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Setting Up Your HubSpot Free CRM - The Fundamentals

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HubSpot for StartupsHubSpot is one of the most popular tools for startups, and for good reason! Ease of use, fantastic pricing, and a product that grows as you grow are just a few of the benefits. While HubSpot is incredibly easy to get started with, we've seen some common mistakes made by early-stage companies that get started on their own. Read on to learn how to avoid them!

Fundamental HubSpot CRM Fields

Just because HubSpot CRM is free, doesn't mean it's not a CRM implementation. Take time to think through the flow of your marketing and sales process, and map it out before you start building fields and deal stages. This will save you a LOT of time (and therefore money) in the long run. 

Start with the basics. Here are some thought starters and the fields/data elements they affect.

LifeCycle Stage 

LifeCycle Stage is an unchangable HubSpot property. Used properly and paired with Lead Status and Deal Stages, it is a reliable way to keep your database in usable segments.  IYou'll notice that if you have HubSpot email tools turned on, everyone gets in your database which can be good and bad. If you take the time to keep these lifecycle stages clean, you can easily create actions to affect just the right group. If you don't pay attention, this can create a real mess. Here are the stages and the way HubSpot defines them.

Many startups hear these terms thrown around and may get confused by the nomenclature. It doesn't really matter how your peers use these words as long as YOU know what they represent. 

Common SaaS usage:

Subscriber - An email address that is either going to be prospected to, or is ONLY an email address (eg; blog subscriber). 

Lead - An in-process prospect, or someone who has filled out a form that is not "contact us" or "request a demo" or similar. I would also put Closed Lost and dead deals here so that you remarket to them.

Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) - A person with some intent. A) Someone who has requested contact from a "contact us" or "request a demo". B) Multiple interactions, or interactions which indicate real interest (eg; a chat on a pricing page). Usually identified by lead scoring. C) Has completed fields which indicate this is an ideal target. For example qualifying question fields show they are the right kind of role in the right kind of business and have an interest in evaluating your technology.

Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) - Sales has "accepted" this lead. Usually means has looked it over and agreed it's the kind of person they'd want to (and will!) call. Many companies skip this step, but don't. The ratio of MQLs that do not become SQLs is a great indication of your lead quality/scoring/nurturing effectiveness.

Opportunity - A real deal. If you create a Deal in HubSpot, the automation will automatically set the LifeCycle stage to Opportunity. 

Customer - A real paying customer. 

Evangelist - Hopefully very happy customers, or other advocates of your business.

Other - Everyone else. Including your team, your partners, suppliers etc. 

Lead Status

Together with LifeCycle Stage, this keeps your database straight in terms of who you should do what to. For example: Emailing contacts who are a LifeCycle Stage Lead and Lead Status Unqualified won't be very effective. But Contacts in Lead with Lead Status of Bad Timing will benefit from regular (but not excessive) communication.

Too many Lead Status choices will result in poor usage and dirty data. My very favorite adage "as many as necessary, and as few as possible" is a good rule of thumb.

The default options are:  NewOpenIn ProgressOpen DealUnqualifiedAttempted to ContactConnected, and Bad Timing,  Some more suggestions:

  • New or Untouched
  • Attempting to contact
  • Contacted - No interest
  • Contacted - Disqualified (I'd add a dependent field for disqualifying reason rather than a bunch of lead statuses)
  • Contacted - Bad Timing
  • Unable to Contact (make sure this doesn't get abused... require multiple/many attempts!)
  • Opportunity
  • Went Dark

Make sure your team understands exactly what is expected at each stage, and document it.

For example: if a record is Lead Status New a rep is expected to contact them by phone and email within 15 minutes. At that point it is put in Attempting to Contact, where it will remain for 5 phone and 5 email attempts. If after that no contact is made, it is put in Unable to Contact. In this example, you may suspend other marketing emails during the Attempting phase, and start up a whole new nurturing sequence after it reaches Unable to Contact. 

Deal Stage

Most SaaS companies consider something a Deal when it meets certain qualification criteria. There are a lot of ways to define that, such as BANT, CHAMP and many other crazy acronyms. Again, it doesn't really matter as long as they are followed consistently. Once something is created as a Deal, it has another set of stages.

HubSpot's defaults for these are:

  • Appointment scheduled (20%)
  • Qualified to buy (40%)
  • Presentation scheduled (60%)
  • Decision maker bought-in (80%)
  • Contract sent (90%)
  • Closed won (100% Won
  • Closed lost (0% Lost)

These are the ones that are most important to match to YOUR sales process. It is better to be very clear/restrictive in what moves forward rather than loosy goosy. Your CFO and Board will be impressed if you have a forecast that matches your actual results, and not so much if your forecast is 5x your results, which frankly is much more common for startups.  To build a reliable, forecast-able pipeline, make sure they meet these criteria:

1) It has a CLEAR and OBJECTIVE exit criteria to go to the next stage. Meaning there can be "proof." For example, if Demo Scheduled is a Deal Stage, there better be a date for that demo, otherwise it's a pipe dream! The rep "hopes" to schedule a demo. That will not do your forecast any good.  If you buy the right HubSpot version, you can actually require fields to be filled out to make sure this happens.

2) It is aligned with the BUYERS stage, not just yours. If the buyer has not explicitly accepted/expected the next step, it doesn't go there. Your rep can't just say "I'll send you a proposal" and have it be in Proposal stage. You will be disappointed then by the ratios of those deals that move to the next stage. 

Getting a good start with these fundamental fields will be a great first step in setting up your HubSpot free CRM!

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