Hubspot Alternatives: Save Over 9000$ a Year with Your Own Website

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.

set up service for hubspot

Focus on building your business while I take care of the tech stuff for you.

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.

Understanding Hubspot…

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.
hubspot alternative
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.

Integration Guide:

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).

Integration guide

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.

Integration Guide:

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.

set up service for hubspot

Focus on building your business while I take care of the tech stuff for you.

For entrepreneurs who still think this is very technical and time consuming, I have set up a Hubspot alternative set up service. You can hire me to take away all the technical stuff from you while still saving thousands of dollars and your precious time.

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.

marketing automation plugin

Comments

  1. silver account says

    WordPress is the best and most affordable alternative to Hubspot for small businesses. Once the initial setup is complete, you don’t have to pay huge monthly premium that doubles when you get more clients and leads into the pipeline. My clients absolutely love it after moving from Hubspot, and I love it too and will continue recommending it.

  2. says

    Very useful content thank you. I’m a sole proprietor and while I love HubSpot content I simply can’t justify the spend. I use Salesforce.com already so the other tools were really useful I’m likely to use SEOmoz based on your recommendation. Sincere thanks.

    Racquel

  3. says

    Adarsh, very interesting review you have here. I think the one thing you are leaving out here is the education you get with HubSpot. It is one thing to piece together a CMS, Blog, Landing Page, Email, Analytics, CRM tool (daunting task in itself). For the sake of the conversation lets say you get this all set up. Now what? Do you have your target personas well defined so the content you create will resonate with people? Do you understand how to leverage something like Google Analytics to better your search results, or are you just seeing information about how people find you? What about if you drive people to your site, what is your conversion strategy? After you have converted some leads, are you able to easily segment your database and tailor your content so that you aren’t just spamming your database? There is a lot that goes into Inbound Marketing that HubSpot teaches it’s customers with the onboarding process that actually makes the software valuable, rather than just having tools to get it done that needs to be taken into account: http://www.hubspot.com/services (Yes this is a biased review from a HubSpot User, but needed to be said)

    • Adarsh Thampy says

      Hi Jeff,

      I am glad you are happy with the software.

      When you talk about the onboarding process, I agree that Hubspot has a lot of handholding process. However, is that something that cannot be achieved outside of Hubspot? No!

      Unless you spend time learning Hubspot system, you cannot use it. Similar is the case with any other tool. Just because you use Google Analytics, it does not mean you’ll get all valuable data out of it. You have to learn the system to be able to achieve the maximum results. The way I see it, learning other systems vs Hubspot is not that different. In fact, it’s much better if you learn other systems (if you need to move out of the Hubspot eco system).

      I now have a client who tried using Hubspot spend thousands of dollars on the platform and did not gain anything from the site. If it produced a high ROI for you, then it’s good. But I know a lot of people who wasted thousands of dollars on the platform thinking it was some magic tool that will bring in an avalanche of sales. It’s not going to happen!

      Segmenting database can be done by any good email providers out there. So that’s not a big deal. It all depends on how users use the system. I recently signed up for a Hubspot users email list and all his emails land in spam for me. Does this mean it’s Hubspot’s fault? Maybe, maybe not! At the end of the day, a platform is only as effective as someone who uses it.

      I agree Hubspot is a valuable tool for the “right” business. But it’s simply not the right tool for the majority of the businesses out there.

      That being said, I’ll follow up this post with another post that lays out a step by step plan that will help small business owners crack inbound marketing. This should make it easier for the non-Hubspot users to embrace content marketing (My free e-book is usually a good start).

      Thanks for the comment.

      • says

        You’re spot on here, and the key thing to consider when doing ANYTHING involved with Inbound Marketing is that there is no magic bullet. Small businesses owners need to understand that if they go with HubSpot or the Frankenstein monster of tools you package together, there needs to be time dedicated to creating content and refining your process using solid analytics and data to make decisions.

        HubSpot is brilliant at pulling all the pieces together so you go to one place for everything, and HubSpot 3 has improved on most of the stuff that was weak in the past (email, marketing automation, more flexible COS). The most valuable part about it is that all of the tools talk to each other. Rather than pulling info from mail chimp, SEOMoz and Google Analytics into a spreadsheet to see what is driving customers to my businesses, HubSpot calculates all of this automatically.

        THIS TAKES TIME WITH EITHER SYSTEM, but at HubSpot I was able to work with a consultant to teach me the best way forward, and the tools are IMMENSELY easier to use than the 5 different systems you mentioned.

        Lastly, I need to address this idea of HubSpot holding you hostage. Yes, there is a one year contract that I knew about from the very beginning, but I do not host my website on HubSpot, just my blog and landing pages. If I want to cancel I can do so anytime, and they have an app to migrate my blog to WordPress in about 5 minutes.

        • Nathan says

          HubSpot is very good at delivering content, to get people to use their own platform. I’ve dealt with 20+ ex-hubspot customers, regular businesses not marketers, and we’ve been able to bring them a higher ROI, give more flexibility, and drive more revenue than what they got when under their contract with hubspot.

          Marketing automation and closed loop analytics do not help you get results. Usually, people obsess over analytics that make absolutely no difference anyway.

          As someone who has used HubSpot before… I don’t like the limitations, I don’t see the brilliance, but I do realize it is convenient. However, half the consultants there that teach you, are teaching theory, not by experience. I don’t do theory.

        • Isnen says

          Thanks Rebecca. Though I’ve been at this since 2008, I know much work lies ahead to really make this useufl service for people. I just need to focus on the things I can do, not the ones I can’t.

    • says

      Every (online) marketer should learn about inbound marketing, analytics, how to use CRM tools, email marketing, etc. No matter if you are a small business or a bigger one, you or someone you hire needs to be knowledgeable in these areas if you want your business to be successful! From this perspective, Hubspot is just one of the many training options out there! They’re doing a great job teaching about inbound marketing while focusing on their platform but you pay the thousand of dollars for the platform and the training.
      Bottom line: everybody needs to learn or have someone with the knowledge about inbound marketing (or generically speaking – online marketing) if they want to be in this game. So training is a given. But from here you have two options: if you have the budget, go the easy route: use Hubspot as a platform and their great training system. If you don’t have that money, build yourself or use someone with the knowledge to build the alternative system for you and get trained (or have someone in your company trained) in other ways: online courses, classes offered by local education institutions, etc.

  4. Anders says

    Hey, thanks for this suggestion on a Hubspot alternative, I have been thinking along the same lines. I am familiar with most of the specific tool components you mention. One thing I still don’t quite see a good alternative for with your suggestion, is the “single database” view of your visitors/leads:

    – How will you connect the visitors actions over time to i.e. a lead/contact?
    – And then tie each lead into a simple yet automated workflow?
    – How do you suggest to compare acquisition cost or ROI across the different channels?

    Best,
    Anders

    • Adarsh Thampy says

      Hi Andres,

      About connecting visitors actions over time- you can use solutions like Kissmetrics to do just that.
      For an automated work flow, use Mailchimp auto responders. However, it’s not as easy because you’ll need different sign up forms on different pages if you want to target different customers. There is an easier way to do this via mandrill API (from mailchimp). However, it requires programming knowledge of API’s.
      To compare acquisition cost you can use Google analytics or Kissmetrics.

  5. says

    Thanks for the tips – I’ve been working on something similar myself for a couple of years – once you are pretty solid with WordPress, it is hard to leave it for something more limited in the blogging department.
    Personally I’m using WORKetc as my “single reference point”
    They will be introducing social lead generation and nurturing soon and have great inbuilt collaboration at the moment, and I’m using Gravity forms to capture leads from my website and enter it into the CRM database.
    It isn’t cheap, and is overkill for a solopreneur but for a 5+ person business it is pretty amazing.

  6. says

    Thank you for your articles; I love WordPress and would like to continue with it, but find it hard to piece things together. The separate costs are nearing Hubspot’s “one-stop” solution:

    $99 SEOmoz PRO
    $30 Mailchimp
    $8 Gravity Forms
    $8 Malware Removal
    $3 Web-site hosting
    $2 Web-site backup
    $30 Web developer help
    ——-
    $180/mo costs

  7. says

    Thank you so much for this review! I just got off the phone with a HubSpot representative, and I’m pretty sure she might have heard me choking on my power drink when she mentioned the $700/month price tag. We don’t do high volume business (we have a few very large clients), and while I want to start implementing some content marketing, I know it wouldn’t be worth it for us to spend so much to get the few very qualified leads we need. I am reassured to know that I can put together a similar strategy on my own using tools I already know and like.

    • Jose says

      I am a very small start up sound design company and when they gave me that same price I was like WHAT! What happen to the $200.00 package?

  8. says

    Thank you, Adarsh, for this very helpful information. I have a trial subscription to Hubspot right now to check out all the bells and whistles. I appreciate your insight and the fact that you present realistic alternatives for those who cannot commit to the price of Hubspot.

  9. Steve says

    Great information, thanks for sharing! I’m in the midst of investigating options and am on the fence. Any thoughts on how well your solution above would integrate with a non-custom install of WordPress (e.g. a theme downloaded from Themeforest)? Any thoughts/comments are much appreciated!

    • Adarsh Thampy says

      Steve,

      It should work well. However, I’d advice you against Themeforest themes as most of them are poorly coded. I suggest you invest in a theme framework such as genesis, thesis, headway, canvas, etc.

    • says

      On the fence over HS as well. Still considering all the options. On a the theme for WP I got the Mazaya theme on theme forest. Obviously I picked the theme because I liked it but the support I got was the best support I have ever have received. My blog is at http://www.blog.iedepot.ie . It is not fully set up yet but most of what has been has been done by the theme author. I had to give him FTP access to fix up things on my end.

  10. Sarah says

    Hi Adarsh!
    Great post. I had been trying to decide which to go for over the past few months and I was always leaning towards WordPress but really wanted the analytics and lead tracking features of hubspot. After months of searching I actually came across a new tool called Orbtr which essentially provides the lead tracking, landing pages and email automation options within WordPress. I’ve been using it now for just over a month now and the information I have gathered on my users along with the qualified leads generated is invaluable. I started on the free trial and got lots of advice from the coaching sessions and after seeing what could be achieved in 14 days, I couldn’t see any reason to stop using the tool.
    I hope its ok to post a link here as it is very relevant your post above and I think its worth you and your readers taking a look at it.
    http://www.orbtr.co.uk/about
    Sorry for the long post!
    Sarah

    • says

      EDIT from Adarsh Thampy: I wanted to add a disclaimer (since it was not disclosed) to the comment that it’s from Greg, CMO of Orbtr, competitor to Hubspot.

      Sarah, I couldn’t agree more. I really love my WordPress site and I wasn’t happy with the few marketing automation features I could string together with Mailchimp and other services. Hubspot is interestingly named because it really isn’t a hub as much as it is the entire car. ORBTR is the “hub” that I needed for my site. I can still use all of the services I know and love and OWN my content in WordPress.

  11. Charl Diener says

    Hi Adarsh,

    Thanks for this great post.

    I’ve recently started my own social media agency in South Africa with a handful of relatively big to smaller clients. We’ve looked into inbound marketing solutions, but due to our currency being very weak against the might U$D, I had to look for cheaper alternatives to HubSpot and opted for Optify.

    We’ve been with Optify for about a month now and I must admit I’m not impressed at all. Besides the fact that we’re paying quite a lot for a very complicated system, I’ve heard rumours that they might be closing down: http://www.geekwire.com/2013/optify-sell-assets-employee-layoff-shocking/ They’ve for instance not gotten back to us with regards to a planned training session.

    Anyway, I’ve always felt that we could be doing most of what they offer ‘manually’ – and that’s how I came across your blog.

    I’m extremely interested in looking at working together so we can design our own system with a user-friendly dashboard for our clients to also log-in and monitor they’re business’ progress.

    Our main focus is on social media and data (lead) collection via our social media platforms, plus blog/websites, but then we’re also interested in starting to launch email campaigns. We also need SEO help, but I must admit it’s not my forte.

    We have some developers and designers that we’ve worked with in the past that we could pull in if need be to make the project run smoother and deliver a product as quick as possible.

    So I’m going to fill out a contact form and hope to hear from you soon with regards to thoughts of how we can make this happen.

    Thanks!

    • tony says

      sorry to hear this. I’m reviewing hubspot with a view to reselling as a part of my service offering. this could be something for you to review. no conflict, as i’m based in the UK ;-)

      KR
      Tony

  12. says

    Seriously, well done. I had a trial of Hubspot and honestly ended up wishing it would integrate seamlessly with WordPress. It can, but not seamlessly. The price is the real deal breaker. $200/ month for a light version with no prospecting tool.. I wonder if their business model will adapt to small business.

  13. says

    Hi,

    I am in the middle of a trial of HS.

    Some of the concerns I am thinking about.

    Their website quotes monthly rates in their pricing. However when you get to end of the sales channel it turns out to be yearly. It is mentioned elsewhere on the website but not up front. That tactic leaves me with more than a little distrust.

    Most of their best features are in their own blogging platform, which does not appear to be as good as WP. As far as I can see from research that moving back to WP will be extremely difficult and costly and not the 5 minute job mentioned above.

    The cost for the first year is about €12,000 with €1,800 of that being for 6 hours of telephone training. That’s for 3,000 contacts. That means that if I did not have to put any time into this system I would have to make €5 out of every single contact. To be realistic that means I would require a gross profit of at least €20. That has to be in addition to what we already make from this list already.

    I am playing devils advocate but am hoping that someone can debunk my fears and figures above and add other addition positives about HS.

    Fergus

  14. says

    Adarsh,

    Really nice post. Peeking into the nooks and crannies of HubSpot reveals many flaws, on top of the price tag. There are SO many integrated cloud apps in today’s web, that creating a robust, more in-depth alternative to HubSpot is the way to go. Love your suggestions of going with WordPress, Moz, and GA or KissMetrics. We use all four of these services at my place of employment.

    Cheers,

  15. says

    Adarsh,

    Thanks for putting all this in one place. I read Hubspot’s blog pretty religiously, and am always at the point of trying to convince my company we need it, but it’s just so darn expensive. One question about the social component: I know you recommend SEOMoz for social tracking, but we have a lot of social media activity, and I really like Hubspot’s easy interface for posting to all your social accounts. Do you have a recommendation for a social aggregator tool?

    • Jason says

      I, too, would love to hear Adarsh’s recommendations for social aggregating. Going to each site (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) individually is time consuming…..not to mention we have multiple areas to post on many sites (LinkedIn company page, LinkedIn group(s), Facebook company page, Facebook group(s), etc…). And, of course, they all have different character count limits, photo/image requirements, etc. All I want is one place to populate all of the potentially needed info for each platform and for the aggregator to take care of the rest. Heck, I’d even settle for one page that lists each of the social platforms of my choosing and allow me to link to any/all of the associated companies and groups where I can simply copy/paste into multiple text fields. Upload the headline phone one time and done. It’s that simple….select which platforms you want…..select if you have a company page, group(s), or any other options provided by each company, upload an image (it takes care of thumbnails vs. full size) and click “post”. A preview option prior to sending would also be great.

      • Adarsh Thampy says

        Hey Jason,

        Have you tried Bufferapp? I use it to automate my social media postings. It’s pretty nice. Let me know if that works for you.

        • Jason says

          Thank you, Adarsh, for your prompt response. I downloaded Bufferapp and, while it doesn’t do everything I’m looking for, it definitely looks promising. Even if it takes care of 80% of the work, that’s a huge improvement.

          On a separate note, I know you’re a fan of WordPress (as am I), but we’re currently using Joomla. Do you happen to have a list of “must have” Joomla extensions….similar to your WordPress plugin recommendations?

          Any information you can provide is much appreciated!

          -Jason

          • Adarsh Thampy says

            Jason,

            Unfortunately, I don’t have any experience with Joomla. It would be unfair if I give recommendations. A quick Google search I did resulted in a lot of recommendations. I might try out Joomla sometime and see if I can come up with a recommendation.

          • Saverius says

            Jerry, you have written anoehtr helpful blog for those of us who are overwhelmed by technology. Your resource, The Anatomy of a Blog Post, is one of the most straight forward and useful articles I have read. It is easy to read and easy to follow. Thanks!

  16. Paul says

    I guess the big problem I have with this and the Hubspot review was the complete misunderstanding of what Content Management is about. The focus here is on a blog. But if you are doing marketing in any concerted way, managing white papers, case studies, reviews, brochures, benchmark docs, etc, etc, can be time consuming. Ensuring you always have the most current version and retiring or evolving older ones.

    Furthermore, the ability to ‘know’ what a contact has seen before and offering something new, is essential to not appear to spam but more importantly add value.

    And then there is the ability to collect information gradually, show you know something about the content by doing progressive profiling – for example.

    These are just a few capabilities that I think are an essential part of any formal marketing program or campaign. When saying you can do for free with WordPress and Google Analytics, for example, underestimates and undervalues all of the things that really needed, none of which I saw referenced in the review nor this article.

    Finally, not seen comparisons to Marketo, Eloqua, Unica (I know the last two have been acquired), etc, to ‘WordPress’. Now, I am not a Hubspot user (my experience is with those above) and none of those are the silver bullet either and cost a lot more. BUT I do know that all marketing teams are getting smaller and the ability to run complete, always on campaigns is very, very time consuming and something has to give. Checking for metrics across many platforms, trying to determine what this means and piece it together into a much larger, integrated campaign is problematic at best. These articles tend to imply good marketing is a blog, with a tweet or email back up. For an individual or very, very small business, this may be sufficient, but for serious marketing it is not. I saw a comment on one of these reviews about the difference between small and big business being in mindset. And this is partly true. But as long as their are ‘consultants’ that are not able to understand the bigger, fuller picture, they will only be receiving very small mindset business advice.

    • Adarsh Thampy says

      Paul,

      Thank you for your comment. I am not saying Hubspot or it’s features are useless. More than most people here, I appreciate the features. It’s very good. The point I am trying to make is, Hubspot is not the “right” tool for everyone. I have talked to a lot of Hubspot users- and most of them do not use all the amazing features Hubspot has. They use it as a glorified blogging and email platform- that’s it.

      Why pay top dollars for a blogging platform? If you have the time, resources, and money to create multiple e-books, track leads, do progressive profiling and so on, then by all means use Hubspot. But if you dont, then Husbpot becomes a bad choice.

      The reason you dont see WordPress being compared to Eloqua, Marketo, etc is becase they all position themselves as Marketing Automation products purely. You cant build a website using Marketo, pardot, or Unica. But you can with Husbpot- hubspot preaches inbound marketing- mostly through blogging and lead nurturing which can be achieved via WordPress if you do it the right way.

      I hope you got the message. As a side note, I’d recommend using WordPress + Act-on if you really want marketing automation. It’s affordable and powerful.

      • Paul says

        I get what you are saying to some extent. Part of what you are saying is that you are preaching to those ‘dissatisfied’ users of platforms like Hubspot who are only using as a blogging platform. And showing them there is a cheaper alternative. Perhaps that is the way to go for them if they do not having any marketing ‘chops’ already and are jumping in at the deep end.

        On the other hand, the way the articles are written and the kind if responses they garner (and your responses in turn) are not actually educating anyone on where they could go with marketing. What some of those additional capabilities could actually do.

        For example, in your article you say “Oh, and don’t worry about people who unsubscribe from your list”. Huh! A good marketer should ALWAYS worry about that. Yes, it could mean they don’t have any interest or value your content. Or it could be you have done a lousy job with the overall experience. You have emailed (spammed) them one time too many, perhaps the content was the same, perhaps you didn’t ‘know’ them well enough to offer something more relevant and so on. You have spent something to get that person interested in you and now you are just ‘metaphorically’ shrugging the shoulders and saying “oh well”. A good marketer should be intently interested in what is working and not working. That is the challenge. If you are poring over data from many other tools and having a hard time seeing the trees from the forest, if you are the ‘integrator’ of all that data, you are very likely to miss what is and is not working. That is why marketeers look for tools to help manage that morass of data.

        The tools I quoted and you quoted are not simply ‘marketing automation’ and therefore very different from Hubspot. Yes, Hubspot lets you build a website from within, while the others may not. But they all have capabilities that are better or worse or included or not included. Unica has great content management tools that Eloqua does not. Eloqua has a simpler automation engine. Some do scoring and therefore triggering differently and so on. But I would say they are all much more expensive and much more work to get up and running. But then they are not targeted at very small businesses.

        Bottom line though, is there is a lot going on to run an ‘always on’, fully integrated marketing operation. If all you are doing are a few blog posts, then yes, just use WordPress. If you are looking to do some serious ‘always on, fully integrated’ marketing, you will need much more than WordPress and some bolted together tools. It requires constant monitoring of what is going on or you are going to destroy the experience you are creating. It may take several quality contacts to get someone to look at your product but only takes one bad experience to destroy that good will. Just look at the posts from those who tried Hubspot but didn’t like it. Many had probably spent several views, downloads, calls, etc, to jump on board but only one bad experience to get turned off. Ironic that they don’t see that while preaching about good marketing themselves. But then if you read Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm and Inside the Tornado, the mantra being displayed is one of getting as many customers on board as quickly as possible to gain traction, market share, cover the sunk development costs and THEN worry about customer service. In a new industry (and all these automation and inbound tools are relatively new) this can work.

        But let’s not pretend that if you are doing serious marketing, it can be done for free, requires little time invested and a few free tools bolted together will suffice. They will not.

        • Adarsh Thampy says

          Yes, serious marketing does require a lot of dedicated time.

          As with unsubscribes, I don’t see where I talk about not to worry about unsubscribes at all. Yes, a good marketer pays attention to trends, but thinking that unsubscribes wont happen is a myth- no matter how good a content you put out, people are going to unsubscribe.

          As for why I don’t tell people all the wonderful hings I can do with Hubspot, well, for starters, I am not their sales rep. Secondly, the fact that a lot of people signed up and is not happy, means that there is a disconnect somewhere- either in the way the tool is portrayed or in the tool itself. I am leaning towards the way the tool is portrayed. And yes, I do make it clear in my review that the tool is good and if used right can be great. I also make it very clear, towards the beginning of the post that if you have resources and money, you should go for Hubspot.

          Do you seriously think a small business,with limited resources can afford USD 12000 a year (800*12+ 2000) for a tool with all the work still needing to be done? Maybe your business can afford, but most businesses out there cannot. So they need a cheaper alternative to start off with. Maybe once they start seeing ROI, to make their marketing more efficient, they can switch to Hubspot. Even the co-founder of Hubspot seems to agree with my view point there.

          Now, all these being said, I know businesses using Husbpot and are happy with it. They have dedicated marketing teams and have the time and money to create lot of content for inbound success. It’s a great product for such companies. But if you are a mom and pop store, don’t expect Hubspot to create magic (WordPress wont help make sales on auto pilot either). You have to put in the hard work.

          I am totally with you when you say you cant do marketing like Hubspot with WordPress and a few tools put together. But what you are missing out is Hubspot, or any other tools, makes the process more efficient. Can serious marketing be done without these tools? Yes. Is HS a total necessity? No. Can it make your marketing more efficient and produce higher ROI if you can commit to it- definitely.

          • Paul says

            Adarsh, we are going to have to agree to disagree. I find your responses….interesting. Either you really don’t get it or you are being deliberately obtuse.

            I am not a proponent of Hubspot nor disagree with you and the other commenters hammering them here if that is what you want to do.

            But I am a proponent of good marketing and I see that some of your comments and ideas are more about the negatives of a product than about what is good marketing.

            You DO say not to worry about unsubscribes (component #2 second from last paragraph) – I pulled in your exact quote and I will put it here again

            “Oh, and don’t worry about people who unsubscribe from your list”

            Yes, unsubscribes happen, but KNOWING why is important, not just shrugging them off as unimportant to you. Bad advice, Adarsh.

            Second, you go on about cost of Hubspot and then recommend using Act-On. Act-On is going to be in the same ballpark as Hubspot. And Act-On has some serious flaws themselves. As a marketer they are pretty bad spammer themselves. Very aggressive and very aggressive at knocking competitors – never a good sign. Clearly not following marketing best practices themselves but called out by you as THE recommended alternative. Act-On starts at $500/mth for 1,000 contacts and goes up and $249/mth for inbound. Will easily match the too high quoted annual cost of Hubspot and way out of the league of mom and pop shops (such a disparaging term) that you are concerned about.

            And my point to you was perhaps people need to be educated on marketing and marketing best practices and perhaps they should start with WordPress BUT only if they understand the limitations in terms of marketing that means and that WordPress plus a few Add-ins is NOT going to replicate a Hubspot (or anyone of the Marketo, Pardot, Vocus, Act-On, etc) But you should educate on WHY marketers are looking to use these platforms and how they would progress. But you did not. Simply say its too expensive and here is something cheap that, well, equates to the same thing. No list of progressive stages of marketing. For example, once you have achieved level one, good blog, tweeting it out, etc, go on to level two and what tools are needed, then level three and so on. And then how the effort is going to increase and that alternative tools might have to be considered to manage the challenge.

            Your articles and reviews clearly give the impression that it is not probably needed, that it can be mostly replicated and for pretty much for free.

            This is disingenuous and as disingenuous as the tactics you and your commenters are complaining about at Hubspot.

            You are writing these columns to set yourself up as a marketer, someone who knows what good marketing is all about. Yes, the other tools are not inexpensive. But you are giving the impression that you are an expert and you are saying you can have a free lunch when there is no such thing.

            And just to be clear, I am not a proponent of Hubspot or any of the other tools. I am not a user, seller or service partner of Hubspot. I have used some of the other tools mentioned and worked with colleagues who have used others. But never used nor know anyone that uses Hubspot. I am a proponent of good marketing and HONEST marketing.

          • Adarsh Thampy says

            Regarding you quoting me about unsubscribing, yes I did say that. But did you look at the next paragraph where I talk about looking at the trends and re-evaluating your strategy? Context, my friend. Quotes in isolation does not mean anything.

            Regarding Act On, not sure if you have used it. but I have used both Act on and Hubspot. Act on clearly wins in the email part. They are so much more advanced that Hubspot in that area. Husbpot gives you simple email workflows, while Act on gives you highly dynamic automated programs- use it to see the difference. You don’t need inbound from Act on (it’s optional and I don’t like it much). Just combine my suggestion for WordPress + act on for lead collection, lead nurturing, profiling, and emailing. Way cheaper than Hubspot- plus it’s a monthly commitment. Not yearly like Husbpot. I hope you do know that not having to invest so much upfront will be a huge breather for smaller businesses.

            Take a look at copyblogger media. They achieved tremendous success using WordPress only and not any sort of marketing automation (yeah they had set up similar to what I suggest here). Not to mention they don’t need to raise millions of dollars in VC funding. I do know you can generate business simply with a blog set up- there are thousands doing it. I have experienced the same too, which I explain in my post- my content marketing story. The previous startup I worked with, we went from a few thousand visits to few million in about 7 months with using just WordPress and content marketing. Yes, it’s possible to have free lunch. Maybe you just didn’t know how to get one.

            When you do a product review, you focus on one set of people and tell how the software works out for them. My target is small business owners and it doesn’t really work out well- backed up by all the comments and people who have emailed me. That doesn’t mean every business wont find success- some will, some wont. It’s for that reason, people should try out a demo first and if interested proceed.

            And yes, I agree that I didn’t provide an in-depth alternative with various stages of marketing and which tools to use for each challenge. I will consider writing an ebook with much more detailed step-by-step instructions. Thanks for your suggestions.

  17. says

    Hi Adarsh,

    This article is a great resource with some valuable contributions within the comments alone!

    I would say that it’s important not to underestimate the value in having your CRM, analytics, conversion forms/landing pages and email completely integrated.

    When you’re working across a bunch of systems, not everything that happens is reflected in your contact’s profile and you can’t really score it.

    Also having a robust way of triggering automations from website activity, tagging contacts, changing lifecycle stages etc seem to me to be largely impossible, let alone stuff like progressive profiling.

    To be fair the choice isn’t really whether you use Hubspot or a separate components as there are more choices than that.

    Every marketplace over time moves towards commoditisation and for our part we built and run Jumplead http://www.jumplead.com

    Which has taught us a lot about the importance of having that high level of integration.. :)

    Thanks again for the great post!

    Matt

    • Paul says

      I would agree, Matt, that there are things that ‘automation’ or at least, automatically triggering actions can make a huge impact. As the volume of visitors and conversions go up, it becomes time consuming and challenging to do the manual work to nurture those opportunities until they become real leads. Perhaps more so the more complex the product or solution you are selling. And certainly advantages to progressive profiling in those cases.

      I would say I checked out the Jumpleads page a short while ago but found it really didn’t tell me a lot and couldn’t gauge the simplicity of the interface – a challenge for many of these tools. Also, whether it could leverage a great tool like Unbounce for Landing Pages. It has to be the most simple and brilliant Landing Page tool. (meant this comment in the best interest as you try and market your product.)

      • says

        Thanks Paul, we have a major version release in the next few weeks. Once that’s out of the way we’re going to be focusing upon how we can integrate with services such as Unbounce and Gravity Forms etc.

  18. Greg says

    Adarsh,

    Thanks for making a great post and curating this comment thread so well. I’ve been looking around at different solutions for a bit and I like what you said about Act-On. Maybe I’ll give that a try next.

  19. says

    Adarsh,

    Take a look at Spokal – we can make this process even better (faster. more effective, more features, and cheaper!) for you. Using WordPress & Mailchimp too.

    We should talk!

    Chris

    • Adarsh Thampy says

      Chris,

      Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.

      I did check Spokal. To be honest, doesn’t seem to be like a good alternative to Hubspot- especially considering the fact that one key feature (email marketing) is missing from Spokal and seems to be more inclined towards twitter.

      Couple of things I’d want to know

      1. Does this come with a website builder or does it post to your WP websites using API calls? The demo video on the how it works page didn’t help much to answer this question.
      2. In case it’s a custom platform like Hubspot, how does lead tracking and scoring work if a user uses their own platform like WordPress?
      3. I understand there is integration with Mailchimp- how deep is it? Can we trigger emails from Spokal app or do we need to go into mailchimp and do it manually?

      I did like the fact that your tool makes it easy for creating posts and also auto inserts attribution to images. That’s a critical piece most people ignore.

      • says

        Great questions – clearly we have to do a better job of showcasing our featureset.

        Let me address your points:

        1. (well, actually before 1) – We integrate with both Mailchimp and ActiveCampaign to handle email marketing automation. In fact, with the AC integration you get FULL marketing automation abilities (which you DON’T get with Hubspot unless you go to their $800/month pro plan). You can segment based on lead score, trigger activities based on events, set up entire custom flows and decision trees based on just about anything. It’s extremely powerful. Check out their demo here: http://www.activecampaign.com/automation/ And then imagine it with full lead scores which we provide.

        1. It integrates fully with WordPress via API calls.

        2. Lead tracking and scoring works the same way it does with Hubspot (or any other automation platform), through Javascript tracking. Not sure if you don’t know how this works in general, or if I’m missing the question?

        3. The integration with both Mailchimp and ActiveCampaign is very deep. That is lead scores are based off of emails and web activity (and soon social too). When emails are opened, clicked, replied to, our scores are updated, and the overall lead score (including the web score) is passed back to Mailchimp/AC for segmentation purposes. You set up campaigns in the respective email provider – that’s what they’re built for and that’s what they’re good at. They just need more data, and we provide that to them. This works exceptionally well, because it means it works with existing lists too.

        Finally, our users would disagree – we are an exceptional alternative to Hubspot. You can read some reviews by actual users here: http://www.trustradius.com/products/spokal

        We have quite a few users who are either former Hubspot users, or current Hubspot users.

        I would be happy to give you a demo, since clearly the video didn’t explain it well enough, I’d love to see where the confusion was so we can fix it.

        Cheers,

        Chris

        • Adarsh Thampy says

          Chris,

          Thanks for the detailed response.

          My question relating to lead score and tracking via javascript was- do you only let users track these details if they are on your platform (if you were a hosted platform like HubSpot) or do you let users use your javascript that can be embedded on any platform?

          When I said spokal is not a replacement for Hubspot, what I meant was, it’s not an all rounded app like Hubspot- basically, if you take Hubspot, you won’t need any more third party applications (including website hosting, ESP, and so on). However, I agree that Spokal can help with integrating a lot of applications and help in providing a close-to-hubspot experience much like orbtr.

          Currently, I am strapped for time. Otherwise, I could have done a detailed review of Spokal. I’ll reach out to you when I have time to do an in-depth review of spokal.

          • says

            Got it – it gets embedded in their WordPress website automatically. Everything does, there’s no setup required other than installing the plugin and connecting.

            We’ll be here when you want to do a review.

            As to complete solutions – well, do you really want to be locked into a vendor like that? For your website content? I sure don’t. The cost of getting your content out of a proprietary CMS like that and not lose link-juice would be significant. It’s a great business model for them. Bad one for clients. That’s why we believe WordPress is the better option, and why we built Spokal around that platform. No lock-ins.

    • Paul says

      Chris,

      I looked at Spokal and thought it was an extremely interesting tool, particularly for helping to manage content marketing – simplifying the ability to get a professional looking blog posted well, managing ‘distribution’ via twitter (simply) but best of all, calendarizing (I know, not a word) the process, which is key as most people aren’t disciplined and need to be.

      The downside, my site is not WordPress :( but wondering if I should create a WordPress ‘insert’ for the blog to take advantage.

      But what I didn’t get was the extend of ‘automation’. The jump to any automation platform seems to be from $200 to …$2,000 a month or more. Depending on the different variables they use to determine price – #contacts, #emails and even by features. Jumping into full blown automation before sorting your content strategy can be a disaster, yet not doing something more automated is such heavy lifting it is likely to fail before it starts. So the idea of a set of tools that helps to fill that gap is interesting and felt Spokal could be that middle ground.

      But as I started that last paragraph, even after going to the site, the neat intro video, which teases with automation words, just didn’t get what was possible. Clearly, you are getting your core value prop across well – simplifying the content part – but many will want/need to go that next step and simple autoresponders are insufficient. It sounds like in another response that there is much more.

      Cheers
      Paul

      • Paul says

        Okay, have since found a whole set of videos (actually, got to them via Active Campaign site) and they do a great job of walking through set up, lead gen and scoring, etc. And now Spokal looks like an even more interesting tool.

        Not sure why I didn’t see those more easily from the Spokal site directly, but they are very good at walking through specifics of set up.

        If I may, I think you need a simple version, similar to your Spokal Welcome video which is excellent, that walks through the whys and the possibilities of using some of the more ‘advanced capabilities’. Really is much more than integrating to Twitter as Adarsh first thought. But I thought the same thing too, initially.

        Looks like a great product Chris. And if I can see how to link it in with Unbounce too… :) thinking of the following to create an inexpensive but very powerful content marketing automation platform:

        SPOKAL (front end, content management) + ACTIVE CAMPAIGN + UNBOUNCE

        Thoughts anyone?

        Cheers
        Paul

        • says

          Hi Paul,

          Thanks so much for your comments! I think you’re exactly right. I’ll create a new video to showcase the more advanced features, and update our how it works page. Really appreciate your comments on this.

          We do have one how-to video here: http://www.getspokal.com/activecampaign-and-spokal/ (2nd video on page), sounds like you found it already.

          Unbounce integration is absolutely planned – their offices are just down the road from ours :) But you’re absolutely right, Spokal + Unbounce + ActiveCampaign would be extremely powerful. Actually, you can even do that right now, sort of. It’s not as clean as a full integration, but it will work. Send me an email and I can explain how.

          Cheers,

          Chris

  20. Nilesh Patel says

    Adarsh,

    When get the opportunity please check out LeadSquared too. Our solution addresses most of the common asks of a marketing automation solution and is priced for small business. LeadSquared works well with wordpress, we have provided a plugin for contact form 7 to get those leads directly into LeadSquared and a plugin to capture blog comments to lead. We also integrate tightly with Olark and Gotowebinar. Our landing pages module has been rated very well by our customers.

    We also provide customers the option of using their own Mandrill or Sendgrid account for email sending. The integration won’t affect lead scoring, link tracking etc as they are all captured and reported in LeadSquared.

    Check out our free trial.

    Cheers
    Nilesh

  21. Dino Desini says

    Adarsh, I just wanted to say you are truly a CHAMP! Just the very fact that you took the initiative to create this site & provide so much education is so noble. Some may decide to still go HubSpot as you pointed out yourself, for various reasons including simplicity, saving time, and having a much larger pocket full of cash, while others will go with the various systems you describe. But at the end of the day what we all need to note here is your immense dedication to your task. Well done! A thousand times well-done! I hope that one day I get the opportunity to meet you and thank-you in person!

    Take care, Dean.

  22. says

    Checking out what all Hubspot does it looks awesome. Then you start looking through it (once behind the curtains) and it seems daunting.

    Keep in mind, not lazy. I just really like to figure out ROI for my time and people that work for/with me.

    Anyways… Salesforce.com seems to be the HUbspot of CRM’s so I thought it was funny that you recommended them. They are the biggest and best, but often for smaller businesses that time element can become discouraging and make inaction a high probability.

    BTW – I just started playing with AGILE CRM. They may be a very expensive version (not sure yet) of pieces of this automation key.

    Since reading the comments I added to my task to check out leadsquared unbounce and spokal… Any other recommendations you would make now that you didn’t when writing this?

    Thanks,

    • says

      Will – Unbounce is just landing pages – not comparable to Hubspot or Spokal (it actually works with both however). Leadsquared is middle/bottom of the funnel lead nurturing – as far as I know – no top of funnel features. So if you want more traffic – they won’t help. Salesforce is a beast for small businesses :) It’s like buying a car with a thousand buttons you need to press in the right order before you can start it.

      Hope that helps!

    • Paul says

      The ‘tools’ you reference cover a whole bunch of different areas from inbound marketing, to nurturing to lead tracking. And some tools that are single purpose – like Unbounce – which is only for creating landing pages. Hubspot does all of the inbound marketing side, including creating ‘landing pages’ or pages for a specific campaign linked to all the other work. Upside is that you can get it all in one package. Downside will be the time and effort to pull it off.

      There are other ‘gotchas’ to look out for. Unbounce is hands down the best landing page creation tool I have used. Downside, it is not so easy to ‘integrate’ into the other tools I need to use to start ‘automating’ the process. Doing one single purpose campaign, creating the page, the email, etc, is fine. But once you start doing many of them, it will start to become a challenge to monitor them and link to other activities you are doing.

      Many will use WordPress as their core CMS platform, simplifying the website development piece. Then there are several less expensive tools that can help in the ‘automation’ process like Spokal as you mentioned. But Leadpages, for example, which can be more easily integrated into your campaigns than Unbounce. While not as brilliant as Unbounce at landing page creation, it uses a best practice approach by monitoring the response rates of those campaigns based on their templates. Those templates can be ‘plugged’ into WordPress.

      Point is, if you are not going to use an everything automated marketing tool like Hubspot, Act-On (better than hubspot IMHO), Marketo, etc, you will need to find a way to bring a number of separate tools together to simplify things. At least Spokal and Orbtr do several of those things thus reducing the work. ANd for far less than Hubspot.

      That way you get to learn how to do things before splurging on something more expensive and failing with it.

      Finally, the one negative of the all-in-one tools is that they often require all the materials to be within their content management system. What this means is that if for any reason you decide to go to another tool, you may have difficulty migrating your content.

      • says

        That’s a great comment Paul! Covers a lot of ground really nicely.

        All-in-one tools work best with their own CMS because that way they can integrate all the SEO benefits (also helps with social media publishing and a raft of other small, but important optimizations that otherwise you’d have to do manually). It’s actually really important, and few MA solutions do it because it’s so much work to build – but without it, a platform can’t help at top of funnel traffic generation, and is limited to trying to optimize for conversions and nurturing. Both of those are critically important, but they’re also both useless without traffic to begin with, and most small businesses really struggle with that.

        We (Spokal) chose to integrate very deeply with WordPress rather than go with a custom CMS to avoid exactly the downside you mention. No migration, no lock-in.

  23. Brian says

    Hi Adarsh,

    Awesome post!

    I was wondering if you have any recommendations on wordpress plug-ins for creating progressive profiling forms?

    I don’t need a full marketing automation package and was wondering what my options are (google hasn’t been friendly…).

    Best,

    Brian

  24. says

    Hi Adarsh,

    Congrats! Your post reached deeply this question about Hubspot and possible competitors.
    I had a good experience as a Hubspot user couple months ago when I worked in a small company. I am looking for some similar tool to use here, in Brazil. As I read in the readers’ comments there are couple competitors for Hubspot, or at least few companies that offer a software like Hubspot, right?

    – Anyone who had tried a similar tool as Hubspot could share this thoughts?

    Why not create a Social Media group with these professionals to discuss about Digital Marketing actions ?

    Best regards,
    Bruno

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