Last Updated on August 5, 2020
Almost all business owners and marketers have heard about HubSpot, but most don’t really know what it does.
That’s because HubSpot offers a mountain of features and several different plans. You can’t easily distill it into one sentence.
So let me simplify things before we dive into the review.
HubSpot is a set of essential software tools that help businesses grow through inbound marketing.
Originally, it was just a customer relationship management (CRM) tool but has expanded considerably since then.
A Free CRM?
Now, the CRM is completely free, but you can also add features from these 3 categories:
- Marketing: HubSpot’s marketing platform includes tools for email marketing, landing page creation, and more.
- Sales: The sales plans allows you to keep track of deals, score leads, make calls, and more.
- Service: A suite of tools specifically designed for customer service teams.
Most small businesses will benefit most by the basic free CRM, plus either the marketing or sales plan depending on your specific business strategy.
This review will go over how the CRM and email marketing aspects are useful for small businesses.
Can HubSpot CRM Help Grow My Small Business?
If you’re not familiar with CRMs, it might not be clear why HubSpot would even be useful.
Here are some of the most common pain points that HubSpot addresses well:
- Not having enough customers
- Losing track of leads in your sales funnel
- Not converting leads into customers
- Spending too much time managing leads
- Blogging is too time-consuming or it seems ineffective
- Frustration and lack of progress from having contacts (and prospect conversations) scattered between email, Excel, Slack, and maybe even cocktail napkins
The HubSpot CRM will let you create profiles for each lead.
It also allows you to set up sales funnels and move your lead profiles through each step to keep track of where they are in the process.
If you do any type of inbound marketing (creating content that attracts viewers), HubSpot has features that will help you manage your marketing. I’ll break down the specifics in the rest of this review.
Video: Executives at Century Interactive (now called Call Box) share how HubSpot CRM has helped them drive sales and productivity.
Is It Easy to Use?
Signing up for HubSpot is as easy as filling out a sign-up form.
But getting started can feel a bit intimidating.
Regardless of what plan you register on, you’ll have the full menu (see below) along the top of the screen (you just won’t have access to all parts).
So there’s going to be a learning curve.
While most labels in the menu are intuitive, expect to spend at least an hour or two figuring out how to use HubSpot best for your business.
It’s designed well enough that you can figure this out yourself if you really want to, but there are also many free training options that I highly recommend.
You can start with the HubSpot Academy videos to learn about inbound marketing, or book a 30-minute meeting with HubSpot’s User Success Coaching Team.
You can also refer to the learning center, which consists of short video courses that teach you how HubSpot works.
Yes, there is a learning curve, but it’s not too steep, and most business owners can get up and running on HubSpot within a few hours.
HubSpot CRM Features and Benefits
HubSpot helps you get more leads and nurture them into sales.
Great . . . so how does it exactly do that?
I’m going to go over the most impressive features of the HubSpot CRM, which will clarify if and how the CRM would help your business.
Get Organized: Contacts and Companies
Contacts allow you to store and quickly retrieve any important information you’d like about a lead or customer. They save you time and help you keep customers happy, leading to more referrals, and better conversion rates.
Let’s look at how HubSpot handles contacts and companies.
Creating a contact only takes a few seconds. You add in a name and other contact information like email address or phone number.
Each contact has their own page that you can visit that contains all their information.
Any activity in other parts of HubSpot (like being added to a deal) is automatically added to the contact’s timeline.
At the top of the contact page, you can choose from a variety of actions:
This includes emailing the contact, adding a note, or scheduling a task with or for them.
You can also add company profiles to your HubSpot account, a boon for B2b sales. These allow you to add multiple contacts to a single company, and it keeps track of all activity for that company in one place.
This keeps you organized so that you contact the right person, and only do it once.
Develop Leads into Customers with “Deals”
The idea behind the “deals” part of HubSpot is to allow you to make a sales funnel, and assign leads to a particular stage in the funnel. This ensures that no leads are forgotten about, and you don’t duplicate work on the same lead. In short, it helps you develop leads into customers.
The deals section of HubSpot uses a Kanban style design, just as project management tools like Trello do.
Each board is a sales pipeline, and then you add individual deals (potential sales) to the appropriate stage of your pipeline.
The steps are pre-made for you, and you can drag and drop deals through each stage.
You can also click each “deal” on your board, which will take you to a page that looks similar to the contact pages.
Here, you can add a contact or company to the deal, and add notes or take action on it.
Capture Website Visitor Contact Information: Forms and Lead Flows
Lead flows and forms are both features in HubSpot that go together. They allow you to capture readers of your inbound marketing content (like blog posts) onto an email list.
You can then nurture these contacts using HubSpot’s other tools like email marketing and deals to convert them into customers.
A lead flow is essentially an advanced pop-up.
To capture visitors’ contact information you can choose between:
- Pop-up boxes.
- Slide-in boxes.
- Drop-down banners.
Once you choose the type of lead flow you’d like to create, you’re asked to create a form.
The form builder is simple to use, and you can choose from several fields to add to it.
When someone fills it out and submits the form on your website, the responses are automatically captured within HubSpot.
Lead flows are typically used in combination with email marketing. You can create a thank you and follow-up email in your lead flow that will be sent out automatically.
You can also tie in the submission with HubSpot’s email marketing features (if you have the marketing plan), which we’ll look at later on.
Improve Customer Service with Ticketing
Nothing is more frustrating for customers than poor support, which leads to bad reviews and word of mouth. The ticketing portion of HubSpot allows you to create a ticket for customer issues to ensure that it is taken care of by someone on your team.
Tickets are found in the service part of HubSpot. When you create a ticket, you can add it to a support pipeline, and assign someone on your team to take care of it.
Engage with Messages: A Live Chat Tool for Your Website
Live chat is a great way to collect feedback from website visitors and engage with prospective customers who are not yet ready to buy. Prospects can ask questions about their doubts, giving you a chance to answer them before the prospect leaves your site.
The messages tool in HubSpot is a live chat tool that you can easily install on your website.
The live chat is very easy to set-up. It’s basic compared to a specialized live chat tool.
But there are additional features that make live chat on HubSpot quite powerful.
Build a Chat Bot
First, you can create basic bots. They will automatically answer new chats so that you don’t always need a support person around,.
They can even do tasks like schedule demos and meetings.
As I’ll go over in the next section, the live chat can also be used with many integrations. These allow you to handle visitor chats using the same tool you already use like Slack, or with another chat tool like Intercom.
In short, it’s simple to get a basic live chat window on your website, and there are also more powerful features available if you need them.
Chances are that you use other tools for your business already. Integrations allow you to hookup HubSpot to those tools so that they can share data and work together. This saves you time and generally improves the usefulness of each tool.
Currently, HubSpot integrates with over 215 other tools.
That’s essentially every popular business tool, so there’s not much to be improved on here.
Email Marketing on HubSpot
Email marketing, if you’re not familiar with it, is the use of email to build relationships with prospects and customers.
Modern email marketing makes heavy use of automation so that you don’t have to manually send the same email over and over. Instead, you can send certain emails automatically, which boosts your productivity.
In HubSpot, you already have a way of collecting email subscribers (lead flows), and a way of storing them (contacts). Now you just need a way to send emails to them, which is where email marketing comes in.
HubSpot offers free email marketing as part of its marketing plans.
On the free plan, you can send up to 2,000 emails a month, segment your contact database into lists, and personalize your emails using any CRM property.
You can also report on your email’s overall success and see how each contact interacted with your email campaigns using the built-in analytics.
You can create simple emails, but not much more.
There are prettier HTML templates available, but you need to purchase those separately.
The email editor itself is beautiful and easy to use.
Use Automation to Engage with Relevant Messages
HubSpot does offer advanced email automation, but it’s only available on the professional plan and above.
Depending on the size of your business, this may not be in your budget. In that case, look into using a separate email marketing tool that’s more affordable and designed specifically for small businesses like ConvertKit.
If you can afford it, you’ll get access to email workflows.
These allow you to send different emails based on different triggers, like filling out a specific form or clicking a link in an email.
Even though everything is still automated, workflows allow you to create personalized paths for each subscriber.
The messages they receive will be based on their online behavior and interests. This is what we call “behavior-based marketing” and it enables you to send content that is relevant to the individual.
Measure Effectiveness with Analytics
The analytics cover the basics, which is enough for most businesses.
You can see opens, click-through rates, bounces, and unsubscribes from each individual email.
HubSpot Competitors and Alternatives
If HubSpot isn’t for you, consider the following CRM systems instead:
- SalesForce: The most direct competitor comparison is HubSpot vs SalesForce. Both are massive software platforms that are known for their CRMs, but also offer additional sales and marketing features. SalesForce is more time consuming to set-up, and the interface isn’t as simple as HubSpot. It’s also more aimed at mid-sized and large businesses than small businesses.
- Zoho CRM: Zoho is an easy-to-use CRM that is great for small businesses. It doesn’t have quite the same depth of features for HubSpot but is much cheaper. You can integrate other Zoho tools for additional features (like email marketing).
- SugarCRM: SugarCRM is somewhere in the middle of Zoho and HubSpot. It’s designed for businesses of all sizes but is still much cheaper than HubSpot. It is customizable, but it can be time-consuming, and the interface isn’t as simple as HubSpot.
Billing and Payment Options
As I said at the beginning, you can use the full-featured CRM for free, which is amazing. Even if you purchase a paid plan, you still get access to the CRM automatically.
For each of the other plan types (marketing, sales, service), there are up to 5 plans to choose from. The prices are relatively high, but part of what you’re paying for is the convenience of everything working together seamlessly in a single tool.
Every plan has a monthly fee and can be paid with any major credit card.
HubSpot does offer a 30-day free trial of its marketing hub plan if you’re still not sure.
When you’re looking at the pricing page, you’ll see an “addons” section below the main plan details.
These add-ons come at an extra cost but provide extra features.
Here’s a brief summary of the addons:
- CMS: Build a simple business website with.
- Reports: Add custom sales and marketing report options.
- Ads: Integrate your paid ads data with your leads and customers.
- Dedicated IP: Results in better deliverability usually.
- Transactional emails: More email options like automated account updates and receipts.
On every page, there’s a help bubble on the bottom right corner of your screen.
Clicking this will expand a search window that lets you look up help articles without leaving the page.
If that fails, you can contact support through the same panel. Live chat is sometimes available, but you’ll usually submit a help request through email.
The good news is that the knowledgebase is very thorough, and the articles are very well written. In most cases, that’s all you’ll need.
Also, recall that HubSpot offers a lot of marketing training and tutorials.
All their explanatory videos are professionally made.
HubSpot offers everything a small business could every need for marketing, as long as you’re willing to pay for it.
It’s best for businesses with a strong focus on inbound marketing.
HubSpot is also especially good for businesses with high-value conversions and long sales cycles, where it’s realistic to spend a lot of time on each prospect. In general, this makes it better for B2B than B2C.
So is HubSpot worth the relatively high cost?
HubSpot does one thing well that very few other tools do — simplicity. It’s easy to get started, there’s tons of documentation, and the user interface is consistent across all parts of the platform. Once you learn the basics, you’ll understand how to use the entire tool.
If you’re overwhelmed by the complexity of other tools or hate having to juggle multiple different marketing platforms, I’d recommend giving HubSpot a try.
Video: HubSpot Sales works with your CRM to reveal new opportunities and show you which types of emails are working.
Here are some common questions that you might also have.
What is HubSpot sales pro?
HubSpot offers 4 different sales plans: Free, Starter, Pro, and Enterprise.
Each level is more expensive than the last, but has more features and allows you to add more users.
The pro plan gives you access to sales automation, quote creation, Salesforce integration, and more. It’s best suited for small sales teams of around 5.
What is the buyer’s journey?
The “buyer’s journey” is a term you’ll see a lot through HubSpot’s training material.
It refers to the 3 main stages that all buyer’s take before purchasing a product:
- Awareness: Realizing they have a problem to solve.
- Consideration: Researching possible solutions.
- Decision: Choosing a solution to buy.
At each step, the buyer can be in a different lifecycle stage (subscriber, lead, opportunity, etc.).
What is the HubSpot email marketing certification?
HubSpot offers many free marketing courses and offers a certification for completing courses. Some of these certifications carry strong name recognition and can be useful for marketing professionals to obtain.
The email marketing course consists of several lessons that take you from the basics of what email marketing is, to creating an email marketing strategy, to analyzing and optimizing results.
What is the HubSpot API? What can a small business do with it?
The HubSpot API allows developers to integrate HubSpot with other software (their own or third-party software).
All of the 200+ HubSpot integrations are built upon the API, but sometimes a business needs an integration that doesn’t exist in the HubSpot app store. In those cases, you can hire a developer to take advantage of the API to “speak” to your application (of any type) and read or add information from and to your HubSpot account.