It can be daunting trying to choose a marketing automation software and CRM that best suits your company’s needs. After all, there are dozens of tools that offer robust features and capabilities! At obo. Agency, we have experience in nearly all of the industry-leading softwares and have found two that we feel have the best features and biggest bang-for-your-buck: HubSpot and ActiveCampaign.
CRM and Automations
Both HubSpot and ActiveCampaign offer powerful yet intuitive CRM features, allowing users to easily manage and organize their contacts, companies, and deals. Both systems enable pipeline creation with fully customizable deal stages and deal properties, allowing for a visual representation of the prospect-to-customer lifecycle.
Both also allow sales team members to create tasks, send emails, and view activity history within the CRM. Instead of having to navigate through a clunky interface and spend hours learning the system, the system enables sales teams to be more productive and efficient in their jobs.
Furthermore, both systems offer similar automation capabilities that allow for trigger-based workflows that can send emails, create tasks, and update properties and deal stages, among other things. They utilize simple, intuitive designs that make automation creation simple enough for novice users yet powerful enough for complex workflows.
While ActiveCampaign provides basic reporting on campaign, automation, and goal statistics, HubSpot’s reporting capabilities are far more robust. HubSpot allows users to create custom reports based around contacts, source data, event analyses, page performance, and campaign analytics. Within these reports, users can filter columns, customize display options, and create different calculation options. For an additional $200/month, users can purchase the reporting add-on, where drag and drop features help make customizable dashboards, creating a centralized space for any desired reports.
Design in HubSpot
HubSpot has fully customizable email, form, landing page, and call-to-action design functionalities, making it a true one stop shop for all marketing efforts. However, the email and landing page design options are not nearly as intuitive as the other features in HubSpot.
The first part of email design in HubSpot is the template through the Design Manager, which will control any emails based off of it. If you make a change to the template, you also change your emails. Once you have your template designed, it’s off to the more straightforward email builder, where you can switch out images and add your text.
Next, testing an email involves coding it in the Design Manager, publishing the design, creating an email based on that design, and then previewing them either through HubSpot (not always accurate) or sending them to yourself as a test email.
Find an error? It’s back to the Design Manager to figure out what might be wrong, then back to the email builder, and then test again. This process can be laborious and time consuming. Pasting in your own code from a separate builder doesn’t seem to help, either–HubSpot’s HUBL code doesn’t exactly play nice.
Despite all that, if you’re looking to make a simple, one column email with a banner image and a call to action button, you’re golden. HubSpot’s email builder comes pre-loaded with simple, easy to use templates that can get your emails or landing pages up and running with relative ease.
Design in ActiveCampaign
ActiveCampaign lacks a landing page feature, which can be a big drawback for some businesses, but its email builder is one of the best on the market. (And we’ve explored quite a few, so we don’t say that lightly!)
Building an email can be done by either making a new email template through their template manager or by creating a new email from scratch for a one-off campaign. You can even import your own code and send it through ActiveCampaign with minimal resistance.
ActiveCampaign’s email builder is simple, intuitive, and fast. It does have its quirks, and there are a lot of tricks you can use to get more out of the builder than firsts meet the eye, but from a novice standpoint, this email builder is one of the more powerful and easy to use ones out there. Complex layouts are much easier to achieve in ActiveCampaign than HubSpot as well.
Both ActiveCampaign and HubSpot offer fully functional REST APIs with documentation containing API endpoints, sample code, and other detailed information, enabling users to create a functional integration application in their language of choice. In fact, our dev team has created custom Python wrappers for both systems that allow us to easily send various HTTP requests to the respective APIs.
Currently, ActiveCampaign’s API documentation is more basic, which means that interacting with the API is more difficult. They provide a more bare-bones documentation, detailing parameters, example responses, and endpoint URLs, as well as an example request in PHP.
However, HubSpot offers a more user-friendly interface that has a written API overview with usage guidelines, FAQs, and authentication parameters. This makes interacting with the API less daunting and allows developers to more easily write their own integration applications.
Notably, ActiveCampaign recently unveiled a beta version that contains more comprehensive documentation and a wider range of request and output examples in various scripting languages. The full version release with more detailed documentation will make interacting with the API far more manageable for developers who have less experience in writing applications surrounding HTTP requests.
While we like both HubSpot and ActiveCampaign, we can only recommend one to a client based on their needs. Oftentimes price plays a role, and if their marketing budget is more restrictive and they don’t need some of the features only found in HubSpot, we’ll recommend ActiveCampaign for their user-friendly interface with marketing automation features powerful enough for nearly any business’s marketing needs.
HubSpot, on the other hand, is a true all-in-one system that offers features like custom reporting, landing page creation, and attribution analysis. So if a client wants all of these things in one system and has a less restrictive marketing budget, we’ll recommend HubSpot. Their user-friendly interface combined with nearly every marketing automation feature imaginable makes the system our go-to platform for most of our clients.
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