After 3 Months Of HubSpot, I’ve Had Enough
You could say that the honeymoon is over.
I guess it has lasted longer than most honeymoons. Three months.
For the last three months I’ve plunged myself into a self-inflicted experiment to see if HubSpot really works like they claim it does. Each month, I’ve written an in-depth review of my data, my experiences, and my gripes as I’ve completely immersed myself in the “HubSpot ideology.”
I’ve been a good student (although I will confess that this past month I haven’t been an “A+” student, more like a high “B”) following the process exactly as much as I can. I’ve watched the videos. I’ve created buyer personas, landing pages, and calls to action. I’ve emailed and tweeted and shared. I’ve enlisted the aid of two Nectafy employees to help me create a ton of really solid content.
I’ve added 40 additional hours of work personally each month to the time I was already spending running my business. I’ve checked my HubSpot reports at least 127,238 times…a day. (OK, that last sentence was an exaggeration just for effect. Humor me.)
After pouring my heart and soul into this HubSpot experiment, I’m left with only one thing to say.
I’ve had enough.
I’ve had enough time and practical experience with HubSpot to say that undeniably, categorically, data-phorically, HubSpot works.
(Alright, you can hate me now for the tease.)
So, yeah, my HubSpot honeymoon may be over, but it looks like this is a long-term relationship that’s going to last.
Update – Jan. 2018
Since this page has proven so helpful to those of you figuring out whether HubSpot is a good idea for your company or not, we decided that I should give you a brief update on what our opinions are now, after using the software for several years. Meredith DeSousa, one of our amazing writers, interviewed me about it. We had fun.
If you’d rather read than watch…
Here’s what we said in the video. Feel free to scan.
Meredith: So after all this time, we know that you’re still using HubSpot, so we know that you still like it, but I thought it would be interesting if we went back and looked at some of the issues you had with it in the early days, and see maybe if you feel any differently about those things now.
You had mentioned the “reporting love” in your first post. You really liked the monthly recap emails. They came with an attached PowerPoint report. You actually labeled them “cool” and “very cool” in your post, so first of all, are they still the same now as they were then, or have they evolved from what they were?
Lance: They are still. As I understand it Meredith, they’re still the same, and here’s the caveat for some of my comments today, and that is, obviously as we’ve grown as a company, I have involved other people in our company in getting some of those notifications, so I don’t always see them, so something could have slipped past me, so I’m going to go based on what I know, and what we’ll do is, if I say something really stupid or something that’s not accurate, we will interview somebody on our team who knows accurately and we’ll add them in here.
As far as I know, they’re still the same, still helpful. I don’t look at them near as often, unfortunately probably, but I think it’s a really great way, a summarized way, to see a snapshot of what’s going on for your company, and if you haven’t been on HubSpot or a platform like that before, getting that high level data regularly sent to you will really change your perspective about the traffic, leads activity from your website.
Meredith: Okay, and in that original post, you had mentioned something about time delays on reporting. I don’t know if you remember that?
Do you think that’s improved at all?
Lance: Yeah, it definitely has improved. When we started working with them 3-4 years ago now, HubSpot was in a rapidly scaling place in their infrastructure, and I found this out, I’ve talked to some people at HubSpot to understand. Essentially, they onboarded a lot of people and, I’m not going to say the hardware, because I realize it’s cloud-based, but literally the things that drive that platform, they were still trying to sort out, so they’ve done a really good job of sorting that out.
There are still occasional down times, which is true of any SaaS software, but they seem to have addressed that, because obviously it’s a critical need. If your whole platform, if your website, all the analytics, all of the reporting and everything is based in the cloud, it better have a really really high up time so it doesn’t impact your company, so I think they’ve worked on that, done a good job of improving it.
Meredith: Okay, and along that line is you had also mentioned something about data inaccuracies, just a little bit, it didn’t seem like it was a huge deal, but your calls to action didn’t seem to be consistently showing the right data. At the time, you thought maybe it wasn’t actually a problem with the software, but maybe just challenges with tracking in general.
Lance: I think we can chalk that one probably up to user error. In the technical world, sometimes it’s the software, but 90-something percent of the time, it’s the user, so chances are we just didn’t have it labeled correctly, or we didn’t have it embedded correctly, so I’ll have to give them a pass on that one.
Meredith: Okay. That’s good of you, all right. How do you feel about the price of HubSpot, the price of using it compared to the value you get out of it?
Lance: Yeah, so this is an interesting one, right? We have been on HubSpot as a company for four years about. I think that’s right. It was a huge step financially for us to go onto the platform. We went in on the basic package, which was $200 then. It’s actually still the same price as I understand it four years later, so just that concept alone is fairly interesting, that in four years, they haven’t raised their rates on the tiers of those packages. Basic was $200, Professional was $800, Enterprise was something, I think it’s $2,400 now. I wouldn’t even look at Enterprise back then, but even so, at $200 a month, it was a big chunk of change for us.
We pretty quickly moved to Professional, I think probably in month eight or nine, we moved to Professional, and $800 a month, plus paying for your contacts, seemed really really steep, but here’s what I’ve found out since I’ve written that article, and I’ve done other research: There are plenty of other marketing platforms out there, and some of them are really cheap comparatively, maybe half the price, but some are ridiculously more, and I don’t mean ridiculously because they shouldn’t charge more. It’s just the way their pay structure is set up, so for instance, Marketo I’m aware of now is actually a much higher priced product. They’ve got probably more advanced technology in some areas, but for what we’re talking about reporting on, having the visibility into your website, seeing lead activity within the timelines, it syncing over to a CRM, I think probably my opinion is now is at that $800 a month mark, you’re actually getting quite a bit of value for that price point.
It’s expensive still. If you’re a one or two person shop, that’s a big chunk of change. One thing they did, by the way, that’s interesting is they’ve created a plug-in for WordPress called LeadIn. We’ll have to verify this, and I’ll take a look before I publish this, but the plug-in itself gives you HubSpot lite capabilities within your WordPress, and it’s free, so that would be a really interesting first step for somebody who’s struggling with the price point of that platform, but I think once you get to the point where we’re at with traffic and the leads, and we understand how that filters down to the bottom line, paying $800, 900, 1000 a month for your marketing platform is probably a pretty good value.
Meredith: One of the things that you requested in your original blog post that I believe has actually come true is the ability to do A/B testing on emails.
Lance: I’m not necessarily sending emails out for our company, but I do know that we have used it, because Gabby occasionally has done an A/B test on a subject line before we send it out to our list, and so that’s really cool that they’ve given us that. To be fair, we are not great measurers of that, because our list is only maybe four or five, six thousand people, so if you were an e-commerce company that had 100,000, it would really be valuable, because basically A/B tests which subject line gets more opens, and then it sends the rest of the email with that subject line to the rest of the list, so that’s a really good feature. I’m glad they brought that done to the Professional level.
Meredith: Good. In the comments section of that article, which there are a lot of comments, some people did point out that HubSpot is essentially an analytics tool. Do you feel though that it has actually helped improve business performance since you’ve been using it, rather than just being an analytical measurement tool?
Lance: The short answer is absolutely, and I think it’s because, when you have insight into things that you didn’t have insight before, and it’s in a really simple to understand, easily digestible format, it impacts how you think and what you value, so I think with HubSpot, I would disagree that it’s primarily an analytics tool. I think analytics is a piece of it, but you have the analytics side. You have the actual automation piece, which is sending emails based on user behavior, getting to see user activity, which is on the border between analytics and sales.
I think the entire thing though, having a window into everything that’s going on with your website and the communication that you’re sending out changes how you think about the content on your site, the emails that you send, how you address a prospect in the sales call, and if you think about that, those are fundamentals of business performance. Changing how you do sales is a fundamental of business health. It’s been huge for us, so it’s far more than just analytics, and I’m sure there are other platforms that are probably as wonderful. This is our experience with HubSpot is that it has radically changed how we do business.
Meredith: Excellent. Okay, so this is my last question. At the time of the original post, we noted that it was the end of the honeymoon phase kind of thing and the beginning of what you thought would be a longterm relationship, but something always comes up after the honeymoon phase that you didn’t expect, like people leaving their dirty socks all over the place.
Lance: I haven’t personally experienced that, but I’ve heard that that’s true.
Meredith: It is true. Have you discovered anything about HubSpot since then that maybe surprised you or is a little bit annoying or either way?
Lance: That’s a good question. It’s a good question.
There’s a long answer, and that surprises you, I’m sure. I’m going to say a couple of things. First of all, I have been pleased with what I have experienced in terms of HubSpot’s responsiveness to a customer, so we’re a HubSpot partner, but we’re also a customer. We pay them money to use the platform. We don’t get any special breaks on pricing or anything like that, so we’re a customer, and what I’ve seen is, like I mentioned before about the timing of the report data and all of that, I think what happened early on is they achieved success quickly and probably didn’t have the infrastructure to match it, and to their credit, I think that they have worked very hard to try to get that infrastructure in place, and I think overall, they’ve done a really good job of that. They’ve gotten the right support people involved, maybe the support tiers. Obviously this is above my pay grade. I don’t know how to organize a company of that size, but it seems to me like they’ve put effort into making that happen.
There are still aspects of their platform that I think tend to frustrate me a little bit, especially when I understand where they’re trying to go in the marketplace. The challenge with their API is that it’s good, it’s very easy to use, I don’t think it exposes enough data that they have in their database to be super useful, like we’re struggling. One client really wants to access certain things, they haven’t made it available, but the part that’s I think more frustrating to me is that they have certain caps on the number of times that you can hit the API, and obviously they have to have that, because it’ll just blow up their API if they don’t. I think there should be some way that they can scale that or somehow be more flexible, because we’re ending up, especially with one client, that they’re hitting that API threshold too often, and it’s creating errors, which then just frustrates our client because they’re not getting the data that they need and so forth.
To me, that’s a mindset that they’ve got to address, because if you say, “We’re opening up this API so that you can build on all these platforms,” that needs to be super user friendly and not frustrating to the end user.
Meredith: Do you think that’s unusual to HubSpot?
Lance: I don’t know that it is. I will say I’ve not run into this on other APIs, but I’m not sure I’ve really pushed other APIs to the limit, so I’m not an API expert by any means, but the times that I’ve used an API, that hasn’t been an issue.
And just one other thing real quick, because I think this is important, is I think HubSpot has developed over the years. Henry has written about this. I’m a little concerned that, as a part of their means to monetize, they’ve got to prove to their shareholders that they’re profitable or will be profitable in the future. They’re not profitable yet, but they’re working on it. They have gone wide rather than deep into the marketing automation piece, so they went to marketing automation, then they added sales which I think is smart, that’s good, but now you’ve got two really huge things and you can’t be quite as deep on either one. Then they’ve added this support side of things, or they’re trying to, so they’re trying to become an all-in-one manage your business tool.
The challenge there though is, unless you build out every possible feature across those three things, users will still need to have some other platform or two to run it, and then you’re dealing with, “I don’t have the best in class of any of those three pieces,” you know what I’m saying?
Meredith: Yeah, I see what you’re saying.
Lance: So that’s their business choice, and again, they’re way smarter than I am, so I’m not trying to tell them how to run their business. It’s just, as a user, that concerns me just a little bit. I had hoped that this was going to become a really laser focused marketing automation platform, maybe with some sales support, but it looks like they’re really trying to go wide with it.
Original Post from Feb. 14, 2014
But enough of my own opinions. Here’s the data for January 2014, so you can draw your own conclusions.
Let’s dive into data.
That crazy spike on January 24 was from my, What Is Content Marketing? You’re Thinking Of It Backwards, post. Thanks to everybody who shared it out there! That was a fun day to watch the reports. That day, we had our highest visits since we started this HubSpot experiment.
Visits in January 2014: 3,036
Visits in December 2013: 2,095
That’s a 45% increase month over month for all visits, and represents 457% growth from the month before we started our experiment.
But here’s the exciting part, organic search was up huge! How huge? How about a 95% growth over December?
Leads for January 2014: 50
Leads for December 2013: 36
That’s a 39% increase month over month. We learned some interesting things about our visits to leads conversion rate when we looked at these reports. Organic search converted at 3.2% while social media converted at .7%. That’s much more dramatic than it’s been in the past months. We’re going to keep an eye on that.
We didn’t gain any customers via inbound marketing activity this month. But we did gain customers offline. And all of my marketing is focused on inbound, so I feel like inbound marketing gets an “assist” for any new customer.
We did, however, gain two customers off-line, and we’re tracking that in HubSpot as well. I just check the “Show Offline sources” box, and this is what we show.
Customers in January 2014: 2
Customers in December 2013: 1
Even though inbound marketing didn’t directly convert these customers, I’m pretty pleased with how our pipeline is looking. It’s a critical factor to determine how much capacity your sales team and your production team has when you’re attempting to onboard new customers. As a small inbound marketing agency, we don’t need tons of new customers every month. We just need a steady stream.
More reporting love.
I’ve already shown in my past posts about how useful HubSpot’s reporting is. Today, I just want to show off a little email that they send you at the end of the month that’s really simple, and very cool. First, as I’ve shown before, you get a recap email with highlights of your work. (I am just a touch confused why those lead numbers don’t match up…but I digress.) But, this month, I actually downloaded the Powerpoint, and I was pleasantly surprised. It’s kind of nice!
Here are the slides from the PowerPoint.
Not a bad little presentation, with zero effort from me!
I really wanted to show off some pretty cool stuff that you can see about contacts, but I’m going to save that for another day.
Yeah, but it can’t be all flowers and candy.
Of course, I can’t say that my third month on HubSpot has been free from troubles. But really, what relationship can say that?
- I am getting more and more concerned with the time delays on reporting. Last month I complained about this, but I think it’s getting more serious. I contacted tech support, and they were super helpful. They confessed that they’re dealing with very large amounts of data, so updating that data becomes more time consuming. I can understand that. But a company that is all about data needs to take some pretty serious steps to guarantee scalability as more and more people find out about HubSpot. The data is only going to increase. So, as pathetic as this seems, I beg whoever can do something about it there at HubSpot, “Please do something to improve reporting update times. Pretty please?”
- Some of my calls-to-action don’t seem to be consistently showing the right data. I’m chalking that one up to my insistence on using WordPress as my site instead of the HubSpot COS. Still, I don’t think should be a problem.
- There was a snag with reporting on my biggest traffic day ever. It wasn’t because I overloaded the circuits or anything, but for some reason, the reporting showed hardly any email response, and instead attributed it to direct traffic. That just means that my email numbers are all off now, which kind of stinks. When I contacted support, again they were very helpful, but the only explanation they could find is that I must have changed some core settings. I did not touch any of the settings, so now I’m a little jumpy.
- I had to increase my pricing plan to $300/mo because of exceeding the 100 contacts level. I’m not one to question their pricing strategies, but limiting the basic plan to only 100 contacts seems a little stingy to me. But I probably should just shut my mouth at this point. It looks like based on my traffic volume and email sends, I’m going to be pushed into that $800/mo professional plan sooner than I expected. I guess this traffic is a double-edged sword. I guess if you have to have problems, these are the right ones to have.
- I’ve been really antsy to do A/B testing on our email marketing, but sadly, HubSpot doesn’t offer that even if I dish out $800/mo for the professional plan. Aw, man. (Ooh, I have an idea for HubSpot movers and shakers. Could you make email A/B testing a purchased add-on?)
My very brief explanation of why HubSpot works.
HubSpot is a very efficient tool for doing inbound marketing. It’s high-quality equipment.
Think about a professional golfer for a minute. Sure, he could use rusty old clubs and still beat me any day. Heck, he could use a baseball bat out there and beat me easily. But you notice that those professionals use professional equipment. It lets them focus on what they need to focus on. That’s what HubSpot does. It delivers results because you become efficient in inbound marketing. Yes, you can cobble together tools for cheaper, but the best tools will always work better.
Looking toward the future.
I’m excited to “settle in” with HubSpot and see how I can implement the tools into my ongoing marketing efforts. Plus, I’m working on upgrading our internal sales process so we can help move leads to customers. I know I still have much to do with our website to explain what we do, and make the path more clear. And, we’re working like crazy on producing more offers and content that our buyer personas care about.