You may not expect us, as a HubSpot Partner, to talk about the drawbacks of the platform, but the truth is that it's not perfect for everyone. So, let's take an honest look at what the problems are, what solutions there might be, and where those solutions don't go far enough.
If you're concerned about the potential drawbacks, you're always welcome to chat to our team.
And if you don't feel like reading, we've got it all on video for you:
It's not flexible enough
One of the biggest gripes about HubSpot CRM is that it isn't as customisable as platforms like SalesForce or Microsoft Dynamics. Depending on the complexity of your business, this means it might not be the perfect fit for you.
It's always worth having a demo of any platform you're looking at, and really stress testing the customisability in terms of how it will work for your specific needs. You might find that HubSpot can do what you need, through a combination of customisation and automation. Alternatively, it might not.
In response to these concerns, HubSpot introduced Custom Objects - a way to massively increase the customisability of the platform. If the existing categories - contacts, companies, and deals - are not enough, you can create your own category, decide what properties it contains, and choose what other objects it can be associated with.
The benefit of this is that the data looks and acts just like the rest of HubSpot, so your data works the same in the system, you just have more control. The drawback is that you have to use an API to create the objects, so you do need some developer time to get it up and running. You also need to be on an Enterprise tier to access this functionality, so it's not as suitable for smaller businesses.
The pricing ramp up between tiers
One of the great things about HubSpot is the free tier, which contains a huge amount of functionality, and its low-cost Starter tier - the full CRM Suite Starter costs just £57 per month).
The problem is that the price doesn't step up in small increments, it jumps up significantly. The Professional Suite costs £1,312 per month - a big difference from that £57 price point [for a full description of all tier pricing, check out our "how much does HubSpot cost" blog post].
The jump is explained by how much additional functionality is released at the Professional level, much of which increases the value of HubSpot by some margin. Things like custom reporting, video hosting, automation, multi-language support, smart content, social media management, sales forecasting, testing, and optimisation all add massive opportunities to your marketing and sales teams.
So, while it makes sense that the price increases by a large margin, it can definitely cause some consternation when you're looking at the pricing in isolation. It can be a challenge for businesses that are ready to move up to the next tier operationally, but the financial impact may be too much.
The reporting isn't sophisticated enough
HubSpot started as a marketing platform, so while the marketing analytics are pretty strong, the sales reporting is not as sophisticated. Which means that complex sales functions might find some frustrating limitations.
If you have a very clear picture of what you need to know, and a clear data background, you can use custom reports to get the information you need, but if you're relying on the ready-built reports within your dashboards, you might not get everything your Sales Director wants to see.
You'll need to analyse multiple reports and understand the data and how it all fits together, which results in some sales teams creating additional spreadsheets - not quite what you want when all of your data is in one place.
And while the marketing side is strong, sometimes you'll want to dig into the deeper analysis available in Google Analytics or Search Console - but you should be using those alongside any platform you choose anyway.
Implementation is hard work
There's a reason HubSpot insist that if you're going to be using HubSpot Marketing Professional or Enterprise, that you need onboarding services. It's simply too much to expect an inexperienced user or company to be able to get it all set up correctly, optimised, and customised, without some expert support. If you're investing in the platform, it's important that you get the most out of it, which means you're required to engage either with HubSpot or a Partner to get yourself up and running.
Now, other tiers and other hubs don't have the same requirements, which means there are plenty of people who've tried to use HubSpot and found getting it all sorted out is just too much of a headache. Let's face it, there are so many features even in the free tier that finding, customising, and using all of them can be a challenge.
Of course, if you're on the free tier, you may not want to invest in the services of a Partner to onboard you (incidentally, that's why we set up our free HubSpot Training Bootcamps), which means you need to learn it all yourself.
HubSpot is designed to be user-friendly, so you won't need a developer or an advanced degree to get going, but it's also worth accessing the free HubSpot Academy for some training videos in order to start off on the right foot.
It's difficult to leave
One of the big concerns people have when it comes to starting up with HubSpot is the idea of being locked in. What happens if you change your mind someday and want to leave the platform? How much of you data do you lose?
And while it's not the simplest thing in the world, it is possible to leave HubSpot with your data intact. It will take time, though.
If you host your website and blog on HubSpot, you'll have to export a HTML files of your pages along with all coded files from your design manager. Don't forget that things like CTAs won't work, and you'll have to recreate plenty of things and build up a bank of plugins to get your previous functionality back.
Aside from the website, there's a tonne of data in your HubSpot account that you'll have to spend time retrieving. There are guides on how to do this in the HubSpot Knowledgebase, but you'll need to set aside a decent chunk of time to work through everything.
While you can export a list of your workflows, you obviously will need to recreate them in whatever automation platform you move to.
And the biggest issue for most is the fact that you can't export notes from your contact, company, or deal records. It is possible to work with the API to export this data, but you'll need a developer to help with this.
So, while it's not true that choosing HubSpot means you're committed for life, there is a challenge (even if only in terms of time) when it comes to completely withdrawing from the system. That said, the majority of users stay with HubSpot long term, due to the value they get from the platform.