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Why go HubSpot? A candid look at the good, the bad, and the ugly

Why go HubSpot? A candid look at the good, the bad, and the ugly Blog Feature

Lexie Ward

HubSpot Consultant, 5+ Years Of Digital Marketing Strategy & Project Management Experience

November 15th, 2019 min read

For businesses that have adopted the inbound methodology or are ready to, HubSpot provides an affordable selection of tools that support your marketing, sales, and service teams as they implement this new strategy. 

Through a centralized CRM that is integrated with website and sales activity, HubSpot allows you to track and understand more about how visitors become leads who then turn into customers. With everyone in your organization working off the same database, you will experience smoother handoff between marketing and sales, and a more delightful experience for your customers.

IMPACT is proud to be a HubSpot agency partner, but we are also able to be unbiased when it comes to recognizing the platform’s flaws. In this article, we will be candidly discussing the good and bad about HubSpot, including who HubSpot isn't right for — as well as its shortcomings.

The good

HubSpot is able to help you execute all of your digital marketing efforts, like email, social media, and landing pages, in one place. This allows you to see a full and holistic view of a customer’s journey and interactions with your brand.

With HubSpot’s centralized, well-integrated CRM, you are able to generate qualified leads, turn those leads into customers, and convert customers into prospects all within the same tool. Making it one complete platform for marketing and sales.

For example, when a contact fills out a form on your website, you are able to qualify them using information you have already collected. Then, based on where they are at in the customer journey, you could choose to nurture them further with helpful content or have the sales team follow up directly. 

So, how can HubSpot help you reach your goals and become truly efficient in marketing and sales?

The ability to prove ROI

How do you know if your marketing efforts are successful? Most companies need to continuously prove that what they are doing is working in order to maintain budget and focus.

Fellow IMPACTer Ali Parmelee put it like this

Showing a return on investment is critical for your marketing budget. Marketers who are able to display the return of each investment are able to guide their budgets based on their actual needs and ideas for growth, rather than being stuck with what the finance department thinks they need.

HubSpot gives you the ability to create clear and accurate reports that contain valuable information for multiple segments of your business. Through accurate reporting, you are able to gain important insights into how different operations are performing, and what is successful. 

HubSpot Marketing Report Dashboard

With the custom reports tools, which includes reports across data sets (think contacts and deals) and attribution reports, you are able to tie specific activities back to revenue, and pull in data on nearly every property that exists within the platform. For instance, you can create reports looking at different activity like email clicks and opens, as well as custom properties you create that are specific to your business.

You even have access to a number of pre-generated reports that come set up in your portal.

Whether it’s a full marketing campaign, an email blast, or a new sales pipeline, clear reporting gives much-needed visibility into the success of your efforts, which leads to teams being able to make better-informed decisions. These reports also allow marketing and sales teams to get aligned, as they are able to create a clear picture of what is working and generating deals. 

Testing

Most marketers will tell you that it’s not a great idea to set up a website page, landing page, or automated email send once and never touch it again. Testing and iteration should be a top priority for any campaign that goes live. 

With HubSpot, it’s relatively easy to test and report on campaigns. For example, you have the ability to A/B test entire landing pages, CTA, emails, and more.

HubSpot campaign reporting

Through testing, reporting, and iteration you are able to discover what works.

Scalability 

HubSpot provides different levels of its tool, or Hubs, for both the marketing and sales side. This gives users the flexibility to choose the Hub that is most suited for them, and progress as their business grows. For example, if you’re not sure if HubSpot is right for you, you can always start off with the free CRM, which includes a handful of features, and then move up from there. 

HubSpot has also been focusing on building out its enterprise Hubs in recent years, which they created specifically for companies who are growing quickly and looking to scale up their process. 

With extensive options for automation, HubSpot is able to cater to those with a large database or a high volume of leads. Through automated workflows, users are able to perform strategic outreach and follow up to the masses, but still keep it personalized with advanced targeting.

HubSpot also has access to many powerful integrations for organizations that are actively using other tools, this includes things like Google Analytics, Zapier, Salesforce, and many more.

Personalization

HubSpot has improved the way businesses identify prospects. Through detailed, comprehensive contact records, users are able to collect more data on each record, allowing for smarter, more personalized outreach. 

With smart content, users are able to show certain subsets of contacts different content on landing pages, emails, and CTAs based on factors like their list membership or where they are at in the buyer’s journey.

For example, if a contact has been marked as a sales qualified lead, you might want to show them a more bottom of the funnel CTA, like a demo. However, if a contact is a marketing qualified lead, you can show them something more catered to the top of the funnel like a content offering. 

Automation and AI

By starting to collect data as soon as a lead enters your database, both marketing and sales are able to more efficiently qualify and nurture leads. Both sales and marketing users are able to set up workflows that trigger when a contact meets certain criteria, or takes a specific action. 

Through automated workflows and predictive lead scoring, HubSpot helps you to provide the right content to the right person at the right time, based on who they are. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are now used to influence both the content strategy and predictive lead scoring tool, doing the work for you. 

Usability 

Overall, HubSpot’s platform is more intuitive and user-friendly compared to others in the space. The way tools are laid out and categorized, as well as the guided information and set up makes it easy to find what you are looking for and complete actions. 

HubSpot’s email tool recently got a huge makeover as well, and includes an array of templates that are easy to edit via the drag and drop editor. The drag and drop functionality is something HubSpot it moving towards for its landing page templates as well. 

Where are HubSpot’s faults? The bad and the ugly

It’s unlikely that there is a tool out there that has no downsides. It’s easy to find small problems or changes that you’d like to make in any software — and HubSpot certainly has some of its own. 

Before we dive in, I want to point out one thing that is important: HubSpot is a host of tools meant to support and mobilize your strategy, it is not a strategy in itself.

Just as IMPACT’s lead HubSpot specialist, Carina Duffy, pointed out in her presentation at IMPACT Live 2018: 

“Succeeding with HubSpot is often less dependent on your ability to leverage the software and more on your ability to formulate a winning strategy before you even log in.”

In order for this tool to be a good investment, you need to be bought-in to the inbound methodology, and have a solid strategy in place.

So with that in mind, let’s talk about the downfalls of HubSpot, and when it might not be a good fit for your business. 

Lack of flexibility

There are parts of HubSpot that can be customized to fit the way your business operates, but if you have highly specific needs, you may be better off with a custom-built solution.

In our 2016 article, The 3 Biggest Problems with HubSpot, Kyle Bento, a long-time HubSpot user, gives an analogy in which he compares HubSpot to Apple, 

“[Apple’s] iOS is extremely usable. It's so easy to figure out and start using with no instructions. However, all Apple products are notoriously inflexible. It's either Apple's way or the highway.

Android is the exact opposite. It takes more time to figure out, but once you do, you can customize it however you want. 

iOS users are willing to sacrifice flexibility because they prefer usability, and Android users are more forgiving of usability flaws because they want flexibility above everything else.”

There are marketing platforms that exist with more flexibility, but the tradeoff is that they will be more difficult to use. Let’s say you want to create an automated email campaign using a workflow, after you click the create a workflow button, HubSpot pretty much walks you through the entire setup, providing detailed insights and tips along the way. This is a great example of an advanced practice that HubSpot helps to simplify. 

Complex reporting

We talked earlier about the extensive options available when it comes to creating and structuring reports within HubSpot, but sometimes this can be a little too complex. 

With access to all of the data that’s available within the tool, things can get complicated when it comes to putting together reports that show the right data in the best way. For both the marketing and sales side, having some knowledge of how to leverage data will prove helpful. 

Enterprise capabilities

Though HubSpot has recently put focus in improving its enterprise level solutions, many have complained that these solutions are often still not robust enough for true enterprise-level companies. 

For example, there are 10,000 contacts included in the enterprise Hub, with $10/month per 1,000 additional contacts. So if you are an enterprise company with 100,000+ contacts, this can start to add up.

Outside of cost, there are a few more common obstacles for enterprise companies considering HubSpot as a solution. While enterprise does come with more advanced permission settings, there are limitations around giving users access to multiple teams which can lead to you having to give greater permissions than you’d wish to.

It’s also important to be sure any tool that you are currently integrating with your CRM has the ability to integrate with HubSpot, or you will have to have one custom built into HubSpot's API. For example, we have seen that enterprise companies that require a more advanced quoting functionality aren't able to get by with what HubSpot provides, and require an outside or custom integration. 

Another potential hang-up enterprise companies might see when moving their CRM over to HubSpot is the inability to create custom objects. So while you can create custom properties for each of the objects HubSpot already has built in (contacts, companies, deals, etc.) you can’t create a new object altogether. If you have different objects ingrained in your current processes, you might need to have a discussion about you can shift things around to have it work in HubSpot.

It’s important to take a deep look at your processes and structuring when thinking about moving to the enterprise level to make sure it will work for you. Often, it might require some changes to your current processes.

Cost

HubSpot can get pricey, you can see HubSpot’s full pricing breakdown here. The upfront cost can be a lot for some businesses who aren't sure if they will be able to use all of the software. However, there are lower cost options, as well as a free version that you can try out to get started. If it turns out that you only want one tool out of the entire platform, it probably doesn’t make sense to invest.

A couple of other things to keep in mind when it comes to costs are some specifics like brand domains and contact limits. While one domain is included, if you have multiple brand domains you are looking to host via HubSpot, it will cost you $350/per month for each additional domain. 

Also, it’s important to remember that each Hub comes with a unique contact limit and will charge each month per 1,000 additional contacts. If you have over 10,000 contacts, it may make sense for you to be using the enterprise Hub, even if you aren't an enterprise company.

Key takeaway

With the issues mentioned above, I want to note that HubSpot is receptive to user feedback, and has a strong focus on continuously improving their product. They even have a forum where you can propose or vote up suggestions

Overall, HubSpot is a robust tool with a lot of great features, but you have to commit and spend time learning the tool to make it work.

HubSpot is serious about providing a detailed knowledge base at no cost, and has an extensive library of webinars, trainings, help articles, certifications and more. The knowledge base covers topics not only about the platform but also its philosophies surrounding marketing and business principles, which are a key part of creating success.

HubSpot Marketing Guide for Businesses

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