(This post originally appeared on Forbes)
HubSpot is one of those sales and marketing platforms that, when mentioned, always raises questions from my clients. Is it a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system? Is it just for marketing? The answer is both. It’s an excellent, cloud-based marketing and CRM platform. But whether it’s right for your company depends not so much on what HubSpot does, but what you’re able to do with it.
If you’re not familiar with HubSpot, you should be. The company has become a very popular platform amongst mostly mid-sized firms and has shown impressive growth over the past few years. Just this past quarter, for example, its revenue exceeded $200 million, an increase of about 25 percent compared to the same prior year period and the company now serves almost 87,000 customers, a growth of more than 34 percent compared to last year.
It does this by combining both a free CRM module and paid subscriptions for its marketing offering, which includes services that helps its customers capture and convert leads to prospects through inbound marketing activities including blog creation, social media posts, marketing automation and search engine optimization. All of these are powerful tools. But like any tool they have to be used by the right person.
Because in the end, companies that can’t leverage these tools won’t succeed with HubSpot. Sure, you can get their standalone CRM application for free. But this is not a CRM product. It is a marketing platform that includes CRM capabilities. Your sales team won’t be the primary users of HubSpot, although they will benefit from what it does. The primary people who use HubSpot are marketers. This software – like all software – doesn’t just work on its own. You don’t just push a button and wait for the leads to come raining down from the sky. It needs someone driving it effectively.
So when a client asks if they should consider HubSpot I first consider who’s asking the question: is it a sales manager or a marketing manager?
If it’s a sales manager who’s primarily concerned with managing pipelines, opportunities and activities then I generally point them towards a mainstream, more focused CRM application that has marketing capabilities.
However, if it’s a marketing manager who wants to create more awareness, better engage a community and then generate leads for a sales team then I’m all-in with HubSpot, particularly because it has a decent CRM platform underneath it that the sales team can eventually use.
But, if the client is just a small business owner who thinks that HubSpot will automatically spew out leads and close deals with little human effort as soon as the monthly payment begins then I generally suggest a longer conversation about resources, goals and budget…and usually over a beer.
While not ignoring these small businesses, HubSpot publicly says that its main target is the under-served mid-market. That means – to me – companies that generally have enough revenues and employees that can afford a full-time marketing person. An independent or very small business owner – let’s say with less than 20 employees – are generally not good users of HubSpot. At minimum. they could use a decent contact management system and at best a more powerful CRM system that can provide them with the ability to send out and track bulk emails and perform other basic marketing activities. HubSpot’s management knows that great marketing isn’t magic. It’s hard work that requires much data entry, analysis, testing and failure. This doesn’t get done by a push of the button. It only succeeds when there are full time people dedicated to its success.
If you’re a very small business and you like HubSpot my recommendation is to instead consider hiring an outside marketing partner that uses HubSpot. It will be a little more expensive, but in the end you’ll be best taking advantage of its capabilities by letting someone more experienced and knowledgeable use that technology for your benefit. Otherwise if you just buy HubSpot yourself and you don’t have those resources it’ll probably just sit there.
I like HubSpot. A lot. But it’s not for everyone. If you’re the right kind of company, with the right kind of culture, then it can be a powerful tool. But if you have don’t have the marketing resources – either internal or external – to fully leverage its capabilities then you may be disappointed. You don’t want that. And neither, I bet, do the leaders at HubSpot.