sequential/trigger/tripwire marketing
- More than 500,000 contacts/leads
- More than 20 users needing to access the system
- Over $10 million in annual revenue
Infusionsoft works best for the following types of organizations/situations:
- B2B or B2C
- Small businesses (<20 employees) and start-ups (as long as you have cash)
- Professional services, software & technology, sports & fitness, education, information products, marketers, consulting, medical, online retail, publishing, real estate, etc.
- Sales process includes either automated selling/buying via email & online purchase OR use of a direct sales team to manage the leads
- Lead management & follow-up problems
- Marketing-savvy or seriously trying to learn to market more effectively
- List management/segmentation problems
- Multiple systems now causing headaches (email/autoresponder, CRM/contact management, shopping cart, etc.)
- Looking to graduate from an email marketing tool to something more robust
- Moving off one or more of the following: ACT!, Goldmine, Salesforce.com, AWeber, ConstantContact, 1ShoppingCart, or similar systems
Infusionsoft struggled for years to properly describe what type of software they offer. Is it a CRM? A shopping cart? An email marketing tool? I’ve always held the belief that Infusionsoft, at its heart, is a marketing automation system. It’s been nice to see the company finally declare itself in 2011 a marketing automation system for small businesses. It’s what it does best… webforms for lead capture on your site, crazy list segmentation, autoresponders and sequential campaigns for nurture marketing, triggers & tripwires for automated workflow, email broadcasting, click tracking, etc. However, there are two ‘marketing automation’ elements that are currently missing and I’d love to see them developed: 1) lead scoring (for B2B sales primarily) and 2) integrated website tracking (to gauge lead interest/engagement and to trigger marketing and scoring based on particular site pages viewed).
Here’s my take on Infusionsoft’s key features:
- Web forms (A-): Significant updates were made to the web form functionality in early 2011 to improve aesthetics, ease of use and flexibility, provide a hosted option (you don’t have to copy and paste the webform code to your website… Infusionsoft will host it for you), etc. Amazing ability to trigger things to happen on the ‘back-end’ of the web forms. Once Infusionsoft starts offering full-blown landing page functionality along with progressive profiling (dynamically adjust what fields are presented in the form based on data you already have on the lead), I’ll gladly upgrade my rating to an “A”.
- Email Marketing (A): From large broadcasts to sequential auto-responders, Infusionsoft really excels here. The company released a very slick email ‘builder’ that enables novices to easily create good-looking, branded email templates for blasts and campaigns. Unlike some of their competitors, Infusionsoft sends hundreds of millions of emails per month and has been doing this for 7+ years… which means they’ve had a LONG time to figure out how to get emails delivered. Infusionsoft regularly reports average email deliverability rates of 97% and above. Whenever I hear someone complain about poor deliverability through Infusionsoft, most of the time it turns out they either have content problems or expectation/relationship issues with their list. Another challenge for email marketing platforms is the ability to quickly send the emails (especially when you are trying to time a reminder for an event or have a time-sensitive offer going out, etc.). Infusionsoft has very recently (Q2, 2011) made great strides in improving their ‘plumbing’ (MTA, code, database, and server config) to speed up the number of emails per second that get sent. In the past, it was not unusual to send to a large list at rates of around 15 emails per second. Translation – it could take a REALLY long time to send an email to a big list. Even worse, you might be queued behind another Infusionsoft customer who’s blast to a large list is sucking up resources and delaying the sending of your email. However, things have changed with the Q2, 2011 release. I recently sent an email to a large list and recorded an average rate of 198 emails per second! That’s more than a 13x increase in sending/processing speed. I’ve also heard recently, that these rates will only go up based on additional work their developers and email systems guys are doing.
- List segmentation (A): Infusionsoft’s use of ‘tags’ are a simple, yet ingenious way to keep track of who belongs to what list. Contacts/leads can belong to multiple tags/lists. When conducting searches within Infusionsoft, it’s easy to include or exclude multiple tags when trying to pinpoint who you want to send a specific message or campaign to. Tagging is one of my favorite features because marketing is all about sending the right message at the right time to the right person.
- Automation (A-): This is the secret sauce found within Infusionsoft and is key for small businesses who don’t have time or resources to be manually pushing buttons and pulling levers all day long to make stuff happen. Things like filling out a form, clicking a link in an email, moving a lead from one sales stage to the next, can all trigger a myriad of things to happen within Infusionsoft (add a tag, remove a tag, add to campaign, pause a campaign, notify an internal resource, send an email automatically, etc.). So, why not give it a full “A” rating? I’d like to see automation triggered off of data changes from virtually any field within the CRM and not just triggered from a clicked link or a form filled out. Another missing automation piece is being able to trigger things based off of contacts viewing pages on your website.
- CRM – Customer Relationship Management (B+): Infusionsoft users benefit from having a fully integrated CRM database tied to the marketing automation system. It enables tracking of customers, leads, prospects, vendors, etc. The primary contact record view shows demographic information, notes, history (email, campaign, webforms filled out, etc.) and provides up to 100 custom fields for tracking whatever else you might need. The CRM gets a bit clunky for B2B organizations that want to track Accounts and Contacts (one to many relationship) as Infusionsoft does a better job with simple lead/contact management. There are also limitations on creating custom views and layouts within the CRM.
- SFA – Sales Force Automation (B): For basic B2B sales and pipeline managment, Infusionsoft’s SFA functionality is solid. You can easily create a pipeline of leads within different stages of the pipe. Leads entering the marketing and sales funnel via web forms or imports can be automatically assigned to sales reps via round robin lead assignment (and yes, you can create deeper rules for lead assignment). Movement of leads from stage to stage can trigger the automation engine to stop marketing, remove tags, add the new customer to a “welcome” campaign, etc. Sales reps can fairly easily take notes on lead status, set next action dates, and manage their day-to-day sales activities.
- Shopping Cart (B-): What was once the red-headed stepchild of features within Infusionsoft has now become much stronger and fully connected to the automation engine. Frankly, it works just fine for 90% of Infusionsoft shopping cart users. The remaining 10% typically have complex needs that are only satisfied by a sophisticated stand-alone shopping cart solution or custom-developed cart. You’ll find most, if not all, of the typical cart functionality including product management, basic inventory tracking, shipping, cart skins, integration with a number of merchant account providers for automated one-time and subscription billing, in-cart upsells/discounts/specials, digital product delivery, subscription management, payment plans, etc. The cart’s weakness? It’s not easy to make your storefront look great and easily manage your products. Most users opt to simply create pages on their site that feature their products and services, then have the buy-now buttons link to the cart for checkout/processing. Having said all this, the power of having the cart fully integrated with the CRM and automation engine should not be overlooked. For example, when a customer purchases a particular product, Infusionsoft can automatically stop all marketing campaigns, remove ‘prospect’ tags, convert the lead to a customer, and add the new customer to a “new customer welcome” campaign. The sky really is the limit.
- Affiliate Management (B+) – For customers that want to run their own affiliate program to track leads, sales, and commissions generated by partners and affiliates who help market their products and services, Infusionsoft provides robust functionality. Multiple tiers, programs, variable commission rates (% or amount) per product, program, or affiliate, etc. The system also provides a login for each affiliate where they can view resources, obtain their tracking/referral links, review their stats and ledger, etc. The downside? Setup is difficult. Additionally, reporting is just okay and there’s no integration with PayPal for simple/automated affiliate payout. You need to run a ledger report and cut checks to pay your affiliates.
- Reporting (C+): Infusionsoft is not known for their amazing reporting engine or analytics. It does come with standard reports across the different functional areas. Additionally, you can create your own ‘searches’ and save them for future use. I also like the customizable widgets, “little box o’ stats”, and customizable search results you can all place on your homepage for real-time results and key performance indicators. The system comes with almost no graphical representations of the data… no charts, graphs, diagrams, etc. Basically, you get a ‘dump’ of the search results and it’s up to you to bring it into Excel for further refinement and creation of graphs, charts, etc. if that’s what you’re looking for. Unfortunately, most businesses don’t look at their own numbers close enough and haven’t yelled loud enough when it comes to deeper analytics, reporting, and charting. A major upgrade in Infusionsoft’s reporting engine (more flexibility, graphical reports, etc.) is in order.
- API (C+): It’s great that Infusionsoft has an open API that enables integration of the platform with 3rd party systems. Documentation and examples are just okay and it’s difficult to get API support from Infusionsoft. Good news is their online developers community is growing. If you need to integrate with another system, be sure to send your developer to the online community where they can download the SDK and other documentation, connect with other developers, etc.
Ever used a piece of software that was so easy you never had to call support or search their online knowledge base? Freshbooks comes to mind… you can read my blog post about them. Understand that Infusionsoft is a very robust platform with lots of different modules and functions… and a call to support, striking up a chat session, or spending time in the help center/knowledgebase is inevitable. When you need help, Infusionsoft provides plenty of resources:
- Implementation Services – When you buy Infusionsoft, you are required to pay between $2,000 – $3,000 for a quick-start bundle. The bundle includes basic help to get up and running with the software.
- Paid Services - From mapping your marketing processes to blocks of time for consulting, Infusionsoft offers a bunch of paid services to help you.
- Training - Both paid and free options for training are available.
- Free Online Services – Infusionsoft offers a bunch of self-help resources including a Help Center, Getting Started Guide, Tutorials, Knowledgebase, and weekly Mastermind Webinars.
- Technical Support – When you need an extra hand, it’s nice to know that technical support (via chat, email, and phone) comes with the software’s subscription fee. Chat support is available 24 hours, Monday – Friday. Email support is available through submitting a case online. Phone support in the US/Canada is available 7 AM to 5 PM (US, AZ), Monday – Friday. In 2011, Infusionsoft added phone support capacity in the UK now available 7 AM – 5 PM (UK), Monday – Friday.
- Certified Consultants – If you’re looking for hands-on help from an external resource that knows Infusionsoft, business/marketing/sales process, etc., Infusionsoft has certified a number of consultants throughout the US, Canada, and UK. Although Infusionsoft doesn’t advertise this (and after much digging), an online directory of certified consultants is located here.
2010 was a tough year for Infusionsoft, but despite a very tough economy and plenty of competition, Infusionsoft has done very well in 2011. One large contributor to the turnaround was a change to their pricing model. All new customers must pay a $2k- $3k fee to get started in addition to the monthly software subscription. The impact on the business are twofold; increased revenue and lower attrition rates… which lead to a larger lifetime customer value and stronger profitability.
Founded in 2004, the company was one of the first marketing automation organizations created. The company has over 6,500 paying accounts/small businesses and over 21,000 users. Infusionsoft has gone through two rounds of VC funding and will most likely go through another round in order to prepare for an IPO. In late 2010, the company finally hit cash-flow positive and has remained such.
Infusionsoft is led by strong executive and management teams. Culture plays a significant role and each new employee must go through a week of intensive culture training. At the end of their first week, they are offered money to quit in an effort to make sure they are hiring for fit. I know their CEO would disagree, but Gilbert, Arizona is not an ideal place to build an entrepreneurial marketing automation software company. Talent acquisition will become an increasing concern. Technology hubs such as Silicon Valley, Irvine, Salt Lake City, Austin, Boston, Manhattan, etc. would potentially be better suited for Infusionsoft’s long-term success around fund raising, business development, hiring, etc. However, Infusionsoft has been known to prove their critics wrong. Time will tell.
Due to the health of the company, product strength, customer numbers, and the demand for marketing automation software for small businesses, the software and company are going to be around for a long time.