Ever since my Hubspot review was posted a few months back, I have received 100’s of emails requesting me to follow-up that post with a Hubspot alternative guide.
After months of research, finally I managed to come up with an alternative guide which should come close (if not the same) to providing the same features for your business.
The best part- you are in complete control of your website and you’ll end up saving thousands of dollars every year.
Before diving into this guide, I’d want you to understand one thing. Hubspot is a great tool. I have no objection against small businesses using the software. For businesses with thousands of dollars to spend on the platform every year, it’s a great tool. But most small businesses cannot afford that level of pricing- hence this guide.
For business owners looking for a hands-off service to implement the solution below, I have set up a service for you; more on it at the end of this post.
The first step in building an alternative to Hubspot is to understand the real benefits the platform offers. It’s a great platform that integrates a lot of useful solutions for small businesses and provides it as a single package.
As with any other tool or platform, Hubspot or the alternative I am suggesting here is not a magic tool that will automatically increase your sales and revenue. There is still a lot of hard work to be done to achieve business success.
Enough of disclaimers and business coaching; let’s move on with our guide.
Hubspot Alternatives Guide: The 5 Components You Need
Component #1: Content Management System (blog)
At the core of Hubspot, it’s a blogging platform (or a content management system). Although it’s much more than a blog, the basic idea of inbound/content marketing is generate high quality content, build trust, attract leads, get them into your sales funnel, and convert them into customers.
With that thought in mind, the first thing you should have is a blog platform; and what better software other than WordPress to use for your blog?
Read my detailed guide on how to create your business website using WordPress for under 100$. I have included details on purchasing the right hosting, choosing domain name and also suggested plugins for your business website.
With Hubspot, you can create landing pages on the fly (although limited to what you can with the system). With theme frameworks, you can achieve the same effect. However, for advanced functionality, you might require coding help.
This is where plugins like Gravity forms come into use. The easily integrate it most service providers you might require. Even if there is some feature you want but cannot find using the default set up or the plugins I recommend, I bet there is a free plugin in the WordPress plugin repository.
Component #2: Lead Capture and Lead Nurturing
Capturing leads (emails of your prospective customers) is an important aspect of building your business.
In order to capture leads, you need an email marketing solution. If you are a small business selling your own product or service, I recommend using MailChimp as your email service provider.
If you are into internet marketing and act as affiliate for other people’s product, then choose Aweber since Mailchimp does not allow use of their software for affiliate marketing purposes. However, if you are the seller and you have other affiliates working for you, MailChimp shouldn’t have any problems.
I have worked with Bluehornet, Aweber, MailChimp, Madmimi, Sendy, GetResponse, and a couple of other low key email marketing solutions on a large scale. I can hands down say Mailchimp is the best among the lot. Best thing is Mailchimp has a forever free plan which lets you have upto 2000 subscribers for zero cost.
I’d suggest that you try Mailchimp for a month and if you feel comfortable, upgrade to their paid plan (Their paid plans have some cool features like Auto responders, time wrap which lets you deliver emails based on the users local time zone as well as batch delivery which lets you send emails in batches so that all emails don’t go out at the same time causing in a flood of traffic that might crash your site).
Lead nurturing is a fancy word for saying building up trust among your prospective customers so that they can turn from leads into paying customers. I have written about the importance of lead nurturing in the past.
If you can set up auto responders using your email service provider, or send custom e-mailers once in a week with useful content, you should be able to nurture your leads effectively.
Oh, and don’t worry about people who unsubscribe from your list. You want your list to be as clean as possible. Don’t worry about people who do not find value in what you are providing them with.
If you see people leaving a lot, you might want to re-think your value preposition and see if what you are giving them is genuinely of value or simply sales pitches disguised as valuable info.
Component #3: SEO & Social Tracking
Husbpot allows you to keep track of your rankings and how well your pages perform. Instead of Husbpot, I suggest you use SEOmoz.
SEOmoz is a SEO tool that lets you do much more than just track keywords and analyze on page SEO. It also let you do competition analysis, analyze your competitor backlinks, do in-depth twitter analysis using their newly acquire tool followerwonk, social media analysis, and do much more.
You can read my detailed SEOmoz review here.
Component #4: Analytics
This is one area where Hubspot shines basically due to the fact that they have a closed system where each of the components works really well with each other. Even though you cannot achieve the same level of awesomeness with free tools, you can come close enough.
The tool I use and recommend for analytics is Google analytics. It’s a free and a very powerful tool from Google. If you can do advanced customizations, then there is virtually nothing this tool cannot do. However, some of these maybe a bit advanced for beginners.
If you want things to be simpler (in terms of insights, not in terms of implementation) and you have a SAAS product, you can use KissMetrics which is another great tool. It’s not free though. If much of your sales happens offline, you’d be better off using Google Analytics (Even for completely online business, I still suggest Google Analytics. However, for advanced functionality you get in Hubspot, there is a learning curve for Google Analytics).
Component #5: CRM (Customer Relationship Management) Software
Not all businesses require CRM to manage their customer database.
However, it’s good to have a structured data about your existing customers and prospects to get better idea about your sales and marketing effort. It also helps you create campaigns tailored to your prospects present status (Have they just contacted you, are they almost ready to buy, and so on).
Hubspot does a nice job of integrating CRM and email marketing solution into a single platform. If you’d like to replicate the same with your custom website, you can go for any of the CRM providers out there, sign up with them, integrate them with your email service provider like MailChimp and set up email campaigns.
The catch here is that, it’s not as smooth as you’d come across in Hubspot. If you are new to CRM’s, I’d recommend Salesforce.com for people who already have a very profitable small business and is familiar with the sales cycle. If you want advanced contact management solution and not a full-fledged CRM, you can go for HighRise.
If you want things to be as smooth as Hubspot, you can opt for higher plans of CRM’s which lets you send mass emails to your prospects based on the data in your CRM. For beginners, I’d definitely not recommend it. Once you are familiar with the CRM and you are sure using a CRM justifies the cost, then you can move ahead and upgrade to a higher plan.
The Fine Print
Although I have provided a Hubspot alternative guide here, implementing this will not give you the same experience as using the platform with everything smoothly integrated. Well, that’s what you pay for when you are talking about thousands of dollars a month and a 1 year commitment.
The solution given above should be a very good solution for any business out there (and provides almost all the features of Hubspot minus the convenience of getting it everything in one place). As your business grows, you can upgrade to Hubspot if you feel it’s the right move.
What You Are Gaining With This Set Up
But using the above alternatives for Hubspot platform, you are gaining several advantages
- Save thousands of dollars each month. Put the money into improving your product/service or use it for hiring experts who can help you get more customers
- Complete control over your website. You decide how it looks, where it’s hosted, what features it has
- No long term contracts. With Hubspot, you have a one year contract. If you decide to change your course in between, having your own set up is easier
Over to You:
What do you think of the alternatives here? Have you tried the above set up and found the results to be better than your existing system? Let me know via the comments.