As noted in the title, this HubSpot CRM 2018 review is by an actual user – it’s not one of those robo comparisons that are becoming so common.
We’ve been using the HubSpot Marketing and CRM system for about 4 months and the more we use it, and the more we uncovered little features here and there, the more we like it.
Links to Key Topics
- What is HubSpot CRM?
- Summary of Price Points
- HubSpot CRM Review Summary
- Key HubSpot CRM Advantages
- Key HubSpot CRM Disadvantages
- Email, Email Sync and Integration (Outlook and Gmail, Free)
- Contact and Company Management (Free)
- Contact and Company Insights (Free)
- Deals (Free)
- Tasks (Free)
- Prospects (Starter)
- Meetings (Free)
- Live Chat (Starter, called Messages)
- Sequences (Starter)
- Multiple Deal Pipelines (Professional)
- Sales Automation (Professional)
- Predictive Lead Scoring (Professional)
- Smart Send Times (Professional)
- Overall, How Good is HubSpot CRM?
What is HubSpot CRM?
HubSpot CRM is a sales focused contact and contact and company management tool created by, no surprise, HubSpot.
While it is promoted as “free” there are a series of feature upgrades that are chargeable. Although, in fairness, if you’re looking for a simple sales support tool the free version is very functional and you don’t need to upgrade to a paid version.
Summary of Price Points
There are three levels of HubSpot CRM based on price:
Yes, this is really free and gives you a very usable CRM for very small (and not to small) businesses.
With the free version you can load up to 1,000,000 contacts, companies and deals. Plenty enough for 99% of businesses.
It also includes HubSpot Marketing Free: this is a pretty feature packed starting package of email marketing functions and includes – Lead analytics, lead flows and lead capture forms.
There’s a lot in the free package.
This mid-priced kit provides some nice tools, particularly, Prospects and Email Sequences, that are worth the investment even for smaller firms.
HubSpot CRM Review Summary
Over the years I’ve used lots of different CRM packages and SaaS applications. Until recently we were using the Zoho CRM but there plenty of others on the market.
For the most part there is nothing in here that is truly unique to the HubSpot CRM. Many of the features are available in other packages, both CRM and non-CRM.
However, the nice part of using the HubSpot CRM is the features are captured in one package without the need to integrate and buy multiple, off the shelf, point solutions.
“Meetings” (shared calendar direct booking) are just there, so are Live Chat (web chat) and Prospects (tracking which companies visit your website).
I’ve found that the more I use it the more I find little features that save time every day and just make it easier to run the sales process.
In this HubSpot CRM review I’m not going to run through every feature of the system in detail – for that you can see the HubSpot sales page.
Key HubSpot CRM Advantages
The critical advantages of the HubSpot CRM include:
- Single system, no integrating required
- Good free level of functionality, including Meetings and email tracking
- Some nice higher-level features including: Prospects, Email Sequences, Sales Automation, and Predictive Lead Scoring
Key HubSpot CRM Disadvantages
Honestly, there are not any real major disadvantages to the product.
Email, Email Sync and Integration (Outlook and Gmail, Free)
Giving HubSpot access to your email account unlocks a ton of useful features.
The ability to send emails from within the platform is not unique to the HubSpot CRM but it is implemented very nicely.
Sending emails is well executed and I’ve found myself using it more and more as the editor is functional enough for simple sales emails. It also includes the ability to send BCCs and CCs, reply directly, etc.
The support for signature blocks is strong and easy to use.
The result is an email creation process strong enough to be used to send emails everyday.
Emails can also be associated with contacts, companies and deals. This is a very useful in B2B sales where multiple people are often involved in a specific deal.
Emails sent from within the HubSpot CRM are tracked in the same way as typical marketing emails. This means you know, mostly, when they have been opened, if the recipient has viewed attachments and if they have clicked through on links. You can choose to be alerted in real time when these events occur.
The use case here is very strong: knowing the customer has opened your proposal document allows you to call them shortly afterward to ask what they thought, knowing your proposal is top of mind and they are probably at their desk able to take a call.
You may want to careful with this feature as it can be a bit Big Brother creepy for your prospect.
Documents can be loaded into HubSpot and shared with sales staff.
Even nicer, is the ability track when documents are opened by a recipient. You can even lock down a document in such a way as to require an email address from anyone other than the email recipient, allowing you to track everyone who views the document at a company.
In the past this was so poor as to be un-usable and I’ve uninstalled it a couple of times.
Not in terms of features but implementation. The plug-in would slow down Outlook for every, email, you, ever, create.
However, a recent update (3.0+) seems to have vastly improved this functionality and responsiveness. You should try it out to determine how well it works for you but I’m warming to it.
The features are moderately useful and include a quick link to the record in the CRM, details about the person and their company in the email pane itself.
These are short saved texts that can be dropped into emails and save on typing. Moderately useful.
In the past I’ve used Breevy and will continue to do so at it works across all platform, not just in the CRM. However, if you have a large sales team it might be useful to coordinate these for all staff members.
Emails sent/received form your email turn up in the Contact record
When you give HubSpot access to your email box it monitors incoming and outgoing email.
Using the contact email address as the link, HubSpot copies the email into the contact record when you send or receive an email. So, you can see all communications with the contact from either your email or CRM system.
Emails sent within HubSpot are copied to your Email
If you’re using sending one off emails or emails in Sequences, HubSpot will copy them to your Sent mail box. This makes it easy to search for a specific email that you might have sent.
Contact and Company Management (Free)
The base contact management is straightforward and similar to other platforms.
The system has the concept of both contacts and companies. You can create a hierarchy of companies for to account for divisions, brands and different company ownership structures.
There are many standard fields and the ability to add new fields to exactly match your business needs.
None of this is unique to HubSpot CRM.
As referenced above, the only frustrating part is the way the data is laid out on the page.
Unlike other systems where the data about the contact is laid out across the page, the HubSpot CRM lists the contact data vertically down the left-hand side of the page. While you can re-order the data, it means you can only have a few contact fields “above the fold”. It can be annoying to always be scrolling down to find details you want.
Contact and Company Insights (Free)
Based on the company domain URL HubSpot CRM provides a nice set of company data including LinkedIn company page, estimated revenue, staffing, phone numbers and other pertinent details.
Deals are the sales opportunity object.
These have much of the information you would expect: related contacts and companies, size, deal stage, etc. These are also extendable, i.e. you can add your own fields.
The reporting these is also quite nice with a Kanban style interface available.
Deals are similar to many other systems, but you have the ability to incorporate them into automation work-flows (called Sales Automation – Professional) which can be useful to automatically open and allocate deals as part of your sales process flow.
Tasks themselves are not unique but there are some keystroke saving features such as the ability to automatically create email alerts when tasks are due and automatically create tasks when you send an email or book a meeting.
The HubSpot Prospects feature uses reverse look up of the IP address the visitor’s PC to suggest where the person works, even if they don’t fill in a form.
Clicking on the domain name in the report provides details of all the pages people from the company have viewed, with details of how they arrived at the page (source). Company data is enhanced with the company insights noted above.
This is a great insight into organizations who are looking at your business and content. It works best in B2B situations because that is where the IP address reverse works best.
Combined with LinkedIn searches for key staff and the Sequences feature you can launch automated, targeted, outbound campaigns to your preferred buyer persona.
There are a range of systems you can use to enable customers to book time directly in your diary.
I’ve used Schedule Once but there are many others on the market. The HubSpot CRM version (called simply Meetings) is no better in basic function to the others but it does have one killer feature and one nice to have feature.
The killer feature is that when a prospect uses it to book time with you, they have filled in a HubSpot Form. From that point forward, you can track much more about their on-line interaction with your website.
Live Chat (Starter, called Messages)
Once you have the code installed on your website the HubSpot CRM can also launch a Live Chat session. It’s kind of a strange name, and feature, for CRMs but useful.
Again, having this in the main package means you don’t have to purchase it elsewhere.
As with Meetings, the feature is good but not world-shaking. It gets the job done but without the custom features some targeted applications have.
On the upside, because it’s integrated into CRM it is “aware” of the people visiting your site and you can change the messaging for known and unknown people.
The one feature I would have liked to see is the ability to show the messages based on geographic location. We get a lot of traffic on this site from locations we can’t service, and I’d rather not be popping message boxes for people in locations we don’t serve.
This is one of the killer applications for this CRM. Sequences are mini, sales focused marketing campaigns that you kick-off manually by enrolling the prospect. Crucially they will automatically drop out when a prospect responds to your email.
Each sequence can include emails and task assignments which are automatically executed. They allow you to automate a large amount of routine follow-up for a prospect.
I’ve created a couple of standard follow-up processes for Prospects based on their Buyer Persona. Once initiated, they receive emails and I receive alerts on tasks (make outbound attempt, attempt to contact via LinkedIn, etc) as they are needed. The coolest part is as soon as they respond I’m notified (by their email and the system) and the sequence stops – so no chance of out of context messages going to prospects.
Multiple Deal Pipelines (Professional)
This is the ability to have different deal stages for different types of deals. I haven’t played with this and I suspect it will only apply to quite large organisations with different product/service sales process.
Sales Automation (Professional)
This only applies if you also have the HubSpot marketing system. In summary it allows you to put Deals into you marketing automation process. You could for instance use it to create a new deal and assigned it to a specific sales person.
Predictive Lead Scoring (Professional)
Designing your lead scoring scheme takes time and effort and HubSpot’s Predictive Lead Scoring process looks like it will take the difficulty out of the process.
In practice, though, you need quite a large base of customers before you can get an accurate model. These are a couple of the prerequisites:
You have at least 150 customers who existed in HubSpot for more than one day before becoming a customer (or further along in the funnel, such as Evangelist or Other) and who have submitted at least one form.
You have at least twice as many non-customer contacts (Subscriber, Lead, MQL, SQL, or Opportunity) as you do customers.
Smart Send Times (Professional)
Overall, How Good is HubSpot CRM?
It’s pretty good and the free version is great value for money for small organisations. There doesn’t seem to be another package out there that provides the same level of basic CRM features at a free price tag.
It also keeps up as your business becomes more complex. The predictive lead scoring, sales automation and Prospects features are all very worthwhile.
Lastly, maybe actions speak louder than words. We started out hedging our bets with the HubSpot CRM in that we kept our Zoho system running in the background. However, after a few months using the HubSpot system we’ve committed to moving over 100%.