Sarah is EMPAUA’s Managing Director for the UK region. With over 8 years of Salesforce experience, she has delivered or been involved across hundreds of implementations during this period. This has also exposed her to a multitude of other CRM’s available in the market, particularly HubSpot. In this article, Sarah draws on her past experiences which we hope can help you make the right decision when choosing a CRM for your business that scales.
Choosing the right CRM is an important decision for all companies, regardless of their size or where they are in their business lifecycle. Yet far too often, decisions are made without a thorough evaluation process being completed to ensure that the CRM they select is fit for purpose; not just in the short-term, but is able to adapt and scale in alignment with the company in the long-term.
At EMPAUA, our focus is on working with hypergrowth companies and supporting them with their Salesforce implementation. We very regularly collaborate with businesses who are moving from HubSpot to Salesforce or are in the process of considering either HubSpot or Salesforce. As someone who has a lot of knowledge working with both CRM’s I wanted to share my experiences on this decision-making process and hopefully provide some insights on what a company should be doing when evaluating their options.
What is the right approach to take when evaluating a CRM? things
When choosing a CRM, I would probably group a company’s approach into 3 different categories:
- The key decision-makers already have experience or are familiar with a certain CRM. They have used it in previous roles/companies and so would select this for their new venture as they have clearly had a good experience, and therefore the level of risk of an implementation not being successful is perceived as quite low. As I’m sure we can all agree, not every business is the same, and what might have worked well somewhere else might not be fit for purpose at another company, which can result in an unsuccessful outcome if you go down this route.
- Making a decision based on the cost. This can either be through completing a careful evaluation of providers, or alternatively through some quick research, but essentially companies make their selection due to the perceived ROI they can expect to get from the CRM based on their spend. This is particularly a concern for newer businesses, who are less established. They might not yet have a good enough understanding of predicted revenue/cash flow at that point in time, and so choose a vendor which at face value is cheaper. Unfortunately, as businesses grow and so expect their CRM to support this, these cheaper CRMs are unable to keep up. This can result in having to utilise other products to provide that functionality (all at an additional cost), or even worse, businesses start to incorporate manual steps in their processes, outside of their CRM due to its limitations. Obviously, a business needs to choose a CRM that’s in their budget – but make sure you are choosing one that has the options to scale with your business.
- The final approach I see (and also our recommended approach) is by doing a detailed requirements gathering and process mapping exercise and selecting the CRM which best aligns with this. Not just in the short-term but also in the long term. The key phrase here is long-term. As already discussed in my second point, too often companies make a short-sighted decision based on their situation and requirements at that point in time, which can, unfortunately, mean that their chosen CRM is not fit for purpose in the future. Those potential short-term savings that you might have made would all be lost when migrating to a more powerful CRM (as this is not just limited to implementation costs, but also the potential down-time to the business which could incur during the transition for example). I’ll address this point some more at a later stage.
If we look at Salesforce as an example, several years ago it was regarded more as an enterprise product – geared at fairly mature businesses with complex requirements – and at that time, their price point was a barrier to many companies that did not meet these criteria.
That has completely changed now, with Salesforce introducing editions such as Essentials – which starts at only £20 per user per month. This opens up the market completely and allows companies to start their CRM journey with a product that meets their needs (and budget!) in the short-term. As they grow, however, and need to expand functionality, they can do so all on the same platform, by upgrading their edition of Salesforce as needed, allowing it to evolve in line with their business growth.
Why do so many companies move from HubSpot to Salesforce?
In my experience, it’s ultimately because HubSpot does not provide as much room to customise or adapt their technology as Salesforce does; especially for companies that wish to run their entire business on the platform. This is something that is pretty key should they wish to scale efficiently, especially as we want to (and need to!) engage with our customers at every point in their journey.
Traditionally, different business units such as sales and customer service, have operated in isolation – but as we know, that shouldn’t be the case at all. There is even more of an emphasis on the 360 degree view of our customers – and recognising that their journey does not end once they purchase something. This is where Salesforce truly steps up and stands out from the crowd – its platform has the tools and capabilities to not only support this view and therefore the engagement of customers across their entire journey, but it can do it seamlessly across any channel and for any company regardless of their business model.
HubSpot versus Pardot
It is quite common for companies, particularly start-ups, to migrate to Salesforce in a phased approach. They do this by implementing first of all its core CRM products such as Salesforce Sales Cloud, whilst continuing to use HubSpot for marketing automation, with a bi-directional sync set up between the two platforms. This, which I will happily admit, works very well together at first glance…. So why should companies ultimately move their entire business onto Salesforce?
Here are my top 4 reasons:
- Companies are becoming increasingly customer-centric, which also involves their various business units e.g. marketing; sales; customer service etc., working more collaboratively as opposed to in silo. Naturally, one way to do this is to try and consolidate the tech stack that is being used to support this, or at least to use technology that works seamlessly with each other to ensure that your CRM remains the source of truth. This is one reason why it would make sense to go with Pardot over HubSpot if already using Salesforce as the two systems are optimised to working together out of the box.
- Then there is the challenge of enabling users on the tech stack in place – not just for new starters, but if new changes are made, the change management aspect is much smoother. Then if you look at this from the other perspective and at the people who are managing/owning the tools – it can be more challenging to find those types of profiles that are well versed in both systems, which might mean that ownership is not consolidated or you could have to outsource this to different providers which can incur higher operating costs and overheads.
- I also think when you are evaluating the two platforms, as well as comparing them at feature level based on your current requirements, it is just as important to think of the longer-term vision – and again, this is where I see Pardot as a product which is evolving more rapidly. With 3 major releases a year, it brings increased functionality each time at no additional cost, even if at day 1 you might not need to use every single bit of the functionality.
- Finally, if I look back to my own personal experience as an end-user as a Salesforce admin – one of the huge value-adds to me of the Salesforce platform and its products such as Pardot, is the established ecosystem which is available to you – a huge community of people who are willing to share tips, success stories and advice. I think this makes it very reassuring to a customer to choose a product such as Salesforce where there is a wealth of free information easily accessible online to support them with their implementation and beyond.
My advice for companies considering moving to Salesforce from HubSpot
My advice if you are considering a move to Salesforce or any other CRM for that matter – do not take the ‘lift and shift’ approach. I’ve seen businesses switch CRMs, and pretty much recreate what they had already built in a legacy CRM, then have this expectation that everything will be magically improved. I wish it was as simple as that, but unfortunately, this is not the case.
My advice would be to almost treat it like a new implementation and start from a clean slate. For example, if you think of doing a spring clean of your kitchen cupboards; you don’t take everything out, clean it all then put back absolutely everything including all the out of date packages/products do you? No, you throw away all the rubbish and you sort everything out in a way/system which makes logical sense so you know where everything is, with regularly used items at the front. The same applies to a CRM switch, which goes back to my earlier point about choosing a CRM from day one that will scale and adapt with your business, as then you avoid an exercise like this which can be costly and time-intensive.
However, in saying that, working with a partner who has expertise across both HubSpot and Salesforce will naturally make this process run a lot smoother and a lot quicker. This is why we at EMPAUA have had a lot of success with migrating our customers from HubSpot to Salesforce, due to our knowledge of both platforms. You need partners who are responsive and agile and understand the need to deliver value to the business, and often their investors, quickly but successfully. We have a proven track record in this area, and continue to work with some of the most well-known startups in the UK, including companies like Cazoo which is the fastest business ever to reach unicorn status in the UK. We quite often recommend a phased approach to implementations, which our customers seem to really like as it keeps costs fairly low initially and also ensures the risk of a particular project is much lower.
We have solid HubSpot expertise internally – I’ve been working with the platform for 4 years now and took the time to also complete some certifications to improve my knowledge further. I definitely feel that customers get a certain level of reassurance from us knowing that we know HubSpot, and particularly in the pre-sales phase, this is really helpful, especially if they have no prior knowledge of Salesforce. I am able to use terminology that is familiar with them, which instils a certain confidence in them which might not be there if our knowledge was limited to the Salesforce CRM.