Websites used to be simpler. All you had to do was tell visitors who you were, what you offered, and how they could find you—then throw in some neat visuals. But websites today play a far more active role in the marketing and sales process, and they make up just a single part of a multipronged digital marketing strategy. This ongoing evolution of online content is reflected in the continuing development of the tools digital marketers depend on most.
It used to be easy, for instance, to distinguish between a Content Management System (CMS) like Sitefinity on the one hand, and a Marketing Automation Platform (MAP) like HubSpot on the other. But the growing list of functions that overlap between these two tools is making it increasingly difficult to put your finger on the main differences.
Understanding the process people go through in learning about, and in ultimately deciding to buy your products or services is the first step to effective digital marketing. Today, what people do online when they’re searching for the best way to spend their money is better characterized as research than shopping. They want to understand what the product is, how it works, what its benefits are, and then they want to know what other people are saying about it. Once they’ve researched the offering, they move on to investigate all the competing vendors.
Whereas traditional marketing relies on sending your message out to potential customers—through mailers, billboards, commercials, etc.—inbound marketing is about creating the type of content those potential customers are deliberately searching for. That way, they’ll actually come to you. A static website that simply tells visitors some basic facts about your company isn’t much different from an old-fashioned billboard. People have gotten really good at ignoring this type of stuff—and that’s assuming they ever even see it.
With a good CMS like Sitefinity, you can easily add or update information about who you are and what you offer, but more importantly you can continually publish content about your offerings or about your industry that will be useful to your site’s visitors. If you’re posting content that’s relevant to people interested in products like yours, those people will have a decent chance of discovering your site—and your business—in the course of their research.
Naturally, though, not too many businesses are satisfied with just a decent chance of being found. Fortunately, there are quite a few ways to increase your odds.
So you’ve got a well-designed, highly professional-looking website whose content is more about satisfying visitors’ needs than it is about telling everyone how awesome your company is. You publish a weekly blog that covers industry news and answers the types of questions your most promising customers commonly have. You even have premium content like white papers, e-books, and recorded webinars that visitors have to fill out a form to access—so you have their contact information to hand over to sales. You can do all of this stuff with a good CMS like Sitefinity.
If you’re playing the SEO game correctly, you can acquire sales leads like this through organic search—that is, from people typing keywords related to your industry into search engines and finding a link to your website on the results page. But that’s just one of the ways you can reach potential customers with your digital marketing.
For instance, if the premium content that your prospects fill out a form to download focuses more on general concepts than on specific products or services, those prospects are most likely only beginning their research—which means they’re probably not yet ready for a sales call. Instead of letting the leads just drift away, however, you’ll want to reach out to them, not over the phone, but through something less interruptive, like email.
A MAP like HubSpot lets you set up automated workflows that are kicked off whenever a visitor to your website converts into a lead by filling out a form in exchange for premium content. Once the workflow is activated, the lead will begin receiving periodic emails with links to things like blog posts on topics related to the original premium content. This is called lead nurturing.
HubSpot also allows you to track the leads to see whether they click on these email links, and to see if they download any more gated content. Over time, the system assigns each lead a score based on how much they interact with your site. This is called lead scoring. When the leads reach a certain threshold score—making them a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)—you turn them over to sales for follow-up.
Leads can also enter the system by signing up for email notifications of when new content is published on your blog. But many people will prefer to follow your company through social media. So you’ll want to publish links to your posts and premium content offers on all the major social platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter—or wherever your target audience is most likely to see it. And you’ll also want to be able to track which platforms visitors are coming to your site from.
Email automation and social media publishing are both areas where HubSpot continues to outshine Sitefinity. HubSpot now has a built-in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool as well. Sitefinity integrates with other email, social media publishing, and CRM tools, so it’s not that these functions are completely unavailable. But as of now HubSpot offers the better all-around toolset for inbound marketing. Of course, that’s because inbound marketing is exactly what HubSpot was designed for.
HubSpot is really a set of SaaS tools to help you implement a comprehensive inbound marketing strategy. You can design, develop, and host your website in HubSpot’s own system, on HubSpot’s own servers. If those servers happen to go down for some reason, so does your website. But you can host a Sitefinity website on any infrastructure you choose, whether it’s your own on-premises environment or an IaaS option like Microsoft Azure. Sitefinity is, first and foremost, a CMS, and it has several features for enterprise websites that HubSpot doesn’t offer, like Multisite Management. So this is another case of choosing the technology that best suits your business’s needs.
But with its new Digital Experience Cloud (DEC), Sitefinity is showing some appreciation for the changing role of websites in the digital marketing sphere. The DEC webpage describes it as “a unified marketing command center that enables marketers to drive growth by understanding, and optimizing every customer’s journey.” The customer’s journey, or buyer’s journey, as inbound marketers tend to call it, is the process a person goes through from never having heard of you to becoming a visitor, then a lead, and finally a customer.
The DEC isn’t a marketing automation tool (though it includes lead scoring), but rather a tool for gleaning insights into your marketing performance to help you refine your strategies. HubSpot offers a host of analytic tools to help you hone your campaign strategies as well. But the DEC represents an attempt to apply emerging technologies like machine learning and predictive analytics to content personalization and optimization. The DEC is actually a stand-alone SaaS offering, but when you use it in conjunction with the Sitefinity CMS you have at your disposal a pretty comprehensive subset of the features you would if you were using HubSpot.
Aptera partners with both HubSpot and Telerik (the software company behind Sitefinity). Our blog is actually hosted on HubSpot, while our main website is hosted on Sitefinity. Based on the two technologies' complementary strenghts, this is really a best-of-both-worlds scenario. We’ve even built some handy integrations that allow us to track our website’s performance with the HubSpot analytic software. What we haven’t done yet, however, is incorporate the DEC into our own internal campaign assessment and refinement process, which we handle through HubSpot... for now.
If your business is looking to get started with an inbound marketing initiative, HubSpot is the better all-around tool with the lowest barrier to entry. Sitefinity is the better option if you need a robust enterprise website with a lot of specific features, like intranet capabilities and multisite management tools. So the DEC will probably be most attractive to businesses that already have much of their marketing system in place, especially the ones already using Sitefinity.
How much the DEC will contribute beyond the type of analytics already provided by HubSpot is hard to tell at this point, since technologies like predictive analytics are still so new. In the realm of advanced Business Intelligence, you also have options like Power BI and Tableau complicating the issue even further. For now, your best bet is probably to base your decision on which tools work most effectively with the systems you’ve already invested in.
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