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HubSpot vs Mailchimp for marketing automation: Which is better? (Updated for 2020)

HubSpot vs Mailchimp for marketing automation: Which is better? (Updated for 2020) Blog Feature

Jessica Palmeri

HubSpot Consultant, 7+ Years Of Digital Marketing Strategy & Project Management Experience

December 2nd, 2019 min read

Here at IMPACT, we’re big fans of marketing automation.

Being a HubSpot Diamond Partner, we’re a little partial to HubSpot, but we are always on the lookout for new technology that can help marketing professionals work smarter (not harder) to accomplish marketing goals.

Enter Mailchimp. 

By no means a newbie in the MarTech space, Mailchimp has provided email marketing to the masses since 2001

But as of late, Mailchimp refuses to stay in the “email marketing lane.” 

In the last few years, Mailchimp has rebranded, created an entertainment division and (most importantly) entered the arena of marketing automation by launching an all-in-one marketing platform.

Will Mailchimp be able to go head-to-head with more established all-in-one platforms? Or is this a gimmick to retain customers who may be looking to jump ship? Let’s discuss by taking a look at how it compares to HubSpot. 

Comparing marketing automation platforms

Comparing marketing automation platforms falls somewhere in-between “comparing apples to apples” and “comparing apples to hippopotamuses.”

Yes, there are some fundamental elements that are easy to spot in every marketing automation platform — but at the end of the day, each platform is trying to accomplish very different goals for very different target markets. So a side-by-side comparison is not always the best measure to evaluate the tool. 

Disclaimers aside, this is a comparison article. 

While it may not be a perfect “apples to apples” comparison, we are here to make sure you understand the strengths and weaknesses of each marketing automation platform. 

HubSpot’s biggest strengths

HubSpot’s marketing automation platform was designed to lead an inbound marketing revolution. 

From blogging and workflows to sales pipelines and beyond, every element of HubSpot’s software serves this larger vision. 

So what are the advantages of an inbound marketing-driven tool? 

Well, if your primary goal is to generate leads and new business through digital marketing efforts, then HubSpot is a natural fit.

Its biggest automation strength is the interconnected ecosystem that tracks the customer lifecycle from “vaguely interested prospect” to “delighted customer willing to sing your praises.” 

Each “Hub” captures a different stage of this lifecycle. 

Marketing Hub is designed to capture and nurture leads, the Sales Hub passes those leads to the Sales Team so that they can close the deal, and Service Hub ensures that you can keep customers delighted and coming back for more.

Each Hub also fully integrates and seamlessly shares information between teams, so that everyone in your organization can track the customer journey as a whole.  

Marketing, sales, and customer activities may be separate departments, but they all interact with a single customer. Their experiences and activities with a customer all contribute to one greater journey that the individual takes with your brand so it’s important to have insight into all of them. 

The conversation may change as prospect becomes a lead and a lead becomes a customer, but with HubSpot, the ability to capture the nuances of that conversation remains the same.

HubSpot’s marketing automation platform makes getting this look at the greater journey possible. Mailchimp does not, but more on that later.

HubSpot’s biggest drawbacks

HubSpot sounds great, so what’s the catch? With more power comes more complexity. 

Mailchimp was designed to make marketing more accessible for the general masses, while HubSpot was designed to provide powerful tools for marketing professionals. 

The result? HubSpot can feel overly complicated and overly designed for newcomers. 

There are a lot of terms, features, and moving pieces to learn how to work with and skills needed to get the most out of the tool.  

For example, up until 2018, HubSpot relied on HTML coded email templates, and only recently started rolling out drag and drop editing features for email and landing pages. 

HubSpot is a serious investment (in both time, money, and skill-level) and it’s not for the faint of heart. 

Mailchimp’s biggest strengths

At its core, Mailchimp’s mission is to provide marketing software to the masses. 

Mailchimp strives to serve the small business owner or solo-preneur who wants to run sophisticated campaigns (like the “big dog” competitors.)

With that mission in mind, Mailchimp knew that their customers needed a more complete  marketing solution to deliver end-to-end automation throughout the customer journey (like HubSpot).  

You can’t just send out a mass email and pray that your prospect makes a purchase. You need the power to look beyond basic open and click rates. You need the ability to guide your buyer to the next step with the right content, at the right time, to close that final sale. 

So, did the company succeed in providing this? Somewhat. 

Mailchimp still shines as an email marketing platform, but it now has add-on features to help small business owners run a more advanced marketing automation program. 

It now branches into the websites (still in beta) and landing pages, which help small businesses showcase the value of their offers (while also tracking website visits and conversion rates.) 

Mailchimp has also toyed around with audience segmentation based on online behavior and event triggered automation (ex: send an email to a prospect if they haven’t returned to your site in X days.) 

Mailchimp’s biggest drawbacks

Will Mailchimp’s new features meet all of your marketing automation wants and needs? Probably not right now.

In many respects, Mailchimp is simply late to the party. Advanced segmentation and trigger-based automation are the bread and butter of most all-in-one marketing automation platforms. So there’s nothing “new” to see here.

The software is easy to use and has a few bells and whistles that are specifically designed with the small business user in mind (ex: integrate address finder and postcard campaigns.) 

It also provides easy to read dashboards, and basic CRM functionality to ensure that all of the “all-in-one platform” boxes are checked, however, if you scratch beneath the surface, the functionality will leave you wanting more.   

The key phrase here is “small business.” 

Mailchimp was and still is specifically tailored to the small-to-medium-sized business market. 

While many of the marketing automation features meet the needs of this audience currently, as a business grows, and builds out a robust sales department, or a separate customer support team, they’ll quickly run into the limitations of what Mailchimp can provide. 

Furthermore, Mailchimp fundamentally misses (or outright ignores) the need for marketing,sales, and customer service teams to work together to provide one unified experience. Their software simply isn’t built with multiple teams in mind.

Dollar for dollar, which software is the best bet?

Both HubSpot and Mailchimp offer a fairly robust “free for life” platform. 

With HubSpot, “free” includes:

  • Email marketing
  • Ad management
  • List segmentation
  • Conversations inbox (Social Media)
  • Live chat
  • Conversational bots
  • Facebook Messenger integration
  • Reporting dashboards

With Mailchimp, “free” includes:

  • Email
  • Facebook & Instagram Ads
  • Social Posting
  • Audience Dashboard
  • Segmentation
  • Behavioral Targeting
  • Content Studio
  • Postcards
  • Basic Templates
  • Landing Pages
  • Pop-up Forms
  • Free Mailchimp Domain
  • Website Analytics 
  • Single-step Automations
  • Basic Reports

So, what are the key differences? 

HubSpot also offers a suite of free tools which will allow you to enhance and modify an existing website to make it more “inbound-y.” 

You can embed free HubSpot forms and collect leads, or connect HubSpot live chat and conversational bots to boost lead conversion. 

Once leads are collected, HubSpot also allows those contact records to live in a CRM so that you can manage and track the progression of that relationship.  

On the other hand, Mailchimp’s free version will allow you to build a lightweight website (with a free Mailchimp branded domain), and even play with basic single-step automation (ex: I fill out a form and automatically receive a “thank you” email.) 

But eventually, most users of either tool will feel the need to upgrade. 

HubSpot offers significantly more robust functionality for the more advanced user (but at a steep increase when you dive into the pricing.) 

HubSpot’s Starter package kicks off at a modest $50/month but climbs to $800/month when you jump up to the next tier (and if you want all that Enterprise has to offer you’ll pay a whopping $3,200/month.) 

Mailchimp’s pricing starts at the economical $9.99/month and tops out at $299/month. 

So, in the long run, Mailchimp won’t cost as much as HubSpot, but if you’re planning to scale up, the software might not be able to grow with you. 

When comparing price points for the two software platforms, it’s also important to keep the size and scope of your organization in mind. For example, HubSpot allows for unlimited users (even at the free level) while Mailchimp charges “per seat.” HubSpot also allows free users unlimited contacts (but will charge per contact tier as soon as you switch over to the paid pricing.) 

It’s these little “hidden fees” that can make a BIG difference in the final monthly cost of the product. 

Which software is right for me?

Ultimately, it’s clear to see that HubSpot and Mailchimp are going after completely different target audiences. They aren’t really competing so it should be clear which one is right or wrong for your needs.  

If you’re a small business owner looking to break into marketing automation for the first time, Mailchimp is the most cost-effective and introductory choice.

But if you have existing marketing efforts and ambitions to scale, Mailchimp’s functionality limitations will eventually catch up with you. Switching costs are a real concern, so starting out on a platform like HubSpot with plenty of room to grow is the safer bet. 

HubSpot Marketing Guide for Businesses

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