Comparison: Marketing automation
InfusionSoft was built from the ground up as a marketing automation tool. HubSpot started as an inbound marketing solution, but now boasts robust marketing automation capabilities. I discovered - to my surprise - that picking between the two isn't particularly easy.
Enterprise-grade marketing automation capabilities with extensive customization and integrations.
Billing & Support:
Best for: Enterprises and growing startups.
Price starts at $199/month plus $999 mandatory onboarding fee.
About Your Reviewer
I'm the founder of GrowthPub, a content-focused marketing agency. Over the course of my agency experience, I've used countless marketing tools. My review approach focuses as much on usability as it does on features. I also factor in long-term sustainability and ROI instead of price-to-price comparisons in every review.
A marketing automation tool is a significant investment. You have to wonder if the business will actually be around 5, 10, even 20 years from now. There's also the issue of size - large businesses typically like to work with other large businesses, and small businesses like other small businesses.
In this section, I'll look at the company behind each of these two tools. One thing is clear: both InfusionSoft and HubSpot are rock solid businesses with tens of millions in revenues, hundreds of employees, and the promise that they won't disappear anytime soon.
Year Founded: 2001
Company Type: Private
# of Employees: 650+
Revenues (approx.) $100M+
InfusionSoft has been around since 2001, which is an eon ago in internet years. It's revenues and business has grown steadily over the years. This isn't a hyped-up, pump-and-dump startup you hear about from breathless Silicon Valley journalists; this is a real business with real customers and real revenues.
Revenue figures for InfusionSoft aren't readily available, but as per this recent interview, they're north of $100M. InfusionSoft has also raised some $127M in funding, which means it should have plenty of cash to go around.
If you are a small business, this large size would usually be a negative. However, since InfusionSoft is aimed squarely at small business owners, you'll get plenty of personalized attention.
Bottomline: InfusionSoft isn't going anywhere. It's a robust business with thousands of paying customers. You might get lost in the crowd, but there is no danger of this startup being acqui-hired away by a competitior.
Year Founded: 2006
Company Type: Public (NYSE: HUBS)
# of Employees: 800+
Funding: Went Public (NYSE: HUBS)
Revenues (approx.) $269M (2016)
HubSpot is publicly traded, has a a market cap of nearly $2B, and pretty much paved the way for a new marketing revolution. If you've heard the terms "inbound marketing" and "content marketing" repeated ad nauseam on marketing blogs, you have HubSpot to blame for that.
Since HubSpot is publicly listed, you have complete access to its financial health. As per its last earnings report, revenues are 48% YoY and the business is more robust than ever.
For a small business owner, HubSpot's size can be reassuring as well as unnerving. Thankfully, "small business focus" is in HubSpot's DNA. HubSpot had 21,658 paying customers to make up its $269M in revenue (an average of $12,420/customer - or just a little over $1,000/month). This means that you won't be ignored or get lost among larger businesses.
All in all, both HubSpot and InfusionSoft are solid businesses with good people behind them. Neither of them will go belly-up anytime soon.
More often than not, you buy business software for its features. The price, quality and user-experience hardly matter if the software can't do what you want it to do. In this section, I'll look at InfusionSoft and HubSpot's best features, what they do well, what they don't.
Keep in mind that features are highly subjective. What's good for a small business might not be the same for a large business. A large business might need extensive customization, while a 5-person startup just wants functionality out of the box. The comparison below is from the perspective of a small business (1-100 employees), so keep this in mind.
InfusionSoft is one of the more feature-rich marketing automation tools around. To get features beyond what InfusionSoft already has, you'll either have to create a custom solution or go with enterprise-grade solutions that cost thousands of dollars. Most small businesses will find that InfusionSoft has everything they need for marketing automation - and then some more.
Unlike HubSpot, InfusionSoft focuses entirely on marketing automation. This is also its biggest plus point: its marketing automation features are second to none.
InfusionSoft makes it easy to map out entire funnels and create complex automation rules. You get an incredibly useful tagging feature to segment audiences. You also get landing pages, email templates and a payment processor to send highly targeted offers to your segmented audiences.
You'll spend the bulk of your time in the campaign builder. This is where you can visually map out your funnel and set up automation rules. The visual editor is easy enough to get used to, though you might get slightly overwhelmed if you haven't used complex marketing software before.
Setting up your automation workflow can take a while. The mandatory onboarding fee of $999 might sound like a lot at first, but it will help you get up to speed with all of InfusionSoft's features.
If you're buying on features alone and care only about marketing automation, InfusionSoft is a top bet.
Above: InfusionSoft's intuitive visual campaign builder used for setting up automation rules and funnels.
Once you've captured and nurtured a lead, what next?
In a traditional enterprise setting, marketing and sales will decide where the handoff from marketing to sales occurs (always a point of contention). Once a marketing qualified lead (MQL) turns into a sales qualified lead (SQL), you'll transfer the leads to a sales CRM. Here, you sales team will start making calls to close deals.
InfusionSoft comes in handy here as well. Instead of relying on salespeople to score leads and create custom quotes, you can use the built-in sales automation features to automate a number of sales activities.
Here are a few things you can do with sales automation:
Admittedly, this isn't nearly as comprehensive as what, say, Salesforce can offer you. But if you want something that won't cost a ton and integrates nicely with your marketing, the sales automation tool is very useful.
You can control opportunity stage, decide ownership, and schedule 'next action date' with InfusionSoft's sales automation.
As a growing business, you rely on a number of software products to grow your business. Apart from a marketing automation tool, you might have a CRM, an accounting tool, a social media monitoring tool, etc.
Unless you want your existing marketing workflow to break, you'd want these tools to play nice with your marketing automation software.
InfusionSoft does great on this count. It has a marketplace with hundreds of integrations. It also has an API to facilitate integrations for non-supported tools.
I estimate that nearly 90% of businesses will find the integrations they need through the InfusionSoft marketplace. Do remember that integrations aren't necessarily free. Having far too many integrations will increase your costs. Factor this into your marketing decision.
A few apps from InfusionSoft's marketplace.
This is one of InfusionSoft's biggest failings: you can't use your own servers to send email. You have to rely on InfusionSoft's own servers.
On paper, this sounds like a plus since it makes setup much easier. In reality, it can actually cost you in the long run.
You see, since thousands of cusomers use InfusionSoft to send their email, some email clientts might flag mails coming from InfusionSoft's servers as "spam" or "promotional". The problem is more acute in some industries than others (travel and internet marketing particularly).
Email deliverability isn't nearly catastrophic, but it can affect your reach. Since so much of marketing automation is about email, I count this as a big negative.
InfusionSoft's email campaign builder. You can send both text and HTML emails. Deliverability remains a concern, however.
HubSpot isn't a "marketing automation" tool. It is an inbound marketing tool that happens to offer marketing automation as one of its features.
It's important to keep this in mind when you consider HubSpot. It doesn't have nearly the same marketing automation capabilities as InfusionSoft. But it does offer a very robust, all-in-one suite of inbound marketing tools. What it loses in terms of features it gains in terms of better integration and all-round marketing capabilities.
Also remember that HubSpot's target users are companies with 10-2,000 employees (aka the 'midmarket'). There is no hosted affiliate center, no membership site, etc. If you are a solopreneur selling infoproduct, this isn't the tool for you. Period.
HubSpot aims to replace all your other marketing tools, from analytics software to keyword research tools. You can use it to control every facet of the customer's journey.
To give you an example, here's all that you get with HubSpot's Marketing Suite:
I'll be honest - HubSpot doesn't do any of these things particularly well. The blogging software works, but it isn't nearly as flexible as WordPress. Keyword management and research is nice, but it's nowhere close to what SEMRush can do.
The good part is that all these features are extremely well-integrated. You don't have to research your keywords in one tool, create your content in another and promote it in another. This close integration makes marketing management much, much easier.
Just a few things you get with HubSpot's Marketing Suite. I almost feel like Billy Mays - "but wait, there's more!"
InfusionSoft has a better visual campaign builder, but HubSpot's version does the job well enough.
The entire automation works on if/then workflows. You can set rules to follow specific actions based on whether a user performs an action (or not)..
This process is quasi-visual. Unlike Ontraport, which asks you to select from a list of actions, HubSpot shows the visual workflow as well (see image). Once you start using it, you'll realize that the process is prety intuitive. "IF user does X, do Y. IF user does not, THEN do Z".
The marketing automation workflow builder uses if/then logic to create workflows.
Much of marketing automation revolves around email. You send emails when a customer opts into a list, you send another when they abandon your cart, and so on.
But what if you want to go beyond email marketing automation?
Thankfully, HubSpot supports a range of marketing activities. You can choose to send a SMS based on user actions, add/remove users from a list, change a contact or company's listed properties in the CRM, etc.
This gives you significantly more control over your automation workflows. It also reduces resource usage. For instance, instead of manually changing a contact's details in the CRM, your salespeople can update details automatically via automation rules based on their interactions.
This extensive automation works very well for larger sales/marketing teams.
Some of the things you can automate via HubSpot.
HubSpot gives you a CRM and a sales tool to go with the marketing suite. You can also set automation rules to control how leads flow through your pipeline. You can score leads automatically and send them further down the pipeline based on your past interactions.
This close CRM and sales integration solves a perennial problem in any business: the friction between marketing and sales. Once you've set up automation rules, you know exactly when leads pass from marketng qualified to sales qualified.
This makes lead handover from marketing to sales much more transparent. Thanks to the integated sales tool, it also enables constant and immediate feedback from sales to marketing. If a certain lead source isn't converting well, sales can tell marketing instantly.
Understandably, this isn't a problem smaller businesses will face. Once your sales/marketing team reaches 15+ people, however, you will find this feature extremely helpful.
HubSpot's sales tool uses a kanban board-style structure to manage leads.
|Web Content Personalization||Yes||Yes|
|A/B Testing||No||Yes (only PRO plan)|
|Drip Email Campaigns||Yes||Yes|
|Third Party Integrations||Excellent||Excellent|
|Built-in Video Hosting||No||Yes|
|Built-in Text Messaging||No||Yes|
I tend to put a premium on the user-experience. A software that is easy and intuitive to use improves productivity. Your people will actually look forward to their work more if you give them something that isn't frustrating to use (as most software is).
My yardstick for "good" software user-experience is Slack, Asana and Trello. I understand these aren't really as complicated as some other B2B software (like Salesforce, or the champion of poor usability - Oracle), but the principles remain largely the same. And for software as complicated as a marketing automation suite, a great user-experience is absolutely essential.
InfusionSoft's user-experience is polished, modern and intuitive. You wouldn't think so given that it's a 16 year old company, but recent changes - especially the campaign builder - have turned InfusionSoft into an experience that can almost be described as "delightful".
I've said this before: the visual campaign builder is the single best thing about InfusionSoft.
As would be obvious, the Visual Campaign Builder gives you a visual way to build complex automation campaigns by simply dragging and dropping different elements in place.
Want to direct users to a landing page after they click an email link? Or send a custom notification once someone buys a product? The campaign builder will let you do all that, and more.
I like to think of it as a whiteboard come to life. Pick up sequence elements (say, a landing page followed by a sales page) and connect them on a virtual board. Add your automation rules and you're good to go.
If you're used to mapping out your sequences on paper, then transferring them to a marketing automation tool through clunky sequence builders, you'll absolutely love the visual campaign builder. This is InfusionSoft's big feature and they do a heck of a job promoting it.
The visual campaign builder is one of InfusionSoft's cornerstone features.
As software becomes more complicated, it becomes harder and harder to find what you're looking for. Searching for a single command turns into an ordeal of digging through a dozen menus, giving up, and using Google to find help.
Marketing automation software, by its very nature, is complicated. Finding a feature or a campaign can be hard.
This was a problem with InfusionSoft as well until a recent redesign. Once clunky, the navigation is now a breeze to use. Instead of clicking through menus and consulting the documentation, you can now almost always find what you want in a few simple clicks.
This is a big improvement that significantly improves the user-experience.
The InfusionSoft navigation menu shows most commonly used features.
Large marketing automation campaigns typically involve hundreds of content assets, dozens of rules and several segments. Finding a specific content asset or contact can be hard without strong search capability.
InfusionSoft excels at search. The CRM search, for instance, lets you search contacts by name, ID, company, birthday, email, postal code, etc. The search box gets prominent placement at the top of the menu bar as well.
I find myself turning to the search box a lot in my workflow. Once you have a lot of contacts, you'll find yourself doing the same. In my case, I run campaigns for a number of businesses (besides my own) which means that my contact database alone runs the thousands.
InfusionSoft's contact search gives you a lot of ways to find what you want.
HubSpot is surprisingly intuitive and easy to use for a feature-rich software. Though admittedly, it can be hard to find what you want at times, HubSpot offers plenty of training to help you get up to speed. HUbSpot's user-experience isn't what it ideally should be, but recent changes to their front-end (homepage, pricing, etc.) point towards a positive company direction.
For a sofware that does so much, you'd expect HubSpot to be difficult to use.
It's not. The first time I used HubSpot for a client project, I was surprised how intuitive it was. Sure, there's a mandatory onboarding (a big negative for me) process, but even if you've never used marketing software before, you will be right at home on HubSpot..
The blog, offers and landing pages are the heart of the HubSpot experience. You will spend a lot of time developing blog content based on your keyword research, creating content offers (such as eBooks), and plugging them into your blog posts.
Normally, you'd have to juggle multiple keywords to do all the above, but HubSpot's blog-focused user-experience makes it easy.
The marketing automation suite is similarly easy to use (see below).
HubSpot's "all-in-one" inbound marketing dashboard.
Feature bloat - when a tool has so many features that it gets difficult to find actually useful features (looking at you, Excel) - is a problem every software company has to face as it matures.
HubSpot is going throug that phase right now. If you take a look at the image to the left, you'll see that there are so many things you can create in HubSpot that it becomes difficult to figure out how to use the tool (say, the difference between "rich text" and "one line of text").
To its credit, HubSpot offers tons of training and resoruces to help you understand each feature, but things can still get confusing. If you don't have prior sales/marketing experience, you might also find the terminology difficult to understand.
All in all, HubSpot's feature bloat is becoming a very real thing. Unless it takes effort to hide some obscure options, it will have a big impact on the user-experience.
Just a few of the content-types or "modules" you can use in HubSpot.
A good user-experience is when you don't have to juggle 5 different marketing tools to create one email campaign.
Because of its "all-in-one" nature, HubSpot excels at this. You can do your keyword research, create blog posts, develop an offer, customer the landing page, send nurturing emails, and score leads from a single dashboard.
You migh debate the merits and de-merits of using a single tool for all your marketing needs, but in my experience, this approach simple works for a majority of small businesses (HubSpot's target clients). Not having to deal with dozens of separate tools is a big timesaver. It also eliminates the need to have multiple team members to deal with different tools.
HubSpot's keyword research tool, for example, plugs into the content creation tool, helping you improve SEO.
All the features in the world aren't worth it if you can't actually afford the software or if you can't make them work due to poor support. In this section, I'll look at all the bits that matter - pricing, support, sign-up process, community, etc.
InfusionSoft isn't cheap, nor is it easy to sign-up for (you have to go through sales), but you do get excellent support for your money. Keep in mind that InfusionSoft is aimed squarely at small to mid-businesses, not small 2-person startups and solopreneurs. If you have the money, it's great. But if you're pre-revenue and struggling the pay the bills, InfusionSoft can get expensive pretty fast.
HubSpot is expensive. You'll end up paying thousands of dollars if you want real results from it. What it does give you, however, is a "one marketing platform to do them" at an entry price most small businesses can afford. You also get access to one of, if not the most comprehensive marketing libraries on the planet.
In my opinion, and based on who i’ve heard love and loathe Infusionsoft, I’d say that Infusionsoft is for businesses that are already turning over at least $150,000 per year from selling products online.
...Infusionsoft is FANTASTIC for a lot of businesses, especially those with physical products or ones that deal heavily in B2B sales.
If you have it in your budget, HubSpot is a highly efficient and useful tool that we strongly recommend. Take advantage of the free trial to see if it's a worthwhile investment
Properly implemented it is extremely effective and the Hubspot platform is as good as it gets in cloud based Inbound marketing platform
Both InfusionSoft and HubSpot are highly capable, powerful tools from competitive, well-established companies.
However, they don't fulfill the same needs. InfusionSoft is a true marketing automation tool. HubSpot, on the other hand, is an inbound marketing tool that also has marketing automation features.
If you already have your inbound marketing needs sorted, you will get far more mileage from InfusionSoft than from HubSpot. This is particularly true if you have an established way to capture leads (such as a popular blog).
HubSpot works far better for businesses that are starting their inbound marketing from scratch. You can grow from 0 and develop an entire marketing strategy that uses marketing automation to guide users from "raw prospects" to "loyal customers" stage.
Need personal help selecting marketing automation software?
Email me at puranjay@GrowthSimple.com