On the hunt for marketing automation software? Or maybe you’re looking to switch?
If so, chances are you’ve been considering both HubSpot and ActiveCampaign. They’re both widely used and highly rated.
However, there are some differences between the two that may impact your decision. This post about HubSpot vs. ActiveCampaign will outline some of these major differences and share my top recommendation for small to medium-sized businesses based on my personal experience.
HubSpot: An Overview
You may feel slightly confused if you’ve spent some time looking into HubSpot. It’s an extremely robust platform that offers many different features, but this can make it difficult even to understand what type of software it is.
Is it CRM (customer relationship management) software? Is it an email marketing tool? Is it content management software?
The short answer is it’s all of the above.
However, first and foremost, HubSpot is a CRM. This means it shines when it comes to tracking your interactions with customers and business partners and helping you nurture these relationships.
The good news is HubSpot’s CRM is free!
If you want to explore other products for your business, HubSpot offers five main “hubs,” which are nicely summarized on this HubSpot product page. These hubs are:
- Marketing: Email marketing, landing pages, ad management, social media management, built-in SEO, and video hosting.
- Sales: Live chat, meeting scheduling, sales analytics, sales forecasting. One of the best features is sales automation which lets you send customized emails throughout the sales process.
- Customer service: Ticketing, feedback surveys, customer portals, help desk automation, customized knowledge base. HubSpot is also beta testing an inbound calling feature that lets your customers call you, and you can track this data right inside the platform.
- CMS (content management system): Blog, website pages/themes, hosting, split testing (HubSpot will even serve up the best-performing pages from your tests), password-protected pages, memberships.
- Operations: Everything to do with your data. Sync it, clean it up, store and customize it.
The nice thing about HubSpot is you can pick and choose which hubs you need – and don’t need – and can bundle those hubs together at a discounted price. This means you’re only paying for what you need (more on pricing later in this post).
ActiveCampaign: An Overview
Unlike HubSpot, ActiveCampaign is most widely known for its email marketing features. I remember using a self-hosted ActiveCampaign in the early days to send out newsletters and auto-responders.
However, ActiveCampaign offers a range of different marketing products to meet all your business needs today, including:
- Email marketing: If you’ve used ActiveCampaign before, you’ve likely used it to build your email list and send email campaigns. Other features include automations, autoresponders, and transactional emails (emails sent to recipients following specific purchases or other actions).
- Marketing automation: Send a welcome series to new customers, track contact engagement so you can send targeted content, and use machine learning to send emails at the right time for the contact, chat, landing pages, and more.
- CRM & sales automation: Score leads, monitor and update deals based on behaviors (e.g., “deal stage: interested”), auto-send emails to new leads, and track customer interactions at each stage of the sales process.
- Sales engagement: Send timely 1:1 messages to follow up on sales/leads, track on-site behaviors so you know what your customers are looking for, and understand which deals are most likely to close so you know where to focus your energy.
- Service and support: Set up chatbots, offer incentives to past customers, track customer behaviors, and identify when customers are likely to leave a bad review (so you can be proactive and potentially avoid those negative reviews).
With ActiveCampaign, you don’t pick and choose which products you want – instead, you pay based on the number of contacts you have and the “level” of plan you want (i.e., Lite, Plus, Professional, or Enterprise). You can select the plan that fits your needs and the number of contacts. The only thing that comes at an additional cost is the live chat feature Conversations.
HubSpot vs. ActiveCampaign: Pricing
Because the pricing structure for the two platforms is so different, it’s difficult to do a direct comparison.
As mentioned previously, HubSpot offers five different hubs you can choose from. For each hub (marketing, sales, customer service, etc.), you can choose from three plans: Starter, Professional, or Enterprise.
Each plan allows you to have a base number of marketing contacts: 1,000 for the Starter plan, 2,000 for the Professional plan, and 10,000 for the Enterprise plan.
Starter plans range from $23/month to $45/month, Professional ranges from $360-$800/month, and Enterprise plans range from $1200-$3200/month.
However, keep in mind that once you reach your max number of marketing contacts, you’ll automatically be upgraded to the next tier, and this can get pricey, fast (e.g., once you reach 2,000 contacts on the Starter plan, the price jumps from $45 to $90/month).
While the cost of the Professional and Enterprise plans may put HubSpot out of reach for many small business owners, a huge bonus is that HubSpot offers a completely free version.
The free version includes features of each hub, meaning you get access to features like:
- Email marketing
- Ad management
- Chat capabilities
- Blog and website pages
You can even add up to 1,000,000 contacts to your CRM for free.
However, while this all sounds great, the free version does come with some serious limitations – not least of which is that you can only add up to 1,000 email subscribers and can only send 5,000 emails each month (meaning if you have 1,000 subscribers, you can only send each subscriber five emails/month).
ActiveCampaign also has a free option, a 14-day free trial. After the 14-day period, you’ll have to upgrade if you want to continue using the tool – but the good news is the plans are much more affordable than those offered by HubSpot.
Like HubSpot, you pay based on the number of contacts you have. For 1,000 contacts, prices start at $37/month (Lite), $63/month (Plus), and $193 (Professional…the price stays the same for up to 2500 contacts).
The Plus version is a great place to start as it comes with a ton of features, including:
- 125+ email templates
- 50+ landing page templates
- CRM with sales automations
- Lead scoring
- Customer success pipelines
My clients love that ActiveCampaign’s pricing remains affordable as they grow. For instance, even once you reach 5,000 email subscribers, the mid-range Plus plan is still less than $200/month; whereas HubSpot’s mid-range Professional plan will run you a whopping $1,025 for 7,000 marketing contacts (this is the next tier once you’re past 2,000 contacts).
HubSpot vs. ActiveCampaign: Key Differences
I’ve touched on some important differences above. However, here’s a recap (plus some additional key differences):
- HubSpot offers a free CRM, whereas the CRM is only included in ActiveCampaign paid plans.
- HubSpot has a steeper learning curve, whereas ActiveCampaign is easier to use right out of the box.
- ActiveCampaign shines if email marketing (particularly email segmentation and automation) is your priority.
- HubSpot shines if your priority is customer service, as its ticketing system integrates with marketing and sales hubs.
- HubSpot is probably a better choice if you have a large business and need robust sales and customer service features, whereas ActiveCampaign is ideal for small to mid-sized businesses on a budget.
- ActiveCampaign offers a free migration service, so switching is easy.
- ActiveCampaign has a 4.6 rating with over 10,000 reviews on G2, while HubSpot has a 4.4 rating with over 8,000 reviews (Sept 2022).
While HubSpot and ActiveCampaign are competing platforms, they are catered to different needs and users. HubSpot might be a better option for you if you have a large team, marketing or sales. While ActiveCampaign is a great option for entrepreneurs and small businesses. I have used ActiveCampaign since 2013 and continue to use it and recommend it to clients whose needs it meets.
ActiveCampaign’s affordable pricing and email marketing features let you grow your business – even on a tight budget – making it my top pick in marketing automation software based on my experience.
Want to find out which other HubSpot alternatives are out there besides ActiveCampaign? Check out my post, 8 HubSpot Alternatives for Marketing Automation, to learn more.
Do you have questions about using ActiveCampaign for your business? Comment below.