At Inbound 2014, marketing platform provider HubSpot announced the launch of its sales platform. The sales platform includes Sidekick, a sales acceleration product, and HubSpot CRM, a free product.
In this exclusive interview with Brent Leary for Small Business Trends, Mike Volpe (pictured above) explains why HubSpot decided to develop its own CRM app. Volpe, the Chief Marketing Officer of HubSpot, distinguishes its CRM application from services such as Salesforce.com, Microsoft and SugarCRM. Finally, he describes how the new Hubspot CRM is designed to improve collaboration between sales and marketing staff among companies using it. (This transcript has been edited for publication. To hear audio of the full interview, click on the audio player at the end of this article.)
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Small Business Trends: What are you guys are announcing at Inbound?
Mike Volpe: We’ve been growing a ton and making a lot of investments. On the marketing platform side of things, there are lots of enhancements. We have revenue reporting, some attribution reporting, and branching logic.
On the sales side, we’re launching two new products. The Signals product has been both upgraded and greatly enhanced, and relaunched as a product called Sidekick. In addition to that, we launched HubSpot CRM.
Small Business Trends: Why CRM now? We’ve talked about it a number of times over the course of the years, but why now?
Mike Volpe: We had a lot to accomplish on the marketing side, and wanted to make sure we still were able to make the investment to the marketing side before entering a new market. But now, we’re 750 employees. We really felt it was time to start to make broader investments and get into some new markets.
On the sales side, we’ve started to see a couple things. One was this whole new area of new sales-enablement tools that we thought was very exciting and interesting. They tend to all be point solutions. It’s sort of a new area of technology. That’s what led us down this path of launching a sales-enablement product, Sidekick, which anybody can download and start to use for free.
A big portion of our customer base on the marketing side of the business doesn’t have a CRM. So we said if we’re going to launch this sales-enablement product, Sidekick, and salespeople might want to use Sidekick, there’s a piece in the middle that’s missing. We think there’s a real opportunity here for our customer base to have a HubSpot CRM that would fill that gap, and give them the complete solutions.
We have a lot of customer demand with almost 12,000 companies using HubSpot for marketing. A lot of them were emailing us and asking our support people ‘can I use this as a CRM?’. The answer was, ‘well, sort of.’ But now today, with the new product, the answer is actually yes.
Small Business Trends: You mentioned your customers are asking about this. Is it because the way they engage their own customers has changed so dramatically?
Mike Volpe: The prevalence of social media to be able to talk to people about products much more easily, get more information, get pricing information, without even talking to a company or contacting a vendor, changed how you need to do marketing. And we think that same thing is true on the sales side of things.
That’s actually what led us down the path of creating Sidekick. Then again, on the CRM side, it was a combination of seeing a big portion of our customer base actually wasn’t using CRM. We felt they should be and they needed a little bit more functionality than what was in the HubSpot marketing platform. So again, you could either use HubSpot marketing and then a CRM like Salesforce, [Microsoft] Dynamics or SugarCRM, and our Sidekick product — or you can use HubSpot marketing, HubSpot CRM and HubSpot Sidekick.
Small Business Trends: Salesforce.com was one of the companies that invested in HubSpot. How do you compare HubSpot CRM with what Salesforce has, or any other CRM apps out there?
Mike Volpe: It’s not even apples and oranges. It’s like steak and apple. They could not be more different. The breadth and depth of functionality that you get with something like Salesforce isn’t even close to what you get with HubSpot CRM.
The customers that we think HubSpot CRM is appropriate for are those with small to mid-sized sales teams – maybe 20 or 30 people — that are not well-organized today and probably not using a CRM. Maybe they tried to use a CRM and that implementation failed because it was difficult to set up and use.
So again, the folks we really think HubSpot CRM is appropriate for today are the folks who are not using a CRM. I think that zero people are going to switch from Salesforce to HubSpot.
Small Business Trends: So the integration with Salesforce will continue to move forward and be enhanced?
Mike Volpe: Absolutely. We still have a dedicated team working on that, and our other integrations.
Small Business Trends: Why are you offering this for free?
Mike Volpe: For folks who are looking for something that has a ton of functionality — and a lot very specific functionality — that’s not the market that we’re necessarily going after. So we felt like free was the right price.
It’s the right thing to do for our customers. For folks already paying on the marketing side, there’s no incremental cost for them to start to use the CRM.
Small Business Trends: What are your expectations for your customers using the combination of HubSpot’s CRM on top of HubSpot marketing.
Mike Volpe: I hope that it helps drive better sales and marketing alignment.
If you’re using Salesforce and have it integrated into HubSpot, you have these challenges solved. But if you don’t, sales and marketing alignment can get a little bit loose. You have trouble figuring out what’s working, what’s not.
[With] HubSpot CRM you get that ability to really understand what leads are becoming opportunities — what leads are becoming customers. It gives you a lot better sales and marketing alignment, and it should help the marketers be even more successful, which again plays into the strategy.
Small Business Trends: If we looked out 12 months, what are going to be the areas of focus in terms of enhancing HubSpot CRM going forward?
Mike Volpe: Companies have been building CRM systems for decades. We’re not necessarily looking to replicate what the high-end, top-notch CRM systems have. We’ve [created] something that helps people not using CRM, start to use it.
Small Business Trends: Where can they learn more about both Sidekick and HubSpot CRM?
Mike Volpe: They can learn more at hubspot.com/sales.
Editor’s note: See the accompanying announcement about HubSpot CRM and Saleskick.
Image: Mike Volpe via HubSpot
This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it’s an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.