Any crisis that brings the physical world of business to its knees demands a digital response.
Both your customers and remote-working team members are leveraging digital platforms more than ever in an effort to reinvent normality. With internet usage up 70% during the COVID-19 crisis this brings about a wealth of opportunity, but to stay ahead of the game you need the right gear to play.
While there are many complex, expensive solutions on the market there are also plenty of user-friendly, free-to-use applications that will deliver value and efficiency to your online operations. Here we share some of our favourite tools with a zero-cost pricing option—read on as we explore their free features and uncover how they can empower your business to thrive through the crisis:
1. HubSpot | Free CRM, calendar meetings and more:HubSpot offers a free version of it’s intuitive, award-winning platform to support the growth of any business. With access to all of HubSpot's free marketing, sales, customer service and contact management tools, you can kick-start your online sales and marketing strategies today:
- CRM for Sales
The cornerstone of your online sales and tracking. HubSpot's free CRM supports a database of up to 1,000,000 contacts and allows for up to 1,000 users. Connect with your prospects through HubSpot’s live-chat, free meeting scheduling and suite of email templates. Then monitor campaign effectiveness through email tracking and observe your team’s performance in the reporting dashboard (pipeline and deal stages) in real-time.
- CRM for Marketing
Marketing automation made simple. Attract qualified visitors through the free ad manager and grow your database with lead-capture tools such as customised form creation, integrated live chat and HubSpot’s chatbot builder. Create emails using the drag-and-drop editor, connect with your existing database by sending bulk emails and analyse performance/activity using the reporting tools.
With these features enabled, you can unite your Sales and Marketing teams (‘Smarketing’ as we like to call it) to maximise your marketing effectiveness. To get the most out of HubSpot free and fast-track your setup, check out our Fast-Track to Digital.
2. Zoom | Support your customers and engage your prospects, safely
60% of the Fortune 500 currently use Zoom as a conferencing platform and it’s clear why. After a prospect has booked a meeting through the HubSpot calendar you can effectively engage with them via a Zoom call and replicate the impact of a face-to-face meeting. In fact, a survey done by Lifesize found that a staggering 98% of respondents felt video conferencing improves relationships and connectedness, internally and externally.
Whether it’s for a group discussion or a one-on-one, online video meetings are essential to best convey the connection and tone lost through typed words. Zoom offers a free license to assist in breaking down these barriers between you and your contacts in a private and secure environment. The functionality is simple—generate a link through the app and invite your participants!
- HubSpot calendar Integration
- Hosting of up to 100 participants
- Unlimited meetings
- Group meetings up to 40 minutes
- Screen sharing ability
Another survey shows that 89% of respondents agree video conferencing reduces project completion time and 94% found an increase in productivity. Video meetings are a lifesaver for when you can’t meet face-to-face—just jump on a quick call with a colleague and share your screen so you can effectively collaborate on projects together.
With HD video/audio, whiteboarding and active speaker view, Zoom could provide you with the best alternative for in-person meetings with your customers and crew.
3. Slack | Stay productive and positive through the crisis
So by now you should have your CRM set up, marketing teams strategising, meetings being booked and sales working the pipeline. But how are you managing day-to-day communication within your organisation? Would you like to reduce your time spent on emails by one third? All of your internal comms and tools can be handled in one place. Slack is a timeless beauty that provides the productiveness of instant messaging in an enjoyable, online environment. Let’s have a look at the interface:
The left bar houses your custom-created channels—these allow for effective communication between members of a project, team, group or topic.
Below channels you will find direct messages. These are for conversations with individual team-members or quick group discussions that work much the same as Facebook Messenger. Team members can be called instantly with the phone icon in the top right-hand corner.
The top features of Slack Free include:
- Integration with HubSpot so you never miss a notification
- Unlimited channels and direct messages
- Video and audio calling between team members
- File sharing
- Supported connection of up to 10 apps such as Google Drive, Zoom and more
So whether you want to quickly share a file with a colleague, communicate instantly with your team to meet a project deadline, or create a poll to vote on when to have ‘Friday Frothies’, Slack has every aspect of internal communication covered. Join the 134,000+ companies currently using this platform to increase your team’s productivity today.
4. Hotjar | Your website traffic revealed
With your CRM and comms down pat, it’s now time to tackle your website's user experience. Now imagine online traffic is walking all over your website with invisible ink-covered shoes. Well, Hotjar is the UV light.
Research has shown that over 55% of visitors spend less than 15 seconds on a website. You have an extremely short window of time to engage, capture and lead your visitor to their goal before they bounce. If your users find your website’s layout confusing and can't find what they’re looking for, they’ll leave. This means your website needs to impose the most frictionless and fulfilling user experience possible.
This is all great in theory when constructing your initial site architecture and content, but how do you optimise and grow your website based on what your customers are experiencing? How do you understand what they’re seeing, what they’re reading or ignoring and where they’re clicking?
Technology like Hotjar is the key to these insights, providing a detailed analysis of what traffic is doing on your website without invasive measures. The free version of Hotjar collects data from up to 2,000 page views per day and captures:
- 300 screen recordings of website visitors
- 3 heatmaps of where visitors are scrolling, reading and ignoring
- Recorded screen captures of where users are clicking and exiting on pages
Take a look at an example heatmap below:
A website needs to be fluid, evolving with customers ever-changing needs and requirements. Heat mapping tools like Hotjar allow you to do just that—achieve your visitors’ goals by optimising your site using real data. For a more in-depth analysis of heat mapping benefits, examples and insights, check out this article.
5. Blogging | Make a (seemingly) daunting task easier
Marketers know the benefits of a captivating blog and often share a common goal: create awesome content that their audience loves to read and share. Through this, blogs attract new visitors and help convert those visitors into leads. In fact, 57% of marketers say they have acquired customers directly through blogging! A qualified prospect will have questions or request information regarding various topics relating to your industry, and blogging gives you the chance to answer these questions and position yourself as the thought-leader in your prospects’ minds. With 77% of internet users reading blogs regularly, this is an initiative you need to jump on if you aren’t actively blogging already.
Creating a blog can seem like a daunting process. How do I know what my customers are searching for? How do I write content relevant to them? What if they don’t read my content? Although there is no one specific ‘application’ to resolve these questions, the essential art of blogging can be streamlined with these useful tools:
- Answer The Public
answerthepublic.com provides insights into what questions people are searching on a specific topic. This fundamental tool provides the building-block for your blog posts. By creating awesome, relevant content targeted to these questions, you attract visitors to your website who become leads for you to nurture through their buyer journey.
Renowned for their captivating content tone and market-leading inbound engagement, HubSpot offers many free tips, posts and downloadable guides to get you started. See here “How to Start a Blog” and the downloadable 8-part blog planner. You can even download free blog templates here.
If you are still stuck or have an incurable case of writer's block, there’s always Copify. Although not free, Copify is a global network of professional writers who offer cost effective, great quality and quick to turn around content for as little as 8 cents per word.
How else it benefits your business: Through creating a blog section, you greatly increase your chances of generating new traffic to your site. In fact, research has found that websites with a blog tend to have 434% more indexed pages in search engines than websites without. Search engines love fresh, relevant content and with every blog you post you are effectively creating a new page for your website, increasing your chances of other websites linking to you or being shared on social media. With 88% of Australians using social media and the population homebound, the opportunity to capture leads through blogging has never been more attainable than ever before, having a profound impact on your search engine rankings. So get started, even if it’s just a little practice using LinkedIn articles!
This article lists 5 of our favourite free applications to best-support your business through these unstable times. In terms of rolling these out, I would recommend the following:
- Start with HubSpot: get your marketing and sales teams aligned, your contacts in one place and lead nurturing set up.
- Download and connect Zoom: ensure prospects booking meetings through HubSpot have a platform you can connect on.
- Download and connect Slack: leave no room for error. Perfect your internal communications to ensure nothing is missed.
- Implement Hotjar: place trackers throughout your website and start analysing traffic movements. Leave it to gather data for a couple of weeks and optimise accordingly.
- Start a blog section: Get blogging now! The sooner you start, the quicker you will see results.
And there you have it—five free applications and an action plan to help you spin a crisis in your favour. As always, the team as Salted Stone are ready to assist you wherever possible through your digital journey, so please don’t hesitate to reach out!
Take care and stay safe,