The fact that we’ve actively participated in introducing agencies in direct competition with us to SharpSpring has earned us quite a few raised eyebrows over the last year or so. We’ve been telling clients, colleagues – and yes, even competitors – about SharpSpring ever since we moved our own campaigns from our previous marketing automation platform, although we continue to provide support across a range of marketing automation providers.
It's only natural that different Marketing Automation platforms have grown to occupy certain niches over the last two decades. If you pick the correct platform first time then this is nothing but a benefit! However committing man hours and money to a platform that isn't optimised for your businesses needs can have a very real negative impact on your business.
Just as with most Marketing Automation platforms SharpSpring is scaleable to almost any size, however their target demographic is firmly within the SME category. They haven't yet got the same kind of brand recognition as HubSpot or SalesForce but hopefully this blog post can stop another business owner making a costly mistake that I've seen more times than I would like!
It was obvious from the first few meetings with members of the SharpSpring team that we shared some common values and business principles. SharpSpring has kept the most positive parts of the SME mindset that we hold at our core:
Offering a holistic, tailored experience rather than a cookie-cutter product
Seeking to work as a partner rather than selling a product
Providing value and letting a service/product speak for itself
Marketing Automation is one of the few Digital Marketing Technology areas not totally dominated by just a few key players, there are some more recognisable names but none of them have a majority of the market share. Some have great unique selling propositions (USPs), and some have huge marketing departments. I can honestly say that SharpSpring is the best fit for the needs of my business. When compared to the first provider we were with, there are some standout differences.
First and foremost, the only surprises from SharpSpring have been the good kind! Some businesses may tout 'referral bonuses' but make them very difficult to collect; some Marketing Automation players who deal both with Agencies and end-clients may try to poach your clients. SharpSpring want more partners but they also want to keep those they already have, to that end they have a generous and transparent 'thankyou' for successful partner introductions and stay entirely separate from your business and it's clients.
Second, after years of hearing about how so many software-as-a-service platforms offer the option to submit ‘dev requests,’ I wasn’t expecting these requests to materialise into actual platform changes in nearly as many occasions as they have with SharpSpring over the last year. The process through which platform change and development requests can be made is simple and it's use encouraged. A member of my team submitted a 'dev request' which has been implemented, throughout the process we were kept updated and could essentially watch the change to the platform taking place.
What has been most refreshing about SharpSpring is the honesty with which they approach everything they do. Support is quick, responsive and honest when necessary. When asked about a specific function or feature, they’re not afraid to tell you if it isn’t currently included in the platform. As a business that has clients to satisfy, this kind of honesty is hugely appreciated.
Having met various members of the SharpSpring team, I can tell that the brand values do run throughout the business at all levels. The idea that any company using SharpSpring can leave at any time, with simply a few weeks notice, shows how flexible they are to work with. This business model is obviously an easy sell to us partners, but I had thought it might be viewed with less enthusiasm by those on the inside of SharpSpring. What we’ve found instead is that even internally, the monthly subscription model is valued as a core feature that sets SharpSpring apart – not only because it’s attractive to partners but because it forces SharpSpring to stay at the top of its game. Whilst it might seem counter-intuitive, as many of the big players maintain business by tying in their clients for a year or more, SharpSpring’s retention rate is nearly double that of some competitors, despite the fact that its clients are free to leave at any time.
"I like feeling trapped in a relationship"
When did you last hear someone say that?
Marketing automation platforms that use long-term contracts often have less pressure to provide ongoing reliable service. If you just tie a business in with a year-long contract and skim a client or two from them over that year, you’ve got a sustainable model that doesn’t require high retention rates and will continue to work as long as your marketing department has a budget big enough to drown out criticism.
The SharpSpring team understand what they are trying to do and exactly where their strengths lie. Many businesses pay lip-service to the idea of working in partnership but with SharpSpring it's more than just marketing fluff, I've seen the platform grow in response to 'dev tickets' members of my own team have raised. As a partner, I can ensure that SharpSpring will stay the best that it can be. There are aspects of it's platform that aren't quite as flashy or inviting as some of the competition, the reality is all that flash and promise is meaningless if you can't provide return using those tools. A powerful proprietary system, low barrier to entry and constant updates cater to the needs of an average SME just fine.
All that provided by a business that genuinely wants to work in partnership with people is more than enough of a USP! SharpSpring are bringing partners and clients on board at a fair pace and they can boast the best retention rates of any of the most popular Marketing Automation suites.
I'm hoping in a few years they'll be celebrating 10,000 partners and I'll be proud to say I was within the first 1,000.
Over the last decade we've used and sold dozens of different technologies, tools and software packages however I can honestly say I've never championed any of them like I do SharpSpring. SharpSpring is one of the few software-as-a-service solutions – and certainly the only marketing automation platform – that I can honestly recommend to the majority of my clients, without reservations. It's not the solution to every problem, it's certainly not the right fit for every business looking to use Marketing Automation but even SharpSpring are upfront and honest about this fact. Their platform and service has been developed with businesses like those I run and those of my clients in mind. There will never be a marketing automation platform that is ‘The One’ for everybody, as different businesses have different requirements and pain points.
However, for the needs of my business and the needs of the 10+ consultants and agencies I have personally introduced to SharpSpring, there has been no other offering on the market that could compete.