Senior Account Manager
Posted on February 15, 2016
They all seem to offer, essentially, the same thing: results. But with differing prices and contract commitments, businesses aren’t sure which platform is best. And that’s a legitimate worry. When our marketing budget is on the line, we all want to get it right.
Based on our experience setting up and implementing inbound campaigns for clients on various different platforms, we want to offer you a broad, practical overview of the best options on offer, by comparing the two most significant inbound tools, HubSpot and Pardot, with a mention for SharpSpring, too.
Hopefully, by the end of it, you’ll feel much more confident about which platform is right for your business.
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HubSpot has changed somewhat in the last year or so and now markets itself as an all-in-one system for content management, social media publishing, analytics monitoring, and marketing automation. And to prove its claim, it offers almost everything.
Sign up and you gain access to a diverse and flexible range of user-friendly tools and content generators designed to attract more people to visit your website. These tools will help you to, amongst other things, quickly produce emails and calls to action, automatically create responsive and dynamic web content, intuitively manage lists, pull together custom analytics reports and forms, as well as try out A/B testing, prospect profiling and lead scoring.
HubSpot’s crowning glory, however, may be its exceptional customer service, with unmatched education and training resources, and amazingly fast and helpful responses to queries, both online and offline.
If anything lets it down, it’s that some features are missing from its basic package, undermining its affordability somewhat. We’ve also found that its reporting options don’t always offer everything we’d like, for example not measuring how well calls to action perform on individual pages.
Pardot was recently acquired by Salesforce and increasingly seems to be evolving into more of an advanced plug-in or add-on to CRM systems. It is, unsurprisingly, designed to be especially useful for existing users of the Salesforce CRM, and focuses purely on marketing automation, aiming to complement and enhance your CRM by putting some extra impressive tools at your disposal.
While HubSpot aims to do everything, Pardot is more about doing one thing very well. Its clean, simple, and skilfully organised interface is designed to focus users in on advanced marketing automation tools and help them navigate to and between key pieces of information easily. Active prospects are shown right on the dashboard along with the exact sequence of interaction they followed before converting – a great little feature.
And unlike HubSpot, Pardot has the added benefit of custom fields, enabling you to rename and reorganise conventions to fit your campaign. It also offers some very sophisticated tracking via custom redirects, and the option of automation rules editing that lets you change how contacts and content are scored, to determine their level of interest in your product.
Pardot claims to ‘seamlessly sync’ with Salesforce to quickly become a part of the system, and we’ve noticed from various meetings that this is usually the feature that persuades people to sign up to Pardot over HubSpot – they already use Salesforce and want to avoid extra hassle.
What’s a little worrying, however, is that we’re discovering that this syncing process, in practice, is somewhat less full of ease and simplicity than hoped. It’s worth bearing in mind that this seamless process still involves a manual export and import process, and using both systems still requires configuration and manual inputting, and mapping of contact fields between the two. This may be especially problematic if you have two or more teams or agencies who have different access privileges – an issue we’ve come across ourselves.
Social media tools and scheduling facilities are not user-friendly, making the process twice as hard as it should be. Simple styling changes are also harder, needing to be hard-coded into HTML, and you won’t get anywhere near as responsive customer support as you would with HubSpot, unless you’re prepared to pay for the expensive top package.
We can’t present SharpSpring as a major competitor to the other two, but we felt it was worth a mention as it’s a considerably more affordable option for small businesses – just a 1/10th of the cost and available on a rolling monthly contract.
It’s probably not a huge a surprise to learn that it doesn’t have as many features as HubSpot or Pardot, but it does offer a surprisingly robust set of tools, including automated email marketing, social media tools, custom field and data capabilities, CRM integration, and a neat little search tool. Its biggest drawback is that all website elements will need to be coded outside the system, but if you’re on a particularly restricted budget, it’s definitely worth a look.
Any one of these three platforms would offer a reliable inbound marketing system – in fact; we’ll happily set up and implement any of the three for our clients – but we can’t hide the fact that HubSpot is our personal favourite. We talked about our experience with HubSpot on our blog recently, and we’d be hard pushed to find a situation in which HubSpot doesn’t deliver.
Although Pardot does offer excellent advanced marketing automation tools, for general use, HubSpot feels better value, especially as HubSpot can also be fully integrated with the Salesforce CRM. Much like with Pardot, this integration may not always go exactly as anticipated, but with HubSpot’s clear guides and fast user support, we think you’re more likely to get help when you need it.
To find out more on how to integrate inbound into your current marketing strategy and how it can improve your sales and marketing efforts, have a read of our recent white paper; a simple guide to inbound marketing in the financial services sector.