Zoho Marketing review: Top takeaways:
Zoho Marketing Plus has come a long way from an add-on to the Zoho CRM into a marketing automation platform that stands on its own. One of the best things about this tool is that it connects to and is supported by a full suite of cloud tools in the Zoho ecosystem. It’s really impressive to see how many different tools Zoho has built to work with their CRM.
On top of that, Zoho has done a great job making the tools easy to use and set up. Anyone with experience in setting up other automation platforms, or even just a MailChimp account, could easily set up an account and launch a campaign in no time. Pre-built templates for email, campaigns and journeys are great jumping-off points and can help anyone build out their first campaigns. They offer great in-app guidance, and their knowledge base and online community are robust.
All of the capabilities add up to an easy-to-use tool set that lets you focus on creating and launching campaigns and rather than problem-solving tedious platform eccentricities.
What kind of sucks
One of Zoho’s selling points is the wide offering of solutions that integrate with their MAP tool. But if you already have a full stack of digital marketing tools and just want to swap out your MAP, you may have a tough time integrating it with Zoho. It seems like they focus on rebuilding other point solutions instead of creating integrations with other tools.
It’s a bold strategy, and for customers that are just starting out, it may be really attractive to have a one-stop shop. However, for a more established team and tech stack, it could mean that popular apps you already use will not play well with Zoho.
Another common friction point is that all emails are reviewed by Zoho before sending, to check for compliance with CAN-SPAM. At least, this is the case when you are first starting out. Reviews normally take less than an hour, but it can still disrupt workflows, especially if you’re on a tight deadline.
Eventually, Zoho will whitelist your account if previous campaigns have low bounce and “marked as spam” rates, among other criteria. While it’s not typically a long-term issue, it can feel a little like training wheels for an experienced digital marketer.
Finally, this tool set does not meet the needs of large enterprises with multiple brands or regions, B2B companies, or organizations with complex sales funnels.While these are not necessarily the target audience anyway, it’s worth noting that to maximize ease-of-use, it minimizes the complexity and customizability that many businesses require.
This means that setting up an email campaign or marketing automation journey is really easy, and it also means that features like advanced user permissions, partitioning and managing multiple brands in the same portal are not available. Keep this in mind as you consider the trajectory and maturity level of your organization.
Pre-built integrations to common point solutions are one of the biggest missing pieces. A lot of the time, Zoho has an in-house solution that replaces a third party, like their webinar tool. But they don’t have as robust an offering of integrations to other tools, the way HubSpot does, for example. So if you have a tool you really love, make sure you can connect it with Zoho before signing up.
Forms and landing pages are conspicuously absent as well. While Zoho will allow you to create simple sign-up forms or pull in lead sources from forms already on your website, they do not offer the ability to create robust lead gen forms or landing pages to host those forms.
Things like conditional fields or nested taxonomies are not possible with the built-in form tool. If you want to create a new form and integrate it with Zoho, they only offer three integration options. If you have an ecommerce store or limited lead generation conversion points, this may not be an issue.
For many companies, though, those are necessities. Although Zoho does offer add-on tools for forms and websites, they are not included in the standard marketing plus tool set. And be careful when using the add-on forms tool, because webtracking is not linked to contacts that submit those forms. A huge oversight, in my opinion.
My two cents
Zoho sits in between the super-simplistic and easy-to-use MailChimp and the more advanced, all-in-one HubSpot. It offers many features that are useful for small companies or ecommerce businesses that are just getting their digital marketing operations off the ground.
The platform is relatively simple to implement and clearly built for teams that don’t have developers on standby. However, it comes at the cost of robust, enterprise-level functionality and would not be appropriate for complex or advanced use cases.
Easy like Sunday morning?: Zoho ease of use
The good: Quick set up
Zoho has created a really quick-to-implement tool, especially when you’re using their other tools. For example, if you’re running a webinar, they offer Zoho meetings (think: GoToWebinar lite) and offer a pre-built campaign template for your promotion and follow up. All you have to do is pick the time, select your list of invitees and fill in your email content. Not too shabby!
Their templates follow common-sense best practices, so you can be confident that you’re checking the right boxes, even if this is your first webinar. The templates may not be groundbreaking or exceptionally innovative, but there is something to be said for being able to create a campaign and get it out the door in one afternoon.
The good: The Zoho app universe
Zoho started as a CRM and has aggressively built outwards. They have a huge collection of apps and tools that would impress anyone. If you’re already using the CRM or one of their other tools, you can add the marketing automation platform to your tool set easily, knowing it will work. Also, if you’re trying to build your tech stack from scratch, consider the vertical integration opportunity Zoho provides. You can basically build your entire business stack within the Zoho infrastructure.
The good-ish: User interface
It’s easy to navigate and get to work. Unlike some enterprise MAP options that were clearly built in the early 2000s and have only had minor face lifts (Marketo, I’m looking at you), Zoho clearly has a newer and more intuitive interface.
The use of drag-and-drop across the platform is a welcome sight. From the campaign and journey builder that lets you drag and drop actions, decision points or assets, to the email and form builder tools that include drag-and-drop fields and elements, you can build what you need without writing any code or paying someone else to do it for you.
The functionality behind that shiny new UI, however, leaves something to be desired. When building out journeys in the Marketing Automation app, development can feel a bit clunky at times. For example, if you have an active journey and want to make edits on the fly, your options are to either let all active contacts complete the journey or to clone it, make your edits, then move the active contacts to the new journey at the corresponding step.
Neither are great options when compared to competitor platforms that would allow you to pause, edit, then resume an active campaign rather easily.
The not-so-good: Stuck with Zoho
On the flip side, integrations outside of Zoho are somewhat limited compared to other MAPs. If you already have a well-developed stack, you may encounter challenges connecting them, and need to consider rebuilding with the Zoho equivalent. When building your entire stack inside of one company’s ecosystem, you introduce risk as you become more dependent on their service and can be more greatly impacted by their pricing changes.
The Not-so-good: Zoho form challenges
Sometimes integrating those other Zoho apps has unintended and surprising challenges. Biggest of all, Zoho forms is a standalone app and is not included in Marketing Plus package’s nine-app suite.
If you use Zoho forms and feed those contacts into the marketing hub through the built-in integration (which, let’s face it, is kinda the point), you will not be able to track web activity of the contacts that fill out that form. Once again, for emphasis, using a form tool built by Zoho and linking it to the Zoho marketing tool does not result in standard web tracking functionality for that contact. Yup.
The not-so-good: Advanced capabilities
Zoho is clearly targeting SMBs and ecommerce companies with this tool set, so it may not be a fair criticism to say that they don’t have enterprise-level functionality. But at the same time, they don’t have enterprise-level functionality, so you need to decide if that’s a deal breaker for you as you scale. If you need to create complex lead funnels, partition the platform for multiple regions or brands, or if you’re interested in AI-driven lead scoring, then Zoho isn’t the MAP you should be looking at.
The not-so-good: Advanced reporting
The built-in campaign-specific reporting is great. However, if you want to dig into next-level analytics and create custom reports, you may have a hard time. The UI is unique and will require SQL queries at times. Reporting is, perhaps, the least user-friendly part of the tool (but then, when is reporting ever easy?!). Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to get acquainted with the tool and read all documentation before diving in – or promising your boss any new marketing dashboards.
Start me up: Getting Zoho
On the spectrum of MAP implementations, Zoho is definitely on the easier side. They’ve done a great job of including templates and prebuilt campaigns for new users to choose from. The in-app guidance for set up is clear and easy to follow. Most experienced marketers could easily knock out the account set up within a week and launch their first campaign by week two. In comparison, other MAPs could take four to six weeks….or even longer.
A little help from my friends: Support & training
Zoho support is available through email, chat or phone (24 hours x 5 days a week). The phone support can be hit-or-miss depending on who you talk to. I’ve heard stories of users calling in for support only to be transferred from department to department or promised call backs that never materialize. So you may want to temper your expectations and/or do a meditation before calling in for help
They have a good library of documentation and guides, as well as relatively active user communities. But be aware: because of the huge library of apps, the user community is much larger than just the marketing automation groups, so not all of the content may be relevant.
What’s it gonna run me?: Zoho pricing
Zoho’s pricing model takes into account the number of users, contacts, web visitors, analytics-rows, brands and events. So it may take some advanced math to calculate your exact costs. In general, it is on the middle-to-low end of the pricing spectrum when looking at the marketing plus suite.
I am a marketing operations expert with a decade of experience working for startups, agencies and enterprise-level companies around the globe. After stints in Boston and Madrid, I’ve settled in an idyllic Vermont farmhouse with my wife and two rescue dogs. When I’m not at my computer, you’re most likely to find me tackling a home improvement project way beyond my skill level or trying to find a new fly fishing spot in a nearby river. Say hello or hola on LinkedIn .