HubSpot vs. Salesforce: which CRM should you choose?

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May 18, 2020

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If we asked you to think of a CRM, there’s a high chance you’ll say Salesforce. They’ve dominated the space for years, especially for larger enterprise customers. But they’re not the only customer relationship management system out there.

One of the best alternatives to Salesforce is HubSpot, with 75,000+ users in 120 countries. Rather than striving to fill a niche, HubSpot has won its uniqueness by providing customers with an all-in-one system with the company’s inbound marketing philosophy at its heart.

When should a company use Salesforce or HubSpot? And how can you decide whether Salesforce or HubSpot is better for your business?

If you’re deciding between Salesforce or HubSpot, you will likely have a mid-sized or established business that needs something more than most of the CRMs on the market for small businesses. If your business is still small, focus on HubSpot: it’s better for small businesses that want to scale in future. If your business is midsize or growing fast, either HubSpot or Salesforce could be a good fit for you.

Nearly all businesses can benefit from a good CRM system (the exception: if your business has almost no data about leads, customers or sales to store). Here’s our comparison of two of the biggest players: HubSpot vs. Salesforce.


1. Cost

HubSpot’s basic CRM is famously free, and you can choose which of their Sales, Marketing and Service Hubs to add on top. Their basic Sales Starter plans are $25/month. After this, prices rise steeply: it’s $80/user/month for the Professional plan, and $120/user/month for the Enterprise plan (billed annually). See HubSpot pricing here.

How expensive is Salesforce? The short answer: expensive. Although they have a $25/user/month Essentials plan, this isn’t going to get you far. Like HubSpot, their basic plan for their Sales Cloud (the core CRM) is a “land and expand” tactic. To get the functionality you need, you’re likely to soon see yourself paying $150/user/month for their Lightning Enterprise plan for the Sales Cloud.

For their Marketing Cloud, Service Cloud and other automation and integration features, you'll need to add these separately to your package. See Salesforce pricing here.

The verdict? If you’re on a tight budget or concerned about cost, Salesforce isn’t right for you. Salesforce has a lot of extra costs that add up over time (just check out this price comparison from HubSpot for an example). HubSpot’s pricing grows with your business and its total cost of ownership (including implementation, support and training) is a fraction of Salesforce’s cost over time.


2. Overall feature sets

In May 2018, Salesforce was named the #1 CRM for the fifth consecutive year according to IDC data. That should be taken with a pinch of salt – although Salesforce is the king of CRMs, it’s not for all businesses.

Salesforce deserves its reputation as a sterling CRM for enterprise-level businesses. In terms of functionality, Salesforce offers more customization than HubSpot as a CRM. But not all businesses need all of the features, complexity and level of customization that Salesforce offers.

HubSpot ticks a lot of boxes, and the system provides tools for social media marketing, content management, web analytics, landing pages and search engine optimization. That’s a lot in one place. HubSpot does it well, however, and its customers have a tool that can grow with their business and fill gaps when and if they need them.

HubSpot coined the inbound marketing methodology, a technique for drawing customers to products and services via content marketing, SEO and branding. This philosophy infuses HubSpot’s own product and services. If your business also has a heavy focus on content marketing, HubSpot may well be a good fit for you – both in terms of product and ethos.

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The verdict? Salesforce excels because of its breadth of features and customization. But there are many businesses that don’t need anywhere near all the features that Salesforce offers. Also, if you’re a business that needs a strong link between sales and marketing and wants a CRM with easy-to-use features, HubSpot is better.


3. Automation

Automation is playing a more important role in businesses than ever before. It’s never been easier to let your tools work for you, especially when it comes to your CRM system.

Salesforce has Einstein, its own built-in artificial intelligence to help you work more intelligently. With the add-on, you can set up completely automated processes to take contacts from new lead to onboarded customer and beyond. According to their 2018 report, Salesforce Einstein now generates more than 1 billion predictions a day for their customers.

EinsteinDiscovery

HubSpot has a comprehensive feature set for automation, including workflows that you can build around any contact, company, deal and ticket values (although the latter two still have some teething issues). If you want to create internal or customer-facing “if this, then that” actions, HubSpot has your back. Some automation features are gated behind their Enterprise plan, including predictive lead scoring, recurring revenue tracking and custom event triggers.

The verdict? HubSpot offers more than enough automation for most mid-sized businesses. As with most features offered by both tools, if you need enterprise-level standard you will probably be more impressed by Salesforce.


4. Reporting and analytics

If you’re a mid-sized to enterprise level business, reporting and analytics will matter to you.

Analytics isn’t HubSpot’s strong suit, and larger teams may find themselves asking how accurate the data it gives you really is. Their Reporting add-on fills some of the gaps, allowing you to create dashboards of any and all properties you want to track against each other.

HubSpot’s campaign features also have room for improvement. It’s still difficult to build an accurate view of which contacts come from which campaigns, and track the effectiveness of your content and channels. One Capterra review explains how they use the HubSpot and Salesforce integration to get around this: “It is not perfect attribution, but it does tell us what content is "influencing" who becomes a customer. The integration with Salesforces and the syncing of campaigns to Salesforce helps us track that.”

The verdict? Salesforce wins on reporting and analytics. One of the main benefits of integrating Salesforce and HubSpot would be to improve the accuracy of your data, but this is likely a costly way of doing things.


5. Collaboration between functions (sales, marketing, support)

Salesforce and HubSpot aren’t tools to be used in a silo. When you place them at the centre of your business and ensure that everyone knows how to use them, you’ll get the most results.

Both HubSpot and Salesforce have the functionality for sales, marketing and support teams, and you can layer their features and plans to create the mix you need. Right now, HubSpot offers the most user-friendly sync between sales and marketing departments. Their Service Hub still has a lot of room to grow, so you might still be better served integrating a more comprehensive tool like Intercom for your support tickets.

The verdict? HubSpot provides an easy gateway to getting your sales and marketing teams on the same page. Its software for support teams is not quite there yet, unless you’re a smaller business.


6. Scalability

You need to know that your CRM can grow with you. That’s one of the best things about the HubSpot CRM system: you can start with a completely free plan, and upgrade as and when your business grows, in the specific areas where you need more functionality. Most users are unlikely to hit many ceilings if you’re willing to pay for top-tier enterprise functionality. Some specific use cases may eventually run into a few issues if you’re in need of high levels of customization.

With Salesforce, there is no end to the potential to scale and customize the software for your business. It’s designed for huge companies that have a long list of niche requests, including current known requirements and unknown future needs.

The verdict: both tools will grow with you, but the sky’s the limit with Salesforce.


7. Implementation & support

You can get signed up for the HubSpot free CRM in a matter of minutes. Without needing a paid plan, you can import all of your contacts as a CSV, match their existing fields to standard and existing HubSpot properties (e.g. lifecycle stage, deal won date, renewal date, account manager) and start organizing your pipeline.

Salesforce offers a 14-day free trial, but it’s just that: a trial. Eventually you’ll need to decide if you can afford a paid plan. With HubSpot, you’ll always have the free CRM. With Salesforce, you’re also likely to require an in-house Salesforce specialist or time with one of their experts, which is an added cost.

Anyone has access to HubSpot’s wealth of free content resources, and they also have the comprehensive HubSpot Academy to improve your business know-how. Salesforce has the comparative Trailhead e-learning hub, but with HubSpot’s inbound marketing ethos, it’s not surprising that they win on content.

As a HubSpot paid customer, you’ll have access to their 24/7 phone support and support tickets with email responses. They also offer live chat. On the whole, your problems will be listened to and solved by HubSpot.

Each Salesforce plan includes a Standard support package, with a two-day response time to your inquiries. For critical response times, you’ll need to pay extra for their Premier plan or above. You can see all Salesforce support plans here.

The verdict? HubSpot wins for providing the best quality and least costly customer support.


8. Integrations

Most businesses are using a multitude of different tools and services, which can lead to scattered data and productivity loss if you don’t have integrations in place. This is especially the case when it comes to your CRM, where the bulk of your data is held. Fortunately, both HubSpot and Salesforce have a great range of integrations.

HubSpot Integrations Library has 400+ out-of-the-box integrations that are simple to set up with other apps you use often, like Jira, Mailchimp or Slack. Salesforce AppExchange has 181 apps, 123 of which are paid.

You can also hire developers to help you create custom integrations, but there are easier options. PieSync offers integrations between HubSpot, Salesforce and 200+ apps, and uses a two-way contact sync to keep your data updated in real time. This makes integrating your tools much easier and straightforward.

The verdict? HubSpot is our winner here, with the highest number of out-of-the-box integrations. For both CRMs, PieSync makes streamlining your workflows much easier via two-way contact syncs between your business tools.


9. Adoption & reviews

As of May 2020, HubSpot has 75,000 users in 120 countries (according to their homepage). Salesforce, in comparison, has over 150,000 customers according to their 2018 Annual Report, with an estimated 25 subscribers (or individual users) per customer.

On Capterra in May 2020, HubSpot has a 4.5/5 rating for their CRM based on 2526 reviews. HubSpot Marketing also has a 4.5/5 rating, this time based on 4167 opinions. Salesforce, unsurprisingly, wins on the sheer number of reviews: 14,294 with a 4.4/5 average rating.

The verdict? Salesforce still wins on adoption and market share. In terms of reviews, we’ll call it a draw.


Our verdict: HubSpot vs. Salesforce

So, when should you choose Salesforce or HubSpot as your CRM?

As a rule of thumb, if you want to stay lean, choose HubSpot.

Choose Salesforce if you need a highly customizable CRM solution, or will in future.

If you’re worried about cost, Salesforce probably isn’t for you.

If you need tip-top reporting and analytics, look closer at Salesforce than HubSpot.

Can HubSpot replace Salesforce? In some cases, definitely. If your business wants to stay lean but still have a lot of scope to grow, we’re more likely to recommend HubSpot than Salesforce to you.

For some businesses, you might even want to use both HubSpot and Salesforce and set up the integration between the two tools. Though HubSpot and Salesforce are competitors and some features may overlap, some businesses can benefit from using both tools in their organization for different yet complementary purposes.

One Capterra review explains: “HubSpot integrates with our Salesforce CRM, and provides valuable information to our sales staff, which can help them better help our customers/potential customers. We assign leads that come through HubSpot and feed into Salesforce for personal follow-up”. Another review mentioned integrating their Salesforce API for accurate lead scoring.

For most businesses, however, it’s going to be a choice between HubSpot and Salesforce. Migrating CRMs isn’t easy, so aim to choose a system that can cover you for the long term. Think about your plans for the next few years and if HubSpot or Salesforce can tick those boxes. Then, make use of the free trials available and assess the features that are really important to your business.

About Lucy Fuggle

Lucy Fuggle writes for PieSync, the two-way contact sync tool for hundreds of apps. She also works with her clients to make their brand matter with a content-rich marketing strategy.