Authentic, personalized messaging is the secret ingredient in leading brands’ customer acquisition and retention strategy. The challenge is delivering the right message to the right person at the right time, and doing so at scale. A marketing automation platform (MAP) can be an indispensable tool for making it happen.
With a MAP, you can use segmentation to precisely target specific audiences, dynamically insert personalized content, and automate your campaigns to scale your business. Some platforms bundle MAPs with other solutions, like sales enablement, CRMs, content management, and customer data platforms; others focus exclusively on optimizing marketing automation.
As you evaluate MAPs, you might be considering two popular platforms: HubSpot vs. Mailchimp. This article offers an in-depth comparison of the platforms and explains why Customer.io may also be a good option for your MAP shortlist.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
HubSpot is a CRM with a suite of complementary products (aka, the hubs), which include a MAP, a sales tool, a customer service module, a content management system, and operations software. Together, they comprise an all-in-one business management platform. HubSpot’s Marketing Hub is their messaging automation platform, which can be purchased as a stand-alone product or bundled with other hubs. HubSpot has offerings for small, midmarket, and enterprise businesses; it’s often used by software, marketing/advertising, information technology, and financial services brands. The Marketing Hub is particularly tailored to top-of-funnel marketing and lead nurturing for B2B companies.
Mailchimp is primarily an email marketing platform, and its feature set is narrower than HubSpot’s. In addition to a MAP, it includes a CRM and a website builder with built-in hosting, appointment scheduling, e-commerce support, and custom domains. Mailchimp’s customers tend to be nonprofits or smaller businesses in the information technology, software, academic, and marketing/advertising industries.
HubSpot and Mailchimp have many features in common, and both have a CRM and a MAP. HubSpot does offer more options than Mailchimp, and it has more advanced features, but it’s also significantly more expensive. Mailchimp, in addition to being more affordable, comes with a much shallower learning curve, which is welcome for smaller teams and resource-lean organizations. For many smaller organizations, Mailchimp’s feature set is more than adequate for their needs.
HubSpot allows subscribers to create static and dynamic segments (HubSpot calls them “lists”), using conditional logic if desired. Dynamic segments will automatically update when customers meet the set criteria; while static segments don’t automatically update, you can manually add and remove people. HubSpot provides 250 predefined attributes you can use to build segments, although Enterprise subscribers can use custom object properties. The number of segments you can build is capped; the Enterprise tier includes 1,500 dynamic segments and 1,500 static segments.
Mailchimp’s segmentation options are more limited, as each segment can have just five criteria. The platform provides several pre-built segments; subscribers can also build their own segments, as well as use tags to sort their audience members.
HubSpot’s Data Model Overview provides a helpful high-level view of how you store and structure data. You can move data into the platform via native integrations, their API, in bulk (CSV, XLSX, XLS file), or manually. All tiers can use standard objects; Enterprise subscribers can create both custom objects and custom properties for standard objects. HubSpot’s app marketplace features over 1,000 integrations, which help expand the opportunities to ingest and leverage your data. That said, HubSpot’s data model is fairly rigid, and there are limits to events and attributes, so you may run into constraints when building highly personalized campaigns.
Mailchimp’s data model is more limited than HubSpot’s, with fewer options for moving data in and out of the platform. It features 300+ integrations to popular apps and web services like Shopify, Quickbooks, Stripe, and Yelp. The platform can accept data via integrations, CSV files, Mailchimp’s API, and manual entry.
With HubSpot, you can automate your marketing workflows, including conditional logic branching and time delays, and use events to trigger them; each trigger can be composed of up to 250 HubSpot filters. The platform provides a library of workflow templates. You can also clone an existing workflow or create one from scratch. The “minimap” feature overlays a small, high-level view of more complex workflows, making it easier to navigate them.
Mailchimp’s Customer Journey Builder also supports automated workflows. Subscribers can create up to three triggers and up to 100 actions or rules per workflow. Like HubSpot, Mailchimp offers a template library. It’s worth noting that active Mailchimp automations cannot be edited, which can make iterating on campaigns more cumbersome.
HubSpot tracks anonymous visitors with cookies and backfills event data if an anonymous visitor is later identified. Mailchimp does not support anonymous event tracking at all, so the only way to attribute anonymous events with known contacts is a labor-intensive manual backfill process.
HubSpot offers robust A/B testing. Subscribers can vary the from email address, subject line, and message content. In some cases, you can automate A/B testing within workflows to reduce the need for manual updates. HubSpot also provides Enterprise subscribers with a sandbox to test out new ideas.
Mailchimp has A/B and multivariate testing; it also gives AI-assisted testing recommendations. You can test subject lines, message content, from email address, and send time.
While HubSpot allows cross-channel messaging, it only has native support for email and a live chat widget for websites. And while you can use the platform for transactional emails, it requires a fairly expensive add-on. That said, HubSpot’s many integrations include messaging via other channels, like SMS/MMS, in-app messaging, ringless voicemail, and direct mail. External apps are not covered in HubSpot’s pricing, so using an integration to access other channels may impact your budget.
In contrast, Mailchimp is basically a single-channel platform. It generally supports email only, although it does offer SMS for a few transactional and appointment reminder use cases.
With multiple customizable dashboards that visualize campaign performance and custom reports you can share with stakeholders, HubSpot’s metrics and analytics tools help you understand and optimize your marketing campaigns. The suite also features customer journey analytics and multi-touch revenue attribution to help you understand how groups of marketing touchpoints drive revenue.
Mailchimp also has a simple but solid analytics offering, with dashboards, reports, surveys, and AI-assisted recommendations for improving performance.
All HubSpot subscribers can access the platform’s knowledge base, developer resources, learning community, and some areas of the HubSpot Academy. Paid plans also receive email and in-app chat, and Professional and Enterprise tiers have the option for phone support.
Mailchimp provides an AI chatbot for every tier, as well as email support for your first 30 days in the free tier. Paid subscribers receive email and 24/7 chat support, plus phone support in English on weekdays.
HubSpot’s pricing scheme is somewhat complex. Each product, or hub, within the suite is priced separately and includes some free services from the other hubs. The Marketing Hub has four pricing tiers:
You can create bundles of two or more hubs, and every product includes HubSpot’s CRM. Total contacts are capped at 15,000,000 for all tiers. Other restrictions and limits apply at various tiers, and many capabilities (like transactional emails, dedicated IPs, and webhooks) cost extra. The features vary significantly at each tier, so it’s a good idea to study the details of each plan carefully.
Mailchimp has five pricing tiers, and each has caps with potential overages:
Mailchimp’s pricing gets a bit more complicated when overage fees come into play. If you exceed your tier’s allowed contacts or messages, you’ll have to pay overage fees (unless you’re in the free tier, in which case your ability to send messages will be paused). The pricing for additional contacts and sends varies from tier to tier, ranging from pocket change to over $100 every month. If you have automated workflows in place and suddenly get a surge of new customers, you might find yourself with a hefty overage bill — a hindrance to companies that are scaling up. Mailchimp has also raised prices and revised message and contact caps on short notice several times in recent years, creating a hardship for smaller businesses.
Mailchimp’s feature list depends on the tier you select, just like HubSpot. For example, while all paid plans offer automated workflows, the Essentials plan only allows four rules or actions per workflow, while Standard and Premium plans allow 100.
Customer.io is a multi-product customer engagement platform comprising Customer.io Data Pipelines (the customer data platform) and Customer.io Journeys (the automated messaging platform). Customer.io Journeys is built to scale with your brand: a blank canvas ready for your unique messaging strategy. You can seamlessly include email, SMS, push, and in-app messages within a single campaign, create precise data-driven segments, and build complex automated workflows with unlimited event triggers. With Customer.io, you have the power to include hyper-personalized experiences at every step of a customer’s journey.
HubSpot can be a good option for businesses that want an all-in-one solution and can tolerate a relatively steep learning curve. The downside is that all of HubSpot’s solutions might not be right for your business, which would negate any benefits of the one-stop-shop model. Customer.io , in contrast, is focused on best-in-class, easy-to-use marketing automation that gives you complete ownership and control of your data. You can easily integrate it with whichever best-in-class tools you need in your tech stack.
Smaller organizations that only focus on email marketing (and with a fairly low volume of messages) may find Mailchimp’s straightforward functionality appealing. But its simplicity comes with a trade-off: flexibility and scalability. As your business grows, you may find your budget unexpectedly swelling or your ability to expand your messaging strategy constrained. Customer.io offers far more precise control over messaging and campaigns, with true omnichannel messaging and a data-first approach.
Deciding which MAP best fits your marketing needs and business strategy calls for some reflection on where you are now as well as how you hope to grow in the future. The following questions may help as you weigh your options:
Customer.io was created to give you the flexibility and control you need to design a cross-channel marketing strategy that creates extraordinarily personalized experiences for your customers and makes the most out of your data. Get started with a 14-day free trial!