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.
From our first few meetings with SharpSpring representatives, we realised that our values and ethos are closely aligned. SharpSpring has kept the most positive parts of the SMB 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
There are a lot of players on the Marketing Automation scene in 2016, and they all have their own sets of positive and negatives. 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! Where some marketing automation providers may try and poach an agency’s clients or referrals, SharpSpring offers appropriate rewards for introductions and makes a point of staying true to its promise that ‘your clients are yours.’
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 transparent. I know when a request submitted by a member of my team has been developed, and we are kept up to date throughout the process.
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.
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 knows what it wants to do and does it well, and the value that they provide from a partner perspective is shown in a way that the “big boys” of marketing automation can’t, because SharpSpring genuinely wants to work together with its clients. As a partner, I can ensure that SharpSpring will stay the best that it can be. Its in-app editors might not be the flashiest, and its marketing budget might not be tens of millions of dollars a year, but there is no need for those things when you have a hugely powerful platform with a low barrier to entry and one of the best support structures I’ve ever used. All that provided by a business that genuinely wants to work in partnership with people is more than enough of a USP! With SharpSpring’s huge year-on-year growth in the marketing automation sector combined with its impressive retention rates, I’m hoping I can say I was in the first 1,000 partners when it’s 5 times that number!
As an agency, we’ve used and sold dozens of different softwares, technologies and tools over the years, but I can’t think of too many we’ve championed. 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. That is not to say SharpSpring is right for everyone, and SharpSpring itself is very upfront about this. 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.