I have to share something with all of you. I not only consider Jeff Lyons – @usedwigs on Twitter – to be a friend, he’s also a modern-day philosopher. Case in point, he once said that the best thing anyone can bring to a party is a tray full of bacon. And if you think about it, he’s absolutely right. From breakfast sandwiches and chocolate bars, to cocktails and delicious finger food, bacon makes everything better.

(You are a wise man, Jeff. But sharing your wisdom has left me hungry.)

If you don’t believe me, get yourself to Google and type “what makes everything better” into the search bar. You’ll find the overwhelming majority of results point to bacon. Still not convinced? Check out this article by NPR, which provides mathematical proof that bacon elevates everything around it from “Meh!” to “Holy cow, that’s amazing!”

So yes, bacon is magical and delicious. But what does the greatest meat product known to man have to do with HubSpot?


IN THE WORLD OF MARKETING, HUBSPOT IS THE BACON

I’ve been advising a range of clients, both large and small, on their marketing strategies for about six years now. In that time, I’ve never found a tool that is as effective in improving the marketing process and delivering great results as HubSpot. Its integrated marketing software platform not only makes me more efficient, it offers a single dashboard from which to see – and measure!  — all of my marketing results.

I like HubSpot so much that around two years ago, I made the decision to bring a tray of HubSpot bacon to the Quintain cocktail party, making us an official HubSpot partner agency. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and I’ve never looked back. It’s what we use for our own marketing, and now we have 16 clients using it to track the effectiveness of their own inbound efforts.

One of my favorite things about HubSpot is the company’s commitment to continually improving their product. Today is a great example of this. I’m writing this blog from HubSpot’s annual INBOUND conference in Boston, where the company has just literally, moments ago, announced a suite of new features for its already awesome marketing software.

The “Breaking News!” bulletin out of INBOUND is the addition of HubSpot CRM and Sidekick – two tools that are total game changers when it comes to integrating sales and marketing. Because we are HubSpot Gold Level partners, we were fortunate enough to get a “sneak peak” at both HubSpot CRM and Sidekick, and we’re excited to share what we learned with you!

HUBSPOT CRM

Let’s take a trip in the Wayback Machine. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, HubSpot was created to store and track contacts. In this sense, it had the makings of a rudimentary CRM. What it always lacked, however, was the ability to track opportunities, log marketing activities that took place offline and analyze your business development pipeline by deal. This has all changed with the release of HubSpot CRM, and the next generation of HubSpot is a truly integrated sales and marketing platform.

The best part? It’s free! (Woohoo!) HubSpot has added the CRM functionality into its existing product, and anyone with HubSpot will get it for no additional cost.

Hubspot, have I told you lately that I love you?

Some of the key features of HubSpot CRM include:

  • Database: Now, in addition to storing and tracking information on individual contacts, you can collect and store data on companies, deals and tasks as well. HubSpot CRM automatically creates company records, associates contacts, de-duplicates leads and takes care of all the little details that can become a huge distraction with many other CRMs.

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  • Timeline: HubSpot has always had a timeline feature within contact records that allows you to see every digital interaction (email open/click, website visit, download, etc.) that your leads have with your business. Now, the timeline feature has been expanded to include a broader array of touch points and channels, and with features that allow you to log calls, make notes and set reminders, HubSpot CRM is a much more powerful tool that salespeople can use to get organized, track progress and see results.

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  • Email: Okay, this is really cool. HubSpot has always allowed users to send mass emails to groups of people, but now HubSpot CRM connects directly to Gmail, Google Apps, Outlook and Apple Mail. That means you can log individual emails with your contacts easily and automatically. You can also send emails right from any contact’s record from within HubSpot CRM.
  • Phone Integration: This is one of the very few features within HubSpot CRM that requires users to pay an additional fee to access. I would argue, however, that it is worth it if your sales team really wants a unified dashboard. With phone integration activated, Hubspot CRM users can make calls with one click from within the CRM itself, and it’s super easy to log call notes. My favorite part? You can actually record your calls – an optional feature – and save the recordings to the contact record for future reference!

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  • Google Calendar Integration: If you use Google Calendar, you’re going to love this. The new CRM connects directly to Google Calendar, allowing you to see scheduled meetings and create new meetings in seconds without ever leaving your CRM. Awesome, right?
  • Data Enrichment: Want to know more about a contact, new lead or company? HubSpot CRM has a built in data enrichment features that allows you to look up background information, details on key employees, social data, related companies, and more.
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Whew! That’s a lot of new features and a ton of exciting added value for anyone that is already paying to use HubSpot (and for those that are not, what are you waiting for??!!).

Here’s what I see as the key takeaways:

  • Sales Enablement: I’ll let you in on a little secret. While inbound marketing is an incredibly effective way to increase the number of visitors to your website and convert more of those visitors into leads for your business, it is NOT effective in generating revenue unless your sales team is on board. But why?

    The job of a marketing team is to generate leads, and the job of sales is to close them. Until now, HubSpot was a great tool for marketers, but required integration with a CRM such as Salesforce or Sugar in order to really be useful for sales. This was never a perfect solution, because it fundamentally split data across two distinct platforms. Not anymore! Now everything can be in one place, allowing improved collaboration between marketing and sales and eliminating gaps in data across platforms.

  • Cost: Traditional CRMs can be expensive. We use Salesforce and pay around $700 per year per user. I think the expense is worth it because we get a lot out of our Salesforce account. But many companies can’t afford this, particularly if they want to offer access to the CRM to a large team of people.

    The fact that HubSpot is offering an entire CRM on top of its existing product for no additional cost is huge. (It’s free, people!) I estimate that companies using HubSpot’s Professional Edition can cut their marketing software costs by around 50 percent by getting rid of a traditional CRM in favor of the HubSpot CRM. That kind of savings is really meaningful, particularly for smaller or growing companies where cash flow is an issue.

  • No more “garbage in, garbage out”: As much as you might hate to admit it, the biggest weakness of almost all CRMs isn’t the software. It’s us – the people who use them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had clients say that they spent a ton of money on a CRM only to have their salespeople NOT enter the right data into it (or worse – not enter any data at all). When customer and lead data needs to be entered manually, the CRM is only as good as the effort you put into it.

    What is so fantastic about HubSpot CRM is that much of the data can be pulled in automatically, mitigating the potential for human error. Because the CRM component is integrated with HubSpot’s marketing software, anyone who converts as a lead is automatically recorded in the system without the risk of duplicate contacts. Any time that lead comes back to your website and fills out a form, the information they provide is added and their record updated.

    It’s like the Southwest Airlines approach to CRMs. Just like Southwest relies on customers to print their own boarding passes – and makes you excited to do it – HubSpot CRM relies on visitors and leads to update their own records; although you can manually update them as well if needed. Brilliant, isn’t it?

I could go on and on about all of the benefits of the new HubSpot CRM, but you get the point – it’s awesome. And here’s the best part: That’s not all! HubSpot also announced Sidekick, the next evolution of its Signals product.

MEET SIDEKICK

HubSpot introduced Signals about a year ago, and I’ve been using it ever since. It’s a pretty cool app available right within your browser – I use it in Google Chrome – that allows you to see notifications in real time about your leads. For example, it will tell me when a lead is visiting my website, and what exact page of the site they are viewing. It also tells me when someone downloads a piece of content.

From a sales standpoint, Signals has been a great way to know immediately whether or not my marketing efforts are having an impact. I would send out an email promoting a new piece of content and BOOM! – the Signals notifications would start popping up in my browser, letting me know that people were visiting my website and downloading my ebook. This inbound marketing stuff really works!

Now, Signals has become HubSpot Sidekick – a fitting new name for what is really a new product – offering marketers and sales people a far superior tool for engaging with visitors and leads in real time. Some of the key features of Sidekick include:

  • Sidekick Insights: Like Signals, Sidekick lives right within your browser, giving you valuable insights about the contacts and companies you find and interact with in your inbox and on the web.

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  • Sidekick Notifications: Thankfully, this product still includes those real-time notifications that I love. You’ll see when, where and how your prospects are engaging with you by opening or clicking your emails, visiting your website and more – from within your browser or on your mobile phone or tablet. The new reporting features will also help you understand and track your teams’ activity and the performance of their messages.

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  • Send Later: This is a big, new feature. Now you can get more out of your emails without sacrificing your workflow. You’ll be able to queue up messages from Gmail in Google Chrome to send on any day, at any time, when they are most likely to be opened and clicked.
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The new product is a big deal for sales teams, but ironically hasn’t been used by many because HubSpot – and Signals by extension – was traditionally considered the domain of the marketing department. Now that HubSpot includes a CRM and Sidekick has so much added functionality, it’s time for sales teams to get on board.

If you’ve used Signals, you’re going to love Sidekick. If you haven’t used Signals, you NEED to get Sidekick.

WHAT IT ALL MEANS FOR YOU

Today’s announcements are part of a big shift within HubSpot to move from being simply marketing software to positioning itself as a fully integrated marketing and sales platform. As Founder Brian Halligan said, “Traditional sales technology is necessary but not sufficient. HubSpot’s Sales Platform is designed to arm sales teams with the context they need to improve how they engage with companies, prospects, and leads to drive sales instead of driving people crazy.”

HubSpot has always made marketing better. Its intuitive user interface means even a novice can blog, build landing pages and conversion forms, manage social media, implement email marketing campaigns, and optimize everything for search engines. Now, with the CRM and Sidekick, it makes sales better too.

In other words, its time to eat more bacon!

As a HubSpot user myself, I am SUPER excited about these new product features and cannot wait to put them to use for Quintain and our clients. If YOU want to learn more about them, join me and Frank Antonucci of HubSpot for a live webinar and product demonstration of HubSpot CRM and Sidekick on Tuesday, September 30 at 3 pm ET. Just click here to register!