Low-Cost Hubspot Alternatives We Use Everyday

Low Cost Hubspot Alternatives for Marketing AutomationUnless you are new to the world of Inbound Marketing and Marketing Automation – you have no doubt heard of Hubspot.  You might have even seen a demo or viewed a webinar.  Speaking from personal experience as former Certified Partners, Hubspot is the cream of the crop.  They offer an incredible array of features and insight into your visitors.  There’s just one problem – not everyone can afford the price tag!  The entry level packages start at $200/month, but in order to get the most popular features, you are looking at $800-$1000/mo for a minimum number of contacts.  One of the main reasons Hubspot is so expensive is that they cover so many things on their platform.  Email, Contact Lists, Lead scoring, Content Management, Social Publishing, SEO Analysis, etc.

So What are some Hubspot Alternatives?

One thing we found when we used Hubspot was that being a WordPress user, we weren’t taking advantage of a lot of Hubspots features – but we were sure paying for them!.  So, as much as we loved Hubspot, we decided to take the time to find alternatives that would cost much less, while offering the same results.  We get a lot of questions about hubspot alternatives and decided to write this post to cover some of our favorites.   We hope you will find them useful as well!

Hatchbuck – Marketing Automation

Hatchbuck - Marketing AutomationHatchbuck, which starts at $99/mo, is the most full-featured of the products we chose to facilitate our marketing automation.  Hatchbuck’s standard features include: contact management, lead scoring, form generation & conversion tracking, CRM, email creation. and mass-email service.  In a nutshell – Hatchbuck serves as the core of our marketing automation system.  It handles our marketing emails, automated drip email campaigns, and more.  Hatchbuck keeps track of each visitors activities on our site and wraps it all up in an easy to use contact management interface.  All in all – we couldn’t be happier with Hatchbuck.

WordPress – Content Management

Wordpress for Inbound MarketingOne big criticism many have of Hubspot is their content management system.  It isn’t that their CMS is bad, to the contrary, it is a very robust CMS.  The bigger issue is that there are so many great CMSs out there – why would you want to reinvent the wheel?  There is also the risk of something happening to Hubspot, and your site data is locked in a proprietary CMS that you do not host.  We have long been fans of WordPress for its ease of use and for the fact we can make a WordPress site look any way we wish.  It is a great platform for Content Marketing and is very SEO friendly.  Best of all – WordPress is absolutely free!  Wordpress is by far the most popular CMS out there (in terms of installations, not personal opinion here).  It is also completely open-source and non-proprietary, meaning you can take your site anywhere.

Gravity Forms – Lead Generation

Gravity Forms - Best Form Builder for WordPressFirst of all, Hatchbuck lets you build forms and embed them in WordPress.  However, there are times we would rather control that process entirely on the website.  Gravity Forms makes it quite easy to set up a landing page form with downloadable content hidden behind a form.  Gravity forms is inexpensive ($39 for a single site license), and allows the user to create practically any type of form imaginable.  With their free addons, there is virtually no limit to what you can build.  Order forms, surveys, quizes, and of course – general contact forms.  One of the best things about Gravity Forms is the flexible confirmation and notification options.  You can develop custom notifications based on conditional logic.  For instance – you might have the user choose “general contact” or “technical support” when they fill out the form, and you could display a custom notification based on the choices they make.  These notifications can be used to deliver whitepapers, ebooks, etc.

Lead In – Lead Intelligence

Lead-In - Lead Intelligence for WordPressLead-in is a plugin for WordPress that was actually developed by Hubspot.  The idea was simple – to bring Hubspot-level visitor intelligence to WordPress, and NOT charge for it.  Lead In is a free plugin that offers a lot of additional functionality through “Power-Ups”.  Power-Ups include specialty stats, connectors for popular email services, pop-up forms and more.  Out of the box, Lead In pulls in a good bit of detail about a visitor, once they have filled out a form.  It tracks return visits, gives you detailed drill-down paths so you can study their behavior, and much more.  Lead In can often get the users company name and information, size and even social profiles, making it easy to get some background information on a lead before you reach out to them.

Mailchimp – Email Marketing

Mailchimp - Email Marketing & AutomationPersonally, we route all of our email through Hatchbuck.  However, we have a lot of clients that don’t need that level of marketing automation such as drip campaigns, etc.  For those situations, it is hard to beat Mailchimp.  For the record, you can actually set up drip campaigns in Mailchimp – however, if you plan on doing that a lot, you need to look at a system designed for that sort of activity.  At its core, Mailchimp provides a fantastic interface for creating and designing emails, managing your contact lists, and sending out mass marketing emails.  Mailchimp is free as long as your contact list stays under 2000 members (and you don’t mind the little monkey at the bottom of your emails).  When it becomes time to pay for your account, it starts out at $20-$30 per month.  Very reasonable!

A Final Thought…

This is certainly not an exhausting list of Hubspot Alternatives – if you are truly interested in apples-to-apples competitors of Hubspot, there are a few out there.  Google “marketing automation” and you will find a slew of products that fill this space.  Be warned though, many are equally expensive and some are even more!  If you have that kind of budget, you can’t go wrong with Hubspot.  For start-ups and small businesses, however, part of being a nimble and adaptive business is diversifying your tool-set.  Don’t put all your eggs (data) in one basket.  With the tools we mentioned above, you can put together a customized marketing automation suite that does just what you need.

Need Help with Marketing Automation, Inbound Marketing or SEO?

ITD Interactive is a full-service digital marketing agency.  From website and eCommerce development to full-scale inbound marketing and SEO services, we help businesses, large and small, increase their exposure online and generate more leads.  We have services available for all sizes of businesses and budgets.  Click on the link below to find out more!

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10 April Fools Marketing Ideas For Your Business

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Dominos Edible Box April Fools Day 2014

Dominos Edible Box – April Fools Day 2014

Many companies struggle with how to make their somewhat boring business get passed around social media.  Let’s face it, tax preparers are not usually Facebook sensations.

But April 1st is one day that they can be.

Let’s look at some April Fools marketing ideas for your business.  We’ll talk about a few general guidelines and then 10 specific examples and ideas to make your April Fools Day hoax a hit.  If the list below isn’t enough for you, check out Hoaxes.org.  (Yes, there is an entire database of April Fools Day hoaxes.)

General Guidelines

  • Hit Your Market – If you are a local company, consider anchoring your hoax to a local landmark or recent news item.
  • Tie In Your Product Or Service – Name recognition in your market is good and that may be all you get from your hoax, but for added marketing value, tie in your product or service.
  • Get The Right People Involved – If you have an office prankster, enlist that person to generate ideas and get a couple of marketing-minded folks to refine it and make sure everyone agrees that it’s going to be a hit.

10 Ideas For Your Company’s April Fool’s Day Hoax

  1. Un-innovation – Take your industry back a decade or two.  Un-innovation can be quite amusing.  Check out Conan Obrien on the Future of Twitter.
  2. Give People What They Hate – Design-minded folk love to make fun of the Comic Sans font.  Google took that font and ran with it, introducing the “Comic Sans for Everyone” extension in 2011.
  3. Advertise A Ridiculous Job Opening – If you are clever, you can find a way to tie the job opening to a product feature you want to show off.  Check out how Google offered to hire “autocompleters”, again in 2011.
  4. Reinforce Your Company Stereotype – The Virgin group’s high-profile founder Sir Richard Branson is known for making media splashes with crazy stunts.  It was almost believable when the company announced that he had bought Pluto and reinstated it as a planet.  Of course, this also played into Virgin Galactic’s marketing as they continued to commercialize space travel.
  5. Talk Politics – You’ve probably heard that it’s good to steer clear of politics as a company.  April 1st could be an exception.  BMW didn’t align themselves with a party, but did give their customers a chance to do so with a customized tag in 2010.
  6. 1-Up A Competitor’s Hoax – Hotels.com offered rooms on the moon in 2009.  Competitor Expedia.com bettered their competitor by offering rooms on Mars.
  7. Photoshop Phun.  OK, this illustration is not business-related, but you can use your imagination to apply it to your business.  The picture below is my family Christmas picture from last year.  These things can get passed around social media quite a lot.  How about your company president in a dangerous situation, your product morphed into something disgusting, your building with a giant spider crawling up the wall.Roof Sledding
  8. Bring Back A Villain – We wouldn’t advise going too villainous, but a somewhat more harmless villain might work.  NPR announced that Richard Nixon would be entering the presidential race of 1992.
  9. Serve The Lefties – Burger King claimed they were making adjustments to the Whopper to make it more left-hand friendly.  If you are a dentist, why not advertise that you are getting new state-of-the-art dentist chairs for left-handed patients?  Here’s a whole list of fake left-handed products.
  10. Go Big And Small – Take your product or service and make it ridiculously big or small.  Starbucks claimed they were making both tiny and monstrous cup sizes in this April Fools Day prank.  Insurance Company?  Offer to insure car keys.

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Once you come up with the perfect idea, you need to put a plan in place for how to spread the word.  It could be a social media post, email campaign, blog post, or full blown paid media advertisement.

If you pull off a great April Fool’s Day Hoax, let us know how it went in the comments.

Oh, and stop back by on April 1.  There’s a good chance something will be a little off here at ITD Interactive.

Measuring The Impact Of Calls To Action

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Measuring The Impact Of Calls To Action

If you read our recent post Updating A Website: 23 Detailed Ideas, you noticed one great way to increase conversions on your site is to add “Calls To Action” (#19).

A Call-To-Action (CTA) is a link in the form of a prominent visual with action words.  They usually come in the form of a button.

It is a good idea to go through your website periodically and add CTAs.  You want to make it very obvious to the viewer what it is that you want her to do.

OK, that sounds like it might work, but does it really get more “conversions”?  Do more people actually click on CTAs than regular hypertext links?

YES.

Measuring The Impact Of Calls To Action

We recently made some changes to one of our most popular blog posts outlining HubSpot alternatives.

We measured the clicks on the links to Hatchbuck and combined that with the actual traffic the page got over a month and a half to get the Click-Thru-Rate for each type of link.

The first three weeks we just used a regular old hyperlink — “Hatcbuck”– in the body text of the blog post.  The second three weeks we removed the regular link and added two hyperlinks with action text — “Check Out Hatchbuck Now”.  The last three weeks we changed the two hyperlinks to CTAs.

Here is the final version of the CTA . . .

CTA1

And the results.

Measuring The Impact Of Calls To Action

Content Consumption Lessons From A Naked, Dead Dignitary

Content Consumption Lessons From Winston ChurchillThis post is about growing your subscriber base and making the world a better place at the same time. I promise. But I’m going to start off in a weird place and bring you around to it.

Bare (spelling intentional) with me.

Did you know that Winston Churchill slept naked? If you have an active imagination, I suggest keeping the covers on him.

Did you know that he started off his day by reading newspapers for two hours in his bed? Don’t worry. By now, he’s had a bath and is wearing a blue velvet dressing gown. Feel free to remove the covers.

You can pull both of those tidbits out at the next office party, but only one is relevant to this post. Five gold stars if you guess which is which.

I think the world would be a better place if there were more Churchills in it. I’m referring to his active, prioritized content consumption, not his sleeping habits. Hope you’re reading this, Dad.

As content creators, we want people to be able to consume our content efficiently and regularly. I’ve noticed a lot of big brands and inbound marketing firms are pushing email subscriptions hard. But is that the best thing for the subscriber? Most inboxes are out of control and we’re just adding to that craziness when we presume that our content needs to be there right next to the urgent email from the boss.

Did you know that Churchill handled correspondence AFTER he poured through the newspapers? Yep. After his two hours with the papers, he started replying to mail.

He had separation between content consumption and correspondence. He put content consumption first and that’s not a bad idea. We’re not doing our readers any favors by mixing the two. They’ll eventually get tired of it.

On Inefficiency & Inbox Pit Bulls

“But social media is volatile and tricky, so email is the best option, right?”

This is how it usually goes for me: I tend to get excited about a site and I subscribe by email. I read the first few emails, then lose interest or they misfire with something that doesn’t interest me. I bail.

I guard my inbox like a pit bull. I am a ruthless unsubscriber, an accomplished opt-out-er.

Facebook jerks companies around and Twitter may be the most inefficient tool ever hatched from the bespeckled shell of the human mind. See what I did with Twitter’s bird and the shell analogy? Didn’t want that to fly by without you noticing. Winston would be so proud he’d have goose bumps all over his (thankfully) velvet-robed body.

So, we’re stuck, aren’t we? Not quite.

I happen to know these regrettably unforgettable facts about Churchill because of Feedly, an elegant RSS reader. When Google Reader went down a couple of years ago, I switched to Feedly to subscribe to marketing blogs, Johnson City news, lifestyle & worldview sites, Georgia Bulldogs news, and more. The Churchill trivia was included in a post on The Art Of Manliness which is in my lifestyle section on Feedly. Check out The Churchill School Of Adulthood – Lesson 2: Establish A Daily Routine.

I add to my Feedly feed and edit it regularly. It is now my favorite place on the web. It’s a thing of beauty. It really is a pleasing presentation with useful controls. My morning routine includes a few minutes with Feedly as soon as I get to the office.

Giving RSS CPR

So how do you go about promoting RSS subscriptions through a site like Feedly?

You provide it as an option right beside email and social media subscriptions. Create a Landing Page which explains a little about Feedly with a link to the site, add a Call To Action to your sidebar with a link to the landing page, and you’re in business.

And you can go a step further. We recently posted an infographic featuring writing style stats from some great marketing bloggers. In the post, we created a downloadable OPML file that included subscriptions to those bloggers and our blog, and suggested that readers upload it to Feedly.

People won’t use Feedly if they don’t get a good base of subscriptions to look through, right from the start. By creating a subscription file which includes ours and lots of other blogs, we get folks off on the right foot.

Let’s be honest. Email is intrusive and social media is inefficient. Feedly is a better option for long-term content consumption. Let’s get folks who already use Feedly to subscribe to us, and get new folks hooked on it. Your fans will love you for the content you create and for getting them hooked on a great tool. The world will be a better place.

If Churchill were still alive (and clothed, you’re welcome), he would add one more word to his famous quote.

“Never, never, never give up Feedly.”


add us on feedly

Marketing Blog Writing Styles (Infographic)

 

Marketing Blog Writing Styles Infographic

Marketing Blog Writing Styles: 12 Pros By The Numbers

Were you surprised by any of these results?  Let us know in the comments.

I’ll relay some of my observations, then tell you how I got the numbers below, if you’re feeling nerdy.

Before we go any further, here are links to the bloggers: Seth Godin, Mitch Joel, Chris Brogan, David Meerman Scott, Marcus Sheridan, John Jantsch, Brian Clark, Derek Halpern, Darren Rowse, Rand Fishkin, Spencer Haws, and Pat Flynn.

Want to subscribe to all of these blogs?  Download this file and upload it to Feedly.

Words Per Sentence

This is the most evenly distributed of the data sets.  The takeaway: there is no common or “right” style.  Darren, Rand, and John use longer sentences with more phrases and Seth and Derek keep the thoughts short and digestible.

Words Per Post

One thing jumps out quickly.  Pat Flynn pours a lot of time into his posts (a lot more than he used to, see below).

“Epic Posts” are considered to be 1000 words minimum and the median of 838 is getting pretty close.  Experts like Yoast (WordPress SEO Guru) say you need at least 300 words to rank well on Google.  Only one of the bloggers I analyzed averages under 300 and only three average under twice that (600).

How long is the median 838 words?  This post is exactly 838 words long (because I wrote these seven words here).

The two guys who write the most words per post are very concerned with search traffic.  Spencer and Pat write on SEO topics quite often, so if you are looking to get more traffic, you may want to follow their lead and spend more time on each topic.

Sentences Per Paragraph

This is the statistic that spurred this entire study.  I had been reading a lot of guys who hit the enter key an awful lot.  The result is more white space and the reading seems to go faster.  So I wondered if this was a trend industry-wide and decided to do some calculations.

I did count bullet points as paragraphs, so if the blogger used

  • lots
  • of’
  • bullet
  • points

their sentences per paragraph went down.

This is the most bunched up of the data set, so you may push toward the center on this one yourself.  Most of the top marketing bloggers are breaking up their content — less than two sentences per paragraph on average.

If you are going to read Pat Flynn’s blog, be prepared to scroll.  He’s writing monstrously long posts and his pinkie is sore from hitting the enter key so much.

Words Per Post Change Over 3 Years

I compared five blog posts from the Fall of 2014 to the Fall of 2011.

The median is pretty close to no change at all, but you can see that the guys who are writing more are writing A LOT MORE.  The guys who are writing less per post are writing A LITTLE LESS.

Overall, words per post are trending up at 31%.

Sentences Per Paragraph Change Over 3 Years

My initial guess was that this set would trend negative — guys are hitting the enter key more than they used to.  But I was wrong.  Some are and some aren’t.

A Note On Rand Fishkin

Rand from Moz has changed roles at the company and his blog purpose has changed so significantly that I didn’t think it was worth putting him in the 3 year comparison.  3 years ago he actually wasn’t writing many straight-up blog posts.  He produced a lot of White Board Friday videos, but didn’t often sit down just to write text content.

Why did I include him in the 2014 data?  Besides the fact that Rand is just awesome, it is no-shave November and I couldn’t not have that beard in the infographic!

How I Got The Numbers

Several of the numbers depended on character and word count.  I used Word Count Plugin For Chrome – simply highlight text on a page and you get an instant calculation of the words and characters in the selection.

For sentences per paragraph, I used the find tool in Chrome to highlight periods.  I visually checked for the highlighted periods, question marks, exclamations, elipses, etc.

Did headings count as paragraphs?  Depends.  Some guys used full sentences as headings and some used a couple of words.  If they used full sentences, the headings counted as paragraphs.

Did every blog post count?  Some of the bloggers produce other types of content like videos, podcasts, and interviews.  I only counted normal writing blog posts, not text that accompanied videos and podcasts.  I did not count interviews because the interviewee was the one doing the writing/talking and not the blog author.

If you want to see the raw numbers, check out the spreadsheet.

What Surprised You?

Let us know in the comments.

One more thing that surprised me: the z and the y are switched on this stock image of an old typewriter.  What’s up with that?

 

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Email Campaigns, General, Hubspot, Inbound Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, SEO, Web Marketing