Free vs. Paid: Marketing and Business Intelligence Tools

If you're in business as an entrepreneur or small business owner, your mailbox is probably full of offers from marketing and business intelligence service providers who want to take your money. The trouble is, how do you know which services are worth the money, and which ones have a free competitor that will work for you until you start generating revenue?We're looking at eight marketing and business intelligence tools in four areas -- CRM, CMS & inbound, project management and sales intelligence -- to give you the tale of the tape on which ones are Apollo Creed (in the first Rocky movie) and which ones are the Italian Stallion.

Customer Relationship Management

Zoho vs Salesforce - Marketing and Business Intelligence Tools

Tracking your sales opportunities is vital for timing outreach and knowing how long your sales cycle is, not to mention pipeline volume and velocity. If you’re selling anything you need a customer relationship management (CRM) system to stay on top of your sales efforts.

Consistently rated the #1 place to work in the US, Salesforce is also the leading product in customer relationship management. Salesforce uses a “per user, per month” pricing structure with tiers ranging from $25/month for tracking opportunities and some prebuilt dashboards, to $250/month for the Unlimited Edition, which offers forecasting, rules based workflows, custom dashboards and a ton of other functions. But with 10 users, that's $2,500 per month in expenditure.

ZOHO CRM, on the other hand, is free for up to 10 users, and the top tier of pricing (CRM Plus) maxes out at $60/user/month. The free version offers tracking at lead, contact, account and opportunity levels; email templates, lead forms and some limited workflow functionality. Upgrades across a wide array of functions are available at $15, $25, $40 and $60 per user per month.

Winner: ZOHO for free (Salesforce if you decide to pay)

Content Marketing & Marketing Automation

Pimcore vs Hubspot - Marketing and Business Intelligence ToolsBehavioral triggers have become the norm for nurture campaigns and warming up prospects. From site visitors to asset downloaders, understanding which collateral resonates with your audience – and how to personalize and follow up that engagement with additional targeted content – is an industry best practice for inbound marketers.

HubSpot offers a set of tools to publish your website, track visitors, capture leads, serve landing pages and offer downloadable assets, along with email list management, segmentation and content distribution and measurement. But for a list size of more than 1,000, website and reporting add-ins, you’re looking at a plan priced at just under $35,000 per year, and that’s not including the $5,000 onboarding fee. To call it prohibitively expensive for startups is an understatement.

Pimcore is open source, and for that reason alone, it’s not going to appeal to everyone: there are technical considerations like the files need to be installed in the document root of your web server and you’ll need to set up the database (talk to your IT professional about that), and when anyone can create code, you need to be extra careful about what you install. On the other hand, it’s completely free.

But what does it do?

At its core (see what I did there?), it offers product information management and master data management tools, content management and digital asset management, along with ecommerce options. As far as content management goes, Pimcore offers website publishing, email marketing automation, content personalization and analytics, and even publishing options across multiple channels from a single source. If you don’t have $43,000 to spend on those tools this year, and have the technical know-how available to you, Pimcore is a powerful competitor to the big ticket content systems out there.

Winner: Tie – depends whether you want to spend the money on setup or technical staff

Project Management

Bitrix vs Basecamp - Marketing and Business Intelligence ToolsProviding a way for interested constituents to maintain and monitor the work of your internal functions, from marketing to creative to account services, is the best way to have accurate information when your boss asks for status updates.

Basecamp is the gold standard for project management and collaboration, but it runs at $99 per month, which can be enough to dissuade solopreneurs, small shops and startups.

As an alternative, Bitrix24 offers many of the same functions including calendars, document sharing (up to 5GB total storage), versioning, CRM and sales automation, Gantt charts and projects with up to 5 dependencies.

You can add more storage, external users, workflow automation and unlimited dependencies if you subscribe to the Plus ($39/month) or Standard ($99/month) versions. If you want to add in reporting and time tracking, your price jumps to $199. Discounts for paying ahead are available.

Winner: Bitrix24 for free (Basecamp if you decide to pay)

Sales Intelligence

Google Alerts vs Winmo - Marketing and Business Intelligence Tools

In sales, one of the most frustrating parts of the job is that you rarely get a decision maker on the phone right away. Big companies have gatekeepers, while managers at smaller companies are wearing so many hats they’re often simply unreachable. More than this, knowing when to time your outreach so you’re pitching services when your target might be interested – like when they’re in budget planning – is guess work for most sales professionals.

This is where Winmo and DailyVista succeed. Winmo is packed with information for sales professionals who target national advertisers: planning periods, prior year budgets and spending analysis by channel, filters that allow you to home in on niche markets, verticals or geographies. And at the click of a button subscribers get access to human-verified direct dial phone numbers and emails for decision makers that match their search criteria. DailyVista, Winmo’s daily email newsletter, offers actionable insights from its news gathering team which contextualizes earnings calls, fiscal reporting, movement in the C-suite and startup funding announcements. A subscription to Winmo and Daily Vista will set you back $7,995 per year for 2 users, with each additional seat costing $450 per year.

The free alternative to Winmo’s sales intelligence platform is Google Alerts and LinkedIn. I know that sounds like a win, because Google is awesome, but to be effective you’ll need to set alerts for specific things like “earnings call” and “series A funding” and “promoted to CMO” – which means you’ll need to know which alerts you need, then spend time setting those alerts up, and then spend time on a daily or weekly basis reading them to see what insights you can glean from them. If you’re in sales, you’ll understand that every hour you spend on activities that don’t generate revenue, you’re missing out on sales calls that could win you business, and this manual alerts system -- while it's free -- will quickly cost you in lost revenue opportunities.

If you go the Google Alerts route, you’re also going to have to dig up contact information for the decision makers you plan to reach out to. Company About Us pages will just land you in front of a gatekeeper, while LinkedIn profiles are likely to be out of date – and do you really want to cold call your target’s personal cellphone?

Winner: Winmo -- While most of the free services mentioned here give the paid service a run for its money, when it comes to sales intelligence, there’s no substitute for Winmo. 

Get a no-strings trial of Winmo today!

Written by: Duncan Connor

Duncan is Content Strategist at List Partners Inc.

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