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HubSpot review: CRM tools for every budget

Hubspot review - lead
Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : 216
(Small Business Starter)

HubSpot is an exhaustively comprehensive CRM that has something for every level of business

Pros

  • Highly capable free tier
  • Excellent guided setup process
  • Flexible email integration

Cons

  • Can be overwhelming at first
  • Upgrades locked behind higher paid tier

HubSpot offers a huge range of features, which can feel overwhelming at first, particularly since these extend well beyond simple CRM. However, its comprehensive free tier provides a pressure-free environment in which you can assess your needs, and is a capable stand-alone for some SMEs, while its Starter tier is a cost-effective upgrade once you’ve come to a decision.

HubSpot review: What do you get for the money?

HubSpot provides a wide range of sales, marketing, customer service and operations management tools, and its pricing is convoluted and, at its highest tiers, conspicuously expensive. However, it starts with a free tier, which includes feature-limited, but nonetheless very capable, versions of the marketing, sales, service, operations and even CMS tools that will enable you to easily create a website to sell your products or services directly.

Not everything is in the free version, nor the small-business-oriented Starter edition, for that matter. For example, although all accounts get a support ticketing system – a relatively unusual feature in a CRM – only costly Professional subscriptions get the accompanying feedback surveys, knowledgebase or customer portal. Support ticketing systems are useful for service-based businesses once leads are converted.

The complete HubSpot CRM Suite Starter tier costs £45/mth for two users on a monthly rolling contract, or £27/mth if you pay annually. However, for new customers it’s just £216/yr, which works out at £18/mth for your two users. Individual modules are also available, for less than the cost of the whole suite.

Prices for the Professional tier of the full CRM suite for five full user accounts start at £16,839/yr or £1,562/mth. Somewhat confusingly, this is also described as a “starter” suite in some marketing materials, but it’s well beyond the scope of this Small and Medium Enterprise-focused review.

On top of that, all paid-for tiers can have as many free users as they like. For example, if a business on a free account upgraded to the CRM Starter Suite, all users on the account will have full access to Marketing Hub Starter, CMS Hub Starter and Operations Hub Starter. 

The Sales Hub and Service Hub Starter require paid-for seats to be assigned for access to all of their features, but free users can still manage deals and leads – although they can’t schedule meetings or issue quotes. As such, depending on the requirements of their role, not every person in a sales team will necessarily need a paid-for licence immediately; although a team with lots of individual autonomy will eventually all need seats.

HubSpot review: What’s it like to use?

There’s a clear post-signup onboarding and tutorial process. You’re first prompted to import contacts, either from CSV, XLS or XLSX file, or by syncing from a supported service. Built-in options for contacts include Google, Outlook and Exchange, Mailchimp, Zoho CRM and Pipedrive, with numerous extensions to support syncing from other services available in HubSpot’s App Marketplace.

HubSpot also reminds you to import any opt-out lists you might hold that contain prospects or customers who might have chosen not to receive emails (this is important for GDPR compliance, and it’s nice to see it being given due attention), which is rare among CRM suites.

The importation interface is largely the same for accounts, deals and tickets that you might have exported from another CRM or ticketing system. CSV imports are, not surprisingly, the more fiddly choice. 

The interface for assigning imported fields to HubSpot’s internal ones is among the most pleasant we’ve used, but suffers minor issues. For example, unlike various Name field options, if you type Email into HubSpot’s Choose or create property pull-downs, the Email property – required to complete the import job – wasn’t suggested. Instead, we had to scroll down a long list of options to find it. However, this is a minor problem, and HubSpot gave us one of the cleanest imported CSV contact lists among the CRM suites we’ve tested. Hubspot review: setup

The guided onboarding process also prompts you to add another user, ideally as a fellow superadmin; plus add columns, views and filters to help you manage your contacts. It’s useful to assign imported leads and customers to their sales team members (“contact owners”) at this point. Hubspot review: Contacts

Something you’ll notice is that HubSpot places a bit less emphasis on kanban board views than many rival CRMs. Most default views are lists, and you don’t get sales pipeline kanbans auto-populated with dummy data, although a sample sales pipeline itself does exist.  Hubspot review: Kanban

Free users get only a single deal pipeline, so will need to edit the supplied example. Starter accounts get two; if you need more, you’ll need to upgrade to the significantly more expensive Professional or Enterprise accounts. Kanban views are suitably polished, but we’d have liked to have been able to resize columns to take advantage of an ultra-wide display.

HubSpot review: Are there any other useful features?

Individual users are welcomed by a first login prompt to set their HubSpot homepage, allowing them to choose between their activity feed, dashboard, tickets, tasks, inbox and more. They can also configure this selection at any point via their personal settings. Hubspot review: Inbox

HubSpot strongly recommends using multi-factor authentication for all users, and backs this up with plenty of polite but genuinely effective nag screens. You can enable 2FA via SMS, the TOTP authenticator of your choice, or HubSpot’s own mobile app. The latter is available for iOS and Android, but lacking a distribution channel for de-Googled Android forks. Nevertheless, it’s the obvious choice, since it also provides rich functionality for those who will need to access the CRM when on the move.

HubSpot’s email tracking is a strong selling point, and the service highlights that during setup. You can integrate Google or Office 365 inboxes to send tracked emails, but you can also opt to only send tracked emails via HubSpot’s own interface.

Your users can each connect multiple individual email addresses, and HubSpot also supports shared inboxes. It features integration tools for Gmail personal or Google Workspace email addresses, Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Exchange – including Office 365 email accounts. We were pleased to see that, unlike rival Monday, you can also add any email account with IMAP support.

READ NEXT: Zoho CRM review

HubSpot review: Should you sign up?

HubSpot feels big and complicated, but is less intimidating than Zoho’s similarly broad offering, largely because HubSpot uses simple, accessible language to describe its features and processes.

It sometimes feels as though there needs to be a tier between Starter and the much more expensive professional tier, because smaller businesses will sometimes want features such as more than one shared inbox, email automation, or more than two deal pipelines; but most of the limits are sensible for your average SMB.

It’s a fantastic free choice for small businesses, and its Starter tier provides plenty of room to expand as you discover the tools you need for your specific sales model. It’s easy to be intimidated by the high price and staggering feature set of the Professional tiers, but for SMEs looking for a single tool to cover multiple business needs, from lead tracking to marketing and online sales, HubSpot fits the bill.

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