Inbound Marketing + Sales Blog

January 5, 2016

What's the Difference Between the HubSpot COS and a CMS?

Written by: Christopher Mathieu  |  Share:


We're often asked the question, where should I build my website? Should I use the HubSpot COS or a traditional CMS, such as WordPress? It's an important decision as websites are generally redesigned every 24 months or so and are the hub of all your digital marketing efforts, it isn't a question to take lightly.

In today's post, I'm going to break down the key differences and decision points between the HubSpot COS/CMS and a traditional CMS. For the purposes of this post, I'm going to use WordPress as it's generally the other tool in the running, and the differences are very similar to Joomla or Drupal so the same principals apply.

A quick history of the CMS

CMS stands for Content Management System. These systems brought a major shift in Web marketing since they allowed non-developers to generate and publish content. There are many CMS platforms available today, among the most popular are WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. Of the three, WordPress is the most widely used open source CMS, and is both mature (released thirteen years ago) and robust with numerous plugins to accomplish nearly any purpose.

HubSpot released their CMS just under three years ago, and coined it a Content Optimization System (COS). Since then, HubSpot has moved away from the COS messaging so you may hear the HubSpot COS or HubSpot CMS used interchangeably as you research this decision. It differs from a traditional CMS in two key ways, the first is that it's holistic including website pages, landing pages, blog forms, email and analytics all-in-one. The second, is that since it sits on top of your marketing database it allows you to create more personalized relevant experiences for your visitors.

Now I'll dive into why (or if) these differences should be important to you and your business.

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WordPress is a GREAT platform

Let me say that again, WordPress is a great platform. For years, it was New Breed's CMS of choice and we still have customers that happily use it. The three biggest reasons are that WordPress is:

  • One of the most mature pieces of open source Web software
  • Simpler to develop on than Drupal or Joomla (in most cases)
  • Has an incredibly huge user base and development community

In addition to this, there are use cases where building your site on a traditional CMS, such as WordPress, makes sense. The three most common instances of this are:

  • If you are an e-commerce business in which case HubSpot doesn't have the functionality you need
  • If you're looking to build a personal blog or internal wiki, which in either case HubSpot is going to be more robust than you need
  • If you need to have a database populating content on your website, which many Enterprise businesses do

There is more grey area on the last one, as this limitation is a common COS misconception because this functionality can be implemented in HubSpot, though depending on the use case, WordPress may still be the better choice.

...but the HubSpot COS is BETTER!

When it comes to building a website built for lead generation, it's clear that HubSpot is the best choice. Don't take my word for it, here's how G2Crowd ranks them head-to-head. There are two primary reasons I feel this way.

The HubSpot COS is holistic

The COS is a holistic web-marketing platform. While traditional CMS’ focus on letting people manage their websites, a Content Optimization System encompasses ALL components of digital marketing. Here are the biggest reasons why I see HubSpot being a better choice for B2B marketers:

  • All-in-one (websites, blogs, email, analytics, customer database, etc.)
  • Incredibly intuitive interface allows marketers to make minor changes to layouts
  • World-class CDN-based hosting
  • No manual plugin updates
  • Manage multiple domains from a single login
  • Natively comes with SSL encryption
  • Everything is backed up (pages, posts, CSS, .js, etc.)
  • Email comes with a Litmus account for free so you can test all major email clients
  • Amazing support team

Most importantly, HubSpot allows you to tie the entire customer lifecycle together, from A-Z, a website visitor into a closed-won customer. Being able to tie attribution throughout this process all within the same platform is incredibly powerful for data-driven marketing.

HubSpot's COS is personalized

It's been said that 2016 holds the rise of content personalization. The HubSpot COS is an invaluable tool for this as you are able to segment all your marketing data and digital body language to create relevant and personalized experiences for your site visitors. This can be done using any contact property, custom event or even referral source or device type. It's incredibly powerful and will be one way that the best marketers differentiate themselves and their brands this year.

The HubSpot COS does this in three key ways:

  • Smart CTAs: HubSpot allows for dynamic CTAs that can change based on previous user activity. For instance, if a site visitor downloaded an e-book that is an overview in using social media in marketing then they might also be interested in an e-book on using Twitter in the B2B space. Smart CTAs will dynamically change the CTA to download a Twitter e-book on that particular user’s next visit.
  • Smart content: To go a step further the HubSpot COS actually allows us to have custom, on-page content for specific personas. If we already know that a prospect is interested in say web design we can push that type of content right on the homepage. Even better is that we can do the same with email campaigns. We can make certain sections of the email “smart” and segment our contact lists so that people get content that’s directly relevant to them.
  • Smart forms: Are another “smart” feature of the HubSpot COS. Not only do these forms remember a user's information so that it doesn’t need to be retyped (allowing for higher conversion rates) but it also allows us to gather more information about a specific lead over time. The first time they fill out a form we might ask them for the most basic information (name, email, and title). The next time we may ask them the size of their company, what market they are in, or even a specific marketing challenge.

Additional benefits

  • The community: The HubSpot community is one of the best we’ve ever experienced in the marketing universe. It’s chock full of people who honestly love marketing and are eager to exchange knowledge and learn together. This is seen from their support team, to the community.
  • The marketplace: Along with the new COS is the HubSpot marketplace. Here you can purchase templates, find inbound marketing firms to help you carry out campaigns, and even purchase apps to extend the capabilities of HubSpot.
  • New features: As a HubSpot user you’ll also get access to new features as they roll out without additional costs. It's been amazing to see how fast HubSpot is moving to iterate on the platform (been around for less than three years, and the fact that it can compete with WordPress that has been around for thirteen years is crazy!)

Key takeaways

The biggest takeaway here is that WordPress is great, and for use cases such as e-commerce, personal blogs, internal wikis and enterprise sites with complex database functionality it's probably where you should be building your site. However, for B2B marketers with lead generation goals, HubSpot is hands-down the way to go. From ease of use, to full-funnel integration to content personalization there's no doubt that it will serve you and your website well.

Have any specific HubSpot COS vs. CMS questions or use cases you've encountered? Let us know in the comments below!

HubSpot COS Cheat Sheet

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in August 2013 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy and comprehensiveness. 

Topics: Demand Generation

About The Author

Christopher Mathieu is the Chief Product Officer at New Breed, where he oversees the creative strategy behind every project we produce. His unique ability to combine his fine art background with his technical web expertise, has led Chris and his team to produce countless sales-ready websites and inbound marketing collateral that actually drive results. His passion is to educate and empower our clients to think more strategically about their inbound marketing needs.

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