I started using Hubspot a few years ago as part of my digital marketing business. After watching a demo of the tool's capabilities, we decided to try using Hubspot within our company. We quickly introduced it to some of our entrepreneurial clients as well. I don't use Hubspot in my Philadelphia marketing consulting business today. I'll explain why later, but first...
In this review of the Hubspot platform, we explore what Hubspot does and how a startup or small business may benefit from using their software.
Hubspot’s message is all about Inbound marketing, a term Hubspot has rallied into a brand phrase. What does Inbound Marketing do? It allows you to turn your Website into a lead generation tool for customers.
What is HubSpot?
When I started using Hubspot, the central tools revolved around on-site organic search optimization. The tool would help you discover a dynamic list of keywords that you could attempt to capture with your site optimization efforts. You were able to track your competition's performance on those keywords as well, providing valuable insight into how their website's were positioned. Coupled with the website evaluation tools, you were able to quickly optimize a site for organic search traffic.
The Hubspot platform seeks to take the realm of organic search and digital marketing out of the hands of the Internet marketing insider and put it into the hands of the entrepreneur or small business owner. It has numerous marketing tools and tricks that allow a business owner to:
- Optimize keyword content on blog posts
- Track visitors and user engagement
- Analyze social media feeds
- Create and manage email marketing
- Nurture web leads
- View reports that measure the effectiveness of your marketing
Hubspot also supports their platform with a variety of training and advice. They have webinars, downloadable white papers, community forums and conferences that support the Inbound Marketing experience.
Indeed, you can tell Hubspot eats their own dog food. They offer free eBooks to their customer base on how to improve their marketing initiatives as a way to capture leads. A few worth noting are:
How HubSpot Works
Hubspot provides six categories of marketing software capabilities:
- Search Optimization – Hubspot’s first priority is to get your business found in search engines. Helping your business to optimize its digital presence for the search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing is where Hubspot got started. When I used Hubspot, I was impressed with the ocean of keyword data that I could sort through. Hubspot helps you with finding the best keywords for your business, prioritize them and use them effectively on your Web site.
- Blogging & Social Media – Social and Search work closely together today with personalized searching that draws on the rapid growth of people’s social networks. Hubspot provides the tools for integrating blogging and social media monitoring, as well as analytics for both, into your marketing efforts.
OTHER OPTIONS: If blogging is a central part of your digital strategy, bloggers may want to consider the popular Wordpress blogging platform. While it’s nice to have everything in one place with Hubspot, the number of plug-ins and the broad community support make tools like Wordpress a must-have tool for serious blogging strategy.
- Lead Generation and
- Lead Management - These two categories fall into the realm of the digital marketers' secret weapon of conversion optimization. If you are serious about getting quality business leads from your website and social media presence, you must pay attention to where visitors are landing when they come to your site. Application of best practices can dramatically improve your number of leads! Hubspot tools allow non-technical business owners to optimize the “Landing Pages” and to track exactly what people did when they visited your site. Before you call the lead back, wouldn’t it be nice to know which pages they read, which videos they viewed or which whitepapers they downloaded. Hubspot tells you all of that and more, making it a powerful lead nurturing platform.
- Email & Automation - like blogging, if you are looking for a “one stop shop” then you may want to consider Hubspot. However, the areas of Email Marketing and Lead Nurturing have really matured in the past few years and, depending on your needs, you might be better served by email marketing alternatives like Constant Contact, iContact or Mailchimp. Lead Nurturing giants like Eloqua, Marketo, and Pardot are worth considering as well.
- Marketing Analytics – Hubspot’s analytics are organized and focused on driving sales for your business. Understanding ROI by marketing activities and channels, running comparison tests (A/B analysis) and which channels get the best leads are organized into Hubspot’s “ full-funnel view closed-loop reporting”. This is a results-driven marketer’s dream!
Once again, there are big dogs that only do analytics like Google Analytics or Adobe Omniture, but those systems require someone who knows those platforms to craft the equivalent “conversion funnels” and channel analysis. Compared to Hubspot, those platforms are going to provide a broader range of analytics capability, but Hubspot trumps them on providing easy access to the most important numbers.
HubSpot in Real Life
While I used to employ Hubspot for my marketing clients and my company, we used it to manage landing pages and do our SEO research. More recently, I've come across companies who use Hubspot for the analytics and the drip marketing capabilities. Given the rich set of features, there are endless combinations of approaches to using HubSpot.
Did it work? Take a look at this graph of a client we launched using Hubspot for landing page optimization and search engine optimization.
Using HubSpot, we helped this client grow their monthly traffic from zero to 15,000 in roughly six months, including a comparable growth in leads.
We stopped using HubSpot when our client's using HubSpot took their marketing in-house. From a digital agency perspective, that kind of sucked. From the entrepreneur's perspective, this was empowerment - and they took full advantage of it.
We kept HubSpot around for a while, but it requires a monthly fee and, THIS IS IMPORTANT, it requires ongoing attention and time to work. When we stopped using HubSpot in late 2010, our small band of merry marketers did not have the time to justify the monthly expense. But the lesson here is that someone - whether an outside agency or your internal team - must be willing to invest the required effort to use HubSpot and keep abreast of their latest additions to the toolkit.
If you're willing to make the investment of time and aren't afraid of the monthly investment (see Pricing below), then HubSpot is worth checking out. Friend and colleague David Newman of DoItMarketing provided this review of how he walks the walk and talks the talk with Hubspot.
Hubspot has totally lit up our visibility to our target market, independent consultants and small professional services firm owners who want to grow. We are now much more findable, visible, and credible. We get between 3-4 leads per day through our Hubspot-powered website AND in addition to that, we get several leads each week via email and phone from people saying, "I just found your site and I'm calling to see how you might be able to help us." Working on both sides of the fence (we are also a Hubspot Certified Partner), it is now very easy to share the value with our prospects and clients because we were the first to "eat our own dog food" and we continue to invest in our own inbound marketing efforts as we help our clients do the same!
If you have the technical and business skills to use an online bill payment system (e.g. from your bank), online accounting system (e.g. Quickbooks) or navigate an online portfolio (.e.g from The Vanguard Group or Fidelity), then you can use Hubspot. Some Hubspot capabilities will require an investment of time to be able to use them productively, but there are a host of educational resources from Hubspot.
Hubspot support ranges across online videos, white papers, best practices seminars and an active and responsive community of marketers using the platform. It is an exceptionally well-supported product.
Why You Should Care About Using HubSpot
Bottom line: if you are a marketer for your company, this is the most cost effective way I know of to get multi-channel, agency-level marketing help with a DIY approach. If you can run an email marketing program, or can get around Quickbooks, then you can use Hubspot.
Using HubSpot requires an investment of time and money - and it requires you to adopt the HubSpot methodology and platform for a lot of what you do. Some companies, particularly larger ones, are better served by a collection of best-in-class tools. I believe HubSpot is best suited to startups and smaller businesses.
Try it out and let us know how it worked for you. You can get your free 30-day trial by signing up here.
In Summary: Our HubSpot Review Conclusion
While HubSpot is straightforward to learn and use for the do-it-yourself marketer, it does require a serious investment of time. In effect, you are in-sourcing your digital marketing agency. Be ready to get to work! If you do, the results can be dramatic.
If you are using Hubspot, please include your experience in the comments below. We want to hear your stories – good and bad! By leaving your experience, you benefit the whole community of entrepreneurs reading this review of Hubspot.
- Skip Shuda
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