Monday, April 01, 2013

InfusionCon 2013: InfusionSoft Keeps Its Focus on Helping Entrepreneurs

I spent part of last week at Infusionsoft’s annual conference, InfusionCon, drinking the Kool-Aid and soaking up the Arizona sun.

Pleasant as the 80 degree temperatures were to a refugee from the still-wintry Northeast, the real warmth at the conference came from 2,300 attendees bubbling with enthusiasm for their entrepreneurial adventures and how Infusionsoft supports them. Keynote speaker Jay Baer captured the mood perfectly when he went “all Oprah” on the crowd by promising them each a free Camaro. (Either he was joking or I registered incorrectly.) The group was indeed drenched in Oprah-style self-empowerment.

As you’ve probably guessed, this isn’t my native habitat. Even though Raab Associates itself is a small business and runs in part on an Infusionsoft-like system (OfficeAutoPilot), I’m a professional manager by training and most of my clients are mid-size and big businesses. What really matters, though, is that Infusionsoft itself remains committed to its small business customers, despite growing to nearly 400 people and $40 million revenue. This consistency is no accident: Infusionsoft managers are quite vocal on their very conscious efforts to build a culture that is committed to helping entrepreneurs and is itself entrepreneurial. It’s a tall order, but there’s some serious missionary zeal at every level, so they might just succeed.

In any event, I did manage to spend most of the conference in my own comfort zone of analyzing Infusionsoft’s business. A long conversation with Chief Marketing Officer Gregg Head provided some interesting tidbits, including:

- the company’s customers fall into three main groups, each roughly one third of the total.  hese are: Internet-enabled business coaches and experts, who are selling books, videos and other products in addition to their personal time; local service providers, such as dentists, home services, and fitness centers; and businesses selling to other small businesses.

- most clients want either to increase sales or free up the owner's time. The latter goal – taking back your life from an all-consuming business – seemed to resonate more than anything with the attendees. Reducing costs is a lower priority.

- Measuring return on investment isn’t much of an issue. Small businesses can see changes in revenue or free time immediately.  Detailed analysis isn't needed.

- Some companies are too small even for Infusionsoft. A client must have a stable revenue base to expand, or be successful enough that the owner is looking for some free time. The average Infusionsoft client has been in business for five years, which means that nearly all were in business for at least several years before purchasing the system.

- Facebook is by far the most important online channel for Infusionsoft customers, in many cases replacing Web sites as the primary online presence. Search engine marketing and blogs are much less important. The primary sources of new customers are still offline: referrals, partners, events, and direct mail. (Incidentally, trendsters, direct mail in general and post cards in particular are hot. But that might be old news. I did receive a message about personalized pizzas today, but am pretty sure it was an April Fools joke.)

And what of Infusionsoft itself? The company did announce its next release at InfusionCon, although by its own admission the changes were incremental enhancements in usability rather than major expansions in function. The main items were more efficient scheduling of personal tasks, a simple way to prepare quotes, and branding templates that automatically deploy style changes across all types of content. Campaigns can also now easily include GroSocial Facebook campaigns (GroSocial being a social marketing firm acquired by Infusionsoft in January.) Modest as these changes are, the company says its users wanted them more than new acquisition channels.

Infusionsoft also announced several non-technical initiatives, again with the goal of making users more productive. These included a set of prebuilt campaigns. including actual content; on-demand training videos integrated with the product, and accelerated expansion of sales and service partner networks. The onboarding process has also been revamped to deliver results in 30 days rather than 60, the main change being that Infusionsoft staff now does more of the actual setup for new clients and spends less time on a conceptual success map.

All these changes confirm what was already obvious: that Infusionsoft’s entrepreneurial customers are a separate breed from the professional marketers who use traditional marketing automation systems. The functional differences between the two sets of systems may be hard to spot, but there’s no mistaking the difference in the services and attitudes that surround them.

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