Our HubSpot review: we’re in love
So you want to generate more leads? If you’re like us and almost every B2B business out there, it’s probably your biggest challenge and one that never feels fully solved. You might also have spent chunks of your hard-earned cash on telesales services, SEO agencies, PR agencies, exhibiting at trade shows, buying lists of prospects, sales consultants, PPC agencies; yet your inbox remains empty and the only person phoning the office is your mum.
The reality is that lead gen is never straightforward. It almost always requires a combination of channels and activities, a little bit of trial and error and a willingness to learn and improve over time. And a good lead gen strategy can also get out of control very quickly, with reams of prospect data duplicated across your CRM, your email marketing tool, your PPC account and your lead capture system. It can be impossible to get a solid handle on how well your marketing efforts are performing and to get a clear picture of your lead gen progress.
So when we came across HubSpot in 2011, we were intrigued. It sounded like the answer to all our prayers. But it wasn’t. First we screwed up the implementation. Then we found the HubSpot forms were screwing up our landing pages. Then our website crashed on a Saturday and we saw red. Within three months we were done with that tool. We gave HubSpot the silent treatment for four years, during which time we trialled two other marketing automation platforms, and HubSpot’s Boston geeks worked like crazy on their software. So when we called a truce and started looking at HubSpot again in 2015, we were more than pleasantly surprised. A lot had changed: we were a bigger, better, stronger agency. And HubSpot was a smarter, prettier and more intuitive tool. So we gave it another shot.
We think the results are pretty impressive: check out our integrated marketing case study to see what we did. But it’s still pretty hard to articulate why HubSpot is so good. But we’ve tried. Check out our HubSpot review below:
Simplicity and results
From email marketing to blogging, social publishing, CRM and analytics, HubSpot does it all. I cannot overemphasise the value to any business that wants to scale of having all these tools together in one place. It is crazy and impossible to try and run a real sales and marketing strategy off a number of different platforms (even with tools like Zapier available to make integration easier). You spend more time on exporting and deduplicating contact records than on planning your strategy and developing great content. When you get busy, all this list-management gets pushed to one side and you have to start from scratch again when you hit a lead drought in a few months. The grad you hired to get on top of this either gets lost or bored quickly and moves on to other tasks (or just leaves). You’re soon faced with a growing mess of data, incomplete campaigns and reports that are impossible to interpret, and before you know it, a year’s gone by, you have made no progress on your lead gen strategy and you’re feeling bruised from the whole process so you are cautious about investing in it anew.
If this sounds familiar, then you need HubSpot.
Through its suite of marketing tools, HubSpot offers a clean, single interface that enables you to understand how prospects find your business, become leads and then become customers. It keeps all your lead and customer data in a single place and, if you use it correctly, it provides really valuable information on each record. For example, when taking a sales call, you can tell from HubSpot how that contact first found your company (if they found it via search you can tell which keywords they used), which pages they have viewed on your website, how they have interacted with you on social media, which of your emails they have opened / read, and you can record a bunch of notes alongside that record so that colleagues can pick up where you left off.
This means your whole sales and marketing strategy is streamlined and efficient and clear – so you generate more leads. HubSpot’s conducted some research that proves this point pretty well: the average customer generates 6.12 times more leads within the first year after implementing HubSpot. At TopLine we’re a pretty good example of this – we’ve been using HubSpot for less than a year. We generated over 300 leads last year and grew by 29%.
There are some other features we just absolutely love about HubSpot:
HubSpot amplifies the ROI of traditional and inbound marketing activities.
For an example of how we use it: if someone lands on our site, we encourage them to download a good piece of content. To do this they will have to enter personal information, which automatically adds them to our HubSpot database (yup, all the forms on our website plug straight into HubSpot so we never have to bother with data entry people). This enables us to connect with them on social media and automatically send them material they are likely to enjoy. By keeping in touch with them (we do it in a nice, unthreatening way), when they are ready to buy from us, we are front of mind. And we slowly build up information on them, so that we can tailor our communication and services to better suit their requirements. When they do eventually raise their hand, becoming a qualified lead, we just pop them over into HubSpot CRM with the click of a button and they fall into our sales system. Throughout this whole process, the prospect could have heard from us 10-15 times over the course of a year; we’ve gathered heaps of data on them, yet we have never once had to type their name / email / phone number / address into our system. It’s all been done automatically.
HubSpot gives you control over your lead gen
Through HubSpot you can get a view of how the individual components of your marketing campaigns are performing. The software will give you micro and macro level analytics for every marketing tool and the integrated reporting capabilities are already set up for you, so there is no need to manually integrate or track URLs.
This is a long way of saying, with HubSpot, you can very quickly identify which of your amazing marketing ideas are working well, and which aren’t! You no longer have to just chuck a whole lot of ‘marketing’ at your prospects and then gratefully welcome every lead that comes your way. With reporting like this, you can take back control of your lead gen.
HubSpot is a dream to use
The old HubSpot of 2011 was a Mac-user’s worst nightmare. It wasn’t intuitive. Nothing worked for long, and it was just bloody frustrating to figure it out. The HubSpot of 2016, however, is sleek, sexy and user friendly. It uses one interface across all of its tools and even Devon could figure out how to work it. It’s that easy.
So you don’t know how to code? You don’t have to. HubSpot’s got it covered. Its landing pages, email and blog platforms are all mobile-optimised and a drag-and-drop editor enables you to easily change the layout of your site.
Is HubSpot the ONLY tool that does all this?
A lot of people totally buy in to the benefits of HubSpot, but then they baulk when they see the price. I tend to think they’re missing the point - £600 a month is an investment worth making for 600% more leads! But then again, I baulked at the price a year ago. Here’s the thought process I went through:
Can’t I just use MailChimp for email, Moz for SEO, Google Analytics for reporting, Hootsuite for social, Leadpages for forms and Wordpress for blogging?
Yup, you sure can. But when you add the cost of all those tools and the enormous amount of time spent moving data between them and the opportunities lost by not having everything connected automatically, you quickly realise this is just crazy thinking. True, each of HubSpot’s tools has many equivalents in the marketplace; but the power is not in the software components themselves. It is in the interaction between them. The HubSpot tools talk to each other. They share information. And in doing so they make the software so much more powerful than a collection of independent programs cobbled together.
Maybe I will try some of the cheaper marketing automation packages out there?
Sure. Do that. I did. And then I realised that you get what you pay for. If HubSpot is the Rolls Royce of marketing automation, Infusionsoft is the pushbike. It’s unintuitive, complex to use and a nightmare to manage.
There are other tools in HubSpot’s league. How do I know that HubSpot is better than them?
I’m afraid I can’t help you here. I know people who swear by Marketo and Eloqua, both of which are similarly priced to HubSpot. I also know people who have tried these tools (including HubSpot) and simply can’t get them to work. They are all worth investigating
My best piece of advice here is that it’s a good idea to go with the tool your agency knows and uses. That way, you’ll get so much more out of them, as they have learned the ins and outs of the system on someone else’s dime (think less time training, more time producing killer strategies and content). Marketing automation can do phenomenal things for your business – but it doesn’t just work once you’ve switched it on. It needs some skill, strategy and planning behind it. Go with an agency that can do all that.
You need a marketing automation strategist:
At TopLine we recommend HubSpot (did you not pick that up from our HubSpot review?) and here’s how we can help you get the most out of the software:
While HubSpot is a great tool, it is hard to master. That was my first lesson when we started using it in 2011, and I learned that lesson in 2015 again. You need to know what you’re doing to get the most out of it and it’s not easy to know what you’re doing. It’s easy to learn how to work the tool (like send an email or create a report), but the one thing HubSpot won’t do for you is design a strategy that’ll really smash it. You kind of have to do that yourself (or with the help of a good inbound marketing agency). The thing is though, strategic marketing people are hard to find. I’ve been doing this for 12 years now and I still wouldn’t say I’ve nailed it (I’ve made some damned good progress though) and I take comfort in the fact that I still haven’t come across anyone who has. Don’t leave it to a grad to sort this stuff out – if you want a proper strategy, bring in a proven strategist.
That’s where we come in. To get a comms strategy that will help your business soar, give me a call.