Mailchimp vs Office AutoPilot – Why we switched

The debate between Mailchimp vs Office AutoPilot.

For a number of years, we used Mailchimp as our email service provider. Mailchimp is great for sending out emails to your email list either as one-off email or as part of an auto-responder sequence.

Mailchimp has great reporting providing you with in depth reports showing who has opened and clicked your emails. These statistics are vital in terms of understanding what your list is interested in so that you can provide more content that they find interesting. The more engaged your list is the better as they are more likely to buy from you or use your services.

But Mailchimp has it’s limitations.

The first one is that it is not a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system meaning that is you wanted to track phone calls, emails, letters and sales for each customer you would need to find another system that integrated with Mailchimp (like Salesforce, Batchbook, Capsule CRM). We had a look at each of these systems and found that the integration was clumsy as times but the main problem was that we would need to open at least two different systems. As a work process, this does not work very well. I found that I would spend most of my time in Mailchimp and the CRM system would be ignored.

The second problem with the dual systems (Mailchimp & CRM) was that you would define or sort a group of customers at a certain stage of the buying cycle (like people who have attended webinar but not yet purchased) and it was difficult to send an email in Mailchimp to that small group or even individually. As a result, opportunities were lost.

The effectiveness of any email list is to provide the most relevant content to an individual person. We have many different types of clients from tax clients to business clients to family lawyers to personal injury lawyers to commercial litigation lawyers. The Family Lawyers are not interested in hearing about personal injury and visa versa. I need to deliver information and content that is specific to each person’s interests. Mailchimp was able to provide some degree of segmentation by using different lists or a more recent addition being groups.

The problem with lists was that your clients could be a member of different lists and therefore receive the same email 2 or 3 times.

The problem with groups was that the process of adding groups was manual.

Let me explain: Lets say you sent an email with two links each to a different area.

The people who clicked on link 1 were interested in x and the people who clicked on link 2 were interested in y. In order to segment the lists into groups, you needed to download the clicked report into excel, add the group field and upload to Mailchimp as a merge.

There was a large degree of double handling and high risk of error that would corrupt the data. Plus it was a manual operation – you had to remember to do it 1 week or so after you send the email.

The real power of a database is the ability to search and sort data to find exceptions or to find groups with common interests.

The Mailchimp database is difficult to sort and target a specific group of people with common characteristics.

Mailchimp has an addon program called Hairball for sorting your database but it was ugly to use and relied on manual updates of every list and email campaign sent. I used it for a while but it did not provide me with the segmentation required. Again it was not an automated process and relied on another separate program. So now we had three programs – Mailchimp, CRM and Hairball.

So Why Office Autopilot?

One of the first features of OfficeAutopilot that attracted my attentions was tags – an infinite number of tags could be added to your contacts.

You could therefore have top level tags that would apply to all contacts like: prospect, lead, customer but also other tags that could apply to their area of interest or the product or service that purchased.

One of our business clients might be tagged as Client: Tax and Lead: Super meaning that they are a tax client but expressed an interest in having a Self Managed Super Fund.

We can then send them education based emails based on their tags that are directly related to their tax returns for the year and also other emails on reasons why a SMSF might suit their circumstances.

The real power of Office AutoPilot derives from rules or sequences that automatically apply if the user does an action.

For example: say when send an email highlighting our TaxCalculator Addin for Excel and they buy the product.

Office Autopilot will automatically (based on rules that we have set up) will remove the Prospect tag and add Customer Tag and a Client: DBTaxCalculator tag to their contact record. They will also automatically be subscribed to an email sequence that educates them on how to make the most of the software and advise them of updates.

Automation can be applied to a wide variety of user actions and inactions – if they click on an email link, if they visit your site, if they complete a form etc. When you first collect an email address from an optin form on your site, you usually only have their first name and email address and what type of eBook they downloaded.

Using automated rules you can build up a better profile of what they are interested in by automatically adding tags based on which links on the emails they click through on. Thereby being able to provide them with the information and offers that exactly suits their needs and wants.

Unlike Mailchimp which required manual updates, Office Autopilot does it automatically.

So Office Autopilot does a number of functions of a CRM package but it also enables you to enter notes of phone calls & meetings from which you could also set up rules to say move tags from prospect to lead upon a meeting of telephone call.

It starts to sound more like a CRM package doesn’t it.

But we can go a few more steps because you can also set rules and sequences that allow for offline tasks like assigning a person to call the lead, send them a direct mail letter and then follow up in 7 days.

The tasks functionality in Office Autopilot  also enables you to create systems for offline operational activities rather than just online marketing. You can create a sequence that automatically sends a file (with customer address, shipping address, delivery instructions and items ordered) to your dropbox shipper to fill the orders for the sales for the day.

There are a few other features that we also use like the WordPress Membership site plugins so that Office Autopilot runs secure members only areas within our site – combined with rules, tags and sequences this makes it a very powerful solution.

Many people baulk at the price.

Mailchimp has a free option but most businesses would probably only have to pay $20 to $50 per month but when you start adding CRM packages to link to Mailchimp, the monthly direct costs become much closer.

Office Autopilot starts at $297 per month but the cost become insignificant pretty quickly due to the time savings and marketing power that it provides.

It is well worth a look.