The decision between two powerful customer relationship management (CRM) platforms shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Choosing between HubSpot and ActiveCampaign can be difficult for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) because both platforms offer robust features tailored to enhance customer relationship management.
Hi! I’m AJ, and I’ve spent the last decade building my business (to a successful multiple seven-figure exit).
My mission with Small Business Bonfire (SBB) is to share what I learned to help you achieve financial freedom and success in your business endeavors (without making the same mistakes).
My team and I evaluated HubSpot and ActiveCampaign over six months to bring you this in-depth matchup!
Let’s see who comes out on top—you won’t believe who it is!
My team and I put both ActiveCampaign and HubSpot through the wringer during our six-month testing period.
Here’s what we compared:
Pricing & Free VersionTop FeaturesCustomer ServiceIntegrationsEase of UseBest Mobile AppKnowledge and Learning CenterLimitationsWhich One We Think is Best for Small Businesses
How We Objectively Test Each Platform:
AJ’s got a knack for kick-starting businesses, putting them on autopilot, and setting them up for acquisition. Over the past decade, he’s been right in the thick of things with hundreds of small businesses, helping them with just about everything under the business sun. If you need advice on software suites and choices? AJ’s your guy.
We roll up our sleeves and dive into the top CRM features we think are pretty crucial for small businesses. Stuff like reports and analytics, options to customize your pipelines, and the ability to link up with other apps and services. We know what makes small businesses tick, so we know what features they need to get the job done.
Money matters, folks! When it comes to picking a CRM system, price is usually the deal-breaker. We give a big thumbs up if a provider charges $30 or less per user each month for their starter plan. Extra brownie points for throwing in a freebie plan or trial, options to scale up or down as needed, and the freedom to pay monthly or yearly. We’re looking for flexability for small businesses.
We all know support is mega important when you’re choosing a CRM platform. This is especially true for those smaller businesses or sales teams who can’t afford to have tech wizards on their payroll. We put our detective hats on to see if these companies offer round-the-clock support, and we looked at the different ways you can get help. We’re talking live chat (like, real-time convo), email tickets, a good old-fashioned phone call, and self-service tools (for the DIY-ers out there).
When you’re in the business of picking a CRM, integrations are like the secret sauce that takes your burger from ‘meh’ to ‘mind-blowing’. Imagine, all your favorite apps and tools, working together in perfect harmony, making your workflow smoother than a fresh tub of Nutella. When we review a CRM, we look at the integrations most SMB owners are looking for.
When you’re reviewing a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, it’s essential to pay close attention to its ease of use. After all, a CRM is as beneficial as its usability. A simple, intuitive interface saves you and your team a great deal of time and headache. When we’re reviewing each CRM, this is a crucial aspect that we look for.
The importance of Mobile CRM cannot be overstated in today’s digital age. It’s essential for fostering strong customer relationships and managing business activities. Mobile access to CRM makes it possible for sales teams to update and access customer information in real time, improving efficiency and ensuring up-to-date data. Mobile CRM can have a massive impact on SMBs, so thoroughly testing it is essential for each one of our reviews.
Here’s an overview of our ActiveCampaign/HubSpot comparison.
Let’s see how HubSpot fares against ActiveCampaign in terms of pricing.
HubSpot CRM offers a free plan in addition to three paid plans:
Free Plan – Free ForeverStarter CRM Suite – $30/monthProfessional CRM Suite – $1,335/monthEnterprise CRM Suite – $5,000/month
Check out our full HubSpot pricing guide to learn more!
ActiveCampaign offers three paid plans.
These include the following:
Plus – $93/MonthProfessional – $386/MonthEnterprise – Custom Pricing
AJ’s Take: HubSpot’s free plan makes it much more accessible for startups and SMBs on a budget. Plus, at only $30/month for the basic plan, HubSpot is much more affordable than ActiveCampaign at $93/month.
We put ActiveCampaign and HubSpot head-to-head in terms of features.
Let’s break it down.
HubSpot offers many tools to enhance your service, sales, and marketing efforts.
Let’s go over some of our favorite HubSpot features.
Managing your sales process is a crucial factor in scaling your business.
Luckily, HubSpot provides many tools to help you empower your sales teams to succeed and close more deals across the board.
Here are some things we liked (during our six months of testing this feature):
Customization – We could easily customize our pipelines, columns, and views to fit our needs.Ease of use – All team members could easily access and edit our pipelines in real time.Multiple views – We could easily switch between the traditional view (which showed everything in a list) and the board view with a helpful drag-and-drop interface.
Here’s a sneak peek at the dashboard customization process during our testing.
We especially liked how many options HubSpot offered, making the platform perfect for SMBs with specific needs.
Once everything was customized to our liking, we added some of our affiliate marketing deals at Small Business Bonfire to our pipeline.
Here’s how it looked (to give you a better idea).
Our takeaway: HubSpot lets you easily customize and manage multiple pipelines. We’ve tested many platforms over the years, and HubSpot offers some of our all-time favorite pipeline management in the game.
If you’ve tried to schedule meetings with your entire team, you know what a nightmare it can be (without the right tools).
Fortunately, HubSpot’s powerful meeting-scheduling capabilities can save you a ton of time (and headaches) trying to get everyone on the same page.
To test this feature out, I set up a 15-minute meeting to touch base with my team.
With just a few clicks, I had the whole thing set up and was able to send a link to each team member to confirm or customize their preferences.
Here’s how it looked from my perspective.
While this may not be the flashiest feature offered by HubSpot CRM, it’s certainly fantastic for keeping your team on track and organized.
HubSpot’s meeting scheduling capabilities can be a game-changer if you’re struggling to get everyone in sync.
Staying on top of customer issues and resolving them effectively is fundamental to ensuring customer satisfaction.
HubSpot makes this easier with its support ticketing tools.
Whether it’s a product-related concern, a technical glitch, or a general query, HubSpot’s ticket system allows you to categorize and prioritize issues (ensuring timely resolution).
The system is user-friendly, enabling the team to track the status of tickets and follow up accordingly.
Some things we liked about this feature include the following:
Customization – You can easily create different ticket pipelines to match your team’s needs.Integration – The support ticketing tool integrates seamlessly with other HubSpot tools, making it easy for your team to stay on top of customer issues. Automation – You can set up automated responses and ticket routing to save time and streamline processes.
Here’s our ticket dashboard with a few issues we had at Small Business Bonfire (during the six-month testing period).
We liked how we could easily see the following information with just a glance:
Time openTicket priorityTicket ownerRecent activity
This gave our team a bird’s eye view of what needed to be done and who was handling each ticket.
The bottom line: If you want to streamline your customer support process, HubSpot’s ticketing feature is worth considering.
Have you ever thought to yourself—if I could just read my customers’ minds, I could deliver the perfect product/experience?
Well, HubSpot can’t go that far, but it comes close with its customer feedback survey capabilities.
The tool allows you to create, distribute, and analyze customized surveys based on your business needs.
Our team set up and sent out tons of surveys throughout our six-month testing period.
These ranged from the following survey types:
Customer supportCustomer satisfactionCustomer loyaltyCustom survey
Here’s how it looked (to help paint a picture).
This feature is fantastic for SMBs seeking deeper insights into customer needs and wants.
We identified areas where we could improve and make changes accordingly, thanks to the real-time feedback we received from our customers through these surveys.
In today’s digital landscape, connecting with your customers in real time is crucial.
HubSpot’s live chat feature allows you to do just that with a customizable chat widget that can be added to your website or emails.
We tested this out and found it easy to set up and use.
Here’s a quick look into the creation process.
We were able to easily customize the following:
Once we had customized everything to our liking, we could add the widget to our site and chat with our customers in real time.
Our two cents: If you’re serious about connecting with your customers and providing excellent service, HubSpot’s live chat feature is a must-have. It’s a great way to empower your customer service teams to deliver exceptional support and build strong customer relationships.
HubSpot offers the ability to create and manage powerful web pages, blog posts, and landing pages through its CMS Hub.
This powerful tool provides SMBs with access to the following:
SEO optimization toolsHelpful templatesMobile responsiveness
We used this feature extensively during our six-month testing period, creating all kinds of content.
Let’s walk you through the creation process for a web page.
We navigated to their themes and templates section (shown below) to get started.
We selected a template and then were able to customize the following:
Color scheme FontStyleLogo
Here’s the customization section for reference.
From there, we were brought to a drag-and-drop content editor to create our page.
Here, we could easily add the following:
ImagesVideoTextSocial linksCustom code
Here’s a look at the page we created (within minutes).
We were impressed with the ease of use and variety of design options available with HubSpot.
Our verdict: If you want to create and manage high-quality, professional-looking content without extensive coding knowledge, HubSpot’s CMS Hub has our vote!
Sending out informative, personalized emails and following up with prospects is a crucial part of any marketing strategy.
HubSpot’s email marketing and automation tools make this process seamless with features such as the following:
Email templatesA drag-and-drop editorA/B testingAutomation workflows
We could easily create and send out targeted campaigns, track their performance, and make changes based on the results.
Let’s go through the creation process.
We started by selecting a template from their impressive selection(shown below).
From there, we were able to fully customize our email using the intuitive drag-and-drop editor.
Here’s how it looked from our team’s perspective during the testing period.
We were able to easily add the following to each email:
What’s great about HubSpot is that it allows even beginners to create professional-looking emails with ease.
Overall, HubSpot’s email and marketing automation tools are top-notch. In fact, we think they’re some of the best in the biz.
I’ve always been a firm believer in working smarter, not harder (and also sometimes harder).
Automation lets you do just that by eliminating tedious tasks and streamlining customer relationship management.
Thankfully, HubSpot offers fantastic marketing, service, and sales automation features that blow the competition out of the water!
We especially loved the pre-made automation templates (pictured below) that make it easy for anyone to automate their business without a second thought.
Throughout testing HubSpot (over six months), we utilized these templates extensively while creating a bunch of automation from scratch.
Check out a workflow we created in just a few minutes.
The purpose of this automation was to capitalize the first letter of each contact’s first and last name.
This one little automation saved us lots of time and ensured our data was accurate (without having to check it manually).
The bottom line: If you’re looking to automate your business from the ground up, HubSpot is guaranteed to make your life easier (and save you plenty of time).
ActiveCampaign offers some powerful features in an easy-to-use platform that gives HubSpot a run for its money.
Here are some of our favorite features.
With a name like ActiveCampaign, you might be wondering how their campaign creation stacks up against the competition.
Well, rest assured, they live up to the hype.
Let’s break it down for you.
For starters, they offer some fantastic options such as:
Detailed analytics for each campaignGreat campaign templatesPowerful segmentationPredictive content
Here’s how our campaign dashboard looked, where we could easily view all our campaigns and analytics.
From this screen, we could easily create new campaigns.
We were able to create the following different types of campaigns during our six-month testing period:
StandardDate BasedSplit TestingRSS TriggeredAuto ResponderAutomated
We loved the variety available and how we could easily create our campaigns with just a few clicks.
Once our campaign was created, we could easily add triggers and actions to the campaign (shown below).
This level of campaign creation automation is head and shoulders above most of the competition.
Great contact management is the bread and butter of any effective CRM, and ActiveCampaign delivers on this front.
For starters, they lead the way in terms of importing your data.
Just look at how many options ActiveCampaign offers to import data with just a click.
This essentially eliminates the opportunity cost of switching to ActiveCampaign from another program.
In addition to importing data, ActiveCampaign offers the following contact management features:
Custom fieldsTagsSegmentation optionsLead scoring
All these tools make managing your contacts a breeze. Their user interface makes it easy to find what you’re looking for and quickly edit or view your contacts’ information.
We added our affiliate marketing B2B contacts from Small Business Bonfire to test this feature.
Here’s how a “new contact” card looked (for reference).
Within each card, we were able to easily add and edit the following information:
NameEmailPhone numberJob titleAccount & Account owner
You can also create custom fields with just a few clicks, ensuring your sales team has all the information they need to effectively target and close deals.
Once we had all of our contacts input, we could view them in our contacts dashboard (pictured below).
The layout was sleek, easy to read, and modern-looking. Our team found it to be extremely user-friendly overall.
From there, we could sort by tags, lists, and status (with just a click).
We could also use the handy search bar to find specific contacts instantly.
Our takeaway: ActiveCampaign makes contact management simple while providing many options to import your data, an intuitive user interface, and the ability to easily sort your contacts.
The ability to create web forms and landing pages that actually convert is a must-have for any CRM.
ActiveCampaign makes it easy to do just that with its user-friendly form and landing page builder.
We utilized this feature frequently during our testing, creating forms and landing pages for the following:
Showcasing our newsletterPromoting our coursesGathering customer feedback
Here’s an example of a pop-up web form we created and added to our site (in less than 10 minutes).
We loved the ability to add our logo, customize each field, and change the color scheme to match our branding.
Plus, ActiveCampaign offers a variety of form types, including the following:
Floating barInline formModalFloating box
This means that no matter what type of form or landing page you need, ActiveCampaign has you covered.
ActiveCampaign does not fall short regarding its analytics and reporting capabilities.
This CRM provides detailed insights into various aspects of your business, allowing you to make informed decisions and effectively measure your success.
Here are some of the notable analytics features:
Customer engagement: ActiveCampaign closely monitors your customers’ interactions with your brand. This means that from open rates and click-through rates to website visits and purchase behavior, you’ll have a comprehensive view of your customers’ engagement levels.Landing pages: With ActiveCampaign, you can track the performance of your landing pages. This includes data on page views, conversions, bounce rates, and time spent on the page. With these insights, you can optimize your landing pages for better conversions.Sales process: ActiveCampaign provides an in-depth view of your sales process. It tracks metrics such as customer acquisition costs, average deal size, and sales cycle length. Additionally, you can get insights into your sales team’s performance, helping you identify areas for improvement.Campaigns: ActiveCampaign provides detailed analytics for each of your marketing campaigns. This includes open rates, click-through rates, conversion rates, and revenue generated. With these insights, you can understand which campaigns are working and which ones need tweaking.
ActiveCampaign’s robust analytics and reporting capabilities make it a powerful tool for any business looking to improve its marketing and sales performance.
ActiveCampaign offers excellent marketing automation capabilities.
The CRM software provides a library of automation templates that can be readily utilized to create powerful automations without requiring any coding knowledge.
This feature significantly streamlines the process, making it user-friendly and accessible, even for those who may not have in-depth technical expertise.
Here’s a snapshot of the range of automation templates ActiveCampaign provides.
From welcome emails to follow-up sequences and even more complex automations for the customer lifecycle and sales nurturing, ActiveCampaign has got templates for almost every need.
The best part? You can customize every aspect of these templates to align with your specific business goals and needs.
Let me give you an example. We created a “customer win back” automation in less than 10 minutes during our testing.
Here’s how it looked from our perspective.
It was simple and efficient, showcasing how easy it is to use ActiveCampaign’s marketing automation capabilities.
With ActiveCampaign, you have the flexibility and control to shape your customer’s journey, enhancing their experience and leading to more successful marketing campaigns.
The bottom line: if you’re looking for powerful, effective marketing automation with no hassle, ActiveCampaign is the way to go.
The pipeline customization and management feature is a significant highlight of ActiveCampaign.
It allows for seamless organization, tracking, and management of all your deals.
Here’s a glimpse into what we particularly liked about this feature:
Intuitive interface that requires no technical expertiseAbility to create multiple pipelines, each with its own unique setupOption to customize the stages of the pipeline according to your sales processHigh level of customization, allowing for adjustments as per specific business needsEasy visualization of the sales process, aiding in quick decision-making
Adding a new pipeline was a breeze with ActiveCampaign (screenshot below).
We were easily able to customize the pipeline according to our specific needs, including the following aspects:
NameColorDeal sortingColumn width
Here’s a quick snapshot of the customization process from our perspective.
Once our pipelines were customized to our liking, we could add our affiliate marketing deals.
The ‘new deal’ card gave us a comprehensive view of the deal with all the necessary details.
It allowed us to input and edit crucial information such as the following:
Deal title Deal valuePipelineStageOwnerForecasted close dateDescriptionContact associatedAccount
ActiveCampaign made tracking, managing, and organizing our deals effortless (without sacrificing firepower).
AJ’s Take: HubSpot almost won this round, but ActiveCampaign made it difficult with its incredibly intuitive templates, powerful campaign creation, and fantastic marketing automation capabilities. If you need an all-in-one platform, I’d go with HubSpot. If you’re looking for powerful marketing tools, my money is on ActiveCampaign.
Let’s look at how HubSpot and ActiveCampaign compare when it comes to the following metrics:
AvailabilityKnowledge baseTrainingResponsive support
HubSpot provides some fantastic customer support across the board.
Let’s break down how they handle the following:
Availability – HubSpot offers 24/7 email, phone, and live chat support. They were always available when we needed them.Knowledge base – The CRM software offers a fantastic knowledge base with videos, articles, and step-by-step guides on how to get the most out of their platform.Training – HubSpot offers free online training courses through their HubSpot Academy.Responsive support – We found the customer service team to be responsive, helpful, and willing to go the extra mile to assist us with our queries. The average response time was less than 5 minutes.
ActiveCampaign offers great customer service.
Here’s what we tested for:
Availability – ActiveCampaign offers 24/7 chatbot, email, and phone support. We could always get help when needed, but we would have liked to see live chat as an option. Knowledge base – ActiveCampaign offers a powerful knowledge base with many helpful articles and tutorial videos.Training – ActiveCampaign offers some basic tutorials to help you get started, but they don’t offer the same level of training as HubSpot.Responsive support – ActiveCampaign’s customer service was responsive and helpful, although the response time was slightly longer than HubSpot (around 30 minutes on average).
AJ’s Take: Both platforms offer great customer service, but HubSpot takes the cake with its impressive live chat, HubSpot Academy, and unbeatable response times.
Integrating your CRM software with other tools and platforms is essential for maximizing its potential.
Let’s see how HubSpot and ActiveCampaign fare in this category.
When it comes to integrations, HubSpot is king.
The CRM software offers an enormous marketplace of over 300 integrations to take advantage of.
Some of our favorites include:
Essentially, if you need a specific integration, there’s a good chance that HubSpot’s got you covered.
ActiveCampaign certainly holds its own when it comes to integrations.
Some popular platforms they integrate with include:
The CRM platform makes it easy to sync your favorite platforms without a second thought.
AJ’s Take: While ActiveCampaign gives HubSpot a run for its money with its robust marketplace of integrations, HubSpot offers so much variety that it’s impossible to beat. For that reason, HubSpot wins this round.
Ease of use is critical when choosing CRM software for your business. After all, what good is a powerful tool if you can’t figure out how to use it? Let’s assess the ease of use for both HubSpot and ActiveCampaign.
HubSpot has an incredibly user-friendly interface that makes managing and navigating the platform effortless.
Here are some features that make HubSpot incredibly easy to use:
Drag and drop customizationSimple navigation menuGorgeous templatesUser-friendly dashboard Easy to understand metrics and analytics
ActiveCampaign also offers a user-friendly interface, but it may take some time getting used to for beginners.
Some features that make ActiveCampaign easy to use include:
Simple navigation menu with clear categoriesIntuitive campaign creation processHelpful templatesEasy-to-use automation builderUser-friendly dashboard with customizable widgets
AJ’s Take: HubSpot and ActiveCampaign are incredibly easy to use! Both platforms offer great user interfaces, helpful templates for beginners (and experts), and streamlined automation.
It’s essential to have a mobile app that lets you manage your CRM on the go. Let’s see which platform offers the best mobile app for busy entrepreneurs.
The HubSpot mobile app is available for both iOS and Android devices.
The app allows you to access the following features on the go:
Pipeline managementMeeting linksEmail marketingTicket managementTask managementContact management
The app also has a user-friendly interface and is well-designed. It was like having a fully-fledged CRM in the palm of our hand!
The ActiveCampaign mobile app is available on both iOS and Android devices.
Some features include:
Pipeline management Contact managementCampaign tracking & managementDaily task tracking
ActiveCampaign offers a great app with a ton of utility, but it’s not quite as comprehensive as HubSpot’s.
AJ’s Take: HubSpot is the clear winner here, offering a full CRM while on the go. It’s one of the best CRM mobile apps we’ve tested.
A knowledge center is essential for any business looking to understand and make the most out of their CRM software.
Let’s see how HubSpot and ActiveCampaign stack up in this category.
HubSpot has a great knowledge center. It’s a goldmine of learning materials to help you master the platform and level up your marketing and sales skills.
They also have the awesome HubSpot Academy, where you can access certified courses and get educated on topics like inbound marketing, sales strategies, and customer service techniques.
It’s a game-changer for anyone looking to boost their skills and knowledge.
ActiveCampaign’s knowledge center offers a wide range of video courses and resources.
Some features include:
In-depth tutorialsHelpful articles and guidesCertification programs
ActiveCampaign’s knowledge center is a great place to start if you’re new to the platform.
AJ’s Take: Both knowledge centers are incredibly informative and offer many resources to help you make the most out of your CRM software. This round is a straight-up tie.
This ActiveCampaign/HubSpot comparison wouldn’t be complete without discussing each one’s limitations.
Let’s get into it!
HubSpot is one of our favorite platforms, but it has flaws.
Some limitations of HubSpot include the following:
CMS Hub customization is limited – HubSpot’s CMS Hub is a great tool for building and managing web pages. Still, we would have liked to see some more customization options compared to standalone CMS platforms. Advanced pricing plans are expensive – HubSpot’s Professional and Enterprise plans are on the pricey side. For some businesses, this may be a deal-breaker.
No CRM is perfect, and that includes ActiveCampaign.
Some of ActiveCampaign’s limitations include the following:
No free plan – ActiveCampaign’s lack of a free plan can be a barrier to entry for small businesses or startups on a tight budget. No live chat or chatbot creation – Unlike HubSpot, ActiveCampaign does not offer live chat or the ability to create chatbots within the platform. This means you’ll have to integrate with a third-party tool for this functionality.
AJ’s Take: HubSpot’s limitations are minor when compared to ActiveCampaign, giving it the edge in this round.
HubSpot is our overall winner for best CRM for SMBs across the board.
It’s easy to use, extremely powerful, and offers a free plan that can’t be beaten!
However, if you want to improve your marketing efforts above all else, we recommend going with ActiveCampaign.
The fully-fledged marketing automation software is guaranteed to give you the best return on investment in our estimation.
But don’t just take our word for it—try both for free today!
The post HubSpot Vs. ActiveCampaign 2023: Best CRM for SMBs? appeared first on Small Business Bonfire.
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