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HubSpot Review: Best CRM Software for Startups

After much research and analysis, we recommend HubSpot as our 2017 pick for the best CRM software for startups. To understand how we selected our best picks, you can view our methodology, as well as a comprehensive list of CRM software, on our best picks page.

HubSpot is an ideal CRM for businesses just getting off the ground. The software is free for everyone and features all the tools new businesses need to track their contacts and potential sales. In addition, it has sales and marketing software that you can use in conjunction with the CRM as your business grows.

What makes HubSpot such an appealing option for startups is that it offers new businesses a fully functioning CRM for absolutely free. Unlike some CRM software that only offers free options for some users or with only limited functionality, HubSpot's CRM comes at no cost for everyone and includes every feature and tool available.

The HubSpot CRM allows you to store as many as 1 million contacts, companies, deals and tasks. Some of the other free CRM software we considered allows significantly fewer contacts.

HubSpot's CRM is like an address book on steroids. Instead of just being a place to store all of your contacts and their details, the software allows you to quickly and easily organize every detail and interaction with your company's prospects and customers. This includes email messages, notes and appointments.

In addition, the software lets you see which deals are in the works and how they are proceeding through the sales pipeline. With the software, you can track the deals and their progress, as well as see how each of your sales team members are faring in locking deals up.

Editor's note: Looking for information on CRM software? Use the questionnaire below, and our vendor partners will contact you to provide you with the information you need:

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To make the CRM even more robust, businesses can also tack on HubSpot's sales software, which includes a number of tools to make the entire sales process run smoother and easier. The basic sales software – which includes email integration, open API, and limited use of email notifications, email templates, document tracking and in-app calling – is also completely free for each user.

A more advanced version of the sales software, HubSpot Sales Pro, is $50 per month, per user. It includes unlimited email notifications, 1,000 email templates, tracking of 1,000 documents per user, 2,000 minutes a month of in-app calling, the ability to link up the system with your online calendar and email sequencing.

Should your business continue to grow, you can also tap into HubSpot's marketing tools. The inbound marketing software is available in three packages, which vary in the number of contacts and features included. They range from $200 to $2,400 per month.     

We found HubSpot's CRM extremely easy to use. The software has a clean interface that makes it simple to find the tools you need when you need them.

The dashboard, which is the first thing you see after signing in to the cloud-based software, is completely customizable for each user. You can pick and choose which reports you see as soon as you log in. The options include a summary of your sales performance, deals in the pipeline, the amount of revenue those deals could generate, and an overview of your newest contacts, your returning contacts and your team activity. You can choose from more than 70 different reports to add to your dashboard.

Adding contacts into the software is also simple. You can put them in one at a time or import them as a group using a CSV file. When you insert contacts one at a time, all you need to start are is a contact's first and last name and email address. You can then include more details as you gather them, such as job title, their company, industry and phone numbers. Also, details are added in as they move through your sales pipeline, such as when they became a qualified lead and when they closed on a deal.

HubSpot's CRM gives you a complete picture of your contacts, complete with their details and all of the email messages.

When you create a new contact, the software automatically produces an associated company record and populates both records with details such as revenue, industry and contact details from HubSpot's database of over 20 million businesses. This allows you to get a complete picture of not only the person you are working with on each sale, but also the company they work for.

In addition to adding contacts into the software, you also create "deals" to help monitor your sales process. The deals provide an overview of where things stand in the sales pipeline, as well as exact details about each potential sale. It tracks all emails made about the deals and dates when appointments are scheduled, presentations made and contracts sent out. The CRM allows you to customize this as well. You can add, edit and delete deal stages to correspond to how you operate.

In addition, the deals feature keeps record of all the contacts involved in the deal and allows you to save any related documents. This not only helps those who are working on the sale keep track of where each one stands, but it also provides an overview for those in charge to see the status of each potential sale.

HubSpot's CRM gives you a total overview of all of the sales in your sales pipeline.

HubSpot's CRM also lets you easily create deal-related tasks that help push your work ahead. The tasks, such as "make a call" or "create a presentation," are a quick way to see everything you need to complete each day, week, etc. 

In addition to keeping track of your contacts and deals, you can access all of the sales and marketing tools from the same online platform. Everything HubSpot has to offer is accessible from the same account. We like that you don't have to sign out and then sign back in to a new platform to use the sales or marketing tools.

Helping to make HubSpot so easy to use are all of the programs and services it integrates with. First, it integrates with Gmail or Office 365. If you are using one of these email clients, you can connect it to HubSpot so all of your relevant emails are logged and available within the CRM.

Besides the email integrations, HubSpot's CRM integrates with nearly 70 other popular programs, including Dropbox, Google Drive, WordPress, Google Chrome, UberConference, Zapier, Stitch and Zendesk. HubSpot also has an open API, which allows you to create your own integrations.

HubSpot's sales and marketing programs are full of features that startups will find very appealing. These are some of the sales tools startups will value:

  1. Email tracking: The system notifies you when a prospect opens your email or clicks a link.
  2. Email templates: Turn your sales emails into templates that you can personalize, optimize and share with everyone on your team.
  3. Email sequences: Automate your messaging by sending out a series of emails to prospects at scheduled intervals. You can tailor each message and choose when you want it to send.
  4. Calling and call tracking: Make and record calls directly from your browser, and automatically log them to your CRM.
  5. Meetings: Sync your Google or Office 365 calendar to your software so prospects can schedule their own meetings and always see your most up-to-date availability.
  6. Prospects: Track who is visiting your website from the companies you are working with and see which pages they engage with most.
  7. Documents: Build a shared library of up-to-date sales content for your entire team. 

The inbound marketing software also offers a number of helpful features, including the ability to create subdomains, make SEO recommendations, review blog analytics, create landing pages and conduct A/B testing.

Additionally, the marketing software provides a number of social media tools, including social media monitoring, publishing, analytics and bookmarklets. You can see the full list of the more than 50 marketing features on the HubSpot website.

We were extremely pleased with the customer service HubSpot provided. To test the level of support, we called the company posing as a small business owner interested in its CRM software.

Our call was immediately answered by a friendly and helpful representative. Instead of trying to rush us off the phone or lock us into a sale, the representative took all of the time needed to fully explain everything HubSpot had to offer and answer all of our questions. He walked us through the CRM software, as well as the company's additional sales and marketing tools. By the end of our call, we had a clear understanding of all the services HubSpot provides.

We were most pleased that the representative was listening to our questions and understanding our timeline. At no time did he try to rush us into making a decision or signing up for the service. Instead, he offered to send us more information via email, which arrived shortly after our call ended, and told us to call back should we have any other questions.

Unfortunately, HubSpot only provides customer support over the phone to users of its paid plans. Anyone using the company's free services has to rely on the online HubSpot community staffed by other HubSpot users, partners and employees for help. Free users can also tap into the company's knowledge base, which offers a number of helpful training videos.

HubSpot is an accredited member of the Better Business Bureau with an A+ rating. Over the past three years, 13 complaints were filed against HubSpot with the BBB, eight of which were resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant. You can read more about the nature of the complaints on the BBB website.

The biggest drawback to HubSpot is the lack of phone support for free users. Not being able to speak to someone about how the system operates, or any issues you have in getting it up and running, could pose a problem for some startups.

However, the training videos we watched were extremely helpful and did answer many of the questions we had. If being able to speak to a support agent is a priority for you, we would encourage you to consider Salesforce, our choice for the best CRM software for small businesses, or Insightly, our choice for the best CRM software for very small businesses.

Another potential downside is that HubSpot's CRM currently doesn't integrate with Microsoft Outlook on Mac computers. While this won't be a problem for all users, it could be a deal breaker for those using Macs and Outlook. HubSpot's website does indicate that an integration is currently in the planning stages. It does not provide a time frame on when it might be completed, however.

Small Business Overall
Salesforce
Read Review
  • Pricing
    Starts at $25 per month per user
  • Features
    Robust, all-in-one software
  • Support
    24/7 phone and live chat
Very Small Business
Insightly
Read Review
  • Pricing
    Free for 2 users, or $12 per user per month
  • Features
    Scalable as your business grows
  • Support
    Phone, email and help ticket
Free
Zoho CRM
Read Review
  • Pricing
    Free for up to 10 users
  • Features
    Premium features
  • Support
    Help desk, social media, community forums
Startups
HubSpot
Read Review
  • Pricing
    Free for all users.
  • Features
    Premium features
  • Support
    Online community and knowledge base

Ready to choose a CRM software? Here's a breakdown of our complete coverage:

Editor's note: Looking for information on CRM software? Use the questionnaire below, and our vendor partners will contact you to provide you with the information you need:

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Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer who has nearly 15 years' experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.