During the 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 for 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 into the CRM World
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 upgrading over time. HubSpot's free customer relationship management solution is surprisingly comprehensive, though; there's no expiration date or user limit on the free version, and up to a million contacts can be stored before any upgrades kick in. This gives HubSpot a huge edge over competitors that put 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 business 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 customer relationship management solution.
HubSpot Pricing - Functionality and Structure
As previously mentioned, HubSpot has a completely free CRM service that may be robust enough to meet the needs of very small businesses and independent contractors. If you want to further 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 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 when it comes to 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 and the number of users you have determines the level of service you get. Like the Marketing Hub, the Sales Hub also has a Free option, Starter ($50 per month, for 1 user), and Professional ($400 per month, for 5 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 entry level Starter package for both Marketing and Sales, the cost is a whopping $100 a month, which is extremely expensive compared to other entry level CRM subscriptions. If, on the other hand, a company has a small number of users who require access to paid Marketing or Sales services, and a lot of employees that need access to the system in general (i.e. the free version), HubSpot may be a money saver.
Outstanding HubSpot CRM Features
A free customer relationship management solution 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.
- HubSpot 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 containing the typical technical documentation you'd expect to see, 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 their paid features within reach for up and comers. The HubSpot for Startups program offers up to 90 percent off HubSpot Software for "eligible seed-stage" startups, and 50 percent off for "eligible Series A" startups, according to the website. Of course, not all startups are accepted, but applying is free.
- Built-in click-to-call: No additional integration is needed to get click-to-call functionality working 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, they can record the entire call as well. The recording of the call is automatically logged in the client's timeline, which makes it easy for sales reps to stay updated on each client's experience. It's also great for managers who want to improve customer service.
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 on moving 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 paid subscriptions are in the mix.
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