If your business is not already using marketing automation, chances are you’ve at least considered it.
Businesses have been increasingly turning to marketing automation, especially in the last few years. As of 2020, a reported 68% of companies are using marketing automation in some way, and according to Martech Today, spending on marketing automation tools is expected to reach $25.1 billion annually by 2023.
What started in 1992 as one email-focused platform called “Unica” has grown into a highly competitive field of giants and specialty players under the marketing automation umbrella. As more vendors have entered the market, the monthly cost of these systems has gone down, making it an increasingly reasonable investment for more small and medium-sized businesses.
Of the current market leaders, HubSpot has emerged as the biggest – with more customers and market share than any other platform.
As a HubSpot partner agency, we use this platform with several clients, and we use it for ourselves. While it’s not for everyone, this is our marketing automation software of choice for the types of clients we typically serve (growing B2B service, tech and manufacturing companies).
If you’re a small business and you’re considering HubSpot, here are the big things you should know.
What Exactly Is HubSpot?
If you’re looking into various marketing automation systems, you probably (hopefully) already have at least some idea what HubSpot is – or who knows, maybe you just like the color orange. Anyway, let’s make sure this part is clear first.
In their own words, “HubSpot is an inbound marketing software platform that helps companies attract visitors, convert leads, and close customers.”
Inbound marketing, a term coined by HubSpot, is a methodology designed to bring visitors and customers to you naturally by earning their attention, primarily through useful and search-optimized content like articles, white papers, e-books, videos and infographics that potential customers can find searching for information online. This is a conscious reaction against traditional forms of marketing that uses disruptive channels like paid advertising, direct mail or outbound sales calls.
While some automation solutions focus on certain aspects of marketing, such as email or split testing, HubSpot seeks to be an all-in-one platform that combines the tools, features and plugins needed to efficiently execute, automate and measure inbound marketing. The software is built to move visitors through each stage of the buyer’s journey.
Let’s pause here for a second.
If this seems like more than you need and you’re wondering whether such a platform is really necessary to execute inbound marketing, the answer is no. You can piecemeal various tools together for things like forms, landing pages, calls-to-action, email automation and workflows – or if you’re technologically inclined, you can even attempt to build something yourself for a few hundred bucks. HubSpot even offers a how-to for assembling an inbound platformwithout HubSpot if you don’t need all the bells and whistles.
If you’ve researched HubSpot’s features and, in looking at your marketing plans for the next few years, you know you’d really only be using a couple of these tools, you shouldn’t pay for the whole thing.
That said, if you are likely to use several of the features – or if you’re not sure yet which features you need but have aggressive goals for driving traffic and leads – keep in mind that HubSpot is built specifically to be an intuitive, central hub for inbound marketers. This means you’re cutting out a lot of time and frustration researching the different tools and technologies, deciding on the right ones, integrating everything, getting everything to play well together (have fun with that!) and troubleshooting issues (good times!).
Beyond the fact that the time your marketing director or agency is spending on these things isn’t free (unless you hired one of those marketing directors who doesn’t like getting paid), there’s also the fact that HubSpot has been doing this for over 10 years, and they’re continually improving the platform and their customer support to create the best possible experience for users.
But again, while it’s great for some, HubSpot is not for all small businesses, so let’s consider what types tend to be a good fit.
HubSpot typically works best for small and mid-sized businesses that have a sales team and are looking to attract leads and customers online. While it can work for nonprofits, B2C and B2B businesses selling products or services, it’s designed primarily to help attract and convert buyers who have a considered buying process rather than assisting quick, transactional purchases (if your business is e-commerce, I don’t recommend HubSpot).
HubSpot – and, more broadly, inbound marketing – also relies heavily on content generation, optimization and promotion. If you won’t be able to invest the resources into things like quality content, promotion and thoughtful nurture flow campaigns based on researched buyer personas, you shouldn’t be investing in a platform like HubSpot. It’ll just collect dust. Or, worse yet, it’ll be used incorrectly and you’ll send bad automated emails that will make your business look unprofessional.
Cost and Package Considerations
HubSpot’s marketing software pricing ranges from free CRM and marketing tools, $45 per month for the Starter subscriptions, up to $800 per month for Pro and $3200 per month for Enterprise. HubSpot pricing does increase with every additional 1k contacts you add to your database, but in theory, if your contacts are growing, that means your inbound marketing is working – so it should be money well spent.
While HubSpot Starter is a good way to test the platform out, keep in mind that you won’t have access to the more advanced features like automation, lead scoring and custom reporting.
If you’re serious about growing your business in the long term with inbound tactics, you’ll likely be looking at Pro or Enterprise levels. The investment may seem like a lot, but consider the results from a recent HubSpot study, which reports that:
83% of respondents saw a measurable increase in lead generation within 7 months, and
65% reported seeing a measurable increase after only 4 months
Also, if you happen to work with a HubSpot partner agency, you can skip the required onboarding fee (ahem… did I mention that we’re a HubSpot partner agency?).
Training, Resources & Client Support
One of the nicer things about HubSpot, in my opinion, is the level of support it provides to its users. Beyond just the tech support, the company provides account managers, channel consultants, certification courses and a massive library of help-related articles, videos and webinars for its customers. Whatever issues I’ve had, the people at HubSpot have typically done everything in their power to help as quickly as possible.
Like any platform, you get out what you put in – and HubSpot’s functionality is robust. Anyone who would be using it should plan to go through these certifications and take advantage of the resources and support team to get the most out of these tools. This is time well spent.
While its roots are in marketing automation, HubSpot has been expanding its sales offerings, moving to close the loop between sales and marketing. Between the free CRM,Sales Hub,CMS and Service Hub , the tools make it easy for marketing, sales and service teams to collaborate, understand their audiences, streamline and scale better.
There’s a good chance that, if you’re considering HubSpot, it’ll need to integrate with other tools your company would continue using – things like SalesForce, Join.Me and SurveyMonkey. HubSpot’s integrations cover a lot of ground – and there’s always Zapier or PieSync– but it’s definitely worth checking with a HubSpot consultant to make sure your planned integrations won’t cause any major headaches before signing on.
As should be clear by now, there’s a lot to consider here, and we’ve just scratched the surface. What I can say is that when it comes to inbound, we’ve found HubSpot to be a great way to get a lot of output from our team and deliver tangible results – and we’ve preferred it over the other competing tools we’ve used.
Charlie is the Chief Strategy Officer at Simple Machines Marketing. When he's not doing the marketing, he likes playing guitar, hanging with his family in Chicago and lots of other stuff too but this seems like a good amount for a blog bio.