The Definitive HubSpot CRM Review
II’ve used HubSpot for the last 5 years in small, medium and large companies across sales, marketing and service functions. It was like many, my introduction to “Inbound Marketing” and with that a paradigm shift in how I thought about sales and marketing. No more sleazy sales people focused on hitting their targets at any cost. No more getting leads as cheaply as possible just to hit my leads target. All of a sudden there was this novel idea to put the customer first and not only that, break down the barriers in the customer journey between sales, marketing and service. It seems strange saying it now but I think we’ve all been guilty of working in silos, ignorant of who the customer interacts with other parts of the business.
“It’s based on building meaningful, lasting relationships with your prospects and customers through valuable content and experiences, and empowering people to reach their goals at any stage in their journey with you. Because when your customers succeed, you succeed.”
The all in one CRM
HubSpot’s philosophy is to bring together then entire organisation and align them with the customer journey, from Marketing to Sales to Service.
HubSpot’s product features are broken down into “Hubs” which build on it’s free CRM platform giving organisations the ability to pay for the Hubs they need, when they need them. If you already have Salesforce or another such system for sales but you’re impressed with HubSpot’s impressive Marketing Hub then you can integrate the two systems seamlessly. Or you might need something for your Sales and Service teams to use, HubSpot integrates with WordPress, Shopify, Zapier, Salesforce and many many more systems.
HubSpot’s flexibility allows you to create your own eco-system or streamline the entire organisation and replace a complicated tech stack with an all in one CRM that does it all.
HubSpot’s freemium model is not unlike the greats of Dropbox or Slack. But as you use HubSpot you’ll get a feel for how much they want to help small business grow with them, not against them. It’s no gimmick, if you’re a start up and not ready to invest thousands into a fully fledged CRM, the free CRM and free tiers of Sales, Service and Marketing Hubs are truly impressive. Most “free” offerings aren’t really free or will endlessly try to upsell you. But HubSpot does things differently. You get dozens of features, everything you need to get your teams moving, including up to a million contacts without paying a thing. You’ll soon begin to believe in their “Grow Better” slogan.
While HubSpot’s paid plans get pretty pricey once you’re at the enterprise level, there are ways to group the Hubs you need to get what you want. You can pick one or more Hubs or go for a bundle to get a discount. (The Starter bundle is more or less the same price as one Hub on it’s own so I’d suggest getting the Starter bundle over one or two Starter Hubs). Once you get to Professional and Enterprise, you’ll have to put some more thought into your business needs as the price scales up quite rapidly.
The HubSpot App Marketplace is just about the most extensive list of pre-built integrations you could ever need. It gives Zapier’s library a run for their money (although Zapier integrates with HubSpot flawlessly). There’s no additional cost for the integrations, although some require Professional or Enterprise plans. The marketplace has a range of free integrations to get you started, all the basics like Gmail, WordPress, Facebook Ads, Google Ads, Zoom, Slack, Mail Chimp, Stripe or Shopify to name a few.
Why choose HubSpot?
Starting out of a garage in Cambridge as a marketing platform way back in 2004, HubSpot has made great strides towards an all in one CRM, adding in a free CRM and Sales Hub in 2014, Service Hub in 2017, CMS Hub in 2020 and Operations Hub in 2021.
The Sales Hub is by far the most impactful Hub for most organisations, used properly it delivers an unrivalled level of sales enablement right out of the box. Using the Sales Hub you quickly get the impression the lovely people over at HubSpot use HubSpot every day in their own sales teams. It is a Sales Manager’s dream, offing a high level of automation and integration, a contemporary alternative to an auto dialler, email and calendar integrations, task management that’s second to none and exceptional reporting capability.
Here’s a few of my favourite features that sets the Sales Hub apart:
- Appointment & Meeting Scheduler – One way to improve your contact rate, give prospects a calendar to book into that syncs directly with your reps calendar. You can create multiple meeting calendars for different things, such as one for a discovery call and one for a post-event follow up. Each calendar get’s it’s own ‘landing page’ or you can embed it just about anywhere (it syncs with Gmail or Office 365 calendars).
- Sequences – Just about the best thing since sliced bread, put simply this is HubSpot’s solution to automate the sales nurture cycle. Sequences give reps the power to automate their follow up process, scheduling in future emails, calls, tasks and even integrating with the Linkedin Sales Navigator so all of the follow up activity that takes up so much time is scheduled well in advance and with little effort from the sales rep. This means as a Sales Manager you can develop a range of Sequence templates that might send the prospect an email immediately, set the rep a task to call again tomorrow, send another email the day after and so on. This saves hundreds of hours per year for the rep, doing the “in-between” tasks in the sales engagement process for them. The best thing is you can use as much intelligence as you have about the prospect to personalise the automation at scale. Going beyond just putting their first name, you might make an outreach email more personal with their company name, the industry their company is in, a summary from your last meeting/call, give details specific to the product/service related to their last enquiry and just about anything else your CRM holds. A great implementation of this I’ve seen is to have one email template to rule them all. Imagine your sales rep had one product template that was personalised and specific to their interests and needs for that prospect.
- Sales Management Playbooks – Have you spent hundreds of hours developing sales resources only for them to gather dust somewhere because it was too hard for your reps to find the answer in the moment, while they had their prospect on the phone or on live chat or while they were crafting their essay like email. Well, Playbooks sit within HubSpot itself, able to be pulled up by the rep at a moments notice and without leaving the Contact record. They sit a top the contacts activity timeline so reps can still read through notes, make calls or write emails. Playbooks are an interactive forms, the rep can type in notes or select from pre-defined responses as well as being able to give instructions or provide resources. The rep can then save the Playbook to the contacts timeline in the same way you’d save notes about a call. This means it saves time where you’d still have to write your notes, it gives a consistent format for information to be saved to the contact record and gives your reps all the information they need, when they need it.
I’ve found most CRM’s give the Marketing team little incentive to switch over their existing tech stack. Thankfully HubSpot’s Marketing Hub is feature rich and is a game changer for small to mid sized organisations. HubSpot helps you create and track your ads, manage your social media accounts, create bespoke landing pages and blogs, create forms using their drag and drop build to bring in lead data directly into the CRM and a slew of automation features. They’ve also added in some much needed revenue attribution and ROI functionality in recent years that really takes it above the competition.
Here’s a few of my favourite features that sets the Marketing Hub apart:
- Marketing Automation – We all know that lead nurture drastically improves conversion rates but have you ever tried to create an email nurture campaign in Mail Chimp or Campaign Monitor without an integration to your CRM? HubSpot’s Workflows allow marketers to put their nurture campaigns on auto pilot whilst leveraging all of the intelligence within your CRM. You can use workflows to send one of transactional emails, create specific nurture workflows triggered on a lead form submission or a particular property update or a list. You can include automated emails, tasks for sales reps to intervene, updates to existing Deals or create new ones. You might want to add or remove the lead from a particular list, trigger an external webhook or integrated app, assign leads, cope property values, edit property values. Literally endless and with the new Operations Hub, you can automate all your data cleaning too.
- Ad Tracking & Management – If you’ve spent time running ad campaigns then you’ll know there’s two major pain points: real time analytics and ROI. HubSpot’s ad tracking and revenue attribution features have come leaps and bounds and sync with Google, Linkedin and Facebook ads whilst also tying into your CRM so you know how much revenue has been influenced by what ad.
- Marketing Analytics – Created detailed reports on everything, tying in ads, clicks, form submissions, page visits, ebooks, email metrics, social media and build real time dashboards that are easy to read and have them emailed to stakeholders or add an iframe into the dashboard (brilliant if you have a few Goolge sheets that you can’t get rid of).
HubSpot believes that the customer journey doesn’t stop after the lead converts to a customer, in fact that’s just the start of their journey. Your Service and Operations teams need to to be able to manage interactions with those customers, ensuring you keep them happy and satisfied. There’s no sense spending all that time and energy attracting customers only to under deliver on the customer service side.
Service Hub gives your front of house team the same capabilities as the other Hubs to engage and mange customers plus a ticketing system for requests from customers, Live Chat, a Knowledge Base, feedback surveys and reporting.
Here’s a few of my favourite features that sets the Service Hub apart:
- Help Desk & Ticketing – If you’ve used a help desk or ticketing system before then this will be familiar to you, if not then simply put, this is a way to manage all of your customer requests. That might support requests about an issue they’re having, help using a product or service or just about anything that you need to codify and monitor. We’ve all been guilty of missing an email or a phone call, automatically creating tickets from emails or form submissions is a great way to ensure nothing gets missed and your Service team respond quickly and consistently. I love to create email templates and resources the Service team can use to resolve customer requests. Survey the customers on how they felt we handled their request. Get qualitative feedback from the team. And close the development loop to see how we can improve upon handling these requests over time. Why would you use HubSpot’s ticketing system over an external system like Zendesk or Freshdesk? Well, for me, it’s because it ties into your CRM. Once you’re in the HubSpot eco system, it’s hard to leave. Imagine a support request comes in and the ticket automatically displays the last 90 days of communication with the customer (giving context on recent conversations), brings in relevant product information like what product or service they have, how long they’ve had it, when was their last service request, are they a high risk customer etc. So your reps don’t have to go investigate 5 different systems to get a picture of where the customer is up to or what they’re entitled to. Also, you can then trigger other actions from the outcome of the ticket, maybe it’s an upsell opportunity or maybe it triggers another team to take action. Best of all it gives your Service Manager visibility at every stage and you can report on things like time in each stage, % of positive resolutions and customer feedback.
- Knowledge Base – This has come a long way, they’ve steadily been adding in features but fundamentally the Knowledge Base is a simply and easy to use tool that can be visible to the public or just to customers depending on your use case. I’ve worked in some companies that use the Knowledge Base to support customers but also attract leads. How often do you want to find out about a particular feature a product has but there’s no marketing collateral on it? I guarantee the Service Team have resources about it. No coding required, if you can type it up then you can create articles within minutes. You can also embed pictures, videos, anchors and a host of other media to bring your articles alive.
- Shared Inbox – Probably the most overlooked feature, I’ve seen Service teams with 15 different support emails for different services across the business and you can imagine the confusion that causes customers who don’t care which team is supposed to handle their request, they just want it resolved. But how can you have a single inbox with a dispersed customer service team? HubSpot’s got you covered, link a Gmail or Outlook email to automatically receive inbound emails that show up on the customers activity history, choose whether or not to automatically create tickets, allocate the email to specific teams or users, re-assign the email as needed, get inline comments from other team members (this is a great feature in which anyone can add internal comments to an email that only the rep can see. It also works in Live Chat which is brilliant training feature, especially for remote teams)
If you’re the kind of company that wants to break down barriers between teams and put your customer at the heart of everything you do then HubSpot is for you.
If you have an enterprise grade CRM already and need custom functionality then you might be better off with an alternative.
Well worth it if you’re a new start up or even if your about to transition from your existing CRM.
Between the workflows and sequences, HubSpot will save your team hundreds of hours and give your customers an unrivalled experience. *Available on the Professional and Enterprise tiers only.
An impressive array of ready to go integrations, although some require Professional or Enterprise plans and some aren’t as feature rich as platforms like Zapier.
Great, although gets a little bit tricky if you have multiple brands/ pixels to deal with.
Well thought out with 2 factor authentication for users and SOC 2 Compliant.
Within the industry they are famous for their incredibly service. Any issues and they’re a live chat or phone call away. I’ve found 99% of problems are dealt with same day.