4 CORE SYSTEMS YOU NEED FOR YOUR BUSINESS (+ PROS AND CONS OF PLATFORMS YOU CAN USE)

*This post is NOT sponsored, all my thoughts and opinions are my own* 

There are a billion different systems out there to choose from when you’re starting or growing your online business. Makes your head want to explode, right?

But before we dive into specific examples, it’s important to understand why these systems are not only important, but VITAL to the life of your business. 

My entire job revolves around creating flawless systems and strategies for overwhelmed online businesses so they can stress less. I see the backend of everything and I know firsthand that if you’re not organized, growing and scaling will be a disaster – and if you’re new to your business, it’s a disaster you want to avoid at all costs.

Basically, this is the stuff I nerd out on all day, every day!

I’ve narrowed it down to the 4 CORE Systems you need and the most popular platforms for each that you’ll see floating around the business space! I have broken down the Pros & Cons of each based on MY opinion and experience! 

Remember, what works for me may not be for you, but this will at least inform you of the basics:

EMAIL MARKETING

ActiveCampaign

Pros: 

  • SMS texting if you want to text your email subscribers 
  • User friendly, IMO. I’ve heard mixed reviews on this from other people
  • It’s really good at actually SENDING your emails. Which sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many emails through other platforms don’t get sent or end up in spam folders.
  • Automations!
  • They will switch you over from another email marketing platform for you, for FREE.
  • Starting at $7/month

Cons:

  • It doesn’t offer landing pages. This isn’t a super big deal since there are other platforms that do this, or you can create your own on your website. But I know some people want this feature. 
  • It’s a bit pricier if you have a large subscriber base. However, even at the higher tiers, it’s well worth the money because you can set up where subscribers who are inactive can be deleted so they’re not taking up space in the number you’re paying for.

MailChimp

Pros: 

  • Has a free version
  • Landing pages
  • User and beginner-friendly.

Cons (I’ll be up front here – I’m not a fan of MailChimp for many reasons):

  • Extremely limited automation
  • Sooo many issues. I’ve had clients who experienced plummeting open rates out of nowhere and emails not getting sent out. Just sayin.

ConvertKit

Pros: 

  • User-friendly (some find it easier than ActiveCampaign simply because AC has so many options, it can be overwhelming and not necessary for everyone).
  • Lots of automation options if you want something better than MailChimp, but don’t need all the bells and whistles of ActiveCampaign.

Cons:

  • Starting at $29/month
  • Not as much automation as Active Campaign if you want as much as possible

AUTOMATION

Dubsado*

Pros: 

  • It’s an all-in-one platform: Email, automation, scheduling can all go in one place
  • Automate with triggers: You can have a client fill out an inquiry and get their info into Dubsado, it sends her an email with her contract, once she signs, it immediately sends an email with her invoice. Once she pays the invoice, it immediately sends a questionnaire. Once she fills that out, she gets an email to book her call. Smooth, right?
  • Everything is stored in a client project
  • If you don’t need recurring payments

Cons:

  • If you set up a client to have a recurring payment and they want to change their card. You have to cancel the recurring payment and start a new one with the new card info and send them a new invoice, rather than just changing the billing info alone. But it’s still going to bill their old card, so you have to delete the ENTIRE client project and start a new one. 
  • You’re not able to edit the amount of any recurring payments. 
  • You have to manually send the recurring payments too, there is no automation for this.
  • Minimal branding customization. Not the end of the world, but it’s the little things. 
  • If you’re taking two weeks off, you have to go into every single client project and block off the time in the scheduler, rather than setting it for everyone at once. There’s a workaround for this if you just go into whatever calendar you have synced with Dubsado and create an “all-day” event, mark it as busy and then it will block it off for you. Kind of a pain, but it works. 
  • Still sends an invoice every month even if the client is on auto payments, which can be confusing for the client.

*I do receive a small commission if you sign up for a paid account via my affiliate link. Every Dubsado user has an affiliate link.

17hats

Pros: 

  • I’ve been told this platform is very similar to Dubsado
  • Less expensive than Dubsado
  • Tutorials to teach you how to use the platform

Cons:

  • No automated recurring payments, but you can send a recurring invoice 
  • Client has to manually fill out and pay each month
  • I’ve heard it’s not the most intuitive to learn
  • Scheduling isn’t the strongest

HoneyBook

Pros: 

  • $40/month and the cheapest option out of all three
  • Free trial
  • Pre-built templates if that’s your thing!
  • Can do automated recurring payments

Cons:

  • Auto payments have to be manually sent, not put into the workflow
  • No scheduler
  • All of the automation is time-based. So if someone sends you a contract and they haven’t signed it, Honeybook will still send them their next steps before they’re ready for it. 
  • No speciality contracts

SCHEDULING

Acuity

Pros: 

  • A client can create an account and you can assign a number of calls to that client based on their package. 
  • With that account, you can sign in and see how many calls you’ve had, how many you have left, etc. which makes it really easy.
  • User-friendly and awesome customization features
  • Free if you have a Squarespace website!

Cons:

  • The free version doesn’t offer much by way of features
  • The most functional version is $25/month. But it’s worth the money if you want those extra features!

Calendly

Pros:  

  • $8/month which is super reasonable
  • Integrates with Google Calendar and Outlook
  • Easy to use and simple
  • Can be embedded into your website

Cons: 

  • Not as customizable or functional as Acuity.
  • Good for smaller teams

Schedulicity

Pros: 

  • Real-time calendar refresh
  • Client reliability tracking 
  • Supports Stripe if you want clients to pre-pay their calls

Cons: 

  • $20/month and pricier than the other platforms here.

TASK MANAGEMENT

Asana

Pros: 

  • Free version that’s extremely functional. I haven’t had anyone who needs the paid version because of this! I even used it to plan my wedding. 
  • Fast and streamlined task creation
  • Different task views: list, board, calendar
  • Automated recurring tasks for the week, month, or year
  • Thorough team features: projects but only invite certain team members to them
  • Free for Basic version, then starts at $10.99/ month billed annually for Premium version.

Cons: 

  • Only assign tasks to one person (but you can also assign people as followers so they still get notifications)
  • If you can’t grasp the platform it can be overwhelming because of how many features it has. 

Monday

Pros: 

  • Has more extensive templates when you’re starting a new projects (I never use these, even in Asana)
  • Great for smaller projects or to-do lists
  • Free trial

Cons: 

  • Basic team functions; with high volume I found it could be glitchy
  • I didn’t like how it looks visually
  • Minimal room for detail on projects
  • No free version, the Basic version starts at $25/month
  • Default settings are a little less intuitive

Trello

Pros:

  • Super simple and user friendly
  • Free!
  • You can assign roles to team members

Cons: 

  • It is the MOST basic which is great for what some people need
  • Doesn’t have the automation and extra features that Asana has
  • Not great for large teams

Again, everyone will have their preferences when it comes to different system platforms in their business – that’s why there are so many in the first place! My advice is to play around on the free versions of the ones that offer them and figure out which works best for you!

Which platforms do you use and love? Let me know in the comments!

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