HubSpot Review

HubSpot In-Depth Review

by ComparisonX Editorial Feb 01, 2019

HubSpot is a marketing automation platform that focuses on small and medium sized businesses. The platform offers a wide breadth of tools to manage most aspects of marketing campaigns. The platform has grown in popularity in recent years, driven by an easy to use interface and accessible pricing.  In our HubSpot review we dive in detail into the solution and its benefits.

HubSpot CRM

At the centre of HubSpot is a free CRM tool. And yes, it is actually free.

For a free tool tool the HubSpot CRM tool is surprisingly strong. It has all the basic features you would expect from a paid CRM solution such as contact management, client history, email templates and click to call. The interface is intuitive and easy to use.

In general user reviews of the platform are positive. We have had some minor complaints of how the system integrates with third party email systems (like Gmail and Outlook) but in general end users rate the CRM tool very highly.

Part of the reason the CRM tool is free is that it integrates with Hubspot’s other paid marketing automation offerings. When using the HubSpot CRM tool with the rest of their marketing software you start to see the power of this platform.

“The HubSpot CRM is the foundation on which the HubSpot marketing, sales and service tools are built. Once you start using the CRM to manage your database of contacts, you’ll quickly realize that are tools for you to not just manage your database, but to do lead generation, lead capture, lead nurturing, sales nurturing and so much more, including tools to automate all those things! If you want to be able to track your contacts from the first time they interact with your brand to when they turn into customers, the HubSpot platform is the best way to do it.”

Carina Duffy
HubSpot Specialist and Lead HubSpot Trainer at IMPACT
impactbnd.com
Carina Duffy Linked-In

HubSpot Marketing Hub

The HubSpot Marketing Hub encompasses the platforms inbound marketing tools. The aim of this suite of products is to grow traffic and convertHubSpot Analytics those visitors into sales and leads.

This generally encompasses the assets which a business may own or manage themselves. This could include their website, social media pages, organic search or blogs.

Underlying the Marketing Hub is an analytics platform that allows businesses to track the impact of marketing campaigns on their website and sales.

HubSpot Content Management System (CMS)

A CMS system is a website creation tool that allows users to build websites, create individual pages or edit existing content without any technical knowledge. Users log into an online interface and create pages in a similar way that you would through Microsoft Office.

The HubSpot CMS is easy to use and intuitive. The CMS automatically optimizes content for desktop and mobile pages. It has some dynamic content generation features that will tailor the content a users sees based on specific data points such as location. It does lack the depth of templates and plugins that a specialist CMS system like WordPress has. However, for building and managing a basic company website it is more than adequate.

HubSpot Search Engine Optimization Tool

Google’s algorithm has evolved to reward websites that have unique and genuine content. SEO used to be based on a lot of on-site technical factors in how a site was built and the quality of incoming links. Whilst on-page factors and link quality still play a part in SEO their importance has decreased dramatically.

HubSpot’s SEO tool is built around the importance of creating and organizing website content in a search engine friendly manner. The system provides tips to improve content for SEO as a user creates a page and automatically takes case of some of technical aspects if using the CMS tool.

SEO data is tracked in HubSpot’s reporting platform to allow marketers to track performance and optimize pages.

There are a host of alternative SEO tools available, such as Screaming Frog or plugins for WordPress sites such as Yoast. The specialist tools do provide more in depth analysis and recommendations, but to rank well today companies need to focus on genuine content. Here HubSpot helps to educate marketers on the importance of quality content.

Read our tips on choosing the right CRM solution for your business

HubSpot Social Media

One of the most popular parts of the platform is the HubSpot social media tool. This allows users to create social content and automatically publish it across multiple platforms (such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc). Content can be created in advance and scheduled to go out at specific times.

The software has a basic social listening feature to track mentions of your company name and industry. It tracks the social engagement of your messages and integrates with the paid media tool if you are promoting your social media posts.

For companies who have never used social media management tool before they are often glowing about the amount of time this tool can save them. The HubSpot social functionality has enough features for most companies but advanced marketers may want to use a more sophisticated platform. The weakness of the design capabilities may become an issue for some.

HubSpot Landing Page Optimization

The landing page tool allows user to build and test landing pages to increase the conversion rates of their visitors.

The system has a number of pre-made landing page templates built to best practice. Users can add lead capture and call to action buttons on the page.

The importance of landing page optimization can not be overstated. A good e-commerce site will only see 1% to 3% of visitors convert to a sale online. Spending time testing and optimizing landing pages is one of the most valuable functions a marketer can do to increase sales or leads.

There are other sophisticated dynamic landing page tools available that automatically optimize content. For these tools to gain enough data to work they usually need quite a lot of traffic. For most SMEs their sites will not have enough visitors to justify using a dynamic landing page tool

HubSpot Lead Management

The lead management functionality allows users to see the interactions with each lead in one place. It collects data from email, social and website interaction to provide an overview of each customer touchpoint. This data integrates into the HubSpot CRM platform.

Having all existing customer and potential lead data in one place has a number of benefits. It allows marketers to segment their target audience and send out tailored messages. The system also has a lead scoring feature that ranks the warmest leads for sales people to contact.

HubSpot Call to Actions

This is a small but useful feature that allows marketers to set up and test the impact of call to actions in external communications, such as email.

You can test if messages like “find out more’ performs better than more direct messages like ‘click here to buy’. It may sound simple but the wording and position of a call to action can have a significant impact on conversion rates.

Through an integration with the lead management functionality the call to actions a prospect sees can be tailored to the individual. For example an existing customer could get an up-sell message, whilst a prospect may see an introductory offer.

It is little features like this that allows marketers from smaller companies to add more sophistication to their communications. All of these optimization tweaks offered by HubSpot can translate into a major sales uplift when used together.

HubSpot facts infographic

HubSpot Form Builder

This is a tool to easily allow users to build online forms to collect data from visitors. For customers using the paid versions of HubSpot they can then automatically send messages to users based on the content of the forms.

HubSpot Blogging tool

HubSpot offers an easy way to create and add a blog section to your site. Blogs are acknowledged as one of the easiest ways to increase SEO rankings

The HubSpot blog tool is competent with all the features a basic blog would need. If you are going to use the HubSpot stack there would be little point in using a third party blog platform like WordPress or Medium unless you are creating a sophisticated blog that needs advanced functionality.

HubSpot Analytics

Integrated with all of HubSpot’s products is the Analytics platform. As you would expect this collects data on all major aspects of website performance (visits, sales, pages viewed, time online etc).

Where the HubSpot Analytics platform becomes powerful is the ability to automatically track the performance of all your marketing efforts which have been conducted through the HubSpot stack on website activity and sales. It provides granular level data on social, paid media, email, organic and paid search performance.

It is of course possible to get this data from other analytics platforms, but in most cases the reports need to configured and integrated with the other marketing channels you want to track.

This is where the value of using the HubSpot marketing stack is clearly demonstrated. The reporting itself is good enough for most businesses, but the unification of data sources into one report is where the real value is.

Google Analytics is the obvious alternative and does offer more sophisticated reporting functionality. It is possible to have both Google and HubSpot analytics tracking on your site, but there will be some data discrepancies based on the counting methodologies of the two systems.

If you have made the decision to use the HubSpot stack it would make sense to use the HubSpot analytics tool as your primary source of tracking. Google Analytics could also be used to sense check the data and for more advanced analysis.

HubSpot Sales Hub

The Sales Hub is the suite of products that focus on outbound marketing efforts. This encompasses email marketing, meeting scheduling, prospect identification, sales collateral and pipeline management.

Much of the Sales Hub draws upon the data and functionality in HubSpot CRM, but there is also a interface to Salesforce CRM if this system is used.

“Being able to see every customer touch point across marketing and sales. Knowledge is power. When you’re able to see every interaction a prospect has had with your website, emails (both marketing and one-to-one), sales force, social media, and content, it’s incredibly powerful. It allows you to see what’s important to them and gives you context when you reach out or follow up. This insight is invaluable.”

Erica Stritch
RAIN Group
VP of Marketing
Rain Group
Raingroup.com on Linked-In

HubSpot email marketing features

Hubspot focuses heavily on email marketing functionality. The system has a number of features to help identify, segment and message prospective clients through email.

Email Tracking

This may be one of the most addictive features of HubSpot. Through email tracking you can see each time one of your sales emails was opened and the interactions readers have with the content.

This is a great tool for salespeople to use by following up an email which was read with a timely sales call. It also provides valuable creative feedback to see which emails were open and which were not.

Inbox Profiles

This tool provides information on a sales prospect directly next to their email message. This saves the salesperson time looking across different systems to track down the history of touch points with a client. Through a integration with Hubspot or Salesforce CRM all the information on a contact can quickly be displayed.

Prospects

The Prospect tool identifies the companies of visitors to your website. You may notice a spike in visitors from a target client which shows they are a warm prospect or you may identify customers visiting your site that you are not speaking to.

This tool is useful, but has its limitations as it is based on domain level tracking which can be impacted by the network your site visitors are using to access the internet.

Calling & Call Tracking

This is a feature that integrates with HubSpot CRM to schedule and track a salesperson outbound calls. The calls can be made directly from the interface without needing to dial any number. A record of each call is stored in the system.

Many sales people hate prospecting calls, but it is consistently shown as one of the most effective methods of sourcing business. This functionality can help to add discipline to the prospecting function by scheduling and monitoring a set number of calls a day.

Email Sequencing

This is an email automation tool to send out a predefined series of messages to target customers. The system tracks which messages or sequences are getting the best responses and this information can then be applied to other database segments.

Email templates

This is a tool to draft and send tailored emails based on a predefined template. The system also comes with saved templates. Information from the CRM system like contact, company name and location can be merged in to give a personalized appearance.

This functionality has its place in prospecting, but the more personalized you can make the message the better.

Meeting Scheduler

This is a handy tool that allows prospects to see when you are available for a meeting or a call and book a time in themselves. The system then puts the meeting into your email calendar.

Quotes

This is a tool to generate and send sales quotes our quickly. Customers can also electronically sign to agree to the quote and even pay online through an interface with the payment gateway Stripe.

The information needed to provide sales quotes varies across businesses. For simple transactions HubSpot’s quotes tool has proved useful, but some users state that it doesn’t provide them all the functionality they need to quote online.

Playbooks

This tool keeps all your sales material, call scripts and product information in one place for sales people to quickly access.

It may seem obvious, but some many companies suffer from different versions of sales collateral being used or by files siloed on hard drives.

By using Playbooks markets can ensure that there is one current and master set of information that all sales people are using.

HubSpot Conversations

This is is a set of messaging tools aimed at streamlining and tracking customer interactions.

The live chat widget which allows visitors to your website to speak online to a sales representative. The look, feel and some functionality can be tailored based on your requirements. You need to have someone available to answer inquired but the widget can be scheduled to be disabled outside of business hours.

The Team Email feature allows general email inquiries to be assigned to specific team members or they can be shared evenly across a sales team. This is useful if you use general email addresses like sales@comparisonx.com in your marketing.

There is also a chatbot builder feature. Chatbots are automated messaging tools designed to answer common questions a site visitor may have without needing to speak to a company representative.

The sophistication of chatbots in the industry is growing rapidly. Some use machine learning and artificial intelligence to hold human style conversations with customers. As Chatbots become better consumers are expecting them to have strong functionality. It is interesting to see that HubSpot have added this feature, but in reality to build a useful Chatbot you are going to have to invest a lot of time in development. This is one area where using a specialized tool may is warranted.

Pipeline

Pipeline is a feature that allows salespeople to track opportunities through the sales funnel. The system allows for new deals and opportunities to be added by pulling information from CRM. This feature saves time in manually finding and typing the same information multiple times.

The number of steps in the sales process can be tailored based on the company and the products it is selling. Within the system it shows the value of potential deals and allows users to identify any gaps in their pipeline.

HubSpot Customer Service Hub

The customer service hub is the set of tools designed to streamline communication with existing and potential customers.

This platform draws upon other features in the HubSpot suite we have described above, namely HubSpot CRM and Conversations. These features are used as the platform to identify and track the communication with customers. The system also leverages a number of other useful tools.

“Hubspot allows a business to embrace sales and marketing in a single solution. There’s so much “noise” in the marketplace — dozens of sales and marketing tools and solutions that are constantly being promoted. Hubspot cuts through the noise and allows an organization to embrace sales, marketing and service with a single tool. It helps keep teams collaborative and cohesive, with a centralized CRM as the backbone of all of these powerful hubs. From email marketing to automated sales sequences, Hubspot is a robust solution with top-notch support.”

Drew Cohen
Senior Marketing Strategist & Team Lead
SmartBug Media
Drew Cohen Linked-In

Tickets & Helpdesk

Many companies still deal with customer inquiries by responding to emails or calls. The problem with this is that it is easy to lose track of customer history and for inquiries to fall through the cracks.

HubSpot’s ticketing system organizes all inquiries into a logical time-based dashboard. This allows a customer service representative to see the complete history of a client and their inquiry in one place.

The software allows companies to assign inquiries to specific team members and to prioritize urgent requests. Responses can be made through HubSpot’s other tools such as live chat or calls. This increases the number of inquiries that one representative can respond to . Each interaction with a client is recorded in conversations and the HubSpot CRM platform.

One area to note is that when companies use the HubSpot Ticketing and Helpdesk feature they often need to adapt or completely change their existing customer service processes to fit with the software. In many cases this is a useful exercise as the systematic nature of the tool ensures that inquiries are not missed. However, for some companies there can be some resistance to this change.

As with much of marketing automation you only get out of it for the work you put in. This helpdesk feature forces companies to take a step back and look at how they deal with inquiries from the clients perspective.

HubSpot Knowledge Base

A lot of people hate calling customer services and will try to solve any questions they have themselves. Users first port of call with many problems is to ask Google for a solution. The HubSpot Knowledge base takes the most asked questions and customer service inquiries and turns them into a searchable reference guide. This software directly pulls real life customer service solutions from the HubSpot Helpdesk and Ticketing tools.

In our view this is a great feature that puts power back in the hands of your customers. One drawback is if you do not get many questions through the HubSpot helpdesk and ticketing tools there will not be that many answers to index. This is where you will need to put in some time to manually write answers to potential customer inquiries.

HubSpot Video Creation and Hosting

Today the vast majority of data transferred across the internet is used to serve videos. Consumers expect to be able to find videos on just about every question they have. HubSpot’s Video suite is a video creation tool that also allows videos to be created, hosted and integrated with the rest of your customer communications.

By integrating videos with HubSpot CRM it is possible to tailor some aspects of the content to individual customers, such as name, company etc. This is a small feature but one that is not available in many stand alone video creation platforms.

Your customer service representatives could use the tools to make video responses to answer clients individual questions. These video emails can then be tracked to see if they were opened and read.

The HubSpot video creation suite is competent, but it does lack many of the features of stand alone video creation and editing software. It is relatively easy to use the tool, but the more time spent on editing the better. Nothing worse than watching content that looks very amature.

This is an area where you need to consider the role video will play in your marketing and customer service operations. Without a doubt there are much stronger video tools available, but few will integrate with your CRM software to send personalized videos . Our view is that for mass market external videos you may be better using a stand-alone specialist tool, but for quick how to videos or for videos that are used in customer service the HubSpot video creation tool is more than capable.

HubSpot Customer Feedback Tool

Closing the loop on the Customer Service Hub is the HubSpot Customer Service tool. This software allows for tailored surveys to be sent to customers via email or HubSpot’s other communication tools such as Chat.

You can choose to automatically send surveys after a client contact, such as asking them to rate their dealing with customer surveys or you may choose to run regular large scale customer satisfaction studies.

A nice feature is the ability to track customer satisfaction over time and by product. This is valuable information that can give you more visibility of your business operations.

Training 

HubSpot offers an extensive training and certification programme called HubSpot Academy.

Most of HubSpot Academy training takes place online through videos and easy to understand articles. There is also webinar style live training on selected topics.

There is some classroom training courses available. Most of these are in US cities and are paid for courses. The cost for these costs ranges between $700 to $1400. There is also a private tuition offering for companies who want their own training at $7000.

Users who have taken the HubSpot training are positive about how the materials use real world examples. They also do a good job in explaining the in’s and outs of digital marketers to people who may be new to the subject.

The HubSpot Academy portal is excellent with a lot of videos, instruction guides and community area where you can asks questions.

Spend some time in the HubSpot academy site and you will see a lot of thought, effort and resources has been put in to help users get trained up on the platform.

Training is one area where Hubspot outshines the competition, including the enterprise level Martech players.

Support

As a low cost solution HubSpot would like for most users to find the support they need online through their resources or training program.

For users of HubSpot’s free programs no support is offered beyond the online resources and community forums. For paying customers HubSpot offers a support through a ticketing system via email and phone.

HubSpot states that it aims to respond to most enquiries within twenty four hour hours. It is also possible to call to see if your question can be resolved.

For organisations wanting personalized technical support HubSpot offers a four hour consultation service for under $2,000. This may seem expensive, but it is a fraction of the price of hiring a product specialist from the enterprise marketing stack companies.

Our view is that the support offered is adequate given the price of the platform. For most users they will be able to get their issues resolved, but they may have to put some work in themselves through training or the online resources.

Ease of Use

Most of the HubSpot platform is intuitive to use and can be picked up quite quickly.

It is worth users investing the time in reading the training materials before setting up their campaigns. Like many MarTech systems if your campaigns are set up in-correctly you may not be able to go back and segment your data easily once the campaigns are live. This is a real danger on HubSpot as it is easy to get started without too much training,

A strength of the HubSpot suite is that it generally follows the same user interface as you switch between their tools. This is not always the case with the other marketing technology providers who may have grown by acquiring tools and integrating them into their stack.

Alternatives to HubSpot

HubSpot firmly position themselves at the mass market of businesses. The fact is that the vast majority of registered companies are organisations with under one hundred employees. This size of business are often overlooked by major software companies and publishers.

For smaller companies a full marketing automation solution from the likes of Adobe or Oracle would be too expensive and in most cases is not necessary. There is not another quality Martech platform that offers the range of tools as HubSpot.HubSpot Vs Salesforce

HubSpot’s competition is more likely to come from niche marketing automation tools that perform one task.

Given that a lot of SMEs do social, this could be a tool like HootSuite or Sprout Social. In the design and content space, Canva is excellent. The list goes on with strong competing tools available for every one of HubSpot’s features.

Niche marketing tools are often very competitively priced, with many offering free trials.

The questions marketers need to ask when deciding between HubSpot and a niche tool is:

  • Am I performing more than one task?
  • Do I need unified reporting?
  • Is CRM part of my business?
  • Does the integration that HubSpot offers outweigh the strength in depth of a niche tool?
  • How much time do I have?

There are strong arguments on both sides of using a multi task platform like HubSpot or focusing down on a small number of sophisticated niche tools.

Read our review of HubSpot alternative Pipedrive

Read our review of Adobe Experience Cloud and Marketo

Pros of HubSpot

  • Accessible pricing
  • A credible free CRM tool
  • Ease of use
  • Breadth of tools
  • Single interface
  • Best in class training program
  • Good levels of support and large user community

“HubSpot has developed a platform that allows companies to monitor every aspect of customer interaction.  With the CRM, CMS, Marketing Hub, Sales Hub, and Service Hub, HubSpot has developed a full customer lifecycle platform. From the free CRM to the comprehensive Growth Suite, HubSpot’s platform has a solution to meet nearly any budget and provides exceptional value compared to competitive offerings.”

John Campbell, President
Blue Frog, Dynamic Marketing
Blue Frog

Cons of HubSpot

  • Lacks the depth of niche tools or the enterprise level martech solutions
  • Some advanced functionality is not available
  • Some features can overlap

HubSpot Pricing

When reviewing HubSpot it is hard not to focus on the platforms accessible costs. The fact that HubSpot can build and offer a variety of tools at a cost accessible to a wide variety of businesses cannot be overlooked.

The free functionality on most tools is fine to start out with. Most organisations who start using the platform will end up looking at one of the paid tiers to get access to more features.

One criticism of HubSpot pricing is that there is a big jump between the monthly $50 Starter tier to the $800 Professional tier. Another area to watch-out for is the usage restrictions at the different tier levels. You may get access to a tool, but to use all the features you may need to upgrade to a higher tier.

Even with some of the restrictions in place, HubSpot offers one of the most competitively priced solutions currently available.

Click here to see a detailed guide to HubSpot pricing

Conclusion

It is hard not to like and admire HubSpot. They offer a wide breadth of solutions at a completely reasonable cost.

Individually each of their tools is not the strongest available, but they are good enough for the majority of businesses. When you combine the range of their offering with an easy to use interface it is hard to look past HubSpot.

Businesses start to realize the value of HubSpot the more they use it. If you are going to go in and cherry pick one of two features then you may be better with niche specialist tools. When you start to use HubSpot as the platform for all your marketing communication is when it comes into its own.

It is easy for competitors and digital marketing professionals to poke holes in the depth of the offering. However, we feel that this is missing the point. HubSpot offers an accessible Martech solution for the majority of businesses. It is not trying to be a cutting edge solution, but it puts a credible Martech solution in reach of many companies without the need or resources for an enterprise solution.

A strong argument can be made for HubSpot having the best in class training program. It is also one of the easiest to use marketing stacks making it accessible for most marketers and business owners.

HubSpot’s pricing does shine a light on some of the high costs of their larger competitors. Many will argue that the platform lacks the sophistication of an enterprise marketing stack from the likes of Adobe or Oracle. However, the fact is that most companies rarely use a fraction of the features in an enterprise level solution.

We highly recommend HubSpot for small to medium sized companies who want to perform multiple marketing functions under one platform.

ComparisonX Editorial

ComparisonX articles are written by a panel of independent experts. If you would like to join an expert panel or submit an article for consideration, drop us a line at hello@comparisonx.com. We welcome users with a range of experience. Key for our readers is having people who actually use the products we are reviewing on a daily basis.

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