How to Get the Most Out of HubSpot Contacts for Small Businesses: Balancing CRM with Marketing

HubSpot offers a free CRM with unlimited contacts. However, when you move your CRM contacts over to HubSpot’s Marketing platform, you have to pay for the contacts. This means that you could have 14,000 CRM contacts, and 200 marketing contacts (people you are actively marketing to) and you’d have to pay for the 14,000 contacts… that is until we figured out the steps to get around this. This blog post comes from Salvatore Salpietro, one of our clients at ISEBOX.


I’m the CTO and VP of Product for ISEBOX, a platform that I helped start. It’s been bootstrapped since Day One. My job is three-fold:

  1.   Build a platform in line with client needs.
  2.   Find and implement tools to help our team do their job.
  3.   Drive down costs across our technology stack while increasing efficiency.

 I failed at the third while trying to do the second by not organizing my contacts effectively in HubSpot.

Don’t get us wrong! We love HubSpot, the simplicity, features, and methodology. We’ve been moving toward their “inbound method” for the last 6 months or so. Even more, we loved how easy it was to get started. We were burned out on the cost and complexity of Salesforce. It was too much for a small company like ours. Even worse, Salesforce customer service is horrible when you need to end your license – which is a different blog article, but sets the stage for my frustration.

Contacts: HubSpot CRM vs. Marketing

HubSpot CRM is fantastic, powerful, and 100% free. Yes, you can load up as many contacts as you would like! Hundreds, thousands, even tens of thousands, which is where we ended up. Why? Because we were still transitioning from old sales practices, such as scraping for contacts unfamiliar with us, adding them as contacts, and putting them into email campaigns. We ended up with about 14,000 contacts, including past clients, present clients, leads, people we met at events and conferences, and maybe even vendors. 

However, while Hubspot CRM is free for unlimited contacts, the moment you upgrade to HubSpot Marketing you are charged for contacts. Realistically, we realized with our enormous contact list that we probably don’t want to market to most of them. Actually, we only want to market to a few hundred of them. After a few weeks of usage, I was shocked to check the Account tab and see “14,007 of 100 contacts used. Your plan will be adjusted next billing period.” HubSpot Marketing’s base plan allows for 100 contacts and then $100 per 1,000 after that. Plus, the base fee. 

The Problem

Whatever contacts you have in HubSpot CRM are the contacts used for HubSpot Marketing. You cannot have 5,000 contacts in the CRM and 200 in Marketing. The contacts in each HubSpot platform are not different. Rather, the contacts are treated differently in each. Yet, with the pricing structure, once you upgrade to HubSpot Marketing, having unlimited contacts in HubSpot CRM is no longer free.

In our experience, we wanted to keep our list of contacts, but we didn’t want ALL contacts to move over to Marketing, just the ones we actually wanted to market to. So, we were going to be paying $100 for each 1,000 contacts in our CRM, plus the HubSpot Marketing base license fees. Unfortunately, this was not in our budget and at this point, we had already signed our annual contract.

The Solution

 Finding this solution took some time but after some deep investigating, we determined that you would need to have two accounts, one free (the CRM), and one paid (the Marketing).

Step-by-Step to Organize Your Two Accounts:

  1. Create a new HubSpot CRM account: You’ll have to do this here, and you’ll have to use an email address that isn’t in their system already. This can be something like or Forwarding addresses work fine.

For example, for us we chose Number of Form Submissions great than zero, and Number of Associated Deals greater than zero. This meant that we are keeping anything inbound (filled out a form) or has, or had, a deal associated with it. Everything else, we didn’t want to keep in this CRM because those that didn’t meet these criteria weren’t valuable enough.

  1. Create a new list that includes everyone not on the “Keepers list”: You might need to read that twice. We need a new list, called let’s say Trash, that has one criteria: Include everyone not in ‘Contacts To Keep’. The result will be a list that is your total number of contacts minus the number of contacts in the Contacts To Keep list.

The Downside

Unfortunately when you export everything in HubSpot – Deals, Companies, and Contacts – you cannot export history, notes, and tasks, so Marketing and Sales don’t merge and seamlessly as one would want. 

Some tips to keep in mind:

  • Comb through your email (likely Deleted items) for Task Reminders. You can use these to add the tasks that are now missing from your new, free, CRM.
  • Make sure you move your Sales Pro team members, if you have any, to the new account with the surplus of contacts if that is where they want to be. Your sales team members that are still following a legacy approach will probably want this.
  • Keep in mind that the two accounts are unlinked. This is good because it keeps one account clean, your Marketing one. Also, good because you can separately measure inbound and marketing efforts and traditional sales efforts. Bad because you have to manually merge data manually if you want an overall picture.


 If you are dedicated to the inbound methodology, it’s worth the trouble to separate HubSpot Marketing from HubSpot Sales for your internal organization and your budget. Use the steps listed above to organize and separate your contact lists, specifically for marketing purposes when moving over to HubSpot Marketing.