Head of Editorial Content, Strategized Initiatives That Increased IMPACT’s Website Traffic From ~45K to ~400K
June 28th, 2016
Life is full of difficult decisions.
What should I be when I grow up? Where should I go to college? What marketing automation software should I use? -- Ok, maybe the last one isn’t as common, but if you’re reading this, it’s surely a dilemma that strikes a chord.
As digital marketing becomes the business norm, having software to organize and manage your activities and grow with your organization, has never been more important.
Though we may be a tad biased as one its partner agencies, HubSpot is our marketing automation software of choice, but for those of you new to the inbound methodology, there are number of other options that you may also be considering.
So, we’ve done all the legwork for you!
In this guide, we’ve outlined all of the most common consideration points when choosing a marketing automation software and honestly evaluated the pros and cons of HubSpot in each of them.
Make sure to bookmark this page and use the links below to jump around as you continue to explore HubSpot.
In their own words, “HubSpot is an inbound marketing software platform that helps companies attract visitors, convert leads, and close customers.”
Marketing has evolved tremendously over the last decade due to changes in consumer behavior. HubSpot is the answer to those changes.
Traditional marketing succeeded by interrupting people with television ads, magazine ads, and other forms of media that jumped between consumers’ attention and what they were doing. For years, we accepted this as “normal” and marketing remained unchanged for decades.
However, as marketing continued to interrupt us everywhere we turned, we started looking for ways to avoid advertising. Thanks to innovations like DVR and online ad-blockers, we now have more control over the advertising we consume.
While most of us can agree that we don’t like invasive ads that disrupt what we’re doing – we still love to buy things that we want and need. We just prefer to seek out those companies on our own and to conduct personal research before talking with a sales rep.
The purpose of inbound marketing is to make it easier for your company’s products and services to get discovered by your target customers and to provide them with the information they’re looking for to make a purchasing decision.
Marketing Automation Software
As more companies have taken the inbound approach, thousands of new tools have become available to marketers for enhancing their digital marketing tactics.
All of these different tools, plugins, systems, and services allow you to gather more valuable data, measure your most important metrics, automate routine tasks, and much more.
However, deciding between all of the various tools, getting them configured, and actually using them is a giant hassle.
That’s where HubSpot comes in.
Their platform is designed to help you execute an ideal Inbound Marketing strategy from start to finish – effectively replacing all of the other tools you could need.
HubSpot vs FrankenSpot
As you might expect, a powerful system like HubSpot requires a significant investment. In response to the higher sticker price of HubSpot, marketers have attempted to build their own replica system using a variety of plugins and tools on the market that cost less individually.
The nickname for such a system is “FrankenSpot” and HubSpot even shows you exactly how to build it for yourself.
If you’re only interested in a few of HubSpot’s features, this might actually be a better option for your business because it will cost much less. However, if you consider most of HubSpot’s features must-haves (which most marketers today do) than you’ll find it usually ends up costing about the same and comes with much more hassle.
A bare-bones system with minimal features that you can build yourself might cost around only $200 per month. On the other hand, to get most of the higher-end features of HubSpot, you’re looking at $1,000 or more per month.
When you factor in all of the implementation, ongoing maintenance and updates, issues with integration, and custom design work to get everything to match your brand you’ll find that creating your own FrankenSpot isn’t usually worth the hassle.
All-in-all, HubSpot is a one-stop shop for marketers, but if you’re reading this guide, you’re obviously trying to decide once and for all, if it’s right for you.
To help make your decision a little bit easier, this guide will go into pros and cons of the nine key areas of your consideration:
The Software UX/UI
Reporting and Analytics
The Website Platform
The CRM and Sales Tools
The HubSpot Community, Support, and Network
Then of course, we’ll quickly weigh the software against its major competitors. Let’s get to it.
One of the best things about HubSpot is how well it works for virtually all types of companies and industries.
Last year, HubSpot surveyed nearly 4,000 marketers from across the world (about half came from companies that generate less than $1 million per year and only one-third were affiliated with the marketing automation software) and the results were telling of the current state of marketing, as well as how HubSpot fits the marketing needs of a wide variety of companies today.
Pro: A Software for Companies of all Shapes and Sizes
Inbound marketing is overwhelmingly favored by companies with 200 employees or less, while companies with 200+ employees slightly favor it over outbound methods.
Source: HubSpot's State of Inbound 2015
Increasing leads and converting them are top priorities regardless of company size or organization type (B2B, B2C, nonprofit), especially for SMBs both of which happen to be two of HubSpot’s biggest strengths.
Of the nearly 4,000 people surveyed, inbound had a 75% likelihood of being the marketing approach of choice, while outbound had only a 25% chance. This 3:1 ratio remained consistent across all company types (B2B, B2C, and nonprofit).
Inbound is the preferred marketing method for all companies that spend under $5M annually on marketing. In fact, organizations that spend less than $100,000 on marketing annually are four times more likely to practice inbound than outbound.
Pro: Sales and Marketing Work Better Together with HubSpot
Sales and marketing have to be on the same page to get the full benefits of inbound marketing. After all, you need to convert and close all of those marketing leads you attract.
In the same survey mentioned earlier, the top priority for salespeople (behind “closing more deals”) was “improving the efficiency of the sales funnel” – one of the primary functions of HubSpot’s software.
Pro: Works Whether You Sell a Product or a Service
While these actions are not done natively, there are several eCommerce integrations available (i.e. Zapier, Magento, Bigcommerce) that make HubSpot a great match for selling tangible products.
Companies that sell products find HubSpot extremely useful because they can track which products their customers are considering and serve them relevant content that helps them make a purchasing decision. They can also track behaviors and set up abandoned cart emails to close more sales.
Once someone has purchased a product, businesses can also automate marketing campaigns to promote other products they might be interested in and deliver more value through related content.
Companies offering services, on the other hand, appreciate HubSpot because it allows them to nurture client relationships from lead to customer and beyond.
Client-vendor relationships are crucial and HubSpot allows users to see which content people are engaging with, what interactions they’ve had with their team, and other valuable information that make your customer service more effective and “delightful.”
Con: Not Ideal for Larger Corporations
Although virtually all types of business from around the world, B2B or B2C, prefer inbound over outbound and have marketing/sales needs that align with HubSpot’s software, there is one big exception – large corporations.
Large corporations are often playing in a completely different ball game and outbound is still a large part of their marketing strategies.
Although large corporations use marketing automation and CRM software for inbound marketing, their needs aren’t fully met by HubSpot. In fact, large corporations are more likely to develop in-house software that’s fully customized for their specific needs.
HubSpot’s software is a significant investment, but frankly, all good software is. Let’s weigh the pros and cons.
Pro: Flexible Pricing
From Microsoft Office to the Adobe Creative Suite, all professional grade software will mean incurring an often hefty price tag, but it is a necessary cost.
When compared to other platform on the market with comparable feature, HubSpot’s pricing is competitive and offers arguably more value.
While purchasing HubSpot does require signing a one-year contract upfront, the software’s three different plans and several add-ons offer flexibility when it comes to pricing as you can pick the features that actually fit your needs and the size of your contact database.
If you won’t use it, you don’t have to pay for it. Plain and simple.
HubSpot Prices vs The Competition
HubSpot is also a steal compared to its major competitors. Packages start at $200 per month for Basic and goes up to $2,400 per month for Enterprise.
Marketo – Ranges from $1,195 to $11,995 per month and even higher for the Enterprise package.
Pardot – Starts at $1,000 per month and goes up to $3,000.
Eloqua – Ranges from $2,000 to $4,000+ per month.
Considering the flexible options provided by HubSpot, it’s arguably the most affordable platform of its kind. It is especially great for growing businesses as you can get your most basic needs covered right away and upgrade as your business grows.
Con: Your Price Will Go Up (...But Only When You See Results!)
Inbound marketing is all about lead generation and managing/nurturing those leads.
As your contact database grows (which it will if you’re doing things right), you will incur a small premium (ranging from $10-100 depending on your package) for every 1,000 new contacts.
Though everyone understandably wants to keep costs low, these additional leads will likely multiple the number spent on them in returned revenue and ultimately, a sign that your inbound marketing is working.
In addition to HubSpot’s software, you also become a member of their lively network of users with access to their resources, talented support agents, and partners. All of these provide invaluable opportunities for networking, learning, and improving your brand’s marketing, but we’ll get deeper into that in chapter nine.
Like all marketing automation software, HubSpot does require a little bit of practice (and possibly training) to get used to, but as a SaaS (software-as-a-service), it is constantly evolving and improving and offers great convenience.
When you first arrive on the website you’ll find HubSpot is broken down into several, well-organized buckets:
Dashboard: Here you’ll find an overview of your marketing performing “at glance.” The page displays statistics (and links to longer reports) of your traffic, leads, landing pages, blog, and emails.
Contacts: Under contacts you will find and manage your lead/contact base, including both those you’ve uploaded and those that have filled out a form on your site. You’ll also find the tools for lists, lead scoring, forms, and workflows.
Content: Content is where you’ll find and manage the heart of your lead generation efforts: your blog, emails, calls-to-action, file management, and if you have it, your Website Platform pages.
Social: As the name suggests, this is where you can schedule and monitor all of your social media activity.
Reports: Under this tab, you’ll find all of your data. If you’re wondering how a particular page is performing or want to take a deeper dive into your traffic sources, keywords, or competitors, this is the spot for you.
Productivity: Here HubSpot shares three very useful tools (an editorial calendar, campaign manager, and the newest, project manager) to help keep you organized.
As a SaaS, you can log in to your HubSpot account from anywhere in the world, on any browser, and any device, as long as you have an internet connection. This enables you to easily work outside of the office without needing to install additional software.
Pro: Easy to Navigate and Learn
HubSpot has done an excellent job of making its software more user-friendly, easy to navigate, and learn. For people who have never used marketing automation software or are new to inbound marketing, a few minutes clicking through the navigation dropdowns are enough get your bearings and start taking action.
(And if it’s not, there is an extensive library of free webinars, certifications, and tutorials available in HubSpot Academyto get you there at your own pace!)
Con: Not All Features Are Available On Mobile… Yet
Though HubSpot isn’t as complicated as every marketing software, it is incredibly powerful and comprehensive. For this reason, not all features and functions (i.e. blogging) are easily available on all mobile devices.
The company does however, have a mobile app that makes it easy for you to monitor your analytics, social engagement, and schedule social media posts on the go.
Technology plays a huge role in businesses today and HubSpot developed HubSpot Connect to ensure its software integrates with popular tools and programs used in a wide variety of industries that you’re likely already using.
Pro: Huge Library of Integrations Available
Zendesk, PandaDoc, EventBrite, AdRoll, Wistia, Snapengage, GoToWebinar, Salesforce, FreshBooks, Unbounce, SurveyMonkey, LeadPages, Zapier, WordPress, Google Chrome, and more, Connect already hosts integrations for dozens of the most popular tools available. View the list here.
Pro: Easy to Develop New Integrations
HubSpot has made it very easy for developers to build their own integrations. Becoming a Connect partner gives you access to HubSpot’s API, their support team, and several valuable (and fun) perks. Learn more here.
Con: HubSpot Connect is Still Growing
Connect’s existing integrations work very well, but as it is a new market, there are many new integrations and functionalities that you may be waiting for.
Connect partners are however taking their integrations with HubSpot very seriously so they are constantly evolving and improving.
As Connect matures and continues to expand, the integrations and options are becoming steadily more robust as well, but ultimately it is on the Connect partners to create improve their integrations with the platform, not HubSpot.
HubSpot is very detailed with their data tracking, allowing you to create extremely comprehensive and visual reports. From page views and blog subscribers to lead behavior and specific page performance, you can measure and export everything.
Many of the most popular reports are readily available (without any work on your part) and you can even set it up so that these reports are automatically delivered to your email inbox or that of a colleague.
Pro: Custom Reports
If HubSpot doesn’t already have the report you’re looking for made, you can easily create custom reports based on actions, properties, website performance, contact behavior, and more.
You can create custom dashboards for different teams in your organization so that everyone sees the most relevant data to them when they first arrive on the page.
Con: You Could End up Needing the Reporting Add-On
The reporting built in to the marketing platform is quite robust, however, many customers require deeper, more customized reports with unqiue data visualization. If this sounds like your organization, you may want the HubSpot Reporting Add-on ($200 per month) to get all of the reporting functions and features that you really need.
The HubSpot Website Platform is fast, easy to use, fully integrates your content to a full-funnel marketing system, optimizes it for search, and offers personalization to specific viewers. We’re huge fans of the HubSpot Website Platform here at IMPACT.
In fact all of our designers and developers are COS certified, but you don’t have to take our word alone for it. Here are the facts:
Pro: Easy to Manage Interface
HubSpot’s inline editor allows you to customize pages with drag-and-drop elements and create page templates without any code. You can quickly edit content, add CTAs, and more from your HubSpot dashboard.
SSL (secure sockets layer) is automatically included to ensure your website and any data your prospects and customers input are highly-secure. Plus, HubSpot includes a Web Application Firewall to protect from malicious threats.
Pro: Optimized for Mobile
Your blog posts, landing pages, and all other web content will automatically adjust to the perfect dimensions for any screen, big or small.
Pro: Integrates Perfectly with HubSpot Marketing
Seamless integration makes it easy to deploy all of the rich features in HubSpot’s marketing software, as well as having access to detailed analytics without any coding.
Pro: Fast CDN
HubSpot uses a content delivery network to ensure your website has reliable uptime and blazing fast performance.
Con: You’ll Need an Experienced HubSpot Developer
Not all web developers are familiar with HubSpot’s platform. So, to customize the appearance of your website beyond what is capable with HubSpot’s website builder, you’ll need an experienced HubSpot developer.
Fortunately, partner agencies like IMPACT have you covered if you need any development work done (and of course, HubSpot can also refer you to other skilled options.)
WordPress is the go-to for many bloggers and businesses because it’s free, fairly easy to use, and usually reliable, but with it is also an aging platform that has become widely criticized in recent years.
With thousands of plugins, premium themes, and other tools available you can easily replicate most of the features of WordPress on the HubSpot Website Platform. (In fact, many of the features such as SEO come built-in, no need for additional plugins.)
Why Use HubSpot Website Platform?
If you’re on an extremely tight budget, it wouldn’t hurt to start out with Wordpress and transition to HubSpot later. However, if you want to unlock the full potential of inbound marketing from the beginning and not hassle with code and other upfront technical work – HubSpot Website Platform is a no-brainer.
It’s difficult to fully appreciate HubSpot’s Website Platform unless you’ve built or managed business websites in the past, or tried to launch a robust inbound marketing campaign with other platforms. The difference is night and day.
HubSpot’s Website Platform is built to scale. It makes life incredibly easy in the beginning because you have immediate access to powerful features that are normally considered “advanced,” then as your business grows and your inbound tactics evolve, your website is ready to deliver Smart Content, run A/B tests, and handle any other technical task you have in mind.
The HubSpot CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and Sales Tools have helped add a whole new dimension to the company’s offerings and value. They have expanded its effects beyond just marketing, into sales and even customer delight.
The HubSpot CRM makes it easy to organize, track, and grow your contact list and sales pipeline.
Pro: It’s FREE
According to HubSpot, the CRM will be free to use forever -- even if you’re not a paying HubSpot customer.
Pro: Better Insights
The HubSpot CRM tracks customer interactions automatically, providing valuable insights into customer behavior and making it easier to know when to follow up.
Pro: No Customization Limits
Most CRMs have annoying customization limits, but HubSpot allows you to customize everything to your brand and your specific sales process. (We recently saved an IMPACT client thousands a year with a customized HubSpot CRM. Learn all about it here!)
Pro: Uses Same Database as Marketing Platform (No Integration Needed)
Both marketing and sales perform best when they’re in alignment. The HubSpot CRM is already seamlessly connected with what you’re doing on the HubSpot marketing side, allowing a smooth transition of leads from marketing to sales in your funnel and far easier communication of data.
Pro: Can Be Used With Other CRMs
At IMPACT, we often find that many of our clients enjoy using the HubSpot CRM for prospecting due to it’s simplicity and functionality (and integrates with HubSpot’s other sales tools), but find Salesforce is still useful for other needs.
Luckily the HubSpot CRM doesn’t affect anything your organization is doing in other CRM platforms, such as SFDC or Microsoft Dynamics. They can be used simultaneously and both can be integrated into HubSpot as well.
Con: Relatively New
Since HubSpot CRM is still new, there are many upcoming features that have yet to be released.
Although HubSpot CRM is great for growing businesses, organizations with large sales teams might find that HubSpot CRM isn’t advanced enough just yet.
HubSpot CRM vs Salesforce
As with any business decision, deciding which CRM is right for your business comes down to the current state of your business, sales team, and goals.
According to HubSpot, the CRM was not designed to compete with that of Salesforce (in fact, they have an integration for it.) Rather, it is for companies that have never used a CRM before and want to start or those that find Salesforce is too robust for their needs.
If you’re a growing company looking to implement a lightweight CRM that improves organization and efficiency for sales reps and creates closed-loop reporting on sales and marketing initiatives, then HubSpot CRM is for you.
If you need an enterprise-wide ecosystem in one platform, however, Salesforce may be a better option.
HubSpot Sales Tools
HubSpot has several sales tools available, including: a library of email templates and sales content, Meetings, Prospects, Sequences, and a tool for email tracking.
Pro: You Can Start Using Free
HubSpot is making a big push to help businesses improve their inbound sales by providing several sales tools, in addition to their CRM, free of charge.
Most of the tools are available for free (with monthly usage limits), but for $50 per user/month, you can get a pro account with higher limits and premium tools like Meetings, Sequences, and Prospects.
Pro: Work From Inside Your Inbox
HubSpot’s sales tools live in your inbox, so you don’t have to go back and forth between various windows and you can get more work done faster.
Pro: Automatically Syncs With HubSpot
Similar to HubSpot’s CRM, their sales tools work perfectly with HubSpot Marketing, your contacts, and all of their other software. If you’re familiar with HubSpot you’ll be able to jump right in and use these tools.
Con: Not as Robust as HubSpot Marketing (Yet)
HubSpot’s marketing software is a true all-in-one platform, whereas their sales tools make up a new collection of convenient and useful tools. They make an excellent addition, but they lack the advanced functionality to be the exclusive sales tools for most large sales teams.
HubSpot is well-known for their excellent customer service team and their support is among the best in the industry.
One of the things HubSpot customers appreciate the most is how easy it is to get on the phone with an actual HubSpot employee quickly and all of the amazing resources made available to them at the drop of a hat.
Overall, the benefits of the HubSpot community (including their support, user network, Inbound.org, and partner agencies) are vast and diverse, as we’ll explain here:
Pro: Free of Charge (Always)
Unlike many other marketing and sales tech companies that vire support as an add-on to their base price, HubSpot support has always been included. You can reach support engineers during normal work-week hours on their support line or submit a ticket online at any time and they’ll get back to you.
Pro: Fast Response Time
HubSpot takes quality support very seriously. If you need help with the software, all you have to do is call 1-888-HubSpot and dial extension 3. There are no automated systems or frustrating meus, just a knowledgeable human (like you) on the other line, ready to help.
There’s nothing more annoying than wasting hours out of your day dealing with customer support. Whether you call them, request them to call you, or put in an online support ticket, HubSpot is very good at responding to your inquiries quickly.
The only thing worse than long wait times are rude customer service reps. You never have to worry about that when calling HubSpot. It’s clear that the support team members enjoy their jobs and truly care about helping you solve your problems (and improving their product). (Or it just might be that in-house beer garden up at headquarters.)
Not only do HubSpot support engineers understand their software well, they also understand inbound marketing and the context by which you will be using their software. That means they can help you solve problems and help you get the most value from their products.
Con: May Not Have an Immediate Solution
There are times when the HubSpot support engineer doesn’t have a solution on the spot. In these instances they create a support ticket and get back to you with an answer, rather than wasting your time as they try to make something up.
Pro: Huge User Network
HubSpot has a larger community than virtually any other marketing software company in the world. In fact, you’ll find that most of the smaller communities from their competitors are active users at Inbound.org.
Pro: Large HubSpot Partner Network
HubSpot has thousands of partners across the globe (Including IMPACT) who are
Thousands of partners
Their top partners are tiered, with the highestbeing Diamond (like IMPACT)
Partners are global
Pro: INBOUND Conference
HubSpot hosts an annual conference called, INBOUND, that allows marketers, entrepreneurs, and business-savvy folks to meet up, network, and have a lot of fun.
For 2016 they’ve already got Gary Vaynerchuk, Rand Fishkin, and even Alec Baldwin lined up as confirmed speakers. It is hands-down the best (and biggest) conference for inbound marketers.
Con: Smaller Community Than WordPress
Since WordPress has been the go-to blogging platform for years before HubSpot existed (and it’s free) they naturally have a larger community.
Con: Smaller CMS Community Than Others
HubSpot’s CMS and other sales tools are relatively new so that portion of their community isn’t near the level of Salesforce or the other major players in sales software.
HubSpot has completely transformed our agency and we honestly wouldn’t be where we are today without their help, which is why we’re strong advocates of their service and product.
However, you have to decide which marketing platform is right for your business and, admittedly, HubSpot isn’t the perfect solution for all businesses.
HubSpot vs Marketo
In terms of capability, you can’t really go wrong with either software – both are great marketing platforms that don’t have any major weaknesses.
However, users have commented that HubSpot is easier to learn, and easier to use. Most also like that you can manage your blog, email, social media, and website all from one dashboard.
Furthermore, prices will vary based on your organization’s needs, but Marketo is generally more expensive.
HubSpot vs Pardot (by Salesforce)
The upside to Pardot is that they were recently acquired by Salesforce and are quickly integrating into the Salesforce ecosystem effectively.
If your company is heavily invested in Salesforce, this could be ideal for your best long-term, but if you are not, HubSpot is more affordable and is definitely more of an all-in-one solution.
Pardot is strictly focused on marketing automation; it doesn’t include social media, blogging, etc.
HubSpot vs Eloqua
Eloqua’s biggest strength is in their email marketing features, which are among the most advanced on the market. Eloqua caters more to advanced marketers who want to dig deep into the technical aspects of email, but those advanced features also come with a higher price tag.
In terms of lead generation and versatility, Eloqua dulls in comparison to HubSpot. Like Pardot, they also lack the all-in-one capability that HubSpot provides.
HubSpot vs DemandForce
Both of these software are comparable in price and overall function, but there are some key differences.
DemandForce is very focused on small businesses. It places more emphasis on local marketing with features that help your business get listed in local searches and generate more reviews. It also integrates well with popular small business software, Quickbooks, and syncs that information to generate detailed reports.
A major difference between the two software is that DemandForce isn’t a blogging platform and doesn’t allow you to create CTAs and landing pages like you can with HubSpot. It is also not as scalable as HubSpot.
HubSpot vs SharpSpring
If you’re an agency, SharpSpring should definitely be on your radar as their software is specifically designed for agencies and is more affordable than HubSpot.
In terms of marketing automation features, the two platforms are comparable, but HubSpot is undoubtedly better suited for marketers who want a true all-in-one marketing solution that goes beyond marketing automation.
HubSpot vs Act-On
Act-On is the closest marketing software to HubSpot in terms of how easy it is to learn and get started with.
This is great for people who are completely new to marketing automation, but the downside is that the functionality is limited and marketers tend to outgrow the platform quickly.
Act-On has a higher starting price, but the full-feature version is about the same price as HubSpot’s full-feature package. HubSpot, however, does have significantly more capability and detailed reporting.
HubSpot vs Infusionsoft
Infusionsoft is another good option that’s more affordable than HubSpot.
Infusionsoft is similar overall to HubSpot, but it lacks a content management system (CMS), keyword research, and built-in SEO capability.
On the other hand, Infusionsoft has a convenient drag-and-drop campaign builder that HubSpot doesn’t as well as a better CRM and eCommerce capability.
Now, Give it a Try!
Sure, it all sounds great in theory, but the only way to know what we’re really talking about is to give HubSpot a try for yourself. Talk to us here at IMPACT and we’ll help you set up a free 30-day unlimited trial of HubSpot and walk you through how to use it to achieve your marketing and business goals.