This blog highlights the key benefits of three free tools that hold the potential to transform your online marketing into a lead generation engine for better business results.

Lots of companies need an easy-to-use CRM (Customer Relationship Management) for their sales team, a marketing automation platform to better their online marketing, as well as the not insignificant budget and staff to implement and run it all.

But wait! Now there are very powerful FREE tools to get you started. So why not hop on for your free-ride into prospecting, lead generation, and sales automation?!


When our client, a leading U.S.-based NGO in its field, was in the last phase of getting its new, content-rich website up, it was wondering how to automatically track subscribers and donors without incurring high software costs. Versio2 suggested an effective, lean marketing approach that would be (almost) free and guaranteed to produce results.

In 2012, our agency had a one-year license for the world-leading CRM Salesforce sitting idle due to its (for SMEs) overwhelming complexity and arcane interface. With some frustration, we let it go and waited until the free HubSpot CRM came on stream last year.

Since this software is tightly integrated with its marketing platform (which we had been using since the start of 2012), we knew instantly: now we have something that would work for both Versio2 and its clients.

Lead Generation Software with Many Benefits

The first two tools are completely free, the third is only free for a basic license with certain usage limits. Here are the specifics for the three packages HubSpot CRM, Leadin, andSidekick highlighted in this post.

These tools are perfect extensions for better B2B lead generation and email marketing. Together, they form a unique set of internet marketing resources that pack a powerful punch for users at virtually no cost.


1. HubSpot CRM for Sales Management

This CRM platform was introduced about a year ago and has found wide adoption. This is due not only to its attractive (zero) price tag. What is most valuable is that it’s intuitive to use and incorporates powerful features which the company’s self-titled marketing automation solution already leverages for its subscribers.

Since informed users who research extensively online need to be touched as early as possible in their purchasing journey, this sales tool is a good fit to prospect companies, help generate leads online, then track, nurture, and close them.

This is what you can do with HubSpot CRM and how you can get started:

  • Connects with your website, email, phone calls, and social channels
  • Automatically works and tracks activities in the background
  • Pulls in company and contact data from public sources including social
  • Shows customer journey with all touch points in an at-a-glance dashboard
  • Set up in a minute with a home page code snippet (as Google Analytics or HubSpot)

Here is how users of the crowd-sourced software review platform G2 placed this CRM in the competitive landscape. Get more details using the widget linked from the image below.


2. The Leadin Plugin for Lead Capturing

As Forbes correctly observed last week, “what marketers need to focus on is bringing in market qualified leads.” This tool will help you not only capture leads, but together with their histories, qualify them over time (newly introduced HubSpot predictive lead scoring for enterprise clients is more powerful yet).

Leadin is perfect for smaller companies, educational institutions, or NGOs with low to no marketing budget to get started with lead generation and tracking. The powerful plugin is easy to set up and offers many features:

  • Find out who is visiting your site and what the person is doing on it
  • Automatically get background on your leads and their companies in one place
  • Capture leads using any existing form or new landing page on your site
  • See which sources drive the most conversions (social, email etc.)
  • Install and use pop-up lead capturing forms for higher conversion rates

Leadin is readily installed on WordPress sites from their Plugin Directory or with a code snippet on any other site. Since email marketing is still the number one online tactic, the plugin is also well integrated with most (and mostly free) email software such as MailChimp or AWeber.


3. Get Sidekick for Email Tracking

Recently, I had a lively and honest conversation about inbound marketing strategy with a management consultant. He told me that when I sent him a note that more or less said “I saw that you just read my mail regarding…”, he was impressed while also experiencing it as “kind of creepy”. Oooops! Live and learn.

Orwell’s classic “1984” has long come and gone, but its realities are “creep”-ing up on us every day. This tool, used unwisely as I had done, can seem mildly invasive. However, since it can serve a useful purpose for both parties and works in the background, marketers can embrace it with a guilt-free conscience.

Use it with a soft touch, as in “I was just thinking about you, Miranda…”.


Sidekick (and its paid upgrade Sidekick for Business – not discussed here) features awesome power-tools that add up to a sort of premium HubSpot CRM. This is what you get:

  • Be instantly advised who opens your email and what links are being clicked
  • See how often your email gets read and from where
  • Select which contacts you wish to track
  • Get instant company and contact profiles while composing
  • Schedule your mail send-out for the ideal time

Free Marketing and Sales Tools Wrapped in a Tidy Package

Which of these tools to use? What would be the ideal combination? Where to start so as not to get overwhelmed with functionality you may not need? The answers to such questions depend on the organization, its goals, and the resources it can deploy to make it work (for a higher level of marketing and sales integration see our recent post in the subject).

Versio2 is now using this highly capable tool set for themselves and some of its clients (HubSpot users don’t need Leadin).

See what this free software suite might do for you! We’d be happy to help you get started.

Written by
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Stephan Burckhardt

This marketing vet is based in Greater Vancouver, Canada. He has worked in B2B marketing in Silicon Valley and Europe, was CEO of a large agency serving B2B startups, trans-nationals, and everything in between. Focus: technology, healthcare, professional services.
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