HubSpot is the leading software for inbound marketing — but it’s an investment. Like any investment, it’s important to do your vetting before you go all in. That’s where HubSpot’s Marketing Hub Free comes in — it allows you to capture some of the benefits HubSpot has to offer without the buy-in.
With this information comes a few questions. What does HubSpot’s Marketing Hub Free offer? What key features is it missing? But most importantly — how do you know when it’s time to upgrade?
First, let’s dissect question number one, which naturally pairs with question number two.
What is HubSpot’s Marketing Hub Free?
According to HubSpot, the free version includes “the basics you need to capture, track, and convert leads — for free.” It’s best for those who want to start developing a marketing strategy, a basic tech stack, and are exploring CRM systems. Let’s unpack this by discussing some of the most notable features, and conversely, what these features lack.
Generating leads is good, knowing exactly where they came from is better. HubSpot offers two avenues for lead capture: Lead Flows, and Forms (which are static and would be used on a landing page or in a sidebar for instance). With HubSpot free, you have access to both of them.
However, when you capture a contact there is little action you can take within HubSpot. For example, when someone downloads an asset it’s best practice to immediately send them a follow-up email to thank them and provide a link to the asset.
Unfortunately, the free version doesn’t include email or workflows. As a result, you can’t automatically send emails. If you’re tech-savvy you can integrate HubSpot forms with an email marketing platform using a tool like Zapier. As long as you remain organized, this is an effective solution for companies just starting out with HubSpot’s Marketing Hub.
When it comes to marketing, understanding the data from your website and knowing how to leverage it is crucial — so it’s handy that HubSpot’s Marketing Hub Free offers reporting dashboards, but there’s a catch.
When on the free version you are limited to one dashboard — the Marketing Performance Dashboard. This provides elementary statistics which include site sessions, new contacts, and customers.
Dashboards allow you to choose a timeframe. For example, you can compare the current month to the previous month or even set a custom date range. Stats are limited, but when you’re first getting your feet wet, that’s okay.
You can supplement HubSpot’s data with a platform like Google Analytics which provides more detailed insights. Google Analytics can tell you which pages are driving the most traffic, average user retention, bounce rate, and much more.
On HubSpot’s Marketing Hub Free, you can manually change a contact’s lifecycle stage, make a note on a contact’s profile, and assign a contact to an owner — just to name a few.
Don’t know what lifecycle stages are? Read “The Right Way to Follow Up with Marketing and Sales Leads”
But, there are some features HubSpot’s Marketing Hub Free lacks in contact management. For example, a company on the free version doesn’t have the ability to make lists. Lists are a tool for sorting contacts based on almost any piece of criteria: a specific form they filled out, the type of company that employs them, what pages the contact has viewed, and so on. Lists are great for sending targeted email blasts or just keeping contacts organized.
Another contact management caveat of the free version is the visibility of a contact’s activity — it expires after seven days. Access to this information can provide insight into what services interest a lead, for instance. Without this data, your strategy relies more on guesswork.
Now that we’ve discussed the pros and cons of HubSpot’s Marketing Hub Free, you might be looking for an answer to the third question. How do you know when it’s time to upgrade?
Should you upgrade to Marketing Hub Starter?
First, let’s address the next level up from free — Marketing Hub Starter. There are four major selling points: it includes lists, mass email, more data, and starts at just $50 a month. This version is a good fit for people who have started to develop a marketing strategy, but don’t have many contacts and therefore less to manage.
Need ideas for developing a marketing strategy? Access “Growth Plays” here.
Advanced analytics are a crucial ingredient for success. With the free version of HubSpot’s Marketing Hub, you’re looking at stretching your company between two data tools at least — HubSpot and Google Analytics.
Once you upgrade to Marketing Hub Start you’ll have access to a “standard marketing dashboard plus 1 additional custom dashboard.” It’s still valuable to supplement with Google Analytics since the data is more comprehensive. However, the data tools that come with the starter version can provide valuable insights into the efficacy of your marketing efforts.
Don’t be quick to think email is dead. Sending targeted mass emails is still an essential marketing tool. According to emailmonday, “email has an average ROI of $38 for each $1 spent.”
HubSpot Marketing Dashboard- Email
The email function in HubSpot Marketing Hub Starter includes personalization — but doesn’t include the design manager, blog/rss email, or CAN-SPAM footers. With these limitations, it might more sense for your company to use an alternate marketing email software such as MailChimp or Constant Contact.
Mass emails are most effective when they’re targeted. This is where lists provide their value. Lists allow you to segment your contacts based on almost any criteria — down to what information they enter on a form.
HubSpot Marketing Dashboard- Lists
There are two types of lists — active and static. An active list constantly changes based on who meets the criteria, while a static list does not change regardless if someone meets the criteria after the list was created.
These tools are essential for a skilled marketing strategy, but it’s just as effective, or more effective to “outsource” these functions with an integration tool like Zapier, as mentioned earlier. The main benefit of HubSpot’s Marketing Hub Starter is having these tools in one place.
Or is Marketing Hub Professional right for you?
HubSpot’s Marketing Hub Professional is best for the “more experienced marketers and growing marketing teams.” It allows you to “run complete inbound marketing campaigns at scale with automation.”
What is HubSpot’s Marketing Hub Professional holy grail feature/ headliner/ attribute that makes it worth the investment? Workflows. A workflow is a set of rules you activate within HubSpot to complete a certain task. This one tool is able to unlock an array of time-saving functions that erase trivial manual work so you can keep big picture objectives at the forefront of your to-do list.
They have two main functions: marketing automation and administrative duties.
According to HubSpot, marketing automation is “software that exists with the goal of automating marketing actions. Many marketing departments have to automate repetitive tasks such as emails, social media, and other website actions.” This is where workflows play an integral role because they enable email workflows.
An email workflow is “a series of automated emails that trigger based on subscriber behavior or data. These are often referred to when marketers assemble a series of automated emails that work together to accomplish a goal, such as onboarding new customers or nurturing new leads.” Email workflows are incredibly valuable. According to Omnisend, email workflows boast up to a 455% better click rates than traditional newsletters.
Essentially, email workflows allow you to do all the heavy lifting up front. Once a workflow is activated, you can just sit back and watch your long-term lead generating machine work.
At some point, you’re going to decide the tools you have for managing your contacts aren’t cutting it. There’s no hard and fast rule for how many contacts you need before this happens, but at some point, you’ll need an automatic system for organizing your contacts.
You can create a workflow that changes a contact’s lifecycle stage based on a set of criteria that you set — it’s that easy.
When set up correctly, you’ll know exactly where someone is within the sales funnel without ever lifting a finger. This insight is crucial for measuring the performance of marketing efforts and knowing the right way to approach a lead.
It’s important to note that this is just one of the administrative duties you can automate with workflows. Let’s not forget lead notifications, buyer persona assignments, and much more.
The Bottom Line
There are many factors that determine which level of HubSpot’s Marketing Hub software you should choose: company goals, size, how developed your marketing strategy is, and much more.
Make the decision easier by bringing in an expert. Contact us today for a complimentary marketing plan which includes a comprehensive assessment on which version of HubSpot’s Marketing Hub software is right for you. We’ll also equip you with a 90-day growth maximizing strategy.
We’ve all been there. You walk into a department store — just to browse. Within moments, an overzealous salesperson is pressing you to buy something that you’ve barely glanced at. Immediately put off, you’re scanning the store for the nearest exit.
This logic translates to B2B companies. A business can claim, “oh that person just wasn’t the right fit,” but HubSpot asserts that 50% of leads are qualified — just not ready to buy. For this reason, it’s imperative your company understands the difference between marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and sales qualified leads (SQLs).
An MQL is someone who meets the demographics of your ideal customer profile — the marketing term for this is “buyer persona” — and has shown meaningful engagement with your company. Examples of an MQL include signing up for your newsletter or downloading your ebook because these actions show initiative from the prospect to educate themselves on your industry.
An SQL is someone who meets the demographic criteria and has completed an action(s) that translates to, “I want to speak with sales.” Respond to actions that indicate the prospect wants to know how your company solves their problem– downloading a pricing guide or requesting a demo are just two examples that signal this type of interest.
What differentiates an MQL from an SQL will differ from company to company. The important thing is that marketing and sales are on the same page for how both are defined. Lead scoring makes this possible by enabling companies with a systematic way of differentiating the two.
What is lead scoring?
Lead scoring is the practice of assigning a point value to individual leads according to the information they’ve given you and how they’ve interacted with your website. This score helps your team prioritize leads by putting them into different buckets — MQLs, SQLs, and neither.
How you define what triggers an MQL versus an SQL will change based on the needs and capabilities of your company. For example, if your marketing strategy is mature and you receive thousands of MQLs a day consider increasing the amount of engagement someone must show before triggering that response.
With so many moving parts it can be hard to even know where to start. Luckily, HubSpot has created a lead scoring algorithm to make the process simpler. You can use the software to help with manual lead scoring or you can leave all the heavy lifting up to HubSpot.
Congratulations — you’ve sorted your MQLs from your SQLs! Now you must customize an approach for both types, but how?
The Right Way to Follow up With MQLs:
Don’t be the department store salesperson. MQLs are still just browsing and forcing them to the next stage will only drive them away. At the same time, it’s okay to reach out directly. Consider this part of your lead nurturing strategy. According to Forrester Research, “companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost.”
Be confident knowing that someone who triggers an MQL notification knows what your company does and is trying to learn more. Reach out with the goal of mutually assessing the fit of the potential partnership while providing them with educational resources. There are many different ways to do this, but I’m only going to provide you with two options to start.
The first option is to send a welcome email when someone first triggers an MQL notification in your system. Here’s an example from HubSpot:
Notice this person encourages the prospect to continue the relationship by providing a clear way to access additional information.
How do you nurture a lead between the welcome email and when they move to the SQL stage? The most important thing is to stay fresh in their minds. Instead of sending a response to a particular action, consistently provide content they would find interesting. Here is an example:
Research consistently shows that “a person needs to know you, your reputation, and your product or service before he/she is willing to make a purchase.” Doing this requires consistently being in the lead’s line of sight. Forwarding content to your MQLs is the simplest way to do this.
Side note: Notice that both emails are individually addressed and appear to come from a real person. Personalizing these points of contact creates the framework for building relationships — which results in MQLs converting to SQLs.
The Right Way to Follow up With SQLs:
Finally, the lead is ready to hear your pitch. Your sales team’s job is to connect the dots for the customer and fill in knowledge gaps. They want to be sure that your product will address their pain points. Simply asking them, “so how did you like that ebook?” won’t cut it. Build the conversation around an action(s) they completed which triggered the SQL notification. For example, let’s say the action was a free demo request. Shoot them an email like this:
There are two key things to notice here:
- Expectations for the call are set beforehand: This puts the lead at ease with the process. It also helps them prepare accordingly for the call.
- The goal is to help the customer: This is a sales call, but coming from a stance of trying to help them will allow you to understand their needs and how your company fits with them.
The Bottom Line:
The difference between an SQL and an MQL is murky. That’s why it’s imperative for your company to create a universal definition that sales and marketing stick to. Creating a definition strikes the perfect balance between educating leads and closing a deal.
Moving someone from the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey to the conversion stage can feel like you’re walking on eggshells — one false move and the lead is gone. That’s why it’s important to have experts on your side to optimize your marketing strategy. Contact us to learn how we can help you develop a strategy to reach your business growth goals.
The content your company releases is generating leads. This is a major success! However, if you can’t pinpoint why you’re having this success, lead generation could halt as quickly as it began.
Enter buyer personas. According to HubSpot, a buyer persona is “a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.” Buyer personas help you identify not just what creates leads, but why. If you know why something is happening, it’s repeatable — and having a repeatable process is the formula for long-term success.
According to a report from CoSchedule, marketers who have a documented marketing strategy are 538% more likely to report success than those who don’t. Creating buyer personas is a crucial piece to that puzzle.
A buyer persona has many different components, all of which help your marketing and sales teams get inside the minds of your ideal customers.
Take Efficiency Ed — he’s an example of a buyer persona. His profile includes everything from job title to personal objectives.
One of the most crucial components to a buyer persona are pain points. These are things the buyer persona struggles with — which your company has solutions for.
Categories of a buyer persona can be added or taken away based on the needs of your company and how much information you have on your customers. The key is to have enough information for your marketing and sales teams to understand how to effectively interact with leads and bring them closer to the bottom of the sales funnel.
How exactly do documented buyer personas get you closer to this goal? The answer is three-fold:
1. Sales and Marketing Alignment
Your marketing team is elated with the number of marketing qualified Leads (MQLs) in their database. Eager to move them to the next phase of the buyer’s journey, the marketing team forwards the leads to the sales team. After sales evaluates them, 90% are discarded. Why? The sales and marketing teams were not aligned.
When marketing and sales work together, there is increased marketing ROI, sales team efficiency, and visible top-line growth. Achieving this goal can be daunting, but documenting buyer personas is a good place to start.
Established buyer personas empower both teams with a common blueprint for who they are targeting and give insights on how to do it. For example, if sales data on your company shows 70% of customers fall into the Efficiency Ed category, marketing can shift their efforts to create more content this persona finds helpful. The result is a greater number of relevant leads.
This conclusion is logical, but the evidence is in the data. “For organizations that are aligned, there’s a 67% higher probability that marketing generated leads will close.” Buyer personas help streamline the buyer’s journey so sales qualified leads (SQLs) are not the hope, but the expectation.
2. Establishes Important Data to Collect
An Efficiency Ed, your primary persona, found your blog. He reads a post and sees your perfectly placed CTA, “Download our exclusive ebook now and access industry secrets.” All He needs to do is fill out a form for full access. Name? Standard. Email? Standard. Zip code? This doesn’t seem necessary. Work phone, home phone AND cell phone? He leaves the page and you’ve just lost your chance with a potential lead.
How do you ask enough questions so you can siphon off the MQLs to send to sales but not so many that you drive business away? Buyer personas can guide you. There aren’t hard and fast rules to which fields are okay to put on a form and which ones aren’t. Instead, figure out what fields you NEED to sort contacts by persona. For example, if your business and personas are not location specific, asking for a zip code is probably overkill.
Efficiency Ed is a COO so he wants to make things run efficiently. Adding a field that asks, “What is your goal?” will help you section off the Efficiency Eds from others. In this case, you might not need anything beyond name, email, and goal. It must be emphasized that this specific set of fields is not a rule, but is determined on a case-by-case basis in regards to your personas.
Having documented buyer personas helps you ask the right questions at the right time so you can attract as many contacts– and therefore as many leads– as possible.
3. Identifies How Buyers Can Be Influenced
Buyer personas are how you access a lead’s mind and are therefore a framework on how to relate to them. Efficiency Ed is stressed because his company uses too many systems and it slows the team down. He knows this is leading to lost revenue and wasted time. If your company has documented buyer personas you can understand what the lead (or customer) is struggling with and empathize.
Buyer Personas lay the foundation for building trust, which results in more sales and leaves the customer delighted with their investment in you.
Buyer personas give your company direction. Defining them helps you decide who you should market your product to and how you should do it. With these two questions answered, everything else just falls into place.
Knowing how to define your buyer personas, or even just figuring out where to start, is challenging. We want to help you get there so you can start seeing results. Download our buyer persona checklist to enable a streamlined marketing and sales process built to help you reach your goals.