The software you choose for your business can have a huge impact for good or ill and I have been witnessing the downsides of ill-informed bad business software choices for as long as I’ve been in business.
If you want to know my top choices for technology to avoid based on my 10+ years in the online industry as a web developer, content marketing coach and Certified Automation Service Provider™, read on.
NOTE: this article is aimed at people on their way to or at 1M or above in revenue where you will absolutely need your systems to be on point for your business to succeed and grow. Our CRM of choice is Active Campaign so we favor tools that integrate well with it..
Don’t Buy Software, Hire Software
One of our core philosophies is that you should be hiring software, not buying software. And just like hiring people, you should base your decisions on how well the software can do the job and how well they work with the rest of the team.
It’s that second one that really trips people up especially when they get locked into popular ‘all-in-one’ software that claims to do everything.
First of all, so-called all-in-ones are a lie. There’s no one app that is actually going to do everything you need in your business. As someone who has had to rescue many clients from bad software over the years, I have a lot of issues with so-called all-in-ones.
Most all-in-ones do a lot of things in a mediocre way. I understand the appeal of not having to integrate different tools, but the reality is that as soon as you outgrow the tool or run into a feature that doesn’t perform as you need it to, you then have to decide whether to use a different tool for the one feature or divest yourself of the tool altogether.
If you do decide to switch, now you will really feel the pain of your choice. As a closed system, an all-in-one doesn’t want to integrate with other tools and they don’t want to give you your data. It’s right there in the name!
We call this platform imprisonment and you can learn more about it and how to break free from it on this episode of the All Systems Go podcast from my mentor, Chris Davis.
Keep Your Eye on the Data
Where most tools constructed on open systems allow you to export your data as a CSV, you will likely end up paying someone to manually extract each piece of data from an all-in-one or any closed system such as proprietary industry specific software- think healthcare client systems or fitness specific software.
That could be course content, client data, contracts, and much more.
Scaling your marketing and your business depends on having access to good data. Specifically, YOUR data that is being generated by you and your subscribers use of your software.
When applications hold your data hostage, from now on I want you to think of it as them holding your growth potential hostage.
If you can’t track and send data from other apps back to your CRM, you’ll have a hard time automating key parts of your marketing, onboarding and off-boarding.
This is one reason we document almost everything we do with clients and establish automatic backups wherever possible.
I’m tired of having sad conversations with clients who have invested years and thousands of dollars, only to learn it’s going to require more time and money to migrate everything.
Bad Business Software to Avoid
Here are my top choices for software to avoid if you don’t want to have this sad conversation in your future with us or someone like us.
Not all of these are horrible, but they’re all on the list of things I would absolutely tell you to replace if you were working with us. These are my completely biased opinions based on my own interactions with these software tools over the years.
Website & Landing Page Software
Go Daddy is still trash. I’ve already written about why so I won’t say anymore here.
Wix & Weebly
I consider these the lego building blocks of the website world. Fun to play with but you wouldn’t build something you planned to live in with them.
Using hosted solutions for your website is like living in an apartment. You don’t have to maintain the yard, but you also can’t paint the walls without asking or use nails to hang your art.
When it comes to building a million dollar business or beyond, ownership of your digital assets is where it’s at. You want your website on a platform that you own and have completely control over.
Wix and Weebly are also difficult to optimize for SEO and they don’t integrate well with advanced marketing tools.
ClickFunnels is a bloated, unreliable, overpriced SAAS software founded by the ultimate bro marketer. Whenever possible, I prefer to support companies that are anti-racist in their marketing and policies or at least not overtly racist and ClickFunnels founder Russell Bronson doesn’t pass this bar for me.
Email Service Providers
Mailchimp is like the GoDaddy of email marketing service providers. Everyone knows about them because they’ve been around forever, they have a lot of market penetration and it’s free to get started, which beginners on a budget love.
When it’s time to pay for the service, you’ll get the nasty surprise that you have to pay for the same contact twice is they’re in two different Audiences (Mailchimp’s fancy name for a list).
Mailchimp lacks the simplicity and ease of use of competitor MailerLite (also free to start) and lacks the automation capabilities of a higher tier service like Active Campaign.
Contracts & Onboarding
HelloSign (Now Dropbox Sign)
I don’t really have any beef with HelloSign until it comes time to automate your contract process.
One of the biggest time sucks our clients tend to have is with onboarding. When a new client comes in, the are manually creating agreements and manually emailing them to potential clients to sign.
Hello, it’s not 2006.
If you have a mature offer with a well established process, your onboarding should be 90-99% handled by robots. If you want to be able to send automated contracts using you’ll pay a minimum of $75/month for the privilege.
Dubsado is one of those all-in-ones that's like a relationship with someone who is super sweet as long as they get everything their way- and as soon as you try to assert your independence, you discover that you're trapped.
Be very careful that the data you give Dubsado doesn't exist only in Dubsado because getting it out again will be a monumental chore.
Survey Monkey does not integrate with Active Campaign. One of our clients was using it for lead generation which would have meant setting up needlessly complicated Zapier automations to capture leads. This isn’t necessary when there are many other form and quiz solutions that will send leads directly to your CRM.
Ask anyone in the Certified Automation Service Provider™ community about Typeform and watch them cringe.
Typeform won over a lot of the internet with their simple design and their one-question-per-page style forms. I personally find filling those style of forms annoying. But our real beef with Typeform is how ridiculous the integrations are if you want your responses to go to any other platform.
They have a ‘native’ integration with Active Campaign but you can’t control the tags that a submission puts on your contact and the tags are long, complex, ugly and make no sense.
Again, there are other form software options that natively integrate with Active Campaign and give you a lot of control over which fields to sync and which tags will be added.
Course & Community Platforms
Kajabi seems to be the darling of coaches all over the internet. I’ve experienced it as a student in various programs and as a course platform, I don’t really have beef with Kajabi.
But of course Kajabi claims to be able to do it all and when it comes to payment processing and email, I have concerns.
Your payment processor should not be tied to any particular course platform. What if you want to sell something that’s unrelated to your course? Your payment processor should take payments and route people wherever they need to go to access their purchase.
Email is where all the red flags go up for Kajabi.
I was asked to do a consult for someone who was trying to figure out why their emails were not selling their offer. Of course the first thing I did was attempt to export the email performance data (opens and clicks), for past emails.
Kajabi doesn’t allow you to export this data (there’s that closed system at work again!).
Think about how many marketing emails you’ve sent in the history of your business, or even just the past year. Now imaging that you have to click 3-4 times to find out how many people opened those emails or clicked on a link.
Multiply the time to click through for each email by the number of emails and the hourly rate to pay a VA to manually extract that data.
And it’s not like you have a dashboard inside of Kajabi showing you this data. There’s simply no way to compare email performance data in bulk, over time.
As a marketer, this sin is unforgivable.
Teachable & Thinkific
I’m lumping these together because my issues with them are largely the same - they’re decent course platforms that were clearly not made with marketers in mind.
This means there will be a limit on the kinds of engagement data you can send to your CRM if you want to be able to automatically track how students are progressing (or not) through your course and message them accordingly.
If you’re using these platforms to process payments, and you want to create a dashboard to track your revenue across all your offers, you won’t be able to track payment plan payments because these are not available as triggers in Zapier.
If you’re thinking, what’s the big deal? remember that I’m talking to million dollar or future million dollar earners who understand the impact that inefficiencies can have when you start trying to scale.
Keeping manual processes that you know could be automated with the right tools just because ‘it’s not that bad right now,’ is not million dollar behavior.
I’m reserving a special place in marketing hell for this app. In a sea of closed systems, Mighty Networks might be one of the worse hostage takers when it comes to your data.
And because it’s focused on building communities, it can be even more challenging to break away because you could be losing years of community interaction data.
There are a lot of superior options for building your community on a space you own, but many of them are relatively young in software terms.
If you’re wanting to make a change but don’t want to get overwhelmed with choices, I refer you back to the All Systems Go Podcast for an enlightening conversation between Chris Davis and Certified Automation Service Provider™ Samantha Pointer-Foxx about Membership, Community, & Forum software.
How to Avoid Platform Imprisonment
If you’re using any of these tools and thinking all is lost, here are some tips to start preparing if you want to eventually upgrade with the least amount of pain and suffering.
Backup Your Data Outside of Your Tools
When we optimize and Active Campaign CRM, we set up an automation that sends each new subscriber to a Google sheet that the client owns. And if you think that sounds paranoid, I just consulted with someone who lost their entire mailing list when their email company shut down their account without notice.
We also encourage backing up things like emails, social posts, and course content outside of whatever learning management system you choose to use.
Airtable is a core app for anything involving storing, managing or manipulating data. The Pot o Gold Content Marketing Database is an Airtable base I created when I realized I was wasting hours every week searching for content to share when someone asked me a question and I knew I had created content for it already.
Once we got our content in it, my search time dropped from hours to seconds.
Buy the Pot o Gold
Get your content organized once and for all. Save hours and easily repurpose your content.
For our CRM to Sales clients, we establish an Automation Hub in Airtable and document everything in their CRM. It includes automatic links that go right to the section of the app and a place to plan things like custom fields and segments so that you’re not just winging it anymore.
How to Make More Informed Software Decisions
Here are the questions I always ask when I'm evaluating whether to add something to my business software stack.
1. Can this tool perform the job that I'm hiring it to do?
Don't let AppSumo or the latest fads in your industry determine your software choices. Step away from the tools and define the job description, then evaluate from there.
2. What happens if we break up?
I always want to know what happens if I decide to pick up my toys and go home. This one question will save you so much aggravation. Make sure you can export your data, both for evaluating performance and for moving to something else down the road.
3. Does this tool play nicely with others?
A good cheat code for this is to go to Zapier and find out if the tool integrates with it and what triggers and actions are available for automatically sending data from this tool to the rest of your tech stack, especially your CRM.
The best thing you can do if you want a tech stack that works together to grow revenue and save your team time, is to stop winging it, taking technology advice from coaches, and asking random people in Facebook groups what tools you should use.
Normalize paying experts in marketing and technology for advice and guidance that is specific to your business.
You can book a Power Hour with us to evaluate your current systems and processes in your business and create a tech stack plan that is based on your needs, skill level and desired growth trajectory.
If you’re not quite ready for that, you can grab the Business Owners Guide to Profitable Software, where I go into detail about ride or die tools that we’ve used for years to get results for ourselves and our clients. It's free (for the moment) when you sign up for our No Lead Left Behind email series and reply to any email with "I want the tools."
Now it’s your turn. Are you using any of the tools on this list? Has this information helped you make some decisions about how to move forward?