Today we're going to talk all about the question of whether HubSpot is worth it.
Now some full disclosure: My company SP Home Run has been a HubSpot customer since 2010 and a HubSpot Certified Partner since 2013. I led a HubSpot User Group (HUG) from 2013 to 2017 and was the first HubSpot Accredited Trainer (HAT) in Florida back in 2015. I was also able to purchase a few shares of HubSpot on the New York Stock Exchange during its Initial Public Offering (IPO) back in October 2014 -- held onto the few shares for a few years and got some very nice return on investment (ROI).
Okay, now that those disclosures are out of the way, yes there is a little bit of bias. Yes, these affiliations may make me slightly less objective than you might like me to be. But I want you to understand the standpoint of where I am coming from when I answer the question: “Is HubSpot worth it?”
Now there are a couple of different ways to look at this. And this particular episode will look at six different ways that help you to think through the conversation in your mind about whether HubSpot is, in fact, worth it. Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Component savings
- How HubSpot supports your SMART goals around revenue growth
- How HubSpot provides leverage through integration, stronger productivity, and more automation
- Why the value of HubSpot is limited to how you actually use it
- Barriers and quicksand with your company's leadership team and cultural battles that you might have to fight to determine whether or not HubSpot is worth it for your company
- How HubSpot really needs to be part of a bigger, holistic, three-pronged solution
So is HubSpot worth it? The first way that I tend to think about this is in terms of component savings: the individual pieces of software applications that are within the suite of the HubSpot Marketing Hub tools or HubSpot Sales Hub tools, as compared to purchasing those pieces together -- if you can even find all of them -- and stitching it together.1. Component Savings
Depending on how old you are, I don't want to date myself too much -- but when I first got out of college, during the early stage of my career, office productivity software used to be purchased in the 1990s, before Microsoft Office began to completely dominate, people bought software like Microsoft Word by itself. They bought Microsoft Excel a la carte if they just needed spreadsheets. Or if they were in a sales or marketing role, the bought Microsoft PowerPoint by itself.
You don't see that very often anymore. It's very difficult to buy those individual software applications by themselves anymore. And now everyone just gets Microsoft Office. There are a handful of different versions: Home, Home and Student, and Business versions -- depending on the size of your business. As a former content writer for Microsoft, there was a time when I tracked it all, but I can’t keep track of all of the different Microsoft Office versions anymore.
By the time Google Apps came around on the scene eight to ten years later or so, in the mid-2000s when Google acquired the companies that originally built that (Writely by Upstartle and XL2Web by 2Web Technologies) -- what's today known as G Suite, as opposed to Google Apps, the idea of buying a cloud-based word processing a la carte would just be laughable. Or a spreadsheet program completely by itself it just does that just gives your worksheets was practically unheard by then. And the same thing for presentation software or simple database software like the forms that you might use an in G Suite.
The integration was just really critical for productivity, getting through the learning curve, and the network effect of there being tens of millions or hundreds of millions of users that were standardized in the same format. It's the same way that fax machines would never have worked in the 1980s and 1990s if just a few people owned them -- in order for Microsoft Office, G Suite, or a file format standard like Adobe PDF to reach a critical mass or tipping point to be effective.
So why do I bring this up in terms of the question: “Is HubSpot worth it?”
Part of it is thinking about the component savings of everything being together with the all-in-one solution:
- Blogging software
- Content management system (CMS)
- Website hosting -- And not just inexpensive, ordinary website hosting that a small business with a cheapskate budget might buy. But more like industrial-strength, enterprise hosting with managed services built in that take care of security, patching, backups, distributed denial of service (DDOS) protection -- which is a big issue in today’s environment where there are all kinds of nasty actors in the world trying to crash websites and do all kinds of evil deeds online, content delivery network (CDN) that allows your website to scale and for the speed to always be there, and site wide secure sockets layer (SSL) in place so you’re able to show Google and other search and social platforms that with your secure assets that you’re one of the good guys, that you take privacy very seriously -- which let’s face it, in most scenarios today, not having SSL enabled site wide for all intents and purposes gives your website a search ranking penalty.
- Email marketing software
- Workflow automation software -- It isn’t just lead nurturing, but dozens of other capabilities from setting Contact properties, sending internal notifications including by both email and text message (SMS), adding Contacts to lists and removing Contacts from lists.
- Search engine optimization (SEO) tools
- Landing page /forms building software -- critical for conversions and reconversions
- Social media monitoring software -- so you can keep track of topics, hashtags, lists of customers, Twitter lists
- Social media publishing software -- so you can schedule your Tweets, Facebook status updates, and your LinkedIn posts to be published in batches so it’s a lot more efficient
- Customer relationship management (CRM) software with integration and closed loop reporting-- It’s really important for your sales team and everyone that's using your CRM software to be completely integrated and tied in together with your marketing automation software. Plus with HubSpot’s CRM you don’t have to worry about integrating with your CRM or how your closed loop reporting will be done. That’s tremendous piece of mind when you think about the component savings -- and answering the question in your mind: “Is HubSpot actually worth it?”
- Reporting tools -- that tie all of this together and make it easier for your to optimize and improve over time
- Contextual marketing and personalization -- If you’re really bought into the idea of inbound marketing, and you get the idea of remarkable content, being relevant to your buyer personas, being relevant to the stage where that buyer persona is at; the lifecycle stage of buyer’s journey stage. Contextual marketing and personalization are nearly impossible to without having the suite that pulls this all together. If you think that this is just a nice-to-have and that your customers care very much, that’s really out of your hands. Because of what’s happened on the customer side during the past five years or so, people have gotten used to shopping on Amazon and streaming movies on Netflix. And these platforms use artificial intelligence (AI) to learn what you like: what you’ve told Amazon explicitly that you like by your selections, micro conversion, and purchases as well as your implicit behaviors. All the things that we’ve ever searched for, but didn't necessarily click on -- all of those things inform through artificial intelligence a tremendous degree of personalization. And people have set their expectations of your website and digital assets in a way that’s nearly impossible without a suite like HubSpot that pulls everything together in one place.
Avoid Splicing Together Your Own Frankensystem
And just from a purely practical perspective of preventing aggravation, the need for Pepto Bismol, and premature hair loss, without a suite like HubSpot you're potentially looking at five to ten different:
- System logins
- Billing plans
- Contracts to contend with
- Ways of getting tech support
- Learning curves
- (Most of all the) Apps that generate their own data that doesn't mesh together
And when you are subject to that kind of thing, that's where things can really go off the rails. That's where you start sending embarrassing emails because you have your prospect and your customer databases sitting in three or four different tools.
Those kinds of embarrassments -- the wrong emails are being sent to the wrong segments, those emails literally can bleed money out of your business. They can cause your business to hemorrhage when you start to accidentally treat customers like prospects -- and you start to accidentally send customer-only emails to prospects. At the minimum, it’s missed opportunities. But it can be far worse than that.
On the very entry-level, when you ask yourself, “is HubSpot worth it?” with the component savings on the really entry-level...
Think about trying to splice this together and do this all piecemeal, with:
- Website CMS and hosting with managed security and managed backup services -- A very heavily customized WordPress hosting installation with a very premium type of managed services, backups, and security on top of that. If you’re thinking about how to get all of this together piece-by-piece, you’re probably looking at a minimum of $100 per month.
- Email -- In terms of your email marketing needs, forgetting about even workflow automation, just basic email service provider (ESP) kind of lead nurturing, you're looking at something like MailChimp and at least in the $30 to $50 per month range.
- SEO -- To do SEO with keyword research, analyze how your on-page SEO is being handled on your website, and analyze competitors, you're probably looking at something like Moz Pro Standard for a minimum of $99 per month.
- Landing pages -- To get your landing pages and forms, you do want to generate leads right? In order to do that, no it doesn't come by default. And WordPress doesn't do a really good job with WordPress and MailChimp alone with generating landing pages. Yes, you can put a form in there for an email subscription. But if you're looking to optimize a high-performing landing page, with a lot of social media activity and running campaigns using paid accelerants like Google AdWords, Facebook, or LinkedIn advertising, you need a really good landing pages tool. Either something that’s built into HubSpot. Or you have to go out and buy something like Unbounce Essential -- which is going to run you at least $100 per month.
- Social media -- On the social media side, if you want to keep track of what your customers and your prospects are saying about you -- and the topics they’re talking about. If you want to be able to monitor those conversations and schedule your social media posts to happen ahead of time, you’ll need to budget at least $99 per month for HootSuite team.
- CRM -- And oh yes, if you're not using HubSpot CRM you're probably looking at Salesforce Lightning Professional for $75 per user per month. And Salesforce HubSpot integration requires either HubSpot Marketing Hub Professional (from $800 per month) or HubSpot Marketing Hub Enterprise (from $2,400 per month).
- Onboarding -- Plus you have to pay for onboarding.
- Support -- Plus you have to pay for support in many cases because phone support may not be included on all of these offerings -- unless you're buying a pretty high-end expensive level of software.
- Training and Learning Curve
So when you splice all of that together, are you really saving? Doubtful. Or at least, doubtful that the component savings is anywhere near where you’d thought it would be.
And then good luck figuring out if everything really works together the way it's supposed to.
So those are some of the things to think about when you ask yourself, “Is HubSpot worth it?” And when you look at component savings.
And that's the predominant reason in my mind for why a lot of people end up with HubSpot: the integration that pulls everything together, best to breed, all in one place.
But there are other things, even beyond that, in terms of another criteria for addressing the question: “Is HubSpot worth it?”
2. SMART Goals Around Revenue Growth
Think about your SMART goals around your company's revenue growth goals.
SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timebound.
So look at:
- What your current revenue is
- What you want your revenue to be at goal (your revenue growth target)
- What that time frame is -- If you divide by the number of months, you know what kind of progress you want to see if it's going to be perfectly linear. Usually, it's not quite perfectly linear. But that gives you an idea of what you want to do to be on track and on plan.
- Average client lifetime value (LTV) -- You should certainly be thinking about your average client lifetime value. Most of the time people that think that HubSpot is expensive (and question “is it really worth it?”) usually have a problem where their average client lifetime value is pretty low, or there are business model problems, or their profit margins are in the toilet. If there's anything that's toxic or dysfunctional that's going on in your business, think about whether that is causing you to be a lot more pessimistic about your growth prospects -- and not investing in the tools that you need to compete.
- Average cost of customer acquisition (COCA) -- And of course, you need to measure your average cost of customer acquisition. When people are new to inbound marketing, you’be shocked at how few people actually pay attention to what it costs to acquire a new customer. And if you don't think that's a big deal even outside the HubSpot ecosystem, watch some episodes of Shark Tank. People like Mark Cuban, Kevin O'Leary, Robert Herjavec, and Barbara Corcoran rip into people who come on the show and have the audacity to not know what it actually costs them to acquire a new customer.
If you think HubSpot is expensive, you probably don't have that data either. But you’d better get that data. Otherwise, you may severely underinvest in the growth tools and platform that you need to be competitive.
So we talked about the value of the components: the suite and the integration. We just talked about the importance of thinking through your SMART goals around revenue growth.
3. Leverage Through Integrations, Productivity, and Automation
Think about leverage that HubSpot provide you, by being able to
- Integrate everything together in one platform
- Gain superior productivity for your employees that comes from being much better organized, everything being done a lot more methodically with stronger processes
- Implement automation that takes out a ridiculous amount of manual labor, so you can free up your team to work up on higher-level problems like strategy, building your sales funnel, and growing revenue -- and all the things, that at the end of the day, matter a heck of a lot more than taking five or ten times longer to do grunt work
So that leverage --- with integration, productivity tools, and automation -- frees your team up from busy work to focus more on revenue-generating campaigns.
4. HubSpot Only Worth It If You’re Going to Use HubSpot
Another big issue to think about, when you're asking yourself about whether HubSpot is worth it, is whether you're actually going to use HubSpot. It's a big deal!
You'd be surprised, you’d be shocked, at how often that ends up becoming an issue where people lack the confidence or the discipline to follow through.
And there are a couple of different analogies that I tend to use:
- Elliptical machine analogy -- If you think about what most people go through with New Year's resolutions, pretty much like clockwork the first three to four weeks of the year, every single year. I use the elliptical exercise machine analogy, or a treadmill or a recumbent exercise bike. You get a piece of exercise equipment. It's on sale for the New Year. It meshes up really with your plans to get in fantastic shape this year. And you're really excited about getting up at 4:30 a.m. every morning to squeeze this in. Because you know that’s the only time of the day when you can get a workout like this in. Or maybe 11:00 p.m. in the late evening. And your new workout routine is going really well for a couple of weeks. Then a pothole comes up. Maybe you get sick, or someone in your family gets a bad illness. Maybe you get really busy at work. And then two, three or four days go by. Then before you know it, a couple of weeks have gone by. And that elliptical machine no longer has you dripping sweat on it. It's no longer getting lots of strides per minute. No calories are being burned. And your elliptical machine is being used as a coat rack. Now, you don't want your HubSpot portal to become your elliptical machine analogy -- the coat rack, do you? So make sure that you're committed. And make sure that your company's really committed -- which we'll talk more about in a few moments.
- Swimming pool analogy -- Another analogy that I tend to use is the person that gets a swimming pool in their backyard. The family is really excited the first year. They're having all of their friends, family members, coworkers, and neighbors over for lots of pool parties that first summer. They just love to entertain. By summer number two, some of the people don't reciprocate so well. Some of the guests are kind of obnoxious, so you don’t want to invite them back. By summer number three, it's a really thin list of parties and days the pool is even used. By summer number four, your family has used the pool six times the entire summer. And you're like: what did we get ourselves into? The pool is now out of warranty. It needs repairs and maintenance. It's burning up a lot of electricity, and you’re not even using it. So this is again something that can happen with your HubSpot portal if you are not committed as a company to all the great things that can happen with your differentiation, thought leadership, competitive positioning, sales cycle acceleration, and revenue growth. So make sure that you think through the big picture strategy of why you're investing in HubSpot in the first place.
- Boat analogy -- And just like the swimming pool analogy, ask anyone who's ever bought a boat. Just like the swimming pool, your family is taking everyone out on the boat the first year. Every single weekend, every Saturday and Sunday, is completely booked up. Year number two, this maritime entertaining starts to thin out. By year three, you’re like wow; I can't believe we only went out on the boat eight times this year. What the heck does it cost us for those eight times that we went out?
- Summer home -- It’s the same idea with a summer home at the shore. Or a house in the mountains, at the lake, or whatever it is. So make sure that your HubSpot portal doesn't fall into the same trap. And the best way to deal with that proactively is to think through what your strategy is and what it all means, which brings us to my next point that addresses, “Is HubSpot worth it?”
5. Barriers with Your Company’s Leadership Teams
Many companies leadership teams fight this kind of initiative and resist it too much to get good value from HubSpot because they are living in the past.
The funny thing is; many of the same leadership teams are addicted to their iPhone or Android smartphone to the point where it's the first thing they look at in the morning, the last thing they look at before they go to bed. And they can't put their smartphones down. They’re driving dangerously distracted because of that smartphone addiction. All of these things that show that they're very clearly addicted to their mobile device.
It’s the same reality for how they use search engines. They're constantly looking things up on Google or Bing. Asking Siri questions. And every once in awhile, they even drift over to social media.
Yet for some strange reason, these folks believe that their clients and their prospects behave differently as if they truly believe that client clients are actually:
- Still using the phone book
- Still going to the library, using the card catalog, and paying a quarter of a page to print old newspapers and magazines from microfilm and microfiche (Remember that stuff?)
- Still using printed encyclopedias by the truckload because... well Wikipedia is just too much effort
The problem is: some CEOs actually believe this crap -- even when simple buyer persona research shows their old-school assumptions to be horrifically off base.
So if your company actually needs to go through that culture change, talk through these issues.
Because if you don't, these hangups will absolutely, positively get in the way of you getting good value from your HubSpot platform investment.
Many of these companies are also severely over-invested in sales headcount at the expense of marketing headcount.
In a world where 70% of that buyer’s journey is happening before somebody wants to talk to someone from your sales team, you don’t put the majority of your headcount in the last 30%. Your team payroll has got to be balanced more.
I’ve had these conversations many times with people and companies where there's not really a sophisticated in-house chief marketing officer (CMO), chief revenue officer (CRO), or chief digital officer (CDO).
And many times, the most cost-effective way to do this:
Look at somebody's who more digitally-savvy on your sales team and reallocate or reassign them to work more on early-stage types of problems surrounding traffic generation, lead generation, and sales cycle acceleration.
Why? Because just like a baseball team, if most of your payroll is sitting in the seventh, eighth, or ninth innings -- in your bench players and your bullpen, as opposed to your starting position players and starting pitchers, yes, your team is going to do fantastic in that really close seven to seven tie game. And you may even win a lot of games in extra innings.
But the way your team roster is built, your team won’t make it that far. The game is going to be a complete blowout by the time you get to the seventh inning stretch. Why? Because the other team is going to have a competitive payroll that they put on the field starting in the first inning -- when you send a bunch of glorified high school and college players onto the field who can’t compete at the professional level for Major League Baseball (MLB). Basically anyone presentable that you could pay with a bag of salted peanuts. You have to be able to spread the payroll around.
And it's the same thing in the world of inbound marketing, inbound sales, and HubSpot.
You can't over-concentrate or over-allocate in one or two areas and neglect everything else.
It doesn't work. Your sales funnel will end up collapsing as it becomes a house of cards. Make sure that your marketing and sales funnel is not built out of quicksand.
Most marketing teams are woefully understaffed and woefully underinvested with completely unrealistic expectations.
If you're chasing after vanity numbers on social media, chasing after journalists begging for quotes, chasing after analyst opinions, and spending thousands or tens of thousands of dollars annually on fancy cocktail parties, and booths at exhibit halls that run into the hundreds of thousands or millions a year, and swag, and ego -- and you're not obsessing about your funnel metrics, it's not going to work for the way the digital-first world is now.
This is where 70% of that journey is happening before potential clients are ready to speak with your sales team.
So make sure that your company's leadership team is not fighting this kind of initiative. Otherwise, you're setting yourself up for failure.
These are big cultural changes for a lot of old-school companies. So it's very very important to think through how you're going to go through this digital transformation and how you’re going to modernize.
6. HubSpot as Just One Part of a Three-Pronged Solution
The final thought that I want to leave you with:
Think about HubSpot as being part of a three-pronged solution.
- Strategy -- In order for your inbound marketing and inbound sales to be effective, to reach your SMART goals and get the revenue growth that you're looking for, the strategy has to be rock solid. And that's a lot of what we've been talking about in this episode; the considerations that go into strategy.
- Talent -- You also need the right talent to be able to execute that strategy. And that's easier said than done for a lot of companies that are brand new to this. What you're likely to find out: it's just like being the general manager (GM) of a Major League Baseball (MLB) team. The talent can be very scarce at the senior level -- people that totally get what they need to do to build a thought leadership program. Traffic generation. Differentiation. And realizing just how much of a zero-sum gain all of this is with competitive positioning, full funnel strategy, and sales cycle acceleration. So there's the strategy and the talent -- the team -- that need to come together.
- Technology Stack (Growth Stack) -- Besides strategy and talent, there is the technology stack. The HubSpot software, the HubSpot Hub portal, is definitely a big part of that technology stack. But it is not the only part. HubSpot is an indispensable part of that technology. But you better leave a little bit of budget left over for things like Wistia video hosting, GoToWebinar software so you can run online events, and SurveyMonkey so you can get a pulse for what your prospects and clients are really thinking. Plus things like LinkedIn Advertising -- so when your existing website authority, email reach, and social media reach are relatively low, you have a way to actually flip the switch with good conversions, to get the right people -- the right eyeballs -- in the right places in front of your premium content. LinkedIn Sales Navigator is also super-critical to arm your sales team to do social selling effectively. Along the same lines as LinkedIn Advertising, you likely can’t afford to wait for everything to build up organically. You need a way to get there faster. Google AdWords becomes really important, as does Facebook advertising and Twitter advertising. If this initiative is brand new and you really believe that you're going to write five blog posts, and clients are going to fall out of the bottom of your sales funnel, there’s a bridge for sale in Manhattan. Those are important components: Your blog is certainly a big part of this. Your social reach. And having good, targeted email marketing programs. These are all part of it. Think about 25 players on a baseball team. If you spend all of your budget on social media or website drone video, how are you going to build your entire sales funnel?
It is a three-pronged solution. Make sure that you think through the strategy, the talent, and the technology stack.
The Bottom Line
HubSpot isn’t just software.HubSpot is really the operating system (OS) to run your entire marketing and sales backbone, your entire marketing and sales teams off of.
Done right, all of this can be a game-changer that can drive revenue growth to the tune of seven or eight figures, or more, even for relatively small or midsized companies.
This can be game-changer for your positioning, differentiation, and for people finding your company in places where they're not going to find your competitors.
But to do this the right way, it is a culture change for many companies and the commitment is a big deal.
Many companies don't get it. They feel that this is just a marketing thing and they're going to by HubSpot and clients are going to magically fall out of the bottom of the sales funnel almost instantly with almost no effort on their part.
Again think through the elliptical machine, swimming pool, boat, or vacation home analogy.
Many companies are too freaking stubborn and too complacent to recognize just how much the world has changed and what their competitive environment looks like. And those of the same companies that are in big danger of disruption.
This is all about opening up new revenue sources from problems, solutions, and questions that originate on search engines and social media platforms.
So when potential clients are asking those questions, are they finding your competitors? Or are they finding your company?
It's all about thought leadership, differentiation, competitive positioning, full-funnel sales cycle acceleration, and revenue growth.
Is HubSpot worth it?
We talked about six reasons today why you should think through how HubSpot can be worth it for your company.
Look, it's not worth it for everyone. But for companies that are really serious about making it happen, the HubSpot platform can be a fantastic way to pull all of this together, get everything organized, and make it happen in a methodical, process-driven way.