Marketing software is key to creating successful marketing campaigns. In a digital landscape that values efficiency, any online marketing company just cannot afford to perform manual procedures anymore. Paired with smart strategies and digital marketing best practices, marketing software can boost your leads, supercharge your conversions, and increase sales.
Needless to say, it’s essential that you make the right investment.
Two of the most well-known and preferred marketing software options for small to medium-sized businesses are HubSpot and SharpSpring.
Both perform a similar function in integrating and streamlining marketing tasks, combining SEO content creation, email automation, paid ads, and other inbound and outbound marketing tactics in an easy-to-use interface. However, there are some differences between the two that you definitely should consider.
Below we outline an honest, ‘real deal’ comparison between HubSpot and SharpSpring, to help you make the right choice for your business.
What Is It & How Does It Work?
HubSpot is perhaps one of the more well-recognized names in inbound marketing. In fact, it is often referred to as the industry leader in marketing automation. It launched way back in 2006 and has since made huge waves in the marketing landscape.
Since its inauguration, it has revolutionized the concept of inbound marketing almost singlehandedly, introduced the industry to fresh perspectives and great advice from marketing experts, and created an overall powerful knowledge and tech resource for marketers and business owners from all backgrounds.
As a website, HubSpot is a treasure trove of news and advice. As a marketing platform, it is a powerful and diverse tool with literally everything a business or online marketing company needs to market effectively.
HubSpot: The Pros
- Reliable & Knowledge-Based. Founded way back in 2006, HubSpot has a long history of being a steady, reliable source of inbound marketing tips, tricks, and resources. Besides being a marketing platform, HubSpot’s blog is chockfull of news, insights, and perspectives for both new and veteran marketers to use.
Long story short; HubSpot is incredibly trustworthy.
- Extensive FREE CRM. This one is a definite win. HubSpot CRM is jam-packed with all the essentials any digital marketing company or small business—especially a new startup—would need for customer management. It allows you to track leads and customers, chat with prospects real-time, integrate important email clients like Gmail and Outlook, add team profiles, and aggregate communications from social media … for no cost at all.
That’s pretty hard to beat.
- Complete, All-In-One Solution. As a marketing platform, HubSpot is undeniably one of the more comprehensive and all-inclusive options out there. Its flagstone “hub” offers—Marketing Hub, Sales Hub, Service Hub—coupled with its free CRM make HubSpot the top choice for many businesses in many industries. Its selling point lies in its broad scope of marketing tools capable of handling a broad scope of marketing tasks.
- Easy-to-Use. HubSpot is by far one of the simplest, most straightforward platforms in the market. It’s navigable, easy to understand, and offers a ton of support for those still learning the ropes. Streamlined and straight-to-the-point, this marketing platform cuts through the unnecessary fluff—that other platforms often mistakenly leave in—to deliver solutions that are clear-cut and easy to implement.
A tool that delivers results without requiring the user to jump through multiple hoops is a refreshing change of pace.
- Intuitive & Integrative. HubSpot is also known for how easily it integrates with other marketing and communication tools. Although it does prioritize proprietary platforms, you can still get it to work seamlessly with a myriad of other CMS and CRM platforms. Not a lot of products in the market offer this level of third-party integration.
- HubSpot Academy. This is the reason HubSpot is recognized as the worldwide leader in “free online training” for everything related to inbound marketing. HubSpot Academy is an online resource that offers practical courses and comprehensive certifications—for FREE.
Through the Academy, HubSpot hopes to educate users on all things marketing, from content to social media to SEO. They have an extensive lineup of industry experts ready to teach all sorts of courses, like Inbound Marketing and Inbound sales.
HubSpot: The Cons
- Steep Scaling. Compared to SharpSpring, HubSpot Marketing Hub may seem like the more affordable option with a setup fee of $600 and basic starting price of $50 a month (roughly $600 a year, plus setup fee for the first year).
However, it scales exponentially. The jump from the Marketing Hub Starter to Marketing Hub Professional is literally 16x the price! The same can be said for all levels of Marketing Hub. The add-ons can also bump the price up quite a bit, ranging from $500 a month for another 2,500 contacts to $10,200 a month for 100,000 contacts.
- Proprietary CMS. HubSpot encourages customers to use their CMS platform for landing pages, forms, and other content creation such as blogs. However, most customers prefer to use other open source platform CMS like WordPress for several reasons—one being that they can easily house their website and blog all in one domain (i.e. leadsngin.com and leadsngin.com/blog).
This is not the case for HubSpot. With their CMS, you would have to house your blog and landing pages on a subdomain—i.e. (blog.leadsngin.com and offer.leadsngin.com).
If you’re happy with your HubSpot subscription, this isn’t much of a problem. But if you’re ready to move on or try other platforms, you’d have to migrate all of your past and current content to a new website or CMS. And although they do have an export option—to make moving content easier—they cannot move images.
So if your blogs have featured images, you’d have to manually re-upload those. This is fine if you only have ten or twenty blogs to your name. But what if you’ve published hundreds of posts already, each with at least one featured image.
For an online marketing company or fresh startup, swapping over to another platform can be tedious. It can also be a potentially significant disadvantage in the long term.
- Lower Price, Limited Features. For a 100% free tool, HubSpot’s CRM packs a powerful punch—we’re not denying that. However, HubSpot’s hubs (Marketing, Sales, and Service) and Growth Suite offer key features that are only available at higher tiers.
For the Starter tiers, you get the most basic of services and very limited usability. They don’t offer marketing essentials like automations, monitoring, or publishing — three huge pieces of inbound marketing. This is something you’ll definitely want to take into consideration when choosing a tier. Other missing capabilities include A/B testing, advanced lead scoring, and the ability to use CSS to match site without tech support.
- Locked In. For an established business or digital marketing agency, a 12-month contract may not seem that long. However, for fresh startups who are still looking for potential marketing platforms, being locked into a year-long contract can be quite pricey—especially if they’re only looking to try a product.
Whether it works for you or not, you’re stuck paying $800 (or more, if you purchased the higher tier) for the next 12 months, which could be a real drain on your budget.
- Expensive Contacts. HubSpot marketing plans come with a set number of contacts allowed on each plan (no surprise there). The catch is that the contact limitations are pretty low for the price you pay. For example, the Pro plan has a limit of 1,000 contacts as default. After that, you are required to pay an additional $50/month for each additional 1,000 contacts.
So if you have 5,000 contacts in your CRM, the cost of your software just went from $800/month to $1000/month.
HubSpot: The Take-Away
Generally speaking, HubSpot is a highly respected and powerful inbound marketing platform that, at higher tiers, meets all the marketing needs of most SMBs. If you, as a business owner:
- have a solid strategy in place
- understand your personas
- are committed to consistent, quality content
Then HubSpot is an extremely powerful platform for you; one that has the potential to be extremely profitable in just a few months’ time.
Just remember that the brand comes with a price tag. You’ll usually end up paying a pretty penny for a well-established name and some basic bundled features.
HubSpot is an excellent choice for bigger, more established companies or digital marketing agencies that want a variety of marketing automation tools and a wealth of marketing resources. For smaller businesses, however, that need the most bang for their buck, it may stretch the limits of your budget a bit.
What Is It & How Does It Work?
SharpSpring is a newer addition to the marketing automation software world, offering power and flexibility that is comparable to HubSpot. Despite being a newer company, many people consider SharpSpring to be a reliable and trustworthy platform, providing outstanding value for businesses and companies of any size, any industry.
Extremely customer-focused and driven by ease-of-use, SharpSpring is an efficient marketing platform that any SEO marketing company or digital marketing agency can use. It advertises itself as an all-encompassing automation suite that allows marketers to plan, create, monitor, test, strategize, and measure marketing campaigns all from one convenient place.
SharpSpring: The Pros
- Affordable High Tiers. Despite its pricier starting point, SharpSpring overall comes at a fraction of the cost of HubSpot—especially at higher tiers. For their 20,000 contact plan—which is currently their highest bundle—you pay a maximum of $875 a month.
A huge cry from HubSpot’s $2,700 price tag for the same number.
It’s also worth noting that SharpSpring accepts monthly pay, which means you won’t have to cough up an exorbitant fee worth 12 months up front.
- All-Encompassing Platform. SharpSpring offers the same range of high-powered tools and features that HubSpot does. In some cases, its lower tiers gives you access to more tools and functionalities than HubSpot’s higher-priced Enterprise plans.
Among other things, SharpSpring provides core marketing automation, email, form building, contacts and tracking, landing pages, and blogging and sales tools. And best of all, they don’t limit capabilities based on subscription level. As we’ve mentioned earlier, this is a huge problem many marketers have with HubSpot.
- More Bang for Your Buck. Between HubSpot and SharpSpring, many would argue that SharpSpring is the more cost-effective option. At its highest tier, you get access to more than 15 tools and features (that you can also get from HubSpot)—including some incredibly intuitive functionalities that are perfect for in-depth marketing strategies:
- Behavioral-Based Email Automation
- Dynamic Forms
- Lead Engagement
- Quick Lead Identification
- Custom Landing Pages
- Powerful Analytics
- Smooth Integration. Just like HubSpot, SharpSpring is capable of seamlessly integrating with other third-party platforms, CRMs, and CMSs.
- Great for Agencies. A lot of marketing agencies struggle to manage their client’s marketing platforms and automation tools due to the typical demand to sign on with them. For an online marketing company, working with platforms like HubSpot can cause a myriad of issues like disagreeing software, redundant solutions, and unnecessary procedures.
Thankfully, SharpSpring eliminate this problem by offering agencies total control over branding and pricing. This is because SharpSpring was designed with agencies in mind.
They do cater to individual companies, of course, but their target market is primarily agencies. With SharpSpring, agencies can easily white-label the software out of the box and rebrand different features to better handle their client’s marketing.
And speaking of features, SharpSpring has a nifty little area called the “Feature Request.” How it works is that subscribers who use their software and verified customers can leave detailed requests of feature they would like to see in future versions of the platform.
And unlike some companies that don’t seem to take requests and feedback very seriously, SharpSpring actually responds to these requests. They let customers know whether or not the feature can be added and, if so, when they can expect it to arrive.
SharpSpring: The Cons
- Not as Well-Known. As a newer company, SharpSpring has yet to make a name for itself on the level that HubSpot has. And although many marketers do vouch for SharpSpring, HubSpot remains a pioneer in the inbound marketing industry. There’s a level of reassurance that the name HubSpot gives to most any online marketing company that SharpSpring is currently unable to compete with.
- Zero SEO Recommendations. Unfortunately, SharpSpring doesn’t offer SEO recommendations to optimize content—which is a shame, since SEO is a huge part of inbound marketing. So this would have to be done individually, which does come off as a little inefficient and lacking on SharpSpring’s part. And for a primarily SEO marketing agency, this could present a huge problem.
- Initially Expensive. Compared to HubSpot, SharpSpring’s fees don’t scale as exponentially with higher tiers. However, the initial cost plus setup fee is a lot steeper. With a starting price of $400 a month and a setup fee of $1,800, it comes off as pricier than HubSpot’s $650 base price.
SharpSpring: The Take-Away
We have found SharpSpring offers astonishingly good value for high-powered, easy-to-use software that’s comparable to HubSpot. Taking into consideration price point, agency/user-friendliness and marketing capabilities, SharpSpring might even have the edge.
With constant development, SharpSpring is set to innovate and advance even more. For small to medium-sized businesses who want excellent marketing automation software packed with value for a very reasonable price, SharpSpring could be the ideal choice.
Even with all that, remember that every business is unique, and so there’s no ‘one right choice’ when it comes to marketing automation software. Identifying your needs and priorities, and taking them through with an online marketing company, is something you need to go through before deciding which automation platform works for you.