A cookie-less future is quickly becoming a reality, and a growing number of businesses are scrambling to shift their efforts in marketing their own CRM, rather than targeting consumers based on their online activities.
Fortunately, there is an array of marketing automation platforms available — but not all are created equal. In this article, we’ll break down the three most popular automation tools on the market and list the pros and cons of each one.
If you’re looking for a new marketing automation platform, you’ve undoubtedly heard of HubSpot — it’s a pretty big deal in the marketing world. In fact, HubSpot coined the term “inbound marketing,” and then led a movement aimed at creating quality content that draws in consumers, rather than using disruptive advertising tactics that can frustrate and alienate prospects. Since then, HubSpot has evolved and grown its platform to be an all-in-one marketing tool, which includes social scheduling, email automation, in-depth CRM, service inbox, CMS, and more.
Is HubSpot right for your business? Let’s investigate:
- It’s pricey. As an all-in-one platform, HubSpot can cover your Google Analytics, Hootsuite, Mailchimp, WordPress, and Salesforce subscriptions together; however, you’re going to pay almost $900/month (HubSpot Professional) to get the basic features you’re likely looking for in HubSpot. Thankfully, it offers startup pricing options to save small businesses money and eventually upgrade them into the full subscription rate.
- Jack of all trades or master of none? It can be difficult to be all things to all people; with this in mind, HubSpot might feel slightly limiting to someone who’s acclimated with other similar tools. Sure, HubSpot’s social scheduling tool isn’t quite as dynamic as Hootsuite, and its CRM may not have as many options as Salesforce. However, the beauty of HubSpot lies in how everything ties together, from start to finish. So, you could either use several disparate software services or invest solely in HubSpot.
- Add-ons. We already listed HubSpot’s lofty price as one of its negative features. Well, HubSpot has three service verticals — Marketing, Sales, and Service — and each has its own hub you can pay for to get full access to. Marketing is the core product, which includes all the basic marketing features: full CRM, email automation, social scheduling, landing page creation, and more. Sales Hub opens up capabilities for tracking Deals and Pipelines and analyzing ROI towards every action. Finally, the relatively new Service Hub allows you to take care of your customers with support tickets, chatbots, surveys, a knowledge hub, and more. But each of these services requires different investments.
- Sales+Marketing=Smarketing. HubSpot’s worth lies in the fact that it does a great job of combining your sales and marketing teams on one software. Your marketing team can utilize HubSpot to find and nurture leads and then qualify them for your sales team to close — and all of that can be handled within the platform. Deals can be tracked and valued so every action you take has a direct ROI associated with it. When used properly, HubSpot is the only tool you’ll need — it will help you assign real value to your marketing efforts (finally!)
- Customer service. Any HubSpot user knows that its customer service is fantastic. Any time during business hours, you can call 888-HUBSPOT and speak with a customer service rep who can help. These service reps have an excellent knowledge hub full of articles that can probably answer any HubSpot-related question you may have.
- Easy to use. While some platforms can be a little clunky and/or confusing, HubSpot presents everything in plain English. Its platform navigation is simple to understand and its tools have fantastic UX. Landing pages and emails can all be arranged using drag-and-drop modules, workflows have a simple structure, and creating new or unique properties is a breeze.
Not to sound like a broken record, but the full-funnel capabilities of HubSpot separate it from almost all of its competitors. And while it may be a “jack of all trades, master of none,” HubSpot is nearly a “master of all.” Once implemented, there are practically no other marketing automation tools you could need.
Possibly one of the most renowned marketing automation tools, Mailchimp made a name for itself by pioneering the email automation game. Most other email automation tools on the market today have at least partially based their UX and structure on Mailchimp’s ingenious setup. While Mailchimp started as an email platform, it’s had to adapt to allow more features, much like most of its competition. But at its core, Mailchimp is still an email tool. Let’s dig into their positives and negatives.
- It’s a niche software trying to expand. Right now, Mailchimp is still predominantly an email marketing tool. Yes, it has a CRM, but rather than being a CRM for CRM’s sake, its main purpose is to store contacts to be emailed. It also offers integrations with ad platforms like Facebook and Google, a design studio similar to Canva’s, and a CMS that allows customers to design microsites for their products or services, but many of these tools are still in beta testing (i.e., there are some improvements yet to be made). Even its email workflow tool, Customer Journeys, is still a “new” tool, which seems surprising because other marketing tools have had this feature for almost a decade — and Mailchimp is an email tool, after all.
- Mailchimp is not always usable by large enterprises. With APIs and integrations for pretty much any e-commerce platforms and built-in email templates for abandoned cart emails, receipt emails, and other one-off automations, Mailchimp is a great tool for startups and small businesses — and it’s a dream for small businesses in the e-commerce space. However, for B2B companies and, particularly, for large businesses, it can be easy to hit the ceiling of what Mailchimp offers. With little to no sales support tools and limitations in the type of data that can be stored and collected in the Mailchimp CRM, it’s not the best space to build and nurture leads.
- Simple, easy-to-use UX. Mailchimp basically invented the drag-and-drop email creation platform, and because it tends to focus on smaller businesses, most of its solutions are pre-packaged and easily palatable.
- Friendly pricing. Unlike HubSpot, Mailchimp is a very affordable alternative, if you’re just needing some basic email automation capabilities. The Premium package starts at $299/month, and while it has add-ons and cost-per-contact features, these remain at a very reasonable price for a fantastic tool.
- Quality customer service. Mailchimp offers a very responsive online chat feature that allows users to connect with customer service via their own chat window. Service tends to be very helpful with a quick response time (often less than five minutes before a reply during business hours).
If you’re looking for an affordable, robust email automation platform, Mailchimp is the tool for you. It may not have as many bells and whistles as its competitors, but it’s a tried-and-true option that will continue to evolve with the market (so it’s only going to get better over time).
Pardot is an email automation tool that was bought out by Salesforce — one of the original online CRMs — and integrated into its marketing solutions. Here’s a rundown of their positives and negatives.
- Design and UX are not quite up-to-speed. Compared to Mailchimp and HubSpot, Pardot looks like an Excel spreadsheet. Functional and understandable, but certainly not pretty — and sometimes even clunky. Whereas most features on HubSpot and Mailchimp have AutoSave built in, Pardot often requires you to click the “Save” button after every change to an email.
- Pricing. Thought HubSpot was pricey? Pardot is far-and-away the most expensive marketing automation tool of the three we’re comparing today. Its most popular tool is $4,000/month for up to 10,000 contacts. HubSpot’s $900/month fee includes 2,000 contacts, and you pay an extra $250/month for each additional 5,000 contacts; comparing apples-to-apples, HubSpot would cost about $1,400/month for 12,000 contacts, making it the cheaper platform. That said, Pardot’s other options are less expensive and are typically only different in that they have quantity caps on certain features. Keep in mind that you should still have a Salesforce subscription to tie everything together, and that’s not included in the Pardot price tag.
- Customer service is… nonexistent? If you’re working with Pardot, there is no clear customer service channel you can use to get help. There are a lot of Pardot implementor companies out there that you can pay to get you set up, which is great, but not free.
- It’s the HubSpot for Salesforce users. Pardot is a decent imitation of HubSpot. Almost every feature that HubSpot has, Pardot also offers — except it’s directly integrated with Salesforce. While HubSpot does offer a flexible API for Salesforce and can be easily integrated, Pardot is actually part of Salesforce, so it’s a more seamless transition.
- Keyword tracking is included with Pardot. If you’re running a blog, an SEO keyword tracking tool is a must-have. Most companies resort to Ahrefs or SEMrush, two of the most popular options. However, this is a feature that’s included in Pardot’s marketing tool, so that’s one more subscription you won’t have to pay with Pardot.
- “Automation rules” rule. Within Pardot, you can create rules based on actions taken by people in your CRM. Let’s say you want to send an email to someone when they’ve hit the pricing page or score someone higher after they fill out a form — almost anything you’d want to automate can be automated in Pardot.
Pardot essentially has all of the same features as HubSpot, making it a fantastic all-in-one platform, particularly when integrated with a Salesforce account. However, if you aren’t already invested in Salesforce, it’s a very expensive tool and might be harder to adapt due to its clunkier UX.
What to Look for in 2022
So, which platform should you choose? As with all purchasing decisions, it boils down to what your situation is. If you’re a Salesforce user, you’re probably already seriously considering Pardot. If you’re a small business, Mailchimp is probably the best option. If you’re looking for a solid all-in-one package, HubSpot is likely the best choice. And, of course, there are far more than three options for marketing automation platforms.
What we’re sure of is that all of these platforms are constantly innovating and growing to absorb more and more tools. And if your business needs help managing or setting up any of them, Sparxoo can help. We have team members adept at implementing automation tools and standing by to assist you.