Marketing automation software is designed to leverage contact interaction data to perform a series of programmed tasks. These sequences are built to, ideally, drive new contacts through the marketing pipeline into a conversion and back again for resells, upsells, and cross-sells. Within each tool, you’ll find lead-scoring packages, list-building features, contact tags, campaign rules, and everything else that helps the software automatically push the right communications to the right recipient—without continuous manual support. HubSpot (which begins at $200 per month for marketing automation) is perhaps the best-known tool in its class; it’s one that includes use cases for micro businesses, midsize companies, and large enterprises alike.
HubSpot’s main differentiator is that it combines marketing, customer relationship management (CRM), and sales solutions to help you create smarter, more data-driven campaigns. The best part is that HubSpot marketing automation users can access basic CRM and sales tools without having to pay an additional fee. HubSpot’s powerful marketing solution, backed by its breadth of expertise, is what makes it one of our Editors’ Choice tools for marketing automation, alongside Pardot by Salesforce.
Pricing and Plans
HubSpot is among the more expensive marketing tools on the market. It comes in three tiers: Basic, Pro, and Enterprise. Basic starts at $200 per month for access to 100 contacts, a basic content-creation tool, an email marketing platform, a social media publishing and monitoring tool, and basic analytics. You can add additional contacts to the Basic plan for $100 per month for up to 1,000 contacts. The Basic plan does not provide you with marketing automation features but it can serve as a basic email platform. The Pro plan costs $800 per month and gives you access to 1,000 contacts, a full marketing automation suite, custom workflows, lead nurturing, and A/B testing, among other features you won’t find in the Basic Plan. The Enterprise plan is $2,400 per month; it gives you access to 10,000 contacts, revenue reporting, custom event automation triggers, and company-wide campaign reporting. You can add HubSpot’s free Sales and CRM tools to move contact data into the sales and service funnel for very basic needs. You can also pay to turn on HubSpot’s more advanced Sales and CRM tools should you require more advanced features.
HubSpot’s best comparison for marketing automation is Pardot, both in terms of functionality and of cost. Pardot is slightly more expensive, with a Standard plan that costs $1,000 per month for email marketing, prospect tracking, lead nurturing and scoring, reporting, forms and landing pages, and standard Salesforce CRM integration. The Pro plan includes email analytics, spam analysis, landing page A/B testing, Google AdWords integration, application programming interface (API) access, an integrated marketing calendar and chat support, among other features. The Ultimate plan costs $3,000 per month for custom user roles, custom object integration, a dedicated IP address, and phone support. All plans give you capacity for 10,000 contacts.
On the lower end, you’ll find products such as Infusionsoft, which costs $379 per month for the Complete package and gives you access to up to five users, 10,000 contacts, and 50,000 emails per month. The Complete package also includes Infusionsoft’s four core feature sets (CRM, e-commerce, marketing automation, and sales automation). If you need a product that can scale as you grow, then Zoho Campaigns offers a pay-as-you-go plan in which you buy and use email credits. These plans begin at $6 for 250 credits, $80 for 5,000, and up to $750 for 100,000. Monthly subscriptions, which include unlimited emails, begin at $5 for up to 500 subscribers, all the way to $350 per month for up to 100,000 subscribers.
Interface and Workflows
HubSpot’s marketing automation workflows are created via templates and a custom builder. The 10 out-of-the-box templates are called “Recipes.” Each of these can be edited to suit your specific workflow requirements. When you click “Start a New Workflow,” you get three options: Standard (when a contact enrolls or joins a list), Fixed Date (an email on a specific calendar date or holiday), or Property-based (triggered by a contact date, such as a trial expiration or renewal). You start standard workflows by selecting a segmented group of lists using “and/or” conditions, and then adding an action such as “Send Email” or “Send SMS.” You can then add “if/then” branching, using numerous possible outcomes and action-based responses. Unfortunately, workflows are always based off of “Yes or No” propositions. For example, did Juan open the email? Did Juan click on the link? With Pardot, you’re able to deliver a bit more customization for your branches by using other factors such as time (e.g., How many days have passed since I sent Juan an email?). As with Pardot, there is no cap on how many interactions you can add to a workflow, which means you can create and extend campaigns into perpetuity if that suits your needs.
All of your HubSpot workflows are based on lists, which are incredibly easy to create once you’ve loaded your tool with contact data. Think of how you would narrow down a product list on Amazon or eBay; this is how you build contact lists in HubSpot. This is a much more streamlined process than you’ll find in competing tools such as SendinBlue and Zoho Campaigns, which rely more on search queries than drop-down menus to help you make your selections. Once you’ve created a list, HubSpot shows you which contacts are on other lists, which is a super-easy way to double-check to see if leads are on another conflicting list.
Your contact records automatically update with any contact interactions that are managed via the HubSpot platform. This is similar (but inferior) to Infusionsoft’s real-time alert dashboard. Both platforms offer you a running timeline of where contacts are in the marketing funnel and how you’ve interacted with them in the past. “Contact Records” flow between all HubSpot products to let you see everything across all three disciplines. You can see deals, contact information, profile information for demographics, among all other contact data. Infusionsoft’s tool is slightly superior in that it combines all contact interactions into one dashboard, whereas HubSpot limits interaction data to each individual contact’s profile page.
Unique and Noteworthy Features
When you add a URL to a contact record, HubSpot will automatically pull in demographic information, such as the contact’s company location and number of employees. HubSpot would not reveal the name of the third-party tracking company that helps it pull in this data, but it’s very effective and it saves you a few minutes of research time.
You can email a contact directly from the Contact Record, and you can make a Voice-over-IP (VoIP) call if you’ve turned on this paid feature of HubSpot Sales. This integration lets you log and save call information within each contact record so that there is a transparent history of which marketers and sales professionals interacted with contacts. You can also schedule interactions with contacts.
Switching between HubSpot Marketing, CRM, and Sales is as easy as clicking the upper left-hand corner of the dashboard. The tool’s solid reporting lets you look at each specific campaign to see how many contacts are active and what your conversion rates are. The Paid Reporting add-on lets you compare campaigns in order to provide you with an overview of how your marketing strategy is performing on a macro level.
Creating new emails in HubSpot is incredibly easy as well. The software gives you more than 2,000 free and paid templates that should more than satisfy your most complex requirements. Should you need to start from scratch, you can simply drop in your own HTML or use the tool’s What You See is What You Get (WYSIWYG) editor. This editor is miles ahead of what you get on Pardot and Zoho Campaigns, both of which offer fewer templates and a more basic, less impressive builder.
HubSpot does offer basic social media monitoring and publishing tools. These are useful for blasting out to contacts and for automatically adding people to lists if they’ve interacted with your posts in any way. This is the most advanced, organic social media integration we’ve found on any tool we reviewed, one that will make life much easier for marketers who bear social media and email manager responsibilities. If you’re just getting started collecting leads and planning your marketing strategy, then HubSpot also offers a free and basic lead-generation tool that is designed to help you collect and organize contacts before you begin campaigns.
The Bottom Line
Pardot is designed for the large enterprise with an established marketing automation strategy. It’s a big, powerful system that is too expensive and too feature-heavy for the junior marketer or mom-and-pop business. This is where HubSpot fills an important space in the marketing automation industry. It’s a tool that’s inviting, scales as you grow, and is affordable at every experience level. Additionally, HubSpot lets you add basic CRM and sales tools to your marketing automation software at no extra cost. This is a wonderful feature for startups and small companies that are just getting their operations off the ground.