Our First Week Using Hubspot for Inbound Marketing (Updated)

hubspot reviewIs Hubspot just another scam or are they as awesome as they claim to be?

As an internet marketing & web design company, we use several software (or SaaS) packages for everything from SEO monitoring to customer relationship management . If we haven’t used most of the internet marketing tools out there, we’ve researched them thoroughly enough to be able to give them a thumbs up or a thumbs down when a client asks about them. I’ll be honest, there are alot of scams out there and I’m not all that optimistic anymore about these companies living up to their claims.

About six months ago HubSpot popped up on our radar when someone we respect in the internet marketing industry ( @tim_ash ) held a webinar with them on landing page optimization. I sat through the webinar nodding in agreement to everything they were saying – mainly because I follow Tim Ash and have read his book on the same topic. Soon after attending the webinar, I was sent a follow up email about another related webinar and I attended it as well. Soon thereafter it dawned on me that I was being marketed to – in a big way.

I was so busy watching all those webinars hosted with respected industry leaders that I actually forgot I was being marketed to! (And as an internet marketer myself, you can imagine how dumb I feel admitting that.) But, it led me to my next thought – “man, these guys are good …”. By the time it truly dawned on me, they had my email address, phone number and all sorts of other details about our firm – including challenges we face and number of employees we have. And that was when I decided to take a serious look at HubSpot.

By the time Hubspot actually got in touch with me via telephone I had spent evening after evening watching webinars (instead of The Office on Netflix) and reading white papers; almost trying to find a reason to discredit them (did I mention I’m a skeptic? ). I found their information to be very much aligned with what we believe in ourselves – in short: Your website should work FOR you! It has a job to do – to bring in business; not be a billboard that no one sees.

So, after countless hours of research, we signed on for a free trial. Again, I’m half-expecting the software to be a disappointment. Sure, they talk a big game, but can they back it up?

We shall see …

Updated: After Using Hubspot Personally for 3 Months and Helping Others Over the Course of 1 year.

Hubspot truly shows promise in certain scenarios, however we decided to pull the plug after 3 or so months of using it for our own marketing automation. Here’s why:

Locked in : The biggest issue for us. As an open source web design company, we couldn’t justify recommending clients signup  and use their CMS. Doing so means that if you ever decide to migrate away, you are in for some serious expenses. I’ve seen the data that comes out of their export feature and I can tell you that it’s going to take a good developer to pull that into a new CMS. We use open source for several reasons, mostly due to the fact that our clients own their own code and everything contained within the website. Second, it’s important that it be cost effective to add features as needed without needing to hire a super-specialized Hubspot developer.

Poor integration with WordPress and other open source platforms : For us, we tried integrating with both Joomla and WordPress. We also tried to help a client with integration with Sugar CRM. Joomla had no support at the time (although I believe they may now) and the Hubspot WordPress plugin was broken in several ways and they didn’t really seem too bothered by it. SugarCRM was a nightmare and then the plugin went obsolete. The cost to develop a new one was cost-prohibitive for our client and we helped them find a different solution.

Slow and broken features : Often times I felt like a beta tester, as new “goodies” were rolled out, it seemed like many times things would break somewhere else. More often than not, pieces of the interface were slow and clunky.

Forced Keyword stuffing blog posts (doesn’t matter if you aren’t using their blogging platform) : As an SEO, this was annoying and from a client’s perspective, it really makes people write unnaturally. While I appreciate the effort to educate about proper titling etc., keyword density is old news and really not very relevant in SEO today.

The elephant in the room: Cost. : We work with small and medium sized businesses. Most of which do a good amount of business and are growing year over year. Even so, the pricetag for a client that wants to own their own website (and not host their blog on Hubspot) was too much to justify in most scenarios. For us, it was nice having all of our analytics in one place, but we were already doing the same things using other tools (for less cost).

I will say this: Hubspot absolutely rocks at giving you a heads-up overview of how your marketing efforts are performing and for that it’s worth the cost for many. I would argue that many of their customers are businesses that make large dollar sales in the B2B space and the difference between knowing and not knowing is costing them BIG. We could consider ourselves in to be in that demographic as well, however we’ve found tools that are very specialized to the unique pieces of the inbound marketing puzzle. Each of these tools specializes in doing one piece well and although it is a bit disjointed (meaning we need to login multiple places to manage each piece), I want to know that my tools are the best they possible for SEO monitoring, email marketing, lead nurturing, etc. and are cost effective.

I have heard from colleagues and fellow marketers that Hubspot is vastly improving and some pretty sweet new features were added upon the last release of Hubspot 3, however the price points also changed and seems to have gone up as well.

In Summary, Hubspot makes sense for some, not others.

In all, after using it for a year off and on in various roles, I think there are companies where Hubspot is a perfect fit and there are many more companies and smaller businesses where it doesn’t make much sense. Specifically, in scenarios where it doesn’t make sense to use Hubspot, the cost isn’t justified by the functionalities they are capable of taking advantage of. It still takes a lot of work to make inbound marketing work for any size company.

Companies that are on the smaller side are generally better off starting with specialized software that supports individual quick wins, so that they can grow and graduate to a point where Hubspot makes sense for them financially. The point where they can afford it, should be in line with their ability to utilize all of the features offered by Hubspot (minus the CMS/blog platform, which I still hate).

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  • Samara & team,

    So glad to see that you and Buck were able to connect and that you’ve decided to give us a shot … it is so wonderful to hear that the content we provided was valuable enough to get your interest and even respect.
    I hope that we keep it up and look forward to hearing more about your inbound progress!
    Perhaps we’ll see you online at the VAR Training Webinar series this month …
    Best!
    Kirsten

    • Samara Hart

      Thank you for getting in touch Kristen!

      I will say that your customer service has been great so far. We’ve been digging into the Hubspot tools and how they work with our Joomla / WordPress installations and have been happy so far. I sent in a request regarding better integration with WordPress and was told that it was submitted to the dev team. It’s always nice to be heard! 🙂

      Soon my trial will be up and I will have a part two to this series, so keep in touch!

  • Welcome aboard, Samara! We look forward to helping you and your clients be even more super successful!

    You hit the nail right on the head: “Your Website should work for you! It has a job to do – to bring in business.” Let’s make it bring in boatloads!

    • Thanks for the support Peter. I am glad I didn’t toss Hubspot by the wayside 🙂 I am really actually enjoying getting to know the software inside and out!

  • Laura

    You will not be disappointed.

    • Thanks for the support Laura – so far, so good! 

  • Samara;
    As Pete said, Welcome Aboard!

    I can hand-on-heart say that you will not be disappointed – provided that you do the right things with HubSpot and don’t simply use it to replace your old marketing strategy.

    We find it’s best to think of this new strategy as a Process (note the capital P),  which  consists of 4 phases:
    1) Attract – using SEO, SMM and, if needed, PPC
    2) Engage – using your website copy and content
    3) Convert – using Calls to Action which lead to forms which turn leads into prospects
    4) Nurture with multitouch (drip) emails to cultivate from prospect to client.

    You need a marketing strategy element to cover each one of these phases. Rather than try to repeat here what each of these steps entails, please visit http://www.inbound-marketing-automation.ca for details.

    • Hello Eric, thanks for the warm welcome!

      As I mentioned in my post, we are 100% on board with the inbound marketing philosophy and know without a doubt that the methods that Hubspot promotes works. My post is more about the software, not the method. As an internet marketing agency ourselves, we are just happy to see the industry evolving with great tools to match.

  • Jeffrey G.

    I would like to know how you have done with Hubspot. Does it work ? and are you satified. Also what type of company do you have ‘

    I have found that the only marketing software company that works well is a company named Wildfire,but it is only good for certain companies.

    JG or [email address removed to prevent spam]

    • Hello Jeffrey, I’ve never heard of Wildfire (except for the Facebook marketing software company). Stay tuned – I am writing a follow up to this post which will answer your questions. 

  • Dolm

    Samara,

    I’m interested in hearing about how you feel about HubSpot vs the cost, now that you’ve been with them for approaching a year.  I personally found them to be grossly overpriced for what the software provides, but am quite interested in your take, as I did the trial and didn’t subscribe.

    – Dolm

    • Hello Dolm,

      The truth is we aren’t using Hubspot any longer. Not because it’s not a good product, but because we found the CMS to restrictive for our needs. We also needed more control over email marketing and found their email marketing tools stifling. They have improved vastly over the past year; however at the time, we couldn’t wait for the tools to evolve.

      I think price is really relative to the amount of time you have to spend piecing together solutions to analyze and optimize your marketing efforts. Sure, there are other solutions out there that can take care of the pieces individually, however what Hubspot does quite well is make it easy for most to put the inbound marketing methodology into practice and analyze the results.

      There are certainly clients that we have where Hubspot is a perfect fit and there are others that cannot justify the cost. For us, it wasn’t the cost of the software as much as it was the limits to the tools at the time we were using it. The value in Hubspot is really in the ability to save time in my opinion.

      • Hi Samara,

        Just a quick note to let you know that I enjoyed reading your article.  I found it to be informative and insightful.  However, I do have a quick question for your…..can you tell me what you use now instead of Hubspot?  I really like Hubspot but wondering what else is out there that’s comparable.  I look forward to your reply.

        Best,

        Chuck

  • Samara,

    Did you ever post your follow up report?

  • Daniel Greenberg

    I love the honesty and candidness of your post Samara. May I ask which marketing automation system(s) you decided to go with…and if you’re happy with them?

  • So is there a follow up post to this?

  • MikeA

    Hubspot keeps spamming me with no unsubscribe option. They are obviously not a reputable company and I wouldn’t give them a dime of business.

  • Have you had a chance to look at HubSpot since the changes the made in August of 2012? What do you think now?

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