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The Comprehensive GuideWhat is HubSpot?

What is HubSpot?

Page last updated on October 25th, 2018

HubSpot is a cloud-based software platform that helps businesses launch and control their marketing efforts, manage their sales processes, and support the ongoing needs of their customer base. It’s an all-in-one system that provides medium-sized businesses with the data they need to make strategic decisions in their marketing, sales, and customer service processes that are in the best interest of the company's growth goals and objectives.

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HubSpot’s History and Growth

HubSpot began back in 2005 as a marketing hub, and even with the many additions since then, its marketing capabilities remain what the tool is best known for. The idea came out of a desire for a new way to go to market online to drive new leads for businesses. Marketing processes in the early 2000’s were still comprised mostly of billboards, print ads, commercial advertising and postal mailing campaigns that had become oversaturated and difficult to track any direct sales ROI from. Sales processes were ridden with robo-dialing numbers over and over again in the hopes that out of maybe 150 dials, or 25 random office drop-in visits, one or two people would bite on the pitch and agree to have a meeting. The rule of numbers would dominate marketing and sales departments with the hopes that demanding “More! More! More!” activity would result in higher sales and more scalable business growth.

The problem with both of these processes boiled down to one thing: timing. Old school tactics focused on interrupting busy decision-makers, rather than approaching them at a time that made more sense during their buying process. This problem came at the same time that more and more business leaders were moving away from answering their phones and turning their efforts online to get information about the problem they were experiencing.


81% of shoppers today conduct research online prior to making a purchase.


HubSpot changed the marketing and sales game with a process they call inbound marketing. It took all of a business's digital marketing efforts and put them into one tool where campaigns could be leveraged, monitored, and ultimately, transferred to the sales team quickly and easily. It’s a proven process, and remains a staple component of many growth-driven businesses today. The new leads are more interested because they are the people actually looking for the information the selling business has to offer, making sales calls less interruptive and more helpful to solve the problem they prospect identified through their online activities.

Additional HubSpot tools like the Projects, Services and Connect Hubs are now offering more ability to manage the entire customer experience from the first marketing content a prospect sees, through the entire sales cycle, and all the way down to how they interact with a customer service representative after the product or service has been delivered. Basically, the funnel is now dead, and the flywheel is now how we should view the customer purchasing and experience process.

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The HubSpot & Inbound Connection

According to HubSpot, inbound marketing is defined as:

“The process of attracting customers through relevant and helpful content and adding value at every stage in your customer's buying journey. With inbound marketing, potential customers find you through channels like blogs, search engines, and social media. Unlike outbound marketing, inbound marketing does not need to fight for potential customers attention. By creating content designed to address the problems and needs of your ideal customers, you attract qualified prospects and build trust and credibility for your business.”


Photo Courtesy: HubSpot

As you can see in the image above, the HubSpot platform of products supports the buying journey of customers who are researching and buying online.

Here are a few key inbound marketing terms that become important elements of the process of that inbound buying journey supported by HubSpot:

  • HubSpot CMS: HubSpot’s content management system, which provides the tools you need to create, promote, track, and adjust all the content you are using within your inbound marketing processes.


  • SMART Goals: At the beginning of your inbound marketing strategy process, you want to define what you are trying to accomplish with a goal that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.


  • Buyer’s Journey: The process a prospect goes through from first interaction to making a purchase.


  • Persona: Fictional character(s) that represent your ideal buyer for your business. These characters are who you cater each and every marketing activity to in order to draw their attention toward your business. A persona profile should include their job role/title, the challenges they face in that role, their educational history, what things they like to read online, and more. Learn more about building a persona right here.


  • Conversion: The point when a site visitor becomes a lead for your business. Usually this happens through a form on your website.


  • Forms: The area where your site visitors provide you with their contact information in exchange for content of value.


  • Landing Pages: These are the website pages you drive potential customers where your lead capture forms live.


  • Calls-To-Action (CTA’s): These are buttons found throughout your site and blog posts that help to drive website visitors to your landing pages.


  • Blog: The area of your website where you inform your audience about relevant industry topics or business information. This is also the area where you promote other content and publish CTAs.


  • Pillar Content: Long and informative pieces of content on your website intended to help your awareness-level prospects gain a comprehensive overview (not a sales pitch) of a key area of the product or service you provide. This is intended to get them to want a more decision-level piece of information from you they will need to fill out a form to download. (Hint: What you’re reading right now is pillar content. And see that heading below this section about a step-by-step guide to HubSpot Workflows? That’s our decision-level downloadable content.)


  • Lead Scoring: The process of scoring leads as they take different actions on your website or email content, helping to define them as a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) or a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) for your sales representatives.


  • Lead Nurturing: An automated email system to help nurture leads who are not yet ready to buy in an effort to move them further towards a purchase.


  • Email Workflows: These are automated email systems where targeted content is sent out based on the person’s interests or activity within a previous email or actions on the website.


Workflows can be tricky. We have a complete guide with step-by-step instructions for building and optimizing HubSpot workflows. Get it here.

Here’s an example of how inbound with HubSpot works for a growth-driven business owner today:

Let’s say you are the business owner of a commercial carpet cleaning company. You are starting inbound marketing with a clearly defined SMART goal. You want to add 15 more ongoing office carpet cleaning clients over the next 12 months. Here’s how you would go about accomplishing that goal using HubSpot and the inbound marketing process:

  • Attract Phase: You would build or redesign your website using HubSpot, all the site pages would be optimized with quality content and a blog, landing pages, calls-to-action buttons, forms, and anything else you need that would provide value to your target persona, Office Manager Mary. (She’s the person who usually makes the purchasing decision). Mary finds your site through a search on Google for office carpet maintenance, and begins to move around it to see how you can help her to automate her carpet cleaning process so she doesn’t have to call every 4 months to schedule the cleanings. The tools you would use to attract Mary: The HubSpot Marketing Platform and Free CRM


  • Convert Phase: You got Mary to your site because you published some pillar content about the advantages of regularly scheduled carpet care for businesses, it was linked to a downloadable content element (perhaps a “Checklist for Proper Office Carpet Maintenance”) that Mary wants to read while she is doing her online research. This is where Mary fills out a form on your website to download the checklist. The tools you would use to convert Mary into an opportunity: The HubSpot Marketing Platform, Free CRM, and Sales Tools


  • Close: This is the point where the sales team comes in to educate Mary on the price of your ongoing carpet cleaning solution. Phone calls can be monitored and logged right into a contact record, emails are automatically tracked right from your email client, and opportunities are created and monitored through one convenient tool, HubSpot. You know exactly when Mary is opening emails from your reps, if she’s returned to your website, what pages she’s viewing and more. Your rep gives Mary a call when she opens the proposal email the rep sent over, and she can’t believe the timeliness of the reps phone call and she becomes a customer that day. The tools you would use to close the sale with Mary: HubSpot Marketing Platform, Free CRM, Sales and Services HUB.


  • Delight: Mary loves her ongoing carpet cleaning services, she never even has to think about it anymore! But once in awhile, she has questions, and when she does, you have the Services Hub to assist her. You can use this tool to contact Mary in whatever way she prefers (think phone, email, text, and FB messenger) you can also identify quickly and easily how long she’s been a customer, what her payment history is, as well as the names of the other businesses she’s referred to you. You also know exactly what her very first interaction was with your business. (The Checklist) The customer insight you obtain provides the support Mary needs, as well as opportunities for upselling and new marketing campaigns. The tools you would use to delight Mary as a customer: HubSpot Marketing Platform, CRM, Services HUB. 

Now, as the business owner, you have to simply repeat this process 15 times over the next 12 months to accomplish the SMART goal you defined. But since every activity is defined, automated, and tracked with HubSpot, you now have exactly what you need to accomplish it.

HubSpot Functionality

Now that you have a general overview of what HubSpot is, here’s a bit more detail about the core elements of each part of the platform: 

Marketing: As we’ve been telling you, the marketing platform pulls all of your marketing efforts together into one easy-to-use platform. You can build and change your website easily (No coding experience necessary for basic tweaks and adjustments.) New marketing campaigns, emails, workflows, social media posts, analytics and reporting, lead management, blogging and content strategy and keywords are all a part of this end of the tool.

CRM: The HubSpot CRM provides your sales team with information and tools needed for today's digitally-motivated sales processes. The tool has five primary areas: Contacts, Companies, Deals, Tasks, and Sales Tools. Sales reps stay more organized with areas for task management and easy access to new contact activities. You can also segment contact lists and set up customized filters for certain activities. Create custom deal stages catered to your business needs so you can support the prospect at the right time to move them closer to the purchase.

Sales: HubSpot Sales works with the CRM so that your Sales team can log emails automatically, create new contacts directly from their email client, as well as view opened and clicked activity right on the contact record. The HubSpot Sales tools are available as an optional Office 365 add-on and browser plug-in for Outlook and Chrome on Windows.

Service HUB: The Service Hub is the newest addition in the HubSpot stack of services. These tools (available now!)  allow businesses to control the customer experience from start to finish. The platform will focus on delivering optimum customer support through the following features: 

  • Customer happiness measurements and feedback
  • Processes to identify customer issues and responses including sentiment analysis through ticket management.
  • Automation of the customer testimonial process
  • Customer knowledge center for easy answers to common customer service issues.


HubSpot Connect is the HubSpot integration program. It features a group of tools you can integrate with HubSpot that make the user experience as valuable and productive as possible.

The purpose of the Connect program is to enhance performance so you can tie as many activities as possible to your inbound efforts. Think of the Connect feature like a group of external top-tier tech tools that you can pull in to enhance your HubSpot efforts.

Here are the primary integrations offered in connect:

  • Salesforce
  • Wistia
  • GoToWebinar
  • SurveyMonkey
  • Zapier
  • WordPress
  • HubSpot Sales
  • Google Calendar
  • HubSpot Sales Calling
  • Eventbrite
  • UberConference

And that just scratches the surface, this program expanded significantly in 2018 so far, here's a look at all the Connect Partners you can integrate into HubSpot to enhance capabilities:

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Project Management

The HubSpot Projects area creates a place for all marketing, sales, and customer support tasks, communications, and files. This feature integrates with all of the HubSpot marketing tools so all projects can be monitored and managed within the same software used to execute them. Again, this eliminates the need for a third party tool or login.

With every task, you can assign the owner(s), due dates, asset links, and any other files you might need like blog posts or site pages. Turn projects into templates, and create repeatable processes for all your future marketing, sales, and support work. The pre-made templates for to-do lists streamline your workload, and put productivity at the forefront. Planning, assigning tasks, creating timelines, and attaching all the necessary resources is possible right where you need it most - inside HubSpot.

Why Businesses Need HubSpot


Now that you understand what HubSpot is, here’s why it can be of tremendous value for businesses looking to grow strategically in today’s data-driven and technological environment:

Central Information Hub

As a business owner or marketer, you know that the more tools and processes you try to patch together to create a solution to a business problem, the more complicated it becomes to implement and manage. With HubSpot’s complete customer management system, the software forms a centralized place for businesses to manage their customer process from the very first website visit to the customer support and management process well after they’re a buyer. This single solution eliminates the need to purchase and learn numerous systems. One contact or business record pulls in all necessary information needed to provide assistance for all areas of the buyer’s journey and customer experience process.

Data-Driven Information

Dated marketing methods like cold mailers and billboard advertising pose significant challenges for those looking for a way to track their effectiveness. With HubSpot, the reporting capabilities are extensive, providing you with significant insight into which of your online marketing efforts are working, and in turn, which are not. Because of this insight into metrics, you can quickly take action and make adjustments to your initiatives based on what’s performing. Some of the reporting features include:

Revenue Reporting

This report allows you to see exactly how much of your marketing efforts are turning into revenue for your business. Create these reports for individual contacts or business names with any of the properties you choose. Select the dates you want to review, source types, and your CRM revenue fields and you get instant access to revenue totals for those efforts.

Traffic Reports

A big part of your inbound effectiveness will be based on the amount of traffic coming to your landing pages and website. In HubSpot, you can track all elements of your traffic types like organic, direct, social media, and email marketing.

New Contacts by Persona

After you have a clear understanding of who your buyer persona is, now you need to start tracking how many new leads you’re getting based on the persona you’ve identified. You can do this by plotting the contacts by their created date, then breaking down the report by the persona type. Doing so will help to give insight into your campaigns and who they are actually attracting. This report may also help to identify some imbalance in what resources you are dedicating to each of your personas so you can make adjustments. (Tip: Before you can pull this report, you do need to put your personas into HubSpot


The campaign tool in HubSpot ties all of your marketing efforts into one convenient place so you can see how the efforts for that marketing initiative are working. All you have to do to get one started is create a campaign in the “Productivity” area of the Marketing tool, and link that campaign to every element you create going forward. That includes things like content resources, CTA’s, blog posts, landing pages, email marketing and more.

Here’s a snapshot of the campaign tool:

Current Contacts by Lifecycle

Segmenting your database by lifecycle stage allows you to see how many leads, opportunities, customers, subscribers, etc. you have in your database. This view showcases whether you should be focused on generating new leads or closing current leads. It also gives you an idea of the quality of the contacts. It showcases the health of your sales funnel.


Sales HUB Tools

The sales tools are designed with timing combined with data at the forefront, so sales representatives can be ready to seize opportunities when the timing is right. Some of the most popular tools include:

  • Sidekick: Email notifications at the exact moment your prospect engages with an email. This powerful feature allows reps to seize the opportunity when the prospect is researching or learning more about your product or service.
  • Phone Tool: You probably already know how hard it is to get a modern-day professional on the phone, but you probably also know that phone conversations are a critical part of the sales process. HubSpot’s phone tool provides options to create your own queue of upcoming calls to make for the day. Also, no need to do double-duty trying to pay close attention to what the person is saying while feverishly taking notes. The tool records all calls and also logs any notes as well.
  • Contact Activity Records: A contact’s profile page provides that details each and every piece of activity that person has engaged with on your website, from pages they visited, to forms viewed and submitted and any resources they’ve downloaded, even if they’ve engaged with a recent social media posting. The contact record showcases what the potential customer cares about, so you can then cater your phone or email conversations toward solutions to whatever they are looking online for more information about.

Contact record example


HubSpot Pricing

The good news is, you can use a lot of HubSpot’s tools for free to get started and to see if they work well for you. The bad news is, they give it to you because they know it works to get you interested in purchasing more tools with a paid version of the tool. Many of their free tools are limited and give you just a small taste of all the potential data and analytics you’ll receive once you upgrade your account to a paid version.

Here are the tiers of HubSpot pricing on a monthly basis:


Marketing Hub

  • Free: $0
  • Starter: $50, very limited features, designed for solo entrepreneurs and very beginner marketers. You are able to capture and gain more lead information from your website. You can also customize forms.
  • Basic: $200, comes with a few more features like content creation tools and more reporting. This is designed for the solo marketer who’s beginning to run entire inbound campaigns.
  • Professional: $800, advanced features like Smart Content and A/B testing are included in this more advanced version designed for experienced marketers and growing teams.
  • Enterprise: $2400, you get everything in the marketing hub in this version that’s designed for more advanced marketing teams. You have the ability to run highly scalable inbound campaigns, with more sophisticated analytics and revenue reports.

Sales Hub

  • Free: $0, for the solo salesperson. There are a list of time-saving tools included to help increase productivity and close more deals.
  • Starter: $50, this one is for sales teams. The starter provides tools for the whole team to help increase productivity, shorten sales cycles, and improve close rates.
  • Professional: $400, you get it all with this one, but it’s for more advanced sales teams. It’s the complete sales toolkit, including artificial intelligence, the most advanced automation, and custom reporting options.


  • Always will be free, but without buying the Sales HUB, it’s not as powerful because you don’t have access to things like contact activity, the phone features, and email tracking.

Services Hub

  • It's a $400 add-on right now, and no free features are available (yet!)

If you buy HubSpot directly, they will also charge you a $3,000 onboarding fee. This fee can be avoided if you make your purchase of the tool through a certified HubSpot  agency like ours, as we take care of the onboarding process for you, free of charge. More information on this is available here.

Inbound Marketing Agencies

Keep in mind, if you’ve stumbled on this information and you are in discussions about HubSpot with an inbound marketing agency, the HubSpot pricing is separate from what the agency will charge you on a monthly basis. Inbound marketing agencies like ours work with you to implement strategies with our team working on your behalf. It’s an outsourced marketing team of sorts because you get content creators, designers, developers, and HubSpot-certified experts working on your behalf but without them adding to the payroll. For many organizations, they find that working with an agency costs less than hiring a full-time employee because most marketing professionals aren’t able to do writing, design/development work in addition to the other pieces required for HubSpot marketing management. If you are purchasing the professional version of HubSpot or higher, you will need at least one (highly skilled) full-time employee or an agency to leverage it to its full potential.

To see how we leverage inbound and HubSpot, watch below:




So, now that you’ve seen the pricing, you might be wondering if there’s a less expensive option available. Well, HubSpot does have competition, here are the 2 other big players:


Pardot by SalesForce: $1-3k/Month

What makes it great:

  • Seamless integration with Salesforce.
  • WYSIWYG email building.
  • Integrates with WebEx.

Where HubSpot Shines Over Pardot:

  • A built-in CMS.
  • Massive blogging platform with keyword rankings.
  • Social media integrations.
  • More advanced email send and performance data.


Marketo: $900-$3200

What makes it great:

  • Tons of integrations with other solutions like WebEx.
  • Have up to 10k contacts in the database no matter what your pricing tier.
  • Windows phone app.

Where HubSpot Wins Over Marketo

  • The Basic package is ¼ of the price of the lowest Marketo option.
  • More user-friendly.
  • CRM is built-in. 

And to see a more in-depth look at HubSpot vs. Marketo, check out this chart:

Learn More

Now that you are aware of what HubSpot is, how it works and what it costs, you probably want to know how you can learn how to use it. Well, there’s a ton of resources available out there for you to learn everything there is to know about HubSpot. For starters, watch this video:


HubSpot Academy

The HubSpot Academy is a group of courses with certifications you can earn as you learn each aspect of the HubSpot platform of products. There’s a certification course for nearly every feature, allowing you to not only learn as you implement the tool, but earn certifications that are highly desirable in the marketing community, creating a nice LinkedIn or resume addition.

Here’s a snapshot of all the certifications available currently:


Get a HubSpot Demo

HubSpot is a big purchase, so you should take some time to get a demo of how it all works first. HubSpot can get you started by providing these demos, or an inbound marketing agency like ours would also be happy to help.

HubSpot User Groups (HUG Groups)

There are also great opportunities to learn more about HubSpot through local communities in your region. These are events hosted in your area that teach more about leveraging HubSpot and inbound marketing for growth. Usually, these groups host events at least once each quarter. They are free to attend, and you don't even need to be a HubSpot user. Often times, they are run by inbound marketing agencies in your area. If you want to find out more about your local HUG group, click here.

Agency Partners

Lastly, we believe the very best advice and guidance you will receive about using HubSpot is going to come from a HubSpot inbound marketing agency. You can find a list of all HubSpot-certified partners in the HubSpot Partner Directory located here. Agencies like ours are certified in all elements of HubSpot and can provide the most comprehensive inbound marketing analysis for your business to determine how to leverage it most successfully for your unique business. We do offer a free inbound marketing assessment to determine what growth strategies might work well for you. If you’d like to take advantage of this, click here.

Happy HubSpotting!