Home > Existing ACT Users, Product Evaluation > ACT By Sage 2010 Tutorial – Just another upgrade without real benefits?

ACT By Sage 2010 Tutorial – Just another upgrade without real benefits?

ACT By Sage 2010 Tutorials – By far the best FREE ACT resource on the web – Step By Step Videos, Advice and a whole host of value

Following the launch of ACT! By Sage 2010, the question everyone’s asking is:

Whether the latest release of the world’s best selling Contact Manager is worth the investment, especially for existing users.

Well, after 16 years experience of the ACT product, here’s my take on it (warts and all)

Please be sure to post your comments and to also visit my dedicated ACT 2010 site www.act-2010.co.uk

New interface

Personally I quite like it and after being a Sage Business Partner for over 20 years, it’s nice to know Sage are finally working towards a fully integrated suite of products in the Sage 50 Suite (Accounts, Payroll and ACT) along with a similar look and feel across the range

The new global toolbar makes the application more efficient and the permanent lookup window on the new Navbar works well too, especially as the default search operator is now “contains” and not “starts with”

Hooray I hear all you previous ACT users say!

If I had a pound for every time somebody had asked whether the default search operator could be changed to contains, I’d be lying on some beach out in the Caribbean!

One little note to mention about that last comment is that if you use the right mouse button from the Contact/Group or Company view, guess what?  It still uses “starts with” which is a shame so get in the habit of using the Lookup window on the left Navbar and you’ll not be disappointed!

The new interface also includes and intelligent “Related Tasks” window that changes according to the view you’re in.  At first glance, users may find this useful but from a personal perspective, don’t be fooled.

This functionality has been in the Sage 50 Accounts software for some time now and I have never once used it.  I guess the bottom line here is that it will be purely down to personal preference as to whether you feel it’s useful or not.

The final aspect of the new interface is the Welcome screen.  This displays a roll up of useful links, access to help files, the odd tutorial plus latest news about your ACT product

Again, this has also been available in the Accounts program for some time however in my experience; many people change it from the default start-up view and opt for the Contact View or Dashboard view.

I’ll let you decide for yourself

Social Media

This for me is a complete turn off.  In the wake of constant requests from my IT clients to restrict access to all social media networking sites, especially FaceBook, Plaxo, Linked In etc.. this is definitely not going to sway any potential customers to proceed to buy.

That said, I can see the long term potential but not right now

Redesigned Opportunities

Where the social media concept turns me off, the new opportunities module in ACT! 2010 does quite the opposite. 

The majority of my clients (which consists of hundreds of different sized companies from a variety of industries) tend to leave the old opportunities module alone simply because it wasn’t flexible enough, but thankfully that’s all in the past.

In the new ACT! 2010 the Opportunities module is an entity in its own right rather than having to be linked to an individual.  Therefore it now functions in exactly the same way as Contacts, Groups & Companies.

What this also means is that you have much more scope in respect of customisation.  New fields can be added to the database as on the other 3 entities plus you can also modify the layout design to accommodate your own requirements.

This now makes this part of ACT! 2010 a real selling point rather than just being yet another feature that sits there in the background never being utilised.

E-Marketing (SwiftPage)

Love it, love it, love it!

I’ve been integrating SwiftPage into my ACT database for about 2 years as it has been available for quite some time, however this is the first time it’s actually been integrated into the program.

Now be aware, these techniques have been used by the world’s most successful marketers for many years so for me, this is by far the biggest reason you should at least consider ACT 2010.

What exactly is E-Marketing?

E-Marketing can be described in many different ways.  I like to keep it very simple and say it’s the technology that allows you to market your products and services via the internet, which incidentally also includes email.

In fact for many, email marketing is the main reason for investing in this technology. 

How else can you get a message or promotion out to so many people, literally within minutes at almost zero cost?  Quite simply, you can’t.

That’s why this is so incredibly powerful.

What are the benefits of E-Marketing?

  • It provides you with the tools to create beautiful email templates and then send directly from your database to contacts, lookups, groups and companies and to also track who opened and clicked your messages.
  • It allows you to send your message immediately or schedule it for a specific date and time
  • Email Tracking allows you to establish information such as who opened your email, who clicked and what link(s) they clicked, whose email bounced, what ones were suppressed and so on…
  • You can also view graphical and detailed data about your send, and export your send reports to others for further analysis. And your contact’s interactions with your email send are recorded into your ACT! history for easy reference.
  • Create online web forms and surveys – Swiftpage Surveys are more than just data gathering. Map your survey responses back to specific fields in your database and watch your ACT! database grow!
  • Set up an Autoresponder email to automatically be sent to your respondents when they complete your surveys and with Drip Marketing Autoloader you can automatically load them into a Drip Marketing Campaign to receive a series of marketing communications.
  • Create call lists – After you send an email blast to your contacts, your recipients open and click on the email message.  Swiftpage creates a ranked list of the most interested contacts based on those interactions. Access each contact’s Call List score in the Marketing Results tab for easy follow up.
  • Access all interactions you’ve had with each of your contacts in one view within your database with the Marketing Results Tab.  This tool tells your sales team who to call and what to talk about. You can also view that contact’s score within your Call Lists, manually rank them, view a summary of your interactions with that contact, access online resources and industry tips as well as the email you’ve previously sent them.
  • This is the real deal clincher – Drip Marketing.  Swiftpage Drip Marketing gives you the ability to create a sequence of messages that are automatically delivered to your ACT! contacts at the right time.  It uses intelligent technology to send messages to contacts based on their interactions with previous messages and based on data in your ACT! database environment.

Is it really worth the ongoing subscription charge in addition to the cost of the ACT upgrade?

In a word, Yes and here’s why.

There are several subscription options but the most common one for newbies will be the Basic package which is $29.95 per month, which at the current exchange rate, in UK terms is about £20.00 per month.

Now although there are a few restrictions with this package, in the first instance, this will be perfectly adequate for most businesses. 

Going back to the question, how many direct mail letters could you send in the post for £20.00?

If you consider postage, admin and stationery, probably about 15, let’s be conservative and say 20.

Using this technology and this subscription option, you can send 1000 emails per day and apart from the monthly subscription, it won’t cost you a penny because remember, email is FREE.

Not only that, when you consider the additional benefits as stated above, in addition to email marketing, it ‘s a complete no brainer.

Now you know why I suggest it’s worth the monthly fee!

Why Swiftpage and not Aweber or GetResponse?

Well one reason only.

It’s the only E-Marketing solution that fully integrates with ACT.

Now in closing, I just want to say this.

I have a lot of experience with all 3 products and to be fair, they are all pretty much the same. 

In fact, if you asked me my preference (taking ACT out of the equation) I would probably choose Aweber, simply because in my experience it has better email deliverability.

However, because of the tight integration with ACT, if you are seriously considering ACT 2010, the SwiftPage E-Marketing product is well worth the ongoing subscription.

Streamlined Reports View

OK, you can now see all reports in the main window rather than in a dialogue box and also add your favourite reports to the top part of the window but hey, it’s not gonna make you rush out to buy it that’s for sure.

What’s also somewhat disappointing is the fact that this first release is still using the same old report designer which let’s be honest, at best is shocking

Once Sage get their act together and incorporate the Sage Report Designer I’ll be a very happy man and so will my customers

New Dashboard Components

A new component is now available for Dashboards called Data Chart.  With this new tool you can now view data on customers, sales and users. 

My initial take on this, is that it’s quite a nice feature and I can genuinely see potential.

Previous Dashboard functionality was rather limited but this now allows you to see a lot more data about your business and subsequently, make better decisions about hot opportunities, top clients, dormant customers etc…

Integration

ACT! 2010 now has much tighter integration with 3rd party products such as Outlook, Gmail, Apple iCal, Windows Live, Groupwise and Lotus Notes.

Now at first I have to be honest, this didn’t excite me as I don’t actively use any of these applications apart from Outlook.

However, the one part I do like is the increased functionality in respect of sending email invitations to your customers/prospects which directly links to your ACT! activities.  People using iCalendar connected programs such as Gmail and Outlook can automatically send the activity directly to their calendar without any user interaction.

Turning that on its head, you can also create an ACT! activity when you accept a meeting from an iCalendar meeting requests from Outlook.  I appreciate you could create activities from email in previous versions but not directly from an iCalendar application.

Last but not least, you can also share contacts using vcard.  The contact automatically appears in the recipients contact list, without the need to retype or cut and paste.

So there you have it, my personal opinion on ACT! By Sage 2010 and coming back to my original question, is it worth a look?

Well, because of the incorporation of the new e-marketing functionality and the redesign of the Opportunities module, I would say a resounding YES!

Please be sure to post your comments and to also visit my dedicated ACT 2010 site www.act-2010.co.uk

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  1. 23/09/2009 at 10:30 AM

    Social Media Integration

    Since posting this article, I have slightly changed my opinion but not in respect of all the social media sites. I still stand by my thoughts on sites like Facebook, Plaxo etc…

    However, I have just had an interesting experience with a Twitter user where I did see genuine potential with quite substantial benefits. Not only that, had this feature not been available, the user would never have been alerted to this valuable information and most likely, would have lost out on quite a substantial order.

    Watch this space for further updates on this

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