Effective customer relationship management (CRM) is one of those things that helps separate hugely successful companies from the ones with middling revenues and growth. Being able to gain insights into your current pool of customers, easily reach out to them, and measure results is critical for improving your business’ marketing and sales performance.
The need for effective relationship management between businesses and their customers gave rise to innumerable CRM software solutions such as Zoho, Microsoft Dynamics, and Salesforce.
Of these CRMs, Salesforce was long considered the king of the hill. In their 2015 Annual Report, Salesforce boasted about having “more than 150,000 customers and more than 16,000 employees.”
However, a major challenger to Salesforce’s CRM throne came out a few years ago: The HubSpot CRM.
How does HubSpot’s solution stack up against Salesforce? Let’s take a quick look at some key comparison points:
User Experience (UX)
User experience is an often-overlooked, but critical, aspect of any CRM software. If the software is too hard to use, then it won’t get used. This negates the benefits the CRM may offer.
Very user-friendly platform integrated with the rest of HubSpot’s features/services for easy optimization of website content, emails, and more. The HubSpot CRM runs on all the current browsers as well as on tablets, desktop computers, and mobile phones. There are Android and mobile apps for users on the go as well.
As an independent CRM, integrations are often lacking, meaning that sales reps may have manually input data regarding their prospects rather than being able to rely on automated event tracking. However, Salesforce has been making progress on this pain point the last few years.
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model runs on any browser, tablet, desktop, or mobile phone—but has, historically speaking, poor performance on mobile phones. Also has Android and mobile apps for users on the go.
However, as noted by organizations like PCMAG, Salesforce has a “steep learning curve,” which could put off some new users.
If your website is run on the Hubspot platform already, all of the integrations that the HubSpot CRM offers provide a smoother user experience versus using Salesforce. However, if you’re on a different platform for managing your website and your team’s already familiar with Salesforce, then it might be a worthwhile solution to keep using.
HubSpot's CRM allows sales representatives to customize their settings on an individual level. This CRM specifically allows users to create custom contact, company, and individual deal records as well as customized display, lead scoring, and form field mapping.
This means that they get the data they most need, not the data that some random programmer thinks they need. It also means getting that data in a relevant, understandable format.
Salesforce’s CRM tends to put an administrator in charge of customization. This is great for ensuring consistent reporting across teams, but might make things a little less convenient for individual team members.
Administrators can create custom database tables to keep track of data unique to your business—which is awesome for a lot of companies in niche markets.
However, Salesforce has hard limits on the number of total custom objects that users can have.
Winner: HubSpot for individual reps, Salesforce for organization-level stuff
With customization on an individual sales rep level, HubSpot’s CRM is more deeply customizable than Salesforce. On the other hand, the ability to define dashboard displays by role type allows Salesforce to prioritize information that’s more useful to the organization as a whole rather than to the individual salesperson/marketer.
The HubSpot CRM is FREE to all HubSpot users, whether you’re on the Basic ($200/mo.), Pro ($800/mo.), or Enterprise ($2,400/mo.) plan. Best of all, there’s effectively unlimited seats for users—additional costs are based on the number of contacts you’re managing, not the number of people you employ to manage them.
Salesforce uses a different billing model for their CRM. With Salesforce, the monthly cost of the software is based on the total number of users you have, not on how many contacts you’re managing.
The low end of the Salesforce CRM is $25/mo. per user (up to 5 users) for their SalesforceIQ CRM starter package. After the first five users, companies can opt for the “Lightning Professional” tier plan, which is billed at $75/mo. per user. So, a small, 10-man sales team would pay at least $750/mo. just for a CRM without any workflow automation.
To get the nicer features of Salesforce’s CRM, you’d have to get the “Lightning Enterprise” service, which is billed at $150/mo. per user. This is the minimum needed to get web service API integration, workflow automation, and single sign-on for all the apps that comprise Salesforce. This would cost a 10-man team $1,500 per month.
Salesforce’s basic service for just a “beginner” CRM rivals the cost per month of HubSpot’s basic inbound marketing service for managing a website—a service that includes free CRM features to rival Salesforce’s enterprise-level offering.
Alignment for Sales and Marketing Efforts
The HubSpot CRM is built to align sales and marketing via its integrations with the HubSpot inbound marketing platform. The two products work hand in hand like few other CRM and marketing tools can because they’re both developed by the same company.
Key integrations and tools for HubSpot’s CRM include:
- Find Companies. Helps you learn more about prospects by identifying company information such as annual revenue and how many employees work there—great for B2B sales and marketing teams.
- Social Media Integration. The CRM automatically pulls a prospect’s social media accounts so you can connect with prospects via Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+.
- Marketing List Integration. Contacts can be grouped together to form lists, allowing marketing to use those lists for targeted campaigns designed to convert prospects into customers. Contact records automatically sync with the marketing platform so sales and marketing stay aligned and there’s less time wasted on outdated info.
Beyond these integrations with the HubSpot inbound marketing platform, the HubSpot CRM also plays nice with Wistia, Survey Monkey, and other services to give you a complete profile of contact activity for both your sales and marketing teams.
Salesforce created a social network tool called Chatter to integrate with its CRM solution. Some of the integrations between Chatter and Salesforce offer benefits such as:
- Easy List Segmentation. Salesforce’s Chatter integration lets you group contacts together for use in targeted marketing efforts.
- Social Media Integrations. Chatter allows connections with prospects via Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
While both companies have another program that their CRM is built out of the box to work with, HubSpot’s marketing platform is far more robust than just a social media app integration.
Email Marketing Integration
HubSpot integrates with:
- Apple Mail
Better yet, each email sent, received, opened, and clicked is automatically logged—both sales and marketing team members can be immediately notified of these events. Bounces and accounts with multiple contacts are also automatically tracked.
Salesforce integrates with Outlook out of the box. Also, users have to log emails manually. So, there’s more work for keeping track of individual contacts.
However, the Salesforce CRM does keep track of email bounces and accounts/lists that have multiple contacts.
HubSpot works with a wider variety of email clients than Salesforce, has better overall email event logging, and tracks email events for both sales and marketing teams—without the need for third-party apps.
Depth of Analytics and Reports
This CRM easily generates analytics reports with just a few clicks using data from both the CRM and the marketing platform. This leverages the power of the HubSpot inbound marketing platform.
However, the breadth and depth of some of these reports can be somewhat lacking for certain businesses.
Has a very wide range of reports and statistics to track. Basically, any kind of report you can think of can be generated in Salesforce. Reports can be automatically generated with just a few clicks.
However, to get a deeper dive in reports, you may need to import some Excel documents.
HubSpot might be easier to use, but the reports it generates can be limited compared to Salesforce.
Which is Best for Your Business?
It may seem as though I’ve been a little hard on Salesforce thus far, and I have. It’s not a software I personally use a lot, and it probably shows in my assessment. I’m far more comfortable with the HubSpot CRM.
This is not to say that Salesforce is a bad CRM—that’s not the case at all. It would hardly have become the #1 CRM in the world if it wasn’t good. It’s just that the steep learning curve and difficult UX can be off-putting for some.
For larger businesses with deep pockets and the need to integrate with a lot of the different apps that are available in the Salesforce marketplace, Salesforce is a great tool. However, for smaller businesses that don’t have thousands of contacts (or are already on HubSpot’s inbound marketing platform), the HubSpot CRM is the easier, more affordable solution.
Ultimately, it might come down to which one is more in-line with your budget, team size, and current situation.
Of course, if you’re using the Salesforce CRM and have a HubSpot Pro inbound marketing platform for your marketing efforts, the HubSpot CRM integrates with Salesforce. This allows you to sync your HubSpot database with Salesforce so you can get the best of both worlds.