Discover the Differences
Thomas Watson, President of IBM for more than 40 years, once said, “Nothing happens until a sale is made” and it remains a business truism to this day. Identifying prospects and then converting them to customers or clients is essential to the success of any business and optimizing your ability to do so should remain an absolute priority.
As a small business gets off the ground, a business owner’s personal idiosyncrasies may include a preference for simply jotting down notes on a laptop or phone, or maybe maintaining well-organized lists on Evernote to keep tabs on prospects and customers alike. This may get the job done — barely — for a short time, but it’s not optimal. You wouldn’t want to communicate with a cold prospect the same way you would with a long-time client and, without a little automated help, you could easily find yourself doing just that.
This is where CRM (customer relationship management) software comes in to organize your sales activities. Because the sales process is inextricably linked with the marketing process, if you can add functionality that allows your sales and marketing teams to be properly coordinated, the impact of your CRM software becomes all the greater.
Let’s look at three of the high-profile players in the CRM Software space — HubSpot, Salesforce and Pipedrive — and assess their main strengths and weaknesses. But first, a disclaimer —while it’s become somewhat customary to announce a clear winner in these comparisons, you won’t necessarily find one here. As you’ll see, these three companies offer products that, while having plenty of overlap, appeal to end users with somewhat different characteristics and priorities.
Time certainly does fly, but it’s especially true in the tech world. HubSpot has been around for more than 15 years now. When this Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company first emerged, MySpace ruled the social media roost and Facebook was just getting off the ground. HubSpot has more than just kept up with the times and has built a veritable marketing juggernaut from the ground up along the way, largely steering clear of the “growth by acquisition” model that’s so common now.
Those familiar with HubSpot might immediately note that its pedigree lies much more squarely in the marketing world than in it does in sales. They’d be right, but this has yielded some definite advantages. As the company has grown, it has had the opportunity to learn by trial and error on how best to align sales and marketing efforts for maximum efficiency.
Probably because HubSpot’s roots run so deep in marketing and not sales, it actually offers its base CRM product as a free add-on to its existing marketing platforms, although even some of HubSpot’s marketing functionality can be accessed at no cost. Regardless, its CRM offering is more than solid to start with — impressive, considering it comes at no additional charge for HubSpot marketing subscribers — and includes effective contact management, task management and the ability for users to enhance the productivity of their social media and email interactions with leads. Its abilities can be further broadened with a multitude of upgrades, which do come at a cost.
HubSpot doesn’t benefit from the enormous app market boasted by its larger rival, Salesforce, but its available integrations are substantial, with more than 150 tools close at hand to provide further help with lead management, mobile responsiveness, and ecommerce activities.
HubSpot’s history of growing through innovation and not acquisition also yields benefits in the area of its perceived user-friendliness. Because it has developed its own sales and marketing products — as opposed to relying on buying out competitors and companies offering complementary but initially non-compatible products — by nearly all accounts, any utilities you add to your HubSpot arsenal seem to play together exceptionally well.
While HubSpot’s various base offerings can be built into formidable platforms, they’re still largely considered to be more user-friendly out of the box than their counterparts offered at Salesforce. This faster learning curve pays dividends in the area of implementation costs — for large companies that would normally opt for all the bells and whistles Salesforce has available, the services of an implementation consultant are often required. By contrast, it seems the vast majority of HubSpot subscribers can master the capabilities of its offerings on their own, albeit with some studying involved. Small wonder its slogan is “Powerful, but not overpowering.”
For most companies, the ability to access a fairly comprehensive top-down view of their sales and marketing funnel in short order is a compelling draw. Should technical support be needed, HubSpot does have a solid reputation in this area.
Where expenditure is concerned, HubSpot is perceived as a low-cost option in the marketplace, but that’s a relative metric. Its paid programs start at just $45 a month per pair of paying users, while HubSpot’s Enterprise Level will set you back $1200 a month for 10 users. Since that pricing is based on an annual billing, the cash outlay isn’t inconsiderable at the top rung for many businesses.
For small businesses that require only a limited number of memberships and don’t have expansive needs in the area of analytics, HubSpot offers an awful lot of functionality for a modest price. For bigger staffs seeking expanded powers, the cost can climb fairly quickly and, since its free and lowest tier programs offer relatively limited analytics, most subscribers opt for upgraded programs. HubSpot’s Marketing Hub offers an enhanced array of analytics dashboards, while the company’s Sales Hub brings more robust reporting and forecasting, among other options.
The CRM landscape has shifted somewhat over the years, and Salesforce no longer dominates the marketplace as it once did, but it still remains the “go-to” CRM choice for most of the big-name companies spanning a wide variety of industries. You need only to scan the sales category of any job board to confirm this — Salesforce fluency is often an outright requirement for higher-end positions. And because it’s so prevalent, Salesforce-devotee companies seeking to add to their sales staff won’t need to offer much instruction to their new hires. Salesforce is almost like an acquired second language for many seasoned sales pros.
Founded by renowned tech visionary and former Oracle sales executive Marc Benioff more than two decades ago, Salesforce grew into the biggest player in the CRM niche while also holding the distinction of being one of the first cloud-based companies of note. Salesforce’s revolutionary take on how software could be implemented prompted Forbes to once dub it “the world’s most innovative company.”
For most top name companies, Salesforce is still the only CRM option worth even considering. Its proponents almost universally cite customizability as its chief attraction. With the right tweaks and add-ons, Salesforce can be shaped into a CRM tool that can match the needs of any company — no matter how complex or specific those needs might be.
On the flip side, this level of virtually boundless customizability may be overkill for many companies, many of which wouldn’t even exhaust the capabilities of their existing CRM product. Also, as previously noted, a sizable part of the company’s growth has come in the form of a substantial number of acquisitions over the years, which does bring some complexity to the customization process. Because some of the products that Salesforce has added to its arsenal via acquisition were created by different companies, integration of these add-ons might not always be seamless.
Nevertheless, for companies that have the resources and want access to a virtually limitless array of CRM data that can be shaped and molded to their exact liking, Salesforce is the likely choice.
One of the fundamental factors in Salesforce’s brand strength is its reputation for online security. As a cloud-based platform, this perceived safety is essential, since so much sensitive information might otherwise be breached.
Salesforce’s history with sales departments dates back even further than Hubspot’s history with their marketing counterparts, which might lead one to believe that Salesforce wouldn’t be a viable choice for companies seeking to sync the two departments, but this isn’t the case. Salesforce can probably do whatever a company might want as far as marketing is concerned, including performing the social listening abilities that originally made HubSpot so appealing — it’s just that you might need to ascend a few pricing tiers to get there. For example, Salesforce’s Advertising Studio allows you to connect data to effective marketing tools, so that you can make sure the right marketing message is directed to prospects at the right time in their customer journey.
Salesforce’s pricing is on a per user basis, starting at a relatively modest $25 per month and climbing to around $300 per month, per user, to avail yourself of pretty much everything the company has to offer. For large companies with a lot of users, that can really add up. On top of that, implementation costs can be substantial, as the relative complexity of installing and customizing products often calls for the services of a consultant. But again, if you’re willing to put in the investment, the time and effort toward implementation and learning how to maximize its features, Salesforce is the CRM company most likely to get you exactly what you want. If you’re in upper-level management at a large company with the desire to keep tabs on everything CRM and marketing related, its appeal is beyond reproach.
Pipedrive holds the distinction of being the only European-based company of the trio, and it was also the last to hit the market, debuting in 2010. Since then, the company has seen quite an ascension, and has achieved the distinction of being one of the rare privately-held companies with a valuation of more than $1 billion, commonly known in the venture capital world as being a “unicorn”.
Beyond quantitative measures, Pipedrive has also enjoyed plenty of critical success, being dubbed the “Easiest to Use CRM” by Motley Fool and topping digital.com’s list of best CRM Software for the Real Estate industry.
It’s not hard to see the cause for so much enthusiasm. Founded by actual salespeople, Pipedrive was created expressly for sales staffs and has retained that emphasis in its decade-plus of existence, although the company is also very improvement-minded. While it’s a subjective measure, it’s probably the easiest CRM software to use out of the box of the three.
If you want your deal information and prospects neatly organized and easily accessed so that you can manage leads and track communications, Pipedrive gets it done with flying colors — it’s an absolutely rock-solid sales automation solution. Deal value and contact information, activity timelines and history and goal planning are easy to tweak to your liking, right from your screen.
Because it’s so easy to install and use, Pipedrive doesn’t charge a setup fee. Once up and running, its very clean and appealing interface is one of its many benefits. Should you be one of the rare exceptions who runs into trouble during the installation process, or any other step along the way, the company has a strong reputation for support.
Pipedrive’s “sales-centric” focus has shaped it into an easy-to-use tool for maximizing sales efficiency, but that also means it won’t be ready for action out of the box if synchronizing your sales and marketing teams is a priority. You will need to add plug-ins to get it up to speed in that regard. For example, while Hubspot offers built in split testing and, if you choose the right plan, is easy to set up for marketing teams, with Pipedrive you’ll need to go to plug-ins for that. If you’re after email marketing automation, you’ll need to take this extra step as well, although more basic email integration can be done automatically.
And while there’s plenty of functionality to be had once you’ve done so, including access to Zoom Meetings, Microsoft Teams, Slack Dealbot, Zapier, and more, there’s not quite the vast array of options offered by competitors. Nevertheless, Pipedrive’s level of third-party integration is strong.
As far as pricing is concerned, for small companies that don’t require boundless abilities and value simplicity of use and implementation, Pipedrive is a strong choice. Its pricing is modest, starting at just $12.50 per month, per user and tops out at around $100 — billed annually. At the bottom of the pricing rung, the Essential Plan is plenty inexpensive, but you’ll probably want to upgrade from there for more functionality, including: calling integration, team management and heartier reporting.
So, while each company has its advantages, as well as a legion of loyal users, HubSpot, Salesforce and Pipedrive have all carved out somewhat different footholds in the CRM marketplace. We’re curious as to which is your favorite and why. Let us know!