In our research and testing process, HubSpot CRM was consistently competitive with other highly recommended customer relationship management solutions. We've named HubSpot the best CRM for very small businesses due to its all-around functionality, incredible online resources, and robust free version, which is ideal for tiny businesses and sole proprietorships. Even the free version connects with Gmail, G Suite and most versions of Outlook, making it ideal for email marketing.
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HubSpot CRM offers additional paid services, like the Marketing Hub and Sales Hub. What's unique about this setup is that HubSpot allows businesses to opt in to those paid services based on specific users, while everyone else on the team uses the completely free version. This ability to combine paid and free subscriptions is ideal for tiny businesses that want to gradually scale products without purchasing more service than necessary.
HubSpot Offers Free Entry to CRM World Ideal for Very Small Business
While quite a few CRMs we reviewed offer a free version of the software, on either a temporary or indefinite basis, most have built-in restrictions that necessitate upgrades over time. HubSpot's free CRM solution is surprisingly comprehensive, though; there's no expiration date or user limit on the free version, and up to 1 million contacts can be stored before any upgrades kick in. This gives HubSpot a huge edge over competitors that place time limits, user limits and low contact caps on free software trials, and it gives solopreneurs and tiny business owners the ability to start building out a CRM without paying a cent.
The setup process is ideal for small businesses too. Syncing the customer relationship system with Outlook or Gmail is just a click away (no coding required), and the primary task dashboard is intuitive to navigate, thanks to the clear labels like Contacts, Companies, Deals, Tasks, Sales Tools and Settings. Users can easily filter and view contact cards and communication timelines, keep track of live notifications, make and record calls directly in the system, and utilize helpful templates for building out email campaigns, websites and blogs, and for formatting invoices. Standard features small businesses require from a CRM are present too, like automatic sales logging, contact and lead management, and customizable sales pipelines.
All this built-in functionality is impressive, especially since it's all included in the free version of HubSpot CRM, but there are lots of ways to build out the product as well. HubSpot offers all its users access to comprehensive online resources that cover everything from training and implementation to expanding into the paid HubSpot products, like the Marketing Hub and Sales Hub. The SaaS provider even has a learning portal complete with courses and certification information, making it a great fit for DIY-capable small businesses that want to grow a CRM organically over time, without investing a lot of cash before it's necessary.
HubSpot strikes an excellent balance between offering a lightweight product that's free to use and quick to adopt and providing serious business users with a fully scalable CRM solution.
HubSpot CRM Pricing
HubSpot's completely free CRM service may be robust enough to meet the needs of very small businesses and independent contractors. If you want to expand the system's functionality, you can build out either the Marketing Hub, Sales Hub or both – just pay close attention to how each product is billed. The overall pricing structure for HubSpot can be confusing at times, as your need for certain services will edge you into either the marketing or sales paid plans. This can get expensive, so it's important to stay in contact with your HubSpot representatives throughout the duration of your service.
The Marketing Hub has a free level, Starter ($50 a month), Basic ($200 a month), Professional ($800 a month) and Enterprise ($2,400 a month). Each is billed annually, and unlike most CRMs, there are no minimums or maximums for number of users. Billing for the Marketing Hub is based entirely on the level of product and not the size of your team, which is highly unusual.
The Sales Hub is billed based on number of users you have, which also determines the level of service you get. Like the Marketing Hub, it has a free option, Starter ($50 per month for one user) and Professional ($400 per month for five users). For additional services for more team members, you must request a price quote.
HubSpot operates on an a la carte basis, which makes it a great CRM for small businesses and growing startups that want something lightweight and inexpensive with the ability to scale over time. However, the pricing structure is needlessly complicated, which makes it hard to determine affordability. For example, if just one user signs up for the Starter package for both the Marketing and Sales Hub, the cost is a whopping $100 a month, which is extremely expensive for an entry-level CRM subscription. If, on the other hand, a company has a small number of users who require access to paid Marketing or Sales Hub services, and a lot of employees who need access to the system in general (i.e., the free version), HubSpot may be a money-saver.
Outstanding HubSpot CRM Features
A free CRM isn't all HubSpot brings to the table. This SaaS solution offers business users some serious benefits. Here are a few of the most notable features HubSpot CRM delivers.
- Templates: Templates are essential for small business users, and the HubSpot Marketplace offers an incredible array of free templates that can be used in tandem with any HubSpot products. Users who access the HubSpot Marketplace can choose from hundreds of email templates, landing page templates, blog templates, website templates and template packs that make it easy to create a consistent style across all forms of online communication.
- HubSpot Academy: Tech-savvy entrepreneurs who don't mind a little DIY work should consider the HubSpot Academy portal a major asset. In addition to the typical technical documentation, there are ample training materials for onboarding, certification overviews, courses and an active forum with community user groups.
- HubSpot for Startups: Startups are typically small operations, and HubSpot makes a concerted effort to put its paid features within reach for up-and-comers. The HubSpot for Startups program offers up to 90% off HubSpot software for "eligible seed-stage" startups and 50% off for "eligible Series A" startups, according to the website. Of course, not all startups are accepted, but it's free to apply.
- Built-in click-to-call: No additional integration is needed to get click-to-call functionality in HubSpot CRM. As soon as a client's information has been added to their card, users can easily call directly from the system and, even better, record the entire call. The recording of the call is automatically logged in the client's timeline, which makes it easy for sales reps to stay up to date on each client's experience. It's also great for managers who want to improve customer service.
Customer Service and Reputation
We had good interactions with HubSpot's customer service team. When we initially reached out, they were quick to respond and explained how to view an online demo. This was a transparent and helpful interaction, as other CRM software companies we reviewed weren't this willing to provide demos.
Compared to other companies, HubSpot also has a solid reputation with the Better Business Bureau. It's an accredited business with an A+ rating. However, it scored 1 out of 5 stars on seven customer reviews and has 17 customer complaints. For a company as big and impactful as HubSpot, this is not concerning, but that's still a low customer score.
One of HubSpot's biggest strengths is its online training resources. If you need to learn how to do something in the software, or even just need a refresher on how to use something, HubSpot has drafted an impressive library of online training resources for you to tap into. This level of instruction separates it from other providers. Overall, HubSpot has a strong customer service offering compared to many other companies in this category.
HubSpot offers great customer service and lots of educational resources that are ideal for self-starter types, but for small businesses that are short on tech talent, the sheer number of options in the pricing structure and vast library of resources may be overwhelming. HubSpot is best for businesses that aren't afraid to dig into resources on their own and connect with the online community.
HubSpot's confusing pricing structure is also a weak point. Small businesses that intend to move beyond the free CRM and into the paid sphere should do the math on their own first to make sure this CRM will still be a good deal once they upgrade.
Mona Bushnell contributed to the researching, reporting and writing of this article.
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