Staying in touch with your customers and keeping a history of your interactions with them are important aspects of Customer Resource Management. Up to now, if you wanted to use email marketing and track customer activity on your website you would need four platforms: your website to host your content, an email marketing platform to manage your contacts and mailing lists, a landing page and forms platform for funnels and signup forms, and a service like Zapier to tie them all together. Now FluentCRM simplifies the process by letting you host your email marketing and customer engagement history on your WordPress website.
FluentCRM is a new offering from the WPManageNinja team, the makers of the very popular Fluent Forms and Ninja Tables plugins. They experienced the pain of trying to juggle and integrate multiple platforms and so developed FluentCRM to solve a real-world problem, to make Customer Resource Management easier and more efficient. I joined the beta program and was given permission to review FluentCRM using the prelease version 1. In this review I will do a walk-through of setting up FluentCRM, create sequences and funnels, discuss its current strengths and weaknesses, and where I think it is headed.
The Test Site
I created a test site using the Kadence Theme for a fictitious business, FB Ninja, which offers training on Facebook marketing. The business has a course, “The Ninja Guide to Facebook Marketing,” that they want to sell. To promote their course they created a free lead magnet, an email sequence called “Facebook Marketing Decoded.”
FluentCRM has integrations with Fluent Forms, so I will use Fluent Forms to sign prospects up for the free email sequence. FluentCRM also has an integration with LifterLMS, so I used Lifter to create the course. FluentCRM will be used to drip the email sequence out to the prospects and to send a welcome email to the students when they enroll in the course.
There are two plugins to install. FluentCRM is the base plugin which is suitable for managing your email lists and sending out newsletters. I understand that the base plugin will be offered for free in the WordPress plugin directory.
FluentCRM – Email Marketing Addon is the Pro addon that extends the base version. The Pro version adds a feature called “Dynamic Segments” that provides predefined segments based on integrations, allows you to create dynamic filters based on the contact fields and tags. With the Pro version you can drip email sequences to your segment and create automated sequences, called “funnels,” using triggers available from third party integrations.
When you install FluentCRM you are offered a setup wizard to step through entering some of the basic settings.
First you enter your business information. This includes your business logo, as well as the company name and address, which can be used in the footer of your emails.
Next you can create your first email lists. I created a customer list.
Then we can create tags. Tags are a powerful feature that you can use in conjunction with list segmentation and the funnel automations. I added two tags: lead and customer.
On the last step there is the option to sign up for the FluentCRM newsletter.
And then you are given the option to import contacts or go to the dashboard.
This is what the dashboard looks like. You can see that there are menu items on the left that correspond to the tabs on the top right. There is also a quick overview to show your stats and a quick links menu to some common settings areas.
On the Contacts screen there is a list of all contacts, along with buttons to add a new contact manually or import contacts from a comma delimited file.
Here is the screen for manually adding a contact.
There are three submenus under contacts. The first is the mailing lists screen. This shows the lists already created and has a button for a popup to create a new one.
The second menu under contacts is where you add tags.
The third screen is where you create Dynamic Segments. This is kind of like a mailing list, but it is created by applying some rules about the contacts, for example, their country or what tags they have applied. This is a Pro feature.
This is the interface for creating a Dynamic Segment. You can see that there are conditions to apply as rules and activity filters.
The next tab is for Email Campaigns. As you can see from the drop down, You can also create Sequences and Email Templates. When you click to create a campaign or sequence there is a short wizard to define it. We will look at these further on when we create them. The templates are email templates you can create and save. You use “mustache” syntax with placeholder variables that are filled out when used.
The Forms tab provides a link to Fluent Forms and shows the forms you’ve created. The integration with Fluent Forms is very good, so you will probably want to use it.
The Funnels Screen allows you to create a “funnel,” or automation sequence.
When you click to create a new funnel there is the option to use triggers from WordPress or third party integrations. Here is a screen of the first step. When you select a trigger source then you continue through a wizard like process of screen options. I’ll be revisiting this further on.
The last tab is for Settings. Some of these fields had values supplied using the install wizard. First are the Business Settings.
The Email Settings page has several sections. First, you set the default “from” name and email address. Then there is a setting for the maximum number of emails to send per second. The Email Footer Settings screen panel is where you can customize the business name and address as well as the opt out link These are required by anti-spam laws. Finally, there is a option for which email lists a contact can see when setting their subscription options.
The General Settings is where you can set defaults for adding contacts from WordPress and for adding contact to a list from the contact form.
The Custom Contact Fields are where you can add custom fields to the contact record. This is a nice feature as it allows you to store and use in custom segments any simple variables you need, such as might be required by a third party application.
Next there are the Double Opt-In settings. Here you have two edit areas to customize the messages that are sent for double opt-in confirmation. Note the green buttons on the right top of the text areas. This is where you can find the available place holder variables that you can use in these emails.
Web Hooks are a power features that allow you to interact with other systems to pass information and trigger actions. Here is the UI where you define a Web Hook. I asked about documentation for this and was told that the team was working on it and it would be available shortly after launch.
The next settings screen is for the Tools page. This displays the results of a test to make sure that the WordPress Rest API was working and a button to reset the mailing list data.
Finally, there is a screen with information about SMTP and a setting for using with FluentCRM AmazonSES. This is a good point to mention that you will need to setup a service for sending your emails. There are several plugins that replace the default WordPress send method, which is unreliable, with something that is much more solid. The FluentCRM indicates that they are preparing a plugin for this purpose. Also, creating an account with a service like Mailgun or setting up AmazonSES to send emails is highly recommended.
Creating the List Signup Form
The first task is to create a list signup form. Remember that in our test we are going to give away some email lessons to get the visitor to signup for our mailing list. We will use Fluent Forms for this as it has a very nice integration with FluentCRM. FluentCRM is one of the integrations available with the free version of Fluent Forms. I toggled this on to enable it.
Next I went to create a new form, gave it a name, and added First Name, Last Name, and Email Address fields.
I saved the form and next went to the Settings and Integrations tab. Here I clicked on the button to add a new integration and clicked on the FluentCRM button.
This took me to an integration feed screen. I selected the mailing list from the drop down, mapped the form fields to the email list fields, and added the “lead” tag, so that new form entries would go onto the list tagged as a lead.
I then went to the page for the lead magnet in the Gutenberg editor and added the form.
And this is what it looks like on the front end of the site.
Testing the Signup Form
I went to the page in another browser where I was not logged in and filled out the form.
I submitted it and got confirmation that the submission was successful.
I then went into the FluentCRM contact list and checked the entry. I saw that it had been added to the correct list, that the tag of “lead” had been correctly added, and that the name and email were added. Wow, that was easy.
Creating the Drip Sequence
The next step is to create the email series promised to the visitor. I went to the email campaigns tab and in the drop down selected Email Sequences. On the screen I clicked to Create a New Sequence.
I gave the sequence a title and clicked Next.
I clicked the button to Add a Sequence Email.
Then takes you into an editor screen. At the top there is a text box to enter the subject and the preview text. Since we are dripping the emails, I added 1 day to each one, so the first one had a 1 day delay, the next 2 days, and so on. I set the time so that it would go out in the morning.
In the editor you can type an @ sign to bring up a list of variables that you can insert.
This is the Gutenberg editor! However, since you need to be careful of the formatting of email content, only some of the core blocks are available for use.
I created the emails for the sequence. In the last email I told the contact about the course available, invite them to check it out, and include a coupon code in the email. Here is the sequence.
One thing that it is worth noting, is that you can manually add contacts to campaigns or sequences, so using an automation funnel, as we will discuss next, is not required. You access those controls by hovering over the campaign or sequence in the list.
When you click on Subscribers you go to a list and there is a button to add Subscribers.
The UI for picking the ones you want to add is pretty sophisticated and lets you pick by list, tag, or dynamic segment.
Creating the Funnel
Now that we have created the email sequence, the next step is to create a “funnel,” or an automation based on some trigger. I clicked on the Funnels tab and next on the Create a New Funnel button.
You then go to a screen where you give the funnel a name and select the trigger. I selected the Forms trigger.
Here is the beginning of the funnel.
I clicked on the card Email Course Funnel to bring up settings interface. I was able to select the form that is used in the funnel, map the fields, set to update the contact if they exist, and only to run once per contact.
Back to the funnel, I clicked on the plus sign under the card to add an action. You are presented with a list of possible actions. I clicked the Set Sequence Emails one.
Then you are at a screen where you select the sequence that you previously defined.
After that I clicked on the plus sign again and this time selected to add a tag. I added the “prospect” tag.
Then I did the same thing again, but this time to remove the “lead” tag.
My thought with adding a new tag and removing the old one to show that the person was moving along the funnel. They had graduated from ‘lead” to “prospect” and maybe later on I could use those tags for follow up emails for people who didn’t convert, using the Dynamic Segments options.
Here was my completed funnel. I toggled it on to publish it.
Here is the first email that was sent.
I was curious and so clicked the link in the email footer to manage subscriptions. Yes, got a nice screen very similar to what I’d see with Mailchimp or one of the other email marketing services.
There are stats and reports for all of the campaigns and sequences. Here is the overview for this sequence. You can see at a glance, the number sent, opened, clicked, and if there were any un-subscriptions.
Lifter LMS Integration
FluentCRM has an integration with Lifter LMS. It is important to stay in touch with your students and keep them engaged. Lifter actually has an “engagement” feature that allows you to send out emails based on certain student events, like completing a course. However, the Lifter engagement feature is isolated and doesn’t have the same kind of overall marketing and tracking that FluentCRM provides.
To setup an automation linked to Lifter LMS, I went to the Funnels tab and selected Lifter LMS as the trigger source.
I clicked on the card, picked the course from the list, and adjusted the settings.
I selected the action block to send a custom email.
And created the custom email.
Here is the completed automation.
I had already created the course in Lifter LMS.
So now I enrolled a user.
When I completed the course FluentCRM sent out the email as expected.
This was also very easy to setup.
In this post I have undertaken a pretty extensive walk-through, shown setup steps and settings, how to create sequences and funnels, and provided a flavor of what is possible with this tool. There is a lot to like.
FluentCRM depends on integrations to really make it shine. This is a new plugin, so the number of integrations is currently limited. I understand the FluentCRM uses the WordPress Rest API and also has a PHP API, so it should be possible to third party plugins to provide integrations. I would like to see an easy way for FluentCRM users to add triggers themselves, perhaps using the Web Hooks feature.
Along these lines, there is a screen in the settings area for defining Web Hooks, it would be nice to have documentation and examples to see how this can be used. Documentation is ready at launch, but is being worked on.
I was pleased when I saw that FluentCRM uses Gutenberg for composing emails and for creating email templates. There are a decent number of blocks supported, but the builder is still a bit limited. For example, there weren’t any pre-designed templates available to help you get started.
It is a Power Tool
FluentCRM is a power tool and so needs a power user. It is not suitable for a new user. For example, if you are moving away from Mailchimp then be aware that you will need to use a service like Mailgun or AmazonSES, configured for your site, for your outbound emails. Also, email marketing platforms have teams to handle reputation, blacklists, checks for appropriate domain server records and so on. You will need to handle that yourself.
If you have grown weary of exporting and importing your email lists from service to service, have become frustrated with their costs and limitations, or the fact that you are dependent on a third party for a critical part of your business processes, then you will appreciate having control of your data and the process yourself.
With FluentCRM we are using WordPress, a platform that we are familiar with and understand. It is much easier to add or tweak an automation when everything is right in front of you and you are not jumping from website to website.
I found the FluentCRM user interface easy to navigate and understand. The team has done a good job of making the complex appear simple. The interface feels like WordPress, without being dated or clunky.
Tagging and Dynamic Segments
I really liked the tagging and dynamic segments features, which I think bring a lot of power and flexibility.
Sequences and Filters
Setting up the drip sequence was very easy and the filters with their triggers and actions are “glue” that makes the various parts work together as a system. This seemed very thought out.
Good Integration with Fluent Forms
One place where FluentCRM really shined was with the Fluent Forms integration. With Fluent Forms it is easy to add contacts to lists and add tags to contacts. Fluent Forms has forms for adding users to your WordPress site, which means that you don’t have to have a complex membership plugin to make use of FluentCRM.
One exceptional aspect to FluentCRM is the team behind it. Fluent Form users have been very pleased with the fast, powerful, and creative additions that the company adds to it. I think Fluent Form users have been very happy with their investment in the product and the team behind it. I’m expecting the same kind of customer engagement and useful enhancements.
My understanding is that the plan for FluentCRM is to release similar sets of plugins, such as for ticketing and help desk, where there is a lot of natural synergy and you can naturally make use of the FluentCRM functionality.
FluentCRM is a great tool for a membership, course, consulting, or business site and sites using WooCommers, Easy Digital Downloads, or other similar ecommerce solutions where it is important to keep customers or clients engaged. Typically people running these types of sites are already power users, at least, and so FluentCRM would be a good fit.
As WordPress matures, we are increasingly seeing it being used as a platform for more advanced business processes. FluentCRM seems to have found a way to bring Customer Resource Management features into the WordPress dashboard, make it work well, and still feel natural. I have to admit that it is satisfying to be able to manage email engagement from within WordPress where everything is under my control. As FluentCRM matures I can see it becoming the go-to solution for people who build their business with their WordPress site as its center.