As the title suggests, this week’s Tip Jar explains why I decided to pull the plug on Hubspot’s marketing automation software. I’ve been using it for nearly two years and before I explain why I decided to stop, I want to be clear on a few things.
Hubspot is a great company with a great product. The software was reliable and the support was great. The amount of time they invest into educating their resellers and customers is simply epic. The marketing community owes them a debt of gratitude for that and so much more.
But Hubspot and I just don’t fit anymore. I have lots of people ask me whether or not Hubspot is worth it. In this week’s newsletter I’ll use myself as a case study to demonstrate some of the pros and cons.
Tip Jar: Why I Left Hubspot
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[ismember]The Pareto Principle
One of the reasons Hubspot has done so well is that the product is so comprehensive when it comes to implementing inbound marketing. If you use all of the basic functionality, it means that you’re creating content, optimizing it for search, promoting it with social media, implementing lading pages with calls to action, and monitoring everything with analytics.
Simply signing up with Hubspot and going through the basic setup and on-boarding process will deliver substantial, immediate improvement in their marketing. The Pareto Principle is in effect here: 80% of the gains come from the first 20% of the effort. It did the same for me. It made me understand what was really important with inbound marketing and helped me form good marketing habits and practices.
It worked. However, I reached a point where the cost was creeping up and the benefits were not keeping up.
A Mile Wide and an Inch Deep
The problem with Hubspot is that last 20%. Because the product tries to be all things to all people, it lacks depth in some areas. In and of itself, that’s not a deal breaker. There are other services that can be used – and I did/do use them – to provide that depth. I’ll briefly cover the main components here and what I view as the strengths and shortcomings. This may help you decide for yourself.
The SEO capabilities are very thin. Once you get past the basics, you’ll need a pro tool like SEOMoz, which is additional cost. If you’re not experienced with SEO, it’s a great and simple tool for you to track and discover keywords. But if you need to perform website crawls and detailed backlink analysis, it doesn’t deliver and you need supplemental services.
The blogging module (and CMS system generally) is simply terrible. There’s no way to sugar coat it. It’s based on DotNetNuke, which is a platform I’ve used for a very long time. Unfortunately, it hasn’t progressed and grown like the world’s most popular CMS – WordPress. Writing a blog post in Hubspot is like commuting to Boston for work in a horse and buggy. It’s slow, unpleasant and frustrating.
Creating landing pages and calls to action are both incredibly simple and effective. In my mind, this is one of the two killer features and makes up the bulk of that 80% I mentioned earlier.
They released a new email marketing system last fall with Hubspot version 3 and it is very good. It was a huge shortcoming but not anymore. It’s not as robust as some of the other commercial solutions but for most of us, it works well enough. I will say that one area it shines is segmenting. It’s dead simple to send an email to contacts who took specific actions on your website (like downloading an ebook). This is powerful and what I consider to be the other killer feature in Hubspot.
The analytics are decent but nothing that can’t be duplicated in Google Analytics for free. Like most other functions, it takes extra knowledge and discipline to do. If you’re using Hubspot, “it just works,” which is nice.
They also have some more advanced features like workflows, smart content, custom lead scoring, etc. These are powerful tools that can really move the needle.
But it will cost you.
Went Down to the Crossroads
Which brings me to my crossroads. The cost of adding the features I wanted simply didn’t make sense for me. Some of the tools I wanted to use – like a CRM connection and custom content – were going to cost me hundreds of dollars per month. I knew I could do them for virtually nothing in WordPress. I couldn’t see spending the money.
For some companies, this isn’t an issue. Their volume and cash flow will support and justify the investment. Also, not everyone has the technical expertise that I do that allows them to hot-wire their blogs to do these things.
And so the bottom line is that Hubspot, like any product, has a sweet spot. Small customers may find the cost to be prohibitive. Large customers may find the functionality to be too thin. But there’s lots of territory in the middle for them to help companies make marketing people love. Not mention making a lot of money.[/ismember]
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