Hubspot is mainly known as a marketing automation specialist and some CRM-activities, especially since they started offering the latter for free. However, the company has much bigger ambitions. It is ready to launch a serious attack on Salesforce. In addition to marketing and sales, it now also focuses on customer service employees. All components at Hubspot are built from scratch and integrate perfectly with each other.
We talked to Ed Barrett from Hubspot, who is Sales Director EMEA at Hubspot, a man with a lot of sales experience. Five years at Google Cloud and before that 14 years at IBM. The small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as the large enterprise market, are not unknown to him. The company itself states that it focuses on small and medium-sized enterprises, but we see a movement towards ever-larger (enterprise) organizations. The company wants to accelerate growth with an improved product offering. Due to the recent expansions, it is now ready for this. Now, however, it still has to be done.
In the professional CRM and sales tools market, Salesforce is a household name. However, there is no competitor who makes it very difficult for them. Hubspot will possibly change that. Although they don’t like to look up or name the comparison with Salesforce themselves, it is very clear. They see themselves more as a disruption for this market. Barrett recognizes that the next 18 to 24 months will be extremely important for Hubspot and that it will show exactly where the company stands. This is understandable in itself. As a smaller player, you want to grow quickly and invisibly and not so much battle with the big players in the market. We have mainly looked at Hubspot’s products and how ready they are to make a difference in the enterprise market.
Hubspot is ahead of Salesforce in terms of integration, but how much longer?
If we look at the current trend in this market, we see that companies mainly want simplification and integration. The software of your CRM, sales tools and marketing automation could all be more user-friendly. Last year we were a guest at Dreamforce in San Francisco, Salesforce’s annual event, where Salesforce Customer 360 was presented. This new Salesforce product should integrate all existing Salesforce products into one solution. However, this integration is a huge challenge for the company, because the products are partly developed in-house, partly announced and in some cases merged. The basis of all Salesforce products is different and, therefore, a lot more difficult to integrate.
If we look at Hubspot, it’s the opposite. All products are developed in-house, have the same basis and are very easy to integrate into each other. In this area, Hubspot really is a step ahead of Salesforce in terms of technology. Salesforce continues to suffer from this over the years. Because if something changes in the core of one of the products, Salesforce 360 will also have to adapt to this. These kinds of integrations also lead to a lot of bugs. At Hubspot, this chance is much smaller.
Whereas Hubspot is leading the way in terms of integration of its own products, this is not the case in many other areas. Salesforce is a very well-known brand; Hubspot is less well-known. The Hubspot partner channel is entirely based on marketing automation and not yet on a broad CRM/Sales organization. Hubspot is, therefore, looking for new partners who will help them get the right message across and bring in customers.
However, Hubspot does not want to fully focus on enterprise, which is what many competitors do. It proposes to offer the right package to all companies, from small and medium enterprises to enterprise organizations. According to Hubspot, the trick is to focus on the user, then on the enterprise.
Focus on the user first, then on the enterprise
With this focus on the user, Hubspot wants to make the user experience as good as possible. The problem in the market is not a lack of features or bad design; the problem is that the CRM product is not used. If the users do not use the CRM or start using Excel-sheets next to it, then you have no chance of success. So, the product must really work for the user, as to create demand. Preferably it has to be as intuitive and simple as possible.
Once they achieve that at Hubspot, they will look at whether enterprise features are needed. Large, complex organizations sometimes need special features, or something specific like single sign-on, which is less important in small and medium-sized enterprises. The features that are needed for the enterprise are then added. In the end, this is how Hubspot became big, by really focusing on the user and more on the middle segment than the real enterprise. They don’t deviate from that.
Let products work together, creating new insights without friction
An example that Barrett cites is that the integrations between the products are extremely important. If you have a workflow that changes from marketing to sales or vice versa, you want to be able to extract data from it and apply analyses to it. The products are very separate at almost all vendors. But why? You want to be able to follow a workflow completely, regardless of whether it is marketing or sales. If there are marketing costs associated with a sale, it is useful if you have immediate insight into that.
These are features and possibilities that make Hubspot truly unique at the moment. For many vendors, these kinds of features are an enormous challenge. Sometimes it is possible, but not easily or without problems.
Integration with third parties is possible through Connect Partner Program.
Hubspot has set up a Connect Partner Program so that the platform can integrate with other SaaS applications in a variety of ways. This makes it possible to exchange data with many different parties, from Slack to Facebook and from Office 365 to Google G Suite. The most important high-level integrations are currently possible for Hubspot’s own products. The integration of third-party data within Hubspot is possible on a small scale. Salesforce Customer 360 will probably take a small lead in this, and many concrete steps have already been taken to load external data into the Salesforce environment.
After this interview, Hubspot has taken the necessary action to improve itself. It now realizes that the platform and the associated APIs deserve more attention. The company has organized its first platform partner day where 95 new APIs and the necessary new integrations have been announced. This will make it even easier to link Hubspot data to external services and vice versa. Hubspot seems to be aware that Salesforce has become very strong in this area after the acquisition of Mulesoft and that it has to do its best to go along with this.
New development mainly focused on AI
Of course, we also thought about where the focus in terms of product development now lies at Hubspot. A lot of products have been added. The question was, of course, what more can we expect. We understand that there will not so much be other large products, but more improvements and the integration of AI within the existing products. Hubspot has purchased Motion AI. They needed this party to expand the knowledge of artificial intelligence within the company. The chatbots that Hubspot can now offer are the first examples of this; voice support will undoubtedly follow soon.
How fast can Hubspot grow?
The question for 2019 will be how fast Hubspot can grow. The company has everything it needs to become a major player, but are they going to succeed? In any case, they are well on their way and would like to grow themselves. They think the most important thing is that they are the right solution for every company. A company shouldn’t be able to grow out of Hubspot, but the system falls short of what is needed at some point. Therefore,the focus on the enterprise has become clearer.
Hubspot community and academy play a key role in growth
The community that Hubspot has built up in recent years plays a key role in the company’s growth. Many marketers follow Hubspot very actively. Not only because of the products they offer, but also because of all the marketing knowledge they have shared through their own academy. As they say themselves, “we probably trained most of the marketing people with all the free content available”. Something they are going to do for all new products as well. The community then does its job; there is no better advertising than word-of-mouth advertising. So the community continues to play a major role at Hubspot. For many companies, the effective use of a CRM system is becoming increasingly important. This year it will become clear whether Hubspot is able to convince us, with these recent developments; their competition in this market is no joke.