There is much hype around the “inbound marketing process” and a product called Hubspot. I wanted to find out how effective it was and what type of businesses might benefit from it. I took up Hubspot’s offer of a 30 day free trial to try it out in anger, using inbound marketing for my own business as a template for the trial.
What is Hubspot?
Hubspot is an inbound marketing tool for generating sales leads for a business.
The ‘inbound marketing business process’ was invented by Hubspot, so with Hubspot you are buying into the philosophy and business process alongside the software tool itself. The process is built on established web marketing techniques like blogs, search engine optimisation, social media and email marketing. Hubspot's process brings these techniques together to create a single methodology and tool to generate leads for your business.
Wikipedia definition: “Inbound marketing refers to marketing activities that bring visitors in, rather than marketers having to go out to get prospect's attention. Inbound marketing earns the attention of customers, makes the company easy to be found and draws customers to the website by producing interesting content.”
Hubspot helps you automate most of the elements connected with inbound marketing (web pages, free offers, contacts management, etc.) by bringing them together into a single integrated software tool. To some extent Hubspot is marketing eating itself. Once you sign up to their mailing list, you get bombarded with their inbound marking offers of free material on how to do inbound marketing!
How did I get on with the trial?
The trial proved to be a very useful exercise for testing various marketing ideas for promoting my company.
Most of Hubspot’s functions were available during the trial with the exception of being able to send emails. On line help was also promised in the software during the trial but although messages to technical support were answered, my more general questions were not (for example an offer to help me send the test emails).
What did I think about Hubspot as a marketing tool?
This might sound obvious, but Hubspot is only suitable for companies intending to have an inbound marketing strategy. You should only consider Hubspot of you are serious about using inbound marketing. You need to put in considerable amount of marketing effort to make it work. It did not seem to be easily adaptable to other marketing methods.
However on the premise that you are serious about inbound marketing, you should seriously consider it due to the increased efficiency it can bring you.
What did you like about it?
I found it very simple to use. Help and tips of how to get the best out of the tool were close to hand. Web pages, landing pages, calls to action and emails were very easy to set up, edit to experiment with and update without the need for specialist website editing skills (a big productivity gain).
All the major elements of inbound marketing were integrated together in one place. This saved time over dealing with all the inbound marketing activities separately. This frees you to experiment to develop the best ways attracting new customers and improve your content.
Being able to control all you branding in the same place also gives you better control over it.
Finally I liked the ability to easily measure your overall marketing success and test the outcomes of different marketing and advertising tactics. Thus you can determine your marketing cost per lead generated and thus fully justify your marketing expenditure.
What was disappointing?
To get the most from the tool, you will need to transfer your web site into Hubspot. This is a big ask for many organisations who have other stakeholders using their website (like recruitment and investor relations). You will also need to pay Hubspot at extra cost to transfer your website. It is possible to run your website separately from Hubspot and tools are in place to help you do this, but it results in more work for you and is less neat in terms of reporting.
It is expensive! The basic package will set your back approximately £2,100 in the first year. Functionality is limited to 100 contacts in the database and useful CRM integration and automation is not available in this package. Although this package is enough to get you started, I would anticipate that most companies would end up using the professional package costing £8,200 in the first year.
You can however measure your success with Hubspot and thus easily justify this expenditure against the additional sales you will gain! You also need to consider the additional cost in light of your overall marketing budget. Other marketing expenditure may no longer be needed to gain the same level of awareness and number of leads thus offsetting the cost.
What was average?
The standard reports I would only rate as average. I had difficulty setting up “tracking URLs” to appear correctly - I eventually worked it out but it was very complicated!
The web publishing tool was nothing special either. As we do not use Facebook, we already publish on LinkedIn and Twitter at the same time and I find LinkedIn better for this. Larger marketing teams would however benefit from being able to monitor all of their social media interactions from different people on different social networks all in one place.
I found the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) keywords report good for finding and improving my keywords. However I still needed Google Ads, to help me find additional suitable keywords - Hubspot did not work for me in isolation.
The main benefit I found from Hubspot is that it makes inbound marketing much more efficient. However to get to this point you need to:
a) Establish that inbound marketing process is suitable for your own business
b) Seriously invest in social media and website marketing for it to be worth the money in terms of improved productivity (expenditure inclusive of cost of staff time of more than £10,000 a year)
For my own company, our web presence is not yet mature enough to make an immediate return on our investment from the functionality on offer. Most of the tools in Hubspot are available elsewhere cheaper (e.g. Mailchimp, Google Analytics, Jimdo, etc.) which will enable us to develop our web presence using inbound marketing without having to buy Hubspot. There will however come a time when the time saving offered by having all these things linked together within one tool will justify us moving over to Hubspot.