Thursday, July 4, 2013

Email Marketing in Act!: Which option to choose?

We recently compared two of the leading e-marketing choices for Act! users - Swiftpage and MailChimp. Below is the summary of our analysis, you can download the full comparison document here.


If we were to evaluate Swiftpage and MailChimp based on email marketing features only then MailChimp would be the clear winner. It has an extremely intuitive user interface, flexible pricing with a generous free plan, as well as lots of well-built features and integrations. MailChimp also provide proactive, targeted education to help users improve campaign results and are continuously introducing new useful features and addons to enhance the user experience.

However, when we also consider integration to Act! most businesses will choose Swiftpage.

Swiftpage’s integration to Act! from a list & campaign management perspective is excellent. The fact that users don’t have to manage multiple contact lists, and can send emails from within Act! is a huge time saver. Integration with Smart Tasks is also a useful feature and has a positive impact on overall workflow.

Unfortunately choosing Swiftpage means that businesses will be faced with an interface that leaves you guessing where to find things, an outdated template editor and shallow features. Unless you have experience with HTML and CSS the Swiftpage template editor will be a challenge to use and you might benefit from investing in a web developer or using a 3rd party template editor such as Dreamweaver.

Overall Swiftpage is a dated platform; this is reinforced by the fact that Swiftpage is not compatible with Chrome or recent versions of Firefox.

If you have a reasonably static list and that did not use the autoresponder feature could use the MailChimp integration successfully. In doing so you would not only benefit from MailChimp’s advanced features but also benefit from improved analytics available in Act! through the integration. As the analytics are stored in a custom table in Act! they can easily be reported on using a third party addons such as Smart Dash by Xact Software.

Both e-marketing solutions discussed here will result in a compromise and at the end of the day the right e-marketing solution will depend on whether you value integration to Act! or an easy to use, fully featured e-marketing tool.

Monday, July 1, 2013

How Safe is your CRM Data?

In the light of increase in natural disasters, changes to technology and human error we thought it would be useful to open up a discussion about data loss (with specific emphasis on CRM data) and how to prevent it.

Why Preventing Data Loss is Important

For many businesses, the information in their CRM is priceless because it stores all of the key information about their customers. Without it, sales people would have to rely on other data sources such as accounting and email systems to piece together key information about their clients. This would result in a significant loss in productivity and can negatively impact customer service and sales.

Data loss can occur as a result of a variety of factors including:
  • Natural Disasters & other sources of physical damage (e.g. earthquakes, hurricanes, theft & fire)
  • Viruses & IT System Failures (e.g. server crash)
  • Other Software (e.g. updates & integrations not installing correctly or corrupting your data)
  • Human Error (e.g. bulk updating or deleting contacts)

Ways to keep your CRM data safe

  1. Regularly back up your database: How often you do this may vary depending on how extensively you use your CRM with most businesses choosing to backup daily (you should be able to continue using your CRM while you are running your backup).
  2. Test your backups: How confident are you that your backups will run as they should, first time? The only way you can be sure is to test after each backup, and also if there have been changes to your machines (e.g. after installing addons, service packs, updates to your CRM or other software that affects it such as firewalls and major windows updates, or updates to your hardware)
  3. Store your backups in a safe place: There are many alternatives for storing your backups, the important thing to ensure is that the backup is not stored in the same location as your current database and that it is protected. If you are considering using a cloud storage provider have a read of their security policy first.
  4. Backup your backups: For some businesses having multiple backups is essential, simply follow the same rules as above for protecting your backups.
  5. Perform regular maintenance: To ensure that your database continues to run smoothly and efficiently it is advisable that you regularly run database maintenance tools such as re-indexing and deleting obsolete data.

Backing up your ACT! database

For information on how to backup and restore your database read this knowledgebase article. Please note that different procedures apply depending on your version of ACT! and your setup so be sure to read the article carefully.

If you would like to set ACT! to automatically backup your database you can do this using the ACT! Scheduler, details on how to set this up can be found here.

ACT! preventative maintenance

As described above there are a few ways you can maintain your database...
  • Check & Repair: This process checks for any errors in your database and repairs them, and also re-organizes the database storage area to increase access speed.
  • Remove Old Data: You can use the ACT! Database maintenance tools to selectively remove data older than “x” days from your database.

For more information on ACT! preventative maintenance including instructions on running the ACT! Diagnostic utility read this knowledgebase article.

Always ensure you have read and understood all the instructions before running any backup process or diagnostic utility. If you are unsure about performing these tasks yourself contact your ACT! Consultant.