An Investment in marketing is an investment in the future of your business or organization. Why then do so many try to cut corners when it comes to strategy and tools? Marketing automation is essential to executing an effective inbound marketing strategy, but not all automation software is created equal. If a positive ROI and overall revenue growth is the goal, having the right inbound strategy paired with the best tools available is essential. While many factors are at play when making a decision, (cost typically being a significant driver), there are a number of things business owners need to consider before choosing the cheapest option.
Because of the effectiveness of inbound marketing and the growth of industry leaders HubSpot, many others have come on the scene claiming to do “the same thing for much less”. Very few, if any, actually live up to their claims. For the purpose of full disclosure, my agency is a HubSpot partner agency. With that being said, this post comes from my own experience using other tools to try to cut costs for clients and still achieve high results. While I have come across some great tools for certain projects, when it comes to executing inbound at the highest level, HubSpot is the only software I recommend.
“This all sounds really great,” the prospect says, “so how much is this software going cost me?” This is usually the part of the sales process that separates those who want to meet their goals from those want to feel good about finding a “cheaper solution.” In the beginning I was terrified of this question. Mostly because I knew that the number I was going to tell them would seem high and I have no real control over it. I don’t work for HubSpot, I just work with them. But after over a year of using the platform for myself and seeing my business more than double and seeing how the clients that have adopted it are seeing similar results, I am no longer afraid of this question.
A few months ago while working on closing a prospect I went for the “cheaper solution.” I should have known better, but in all truth I was afraid to lose the deal. I chose to try out a HubSpot competitor that claimed to do it all for a fraction of the price.
After shelling out $1300 in onboarding fees and $500 for the platform, SharpSpring gave me nothing but headaches. While the first few weeks went well, after the “onboarding” time was over things went downhill fast.
This decision nearly cost me more than the retainer in the end. Instead of getting what was promised, I got what I paid for; a cheap, buggy, unreliable automation tool that didn’t meet my needs or my clients needs. Not to mention that customer support was slow and pretty useless. Not only did this end up costing me thousands of dollars it also drained hours and hours of my time. Before choosing the cheapest option, take my advice and follow these steps for choosing the right automation software for your Inbound Marketing Strategy.
Inbound marketing is much more than automated email. Inbound is a full funnel marketing strategy that requires a focused approach through every tier. Each business has unique goals and needs, but there are a few things that are a must when it comes to executing a full funnel inbound marketing strategy. Below is a list of a few core elements needed to execute an effective inbound strategy.
The next step is to outline your goals. Start by writing down where you are now.
Here are a few good questions to research:
After you have a clear picture of where you are, project where you want to be. Think practically. While dreaming about a 50% increase in conversions is nice, the truth is that’s not likely. Here is a great tool from the guys at Guava Box to help give you a better idea of the impact of inbound. By ensuring that you keep your goals as SMART goals you will make sure that everything is measurable.
After doing this exercise, you should have a good idea of where you are and where you want to be. The next step is to determine how you are going to get there. This is where the rubber hits the road and if you are going to see the results you want, having the right tools for the job is essential!
When it comes to marketing automation, the old saying is true, “you get what you pay for.” As I mentioned earlier, I opted for a “cheaper solution” and got what I deserved. Now this isn’t to say that there aren’t low price tools out there that get the job done. In fact you can now start a trial with HubSpot on their free version. Everything you need to organize, track, and nurture your relationships with leads and customers.
With the free marketing CRM you can access:
As with any other freemium version, there are limits. "Email Send Limit" means the number of emails that you may send in any given calendar month.
As stated above there are some essential core elements you’ll need in order to successfully execute an inbound marketing strategy. HubSpot is often the company others compare themselves with and rightfully so. They are the industry leaders in marketing automation. If theses competitors want to compare themselves with HubSpot and claim they can do it all for a fractions of the price, then let’s compare.
As you can see, HubSpot offers a ton and this is just the basics. To pull this off on your own it will cost you on average $630 a month and you’ll still be without smart content and some of the other advantages with HubSpot. HubSpot Pro runs you $800 a month for every tool you’ll need to execute a professional inbound marketing strategy. It should also be noted that HubSpot Starter + HubSpot CRM starts at $350.
So based on what you get, let’s see how a few others compare.
Not so much “everything HubSpot gives you for less.” When you strip away the noise and look at what you get it an expensive email tool, form builder and a contact management tool. The one thing I did like with SharpSpring was their lead scoring, but I never got to really dig into it because I was too wrapped up working with support to fix the email automation.
To see a list of other marketing automation software and how real users rate them, check out this graph on G2 Crowd.
Choosing the right marketing automation software is key to running your inbound marketing campaign. No software is magical; it won’t build you a great strategy. That’s where partnering with an agency comes in. But good software in the right hands can help you drive more traffic, convert more leads and close more deals. Don’t make your decision based solely on price. Look at what you get and read reviews from real customers. Connect this all to your goals and make a decision based on where you want to be. If you have a more questions about why I chose HubSpot for my agency, please feel free to contact me.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on April 2016, and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and completeness.
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