Both HighLevel and Vendasta are great products for digital marketing to small and medium businesses. But the design philosophy in how each company approaches client management makes all the difference.
Agency Owners have a million options for which software company they choose to fulfill their digital solutions, it can be overwhelming. So many technology providers seem to do the same thing, so instead of focussing on features/benefits, I’m going to focus on answering:
What kind of business are you trying to build, and which software you should use for you?
Here’s why I’m doing this review:
- I still pay for products and services from both companies.
- I’ve made massive changes in my agency, and the technology and software I use has played a part in that.
- Tools are not everything. But the tools you use shape the framework for what you can and cannot do.
What is Vendasta?
Vendasta is a few things.
It’s a marketing agency management platform for you to manage your agency’s marketing, sales, task management, and client accounts.
It’s also a white label and reselling platform, giving you access to resell hundreds of SaaS products, white-labelled services like SEO & website design. Vendasta also has its own white label agency for fulfillment of advertising, reputation management, and a variety of other marketing services.
Who is Vendasta it for?
With all these tools, products and white labelling, the agency that will get the most out of Vendasta will be one that focuses on account management vs being a direct service provider.
The two ideal scenarios with Vendasta are
1: “land and expand” by onboarding clients using a variety of free or low cost tools to get them hooked, and then expand their services as a consultant.
2: “Filling the gaps” by leading with your main package or offering as an agency, and then you can use Vendasta to fill in all the gaps and services that your agency doesn’t do.
I.E. Your a website design company. You are not just selling a website now, you are selling a website along with a ton of free apps and a way to manage their marketing. Also, if they want SEO, a few clicks and you have a new revenue stream.
Why I signed up for Vendasta
When I was a startup agency, I was getting drowned in platforms/apps, passwords and logins. Every new piece of software was tempting me to change direction in how I sold my services.
Vendasta was what I needed because it would force me to commit to one ecosystem. My main income source was websites at the time so having the ability to consolidate my web hosting and other marketing tools felt right.
Their account managers, while hit or miss, were also a big plus. Having someone you could talk to on a monthly basis about not just using the platform, but just also some accountability for getting my store, products and other business advice was great.
Essentially, it was like zombo.com. It felt like you could do anything.
Where Vendasta falls short
This part needs some qualifying. My view that there is no perfect tool, and the biggest reason a tool falls short has more to do with alignment of the agency’s way of doing business with the tool’s philosophy of how work should be done.
That being said, a few of the areas that were pain points:
Every client I signed up, increased my costs.
Reselling apps is great in theory, but now you’re responsible for knowing, managing, and troubleshooting every single one of those apps.
While I was able to sell all sorts of interesting packages, my margins were not great. Making $10 on a social media tool sounds nice, except everytime it breaks, I spend an hour or two trying to fix it, or doing the tech support.
And the reason why I was struggling was not necessarily the fault of Vendasta.
To use a terrible Cliche:
“It’s not you Vendasta, it’s me”
My agency is not best suited for managing a lot of clients
I’m not good at managing a ton of clients. My goal is to go deep with a few clients, and I try to turn every small client into a big one. What I end up with is a whole pile of small clients, that I’m trying to be their CMO for.
The value of Vendasta to me, is when you’re selling a ton of different services to clients, reselling various services/products that Vendasta offers.
However, selling point solutions is not how I operate. I’m not trying to upsell people. I’m trying to deliver a ton of value in the most efficient way possible so clients can get back to business.
The fulfillment/white labelled partners are not all good.
The only way to learn what services are quality, and which ones are a waste of money, is by buying them yourself or testing on a live client. Which is expensive for a new agency.
Maybe I didn’t put enough margins into everything I sold, but if a client only has a $500 budget, do I want to resell SEO services and only make $200 a month? Or would I prefer to sell them $500 of my own services?
There are a few tools that are invaluable to resell, especially if you use those tools already, but it’s a lot of time to onboard someone, just to make $5 a month reselling constant contact.
My clients don’t log into the tools.
I’m not saying that no SMB will use these tools and log into their business center. But my clients didn’t want tools to manage their marketing. They want leads, and to focus on their business.
They want to see leads, and reports on leads.
I was tired of running a “marketing services” company. I wanted to generate leads for my clients.
What is HighLevel
HighLevel is most of your marketing stack, all in one tool.
Marketing Automations, Ad Reporting, Landing Pages, Websites, email marketing/automation, SMS marketing, reputation management, membership site, and CRM/commuication tool all in one.
And it costs you zero dollars for every new account. Unlimited access.
The big feature (among many) is the ability to copy/paste your entire marketing stack for each new client. All the stuff I mentioned above that it does? Yup. Copy. Paste.
Who is HighLevel For?
HighLevel is for agencies that have a niche that they generate leads for, and want to scale. GHL combines almost all of the core marketing solutions companies need: Email, Automations, Reputation Management, SMS texting, AI marketing automation, CRM, call tracking…
And with a few clicks, you can copy/paste all of those for a new client.
No setting up 10 accounts for all the tools… just one tool. Copy and paste.
You have two paths with GHL.
You either use it for your clients to get them leads, or you sell them the tool like a SaaS company.
Sounds similar to Vendasta?
It might. Until you factor in that there is absolutely ZERO extra costs for every client you bring in.
Want to sell the system for $300/month? Pure profit. Want to roll this out to 100 clients? No extra costs.
Why I chose it.
As I mentioned, I had a big shift in how my company was operating.
I had picked a niche Marketing to accountants and Financial planners. I wanted to be lead focussed, and not marketing services focussed. And I needed a tool that allowed me to systemize everything, and scale.
HighLevel reduced my monthly software costs, reduces my onboarding time, and reduces the amount of apps I need. Just everything seemed to make a lot more sense.
- Landing Pages
- Marketing Automation
- Unified Inbox
- Client CRM
- Web chat bot
- SMS business texting
- ads reporting
And probably many other tools I’m missing.
All included, with nothing else to pay for. And in 2 clicks, I can duplicate all the campaigns. It’s absolutely magical.
I did the 14 day trial, thinking I would just try it for my agency first before committing to the full package, and by the end of the day, I was already convinced.
Where GHL falls short
While I’m incredibly happy with GHL, it has its caveats.
Takes a little more to setup
There is a little more to setup. It has a “Bring your own Email/SMS service” And there is some technical stuff you gotta figure out. Luckily, you can pay their team to fast-track you and set this stuff up. But I always like to know how the tools I’m using work, so I can quickly fix them in a pinch, and not always get stuck needing paid support.
As a modern marketing agency, I don’t think it was too difficult to setup, but there was a bigger learning curve for sure.
They are also making strides to have an internal system that simplifies this, and you can instantly rebill your customers for these services.
Also, you can buy other users’ setups, called “snapshots” Remember how you can copy-paste settings? Well, you can sell those settings to other businesses.
Snapshot Reports / Reporting in Vendasta are incredibly user friendly.
GHL is so flexible in what it can do, but design-wise it is not as “designy” looking as other apps in this space. It’s by no stretch bad, in fact it looks good. But if you are the type of account manager style agency where you want your clients getting reports that are much more visually appealing, Vendasta wins in this department.
Websites are not strong…. yet.
Funnels and Website builder is very powerful from a marketing perspective in GHL, however, I wouldn’t consider their websites to be professional website grade. They are simple, do the job, but when you need the website to do something specific, you will still need WordPress.
With Vendasta, for $15-20 a month per client you get cloud hosted WordPress sites, that the client can log into easily, all managed in their account.
With GHL, they have a simple landing page builder that also doubles as a website. (note… it costs nothing to launch websites though…)
(a little birdy told me that they have something cooking up soon though….)
If you need to scale your agency and are lead generation focussed, GHL is the absolute best path to making that happen.
I currently am spending all my energy in GHL, and Vendasta is still part of my mix, but it is in support of my core business: getting leads for clients.
My business model has completely changed in the 4 months since jumping into GHL, and while you should never let a tool take too much of your focus, I just found that the tools I was using were not allowing me to focus on what I really want to be doing for clients: Getting leads.
I hope you found this review helpful, and if you have any further questions about HighLevel or Vendasta about which one is right for you, reach out to me on Linkedin, and I’d be happy to chat in more detail.