Marketing automation will not transform your business or your marketing.
It’s true. It won’t.
Let us tell you why.
When we dove into the world of Inbound and HubSpot back in 2014, we set out to solve a myriad of struggles in our marketing.
We wanted a tool that could make our lives easier and a marketing automation software to help show ROI to the owners and managers.
We wanted one portal where we could manage our marketing tactics like:
- Sales related landing page creation, including design and creative.
- Manage our email marketing campaigns and customer lists.
- Manage our social media accounts. (we have about 20 of them)
- Manage and review our website analytics as well as our brand’s reputation through online listening tools.
- Improve the SEO/SEM value of our websites through a robust keyword research tool.
- Improve the flow of leads, improve the quality of our marketing/sales qualified leads, and improve the communication of leads to our sales teams.
- Manage our web assets like e-books, case studies, as well as collaborate with our design and marketing teams to create these assets.
- Work with a platform that had experience in working with the IT vertical and B2B companies, and work with a platform that understood our persona.
We were sold on HubSpot’s platform thinking their marketing automation software would completely enhance our marketing, but it didn’t.
The goal of marketing automation software is to automate your marketing.
The caveat is you still have to do tons of work to create the content that feeds your marketing machine and develop workflows to complete the process of executing your Inbound marketing strategy.
Developing and executing your Inbound strategy is not HubSpot’s responsibility. This shouldn’t be the expectation.
To help you understand the power of HubSpot, we’re going to give you the inside scoop from a team who’s purchased it and canceled it. We’ll share with you the pros and cons so you can decide if it’s a good fit for your business to buy.
We’re also going to be realistic with you. Ways to implement your marketing strategies are great on paper but often times struggle with practicality.
Now that you know a bit about our story and what motivated us to buy HubSpot, let us warn you about hype.
There’s a lot of hype with HubSpot and other marketing automation platforms. It seems like everyone’s talking about them and buying them.
You should never buy something based on hype or because it’s popular. You should purchase a business automation tool because of the value it offers your business along with the benefits of its functionality.
To be transparent with you, we bought into a lot of the hype surrounding Inbound and HubSpot.
Before we jumped in and started using it we bought into the fact that marketing automation would revolutionize our marketing by helping us “create marketing our customers will love.” It did some cool things for us, but by itself HubSpot couldn’t execute on most of our marketing tactics on the merit of hype.
Be careful you don’t get sucked into the hype of marketing automation. You should avoid buying business automation tools because your peers are buying them. Instead, invest in marketing automation software because it will help your business grow and add value through efficiency.
The pros of HubSpot
There’s four pro’s we want to highlight that made us fall in love with HubSpot.
Impressive (and inexpensive) training
Once you buy their software, you need to implement it correctly so you get the outcome you’re expecting.
To do that, we’d recommend their classroom training. It’s excellent and their trainers are the world’s most helpful people.
We attended multiple trainings in Cambridge (their HQ) and attended their annual Inbound conference. Collectively, we spent thousands of hours using it and analyzing it.
In helping learn the tool, their classroom training was top-notch. The best part: it was inexpensive. We negotiated a deal where the training seats were $500 for three days of training. As a bonus, you get access to all the materials and classroom content.
There are different types of training costs that your business can purchase, but here are the main two:
- Classroom training
- Consultant training
Classroom training is in-person training at the HubSpot HQ in Cambridge, Mass. They do offer online courses that are included with your subscription, but classroom training is on-site and in person.
Here’s HubSpot’s list of classroom training.
Their website lists each training course at $1000, but you can negotiate these costs. You’re responsible for the travel cost to get there. $500-$1000 for in-depth classroom training is a good deal.
As for consultant training, HubSpot offers a consulting service where one of their team members will coach your business by physically coming to you. The price starts at a range between $350-$1500 depending on the service you choose.
Bottom line: there’s a lot to this software. It’s not easy or simple to learn. Purchase all the training you need to help you organize and implement it correctly. Otherwise you’re just wasting money.
One login tool through single sign-on
Having one place to log in and manage every aspect of your marketing is awesome.
Having data from your email marketing campaigns, social media engagements, and landing page visits all on the same dashboard is fantastic.
We even connected Google Analytics to their dashboard which was easy and then managed the data accordingly.
Not having one dashboard to manage this makes everything inefficient. You waste a lot of time trying to keep track all your data. From an IT perspective, we loved the single sign-on and loved having instant access to our data.
HubSpot was great because it allowed you one portal to manage all this data.
Fantastic social media tool
HubSpot’s social media tool is a knockout punch.
The thing our team loved about this functionality is it allowed us to manage, publish and monitor all our social media accounts. As a bonus, we could see our competition’s social media metrics, and see what prospects were saying about our brand, our industry, and anything else we wanted to monitor.
Other tools like HootSuite Pro and Buffer don’t compare at all to HubSpot’s social media automation. There’s an argument that could be made for this functionality being the ROI that justifies HubSpot’s cost.
Other social media tools we’ve worked with don’t have a monitoring functionality to them and don’t have as robust analytics as HubSpot does. HubSpot’s social media tool does so much more.
HubSpot’s marketing library is out of this world.
The most impressive part of our subscription was the hundreds of easy-to-use templates that allowed us to create marketing collateral. Their library is excellent when creating things like email drip campaigns, case studies, e-books, and the like. You name it, and they’ve probably got it somewhere.
To hire a design and marketing agency to custom create each of the templates that you get with your subscription would more than likely cost you thousands of dollars. There’s an argument here as well that this benefit could justify the cost for your marketing automation software.
There’s a catch, however: the templates are just design templates. YOU need to create the actual content that goes into the design templates.
This is critical to understand. What you’ll spend the most time on is creating the content that feeds your marketing automation tool. HubSpot won’t help you with the hard work of developing your Inbound or content marketing strategy. Nor should this be the expectation. You need to hire great copywriters, a creative team that understands what’s inspiring to your persona, and someone to lead these efforts from a project management perspective. Your content creation initiatives need to carefully craft content that’s a combination of helpful, compelling and persuasive.
Your copy needs to convert, or all your energy is for not. You need to leverage these templates with the content that you develop. Their marketing library content is not plug and play.
Wouldn’t it be great if marketing was that easy?
The cons of HubSpot
Not that we’ve touched on the good, let’s talk about the opportunity as there’s lots of it. We’re huge fans of HubSpot, their culture, and their product, but there’s tons of opportunity to improve their product to make the lives of marketers easier.
Stickiness and lack of integrations
In light of all the benefits, this one shortcoming (and it’s a major one) of HubSpot is why we canceled our subscription with them.
In order to get the true value proposition, you need to run 100% of everything through HubSpot’s platform.
Which makes sense because they become sticky due to the pain of leaving their platform. But we’ve never heard of a marketing department that runs 100% of everything through only one tool.
The value proposition for HubSpot, like every other marketing automation platform, is you need to build your website(s) in their CMS, you need to create copy in their CMS, and run everything through HubSpot otherwise you won’t get the promised value.
We don’t think it’s realistic to believe you’ll be able to run 100% of all your marketing as well as your business operations through one solution.
We don’t know of a single company that doesn’t use multiple systems in managing their business or their marketing. We needed the flexibility that HubSpot couldn’t provide.
In our situation, we use WordPress as our website platform and aren’t moving away from it. HubSpot integrated into the form plugin through our website but didn’t integrate much beyond that. Not to mention custom integrations costs money. We paid about $200 dollars per change to have customization done to our different design templates.
Lastly, don’t forget your CRM or PSA software. If you want your CRM to integrate into HubSpot rest assured it’ll cost you about $10,000 to $20,000 dollars. Not to mention, you’ll need to have someone to project manage this project and execute it, so it works correctly.
This is a really important point. If you’re using Salesforce, ConnectWise, Autotask or some other CRM/PSA software, then you need to integrate these into HubSpot. You need to be able to drive efficiency, not inefficiency. You need to see and measure your marketing campaigns, follow up with your sales team, and track your ROI.
After all, shouldn’t automation actually automate?
These may not be an issue for your particular business, but these shortcomings were deal breakers for us. Without this huge benefit of automation through integration, we’re not scalable. And in order to grow, your marketing needs to be able to scale.
HubSpot will charge you an arm and a leg the bigger your email lists become, and how you manage your email marketing automation is tricky.
Did we mention that HubSpot charges you an arm and a leg the bigger your email lists become?
Be prepared for some frustrations if you want to set up a workflow based on their conditional logic. Compared to a service like Mailchimp or Constant Contact, HubSpot’s email functionality is confusing at best.
Setting up a one-time email campaign is easy but anything done once is a waste. Ideally, you need to be consistently dripping on your customers and prospects via email. You need to have a plan to execute email campaign tactics like autoresponder campaigns that hit the inboxes of your prospects on a regular basis.
Creating these is not simple.
We manage four different companies with unique customer segments that require a more robust email service. Designing email marketing campaigns were fine, and using HubSpot’s email templates were easy, but managing the lists and email workflows for follow-up took way too much time.
Paying the bill
We align ourselves with companies that have excellence.
We tend to measure our vendors based on how easy they are to do business with. That said, the billing component was a rough one with HubSpot. We constantly felt like we had to jump through flaming hoops to simply pay the bill.
When we set up automated billing with our company credit card, most times we’d get a notice when the amount wasn’t withdrawn from that same corporate credit card account.
Isn’t the point of setting up payments automation to avoid having to take action?
This wasn’t a huge problem but it sure was really annoying.
We want to do business with vendors that make it easy for us to do business with them. If we have to hunt down and spend 60 minutes every quarter trying to figure out how to pay our bill, we don’t want to do business with you as a vendor.
This may sound harsh, but if you’ve ever run a marketing department, you’d totally be able to relate.
HubSpot was perfect for when we were still under 15 employees, but we outgrew it.
It’s not a good fit for a business who has more of a mature marketing department. It’s definitely not great for enterprise-level situations because of what I mentioned earlier. It’s a great tool with a lot of hype around it, but we needed customization and flexibility that didn’t cost a million dollars.
We’d highly recommend HubSpot but only if you’re going to use HubSpot’s marketing automation tool as your CRM, your website CMS, and for marketing automation purposes.
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