e are self-confessed HubSpot fans, but also a young business, so we decided to try out Zoho One - a low cost ERP - as an alternative software to HubSpot in the hope of saving a bit of coin as we scale the business.
While HubSpot has recently introduced a freemium option for their CRM and Marketing solutions, they are very limited. The free CRM doesn't automatically track forms on a Wordpress site, so you really have to commit by building forms in HubSpot and getting a developer to embed them in your site. Once in, it's hard to go back. The Marketing freemium is also very limited and would require supplementing solutions like Google Analytics and Hootsuite (or similar) for social publishing automation.
If you want to unlock additional features, pricing for the Marketing Solution ranges from $68/m to a whopping $4,320/m. While the CRM is advertised as "free forever, that's not 100% true as they have a "sales solution" which is effectively a CRM that ranges from $68/m through to $1,620/m. Luckily, HubSpot don't limit users under their pricing structure.
Zoho is the clear winner on price since - while they don't offer a freemium option - they do offer a 30-day free trial which can be extended for another 30 days. For full access to all modules including Sales and Marketing, Zoho can be bought for a mere $35/m/user if you have 5 or more users, or $100/m/user for less than 5 users.
Based on this price comparison, why on earth wouldn't you choose Zoho? Well, before you get out your credit card, let's talk about user interface (UI) and user experience (UX).
Unlike HubSpot, Zoho offers individual modules for each of its ERP solutions. CRM, Social, Marketing, Accounting, Expenses, Forms, etc. etc. are all fairly stand alone, except that they can be connected through workflows. Kind of like an in-built, no-code API. The problem with this is that it becomes really complex to set up and manage if you're not already really experienced with using the software. The user interface isn't very intuitive either, so I'd imagine that a lot of businesses would put it in the "too hard basket" and end-up engaging a consultant to do the grunt work.
HubSpot on the other hand is very intuitive and has only one frontend to manage both the Sales and Marketing solutions. It's easy to set up for anyone with a bit of a digital background (as opposed to a technical one) and HubSpot have a services function that can help with the technical requirements. They're very responsive to support requests too, which makes a big and positive difference to the whole experience.
In the area of UX and UI, HubSpot absolutely nails it. Zoho isn't impossible, but we would advise engaging a consultant if you want to get the most out of it. From our experience - and research we've conducted in the past - small and medium businesses (SMB) are most affected by cost and ease of use. They have little time, and don't tolerate financial waste. So, while in an ideal world, there would be one solution to rule them all, SMBs actually prefer to mix and match depending on need, cost, and ease. They also don't like to be locked in to systems because it means they can become less flexible - even if it means they are less efficient. So, the final point we want to focus on is around the scope of each offering, and its integration.
Scope & Integration
This is a perfect example of the "Best of Breed vs One-Stop-Shop" dilemma.
HubSpot is a specialist and has a limited offering. They do sales and marketing (at the time of writing this anyway), and they do it bloody well. They are expensive though, and because they don't offer everything a business needs, there will be additional costs for software (Accounting, etc.). HubSpot does however offer a lot of integration with other applications and can be connected through Zapier if an integration doesn't already exist. You can therefore mix and match applications and connect them to a certain extent.
Zoho on the other hand offer just about everything, so the integration options are great, and for the price they ask, it can seem too good to be true - and it probably is. They are a bit of a jack of all trades, and if you do end up using all of their modules, you will find yourself completely locked in to their systems. If you decide to pick only some of their suite of solutions though, you can easily integrate with third party applications which will give your business more flexibility and choice.
In summary, both are pretty good options depending upon your situation. If you're limited by budget, Zoho is the perfect solution - even if you only use one or two of their modules and integrate third party software. If you have deeper pockets, a complex sales and marketing function, and are serious about automation, then HubSpot is the way to go.
Lastly, if you are a startup and you're getting really serious about scaling, you can get a hefty discount on HubSpot (up to 90%) for the first couple of years. It's about on par with Zoho so well worth the investment if you qualify.
We aren't official HubSpot or Zoho consultants/resellers but we've had a lot of experience using different technologies so if you want any advice then feel free to reach out and ask.