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Posted by Nat Walker on 12 May 2015

We compare the features of inbound marketing tool Hubspot COS to a traditional CMS

One of the key decisions of a website project is choosing which system you will use for adding and editing content. There are numerous different Content Management System (CMS) options available including Drupal, Wordpress, Joomla and various bespoke systems. 

The word 'content'

However, a relatively new contender is the Hubspot Content Optimisation System (COS) which is heavily based on the principles of inbound marketing. With more and more businesses adopting an inbound marketing approach – as can be seen by the fact that 79% of UK companies implemented inbound marketing strategies in 2014 I thought it would be worthwhile to examine the pros and cons of using this system, comparing it to a traditional CMS and hopefully helping to conclude whether the platform is right for your business or not. 

What’s the difference between a CMS and a COS?

A CMS is an application designed to allow non-technical people to add and edit content in a website without altering any code. A CMS is usually used for sites where the content is likely to change. They can be used to manage a blog or on ecommerce sites, to add and manage products.

A COS tends to offer similar abilities to a CMS in managing the content on your site, but in addition it has tools aimed at optimising that content in order to generate leads for your business.  This is through a range of methods such as content personalisation, email campaigns and SEO which I’ll explain more about later. 

What can the HubSpot COS do?

The HubSpot COS has all the perks of a CMS, plus some. You are able to build templates, add editable sections of content for contributors to change on a page-by-page basis and manage a blog. The Hubspot COS can also be integrated with an e-commerce system.

HubSpot uses an Inbound Marketing Methodology in order to generate leads for your business. This is a 4 step process whereby total strangers are gradually converted into enthusiastic promoters of your business - fan boys and girls if you will. Hubspot's Inbound Marketing Methodology diagram showing the process of converting 'strangers' to 'visitors', then to 'leads', 'customers' and finally 'promotors'

Step 1 - Strangers: 

Hubspot has 2 main strategies to attract those who may never even have heard of your business, to the site. 

The first is blog content. Writing regular blog posts with content that appeals to your target audience is an invaluable aspect of marketing your site. 

Screengrab from Google AnalyticsThe blogging software built in to HubSpot ensures that any content you publish is optimised for search engines, choosing keywords which will improve your ranking in search results. This in turn means that when people search for keywords which appear in your blog post, your blog pages are much more likely to appear in their search results and lead a potential customer to your site. You can also add the ability to subscribe to your blog, so that the visitors can choose to receive regular updates from your business.
 
Next is Social publishing. Using social networks to post both original content and links to industry related content increases your online presence and makes it even more likely that potential leads will land on your website. You can manage all of your posts to major social networks such as Twitter and Facebook using HubSpot. Hubspot also prompts you to share any new blog posts you create on social media at the point of publishing. 

Step 2 - Visitors: 

Once a stranger to your business has landed on your site they become a visitor. At this point, HubSpot allows you to create content to keep them interested and hopefully convert them into a lead. To do this, HubSpot allows you to create Calls-to-action, Forms and Landing Pages. 

Example of a call to actionCall-to-action is a piece of text or a link which encourages a visitor to take some kind of action, whether it be visiting your contact page to get in touch or linking off to a similar blog post after they’ve read one. If Calls-to-action are used correctly, this means that visitors are more likely to continue browsing the site to find out more.

A Call-to-action could also be a link to a landing page. A HubSpot landing page is usually used to show content about a particular topic, or perhaps allow the potential customer to download an eBook on the subject. The advantage of linking to a landing page is that you can personalise the content shown based on who is visiting the page. Regardless of your industry, the chances are the visitors to your site may have different reasons to be there, so it can prove very useful to be able to tailor the pages content to its current audience in order to keep them interested. 

Forms are usually placed on landing pages but can be used anywhere across your site. The purpose of forms in HubSpot is to gather data about your visitors. You are also able to personalise forms in HubSpot so that your visitors are never asked to fill in the same information twice.

Step 3 - Leads: 

At step 3, the visitor to the site has become a lead. At this point, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is used to keep track of the data collected from the visitor so that you can effectively communicate with the lead about the right things at the right time. 

Once you’ve collected the required data, you can also send out emails to your leads and personalise the content of the email to make sure that it is relevant and thus of interest to the lead.

You can also create automated workflows in hubspot at this point. Using the data you have collected about your lead, you can create a campaign in HubSpot aimed at a certain persona and set a goal such as the lead becoming a marketing qualified lead and set up steps for a contact to reach that goal, such as receiving personalised emails and filling in a particular form as a result. 

Step 4 - Customers

Once a lead has become a customer, there is still work to be done to wow them enough to want to promote your business. Hubspot can help with this as well. 

Surveys can be used to collect feedback from your customers, which is important in order to keep providing the best possible service. Popular survey platform SurveyMonkey is integrated into HubSpot to make collecting this feedback easier. You can also segment your contacts depending on whether they have completed a particular survey. 

Personalising pages of your site with Smart Content becomes much more effective at this stage as you should have collected a fair amount of data about your customer at this point and HubSpot has much more criteria to base which content to show the visitor on.

Hubspot also has a tool called the Social Inbox, so that you can keep track of what your contacts are saying about you on various social networks and respond accordingly, making it much easier to keep in contact with customers and solve any problems they may have as well as bask in any compliments they might pay your business. 

Hubspot's Social Inbox tool

 

 

 

 

 

And now for the cons...

As you can probably tell by now, HubSpot does Inbound Marketing very well, but there are downsides to having so much functionality at your finger tips. 

There’s a test!

There are 2 options to choose from when you begin using the new HubSpot COS tools. You can either have your site migrated from wherever it’s currently hosted by the team at HubSpot, or a member of your business who has a basic knowledge of writing HTML and CSS can take a test in order to become certified to use the new tools. You cannot gain access to the new template building tools without first taking the certification. 

The certification should be a breeze for anyone with basic front-end coding knowledge, but there are a few videos you need to watch first in order to revise for the test. 

The cookie-cutter feel

Another important factor when marketing your business is how you present yourself and while HubSpot has easy to use tools to build templates for your pages, it can be quite difficult to create something truly unique by simply selecting one of HubSpot’s themes. A quick look at HubSpot’s ‘Inspire’ page (showing examples of sites already using the platform), shows that a lot of the sites are very similar in design and very few really stand out from the crowd.  It is possible to be more adventurous with the design but that requires developer resource.

Someone using their smartphone

Mobile Optimisation (Responsiveness)

One of HubSpot’s main selling points is the fact that when you build a template in HubSpot using the template building tools, it is already optimised for mobile. This means that your site will be usable and it’s content will be accessible on most devices. This is a great feature but it also means that if you want your site to respond differently to a change in device to what HubSpot has put in place, its impossible to alter this behaviour without the help of a developer.

Performance Issues 

HubSpot has a lot of functionality and with that perk unfortunately can come a decrease in speed. The speed of Hubspot sites can at times be hindered by the amount of default stylesheets and JavaScript files which hubspot loads and the various functionality which is built into a Hubspot site. 

However, there are a number of ways to mitigate performance issues with the help of a developer. It may be possible to reduce the number of files being requested by combining stylesheets into one file. The performance may also benefit from compressing the images used on the site to reduce their file size. One of the most significant changes you can make to reduce load time is to spend time when planning the site considering whether you really need that full-width video or image carousel at the top of your homepage, and a web developer can help you make those decisions. 

Accessibility

Many sites have to meet a level of accessibility to allow as many users as possible to use the site. Unfortunately the code output by HubSpot’s drag and drop template builder does not meet Level A Accessibility Standards. With the help of a developer to tweak the code, this shouldn’t be a problem but by doing so you may lose your templates built in responsiveness, which may be an issue for you depending on how much time/opportunity you have to do custom development on the site.

Birdseye view of people sitting around a table and using their computersFreedom… too much of it

As I mentioned earlier, using a CMS means that you can change the content displayed on your site without the help of someone who knows code. Sounds great, and it is, but this can become a problem when you have a few people contributing to your website and you want to control what sort of content and how much they are entering. When templates are created, you have the opportunity to put some default content into the areas that can be populated on a page-by-page basis but you have to rely on your contributors to follow this advice.

To conclude...

HubSpot is full of useful functionality that could be extremely helpful to you when building an Inbound Marketing strategy for your business but there are trade-offs. Some of these downsides may not even pose an issue to your business and most can be worked around with the help of someone who is familiar with HTML and CSS, but they are still worth considering when choosing a CMS/COS to host your site on.  

We have built this website on the Hubspot COS and we made the call that the Inbound Marketing benefits far outweigh any of the cons – the Hubspot COS ticked many boxes for us, and we have the development skills to get round the issues outlined.  We decided it was the right option for our needs – it’s just all about considering what your digital marketing objectives are and how to best meet them. 

What do you think? Have you started using Hubspot, what have your experiences been?

If you’re considering moving to Hubspot and want a chat to see if is right for your business or not then please do get in touch, we would love to hear from you!!

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