To start, I’m certified in both Salesforce and Hubspot.
Trust me when I say this is not a biased review. I’ve been an active user and consultant for many instances of Salesforce and Hubspot. My career with CRMs first began with Hubspot, but later evolved into Salesforce, then Hubspot, then Salesforce. It’s been back and forth and for good reason.
The great debate of Hubspot versus Salesforce is polarizing. The “Trailblazers” of the Salesforce community are loyal to the pack, while the inbound-hungry marketers prefer Hubspot’s intuitive features.
The bottom-line truth is this: your success with each platform will depend on the size and state of your current sales and marketing operations.
The Real Cost of Salesforce
What does you day look like inside a CRM? Depending on whether or not you choose Salesforce or Hubspot, it’s very different. Salesforce is quite affordable, but often masks the fact that configuring and using it are difficult.
With a whopping 296 menu options in the Setup area of Salesforce, Hubspot is a far more simpler option when it comes to configuring and utilizing a CRM (30 menu options in the Settings area).
The hidden fact that most entrepreneurs and founders are not aware of when buying Salesforce is that they’re likely going to need a consultant or full-time hire to manage their instance. This is nice for consultants, but becomes very stressful for the entrepreneur. After signing an annual contract to Salesforce, they’re already in on it and might as well spend the money; otherwise it’d be a sunk cost.
According to Indeed.com, the average salary for a Salesforce Administrator is $88,373 USD. According to Trifinlabs.com, a Salesforce Consultant will run you between $120-250 USD per hour.
So when considering who’s going to manage your CRM, take into consideration the resources you’ll require. To be completely fair and transparent to founders, you could probably buy Hubspot and research your way through the implementation, setup, and configuration. You can do the same for Salesforce, but the implementation guides are text-based guides that run about 1,000 pages.
Now ask the question, what are your short-term needs? How important is it that you fire up a Salesforce account and bring a bazooka to a fist fight? Understanding and considering your current state of affairs really makes a difference when selecting your tech stack for sales and marketing.
Challenging Speakers — “Just go with Salesforce”
Too often I hear the phrase “just go with Salesforce” at sales and marketing conferences. Salesforce is commonly used, integrates with many apps, and has a lot of finer-detailed features that Hubspot lacks. However, the complexity of accessing these features and configuring them for your business is high.
It always urks me when I see unknowing small business owners be told to use Salesforce when it’s very apparent they’re new to CRMs, marketing automation, and data analytics; not to mention have a lack of cashflow.
Encouraged to bite the bullet, business owners commit to Salesforce with the hope it yields significant results to “pay for itself”.
My personal insight as both business owner and Salesforce administrator makes me feel that young companies are swayed into getting Salesforce, but are unknowingly getting themselves into additional costs. I’m all for Salesforce as it’s the right software to use for bigger companies, but when smaller, less prepared organizations take the bait, I cringe a little inside.
If you’re business generates less than $1,000,000 dollars in revenue per year, go with Hubspot.
Why Use Salesforce Then?
Salesforce is an excellent platform when you have the staff and resources to dedicate to it.
Approval processes, lead assignment rules, territory management, custom objects, etc. Salesforce gives larger organizations the power to customize processes, record types, and record pages for users. Not to mention, you can completely customize the Salesforce smartphone app to fit with the fast-paced mobile salesperson (quickly tap a button, scan a card, and poof, your contact is created and updated with the correct Lead Source).
Consider the data structure of a rental properties company. They could create a custom object called “Apartments”. Each apartment would have a building address, unit number, rental status, and related contact. If a contact were to leave a building, the status could automatically update to “Vacant” which could trigger a digital advertisement to promote the available apartment.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to Salesforce (but at a cost).
Custom solution building is simply something Hubspot cannot do at this time. That’s why most companies eventually move to Salesforce — their organizations grow and they require more efficient processes.
Let’s consider another example and imagine how technology like Salesforce could play into operations at McDonald’s. In the future, you’ll likely be able to order via voice command at the drive-thru. Upon speaking your order an AI will translate your voice to text (for the computer to process it). Creating an order, the computer will inform the hardware to begin preparing your meal. As soon as the computer registers “Coca Cola”, the drink machine starts.
Technologies like Salesforce will be the bridge between data. The voice command will create an Order record in Salesforce, which will integrate with the hardware that starts creating the order. This might sound crazy right now, but it’s doable and we’ll likely experience in our lifetime (millennials).
But is this sort of data and sophistication required on the opening day of your new organization? Likely not.
Use Hubspot Until It Makes Sense to Use Salesforce
As organizations grow, they pass through different phases. This principle has been trialed, tested, and proven throughout history. Take for example Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore.
In Geoffrey’s example of “The Chasm”, organizations first acquire “Innovator” customers (people who are more likely to try new technologies) then “Early Adopters”, “Early Majority”, etc.
In my opinion, the place where it makes sense to shift from Hubspot to Salesforce is somewhere around the “Early Majority” phase. At that point, a lot of guesswork around the business model is worked out. Pricing changes less often, there are more standardized processes, and more employees — things start to scale.
With this anticipated ‘end-point’ of Hubspot and a shift to Salesforce, some founders are keen to make the jump sooner, but as per the real cost of Salesforce mentioned above, this can cost between $88,000 USD and $100,000 USD (and does not include the cost of the software itself).
So in terms of Crossing the Chasm, if you wouldn’t consider your business in the “Early Majority” phase, go with (or stay with) Hubspot.
Hubspot Knows Its End-Point and Is Working to Extend It
As a final section to this review before getting into the conclusion, Hubspot knows people eventually leave their product to go with Salesforce.
In a lot of cases, businesses adopt Salesforce and continue using Hubspot as their marketing automation platform or they move to a combination of Marketo with Salesforce. One thing is for certain, however, Hubspot is building up to Salesforce.
The volume of product updates that were released in Hubspot are enough to raise eyebrows at the moves they’re making against Salesforce. Hubspot knows when people leave their platform and their team is working hard to extend that end-point. As a power-user of both Hubspot and Salesforce, I will admit Hubspot is on-top of their product updates.
Sometimes Salesforce will save a bunch of their product updates for a larger announcement with a live-stream, webinar, and demo. I can understand this incentive from a marketing perspective, but seeing how frequently my “What’s New” tab lights up in Hubspot is commendable.
At the rate we’re seeing Hubspot’s platform change, I can only imagine the traction they’ll make in the coming years to close the gap with Salesforce. In my opinion anyway.
Conclusion — If you’re small go with Hubspot, otherwise go with Salesforce
I’ll keep the conclusion short and sweet.
Go with Hubspot if…
- You are a new founder
- You are a small business owner
- You don’t have the cash to hire a full-time CRM person or CRM consultant
- You don’t do more than $1,000,000 in sales
- You’re not currently serving the “Early Majority” from Geoffrey’s Crossing the Chasm diagram
Go with Salesforce if…
- Your sales team is rapidly growing and approaching $1,000,000 in sales revenue
- Your business has completely optimized it’s sales process, sales stages, and quoting/billing process
- Your business has more than ~100 employees
- Your business requires working with AIs, machine learning algorithms, hardward integration, and other sophistated mechanisms
I hope you found this review helpful. I didn’t get into the inner-workings of Salesforce’s feature sets as they compare to Hubspot, nor did I cover the full breadth of details about each platforms’ customer support teams. This review was intended to address the gap and misunderstanding of Hubspot and Salesforce that business owners experience. Purchasing a CRM is not a light decision and both options should be considered for their fit with an organization’s operations.