We chose Hubspot as the best CRM software for startups, but the real skinny is that so many users seem to love HubSpot in both its free and subscription-based incarnations. Let's start with the free version. It does everything that you would want in a free CRM: it tracks activity, manages the pipeline, organizes contacts and even allows users not involved in the sales process access. This is all good, and it's a great tool for a startup that isn't ready to invest in software yet. The premium version, however, is where HubSpot really distinguishes itself, since it functions as a combined sales and marketing tool.

Once upon a time, companies needed to buy one package for marketing and another CRM. The marketing team would use a solution to develop and distribute leads, and then the leads would be entered into the CRM to initiate the sales process. Now, HubSpot combines the two and every entry is tabbed to make it easy to go back and forth between the two functions. And when a contact in the CRM takes action on the website, for example, marketing can assign the lead to a salesperson and change the status to lead. Other CRMs still require a separate tool or add on for marketing functions.

Another outstanding feature is the integration with email. If you use Gmail, the impact is multiplied. Get a load of this - if you use Gmail, one quick authorization and the email reader and CRM are joined. Emails you send through the CRM aren't just synced; they're sent through the same server. Sent and received emails are right there in the contact timeline. Beyond that, let's say you copy someone on an email. HubSpot will recognize they have no record in the system and will automatically create one, reducing the annoying task of adding contacts to the system.

HubSpot offers all manner of features to reduce the little drudgeries that can occupy a salesperson's day. It may not sound like the biggest deal, but salespeople expend a fair amount of energy just hanging up, moving on to a new call and dialing the phone. HubSpot's call queue and dialer automates the whole process, and also records all the activity so the salesperson doesn't have to do a thing. When the call connects, a note screen pops up. There's even an option to record. These are just a few of the features that HubSpot offers. It's a great tool for many, but may not be right for everyone.

Going back to the free version, if a company's sales function is based on very complex processes, HubSpot may not be the best fit. The administrative controls don't offer as many options as some might need either; for example the administrator can't create multiple standard views. Further, when it comes to analytics there are some limits on how users can slice and dice their data. In these cases where needs are more complex, Salesforce is probably a better option. But if your needs are straightforward, the free version of HubSpot could be the right fit for you.

HubSpot announced a few new features that will arrive throughout 2018. One is called "Conversations," which is simply an inbox that teams can share in order to manage interactions with customers. The Conversations feature integrates the interactions happening in every channel into a single thread. This helps eliminate confusion and back and forth that occurs when there are multiple conversations going on at the same time in different threads. You can also use automation rules and bots to manage these conversations and keep them organized. The Conversations feature is designed to be a central hub where you can view messages from customers, as well as understand the context of those messages.

A simple feature coming in 2018 is the Customer Hub, which is integrated into the conversations feature. The Customer Hub offers tools that allow you to quickly view insight on your customers. They add the necessary context in order for you to manage conversations with customers and solve any issues they bring up. The Conversations and Customer Hub features are designed to work together to help you manage your interactions with customers better in 2018 and forward. With both of these features planned to release in 2018, HubSpot is showing its commitment to making customer communications easier and more effective.

This article was updated February 28, 2018.

Editor's Note: Looking for CRM Software for your company? If you would like information to help you choose the one that's right for you, use the questionnaire below to have our partner, BuyerZone, provide you with information for free:

Editor's Note: Looking for CRM Software for your company? If you would like information to help you choose the one that's right for you, use the questionnaire below to have our partner, BuyerZone, provide you with information for free:

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