(Last Updated On: October 6, 2018)
ActiveCampaign and HubSpot are both popular customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, which also offer marketing and sales features.
It’s tricky to compare them directly, because anyone who has used both will tell you that they are quite different.
ActiveCampaign is an email marketing tool first, and CRM second, which is reflected in the features in their packages.
Conversely, HubSpot is a CRM first, but has plans specifically for marketing, sales, and customer service.
If all you want is a basic CRM for free, a free HubSpot plan is the obvious choice. But in every other situation, the answer isn’t so clear.
My goal with this comparison review is to help you make the choice between the 2 products that you’ve no doubt done a bit of preliminary research on.
To do so, I’ll go over:
- What both tools actually offer – If you need a feature that only one offers, your choice may be made up right away.
- Plans and pricing.
- The CRM of both tools.
- Sending emails and email marketing features.
- Integrations with other tools you may use.
This first part will take some time, as they are complex tools that can be difficult to wrap your head around at first.
However, if you’re already familiar with both you can skip down to where the comparison really begins at the pricing section.
What Does HubSpot Actually Do?
HubSpot is a confusing company at first, it seems like they’re involved in everything when it comes to digital marketing.
So let me break down what their actual software platform offers.
There are 3 core aspects of the platform:
- CRM – Lets you keep track of companies and contacts.
- Marketing – Includes email marketing and general inbound marketing features (landing page creation, blog post creation, etc.).
- Sales – Make calls, keep track of deals, and lead scoring, among other sales features.
They all have a free plan, so no matter which one you sign up for, you’ll get the free features that come with the others. This makes sense, because all three aspects are intertwined in a business.
The full featured CRM is included in every plan for free, and there are no paid plans for it.
If you go on HubSpot’s pricing page, you’ll notice a fourth option in addition to their CRM, marketing, and sales packages: the Service hub.
There’s very little overlap with the main 3 types of packages. The service hub is aimed at customer service departments. There’s only one plan, and it’s not especially cheap, which allows you to offer live chat, a knowledge base, and other useful support features.
So what does HubSpot do? Back to the original question, HubSpot is mainly used by businesses for a CRM that also has marketing and sales features. It’s an all-in-one platform based on a high quality CRM built for simplicity.
What HubSpot Offers that ActiveCampaign Doesn’t
Both tools have a lot of overlap, but HubSpot offers a few unique features.
- Landing page and blog post creation – HubSpot can act as a content management system (CMS) on certain plans. That way, the top of your sales funnels (the content) will be connected with the rest through HubSpot. With ActiveCampaign, you’ll need to use integrations to achieve similar functionality.
- Live chat – Certain plans will let you offer live chat support to visitors on your website. Again, you’ll need integrations to do this through ActiveCampaign.
- Customer service features – The customer service hub is completely unique. You get a ticketing system, knowledge base, chat bots, and conversations dashboard. If you’re planning on running a customer service department using one of these tools, HubSpot is your only option.
What Does ActiveCampaign Actually Do?
Just like HubSpot, ActiveCampaign offers a CRM, plus sales and marketing features. That’s natural considering how much those areas overlap with each other.
The biggest difference is that ActiveCampaign focuses on email marketing first, and the rest come later. There’s no free CRM, it’s included as a paid feature, and only on certain plans.
ActiveCampaign offers advanced automation through event tracking and workflows. This can be used to enhance your email marketing results, but is general enough (as you’ll see later) to help sales from any marketing channel.
So what does ActiveCampaign Actually Do? It’s an email marketing platform with automation features meant for serious marketers. It also features a solid CRM and the ability to track potential customers through a sales pipeline.
What ActiveCampaign Offers that HubSpot Doesn’t
This question isn’t necessarily fair. HubSpot offers just about everything, as long as you’re willing to pay several thousand a year.
ActiveCampaign plans are much more affordable, and offer features that wouldn’t be available on HubSpot until much higher prices.
In particular, they offer simpler email split testing and list segmentation. While they are possible on certain HubSpot plans, they are not straightforward as you need to use workarounds to achieve them. I’ll expand on these in later sections.
Unfortunately, the packages that both companies offer are so different that we can’t compare them side by side.
Instead, I’ll break down each platform separately.
ActiveCampaign offers 4 plans. Each tier includes all of the features of the plan(s) below it.
Each plan also has a different price depending on the list size you have. The price is further changed by paying monthly or yearly, with yearly being significantly cheaper.
Here is a summary of the cost and features of each plan for 1000 contacts, paying yearly (the default).
|Up to 3 users
||Up to 25 users
||Up to 50 users
||Dedicated account rep
|Newsletters and autoresponders
||Contact & lead scoring
||Attribution (track a conversion’s touchpoints)
|Chat & email support
||Host your account on a custom domain
||Free design services
Note that “Lite” is focused only on email marketing and automation. This will allow you to send emails based on conditions, which I’ll go over later.
The CRM isn’t available until the “Plus” plan, where all basic CRM features are included. You can add contacts and deals.
If you’re really interested in sales, you’ll need the “Professional” plan or above. Attribution will give you a visual way of tracking every touchpoint (email or website interaction) a contact has made.
Free trial – ActiveCampaign offers a 14-day free trial, which have some limitations, but includes most features.
HubSpot’s pricing can be confusing, but they’ve done their best to simplify it.
Of the 4 main types of services (CRM, Marketing, Sales, Service), there are up to 5 individual plans. Some services have fewer plans than others, but the names and general price ranges remain similar throughout.
- Free, Starter, and Basic plans – Geared towards individuals with just a user or two and a limited featureset.
- Professional – For small teams with almost all features included.
- Enterprise – The best they have, made for large teams.
I’ve summarized the prices for all the services below (annual billing).
HubSpot offers a 30-day free trial for their marketing hub.
Note that no matter which service you sign up for, you’ll automatically get features from the other services as well. For example, a free CRM account also has the features from the free marketing hub and sales hub services.
Comparing ActiveCampaign’s and HubSpot’s CRM
In this section I’ll look at the core functionality of each CRM tool so you can decide if it meets your needs.
Overall, they’re quite similar between each tool.
ActiveCampaign’s CRM is divided up into contacts and deals. Contacts are people, while the deals section is a visual way to keep track of where a contact is in a sales pipeline.
ActiveCampaign let’s you add extensive contact detail in addition to just an email address. This is what separates it from a typical email marketing tool.
On the right side of a contact page, you can quickly see any activity with a contact and make a comment for your team.
You can create custom sales pipelines through the deals section of your account. It has the same style and drag-and-drop interface of any Kanban-based project management software like Trello.
You can create as many steps in your pipeline as you need, then add individual deals (with contacts and team members assigned to them) as they come up. Finally, you can drag each deal to the next stage when it’s done.
As we’ll see shortly, you can combine this with automation to make a well-organized, and complex sales funnel.
For example, when a deal is moved to a certain category, you can use that to automatically trigger a follow-up event (autoresponder, notification for yourself, schedule a meeting).
HubSpot’s base CRM consists of contacts and deals, just like ActiveCampaign, but also companies.
HubSpot lets you add a lot of detailed information for each of your contacts, as well as assign them to a company.
All activity that involves a contact is auto-recorded in the main timeline, which you can often directly use to take action (send an email, add a calendar event, etc.).
At the very top of each contact page, you have multiple options to take action.
First, you can send an email, right from your HubSpot account:
You’ll need to connect to Gmail, Office, or another email provider.
You can also make calls from here through your computer, using your personal phone number as the call display number. Be aware that you only get very limited minutes for this feature on a free plan.
You can also log a new activity if it wasn’t done through the CRM and automatically added, or you can create a task to alert someone on your team to take action:
Finally, you can schedule a meeting right from the contact page, and add other contacts as well.
It’s a very efficient layout where you can do almost anything you’d like with a contact right from their personal page.
You can add companies and then add contacts to them if you often deal with multiple contacts at a single company. This makes sure you can keep track of all the work you’ve done with a company in a single place, eliminating any ineffective or embarrassing redundancies.
When you type in a company name, HubSpot tried to automatically pull in a lot of related information about the company to save you time. It works best for big companies.
Finally, deals in HubSpot are very similar to ActiveCampaign. Again, you can create stages in a pipeline, and then add deals to the appropriate stage.
It again has a Kanban-like design, and you can drag and drop deals through the stages as you progress.
Overall, both ActiveCampaign and HubSpot have similar, solid CRMs. However, consider that HubSpot’s is free, while ActiveCampaign’s CRM only comes with the Plus package or above. Finally, HubSpot’s contact pages are a little more powerful (can take more direct actions).
I’d give HubSpot the edge if all you’re looking for is a CRM.
Sending Emails and Email Marketing
One of the biggest shared features between the 2 platforms is the ability to email contacts.
You can send a basic text email through either ActiveCampaign or HubSpot through a contact’s page.
On top of that, you can also send broadcasts and autoresponders in ActiveCampaign.
There are a few different aspects of this to go over: templates, segments, and automation.
ActiveCampaign is flexible enough to send basic text email for one-on-one personalized contact, but you can choose from hundreds of design templates for any emails that go out to a list.
You’re able to customize the design further once you pick a template and get to the email editor.
To improve the relevance of emails that a contact of your business gets, segments are a useful tool.
You can add new or existing contacts to certain segments based on their previous actions:
For example, if they open all of your emails and respond to them, you could add them to a high priority segment and give them more attention.
Or, if someone opens links about a product, but hasn’t converted yet, you could add them to a segment and send that segment more information about the product (maybe even discounts).
Automation and Workflows
To use automation with ActiveCampaign, you create a workflow, which will look something like this:
Each step in a workflow leads to the next. You can use it to make a basic autoresponder, but it applies to so much more than just email.
Each step in a workflow needs 2 things: a trigger and an action.
A trigger is an initial event that occurs. It could be opening an email, being added to a segment, or completing a different goal that you have defined.
ActiveCampaign tracks a wide variety of events, so there are triggers for just about everything:
Then you need to choose an action – what happens when that trigger condition is met?
You can send an email, or also modify a part of the CRM aspects we’ve looked at like adding a new deal, updating a stage in a pipeline, or marking a task as complete.
In addition, there are several powerful conditional actions that you can choose from:
An if/else statement lets you split your workflow into two potential paths. For example, you can state that if an email is opened, a contact is added to one segment, while the others are added to a different segment.
You can also use the “split” condition to split traffic between 2 different later actions. This is how you would split test emails in ActiveCampaign.
This is an incredibly powerful feature that gives ActiveCampaign an edge over HubSpot.
You can connect HubSpot with Gmail, G Suite, and Outlook or Office 365 for Windows.
If you use HubSpot with Gmail, this adds new features like email scheduling:
HubSpot will also give you email tracking notifications. When enabled, it tells you when a contact opens an email, and if they take any actions (like clicking a link):
Back in your HubSpot account, you can send email broadcasts and pick from a variety of email templates.
The editor is very simple to use. Note that you can only send emails on paid plans, it is locked on all free plans.
While there isn’t a traditional autoresponder feature in HubSpot, on some Sales plans, you can create a sequence of emails.
Automation and Workflows
HubSpot also has advanced automation features, but they are only available on professional marketing plans ($800+ per month).
It works almost identically to ActiveCampaign’s workflows. Each step in a workflow has a trigger event and an action to take when the event is met.
It’s easy to use and the user interface has a great design.
One final note is that HubSpot doesn’t offer an easy way to segment lists. It is possible, but it’s rather cumbersome.
While both platforms pack multiple tools into one, your business is still going to have other tools that you like using.
Both ActiveCampaign and HubSpot integrate with many other tools.
Currently, ActiveCampaign integrates with just over 150 apps.
This includes popular tools like Zapier, Leadpages, Stripe.
You can do some really neat things when you combine your other tools with automation. For example, you could trigger an automation event every time a sale is made to follow it with an upsell email marketing campaign.
HubSpot integrates with right around 200 other tools at the moment.
This includes many popular tools like Salesforce, Slack, and Zendesk.
They integrate with many tools that specialize in a particular area of feature that HubSpot offers. For example, you can integrate MailChimp to use for email marketing if you’re on a low-cost HubSpot plan that doesn’t have what you need.
Both ActiveCampaign and HubSpot both integrate with Zapier, which enables you to send data from almost any app (whether it’s on the above integration pages or not) to HubSpot:
There’s a learning curve, but it will help you connect all the tools you use together.
The support options for both platforms are remarkably similar, let me break them down.
Once you’re logged in, there’s a little help bubble in the bottom right of each screen. Clicking it brings up a search input along with recommendations:
Searching will return a list of help articles from the knowledge base, and clicking one of those will open it in that same side panel. No extra tabs or pages are opened.
Their knowledge base is great, with hundreds of well written articles.
In addition, there’s live chat and email support available if you go to the “contact support” page.
Finally, there’s also a lot of “training” material, including guides, podcasts, videos, and webinars. These are a mix of tutorials using ActiveCampaign, and guides to marketing in general.
Just like ActiveCampaign, HubSpot has a little help bubble on every page in your account.
Clicking it will open a side panel with help recommendations, and a search input:
That allows you to view articles from the knowledge base, which is very high quality.
They have hundreds of articles that are written concisely and with lots of clear images with instructions.
HubSpot really pushes you to solve your own problems, which you can usually do using the knowledge base articles.
In addition, you can submit a ticket (email support), call, or ask for help on Twitter (yes, that’s HubSpot’s suggestion). But there’s no live chat.
Finally, HubSpot has a huge variety of marketing tutorials and training. This is how they’ve become so well-known in the inbound marketing industry. They offer multiple certification programs which is great if you’re a new marketer:
ActiveCampaign vs HubSpot: Which is the Best?
Both platforms have tons of happy customers, so the best one for you really depends on your situation.
Let me first summarize all the categories we’ve looked at:
- Pricing – HubSpot offers a great free CRM plan, but the paid plans are much more expensive than ActiveCampaign’s plans.
- CRM – Both offer similar CRMs with all the same major features. HubSpot has a slight edge with a slightly more powerful contacts page, and the fact that you can get it for free.
- Email marketing – Both offer the basics, but automation is only available on high tier plans for HubSpot. ActiveCampaign offers advanced automation for reasonable prices on all plans, making it the winner for me.
- Integrations – Virtually identical on both, integrating with well over 100 tools.
- Support – Both have great knowledge bases. ActiveCampaign offers live chat support, while HubSpot offers phone support instead. Personal preference will dictate the winner here, but they’re very similar.
Based on all of that, let’s determine the situations where you’d choose one over the other.
When to Choose ActiveCampaign
There are a few situations where I think ActiveCampaign is the best CRM and marketing tool to choose:
- You want advanced marketing automation on a budget.
- Your most important marketing channel is email marketing.
- List segmentation is an important feature for you.
- You need a CRM and marketing tools for a team, but need to keep the price down.
HubSpot has just about every feature imaginable, but is quite expensive for some. When it’s too expensive for certain features you care about, that’s when ActiveCampaign is a great alternative.
When to Choose HubSpot
I’d recommend to go with HubSpot if:
- Budget isn’t a big issue.
- You spend a lot of time on individual contacts, meaning you probably have very high value conversions.
- You only want a CRM, which you can get for free.
- You’d like to tie-in inbound marketing with your CRM.
HubSpot and ActiveCampaign both have great features for CRM and marketing. They are both established, reputable companies with polished products.
They have a lot of similarities, meaning that either one is a good choice in most situations. I’m confident in saying that neither ActiveCampaign or HubSpot is clearly better than the other.
If you have an emphasis on email marketing and budget, ActiveCampaign is probably the better choice for your specific situation.
Conversely, if your main interest is in your CRM and inbound marketing, HubSpot is likely the better choice for your specific situation.
Either way, I hope this comparison review helped clarify any confusion you had about these two platforms.