HubSpot vs Salesforce CRM: which is best for small business?

Salesforce costs £20 per month, while HubSpot users start completely free. We analyse the pros, cons, and hidden fees of both to see which is best for your small business.

Our experts

We are a team of writers, experimenters and researchers providing you with the best advice with zero bias or partiality.
Written and reviewed by:
Helena Young

With business overheads tighter than ever, spending on a top rate CRM system can be a challenge. Only a few top providers offer a quality free CRM tool, and HubSpot sits proudly among them. But, competitors such as Salesforce have a huge number of happy customers, keeping the sense of competition high.

Following months of first-hand user testing, we think HubSpot is the better CRM option for SMEs over Salesforce. Our analysts gave HubSpot an overall score of 4.2 out of 5, while Salesforce CRM gets 3.8 out of 5.

Crucially in today’s continuing cost of living crisis, HubSpot comes out on top for pricing. Its generous free plan is a godsend for cash-strapped SMEs, capable of delivering a premium CRM service for zero charge.

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0 out of 0
Best for:

Scaling businesses

Best for:

Marketing tools

Price per month (billed annually):
Price per month (billed annually):

Free Plan, or from £18 (flat rate)

Features:
  • Automatic data capture
  • Mobile access and administration
  • Salesforce Inbox
  • 10 user limit
Features:
  • Send 2,000 emails per month
  • 5 active contact lists for outreach
  • Thorough 12-step onboarding process
  • Chatbots, campaigns, and webforms

Finding the right CRM brand for your organisation means researching one of the most competitive industries in the world – a frustrating task for busy small business owners. That’s where we come in.

We’ve carried out in-depth research into both platforms over the past half decade. Below, you’ll find everything we’ve learnt in our expert guide to HubSpot CRM vs Salesforce for small business.

In a hurry? For speedier advice on which platform you should purchase, we’ve also designed a specialist online comparison tool. It gives you free quotes from the top CRM providers in the UK, tailored to your specific needs.

crm pricing
Read More About CRM

This page is part of a larger series on CRM. Read more about the top CRM systems in our full guide:

Best CRM Software for Small Businesses

Our research methodology

Since 2017, our experts (alongside a specialist independent researcher) have been working on a rigorous and up-to-date list of the top CRM brands for UK SMEs.

The need for affordable CRM software has skyrocketed as the cost of living crisis continues to bite. Our most recent round of intensive research took place over a two-month period. We analysed 11 competitors, judging them on five specific categories that our small business readers told us were important for CRM software and managing their sales teams:

  1. Usability: (user limitations, feature limitations, etc.)
  2. Customisation: (can you tailor your pricing plan and features to your business requirements)
  3. Customer service: (what help and support options are available?)
  4. Functionality: (depth of features and software specialism)
  5. Pricing: (including initial setup costs, any equipment costs, and ongoing service fees)

HubSpot vs. Salesforce: at-a-glance

Once we had assessed the platform on these five metrics, we were able to award scores based on how well they performed in each area. For a quick overview of where HubSpot and Salesforce excelled, you can see their scorecards below.

4.2 out of 5
  • Usability
    3.9
  • Customisation
    2
  • Functionality
    3.5
  • Pricing
    3.7
  • Help and Support
    2
3.8 out of 5
  • Usability
    3.8
  • Customisation
    3.3
  • Functionality
    3.9
  • Pricing
    1.9
  • Help and Support
    3

This guide will bring you the results of our testing in an in-depth analysis into how HubSpot CRM compares to Salesforce CRM. But remember – there are plenty more fish in the sea when it comes to CRM software. If you want a wider range of options to choose from, get quotes from the top providers on the market.

HubSpot vs. Salesforce: which is best for my business?

Here’s a quick overview of where Salesforce and HubSpot excel – and what type of business they are best suited for.

Who is Salesforce CRM best for?

  • Large teams: Salesforce’s managerial features makes it best for organising teams with 10+ employees
  • Retail chains: Salesforce is excellent for analytics and data storage, two key benefits for large retailers
  • Technology, insurance, and banking SMEs: Salesforce is better at customisation, making it a good choice for industries with complex sales needs

Who is HubSpot CRM best for?

  • Businesses on a budget: Salesforce is more expensive than HubSpot, which boasts a generous free plan
  • Startups: Salesforce is good for large or growing organisations. HubSpot is best for getting up and running
  • Marketing SMEs: HubSpot is better-equipped for email outreach and campaigning than Salesforce

HubSpot vs. Salesforce: Pricing

Key takeaway: our research found HubSpot is the best CRM for affordability. It beats Salesforce in this category thanks to its generous, small business-friendly free plan.

  • Startups logo
    WINNER: HubSpot (3.7/5) Runner-up: Salesforce (1.9/5)

Both HubSpot and Salesforce suffer from complicated product lists. There are lots of different CRM ‘editions’ to choose from – all of which have different costs attached depending on your size and billing cycle. Still, in terms of actual expense, Salesforce and HubSpot CRM stand at either end of the spectrum.

Salesforce’s extensive feature list and impressive customisation tools are balanced by a £20 per user, per month price tag, whereas HubSpot is famously affordable and well known for its freemium plan. In fact, it’s our top-rated free CRM for small businesses, and is one of the only providers to offer an in-built email campaign feature.

HubSpot vs. Salesforce: price comparison

First up, let’s take a look at HubSpot’s pricing plans:

  • HubSpot Free – £0 per month
  • HubSpot Marketing Hub Starter Plan – £18 per user, per month
  • HubSpot Sales Hub Starter Plan – £18 per user, per month
  • HubSpot Service Hub Starter Plan – £18 per user, per month

Whether you’re buying HubSpot Marketing, Sales, or Service, you’ll pay £18 upfront per month, billed annually for the Starter plan.

The bad news is that HubSpot CRM is not a very scalable option for long-term growth. With the next tier up, HubSpot Professional, you’ll pay at least £702 extra per month – a considerable and unaffordable jump. It’s also unnecessary, as the freemium and Starter plans are outstanding to begin with.

However, HubSpot does also have a HubSpot CRM Suite which combines marketing, sales, and helpdesk features for just £27 per month (or also available with a free plan).

Now, let’s compare Salesforce’s pricing plans:

  • Salesforce Essential – £20 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Salesforce Professional – £64 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Salesforce Enterprise – £132 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Salesforce Unlimited – £264 per user, per month (billed annually)

Like HubSpot, Salesforce’s prices are kept fairly consistent across each package. The Starter plan (Salesforce’s lowest-tiered plan) costs £20 per user, per month, while Professional costs £64 per user, per month.

These are both very expensive price tags for SMEs. Because of this, we awarded Salesforce a full five marks less than HubSpot, with an overall score of just 5 out of 10 for value for money.

Salesforce’s version of the HubSpot CRM Suite is Salesforce Essentials. This costs £20 per user, per month, making it a cheaper alternative for SMEs wanting access to the full arsenal of marketing, sales, and helpdesk features.

HubSpot vs. Salesforce for free plan

This is an easy win for HubSpot, as Salesforce does not have a freemium tier for SMEs. We gave HubSpot 10/10 for pricing, largely due to its generous free plan.

While you will have to put up with lots of HubSpot branding, it’s a great way for very early-stage firms to begin customer outreach without spending a penny. Businesses will also be able to trial the CRM software free of charge, giving excellent value for money.

HubSpot vs. Salesforce for value for money

Overall, we found HubSpot to be the best CRM in terms of value for money. Considering it is free to get started, SME users benefit from a long list of features that are ideal for marketing and scale-up.

Despite costing £30 less per month than Salesforce, on average, HubSpot has 22 features in total, which is one more than Salesforce. HubSpot also has a free plan, whereas Salesforce only offers a 14-day trial.

HubSpot vs. Salesforce: Usability

Key takeaway: HubSpot and Salesforce CRM earn near identical high scores of 3.8 and 3.9 out of 5 for usability, due to their similarly smart interfaces and user-focused designs.

  • Startups logo
    WINNER: HubSpot (3.9/5) Salesforce (3.8/5)
  • Many of Salesforce’s features are preset, which can make them inflexible
  • Importing data is easier with Salesforce than with HubSpot
  • HubSpot’s tidy user interface makes for an attractive contact database
Salesforce call log

The Salesforce call log makes it simple to personalise each customer profile

To reach these results, we asked our testers to carry out basic CRM tasks to see how each brand performed – take a look at how we ranked the top CRM platforms for small businesses.

During testing, we found that HubSpot had a quick and easy setup process that’s guided by helpful support boxes – although the data import process left something to be desired. It took us around 17 minutes to import our contacts, as the system couldn’t interpret each contact’s email addresses. That took a lot of manual work to fix.

In comparison, Salesforce CRM had a slightly clunkier interface that made onboarding difficult. Data importing took even longer with Salesforce (20 minutes). However, once we were set up, we found the platform’s interface straightforward and neatly laid out, making it intuitive to use and navigate. Our researchers found that Salesforce has an in-depth chart and visualisation builder, which lets users link up all the separate data points to generate powerful insights.

HubSpot customer import

We were able to create different ‘views’ of our HubSpot contact list in order to segment them by certain characteristics.

What's new for HubSpot?

In July 2023, HubSpot introduced ten new template campaigns that small business users can easily set up in their CRM. These include an abandon cart template, so that online sellers can automatically send an email to chase customers who don’t checkout their items.

HubSpot vs. Salesforce: Customisation

Key takeaway: Most of the HubSpot Free features are branded, which is why Salesforce earns the top spot here. But HubSpot still had lots of nifty customisable tools in the back-end.

  • Startups logo
    WINNER: Salesforce (3.3/5) Runner-up: HubSpot (2/5)

Every business has a unique sales strategy. Rather than spending months overhauling yours, it makes sense to find a CRM that can work with your plans.

Pretty much every one of Salesforce’s tools was customisable. This is particularly true for reporting – we were able to use number and speedometer widgets or select chart options such as donut, funnel, line, bar, or dot charts to generate powerful sales insights.

Because HubSpot is a less-powerful system than Salesforce CRM, we were more limited when it came to customisation. While Salesforce came preloaded with lots of different options for displaying data, we had to use workarounds to design our own version of these for HubSpot.

For example, we weren’t able to upload a spreadsheet with more than one tab, so we were forced to integrate the platform with Google Excel instead.

That said, Salesforce was still quite fixed in its layout. When the platform first loaded, it was set up in a very specific way. We were given separate databases for our contacts, leads, accounts, and opportunities and we weren’t able to remove these from the top banner – only reorder them (as shown above).

HubSpot vs. Salesforce: Functionality

Key takeaway: Salesforce has more features than HubSpot. However, many of Salesforce’s tools are unnecessary for SMEs. HubSpot also performs better for marketing – a big small business priority

  • Startups logo
    WINNER: Salesforce (3.9/5) Runner-up: HubSpot (3.5/5)

Salesforce is undoubtedly a more powerful platform than HubSpot, boasting a much more sophisticated set of features and data storage capabilities. Sadly, with great power comes poor practicality. On closer inspection, many of Salesforce’s features will be superfluous for small businesses, as they’re better suited for large teams with more than 10 employees.

And surprisingly, important marketing features for startups – like webforms and an email design editor – are missing. Meanwhile, HubSpot boasted all of the above. Plus, we found it had lots of smart automations that are designed to grow your business while you sleep.

During testing, we particularly liked how the platform provides advice on common sense actions which you’re likely to need. For instance, HubSpot sent us email remarketing prompts to send to our most engaged customers.

Salesforce was harder to grasp. During testing, we came unstuck several times by Salesforce’s clunky interface which overall made the onboarding process very time-consuming. The main issues we ran into were error messages when trying to access settings to edit things like user permissions, and email campaigns.

What do HubSpot users say?

Liesa Stecher is Chief Marketing Officer at Addition, an accounting software company. Stecher told us: “HubSpot has one of the best free content libraries out there when it comes to digital marketing, SEO and automation.”

It’s worth stating that both platforms are excellent for communication and team collaboration. HubSpot provided a surprisingly advanced chatbot feature (unavailable with Salesforce), while Salesforce offers a shared team inbox and internal messaging feature.

What's new for Salesforce?

In July 2023, Salesforce unveiled some artificial intelligence (AI) enhancements to its various software-as-a-service products. Following the updates, customers will be able to access a real-time, generative AI assistant to help them carry out tasks and, ultimately, ensure the sales process runs more smoothly.

HubSpot vs. Salesforce: Help and support

Key takeaway: Neither HubSpot Free and Salesforce Essentials offer onboarding support. However, Salesforce CRM provides email support, while HubSpot does not, meaning it ultimately triumphs.

  • Startups logo
    WINNER: Salesforce (3/5) Runner-up: HubSpot (2/5)

We’d prefer to end on a high note. Unfortunately, support tools is where the Salesforce vs HubSpot competition ends, with both platforms dramatically underperforming.

The two platforms are both resource-light, with only a knowledge base and community forum for users to try their luck on should they encounter a problem.

In the end, our testing points out that Salesforce CRM comes out on top. As we’ve mentioned, HubSpot requires a few more workarounds for some functions, and without the help of a service desk, these issues are going to be much more difficult for small businesses to overcome.

What do Salesforce users say?

One Salesforce user left this review on Trustpilot: “Salesforce support is not great. As a user, I will raise a case to be troubleshooted, but they don’t seem to assign it to the right channel. I am not happy with the customer service provided.”

How to switch your CRM software

Maybe you’re debating switching your current CRM software over to HubSpot or Salesforce. Or, perhaps you’re even considering migrating from one to the other.

The process of changing any business tool can be overwhelming. Carrying over huge volumes of data might feel risky, and you want to prioritise minimal disruption to your customers. But despite the potential drawbacks, switching might still be the best way forward. Here are three benefits of finding the right CRM:

  1. You can match its feature list to your business objectives, so you won’t lose growth opportunities
  2. You could save money by switching to low-cost or even a free plan, like HubSpot
  3. A more efficient system means more time and money for improving customer relationships

5 tips for a hassle-free migration

With the right amount of preparation, there’s no reason you can’t make a seamless switch over to a new CRM software. Here are our top five tips for a smooth CRM changeover, without downtime:

1. Keep the entire team involved – getting team buy-in for the new CRM system is crucial to the implementation process. Train managers on the platform first so they can drum up excitement in the workforce. Take advantage of a free trial for this – Salesforce offers a 14-day demo, while HubSpot is entirely free to use.

2. Research, research, research – make sure your new CRM has all the right features to fulfill your business needs. Less is more when it comes to CRM. Before you begin looking for a new system, audit your existing software so you know exactly what you expect your next platform to improve upon.

3. Set a changeover date – be very clear about the exact date that employees must stop using the old CRM and fully migrate onto the new platform. During the first few months, schedule regular meetings or appraisals to review CRM reports, and make sure everyone is developing good data-entry habits.

4. Design a data action plan – transferring data to a new platform is one of the most important stages of any tech migration. Create an action plan that allows ample time for both data transfer. Set up all automations, integrations, and customisations so that everything is ready for your sales reps to begin training on.

5. Communicate with clients – if you think the switch might cause disruption to your customers, come up with a custom, clear communication plan together that keeps them in the know. It’s better to be upfront and honest about how the change might impact them. If there are any issues, acknowledge and address them as they arise.

When should you switch your CRM?

Considering switching over to a new CRM, but not sure if it’s the right move for your business? Here are four reasons to consider purchasing new software:

  • It’s missing key features and hampering your business growth objectives
  • You’re consistently running out of features or data before the month ends
  • Employees find it hard to use and struggle to onboard new clients
  • You’re overspending and think you can find a better deal

Final verdict

HubSpot is the conclusive winner in the Salesforce vs HubSpot CRM battle. Its features are far more oriented towards brand-building and marketing, which is what most small business owners need to focus on during early-stage growth.

Budget is also a big concern for small business owners, and Salesforce’s expensive £20 per user price tag is just no match for HubSpot’s freemium plan. 

Nonetheless, Salesforce is a rare product in that it has excellent usability and is a good choice for growing small businesses. The biggest fans of the platform will be those that might not have a huge IT department, but still want a platform that can cope with a large volume of sales or customer enquiries.

Next steps for small business owners

This recommendation is the result of Startups’ two decades of experience working with small business CRM products. Our intensive research is updated regularly to ensure that we are being properly reflective of the fast-growing CRM industry.

Don’t forget that you can use our online comparison tool for a more detailed overview of the top CRM providers on the market. Just tell us a bit about your business, and we’ll give you quotes that match your specific requirements.

HubSpot vs Salesforce: FAQs
  • Which is better: HubSpot or Salesforce?
    Overall, we think HubSpot is the better CRM for small businesses over Salesforce. It has similar functionality, is much better for marketing, and also costs much less.
  • Is HubSpot easier to use than Salesforce?
    Our testers gave HubSpot and Salesforce the same usability score of 7.8 out of 10. This is because they are both fairly easy-to-use platforms, and possess clean, smart interfaces.
  • What are the limitations of HubSpot Free?
    One of the biggest limitations of HubSpot Free is its poor customisation – an area where Salesforce performs well.
  • How many users can I have on HubSpot Free?
    HubSpot Free rivals many paid-for CRM platforms with its allowances, permitting an unlimited number of users per account.

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Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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