A look at Agile CRM, the right choice for your business?
Is Agile CRM the whole business customer relationship and marketing manager we have been waiting for?
Agile CRM is positioned as an affordable, mid-range complete business management software. What originally started as a CRM (hence the name Agile CRM), has morphed into a tool with a mind-spinning number of features.
On Agile’s own sales pages, the platform compares its features with some of its competitors and according to the tables it really does stack up feature for feature. However, some of the gloss starts to come off Agile as you start using the software, making it not quite as easy to use or visually appealing as some of its larger competitors like Salesforce and HubSpot.
So, let’s take a closer look at some of the core features of Agile CRM to help you work out if this is a good solution for your business.
Agile CRM: Three Platforms in One
Agile CRM is structured with three main functions that are separated as individual tabs within the platform. These functions are:
- Sales – the CRM function
- Marketing – including email, social media and landing pages
- Service – a customer help desk function
The Sales or CRM side of the platform is by far the strongest aspect of the software. It is not called Agile CRM for no reason and the interface design cues are all taken from the structure of the CRM side of the platform.
Freemium as the starting point
The growing trend in SaaS (Software as a Service) is the “Freemium” Model. Mailchimp is a pioneer in this style of platform. The freemium model provides a free platform for users to get started and then charges as more features of the product are used or as there are more users or contacts added to the system.
Agile CRM starts as free for up to 10 users for use of the CRM and limited email marketing functions. At face value, it is a great deal and mimics the approach of HubSpot, with the free CRM model. Like with all freemium products there is a buyer beware caveat. Setting up a CRM for any business, existing or brand new is onerous. Working out how to categorise your customers and contacts and what structures work best for your organisation and how this fits within the parameter of the software is time-consuming. No matter how good the import of data to a CRM there is a need for manual handling of the contacts, and this is where much of your setup time goes. The freemium business model for CRM’s works well because, should you decide to move CRM, the work that is involved in exporting your contacts and setting up a new system is just so exhaustive, most businesses tend to stay with their existing CRM.
This is particularly an issue for all in one business systems. Within the Agile CRM universe, should you want to start using some of the more sophisticated features of the email marketing platform your bill can increase dramatically, especially if you have multiple users. Add to this the cost of emails which is calculated per email for over 5000 sends per month, then you could end up with a hefty bill for a “free” product. Like with any business investment, make sure you calculate the full cost of the product both today and projecting forward as your business grows.
The CRM Setup and Configuration
The CRM component of Agile is simple to set up and follows a similar formula to most other CRM’s that I have worked with. Upon registration, there is a guided setup that is very practical and helpful. Like with any CRM it is important to map how you want to categorise your contacts and make sure that all of your team follow the same formula. One sticking point to bear in mind is that when you are dealing with very large companies or Government entities which have multiple departments, there is no inbuilt mechanism within Agile CRM to cope with this, making it even more important to manually map complex organisational structures.
Initially, I also found the contact ownership side of the platform difficult. It does take a while to get a handle on how this works and how it is best used in your business use case. It can be difficult to manage when multiple users who look after the same contacts or when a user leaves the organisation.
Agile CRM Email Marketing Automations
The email marketing tools in Agile CRM are quite good. They have a similar level of detail in the automations as the likes of Active Campaign and Get Response. One thing that I really like is the way that marketing automations are virtually standard. In Agile CRM you do not just create a bulk email and send it, you set up an automation for every email that you send. The drag and drop automation editor makes this a straight forward process and can assist even novice marketers in thinking about outcomes and processes for every email they send.
Triggers are easy to set up within Agile CRM and interact seamlessly from the sales (CRM) side of the platform to the marketing side. The way this encourages businesses to think in terms of a full communication strategy is a great feature of Agile CRM.
There is, of course, a warning here. The price structure and permissions for each product level are confusing and limiting. For the marketing side of the platform, different packages allow access to a different number of nodes (or actions) within marketing automations and also limit the number of automations that you can have. Yet another drawback of the “freemium” price point. The challenge here is that as a business grows, a marketing professional is usually engaged to streamline email copy, content and customer journey. Agile CRM is not well set up for an administrator function such as this; workarounds to achieve this are clunky and difficult, making the platform cumbersome as a business grows.
Agile CRM Email Builder
This is my very least favourite part of Agile CRM. The email builder is not even in the same ballpark as those of Mailchimp and Active Campaign. In fact, when I set up a test account to write this article, the email builder crashed Safari on Mac for me, twice!
The templates that are available in the free version of the software are visually unappealing and look like they were designed over a decade ago. The premium version templates are a step up, but still not anywhere close to those included in leading dedicated email marketing platforms.
If you choose to use the drag and drop email editor to create an email template, it works fairly well however, it is not particularly sophisticated. Another bugbear of the email builder is that the image library. There is no auto-resizing or editing functionality within the platform and so if the images are not exactly sized correctly then they do not appear consistently either in the builder or in emails. I found that the best way to ensure image consistency was to host the images off Agile CRM, in the exact image and resolution size. If you are not a graphic designer this is just way too hard.
The workflow required to set up an email is ridiculous.Honest review from an email expert of Agile CRM
The workflow required to set up an email is ridiculous. To be honest, you are better off writing your emails in HTML and inserting them into the automation builder than trying to wrestle with the Agile CRM templates and then double back on yourself to get the content into automation to send.
The Agile CRM UI
The Agile CRM user interface is like stepping back in time. For such a new platform it’s user interface resembles software from the early 2010s, not 2020. The sales side of the platform is passable, but the Marketing side of the platform is like a collection of separately designed bolt-ons, with no cohesiveness of interface design or user experience. The landing page tool, for example, is completely different in both style and function to the automation builder which is different again to the email template tool and email visual builder.
Some simple function issues in Agile CRM limit workflow also, such as the bottom of the sidebar menus disappearing on smaller screens and ineffective scrolling. Small things that, when you are using the platform for hours per day, can become significant. It is also a little tricky to find certain features, with the menus not being particularly logical.
For some, the interface they are working in is not a concern, but if you are more visually oriented then the inconsistencies in both form and function on the platform are enough to make you think twice.
Agile CRM Customer Support
Customer Support for Agile CRM is limited. There is no option for chat support and user documentation is not comprehensive. The “Agile CRM Knowledgebase” is only included in paid versions of the software and does assist with troubleshooting.
Whilst real-time customer support via chat is not an option with Agile CRM, the email-based customer service is good. However, when you are located in a different timezone it can take days to work through support issues.
Agile CRM Reporting from the sales or CRM perspective is comprehensive and versatile. There is plenty of opportunities to manipulate data within the platform which saves you exporting and manipulating in Excel. You can also set up custom reports to be emailed on a one-off or scheduled basis.
One quite nice feature that is very helpful for growing businesses is the cohort analysis which can enable users to drill down into their customer journey to really understand their customers and what leads to conversions.
On the marketing side of the platform, the reporting is not as comprehensive and falls short of dedicated email marketing platforms.
Agile CRM is working hard at increasing the integrations and as a user over two different organisations, across a couple of years, I have seen this aspect of the platform grow. Whilst the integration list is increasing, it is subpar when compared with other platforms as there are plenty of big players in almost every category missing from Agile’s plug-in options.
Reputation as “buggy”
Agile CRM does have a reputation in the digital community as begin a “buggy” software. As I mentioned before, I encountered issues with both the email builder and the image library causing inconsistent results which led to wasted time. No software or platform will be perfect however Agile CRM does seem to have a significant number of quirks.
Service (or Help Desk) Functionality
A lesser-known aspect of the Agile CRM platform is the service features; this is basically a Help Desk functionality. The platform includes ticketing, automated email responses and a bot feature. I have not used this in a commercial setting however in a test situation it is simple to navigate and uses the same structure as elements from both the CRM and the marketing sides of the platform.
What businesses would suit Agile CRM
Agile CRM is definitely not suitable for all businesses. It is a good solution for small teams who want to use some marketing automations for their existing contacts to automate their customer journey.
Agile CRM is not a good solution:
- If you have a large sales team the Agile CRM platform gets unwieldy. Swapping or sharing of contacts is difficult and the costs of the platform can quickly become similar to its seemingly more expensive competitors.
- If you have a dedicated Marketing team then Agile CRM becomes cumbersome with difficulties authoring content and defining triggers.
- If you have a large email database, then Agile CRM can become expensive. Emails are charged per email for over 5000 sends, so if you have a database of 100,000 and send all of the contacts an email each month you will pay for 95,000 emails.
- If good UI/UX is important to you then steer clear of Agile CRM! It is not for you if you like beautiful.
With plenty of quirks to be ironed out Agile CRM appears to be a platform still in development. A great option for the budget-conscious solo entrepreneur or small team in a growing business, however, you get what you pay for with Agile CRM. It does not stand up against the likes of HubSpot and Salesforce for faster-growing businesses, medium sized companies and larger teams. The email marketing platform alone provides some good features especially when it comes to email marketing automations however it is not practical to use it in isolation to the CRM and is therefore not an option as a standalone email marketing software.