Hubspot review by PC Magazine (2019)

8 min read
  • Pros

    Wealth of workflow features. CRM integration available.

  • Cons

    Expensive. Workflows can feel limited. SEO features could use some work.

  • Bottom Line

    HubSpot is a leader when it comes to marketing automation as well as email marketing. As the company moves further into sales and CRM, it intends to become the destination for all your customer outreach.

HubSpot (which begins at $50 per month) is an excellent marketing automation platform that some even say helped to invent the space. It has most of the features that a small to midsize business (SMB) would need, and does very well when stacked up against solutions from larger competitors, including our other Editors' Choice winner, Salesforce's Pardot. One attractive aspect of HubSpot is the company's fast-growing software portfolio. In addition to the automation and email marketing capabilities of this product, the company also has a customer relationship management (CRM) solution in HubSpot CRM as well as a service desk offering, too.

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Pricing and Plans

HubSpot comes in three tiers: Starter, Professional, and Enterprise. It's among the more expensive marketing tools on the market, particularly for the Enterprise version. Starter begins at $50 per month for access to 1,000 contacts, a basic content-creation tool, an email marketing platform, a social media publishing and monitoring tool, and basic analytics. You can add additional contacts to the Starter plan for $20 more per month, for up to 2,000 contacts. The Professional plan costs $800 per month (billed annually) and gives you access to 1,000 contacts, a full marketing automation suite, custom workflows, lead nurturing, and A/B testing, among other features you won't find in the Starter plan.

The Enterprise plan costs $2,400 per month (billed annually). It gives you access to 10,000 contacts, revenue reporting, custom event automation triggers, and company-wide campaign reporting. You can add HubSpot's free Sales and CRM tools to move contact data into the sales and service funnel for very basic needs. You can also pay to turn on HubSpot's more advanced Sales and CRM tools should you require more advanced features.

HubSpot's best comparison for marketing automation is Salesforce's Pardot, both in terms of functionality and cost. Pardot is more expensive, with its Growth plan that costs $1,250 per month (billed annually) for email marketing, prospect tracking, lead nurturing and scoring, reporting, forms and landing pages, and standard Salesforce CRM integration. Pardot's Plus plan costs $2,500 per month (billed annually) and includes email analytics, spam analysis, landing page A/B testing, Google AdWords integration, application programming interface (API) access, an integrated marketing calendar, and chat support, among other features. Pardot's Advanced plan costs $4,000 per month (billed annually) for custom user roles, custom object integration, a dedicated IP address, and phone support. All Pardot plans give you capacity for 10,000 contacts.

HubSpot - Create New Report

On the lower end, you'll find products such as Infusionsoft, which costs $299 per month for the Complete package and gives you access to up to five users, 10,000 contacts, and 50,000 emails per month. The Complete package also includes Infusionsoft's four core feature sets (CRM, e-commerce, marketing automation, and sales automation). If you need a product that can scale as you grow, then Zoho Campaigns offers a pay-as-you-go plan in which you buy and use email credits. These plans begin at $22 for 1,000 email credits, $80 for 5,000, and $150 for 10,000. Monthly subscriptions, which include unlimited emails, cost $10 for up to 1,000 subscribers and $45 per month for up to 5,000 subscribers.

Hubspot - Workflow Template

Interface and Workflows

HubSpot's marketing automation workflows are created via templates and a custom builder. The 10 out-of-the-box templates are called "Recipes." Each of these can be edited to suit your specific workflow requirements. When you click "Start a New Workflow," you get three options: Standard (when a contact enrolls or joins a list), Fixed Date (an email on a specific calendar date or holiday), or Property-based (triggered by a contact date, such as a trial expiration or renewal). You start Standard workflows by selecting a segmented group of lists by using "and/or" conditions, and then adding an action such as "Send Email" or "Send SMS." You can then add "if/then" branching by using numerous possible outcomes and action-based responses.

Unfortunately, workflows are always based off of "Yes or No" propositions. For example, did John open the email? Did John click on the link? With Pardot, you're able to deliver a bit more customization for your branches by using other factors such as time (e.g., How many days have passed since I sent John an email?). As with Pardot, there is no cap on how many interactions you can add to a workflow, which means you can create and extend campaigns into perpetuity if that suits your needs.

Hubspot Build New Workflow

All of your HubSpot workflows are based on lists, which are incredibly easy to create once you've loaded your tool with contact data. Think of how you would narrow down a product list on Amazon or eBay; this is how you build contact lists in HubSpot. This is a much more streamlined process than you'll find in competing tools such as SendinBlue and Zoho Campaigns, which rely more on search queries than drop-down menus to help you make your selections. Once you've created a list, HubSpot shows you which contacts are on other lists, which is a super-easy way to double-check to see if leads are on another conflicting list.

Your contact records automatically update with any contact interactions that are managed via the HubSpot platform. This is similar (but inferior) to Infusionsoft's real-time alert dashboard. Both platforms offer you a running timeline of where contacts are in the marketing funnel and how you've interacted with them in the past. "Contact Records" flow between all HubSpot products to let you see everything across all three disciplines. You can see deals, contact information, profile information for demographics, among all other contact data. Infusionsoft's tool is slightly superior in that it combines all contact interactions into one dashboard, whereas HubSpot limits interaction data to each individual contact's profile page.

Hubspot Contact Page

Noteworthy Features

When you add a URL to a contact record, HubSpot will automatically pull in demographic information, such as the contact's company location and number of employees. HubSpot would not reveal the name of the third-party tracking company that helps it pull in this data, but it's very effective and it saves you a few minutes of research time.

You can email a contact directly from the Contact Record, and you can make a Voice-Over-IP (VoIP) call if you've turned on this paid feature of HubSpot Sales. This integration lets you log and save call information within each contact record so that there is a transparent history of which marketers and sales sales professionals interacted with contacts. You can also schedule interactions with contacts.

Hubspot Sales Integration

Switching between HubSpot Marketing, CRM, and Sales is as easy as clicking the upper left-hand corner of the dashboard. The tool's solid reporting lets you look at each specific campaign to see how many contacts are active and what your conversion rates are. The Paid Reporting add-on lets you compare campaigns to provide you with an overview of how your marketing strategy is performing on a macro level.

Creating new emails in HubSpot is incredibly easy as well. The software gives you more than 2,000 free and paid templates that should more than satisfy your most complex requirements. Should you need to start from scratch, you can simply drop in your own HTML or use the tool's What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) editor. This editor is miles ahead of what you get on Pardot and Zoho Campaigns, both of which offer fewer templates and a more basic, less impressive builder.

HubSpot does offer basic social media monitoring and publishing tools. These are useful for blasting out to contacts and for automatically adding people to lists if they have interacted with your posts in any way. This is the most advanced, organic social media integration I have found in any tool I've reviewed, one that will make life much easier for marketers who bear social media and email manager responsibilities. If you're just getting started collecting leads and planning your marketing strategy, then HubSpot also offers a free and basic lead generation tool that is designed to help you collect and organize contacts before you begin campaigns.

HubSpot recently beefed up its Facebook integration to help users create Facebook lead-gen campaigns. Users will be able to build out prepopulated lead capture forms that live in their business's Facebook stream. The tool auto-captures submissions and brings them into the HubSpot database. Although I haven't been able to test this feature, it's a unique option, with no clear rival in the marketing automation space. HubSpot recently added integrations for Slack to keep customers connected. In addition to these integrations, HubSpot says it is working with 48,000 customers in more than 100 countries. And as part of an update to its Marketing Hub, HubSpot has added improved analytics and customized bot building.

Hubspot - Social Media

Sales Professional

HubSpot's Sales Professional is a product that combines all of the elements of email marketing, CRM, and lead management into one fully featured sales console. The system can be purchased for $400 per month for up to five users. For each additional user, you'll pay $80 per user per month. Sales Professional can be purchased as a standalone product or it can be added to any of your existing HubSpot offerings. In addition to these integrations, HubSpot says it has 48,000 customers in more than 100 countries. Designed for larger and more complex selling, the console offers both manager and rep-centric functionality. Within the system, you'll see a notification center that sums up interactions that are relevant to a rep each day. This includes things such as email opens, leads that have been assigned, changes to lead scores, and people opening content that has been shared.

Sales Professional comes with tangential sales-related items, such as a Live Chat product called Messages that lets organizations deploy live chat to any webpage. The interface allows reps to manage service-related conversations within the HubSpot console, where data is easily assessable. Sales Professional also provides users with a feature called Sequences that allow sales reps to tee up a timed series of messages to a prospect. Think of Sequences as marketing automation but for sales reps to speak directly to one specific prospect at a time. The Meetings feature allows a sales rep to create a calendar, create a link to said calendar, and send the link to a prospect so that the prospect can book a meeting whenever he or she is available. Users can even put the live calendar on their websites so people can book appointments with them straight from the website.

A Comprehensive Solution That Scales

Pardot is designed for the large enterprise with an established marketing automation strategy. It's a big, powerful system that is too expensive and too feature-heavy for the junior marketer or mom-and-pop business. This is where HubSpot fills an important space in the marketing automation industry. It's a tool that's inviting, scales as you grow, and leaves no feature off the spec sheet. Additionally, HubSpot lets you add basic CRM and sales tools to your marketing automation software at no extra cost. This is a wonderful feature for startups and small companies that are just getting their operations off the ground.

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