HubSpot and Salesforce are both established powerhouses in the areas of data management and business process automation.
Salesforce was founded in 1999 in San Francisco, California. HubSpot was founded in 2006 in Boston, Massachusetts.
Salesforce began as a Sales Force Automation (SFA) system and eventually became a comprehensive suite of business applications, some of which were gained through acquisitions.
HubSpot began as a marketing and content management system. The company later added Sales, Service, and Operations functionality or ‘hubs’ as HubSpot calls them.
Both companies have seen enterprise adoption in their respective flagship categories.
Like any software platform, having more longevity than competitors cuts both ways. It usually means richer features and functionality.
However, more time in the market can also mean more baggage in the form of ongoing transitions from legacy interfaces and dated ways of accomplishing specific administrative tasks.
We’ll refer to these as positive longevity effects and adverse longevity effects, respectively.
Because of the two companies’ respective origins, many organizations continue to use HubSpot for marketing automation and Salesforce for sales, customer service & support, and custom business applications.
Some companies using both platforms are considering moving entirely to one or another. Companies that use neither platform may be considering one or the other.
For people in these companies, there are several differences between the two platforms to consider.
1. Native vs. integrated marketing functionality
HubSpot began as a marketing automation platform. When HubSpot introduced Sales Hub, the functionality was added natively to the existing platform.
Because of this unified code base, sales and marketing users can share many of the same properties (fields) rather than an admin having to replicate fields in different systems and then set up mapping and precedence rules.
What we refer to as the Awareness to Order journey can all be managed under one roof.
Conversely, Salesforce does not have native marketing automation functionality. However, Salesforce integrates with several marketing automation systems, including HubSpot, ActiveCampaign, and its internal Pardot and Marketing Cloud offerings.
While cloud-to-cloud integrations are better than ever, more ongoing maintenance is required compared to all-in-one systems.
2. The consultant ecosystems
A positive longevity effect for Salesforce is the sheer volume of worldwide administrators and developers.
There are so many people involved with Salesforce that in 2021 the company dubbed this global collective the ‘Salesforce Economy.’
While an extensive group of marketing agencies and independent consultants are HubSpot Marketing Hub and CMS Hub experts, HubSpot’s consultant ecosystem for Sales, Service, and Operations Hubs is comparatively nascent.
3. The app marketplaces
Third-party CRM apps are typically in the form of integrations, add-ons, and natively installed enhanced functionality.
HubSpot’s App Marketplace has over 500 apps.
Salesforce’s AppExchange has over 7,000 third-party apps.
4. Freemium vs. paid only
While Salesforce gives time and money to many organizations and people, it does not give much away for free to business customers.
On the other hand, HubSpot continues to use an extensive freemium model with much ‘lite’ functionality at no charge. This pricing model means an extensive try-before-you-buy experience compared to a time-limited free trial.
5. Scope of product offerings
Salesforce’s growth through acquisition strategy means that the company has a lot of different offerings outside of the core CRM platform. While product brand names have changed over time, past acquisitions include Slack, Tableau, ExactTarget, Pardot, Demandware, and SteelBrick.
HubSpot has been much less acquisitive than Salesforce and generally invents and builds all product functionality in-house and on a single platform.
A product from HubSpot that Salesforce does not offer is a content management system (CMS). Customers can build entire websites on the same platform as the other HubSpot apps they use.
6. Validation rules
Data validation rules are essential for data consistency and cleanliness.
Salesforce has had validation rules for over a decade and provides extensive examples of how and where to use these rules.
HubSpot introduced beta validation rules in September 2022. Initially, HubSpot introduced two types of rules for single-line text properties (fields) and number properties.
Single-line text rules allow for setting a minimum or maximum character limit, restricting values to only numeric characters, or disallowing special characters.
Number rules allow an admin to set a number range or set the number of decimal places.
7. Workflow designer
As business process automation tools, workflow designers have become indispensable to businesses. Today, these tools are a must-have for sales, marketing, service, and custom applications.
One of Salesforce’s adverse longevity effects is the platform has three different workflow design tools. Because of this, Salesforce is phasing out workflow rules and Process Builder in favor of Flows.
HubSpot’s Workflows were initially designed for marketing requirements but have been applied to address similar business needs for sales, service, and operations.
Salesforce’s Flows have more design options and are, therefore, more complex to configure than HubSpot’s Workflows. However, the latter is more user-friendly.
8. Field-level and record-level security
For many organizations, the ability to granularly define who has access to what data is an important consideration. In some cases, it’s just a matter of users not being distracted by viewing information that is meaningless to them. In other cases, it ensures that only certain users can see sensitive data.
A positive longevity effect for Salesforce is an extensive field-level and record-level security model. The Who Sees What playlist on Salesforce’s YouTube channel provides a deep dive into all the security options available on the platform. There’s even a certification called Sharing and Visibility Architect.
9. The user experience
User adoption of CRM systems is a perennial challenge. CRM vendors look for ways to improve the user experience.
Salesforce uses a traditional ‘lists and forms’-type interface. While Salesforce Lightning pages offer more design flexibility than Salesforce classic, the record detail appears like a traditional two-column interface with sections and clearly defined fields.
By contrast, the HubSpot record detail view de-emphasizes traditional-looking forms & fields and instead emphasizes activities. For companies that have a heavy focus on ABM and sales pursuit, HubSpot has an excellent user interface.
Salesforce lets administrators create different views of the same record by activating different Lightning pages for different groups of users.
For the greatest success, a thorough analysis is critical before any significant change in CRM software platforms.
It’s not just about the general differences between the two platforms but how respective platforms address your organization’s unique needs.
Because of this, we recommend following a structured buying process.