Despite HubSpot’s popularity, many people are looking for an alternative solution. And though the Free CRM plan is very appealing, the price tags attached to its paid plans aren’t so attractive for small businesses.
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ActiveCampaign is a Chicago-based marketing automation tool primarily targeted towards email marketers, whereas HubSpot offers various ‘hubs’ for sales, marketing and customer service teams. This myriad of features makes it a slightly more diverse product, however, you won’t actually have access to its expansive collection of features unless you put up the cash. Instead, most opt for a single hub or discounted bundle (note that this comes with a 12-month commitment).
Though ActiveCampaign doesn’t offer the same kind of suite as HubSpot, it is a very decent CRM and email marketing software – in fact, we named it the best email marketing service due to its powerful automation and thorough reporting.
Unlike HubSpot, which offers a very generous Free CRM plan, ActiveCampaign only offers a 15-day free trial. ActiveCampaign’s prices start at $15/month for 500 contacts and go up pretty steadily from there, however, you won’t encounter any hidden fees as you might with HubSpot (more on prices further down).
So, let’s get stuck in!
Opting for a powerful solution can often mean you’re faced with a steep learning curve. Though that’s not necessarily the case with these two tools, I’d still say that HubSpot was slightly easier to use than ActiveCampaign.
HubSpot’s interface is clean and uncomplicated, with live chat support on hand if you get stuck. There are plenty of customization options without it feeling overwhelming like it does with powerhouse CRMs like Salesforce. There is also a helpful tour of the software, so you can see how everything works before getting started.
What’s nice is that you can organize your dashboard to show the information that’s important to you, meaning less time wasted digging. You can also see exactly how each of your salespeople is performing directly on your dashboard.
Though ActiveCampaign’s interface is also pretty intuitive, and you can decide exactly what you see in your dashboard by adding sections like tasks, campaigns, top contacts, etc., there are a lot of sub-elements in the menu, which could lead to more time searching. There is, however, a handy search bar you can use to search for a particular contact, campaign or deal. One thing that ActiveCampaign customers have complained about is the fact that you can't add multiple email addresses for the same contact/lead. HubSpot, on the other hand, does allow it.
Setting up an email campaign is pretty straightforward; there are tooltips that pop up when you hover over a particular element to explain how it works, and there is a live chat widget if you get stuck. The Content Manager section allows you to store all your content assets in one place, accessible to the whole team.
Adding a deal is a breeze and the fact that you have so many automation templates to work from means that automating everything from contacts and list management to your emails and deals is a simple and satisfying process.
Winner: Though both are easy-to-use tools, ActiveCampaign does come with a slightly steeper learning curve for beginners. That’s why we’re giving HubSpot the first point.
Both platforms offer a large amount of flexibility and customization. As I mentioned above, you can customize what you see in the dashboard on both tools, so you get a clear picture the moment you open the platform. HubSpot takes it a step further by allowing you to build your reporting dashboard from scratch, giving you the option to choose who you share it with from your team.
ActiveCampaign Deals Pipeline
In terms of the deal pipeline, you’ll find you have a great amount of flexibility on both platforms.
With ActiveCampaign, stages are fully customizable, so you can create as many as you’d like to match your existing sales process. If you have multiple sales processes (e.g. for each product or service you offer), you can also create a pipeline for each of these.
HubSpot also allows you to customize everything to your needs, with the additional advantage of offering far more filters than ActiveCampaign. However, the free HubSpot plan will only allow for 1 pipeline and the Starter plan allows for 2.
HubSpot Deals Pipeline
Within the deals pipeline, you can edit columns and add as many custom properties as you need. A search bar is also present, as it is with ActiveCampaign.
Both platforms use a drag and drop mechanism to move deals through the sales stages. If you’re familiar with Trello you’ll get the hang of it almost instantly.
Winner: In terms of customization and pipeline management, you can do a lot with both tools. There are some pluses and minus for both (e.g. the number of filters on offer or the number of pipelines you can have), which means I’m awarding both a point here. 1-2 to HubSpot.
ActiveCampaign is a very popular and powerful marketing automation tool. In fact, it offers enterprise-grade automation at a small-to-medium-sized business-level price. For just $15/month you’ll have access to its automation features, plus much more on the higher tier Professional plan, which starts at $129 for 2,500 contacts.
Features included are: segmentation, dynamic content, site tracking, lead scoring, CRM and sales automation, split automations, etc. There really is no limit to what you can do with ActiveCampaign.
If you want similar functionality with HubSpot, you’re looking at paying $890/month for 2,000 contacts! And because of the way its plans are organized (Sales or Marketing), you’ll have to decide whether you need sales automation ($500/mo) or marketing automation ($890/mo) because signing up for a bundle would mean paying $1,343/month.
Winner: ActiveCampaign is a clear winner due to its excellent automations and much more reasonable prices. 2-2.
HubSpot’s Free CRM plan allows you to send up to 2,000 promotional emails a month to your contacts, though all the design templates are reserved for paying users. Alternatively, you could sign up for the Marketing Starter plan for $50/month for 1,000 contacts and 5,000 emails (email templates included), though this is on the expensive side.
ActiveCampaign, on the other hand, offers a good variety of templates on its most basic plan. For 1,000 contacts you’ll pay exactly half of what HubSpot charges. What’s more, ActiveCampaign lets you send unlimited emails.
ActiveCampaign Email Templates
A great feature of both tools is the campaign reporting. More on that in the next section.
Winner: Taking into account the limitations of HubSpot’s free plan and the price of the paid account, I’m going to give this point to ActiveCampaign. After all, it better caters to email marketers than HubSpot, which is primarily a CRM tool. 3-2 to ActiveCampaign.
This is a very important one if you’re sending out newsletters and other marketing communications via email.
We’ve been monitoring the deliverability of the top email marketing providers for a number of years now, more recently incorporating HubSpot into our tests.
Though HubSpot did very well in the beginning, its rates fell quite a bit in our most recent tests in Oct 2021. ActiveCampaign, on the other hand, has a consistently good track record, scoring in the early to mid-nineties.
Winner: This point has to go to ActiveCampaign, though we’re curious to see how HubSpot will fair in our next tests.
The reporting features for both HubSpot and ActiveCampaign are excellent. As you can see in the screenshot below, ActiveCampaign has a report for everything (contacts, deals, email newsletters, automations, ecommerce, etc.), meaning you can analyze every aspect of your sales and marketing efforts in detail. A cool feature of ActiveCampaign is the Deal Task Overview Report, which gives you access to data on CRM-related tasks and outcomes.
With HubSpot, you can choose what appears on your reporting dashboard and you can see multiple reports side-by-side. This makes it really easy to get a more holistic view of what’s working and what isn’t, and, as you also have the sales rep performance data, you can see who’s working and who isn’t. What’s more, you have the option to make your reports public or private and choose who specifically you want to share what with.
HubSpot Sales Dashboard
Winner: Both platforms really shine in the area of reporting. The only thing I’d say is that I find it slightly easier to read HubSpot’s and I like that you can create your own reporting dashboard. It’s only by a sliver, but I’m giving this point to HubSpot. The score: 4-3.
You won’t find yourself short of apps and integrations with either of these tools. Of course, you’ll be able to integrate with your CMS, ecommerce platform, analytics tools, and much more. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, setting up an API is always an option. You can take a look at ActiveCampaign’s integrations here.
HubSpot slightly limits what integrations are available on the free plan, though with a total of 40 you should be ok.
HubSpot Integrations & Apps
Both HubSpot and ActiveCampaign have a mobile app, available on both Android and iOS.
Winner: Due to the fact that both offer numerous integrations, I’m going to have to give both a point here. It’s neck and neck at 5-4.
HubSpot’s free users have access to the HubSpot Community but you’ll need to upgrade to the Starter plan in order to gain access to in-app and email support. Phone support is only available to those on the expensive Professional plan.
One of the nice things about HubSpot is that it has an excellent selection of resources in the form of free courses, guides, articles and ebooks.
ActiveCampaign provides support via chat and email on all plans, and phone support only on the Enterprise plan. It also offers an extensive knowledge base, video courses and a community forum. There is also one-to-one training available on the Plus plan and up.
In terms of the support given, these are two tools that take customer service pretty seriously, so you can expect to get your questions answered to a high standard.
Winner: Considering that both offer multiple support channels and a wide range of resources and learning materials, I’m awarding each a point for their support. 6-5.
ActiveCampaign’s plans and pricing are easy to understand. The plans are based on the features you require and how many contacts you have. All plans come with unlimited emails, so you don’t need to worry about being charged extra if you go over your allowance. Prices start at $15/month and go up incrementally, however, you will see a clear price jump if you upgrade your plan because you need additional features ($15 becomes $70 for 500 contacts).
HubSpot has a much more complicated pricing structure:
HubSpot Plans & Prices
As you can see, its plans are separated into Marketing, CRM & Sales and Service, and there are various tiers within these with wildly different prices that range from $50 – $3200. I’m going to focus on the marketing plan here as this is the most similar to ActiveCampaign’s offering.
No free plan
Free trial available
You can add unlimited users and 1M contacts
Limited features & HubSpot branding
|Starter/Lite||Prices start at $15/month for 500 contacts and unlimited emails||Prices start at $50/month for 1,000 contacts and 2,000 emails|
|Plus||Prices start at $70/month for 500 contacts and unlimited emails||–|
|Professional||Prices start at $159/month for 500 contacts and unlimited emails||$890/month for 2,000 contacts and 20,000 emails|
|Enterprise||Prices start at $279/month for 500 contacts||$3,200/ month for 10,000 contacts and 200,000 emails|
HubSpot’s free CRM plan is pretty generous, with the ability to add unlimited users and 1M contacts. However, if you’re comparing ActiveCampaign and HubSpot, you’re most likely interested in the automation, reporting and analytics features, which you’ll only have access to on the Marketing plan.
Though ActiveCampaign doesn’t have a free plan, if you compare the two platforms’ paid plans then ActiveCampaign definitely comes out much cheaper.
HubSpot’s Professional plan will cost you $890/month plus onboarding fees, compared to ActiveCampaign’s $159. But what’s included and how do the features compare?
|Contacts||From 500||From 2,000|
|Live chat & Conversational bots||Yes||Yes|
|Reporting dashboard||Yes||Up to 25|
|Workflows||Yes||Up to 300|
|Deal pipeline||Yes||Up to 15|
|One-to-one training||3 months||Some training offered|
|SEO recommendations & optimizations||No||Yes|
As you can see, the two providers’ Professional plans aren’t all that different. The advantages to using HubSpot include having access to SEO recommendations & optimizations, a blog and help with your content strategy, but is it really worth paying $890/month for this? I doubt it.
For a fraction of the price, ActiveCampaign offers a pretty appealing package for those serious about marketing automation.
Another reason to look for a HubSpot alternative is its hidden costs.
If its prices weren’t high enough, you’re also required to pay onboarding fees on the Professional and Enterprise plans: a one-off payment of $3,000 and $6,000 respectively. Quite frankly, I was shocked by these figures and therefore wouldn’t recommend HubSpot’s higher-tier plans to small-to-medium companies.
Winner: In my opinion, HubSpot’s elevated prices and hidden costs are simply not justified. ActiveCampaign’s pricing is much more accessible for small businesses, and the features are just as good as HubSpot’s. ActiveCampaign wins this round.
Final score: 7-5 to ActiveCampaign!
That was pretty touch and go for a while, but ActiveCampaign finally brought it back and won the race! The last time I saw such a close head to head was between Pipedrive and HubSpot, where HubSpot won by the skin of its teeth.
So what are the key takeaways from this HubSpot vs ActiveCampaign comparison?
If you’re a small business looking for a free customer relationship management software with basic marketing features then HubSpot’s Free CRM plan is a great tool to get started with. However, as you’ve just seen, the paid plans get very pricey very quickly and ActiveCampaign’s plans are much more reasonably priced, making it a better solution for those wanting to scale.
But if you are after software that does it all (and I really mean everything related to digital marketing) and don’t mind the steeper price, then you should certainly put HubSpot through its paces.
With ActiveCampaign, you’ll only pay for what you need and you’ll find even its lower-tier plan to include fairly advanced features. If you’re serious about automation, ActiveCampaign is the way to go as it will help you save tons of time and surely give you a great return on investment.
You can try out both of the tools for free via these links:
Leave a comment if you have any questions – I’d be more than happy to help!
18 Nov 2021 – Added deliverability section
22 Jul 2021 – Updated reporting section