We've been working with HubSpot for almost 10 years - so we thought it was about time for a podcast episode about our favourite platform. I spoke to Anders and Stellan about what HubSpot is, what its strengths are for companies looking to get onlinified, and how it's evolved during the time we've been using it.
As we say in the episode, HubSpot's big strength is its ease of use. You don't really have to go on any lengthy courses to understand how to use it - after a couple of weeks, you'll probably be up to speed with the core tools. This is a big benefit, because it means you can get several highly-experienced HubSpot users in your organisation in a pretty short time - compare this other, more complex systems, where there are typically one or two super-users who spend most of their time showing others how to do things.
At the same time, ease of use means a certain lack of customisation - there's a very wide range of add-ons and ready-made integrations now available for HubSpot, but as Stellan says, there's only so much you can hack it. However, if you want to avoid never-ending integration and migration projects (which is what we would recommend), this could be seen as a strength!
We have a lot of experience from working with companies who are taking their first steps with HubSpot, so hopefully this episode answers a few high-level questions that you might have about the platform. Enjoy! As usual, you can watch the video episode below if you prefer, or just skim through the transcription at the bottom.
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Alexander Evjenth: [00:00:00] Are you sitting good, Stellan?
Stellan Björnesjö: [00:00:02] I am fine in my chair now.
AE: [00:00:05] Good, how are you Anders?
Anders Björklund: [00:00:07] Tremendous, as always.
AE: [00:00:09] Any story about the guitar behind you?
AB: [00:00:13] Oh, it's just a Fender, and to the Fender, of course, I use an amplifier named Blackstar.
AE: [00:00:21] Ok, does that say anything to you, Stellan?
SB: [00:00:26] That it's heavily Bowie inspired?
AB: [00:00:30] What a surprise.
AE: [00:00:33] So today, I was thinking that we could talk a bit about HubSpot, we have talked about CRMs before, but let's go more deeper into what HubSpot is. And as our listeners are, most of the listeners are decision-makers, so we talk about it on quite a high level, and don't go into more like practical details that we could have another episode about. But let's start with you Anders, how long have you used HubSpot for?
AB: [00:01:07] Together with our customers, this is actually interesting that you ask, because I believe it was this week that Doug and Stellan and I prepared something and the discussion came up, so Stellan you have to correct me, was it March 2012 that we started working together with HubSpot? So that's for how long that we ourselves and many of our customers either as a complement to the full tech stack and more and more often as sort of the main part of the tech stack.
AE: [00:01:44] And Stellan, you worked at Zooma in 2012 as well, or?
SB: [00:01:47] Yeah, started in February of 2012.
AE: [00:01:51] Great. Could you just describe a bit about what HubSpot is?
SB: [00:01:56] I wish there was an easy answer, but there are many different angles you could take on this. So one is that it's a system of record, a CRM that on top of that has basically all the tools you need to run marketing, sales and service. And then on top of that, it has an open API with an ecosystem. So there are many ready-made integrations that you can do to other tools if you think that HubSpot doesn't have exactly the features that you're looking for in one or several areas. But in one way, sort of to simplify, simplify the reasoning a bit, because on a more philosophical note, it's for anyone who has sort of decided that you want to take concrete steps and you want to do something that is fairly simple and easy to start with and to use, rather than to spend years and years and years developing things that are custom made specifically to your way of working or your specific, and often, unfortunately, I have to say, imagined needs. So it's a little bit something that is good enough for most and that is really easy to get going with. And therefore, you can sort of win a lot in terms of time to market, as it's often called. But I would say more in a sort of from a transformational journey, you get up to speed much faster.
AE: [00:03:40] And that has that been the case since the start?
SB: [00:03:45] It has been the case since the start, but not in sort of such a broad aspect. So when we started working with HubSpot, it covered marketing and it didn't really cover sales or service. So in one way it did because there is a CRM at the core. And from that perspective, you want to have all your customer and prospect interactions in one place. And HubSpot could solve that. But for organizations who wanted sales enablement, integrations with Outlook, LinkedIn, etc., none of that existed in 2012. All of that has been added later. So now it's a much more complete platform.
AE: [00:04:33] And what are the most important evolvements of HubSpot since you started working with it in 2012, according to you?
AB: [00:04:44] Originally, it was very clear that it was American software. And very early on we brought on friends, customers, clients who are very, very international. They could cover like 60 languages, etc. So it became very clear in the beginning that it was an American marketing software. They didn't have CMS in the beginning either. And I would say nowadays it's a huge software provider, very easy to work with that has evolved from their original idea to something very, very impressive and still kept the main strength, which is ease of use. And I would say, so far, it's the only software tool that we work with, ourselves and with our customers, that actually has the CRM as the base for everything that they do, and we're not in this episode going to mention all interactions on one contact card again, but in their case, in HubSpot's case, it's obviously huge advantage that if you work with service, if you sort of use the Operations Hub, if you work with sales and marketing, you have the full view of a customer. Many others claim they have, I haven't seen it yet.
AE: [00:06:09] Yeah. So Stellan, could you elaborate a bit about the differences between HubSpot and other CRMs on the market?
SB: [00:06:18] Yeah. So the big difference is the ease of use, ease of use often also, and it's true in HubSpot case as well, means that there is a limit to what you can configure. So you can only hack the system so much. And there is there are surprisingly many ways to hack it. But then if you want to reach a point where you want to sort of involve work in another tool and your starting point is, "we want everything to work exactly like it does in our current system and we want to emulate that in HubSpot." Then the answer is don't use HubSpot. Because it's never going to succeed. It's not going to be possible.
AB: [00:07:07] Then you shouldn't use any other system either, because it will only be a never-ending integration project!
SB: [00:07:16] Yeah, but if you want the never-ending integration and migration project, then you could choose something like Salesforce or something where it's actually, you can do anything more or less. And so that's sort of the, I would say, key difference between HubSpot and many others is that, yes, it's it is limited, there is a limit to what you can do and how much you can hack it. But it's actually a benefit that it is like that. They have most of the ways that you can configure the system is what most organizations need. And so therefore for most it's the perfect tool. It's like you can't go wrong with it in a way.
AB: [00:08:01] And then fair to say that we have been and do work with, now you asked Stellan about the CRM part. We have seen, used, worked with lots of different CRMs, but it's important to bear in mind that the history of CRM, as we have said in another episode, is to make administrators of sales reps, make sure that they log all the history they can come up with, and then we will tap them on their shoulders. So if you are specifically about CRM, I believe that if a person is semi-ambitious and if a person prefers comfort in their career, if you presume that when you're about to get a tool, then we need to think differently than to change the whole nature of someone who has a job. By that I say, I don't believe generally that people who are non-administrators should become administrators. I believe that you should, if you have a good forehand in tennis, that's your main weapon. Don't talk about too much how bad your backhand is. If I can choose between a very relevant salesperson who is good at online and digital interactions, and even if they meet someone physically, and a person who is a good administrator, then I know what to pick. But if I can help the very skilled, relation-driven sales guy or sales lady, the sales rep, then you have to pick a tool where they become more intelligent and more structured and understand why they should look inside a tool instead of sort of picking up their phone, etc., make fake Excel reports to make it look like they do a hell of a good job. That's not the way I think a good CRM should work. Then you can have an Excel sheet.
AE: [00:09:59] And about the pricing, Stellan, how is HubSpot on the market there?
SB: [00:10:06] It's a freemium model, so basically you can start for free and then as you need, you upgrade and add features. And I think it's it's a smart way of getting people to try the platform and understand what it can do. The drawback is that people might think that since it's so easy, people might start it without having an actual commitment. So, yeah, there is one situation is playing around a bit, and another one is once you decide that this is what we should do, then you actually need a real commitment from the organization. And it takes time and effort to move to a new way of working with HubSpot or anything else. And I think that's sometimes unfortunately overlooked. And it's, but it's a key aspect, especially with HubSpot, where sort of the actual ramp-up of working with the tool is quite short. So it's not that you have like a six or 12 month period where you mostly work on specifications and implementations, coding and so on. But you actually you know, it's a couple of weeks of configurations and then the organization is up and up and running. Your pilot is done and you can roll it out in the organization.
AB: [00:11:28] Very few, Alexander, of the fantastic companies that we know and work with and meet each and every day, large B2B companies, are in need of increased complexity and to slow down. Very few, if ever I have met, sort of fantastic traditional B2B company that is in need of increasing the complexity and slowing down because they go on too fast. I think that company doesn't exist. So play it easy, make sure stuff happens on a three-week basis, not on a three-year, not happening basis. I can tell you something. I have a problem to record this episode. And here it came again. I will explain it, last night, usually, I listen to a lot of pods and educations and webinars while I answer emails in the evening. And last night I was listening to an American guy who had actually a fantastic presentation about personalization. But something came into my head which made it impossible to email and listen to him at the same time, because he said the "uh" whole time, so I had to stop emailing, started to look at him, listening intensively, but I only heard "uh". So I decided to listen to it this morning. And then I had a SEO presentation from a webinar with a lot of different participants, very skilled, most likely they had a lot of nice things to tell and I only heard "uh" again.
AB: [00:13:06] So I took a decision before this episode, please Anders, do whatever you can not to use "uh". And the first thing I did in the pod today, you can do a log on this Doug, was saying, "uh", so I have a suggestion for us. Everyone knows that we love CSR. Whoever participates in the episode, if they say, "uh", they need to give one krona to Gothenburg's Stadsmission. So whoever participates here from the next recording, afterwards in the transcription, Doug will say, Stellan, you owe Gothenburg Stadsmission 23 Swedish kronor, Anders, you owe 550, or whatever it is! If it's fine with you, and then with other colleagues, we should challenge them the same way. I have poached you at one time, Alexander, saying at the presentation with this fantastic Dutch company, it was a lot of "uh", but I realized when I listened to the recordings that I "uh" a lot as well. So I'm going to make a good try. So I speak slower today. And when I think I try to shut up. Excuse the language.
AE: [00:14:17] Yeah, challenge accepted.
AB: [00:14:19] From the next episode!
AE: [00:14:22] Anders, you have worked with implementing, uh... shit, it's very hard to talk when I have this in my head. But you have worked with implementing HubSpot for many clients and bigger B2B companies since 2012. What's the general comment after an implementation, after a few years of working with HubSpot from the decision-makers at these companies?
AB: [00:14:52] I'm going to switch that question one hundred and eighty degrees and instead answer what is the key to be successful in implementing it? Start thinking, whether you're going to implement something, whatever you're going to implement that is involving service, sales, marketing, all the commercial aspects, bring aboard and support a pilot with sales. They have, if they've been working ten or fifteen or twenty years, they have so much shit to compare with when it comes to the content provided from marketing, the intelligence provided from interactions to get a 360 view of customers, if they know what the customer answered last time in the customer index or whatever for the NPS, so start by bringing on the commercial part and sales, then everything else will be easier if they feel that they finally get something that contributes to their relations and makes it easier to sort of fulfill their remuneration models, then you get going. So all the marketing managers or support leaders in the world stop thinking awareness and other things and in service, stop thinking, oh, they complain a lot, and start focusing from a commercial perspective and thinking, how is it to sit in their chair. That I think is the main learning for us, our customers. And the most important thing to think about when you implement whatever tool, even though you want to talk about HubSpot now, whatever change you're about to do, make sure you do it from a commercial aspect. And then I don't talk about sort of start knocking on doors and trying to be old school partner, then I think about onboarding them, make it easier for them in all aspects. That's where it happens in the relation there and on the service side. And then you push marketing to only provide things that for all touchpoints and interactions in the life cycle, be ready to bring and provide the stuff that they need. No "uh" there!
SB: [00:17:11] And I think the aspect of why we're doing it is very, very important. So that often sort of defines the outcome. So if it's a bit confused, the outcome is often confused. But if it's defined and there is a very clear objective, then the objective is met.
AB: [00:17:29] And Stellan Björnesjö is very, very seldom confused.
AB: [00:17:34] That's true!
AE: [00:17:38] So we talked a bit about the pros, are there any obvious cons that companies should consider?
SB: [00:17:48] Yeah, so we talked about some of them before, but if you want to work exactly the way you're currently working and try to emulate that or implement that, that's not going to work. If you have a very sort of, if you want to launch something globally from the get-go and you have a very complex situation in terms of responsibilities, global, local etc., then there is there is no simple way of doing that within a single instance of HubSpot, you would have to have multiple HubSpot accounts on local markets and so on. So that is one aspect to think about. And the third one, I would say is, pricing is attractive compared to most other systems, but if you always run into this sort of over time not managing your licenses, so you might end up with thousands and thousands of contacts, for example, that bring no value, that you have no interactions with either in marketing, sales or service, they might just be more or less web spam, people who downloaded something once, left a comment on something once and then never came back, has not being active, doesn't open any emails, do not subscribe to anything and so on. They could be left if you don't do maintenance over time, and that increases your license. You could also buy features that you don't use. So just as you have a clear objective with getting going from the beginning, when you expand to to add more features, you have to be very clear about why you're doing it, who's supposed to use it and so on.
AE: [00:19:37] Yeah, great. Thank you both very much for participating today.