How to Tailor the Best Options for Your Requirements

Recently a prospective client shared this perception regarding marketing automation – “Why is HubSpot so expensive?”

It really got me to thinking about the whole marketing automation platform landscape and how it has evolved over the past 15 years that we’ve been active in this space. In that time, the feature sets, platform choices and pricing options have evolved significantly – impacted both by new entrants and by a few waves of consolidation. So it’s high time for a holistic review!

First let’s start with an overview. What is Marketing Automation?

  • Email Marketing – this is what most people immediately think of when they hear marketing automation but it’s only a small part of a robust MA platform. Features include the ability to create emails and send them using a variety of list segmentation and targeting options. Also included are the ability to track individual engagement through Deliveries, Opens, Clicks, Bounces, etc., as well as aggregation of trends and performance over multiple campaigns.
  • Forms for Lead Generation – here’s where marketing automation moves into in-bound “pull” tactics that go well beyond traditional out-bound email marketing “push” models. A good MA platform integrates forms directly into the database so that contact information on new leads seamlessly becomes part of the database. Forms can be embedded directly in your website, blogs, emails, etc. so that you have multiple ways to drive traffic to them.
  • Integrated Landing Pages and Blogs – most top-tier marketing automation platforms go the next step to help you create and host landing pages for lead-gen and blog publishing to drive your messaging out to target audiences. These can integrate seamlessly into your website and/or be hosted on the MA platform using a subdomain.
  • Web Analytics and Contact Tracking – one of the coolest things about MA is the ability to see exactly what your contacts are doing when they visit your website. While this individualization is much more valuable than typical aggregate website stats such as Google Analytics, it comes with a caveat. The process typically sets a cookie on each visitor’s browser and tracks all subsequent activity – BUT – the tracked activity can’t be associated with a contact until they convert on at least one form in the MA platform. After that, you’ll be able to see all their previous activity as well as everything they do going forward.
  • Automated Workflows – MA platforms generally offer a range of automated workflow capabilities that enable you to create a variety of logic sequences and triggers to seamlessly serve new content based upon the actions of a contact. For example, if someone clicks an email link to download an ebook, you could setup a workflow that sends them a follow-up email two weeks later with link to a related webinar video. Proper use of workflows can boost your staff productivity by automatically taking a variety of such follow-up actions – without them having to manually do anything.
  • A/B testing, Campaign Analytics and more – these features enable you to optimize campaign performance by automatically testing different Subject lines, offerings, sending times, etc. With some platforms, you can even run an initial test on the email send and then, based on the results, the system can automatically switch over to the more effective content settings for the rest of the sending process.
  • CRM & Sales Process Integration – since marketing shouldn’t standalone separately from your sales processes, over recent years marketing automation platforms have moved toward tighter integration.

So, here’s a look at the Marketing Automation platform segment as regularly updated on

Having worked extensively in the marketing automation space for the past two decades, starting when there were really only about 3 to 4 players, I am sometimes amazed at the proliferation! I understand why many companies can be overwhelmed by the choices . There’s no way that we can cover all the platforms in this blog post, so let’s focus on the leaders.

The top echelon has long included HubSpot, Marketo, Pardot, and more recently SharpSpring. I can’t remember a time when HubSpot was not positioned in the far upper right quadrant as the leader in both market presence and customer satisfaction. With the other leading players undergoing acquisitions in recent years (Marketo by Adobe, Pardot by Salesforce, and SharpSpring by Constant Contact) HubSpot also remains the only pure-play marketing automation leader.

Now, let’s tackle that original question from the client about why HubSpot is “so expensive”.

Here’s a snapshot of current HubSpot pricing for their marketing hub levels:

If you look only at the Pro and Enterprise columns, it might appear pricey but these higher levels are pretty much in line with the other marketing automation leaders, and we’ve worked with clients using either the Professional or Enterprise levels who are getting great results and high value for their MA software investments.

But now let’s focus in on the opportunities of using the Starter level package to get a robust marketing automation program up and running with all the fundamental features plus cost-effective scalability.

Here’s a quick overview of what’s included in the Starter Hub:

  • Email Marketing – full featured email creation and sending, with ample list segmentation and tracking options
  • Integrated CRM – HubSpot CRM and Marketing Hub share a common database so sales and marketing stay in sync
  • Forms – create forms to embed lead-gen into your website and landing pages with direct feed into database
  • Automated Form Follow-up Emails – to provide visitors with additional content and deepen engagement
  • Live Chat and Chat Bot Options – enable chat on your web pages with integration to HubSpot database
  • Book-a-Meeting Calendaring – gives visitors and email recipients easy options to engage with your team
  • Reporting and Dashboards – up to 10 customizable dashboards with 10 reports each

Some of the features you don’t get in Starter Hub that are in Pro and Enterprise include:

  • Integrated blogs and web pages hosted on HubSpot Content Management System (CMS)
  • Automated A/B testing
  • Contact and Lead Scoring functions
  • SEO recommendations and optimization
  • Social Media Posting from within HubSpot
  • Behavioral Event Triggers
  • Complex Automated Workflows

We’ve seen good success with using Starter Hub for clients who need the core functionality of marketing automation with robust email marketing, lead-gen forms, and integrated CRM functionality. We can get them up and running quickly with everything they need for $45/month (prepaid at $540 annually) for up to 1000 contacts! Regarding scalability, the table below shows price comparisons at various numbers of contacts in the database.

It’s pretty clear that HubSpot Starter can scale very cost effectively compared to the alternatives. Plus, if at some point you need more of the higher end automation, workflow and other tools, you’re already part of the highest rated marketing automation platform so there are no massive changeover investments required.

Just a side note: the team at Resource Boxe has also been a Constant Contact partner for over 15 years so we’re keeping a close eye on how this best-of-breed email marketing company will leverage their recent acquisition of SharpSpring to add value for customers. SharpSpring is already a solid number two choice behind HubSpot and it may move up in future reviews.

Overall, Resource Boxe is agnostic on your software choices so we can help implement and manage a wide range of marketing automation options, as well as other software in your marketing & sales technology stack.

If you want to learn more about your options or just chat about Digital Marketing, click here to request a consultation or just book-a-meeting on my calendar.

Jim Hunt
Jim Hunt

Jim has executive level experience on both the client and agency sides, with deep skills in strategic business positioning along with creation of hundreds of targeted content pieces. There’s nothing he likes more than mapping out the intersection of new disruptive technologies and their optimal market positioning.