Welcome to this short feature review of HubSpot’s Free CRM.
My name is Gil and I represent LeadMetrix, a Sales & Marketing Operations provider that specializes in serving best fit platform solutions to businesses looking to improve their Sales and Marketing performance.
Ok – so to start with, given these trying economic times, you may be thinking – how can I run any kind of a sales operation without a CRM system.
Well – let me tell you that at LeadMetrix we have encountered plenty of companies that are running their sales on Google Sheets, Excel or low cost/small business tools (low on features in most cases too) whose names I won’t mention here.
So, HubSpot’s Free CRM is not low cost, its NO cost and provides you with a pretty full featured CRM out of the box for absolutely nothing.
Of course, as your company grows, and your needs grow – you are going to hit the Free version limits and are going to need and indeed want to upgrade to starter, pro or even enterprise versions of the CRM – but its perfectly possible to get a great kick start to your sales operation using the free version and for some businesses, the system is plenty feature rich without the need to upgrade at all.
My plan is to give you a quick overview of the features along with the limitations so that you know exactly what you are getting yourselves into before signing up, and what to expect when you hit those free limits.
Ok – lets get started!
Once you have gotten yourselves signed up and answered a few questions about your business and industry, you login and are presented with this interface.
The great thing about the Free CRM and indeed all of HubSpot’s tools, is that everything takes place within this interface. Sales, marketing and service hubs all reside within these screens and upgrading packages simply unlocks features that you can easily access from the navigation bar along the top.
This means, that once you have been using the CRM for a while (which in itself has a very easy learning curve), the shift to other hubs or activating additional features within the same hub is extremely simple and painless.
This isn’t a tutorial on how to use HubSpot, so I am not going to talk you through setting up your profile and account defaults, but of course there are a number of settings that need to be set for your organization before you can make full use of the CRM.
Let’s jump straight into the heart of any CRM – the contacts!
Guess what – you can store up to 1,000,000 million contacts in HubSpot’s Free CRM! That’s correct. You didn’t mishear – 1,000,000
Its going to be a while before you start having to filter out irrelevant ones to remove from the CRM in order to free up space!
Each one of these contacts has over a hundred built in property fields and not just the standard first name, last name fields – but also things like the lead status, number of employees in their company and lots of other business pertinent fields.
In the Free version of HubSpot CRM you are able to an additional 10 custom fields to the built in list, so if there are fields that are specific to your business you can add a bunch of them here as well. And there is almost no restriction on the type of field – so it can be a text field, drop down, checkbox, multi-select, date, number etc. Calculated formula fields and scoring fields are not available in the free version of the CRM.
Following on from that, the custom field limit applies across all objects – so choose your custom fields wisely and divided them out between contacts, companies and deals if needs be – its 10 in total, not 10 per object.
Moving onto lists, as you may know these come in 2 types – static and active, are used to segment your contacts and companies. Whereby the active lists are dynamic and change in close to real time based on the filters you set for them.
In this example, we want a list of all contacts whose primary associated company is HubSpot. Currently we only have 2 contacts in the system, but should any contacts that work at HubSpot be added to this account through any of the channels (forms, ads, emails etc) – this list would be immediately updated to include them.
In the free version of the CRM, you are limited to 5 active lists and 1,000 static lists. Static lists are those where you can manually push contacts into and out of them – a kind of manual segmentation process. Useful when importing contacts from events that have taken place and similar scenarios.
Inbox and connected channels
One of the first thing you are going to want to do once you have set up HubSpot is to connect channels so that you can interact with your contacts. The 4 main methods are email, chat, forms and Facebook messenger.
Again, this is not a tutorial, so I am not going to go through the process of connecting the channels up, but to let you know about the limitations. In the free CRM, you can have 1 shared inbox and Facebook Messenger supports the send and receipt of simple messages and quick replies.
The chat can be used for lead qualification and meeting bookings, but you can’t implement custom branching logic – you will need to upgrade to do that – however it is absolutely fine for capturing standard contact details and sending some messages across.
Snippets are excellent ways of storing frequently used phrases or blocks of text and then recalling them back using simple shortcuts. You can use these in emails, quotes, call logs and so forth
In the free version of the HubSpot CRM, you can store up to 5 of these snippets
Using email templates in HubSpot makes writing emails a lot less time consuming in addition to helping boost response rates once you create templates based on your top performing mails.
In the free version of the HubSpot CRM, you can create up to 5 email templates. There are even a bunch of pre-prepared templates for different scenarios to get you started.
Although we are talking about the Free CRM here, HubSpot actually provides you with free tools across all it modules and since many of these overlap, it only makes sense to mention a little about the free tools you get as part of the marketing hub.
Using HubSpot, you can completely replace any email marketing software you use today. With the free tools, you dont get the automations or nurturing, but you can certainly send mail blasts and newsletters out to prospective and existing customers.
The free package allows you to send up to 2,000 emails per month through HubSpot and allows you to choose from a number of different email templates as well as the ability to create your own layout using the editor.
Landing pages & Forms
The landing pages module works in a similar manner to the marketing emails in the sense that you can create a number of landing pages based off of a selection of templates provided by HubSpot. These templates do offer a variety of layouts and I have found that those cover most of the scenarios that I come into contact with on a regular basis.
You can create up to 20 of these using the Free package and please note: they will be HubSpot branded. You will need to upgrade to Marketing Hub Pro in order to remove the HubSpot branding.
Landing pages tie in closely with forms – which you will want to use for lead capturing on your website, the aforementioned landing pages and other channels where you can embed them.
They are really simply to create with the drag and drop editor and you can capture up to 10,000 form submissions with the free package – including 1 automated email after submission per form.
In addition to all of this marketing goodness, you can also connect up to 2 ad accounts (from Facebook, Google ads or LinkedIn) and monitor/manage ads spend and conversions as part of the Free version of the CRM. Form submissions on those platforms automatically get created as contacts within HubSpot along with their corresponding lead sources.
Deals, Product Library and Quotes
Now we finally come to the hardcore SALES features of the CRM.
Deals (or Opportunities as those of you from the Salesforce world would call it) is where we store ongoing transactions that the sales team are pursuing with contacts or companies. They are tracked through pipeline stages until won or lost.
With the Free CRM, you get a single pipeline for your deals, but you are able to customize this pipeline to include your own stages and probability percentages.
Creating the deal is pretty straightforward and you can use your 10 custom properties in this object as well if you feel you are missing some specific field that is required for your business.
From within the deal properties you can also add line items and create a quote, but it is important to understand the limitations of the free version of the CRM with regards to this.
You do not have access to a product library unless you are on the Sales Pro or Enterprise version, so any line items you add have to be custom ones that are only for that specific deal.
In addition, when creating the quote – be aware that you can choose from 3 different quote templates, but you cannot design your own ones with the Free Sales CRM and likewise eSignatures are only available with Pro and Enterprise versions.
Tasks are available in the free version of the CRM. you can create as many tasks as you like but automations with them are not available with the free package. You can still assign them to whoever you like and enable alerts and notifications though.
Reproducing the features of Calendly to a large extent, HubSpot has a great feature called Meeting Links.
Basically, once you have connected your personal calendar to HubSpot, HubSpot is then aware of your free/busy times and together with work hours that you specify in the settings, HubSpot produces a meeting link that allows contacts to schedule meetings with you – without all the back and forth of having to find available time slots.
In the free version of the CRM, you are provided with 1 non-customizable personal meeting link that includes HubSpot branding per user. Again, in most cases, this serves its purpose and suffices for the need.
Dashboards & Reports
Finally, onto dashboards and reports. In the Free version of the CRM you are able to create 3 dashboards with up to 10 reports per dashboard.
The reports are not custom, instead pulling from a long list of pre-defined reports. You can sift through the different system categories to see all the options available – and there are plenty of them. Still, in order to create custom reports, you will need to upgrade to either the Pro or Enterprise versions.
Small hint: in many cases, you can obviously still export data from contact views into CSV or Excel format and perform additional manipulation and analysis outside of HubSpot based on this data.
So that is a brief overview of the Free CRM feature set.
As I had said at the beginning, for many small businesses – this is perfectly sufficient for now and the future. For companies starting on their way, this still provides an incredibly accessible way to start ramping up, learning how to use the system and when the time comes, the ability to upgrade to gain access to the more powerful features that are currently locked.
Other features that you will need to upgrade for include things such as sequences, scoring, automations, custom reporting and user permission level management.
For more information or if you would like some help in getting started, please feel free to contact us.