In the next of our “showdown” series, we’re putting HubSpot’s CRM up against one of its main rivals, Salesforce, to see which platform is best for your business based on some key considerations:
- Total cost of ownership
As with the other comparisons we’ve done in this series, we’ll tell you now for full disclosure that we’re a Diamond HubSpot partner and unashamedly “Team HubSpot”.
Having said that, this is an honest to god, impartial review of the two CRMs. We know as well as anyone that HubSpot isn’t perfect and where Salesforce has the advantage, we’ll say so, without excuse.
Oh, and we've also put HubSpot CMS (because they've just launched a new HubSpot CMS Hub) up against Wordpress CMS.
What is a CRM?
If you already know what a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system is, then skip this next bit.
For those who don’t know, a CRM is a technology platform that helps you to manage customer relationships (that’s the obvious one), identify leads and customers and help align your sales, marketing and service teams.
Do you need a CRM?
Honestly, it depends but chances are, then yes, you do need some kind of CRM installed in your business. Essentially, if you need to store data about leads, customers or sales then you will benefit from having a CRM because it makes the whole organisation of this data a hell of a lot easier.
Also, GDPR and data compliance has made the benefit of a CRM much more obvious.
Ok. Now that we’ve got that bit out the way, let’s get to the bit you’re really here for. The comparison.
HubSpot vs Salesforce top things to consider
- Support & Services - Advantage HubSpot
- Price - Advantage HubSpot
- Total Cost of Ownership - Advantage HubSpot
- Usability - Advantage HubSpot
- Scalability - Minor Advantage Salesforce
- Integrations - Advantage Salesforce
- Reporting - Advantage HubSpot
- Speed of adoption - Advantage HubSpot
Salesforce is almost the unofficial grandfather of Software as a Service (SaaS) and today is one of the biggest, most well known and widely used SaaS CRM products on the market. One of the first, if not the first, to offer cloud based subscription models back in 1999, today it has revenues of around $13.3bn as of 2019.
Definitely not a basic CRM, Salesforce is very much geared towards the Enterprise space and most companies which use it do so because of its customisations and network of add-ons meaning you can tailor it around a large organisation’s needs.
Salesforce is also not a cheap option. Starting from $25 per user per month this can go to more than $300 depending on the needs and scale of a business.
HubSpot is a dependable, easy-to-use contact management and customer relationship management tool serving businesses from SME to Enterprise level. HubSpot is an ideal solution for a company wanting a user-friendly “out of the box” CRM or for an Enterprise level business looking to get full visibility over their sales pipeline, in real time.
Its entry level software (which starts for free) offers an out of the box solution for smaller teams looking for intuitive software to get an overview of their sales and customer information. Moving through the tiers HubSpot has most recently made a move into the Enterprise space, adding more advanced features like single sign on, e-signature, quote approvals, call transcription and recording, sales playbooks and real-time data.
HubSpot’s CRM pricing is flexible and designed to scale as a company grows. This scale as you grow model means HubSpot’s CRM infrastructure is able to handle basic needs of smaller companies starting for free, up to more robust and demanding requirements of large scale organisations which need upgraded, additional functionality.
HubSpot has also maintained its model of “building from the ground up” - as opposed to Salesforce which has built through acquisition - meaning it can be much easier to get different functions to work together.
Cost aside, Salesforce is highly customisable and has one of the, if not the, biggest marketplace for apps and integrations. This means provided you’re happy with the complexity of the software you can customise it pretty much anyway you want around your company.
Salesforce can be incredibly complex but initially it’s pretty quick to upload your current data into the platform and get started.
If you’re looking for sales reps who know how to use it, chances are, given how widely used Salesforce is, new hires will have had some experience with the software in the past.
Much of this is covered in customisation, but you can scale Salesforce up and down as much as you need due to the number of apps available.
Being cloud based, Salesforce is not only easy for your teams to access and use “on the go” it also comes with a high level of security to ensure your key data remains safe.
Salesforce prices are set on the website as per user, per month but it is important to realise that the payments are made annually, meaning you could be putting down a considerable investment in your CRM upfront.
This also increases the risk of “vendor lock-in”, which has been cited to us as a problem by those who haven’t necessarily liked using Salesforce but have felt forced to persist with it because of the initial investment.
Implementation costs can quickly increase that investment as well, with the cost of consultant adding five, sometimes up to six figures into the start-up costs.
While Salesforce is very customisable, each new application or integration comes with additional expense, meaning as you scale the ability and size of your Salesforce CRM your costs can increase quickly.
Again, because Salesforce has grown through acquisition, its customisations haven’t been “built in” and are more like bolt-ons, meaning it can be difficult and costly to add customisation.
Salesforce is a powerful CRM tool and if you have a dedicated team with the time and inclination to get the most out of it, it could be the right option for you.
If you’re a medium sized company (even teetering on the side of a larger business) then Salesforce is likely going to be overkill and much more than you need.
Having said that, Salesforce is very much targeted towards the larger, enterprise audience and is designed with them in mind.
Service & Support
Salesforce does offer some self-service capabilities, but we’ve heard anecdotally that this service can be limited and sometimes customer questions remain unanswered - while the live support isn’t easily usable.
Also, if you have a quick look at customer reviews you’ll notice a few saying that it can be difficult to contact their customer support service.
While Salesforce has a ton of integrations available, because Salesforce itself is quite technical it can mean that integrations may require some custom development to ensure they work properly - which obviously adds to the time and cost of integrations.
Also, because Salesforce doesn’t have marketing and service functions built in, you have to have HubSpot, Marketo, Pardot etc to use it as a funnel marketing and sales funnel. This means you have to spend additional money to get the full use out of it.
While you can customise Salesforce in many ways, its basic “out of the box” functionality can leave something to be desired.
There are several system limitations of the system from the basic to Enterprise version like rules, limited custom fields or shared files.
Perhaps more challenging for large Enterprise companies is the limits on storage, which can quickly become a problem for large multi-country Enterprises.
Not to labour the point, but because of its growth through acquisition model, some of the bolt on functionality has been known to be troublesome.
Ease of use
While it is possible to get to know Salesforce well and learn your way around it, it takes a lot of training and time investment to really get the most out of it.
If, as a business, you invest this time in your employees and they leave later down the line, you can end up with a large, complex system that staff don’t really understand.
You can start to use HubSpot’s CRM for free, which is ideal for smaller companies. After this, your costs scale as you increase the feature sets you have access to.
You can start to see some expense as you move through the different tiers but comparatively speaking, compared with the likes of Salesforce, HubSpot has managed to keep pretty competitive with its pricing even as its feature set has reached the same kind of Enterprise level functionality.
Because it is built organically, HubSpot also gives you access to your sales and CRM features in one solution, so there’s no unexpected costs. Also, you only pay for revenue which is generated on sales seats, so you’re not paying on seats that aren’t driving any revenue.
HubSpot’s CRM tracks customer interactions automatically so you always have the most recent data while the gmail and outlook integrations mean you can get information on email engagement in real time.
Don’t get us wrong, HubSpot’s reporting isn’t perfect and we’ve heard some complaints (which we share) but recent changes and others planned for the near future make us think improvements have already been made and it’s definitely an area HubSpot is focusing more on.
Perhaps the main user benefit is that HubSpot’s CRM syncs directly with their marketing tools, which means you have a simple path for leads to take from your marketing to sales.
Again, Hubspot has one up on Salesforce here because its product has grown organically so was designed with its other products in mind.
Because it was built for sales reps and managers it is very much a user experience designed product, and is much more intuitive for the end user.
Full cost of ownership
The only additional costs you incur with HubSpot’s CRM are the costs involved with upgrading your features and number of seats. Unlike Salesforce there are no additional customisation costs involved, like paying for support or consultants to implement the tool at the beginning.
As HubSpot originally started as a tool for smaller SMB businesses it is a good option for smaller companies which might be new to CRMs, particularly as the cost starts at free.
But it is now also a main player in the Enterprise level with functionality and features that mean it can meet the requirements of more complex business needs for teams of up to around 500 sales people.
First let’s deal with the most obvious one. HubSpot does integrate with Salesforce so, if you wanted to go down the route of using one with the other, you do have that option.
Similarly, HubSpot does integrate with Microsoft Dynamics and other CRMs so if you want HubSpot for your marketing and sales but prefer the functionality of another CRM, HubSpot gives you that option.
From a pure numbers standpoint, Salesforce has a bigger app marketplace.
But if you use HubSpot you don’t need to integrate with separate marketing and service products, as these are built into the same platform as the CRM - you just need to turn them on. As we’ve mentioned, with Salesforce, you have to integrate another marketing or service tool to use as a full funnel.
And this includes having those extra costs involved.
If you’re looking for a CRM that you can get your team up and running on relatively quickly, then HubSpot wins this category hands down.
It’s not unreasonable to expect a user to go from complete novice to being able to confidently use the platform after a half-day of training.
Whereas Salesforce takes some serious time investment to learn and is probably more aimed at the upper echelon of management looking for reports - rather than those using it day-to-day.
While HubSpot’s CRM is widely used, its Enterprise level functionality is still relatively new and when it comes to widespread use, Salesforce definitely has the edge in this category. But, given the ease of adoption, getting people onboard and making use of HubSpot is a very quick process.
Although HubSpot can be customised heavily around your business needs using the API, it doesn’t have the same level of options and integrations as Salesforce. While HubSpot is much easier to use “out of the box” if your needs are on the larger, more complex side, Salesforce still, just, has the edge. HubSpot does have plans for features like custom objects which are due to come into play soon, but for now, we have to give this one to Salesforce.
Limited starter features
You can’t argue with starting on a sales platform for free, but there’s no getting around that HubSpot’s free CRM can be limited in what it can do beyond the basic organisation of information. If you’re willing to put some investment behind your CRM, HubSpot quickly adds the features which makes it a great choice for organisations wanting a powerful CRM with some sales acceleration tools.
Like most of these comparisons, had we been writing this a year ago our verdict would have been pretty clear cut.
If you were an SME looking for a smaller, affordable, scalable option for your CRM then you would be better off with HubSpot. If you were a larger Enterprise level organisation with more complex requirements out of a CRM, then Salesforce would be the option to go for.
But, as HubSpot has put more focus on its Enterprise level software, it has become a much closer call. In this case, we do have to give it to HubSpot on this occasion.
Yes, Salesforce is more established on the Enterprise stage, but the way HubSpot has taken the benefits in terms of scalability, usability and support and translated that into its Enterprise level software means it has crept ahead of Salesforce as the CRM you would get the most out of.
Still not sure which CRM you should go with?
Read our guide to choosing the right CRM by downloading it below.