Ah, marketing automation software—the Holy Grail of productivity and reporting for digital marketers.
Research firm Frost & Sullivan predicts the marketing automation software market will jump from $550 million in 2015 to $1.9 billion in 2020.
If you're reading this piece, there is a good chance that you may not have had hands on experience with any marketing automation tool. Or, you're looking to make a move from your current option.
Chances are you're here because you're interested in HubSpot, but not quite sure if it's right for your company's needs.
You may be asking yourself:
- Which marketing automation software option is right for my team?
- I've heard good things about HubSpot - but is there a better option?
- What features do we really need, and what could we live without?
As a digital marketing agency, these are the questions we found ourselves asking a few years ago. We chose HubSpot, as we found it to be the best system for our agency to specialize in. With HubSpot we are able to create great websites, drive traffic, leads, and customers for our clients, and utilize numerous essential digital marketing tools from one marketing stack.
Although we are big fans of HubSpot, we do recognize that it is not a one sized fits all tool. For this reason, we've rounded up what we consider to be the top 12 marketing automation software solutions on the market. HubSpot isn't the only game in town, and while it was the right choice for our marketing needs and our clients', it may not be the right tool for your company.
We'll compare and discuss the standout advantages and disadvantages of some of HubSpot's competitors, along with price points to make your search for the best marketing automation tool easier.
Top 12 HubSpot Competitors and Alternatives of 2017
Pardot is a highly popular B2B marketing automation solution offered by Salesforce. Companies already using the Salesforce CRM might consider using Pardot. If you are familiar with the UI of Salesforce, adjusting to the UI of Pardot will feel intuitive.
As far as marketing automation goes, Pardot does it all—from form design to landing pages, drip campaigns to 3rd party integrations. But, the software is best known for the following features:
Simplicity: Not only is the interface visually appealing (i.e. clean and fairly intuitive), it also provides step-by-step instructions for creating new content.
B2B Friendliness: Pardot specifically markets itself as a B2B platform. It offers robust features for lead nurturing, qualification, and segmentation, including: identifying interest levels with personal scoring, notification of dormant leads for re-engagement, and using data to personalize the customer experience.
With that said, Pardot gets mixed reviews when it comes to customer service. In response to its basic member support level, feedback has ranged from "It's fantastic," to "It's a joke.”. However, for an extra grand a month, you can get VIP access to live customer support.
- Native integration with Salesforce
- Template, custom design, and A/B testing email features
- Integrates with popular Web apps (e.g. Gmail, GotoWebinar, Wistia)
- Beautiful reporting and visual tools for analytics
- Easily analyze reports for both individual channels and full campaign life cycles
- Important features like API access, A/B testing, AdWords integration, and dynamic email are only available to "Pro" and "Ultimate" users paying $2,000 and $3,000 per month, respectively.
- Limited social media scheduler (doesn't automatically pull images from content)
- Some users have expressed skepticism over the accuracy of form views.
- Building landing pages without HTML/CSS knowledge may be challenging
- No built-in CMS option
Three pricing tiers unlock different features, ranging from $1,000 to $3,000 per month.
- Mid-level to enterprise-level B2B companies, who have the budget to go beyond Pardot's Basic Plan.
- Companies who have benefited from using the software include Stanley Black & Decker, Emory Healthcare, and SimCorp.
As far as comparisons go, Marketo is probably the marketing automation software option most frequently compared to HubSpot. Both products boast similar features, strong reputations, and high customer satisfaction scores.
However, unlike HubSpot, Marketo was originally founded as a B2B enterprise solution. Although many B2C and mid-level companies use the software today, its B2B roots are still visible in the technical nature of the UX. Marketo requires more IT knowledge to unlock advanced features and capabilities than many of the other options here.
With that said, the software is on the cutting-edge of mobile marketing engagement, targeted social media advertising, and smart list subscriptions. It allows customers to mix and match applications by choosing one or several pre-packaged bundles including: Lead Management, Email Marketing, Consumer Marketing, Customer Marketing and Mobile Marketing. It's for these reasons that big brands like General Electric and Panasonic trust Marketo.
- An extremely engaged "Marketing Nation" user community for troubleshooting.
- Mobile Marketing Engagement platform with location-based features that allow companies to make decisions based on opt-in consumer-behavior data.
- Ad Bridge offering that allows companies to connect behavioral data to Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, and other ad platforms for more personalized experiences.
- More robust A/B email testing (e.g. subject lines, from addresses, date and times).
- Deeper analytic capabilities than most other options ( i.e. the Success Path Analyzer shows the correlation between marketing efforts and revenue fluctuation over time).
- Marketo's more advanced capabilities require IT knowledge smaller companies might not have.
- The bundled pricing options mean getting everything you need will cost a pretty penny.
- With constant innovation, documentation sometimes trails availability of new features.
While no longer listed on their website, the last figures published include pricing ranging from $895-$3,195 per month.
- Mid-level to enterprise-level companies looking to align prospect engagement with business goals.
- Companies who have found success using Marketo include Panasonic, CenturyLink, and Nokia.
InfusionSoft is a popular option for small businesses seeking marketing automation software, without the hefty price tags of Marketo and Pardot. Starting at only $199 a month, InfusionSoft is a well-known, affordable alternative.
Where the platform really excels—beyond the typical list segmentation features—is its CRM platform. InfusionSoft makes sales operations simple by enabling invoicing, billing, collection and other related communications all in one place. With that said, InfusionSoft's low entry price point will leave much to be desired for those running more complex campaigns.
Want real analytics? That costs extra.
Need a membership site? That costs extra too.
Another potential deterrent is InfusionSoft's mandatory "Kickstarter Program," which will set you back $1,999.
While reviews on emailed customer support are mixed, customers do appreciate the 24/7 live chat support.
- Convenient drag and drop, canvas-style layout for building campaigns.
- Save favorites in your navigation for quick access to your most visited apps.
- Integrated CRM with a variety of eCommerce tools, such as a customizable storefront, shopping cart function, and order history.
- The pricey kickstarter fee is mandatory (even if you're a DIY-type).
- Not ideal for B2B marketing automation.
- Complicated for marketers and low email deliverability.
- Commonly called "Confusion-Soft." Any customer would understand why.
- Difficult to track campaign based lead sources.
- Doesn't currently have a Mac plugin for syncing email with the CRM.
- Doesn’t have native integrations with third-party tools. More than 300 apps and extensions are available at additional cost.
- Several forum users have questioned the software's advertised deliverability rate of "above 98%."
Four tiers unlock different features, $199-$599 per month.
- Small businesses who are trying to market an eCommerce product and also need CRM and marketing automation.
- Companies who have found success with InfusionSoft include CleanCorp, Milkhouse Candles, and Presidential Pools.
Eloqua is a marketing cloud solution provided by Oracle. With a trusted name like Oracle, businesses can feel confident they are getting a top-notch marketing automation solution. However, like many of the other names on our list, a bit of training is required to learn the system.
Eloqua does everything you need to execute first-class marketing activities, including feature-rich campaign building, real-time data collection, and multiple lead scoring models. Where Eloqua really excels is with its dynamic reporting capabilities. The program's integration with Oracle Business Intelligence has enhanced the effectiveness of Eloqua' dashboards and reports.
Users can quickly analyze campaign engagement, identifying the channels (and offers) generating the highest interest, engagement, and conversion levels. Another bonus: It integrates seamlessly with several other software programs. With more than 500 partners representing more than 700 integrations, Eloqua provides an unparalleled level of flexibility.
- Drag and drop style campaign-building on a canvas type layout.
- Synchronization with WebEx, SalesForce, and more than 500 other partners.
- Advanced Listener Framework that allows users to listen for changes on lead score models, forms, and new contact creation for enhanced responsiveness.
- Real-time insights that allow for customized and timely sales responses.
- Predictive analytics make it possible to score accounts based on actions and intent.
- Users say it's "kinda buggy" sometimes.
- Reporting could be more user-friendly (difficult set-up)
- Requires some HTML knowledge to get the most out of the product.
$2,000 to $4,000 per month, with scaling features.
- Medium to large-sized companies wanting to execute full-fledged marketing campaigns.
- Companies with in-house technical resources.
- Companies who found success include Colombo, Invacare, and Network Ten.
5. IBM Marketing Cloud (Silverpop)
IBM Marketing Cloud is another veteran in the world of digital marketing. Originally founded as Silverpop in 1999, the product began as a B2B email marketing solution. Later acquired by IBM, the software was expanded to compete with modern marketing automation options. In addition to providing typical marketing automation features, IBM Marketing Cloud exceptionally excels at helping users clearly visualize the buyer's journey. Thanks to the visual mapping capabilities of Journey Design, marketing, sales, and customer service can collaboratively visualize cross-channel journeys, set common marketing goals, and design tailored customer experiences for dozens of priority segments.
Another thing IBM Marketing Cloud does particularly well is provide cross-channel experiences for email, mobile, and the web. Users can drive personalized mobile experiences to contacts through email, SMS, simple/rich push notifications and connected devices like the Apple Watch. Moreover, it offers lead acquisition, lead scoring, email marketing, nurture marketing, and lead transfer.
Users report that once workflows have been established, the day-to-day maintenance of IBM Marketing Cloud is pretty straightforward.
- Advanced customer journey visualization tools that allow for easier planning and strategy.
- Strong analytical and reporting capabilities that rival Eloqua and Marketo
- Real Time Content: insert product recommendations or other customizations into your messages in real time based on contact site activity, purchase history, or other attributes.
- Integrates easily with other CRMs and other applications.
- Limited customization options for reporting (reportedly working on improving this).
- Fairly steep learning curve for non-tech types (requires technical expertise to integrate with other software).
- User navigation could be more intuitive.
- No A/B testing option.
- Difficult to build emails without HTML familiarity.
IBM Marketing Cloud SMB and enterprise pricing information is available only upon request, but expect it to be in the $2,000+ range.
- Large to Enterprise companies
- Companies with in-house technical resources.
- Companies who have found success with IBM Marketing Cloud include Air New Zealand, Paper Style, and EDR.
6. Adobe Marketing Cloud
Adobe has long had the reputation of being "the go-to software solution" for creatives of all stripes. Web designers, illustrators, and photographers all rely on Adobe products for one simple reason: they are the best. With that in mind, it's no wonder Adobe eventually decided to get in the digital marketing game with its acquisition of Omniture in 2012.
True to form, Adobe has created a marketing automation solution that is simple, yet agile. The program is advertised as having "eight solutions that help you give customers exactly what they want — at exactly the right moment."
The solutions are: Analytics, Audience Manager, Campaign, Experience Manager, Media Optimizer, Primetime, Social, and Target.
The system successfully handles cross-channel marketing in a user-friendly format.
- Flexibility in defining custom variables (customize the tool to fit your needs).
- Media Optimizer allows companies to forecast the best mix of search, display, and social ads to go with based on their budgets.
- Centralized team collaboration features that make for seamless project management.
- Difficult-to-use analytics tool that truncates results (i.e. if your report is pulled with 950,000 results, Adobe will truncate all results after 750,000 into one).
- No bulk social media posting functionality.
- No API.
Calculated as a quote, dependent upon the size and needs of your company. Note, this software is geared toward enterprise clients and the pricing will reflect that.
- Individuals who are already familiar with Adobe products and large, enterprise businesses.
- Companies who have found success with Adobe Marketing Cloud include Panasonic, Marriott, and Ford.
Beyond the basics, SharpSpring comes with a unique Visitor ID feature that reportedly doubles or triples the number of leads that can be harvested from existing web traffic. The feature uses reverse IP lookup to identify who is visiting your site, detailing names, emails and phone numbers. Considering 98 percent of web visitors remain anonymous because they don’t fill out forms, Visitor ID offers a lot of value.
SharpSpring appears to constantly strive for improvement, as new features are released often. One thing that stands out? You get a surprising amount of tools for a low price range. Also, the company has a reputation for outstanding customer support.
- All pricing plans include all features (something you don't see anywhere else).
- 1/10th the cost of other programs with similar features.
- User-friendly landing page builder with the ability to create a series of linked pages.
- Customized lead scoring options based on engagement, page tracking, fit, and more.
- Easily connects to Google Adwords for convenient management.
- Flexible agency pricing models with no long term contracts.
- No social media publishing capabilities.
- No SEO recommendations for blogging.
- Email and landing page builders require a bit of a learning curve.
- Reporting lacks the robustness of other high-end options.
Four tiers based on the number of contacts, ranging from $400- $800 per month for businesses, and "unbeatable pricing for agencies."
- Agencies and small businesses wanting more advanced features without the hefty price tags.
- Companies who have found success using SharpSpring include EasyFish Marketing, HiveTracks, and Sachs Media Group
8. Active Campaign
Unlike the other SaaS options on our list, Active Campaign is built exclusively for creating phenomenal email campaigns. The program comes with a variety of templates, list segmentation options, and reporting analytics that are delivered quite beautifully.
For businesses on a tight budget, Active Campaign paired with a website that enables forms and landing pages could be a good choice. For only $17, the lite plan delivers a pleasing level of functionality that beats significantly higher priced competitors like InfusionSoft, Marketo, and Eloqua.
Obviously, the program is not the best fit you're looking for a complete marketing automation software solution.
- Simple CRM with an easy-to-use marketing automation system.
- Super affordable price point for solid lead nurturing and automated outreach.
- Numerous options for controlling details of email sales funnels.
- User-friendly interface that requires virtually zero training to understand.
- Only for email marketing.
- Does not include landing page creation, social media integration, blogging, or ad management.
- No native integrations with third-party tools. However, optional apps can be acquired for additional ongoing costs.
Four price tiers with scaling features, ranging from $17 to $149 per month.
- Budget-conscious, small businesses with simple marketing needs.
- Companies who have found success with Active Campaign include ThriveThemes, Boutique Hotel Seven Days, and ApproveMe.
Leadpages is the self-professed "#1 landing page builder" on the market. The program has made building beautiful, conversion friendly landing pages a piece of cake. Choose from hundreds of mobile-responsive templates for nearly every industry.
With its simple interface, built-in optimization tools, and a large variety of contact collection options (i.e. landing pages, pop-up forms, social media, text messaging, and email), building landing pages has never been easier. The program works particularly well when paired with an email automation program like Active Campaign.
Test a value proposition, webinar header, or whether your audience will resonate with a service without having to go through the overhead of creating an entire website. Noteworthy features include A/B split testing, the awesome marketplace, and the extras like leadlinks and leadboxes.
- Access to 144+ professionally designed standard templates, plus 90 drag and drop templates.
- Ability to split test landing pages and popups to maximize your conversions.
- Ability to create timed, exit intent and 2-step opt-in popups.
- Select page templates that are ranked based on past performance.
- Integrates with all major email marketing services.
- No ability to add "countdown timer features" to landing pages.
- Occasional glitches as new features are rolled out.
Three price tiers, with scaling features, ranging $25 to $199 per month.
- Small businesses with limited technical knowledge who want to build feature-rich landing pages.
- The Internet is full of case studies of small businesses who have found success with the platform—check out this one from PowToon.
Another recommendation for small to mid-sized businesses wanting a variety of marketing automation features without "big league pricing" is Act-On. The company promises you’ll spend less time managing the nuts and bolts of marketing and have more time to focus on customers and results.
But Act-On seems to actually deliver. For a value-priced solution, the company does a good job of providing real-time pictures of conversion funnels. Users can define their own conversion steps which will be generated into user-friendly data reports. Easily customize funnels with lead-to-revenue drivers, lead scoring, profiling, and behavioral data. Act-On's inbound tools include SEO audits, social media integration, landing pages, and website prospecting.
One thing you will be hard-pressed to find? A bad review. Current users describe the company's customer service and support as "second to none."
- Flexible pricing based on active contacts (those who were sent an email) per month.
- Good reputation for dependable technical support.
- Intuitive user experience (easy to get the whole team onboard).
- API functionality across all price tiers.
- Integration with Webex.
- Not able to segment contacts based on informational data points with the entry level plan.
- Landing page builder is a bit finicky with users reporting inadvertently messing up coding and having to troubleshoot.
- Template forms provided are a little dated and lacking in aesthetic appeal.
- Doesn't provide social media insights or stats.
Professional Plan option for $600 per month. Enterprise Plan option for $2,000 per month.
- Businesses who have found success with Act-On include Volvo, Six Flags, and Progressive.
- Budget-conscious businesses of all sizes.
11. Wordpress Franken-System
Understandably, for many companies, the most important factor comes down to price. A few years ago, we came up with a DIY marketing automation solution dubbed "The Wordpress Franken-System." It involves integrating several Wordpress tools to essentially build your own HubSpot.
While Wordpress does offer the chance to customize via plugins for just about anything, you're going to have to find a plugin for almost every functionality! For instance, you'll need something like Yoast for SEO, MailChimp for email campaigns, Contact Form 7 to capture leads, an anti-bot solution, an analytics stack, the list goes on and on.
It's never just Wordpress. It's Wordpress + 100 other tools!
The lost efficiency in having to manage all of the tools to effectively create your Wordpress version of a marketing stack, significantly outweighs the cost of having an all-in-one marketing automation system.
In our opinion, the Wordpress Franken-System is almost like using a filing cabinet because you feel like a computer is too expensive.
- Affordability: Wordpress is free (though you must pay for hosting), and so are many of its plugins.
- Not having everything you need in one place can get tiring.
- Time lost in tinkering, troubleshooting, and compensating.
- Lack of functionality.
Free to a couple hundred bucks. Plus, cost of time spent managing all the add-ons.
- Serious bootstrappers and project-lovers.
Since discovering Wishpond, we would be hesitant to recommend our Wordpress Franken-System to anyone who wasn't seriously broke! As a newer player in the game, Wishpond is seeking to establish itself as the most affordable comprehensive marketing automation software solution. What's interesting about Wishpond is that it's more than marketing automation.
While your website does not run on Wishpond, and you'll still need something like Wordpress to host your site, it does offer a nice alternative to a Franken-system for bootstrapping companies. The company describes itself as four marketing tools in one powerful platform: Landing Pages, Pop-ups and Forms, Contests and Promos, and Marketing Automation. It's relatively easy to use, and provides functionality for nurturing leads, marketing automation, and ad retargeting. Comparing it to the other options here, we would say it ranks high for UX. Bright colors, an organized navigation, and a responsive customer service team make it a solid choice for marketing teams without a lot of technical knowledge or budget.
- Integrates with a variety of popular apps (e.g. Slack, MailChimp, Salesforce).
- Unique feature for launching contests on social media platforms.
- Extremely simple-to-use landing page template, and customization features.
- Highly customizable, thanks to pre-set page elements and code access.
- Easily create A/B split test campaigns.
- Drag and drop editing options.
- Page editor lacks intuitive functionality.
- Reportedly a little buggy sometimes.
- Does not host your website.
Three price tiers, with scaling features, ranging $49 to $199 per month.
- Small businesses with limited technical knowledge.
- Companies who found success using Wishpond include the Jane Goodall Institute, Blue Cross, and Go Eco
What About HubSpot?
It's no secret that we're big fans of HubSpot. And that's simply because the software has worked so well for us. So well, in fact, that we have turned down free newbie automation software providers who wanted our endorsement in exchange for free product.
For the sake of comprehensiveness, we've created a HubSpot breakdown too. Besides providing a robust range of marketing automation capabilities—lead scoring, smart forms, blog management, drip campaigns, social media campaigns—HubSpot excels in other areas as well:
1. You don't have to be a developer to customize your campaigns (the whole team can learn it fairly quickly).
2. The customer support is knowledgeable and super dependable.
- Shallow learning curve + large community of users to draw back on.
- Clear, intuitive content management dashboard.
- All-in-one solution with email marketing, social media sharing, and ad campaign tracking.
- Built from the inbound marketing methodology perspective - pairs well with companies interested in inbound marketing.
- Editing isn't always streamlined; jumping between several different screens often required.
- Limited "permissions structure" that allows anyone to edit anything.
- Lack of customization options in reporting dashboard.
Three price plans, with scaling features, from $200 to $2,400 per month.
- Businesses who want "quick wins" without having to become a tech expert.
- Those wanting a program that can grow with them, offering more advanced tools.
- Companies who are interested in inbound marketing and creating content.
- Companies like Shopify, Care.com, and of course Lean Labs, have found HubSpot to be a great addition to their marketing stack.
While HubSpot initially seems expensive, the level of efficiency your company gains from having an all-in-one growth tool, far outweighs the cost of the platform.
HubSpot is more than marketing automation. It's a productivity tool.
At the end of the day, HubSpot is the only growth stack that can be used to run digital marketing, connect to sales, and host your website. It is the only tool on this list that you can build your brand experience while seamlessly integrating with your sales pipeline and opportunity management. The only tool that you can do all of these key growth activities and have the data and reporting on all of it in one system.
Choosing The Right Marketing Automation Software
As you can see, when it comes to choosing marketing automation software, the options are plentiful. The key is choosing a solution that is both within your budget and contains the features you most value.
For example, if you know your team is lacking in tech-savviness, choosing a provider with a solid reputation for A+ customer support is probably a good idea. Additionally, make sure you have a clear understanding of your marketing goals and a strong strategy in place before putting down your credit card.
You don't want to pay for more features than you need any more than you want to cobble together solutions for missing capabilities. Remember, no matter which option you choose, marketing automation software is not a pangea—it's a tool that is only as effective as the plan behind it.
Learn how to save up to 60% off of your first year of HubSpot. Get our HubSpot Savings Guide.