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Leadership: How to Start a Software Company

how to start a software company - an interview with Laura Roeder

 

Today I interview Laura Roeder, who founded LKR Studios in 2009. Laura has built quite a name for herself teaching people how to create internet fame and how to use social media to further their business objectives. Out of that business she got an idea for a software product that helps people to use social media. The name of the software is Edgar.

Today we talk about the challenges of transitioning from an information products only business to the software business. Laura details the different skills and approach that are required to run a successful software business.

If you are thinking of starting a software business this is going to be a great interview for you to listen to.

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Ontraport vs. Infusionsoft_0

Ontraport vs. Infusionsoft: Which Marketing Software is Right For Your Business

 Ontraport vs. Infusionsoft_0

“I’m switching from Ontraport to Infusionsoft.”

This is what I heard from one of my subscribers a few weeks ago – three weeks in and he was so frustrated with the functionality constraints, he decided the lower startup costs weren’t worth the hassle, even after he had migrated most of his business into Ontraport (formally Office AutoPilot). The same day I heard from him, another one of our subscribers brought a very similar complaint to us via Facebook. The complaints were pouring in!

So, I decided to write this comparison.

With the great CRM system, the loads of 3rd party support, and the amazing Campaign Builder, Infusionsoft was an easy choice for us, but not everyone has the same needs. Here we’ll take a look at the different features each software provides. Specifically, we’ll analyze the following components:

  • Pricing & Setup
  • Training & Initiation
  • Features
  • Marketing & Automation
  • Other

Pricing & Setup

Each program has its own unique approach to software set-up. Infusionsoft is consultant-based and detailed, while Ontraport is more self-servicing and intuitive. Here are the prices and expectations for each:

Infusionsoft

Pricing

$199-379/month,  ~$2000 Kickstart fee

Setup

While the initial startup costs can seem daunting to small business owners, Infusionsoft feels that due to the customizable nature of the software, the startup Kickstart training is necessary. The packages follow a structure which includes:

  • One-on-one consulting and implementation help in the first 30 days
  • A custom implementation guide to follow for the next 60 days
  • Analysis of your business’ needs and challenges
  • Help implementing the features that will make the biggest impact
  • Data import and dashboard configuration assistance
infusionsoft kickstart

Taken from Kickstart Page

There are two packages you can choose from once you begin your Kickstart program:

  1. Marketing Blueprint- Ideal for newer businesses looking to create and implement a marketing strategy for their lead generation and nurturing. This program will help create a framework to utilize in the future.
  2. Automate and Scale- Focused more on businesses looking to scale their efforts and make the business processes self-sustaining and automated. This program is designed to help businesses create internal processes to help sustain growth and scale their operations with the business.

The benefits of the Kickstart program go beyond the training and support for the actual software. With the right strategy and self-reflection, business owners can use this support to write personalized goals and campaign strategies, which is a powerful step in lead generation.

Ontraport

Ontraport Prices

Taken From Pricing Page

Pricing

$279-579/month

Setup

As opposed to Infusionsoft, you can order Ontraport online and move through the setup process fairly quickly. There is a much shorter lead-to-customer cycle, which is a nice touch and can be less intimidating.

As you can see, the monthly fees are higher but there is no startup fee. There is a free 2 hour implementation session which connects you with a dedicated “Hero” who is in charge of your account. The session includes:

  • Immediate Ontraport training with a dedicated Implementation Specialist
  • Get started building automated processes tailored to your business
  • Gain a deep understanding of Ontraport’s features and functionality
  • Get your sales and marketing automated right away
  • A unique head start in mastering Ontraport that’s tailored to your business

While the stated deliverables are a little overlapping repetitive, the main point is a service professional will contact you and help set up the program while tailoring the session to your business model.

The difference between Ontraport’s Pro and Team options is pretty negligible as far as I can tell, the main difference being the number of program users and email contacts. The number of emails does not change, which is odd considering the extra $300 a month fees.

Training & Initiation

Infusionsoft

Approx. Set-up Time: 4-8 Weeks

The length of set-up time is partly due to the Kickstart training regimen provided by the company (which takes place over 30 days), and partly because the software is so dynamic. While it the time period may seem long, remember that you will be building and implementing your software throughout the actual process. You will be in contact with a dedicated consultant and can utilize the program while it is being created.

After the Kickstart, you should be well prepared to operate the software, as well as automate many of the processes to run your business. That being said, this is not a quick fix solution. This is a long term strategy which takes time to develop and understand. For this to work you need to allocate some time for reorganizing your business.

Community

The other training advantage I believe Infusionsoft has is their large user community. There are large forums with people actively searching and posting ideas on how to use the software effectively and other strategies they have seen succeed and fail. This is something Ontraport, being a relatively newer and self-learning software, does not yet possess.

Along with an active community, Infusionsoft also hosts events and seminars for their users to learn more about the program and upcoming changes. These include:

  • Infusionsoft University– Based at locations across the country, these classes offer hands-on training, Q&A sessions, mastermind groups, and other events.
  • Virtual Academy– Online training course
  • Mastermind Webinars– Weekly webinars focused on marketing strategies and automation
  • ICON–  Annual seminar for users to learn from business experts and thought leaders

Along with live phone support, Infusionsoft also features 24/7 chat support, which is vital because if you’re a small business owner like myself, you know your business is always a 24/7 effort.

Ontraport

Approx. Set-up Time: 1-4 weeks

This is one of the nice features about Ontraport. There set-up is much simpler. Most of the functions are relatively easy to understand after an initial training. As with Infusionsoft, you have one point of contact during the transition to help you customize your set-up.

The actual time frame depends on your level of experience with marketing software and willingness to learn, but is undoubtedly shorter than the time Infusionsoft takes to master because it is a less involved system.

This process can take longer if you are migrating from other platforms to a centralized system, but if you are unsure or time-restrained, you can hire a concierge to migrate the systems and help with other learning hurdles.

Ontraport Support

A Small Staff and Window of Support Makes Me a Little Nervous

Ontraport offers live chat and service calls for customers, but support hours are limited to 6AM-9PM PST on weekdays and 9AM-9PM PST weekends.

The personalization the “Heroes” offer is nice, but it is also a weakness, as only 12 support staff members are available. This is restraining for businesses located outside of the West Coast or in other parts of the world.

Non-Threatening Feel

I like the friendly feel of the entire interface. If you watch the videos and visit the page it is clean and non-intimidating. If you’re a small business owner looking to make a big money decision, you’ll value that level of approachability.

Features

Let’s break down the different perks and features included in each software.

Infusionsoft

CRM

The CRM is the real backbone of both of these software packages. Here are the rates provided by Infusionsoft:

I normally suggest ignoring the Essentials package and moving straight to the Deluxe(s) and Complete packages. The usefulness of the sales component is reason enough to pick up the larger packages. If you don’t have an inventory or product, you will have less need for Infusionsoft in the first place.

Tagging and Lead Scoring

This is an incredibly easy and powerful tool within Infusionsoft, and with the rising importance of tag management in online marketing, I believe it’s a must for any good CRM software.

You can utilize tags for any number of actions users take on your site and automate what procedures to take when these actions happen.

Infusionsoft Tagging

Searching for Tagged Contacts in Infusionsoft’s CRM

As you can see, data can be sorted by tagged details applied to each contact. This is information you can gather based on opt-in forms, random surveys, user actions, or during the check out portion of your sales process. This allows you to search for relevant information depending on the needs of your campaign.

Notice the tag section below. We utilize hundreds of tags. No joke. We tag everything from clicking a certain link, to attending a webinar, to watching a certain percentage of a video, and so much more.

These tags allow you to monitor your customer’s behavior throughout their experience with your site and give you the opportunity to make informed decisions on how to respond to their actions.

Infusionsoft Lead Scoring

Identifying Hot Leads Automatically

Infusionsoft also offers a quality lead scoring system which you can automate to update when a contact has completed certain actions or purchased certain items. This can be incredibly useful for sales teams looking to optimize their time as it helps to quickly identify quality leads without doing manual searching and decision-making.

This is the key to automation – a powerful CRM system which integrates with a reliable automation system. The tagging and organizational aspects allows you to make more precise and meaningful automation decisions.

Clean Data and Company Identification

While this may seem trite, the value of these features on Infusionsoft should not be understated. With the amount of data coming in, it is important to capture unique contacts.

Infusionsoft allows you to delete repeat information and keep a concise and accurate customer base. With Ontraport, this can be time-consuming.

Infusionsoft B2B

Adding One Tab Can Be So Important

Infusionsoft also allows you to categorize companies independently from customer contacts. If you are running a B2B service or even just have elements of B2B work, this feature is critical. This is also missing in Ontraport’s CRM system.

Sales Pipeline

Infusionsoft Sales Pipeline

Informative Video On The Various Actions In The Sales Pipeline Feature

The Deluxe Sales and Complete versions of Infusionsoft allow you to make complex and powerful sales pipeline adjustments. Use this tool to structure task assignment for sales teams, assign leads to users, update product lists for possible customers, and more. This is a feature especially important for companies with devoted sales teams and a list of products the sales team is working with.

This feature is just plain not available in Ontraport.

Ontraport

CRM

Ontraport offers a decent quality CRM system that is useful and intuitive. There is the normal functionality and sorting, but it is much more limited in scope than Infusionsoft.

But this does not mean Ontraport is a bad system.

Ontraport CRM

A Peek Into Ontraport’s CRM

It contains all the necessary components, is clean and efficient, and can handle most CRM needs. There is also a tagging and lead scoring system which can be automated and utilized to act on high involvement actions. The tagging and lead scoring isn’t as advanced as Infusionsoft’s, and doesn’t easily tie into the automation feature (read on for more details about the Marketing Automation differences between the two systems).

These are great features, but they fail to keep up with the sales heavy focus of Infusionsoft. This includes the 150 Custom Fields that Ontraport provides compared to the 100 custom fields per record type that Infusionsoft has. That being said, there are aspects of Ontraport that go above and beyond what Infusionsoft does.

Facebook Integration

If you have a Facebook site or advertising and move a prospect through this channel, Ontraport has a great integration system to capture those leads. This comes standard and creates the lead profile upon user entry. Infusionsoft has a great plug-in called GroSocial which is very similar, but there is an additional fee per month.

Membership Sites

Ontraport offers a free and easy membership site plugin for WordPress users. This is especially useful for information marketing because it allows paying subscribers access to certain content depending on membership level. Infusionsoft offers CustomerHub, but it is also an additional plug-in with an additional fee.

Ontraport offers pretty seamless plugins for WordPress users including order forms, landing page creation, and membership sites. Infusionsoft offers the same.

The difference here is the ability to add-on as your business grows.

Ontraport is limited in its capabilities and does not have a strong plug-in marketplace. Infusionsoft allows you to add nearly any business function you need as you grow your business. This allows for a vastly more personal software system throughout the life of your business.

Marketing & Automation

Infusionsoft

Webpage Builder

Infusionsoft Webpage Builder

Infusionsoft’s Webpage Builder

In the Campaign Builder function of Infusionsoft there is a drag-and-drop feature for creating things such as landing pages. There are templates available that can cater to most customers. With a little bit of training, the process is relatively simple and intuitive.

The function does lack in terms of creativity and manipulation. You can completely customize your pages, but it does take a little more time and understanding of the software.

Email Templates

Infusionsoft Email Template

Infusionsoft’s Email Templates

Email templates are one of the nicer aspects of Infusionsoft’s marketing system. The formatting is very simple and extremely clean, but there are additional functions and personalization available.

For instance, you can insert personalized information in an email, include a download link to an online product, or tag a contact based on a specific link they click in your email.

You can easily direct your emails to specific users, and the integrated anti-spam system helps your emails avoid your contact’s spam folder.

Despite this, there is no real split-testing function in Infusionsoft. You can manipulate the emails to send to specific users (as in cloning the email and selecting A-M and N-Z for example) but it is cumbersome.

THE Campaign Builder

Ok, here it is. The best feature of any small company marketing software – the marketing automation component.

In Infusionsoft, it’s called the Campaign Builder.

Infusionsoft Campaign Builder

Best Campaign Planning Software I’ve Seen

It’s just so damn beautiful.

This feature allows you to conceptually create a system of actions to take place throughout different campaigns. It can trigger automated responses depending on where your contact came from and what they are searching for.

Brilliant.

It’s also very simple to use and makes the process of visualizing the customer buying process on your site much easier.

I really can’t get enough of this piece of software. This is the kind of thing that would normally be reserved for large company software programs worth thousands. This is far and away the best automation tool I’ve seen – not just in comparison to Ontraport, but to any small-to-mid-sized software on the market.

Here are some videos on how the system works and how easy it is to create campaigns.

Ontraport

Webpage Builder and PURLs

Ontraport’s webpage builder is more customizable and looks cleaner. This also applies to Ontraport’s web order forms, post cards, and landing pages. They emphasize the personal touch in their product. These Ontraport-created pages can also be hosted on your own site, which makes it easier to have full control over the sales process.

Ontraport also has a great PURL system. If you are unfamiliar, PURLs are sites that customers land on which has personalized features that can say things like “Hey Brian” or “It’s been 3 days since your last visit, here’s what you missed”. You see this on larger sites like Amazon and it really adds a great marketing angle. These are only available through a 3rd party with Infusionsoft.

Ontraport If-Then System

Ontraport Tagging System

If-Then Systems

Ontraport offers a campaign system which is intuitive and in a language that most users can understand. Select a user action, then a condition (like if the customer is a subscriber), and then a follow up action to be taken.

You can really get down to the specifics with this system and it is a breeze to set-up and utilize. This is a very useful tool in the steps towards profitable automation.

While the system works well and is in the same vein as the Campaign Builder, it can’t even hold a torch to the amount of customization you can achieve with Infusionsoft’s system.

Ontraport Split-Testing

 Split-Testing in Ontraport

Split-Testing

This is possibly the most useful integration feature of the marketing automation tool-set. The Split-Testing option allows you to create up to 4 different emails (A/B/C/D) and send them out based on certain parameters or on random assortment.

This can be integral to your marketing efforts as you measure and report the different response rates you are getting from your campaigns, and is a powerful testing function which isn’t as easy in Infusionsoft.

These emails are also sent from your own IP address and have a time zone identifier for your international customers (Infusionsoft was adjusting that last time I checked).

Other Features

Infusionsoft

To be fair, Infusionsoft is really the only one of the two with any real E-Commerce functionality. There is seamless and powerful integration between E-Commerce, CRM, and the Campaign Builder.

If you have a sales team or a product listing, Infusionsoft has a clear advantage because Ontraport just doesn’t have a E-Commerce system in place other than 3rd party plugins.

Shopping Cart

Infusionsoft Shopping Cart

A Multi-Item Shopping Cart Comes Standard

As you can see, Infusionsoft has a multiple-item shopping cart, and action buttons for the different stages of the buying process. You can tag people who have purchased items and redirect sales efforts based on those new conditions. This can also be used in collaboration with your Campaign Builder, making a seamless buyer process to monitor.

Affiliate Center

Infusionsoft offers a hosted affiliate center which is much easier to initiate than Ontraport’s self-hosted option. The system is set up and ready for you, so all you have to do is configure it. Ontraport has this feature but you must create your own site through the WordPress plugin, much more time consuming.

3rd Party Plug-Ins

This is one of the defining features of Infusionsoft. There are a fantastic list of developers catering to niches in your business efforts. If you need a new function in your system, you can often simply find someone who provides it.

Despite the additional costs, I’m going to say this is a big plus for Infusionsoft. Ontraport just does not possess the sheer number and functionality of 3rd party developers as Infusionsoft does. You can add so much personalization and utility to your process, whereas Ontraport users are essentially stuck with the options provided.

Ontraport

Postcards and Email

Ontraport allows you to create and send personalized post-cards to customers with at no extra cost (there is a limit on amount sent). This may not be overly important to your business but it is a nice touch which can really add to your customer’s trust in you.

Ontraport also allows a much larger email lists and amounts of emails to send. You can add additional email contacts to your contract with Infusionsoft, but it is an additional fee.

Ontraport Tracking

Tracking Features on Ontraport

Analtyics and Tracking

Tracking is made pretty simple with Ontraport’s system. It allows you to see with data and charts what things your customers are doing on your site – which pages they visit, which links they click, and more.

This is especially useful with Ontraport’s email split testing and PURL functions, which can give you fast and easy reporting on your campaign reactions.

While Infusionsoft does offer data analysis tools, you will likely want to create your own analytic reports. They do offer some standard functions but for more detailed reporting you have to create your own formulas. This allows for more customization, but to be honest, it can be difficult to know what you want the data to do and, probably more so, what data is worth looking into.

The analytics reporting feature included in Ontraport is a little more easy to read and conceptualize, especially with the graphs and other tools.

I use a 3rd party data analysis tool on Infusionsoft, and regardless, I do recommend you have multiple measuring systems in place, but it is nice to have one already established.

The Breakdown

ontraport vs. infusionsoft

Conclusion

Ontraport vs. Infusionsoft. I know it seems lopsided, but the fact is Infusionsoft is a larger company with more capabilities. Ontraport has some great features as well but for many users the functionality may not be enough.

Ontraport is newer and is continually learning from their progress. It’s great. I love what they’re doing and they have a good program, but they are competing with a better, more established, even cheaper alternative. It just doesn’t stack up right now.

Infusionsoft has more features that focus on more solidified business practices, which is why they’ve been growing so rapidly for years. In fact, they received $54 million in venture capital funding in 2013, and they’re only expected to continue to flourish.

Their focus on CRM, Sales, and Campaign Planning are the reasons Infusionsoft holds such a solid presence in the marketing software marketplace.

I would continue to recommend Infusionsoft for most business structures, especially ones that possess a strong sales angle and a physical product. For information marketing, solo-ventures, and consulting, I can see where Ontraport can provide some great tools. The problem is scalability, where Ontraport is limited to its basic functions, while Infusionsoft grows with the user as their business grows and changes.

But my opinion isn’t the only one worth listening to – what are some of your experiences with these two pieces of software? What are some key selling points? What do you like or dislike? We love to hear your ideas on the analyses we do here.

Additional Resources

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Introducing KontentFlow: A Content Marketing Software for Marketing Agencies

content marketing software

Creating high quality content and then distributing it to your client’s websites and social media platforms is a time consuming process that involves a lot of moving parts.

It can also be a very profitable source of recurring revenue, if done efficiently.

KontentFlow is a brand new application that we’ve been developing for the last 6 months that makes it faster and easier for marketing agencies to create and distribute content to their clients’ blogs and social media accounts.

In this post, I’m going to give you a sneak peak at the software, as well as give you the opportunity to apply to be a part of our beta program.

See KontentFlow in Action

To help you understand the problems that KontentFlow has been designed to help you solve, we’ve created the three explanation videos below.

Overview of KontentFlow

In this first video, my partner Paul is going to give us an overview of the software.

Creating Content

In this video, Paul shares how KontentFlow helps you to significantly speed up the process of content creation.

Marketing Agency Owner’s View

Here Paul shows us KontentFlow from the perspective of the agency owner.

What Problem is This App Solving?

Approximately a year ago, I met an agency principal at an industry event and during our conversation, I asked him if he was creating blog content for his clients on an ongoing basis, for a retainer fee.

He smiled and said that his firm had 120 clients on retainer for exactly this.

Then I asked him how he managed it all.

His smile disappeared when he told me that it was all done with spreadsheets and email and it was a complete nightmare.

Content Marketing for Clients Has a Lot of Moving Parts

content marketing softwareAs I explained in a prior post, delivering ‘content marketing as a service’ to your clients is a wonderful way to increase your retainer income and position your firm as an indispensable partner to your clients.

It is also a way to dramatically increase the value of your agency. I know this because my last firm had $80,000 in monthly recurring revenue, and without this predictable stream of revenue, there is no way that the buyers of that firm would have paid me anywhere near the $1.2 million they did.

Obvious financial benefits aside, there is a snag you must consider- the logistics of managing it all.

If you have even 6 clients on retainer, you have the following ‘moving parts’ to efficiently manage:

  • six editorial calendars
  • at least 2 writers (depending on volume of content to be delivered)
  • at least one account manager working for the agency
  • at least one person per client who needs to approve content before it’s published
  • at least six client websites
  • 15 to 18  social media accounts

If you think about the workflow for a single piece of content, it goes something like this:

  1. Determine topic
  2. Assign to writer
  3. Perform keyword research
  4. Perform general research on topic
  5. Write article
  6. Send to account manager for review
  7. Send to client for review
  8. Publish to client’s site
  9. Promote on social channels
  10. Measure content’s impact on traffic and sharing

That’s ten steps for just one blog post for just one client.

Remember the guy with 120 clients? Each of them want at least one post per week. Can you see why managing this with spreadsheets and email just doesn’t cut it?

Due to the logistical issues involved, if you don’t have a well-defined process in place, supported by software, the management burden of this service offering can get pretty intense as the number of clients you serve increases – possibly resulting in a very negative impact on profitability.

Fortunately, we have a solution for you.

KontentFlow: Content Marketing Software for Marketing Agencies

Before we get into what the software does and how it works, I want to briefly address what it doesn’t do.

KontentFlow does not write content for you. It doesn’t scrape content, or do any other kind of spammy content creation you can think of.

Instead, what it does do is dramatically speed up the process of content creation, distribution, and promotion – while giving you an organized system to ensure that you can deliver your service efficiently and profitably.

If you run an agency and are creating blog and social content for multiple clients on an ongoing basis, KontentFlow is for you.

What Do You Think?

If you have questions about KontentFlow, please ask them in the comments below. I will personally read and reply to every comment.

If you’d like to use our software in your business, please apply to our beta program.

Apply to the Beta Program

We are now ready to launch our beta program and are accepting applications.

Initially, enrollment will be extremely limited to allow us to work very closely with our beta users. For this first round of beta, we are looking to work with agencies that already have at least 3 content marketing clients.

To apply, simply click the image below to be taken to the enrollment page.

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