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HubSpot Review, Month 2: Loving, Loathing, Learning

hubspot-review-month-2-loving-loathing-learning

Our second month was less exciting in some ways than our first month on HubSpot. No tweets from HubSpot’s co-founder. No link in the New York Times. But, in one all-important category, our second month blew away our first! Before I spill the beans, though, let’s talk about what I’m loving, loathing, and learning in my second month HubSpot review. I’m going to do my best to be more brief in this review. No long-winded rants. No sidetracking. (Wait. I did it again.)

What I’m Loving

HubSpot’s reporting interface is deceptively simple.

There are several areas in the interface that let you create reporting on your visits, contacts, and customers, but I spend most of my time in the Sources report. At first blush, the Sources report doesn’t seem to offer much information, but HubSpot has packed plenty of interesting insight into that tiny frame. I particularly like the ease with which you can break out the information into visits, contacts, and customers. Select which type of source you want to see in HubSpot With a click of a checkbox, I can see my visit-to-contacts rate. Visit-to-contact rate in HubSpot

HubSpot’s Page Performance Tool helped me identify page loading speed issues easily.

See those red Xs and warning signs to the left of the page? Page Performance in HubSpot Review HubSpot identified that something wasn’t working quite right. Thanks to that insight, I did a little digging and found out that I am having real page load issues. Now I’m moving my site to WP Engine for hosting and using CloudFlare as my CDN to speed things up. Hopefully, I’ll have a good report next month that speed issues are gone. Page detail in page performance tool - HubSpot Review

The Calls-To-Action page shows how well these calls-to-action are working.

CTA in HubSpot Report

The monthly email report is clear and easy to share.

I receive this in my inbox at the end of each month. Email Monthly Report - HubSpot Review

Unique Visits

From Google Analytics, just wanted to show you how it looks compared to my “pre-experiment” days. Google Analytics - Unique Visits   HubSpot Sources - Unique Visits - Review Visits in December 2013: 2,095  Visits in November 2013: 2,296 The good news is that even though our total traffic was down, our organic traffic actually grew in December, even with the crazy schedule. Organic traffic increased in December - HubSpot Review

Leads

According to last month’s report, we had 22 leads in November.  This chart shows quite a bit more for the previous month due to two reasons: 1) It attributed a bunch of leads when I imported my email list from MailChimp, and 2) it seems that HubSpot updates previous months’ data when visitors become leads. (More on that in the “Loathing” section.) But, let’s stay focused. Leads are doing great! Leads - December 2013 - HubSpot Review Total leads for December 2013: 35 Leads for November 2013: Originally 22, now appears to be updated to 97. Response rate for December 2013: 1.7% Response rate for November 2013: 4.2% (this includes post-month updates and that email import)

Customers

Alright, so here’s the exciting part! In December, we were able to partner with one new client as a result of our inbound marketing efforts. We’re so pumped to be able to serve them and to become a part of their team. I’m so crazy excited I can hardly type straight. Customers Total Customers for December 2013: 1

What I’m Loathing

“Loathing?” Really? OK, let me clarify this right off the bat. Loathing is probably too strong of a word to use here, but it works so well with “Loving” that I had to use it in my title. (For some odd reason, I was reminded of this song. To get the joke, fast forward to a couple of minutes in if you’re impatient.).

After two months of working with HubSpot, I’m a lot more familiar with the tool. And we all know what familiarity breeds, right? (The right answer is “contempt,” but again, that’s too strong of a word… but it’s still a lot of fun to use.) Actually the things I’m loathing are probably better described as “annoyances.” So what’s sticking in my craw after two months of using HubSpot?

1. Data is NOT real-time.

This is not a big deal in the larger scope of things, since (most likely) you’re not making inbound marketing decisions moment to moment. But it does make staring at my dashboard in HubSpot slightly less exciting. So far, it appears that the data in my Sources report can be up to three hours behind. This screen shot is a little kinder than some I’ve taken. I hate waiting for data to update. Man, I hate waiting. The upside, though, is when I check my Sources report before quitting for the night, it never looks as good as it does the next morning. This gets my day off to a better start. I realize that’s kind of weird and may give you some insight into my psychological underpinnings.

2. Customers and leads are shown in past, not current, reports.

Customers and leads apparently get reported in the month they first connected with your site and NOT in the more obvious month of the date of their becoming a lead or a customer. Let me explain. We were able to change the status of one lead to a customer on December 31st. I was pretty excited to see a big “1″ under customers in my Dashboard. The next day, I looked and was pretty bummed to see this instead. Reporting customers in previous month - HubSpot review Huh? To make matters more “loathsome” (annoying), it appears that leads are attributed in a similar way. I’ll save the part about leads for another day. Let’s focus on customers. Now, I’ve talked about this with my HubSpot consultant, Kelsey, and she’s checked it out with her sources. She said that there was much discussion and engineering that went into making the reporting perform this way. And I think I understand that it’s an effort to help you better gauge the impact of your marketing by connecting the dots back to your first encounter with that customer. But, I would at least like some sort of option to view a customer either in the month they became a customer OR when we first connected. In my accounting software I have something similar to this. I can either view income statements based on what was billed, or I can check a box and view those statements on a cash basis, to see what actually came in.

What I’m Learning

More content equals more results.

We ramped up our content output to three times per week, with one of those posts being a “roundup” post. We realized pretty quickly that we need to create specific topics for those roundup posts for them to be helpful and also to help with organic searches more effectively. We are changing the format of that series for the next month.

Editorial calendars are really necessary.

We’ve developed an internal calendar that is working well for us, based on the tips that Tiffany outlined in her post about creating an editorial calendar in Basecamp. She’s so organized that I can’t help but look organized, too.

Buyer personas are critical.

Creating more focused content based on our buyer personas is working. (If you’d like to have a look at our buyer personas, just ask me on our contact page, and I’d be glad to share.)

Handcrafted emails are not quite as cool as handcrafted leather bags, but almost.

Email updates are working well for us to bring readers back to the site. Our click rates are staying pretty strong. We haven’t started sending many manual workflow emails because we only just now have our next offer ready to go. Instead, we’re using our email in a more traditional content marketing role by handcrafting emails and sending them out each time we create a fresh piece of content. Email click-through rates - HubSpot Review

HubSpot, WordPress, Gravity Forms, and Zapier create online marketing harmony.

We’ve tied in our WordPress website to HubSpot’s lists with Zapier and Gravity Forms. Oh. Yeah. It works pretty well, and only feels a little buggy. I don’t think that bugginess is HubSpot’s fault though. Once I can afford to move to the Pro version, I’ll actually have an API that I can use for all of this and it should be at least 27% more reliable. Yes. I made up that percentage. HubSpot - Zapier - WordPress - Gravity Forms

When offers match blog content, it’s a beautiful thing.

This should probably be obvious, but when you create an offer and blog content around the same things, click through rates go up. CTA Click Through Rate - HubSpot Review

I’m now bonafide and certified.

I passed the certification exams for inbound marketing & HubSpot certification. If you’re serious about using HubSpot, these certifications are a must. No joking. They’ve done an excellent job of distilling inbound marketing in their training videos. These exams help confirm that you paid attention.

You get used to spending a lot of time on inbound marketing.

I didn’t think I had spent as much time on inbound marketing as in December as I did in November. My time sheets tells a different story, though. I put in just about the same time month over month: around 40 hours. I think time is the single biggest obstacle for success with HubSpot for most small businesses. Inbound marketing takes a boatload of it, and to succeed, you’ll need to get creative with getting help creating content and mining this data for your next steps.

It’s a good idea to share what you’ve learned.

While I don’t claim to be a HubSpot expert yet, I am an eager learner. I’m also eager to share what I’m learning. We’ve gotten off to a great start using HubSpot, and that’s something I’m proud of, and also very grateful for. Overcoming the inertia to get started with inbound marketing can be difficult for all of us, so I want to share my “30 Insider Tips For Getting Fast Results With HubSpot” with you. Watch the video and benefit from our experience so far.


Lance Cummins

About Lance Cummins

It seems a little silly to talk about myself here, since I have a whole page dedicated to the minutiae that is my life. What more could you ask for?
  • Meghan Keaney

    I hope you know how fascinating and helpful these posts are to all of us at HubSpot! Thank you for documenting your experience. We are riveted :-)

    • nectafy

      Thanks for the cheers, Meghan. If my content helps somebody, then it’s time well spent. :)

  • http://www.sparkreaction.com/ Josh Ames

    Lance,

    Great update in month 2! Glad to see things are progressing nicely for you.

    I can share your frustration with the lead/customer reporting in a different month. I’ve went rounds with support and other hubspotters in the forum about this and wish, like you mentioned, that it could be left up to the user to determine how they want it to report.

    We just started doing a “round-up post” this month so I’m glad to see you have learned. I’ll be sure to put that into action going forward on ours :)

    Congrats on getting your certifications! Keep it up!

    • nectafy

      Josh,

      Yeah, I figure that I’m fighting windmills with my comments about the reporting, but I feel pretty strongly about it. Glad to know there are others who share a similar point of view.

      I’ll keep an eye out for your round-ups! BTW, I absolutely love you guys new site design. (For all the rest of you: http://sparkreaction.com) Very cool.

      • http://www.sparkreaction.com/ Josh Ames

        Thanks for the shout out on the new website Lance! It’s already been making a huge difference this month on the COS (or something) but leads and traffic are up considerably! I’ll have to share with you when we connect soon.

        • nectafy

          Awesome! I’m eager to hear.

  • Chris Fletcher

    Hey Lance! Thanks for sharing, this is really cool to watch.

    I think the time-consuming part is a great thing. Time-consuming things that produce a measurable ROI = job creation. Not only that, but it’s a competitive advantage because most companies aren’t willing to put in the effort. They would rather chase the latest quick fix than roll up their sleeves and consistently create useful stuff.

    Side note: WP Engine is awesome! I switched everything over to them last year. Also check out Synthesis – though Hubspot might already do some of the stuff Synthesis provides.

    • nectafy

      Chris,

      Thanks for commenting!

      I love your perspective on time-consuming activities. I think I’m going to mull that over for a while and see what ideas come from it. Thanks for planting those seeds.

      I have a client on WP Engine, and they’re doing great. They get a ton of traffic, run ecommerce, and it has been a great experience. So, now it’s my turn. When I started several years ago, I didn’t want to pay so much for my hosting, but now that I’m investing hundreds of dollars every month on HubSpot it doesn’t seem so crazy. :)

  • Casey Lockwood

    Again, Lance, a huge congratulations on your first marketing retainer customer from HubSpot. The first of many!

    • nectafy

      Thanks, Casey! I’m looking forward to helping them reach their SMART goals and make their investment with us one of the best they’ve ever made!

  • Kyle Hunt

    Is it bad that I can actually sing all of the words in the song you linked to? It’s my wife’s fault – I swear…

    • nectafy

      Haha! It takes a man to admit that kind of thing publicly.

      Just for the record, last week I watched “Pirates of Penzance” with my family and sang most of the words. Tomorrow, we’ve got “7 Brides for 7 Brothers” rented on iTunes movie. Yeah. I’m pretty hip.

  • Kelsey

    Congrats on another great month, Lance! You’ve shown, the statement “you get what you give” is especially true for inbound marketing. I know you have been working hard, and it is nice to see all of your effort starting to pay off for you. I’m excited to see what’s next!
    Also, loved your video of the insider tips. Everyone using HubSpot or even just considering getting started with Inbound Marketing should give it a look!

    • nectafy

      Thanks, Kelsey! I am thoroughly enjoying working with you at HubSpot. You have been so helpful and encouraging!

  • Samantha

    Why did you keep your blog on a sub directory and not move to the subdomain like they suggest (and push for)?

    • nectafy

      Because I already had my site built on WordPress, and part of this experiment is deciding whether it’s a worthwhile thing to move the entire site to the HubSpot platform. Honestly, in their training I didn’t feel like it was really “pushed for,” since a huge part of the functionality is available just through their tracking code.

      Thanks for stopping by and participating!

      • Samantha

        Thanks for the response! And you don’t feel that this has negatively affected your CTRs or anything?

        • nectafy

          Not at all. On the basic package, you don’t have Smart CTAs or anything like that, so there’s not that much difference. Where you see the difference is once you upgrade to the Professional package. Then there are some pretty cool things. I’ll be writing about that, once I upgrade to that package.

  • duncandibble

    Hi Lance,

    Great stuff. You are providing me with a virtual trial! I would like to know whether you thought about trying Pardot as an alternative and whether you are using a CRM integration?

    What are your thoughts on this?

    Cheers

    Duncan

    • nectafy

      Hey Duncan! Glad I could give you some insight into HubSpot. In fact, if you want, I’d be glad to do a screenshare sometime and you can get the full tour of the backend of HubSpot with my actual data. I’m an open book.

      I currently don’t have CRM integration because I’m on the basic package. I use CapsuleCRM, which I love for simplicity. I would connect the two with an API. For now, I’ll probably use Zapier so when a Middle of the Funnel lead is created, it automatically adds the contact to my CRM.

      I haven’t tried Pardot yet. I checked and it looks like it’s about $1k/mo. That means I’ll probably have to wait to do a full experiment with Pardot at least 10 months.

      Have you used Pardot?

  • Andrew Pitre

    Hi Lance, I’m the product manager for analytics at HubSpot. As Meghan Keaney mentioned, many of us have been reading and loving your honest accounts of your first two months using the product.

    Truth be told, I’m personally very flattered by your review of HubSpot reporting (even considering the “loathing” parts). Specifically, the fact that you’ve been able to measure and take action on things that you weren’t aware of before = big win. Calling HubSpot reports “deceptively simple” is also high praise as far as I’m concerned. We obsess over creating actionable reports that are easy for humans to understand.

    Now, the loathing…

    1) The analytics delay stinks. I will make only one excuse – it’s poor excuse, but it’s all I’ve got – we process a heck of a lot of data. Excuses aside, we are always working to make analytics faster and we balance that with other priorities like releasing awesome features.

    2a) To make a slight correction from your post, in the Sources report and the Dashboard, HubSpot shows leads (new contacts) by the date they first converted or otherwise entered your database. So if someone filled out a form on Jan 24, they would appear on that date.

    2b) You are correct about customers, in Sources and the Dashboard, customers are displayed by the date they entered the database, rather than the date they became customers. So in the example above, if the lead from Jan 24 became a customer on Feb 10, they would get counted in Sources on Jan 24. The reason for this is exactly as you described; to show you the impact of January’s marketing on generating customers.

    It’s also done this way to give you a “true” funnel. Let’s say, in January, you generated 50 leads and closed 5 customers, it wouldn’t really be accurate to say that you had a 10% conversion rate, because the 5 customers may not be a subset of the 50 leads. In other words, if the 5 customers closed in January were actually leads generated in December, then the conversion rate from your 50 January leads is actually 0%.

    All that said, I do happen to like your solution: make it easy to see both ways. That’s in the works.

    Once again, thank you for your amazing review and feedback on HubSpot. Thank you also for being a HubSpot customer.

    • nectafy

      Andrew,

      Thank you SO much for the clarification on this. Actually just yesterday I submitted a help ticket to try to get an explanation of the data delay. .

      In terms of the reporting, I totally understand the thinking behind your current setup. I’m also very encouraged to hear that you have a solution in the works for providing a little more user flexibility. That makes me very happy.

      The “deceptively simple” was absolutely intended as high praise. I think it is a sign of effective development when things are simple, and yet yield rich information. Love, love, love it.

      While I am really impressed with HubSpot’s software and philosophy, I’m even more impressed with the people like you, who are passionate about your product, and get involved directly with customers. That communicates volumes to me.

      Keep up the great work!

    • Ken Woychesko

      Hi Andrew,

      I am currently evaluating Hubspot (working with Kerry Dougherty) and I’m very happy to hear that Lance’s idea for the customer attribution date is in the works. Consider your example above: it may really have been the marketing and/or follow-up sales calls that were done in January that closed the customer — the December marketing may have just grabbed their attention, but it was your work in January that sealed the deal.

      Also, I’m not sure yet how the export of this data to my CRM will work: I may end up having to do manual changes in order to properly allocate sales to the proper quarters for quarterly reports or bonuses, which would put my Hubspot and CRM data out-of-sync.

      I get your reasoning, and the issue isn’t too big in a January/February example, but it could be huge in a December/January example, or what about a December 2013/December 2014 example? I may have attracted someone’s attention in December 2013, but only earned their business by Dec 2014 — 2013 is well gone by then so I’ll likely never see that customer on a report.

      Hubspot looks to be a great tool.

      • nectafy

        Thanks for chiming in here, Ken! I’m glad some other guys feel strongly about the customer attribution reporting.

  • Sara

    Hi Lance, Loving your posts!

    The CRM integration aspect, is of real interest to me. I come from a ‘corporate marketing’ background where as marketers we used vast in-house data warehouses and then requested data extraction, for email campaigns and lifecycle or trigger marketing. This data also informed broader strategy decsion making such as brand positioning and messaging and product refinement and generally to get a better understanding on what made our customers tick.

    As a traditional marketer now moving into the digital space with my own marketing agency, I feel certain that marketing automation and Hubspot is great for lead gen and nurture and clearly offers incredible training on content marketing but I am still unsure how down the track I can use hubspot for strategic decision making.

    I am really trying to decide what my agency ‘offering’ should be and if Hubspot is a good fit for me???

    I know that it is essentially a one to one marketing tool which is amazing, but how can I use it or what should it be intergrated with (and at what cost) to get the big picture info and inform strategy as detailed above?

    I would like to be able to deliver the ‘full service strategic marketing’ model using marketing automation for small-medium size business and want to choose the right automation, at the right price but also have the CRM capability/intergration aspect covered. Are you in a position yet where you can look ahead (whip out your crystal ball) in terms of CRM and Hubspot for the output of meaningful and reportable data for strategic decision making?

    Like you if I go ahead I will be trialling this on my own business first before unleashing it on customers and as such I need to be price concious in the roll out phase whilst also being aware of future capacity…Have looked at many other marketing automation companies but there is something about hubspot…

    • nectafy

      Sara,

      I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the data you receive to make “data-driven decisions” with HubSpot. They’ve done a good job of focusing on the metrics that really matter, and having a way to see all the interactions that your leads and customers have had on your site gives you a ton of information to make smart decisions with. I hope that answers your question. If not, feel free to add some details!

  • Casey Lewis

    Hi Lance. I just received our HubSpot Certified Partner badge yesterday. We are a Company located in Northern California and have spent the past 7 weeks immersed in HubSpot. As a website and SEO company I frankly got tired of trying to do everything manually for every customer and having a separate set of strategies for each. In early December we made a 100% commitment to the Inbound methodology and have been getting geared up ever since. Literally, we closed the business to prepare ourselves to go 100%. We partnered with an organization called New Breed Marketing in VT. Patrick Biddiscombe and Galen Dow have been an invaluable resource and we contracted with them to build our brand new SMART Sales Website™ that should launch today or tomorrow. In the meantime we have been creating content that should allow us to blog 4 days per week for the first two months. I have been watching your blog article in anticipation of our new start in the HubSpot Inbound challenge. I would like to post a similar blog to yours and hope you are supportive. I will definitely tell people about your blog and mention that it was my inspiration to do something similar. I have attached a screen shot of our dashboard today. You can see that as of this moment we have nothing really to report. So everything we do business wise will be as a result of our partnership with HubSpot. Sure hope all goes well this year.

    Casey

    • nectafy

      Congrats on the Certified Partner status! I’m eager to see your new website. Sounds great. Blogging 4 times a week should give you some good visibility quickly. That’s an excellent strategy.

      Thanks for sharing your data as well. I think open and transparent is the best possible way to learn and teach at the same time.

      I wish you guys the best! Feel free to leave a link to your experiment right here in the comments!

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