How to Make the Most of HubSpot Lifecycle Stages

Stephanie Lehuger
Stephanie Lehuger
Apr 21, 2021 · 6 min read

HubSpot comes with eight default lifestyle stages. Learn how to leverage these stages to strengthen your marketing and sales efforts and help your business grow.

Creating a well-defined sales funnel is essential to any business. Without one, it can be difficult to move your leads through the pipeline, close deals, and identify where changes are needed to improve your sales and marketing processes. An optimized sales funnel can also help you build better, longer-lasting relationships with both leads and customers by empowering you to personalize your promotional communications every step of the way.

Many businesses find that the best way to track potential customers (as well as actual customers) as they travel through their sales funnel is to use a CRM solution like HubSpot. Doing so lets you provide each customer with a consistent, seamless experience as they move from awareness through conversion and, hopefully, all the way to loyalty and advocacy.

Of course, using HubSpot effectively is easier said than done. The good news is that you don’t need to start from scratch. Businesses can (and should) use HubSpot’s default lifecycle stages in support of a variety of critical sales and marketing activities. Keep reading to get an overview of the HubSpot pipeline lifecycle stages, as well as several tips for using HubSpot lifecycle stages to level-up your sales and marketing efforts. Here’s what you can expect to be covered:

Part 1: What do the lifecycle stages mean in HubSpot?

  • Subscribers
  • Leads
  • MQLs
  • SQLs
  • Opportunities
  • Customers
  • Evangelists
  • Other

Part 2: 4 ways to make the most of your HubSpot lifecycle stages

  • Be strategic about how you define each stage
  • Integrate lifecycle stages into your HubSpot workflows
  • Use lifecycle stages to inform content mapping and personalization initiatives
  • Build custom reports based on HubSpot lifecycle stages and data from other sources with a platform like Actiondesk

What do the lifecycle stages mean in HubSpot?

HubSpot comes with eight default lifecycle stages. Also called HubSpot pipeline stages, these stages serve as a way to categorize all the contacts in your CRM solution. More specifically, they help you pinpoint each contact’s position in the marketing and sales cycle — a critical step since, according to marketing guru Neil Patel, around 96% of the prospects that land on your website aren’t actually ready to make a purchase. This gives you the ability to target prospects with the right content and marketing collateral and ensures you don’t try to close too early and risk losing a potential sale.

The eight HubSpot lifecycle stages are:

  • Subscriber: Subscribers are contacts who know about your business and have opted in to hear more about it by signing up to receive general content like a blog feed or newsletter.
  • Lead: Leads are contacts who have demonstrated interest beyond signing up for your general content, perhaps by pursuing a specific content offer from your business.
  • MQL: MQLs are contacts who have directly engaged with your marketing efforts, but aren’t ready for a sales call just yet. For example, a MQL might be someone who filled out a specific form in a marketing campaign.
  • SQL: SQLs are contacts who have indicated that they’re ready for a direct follow-up from your sales team. For example, a SQL may have submitted a question about your product through a contact form.
  • Opportunity: Opportunities are contacts that have been analyzed and seem like they have real sales potential.
  • Customer: Customers are contacts who have closed a deal.
  • Evangelist: Evangelists are customers who love your business so much that they advocate for it.
  • Other: This is an unspecific classification for contacts who don’t fit into any of the other default lifecycle stages.

These eight stages are not customizable. There is a way to create a custom property that is not tied to any particular lifecycle stage, but many businesses can get a great deal of value out of these default stages without having to create a mess of custom properties. (Below, we’ll cover a highly customizable solution that enables you to, among other things, create a fully automated sales rep dashboard.)

It’s also worth noting that HubSpot lifecycle stages are not the same as HubSpot lead statuses. In fact, the platform’s lead statuses (New, Open, In Progress, Open Deal, Unqualified, Attempted to Contact, Connected, and Bad Timing) all exist within the SQL lifecycle stage.

4 ways to make the most of your HubSpot lifecycle stages

Now that you understand what each HubSpot lifecycle stage means, here are some tips on how to leverage them to the greatest effect in your sales and marketing efforts.

1. Be strategic about how you define each stage

While you may not be able to customize HubSpot’s lifecycle stages (again, stay tuned for a discussion of a solution that IS highly customizable), you do have the power to determine what kinds of events or contact actions fall into each stage. After all, not every person who fills out a form will turn into a quality lead, so you need a way to strategically sort contacts. Good questions to ask as you’re defining each stage include:

  • What do people in this stage do? Where did they come from?
  • What differentiates this stage from the previous or next one?
  • What’s the criteria for this stage? What’s the goal of this stage?

By taking time to clearly define what actions or events are sorted in which lifecycle stages, you can avoid the perils of sloppy stage management. These perils include sending contacts sales or marketing content that doesn’t fit their actual position in the buyer’s journey and complicating the handoff from marketing to sales teams.

2. Integrate lifecycle stages into your HubSpot workflows

Updating your contacts’ lifecycle stages manually is nearly impossible at scale. Fortunately, you can easily avoid that hassle by leveraging HubSpot workflows to automatically track and update lifecycle stages for your contacts.

Integrating workflows with lifecycle stages has several other benefits as well. It can help you forecast how many contacts you’ll have at different stages in the future. It can also simplify your marketing process by automatically delivering specific content or marketing collateral when a contact reaches a certain lifecycle stage. It can even trigger alerts if there’s an issue with a contact so a relevant staff member can touch base with them.

3. Use lifecycle stages to inform content mapping and personalization initiatives

Content mapping consists of making a plan for your content and marketing collateral that will help you deliver the right content to the right person at the right time. It’s an essential part of any successful marketing and sales strategy. In short, you need to provide each of your contacts with content that will nurture their relationship with your brand and move them through the HubSpot pipeline, bringing them closer to becoming a customer.

By integrating well-defined lifecycle stages into your content mapping and personalization initiatives, you can zero in on specific segments of your audience and tailor content to resonate with each segment. For example, your content map might specify that you send blogs, whitepapers, or webinars to contacts in the earlier lifecycle stages, while you send free samples, case studies, or even coupons to contacts in the later stages.

4. Build custom reports based on HubSpot lifecycle stages (and data from other sources) with a platform like Actiondesk

Tracking and understanding your contacts’ behavior at each lifecycle stage is critical to your success as a business. While HubSpot has a variety of great features that make it a powerful CRM, it often falls short when it comes to reporting.

For example, HubSpot does not let you sync similar data points if one is a dropdown property and the other is a single-text field. This becomes a serious problem when it comes to managing and reporting on things like your contacts’ country data. While you might know some of your contacts’ countries based on a form they filled out on your website, you probably know others’ countries based on the domain of their work email. In the former case, HubSpot will display those contacts’ countries as selections from a predefined dropdown menu (since that is how most forms are built). In the latter case, HubSpot will display those contacts’ countries as a simple text field.

Frustratingly, because these two options are not the same property type, you will be unable to standardize your country data across your CRM. This makes it challenging to create a list of contacts from a specific country — let alone keep it up to date. The easiest way to do so is to export your data to another platform, clean it, then import it back into HubSpot, which obviously hardly qualifies as “easy.”

Such impediments to streamlined, customizable reporting are why businesses that are looking to turn well-defined lifecycle stages into genuine business insights should consider an analysis and data visualization tool like Actiondesk.

Actiondesk combines the power of a BI tool with the simplicity of a spreadsheet, giving you a comprehensive view of your sales pipeline. The tool makes it easy to create custom reports that integrate data from multiple sources, including HubSpot, SQL, Airtable, Intercom, Stripe, and more. Build customized dashboards with just a few clicks and watch your data update automatically — say goodbye to time-consuming CSV exports! You can even create custom funnel reports to help you understand your sales funnel in a new light.

Ultimately, HubSpot’s lifecycle stages amount to a powerful tool for organizing your sales pipeline, but Actiondesk is the tool you need to actually understand and improve it. Try Actiondesk for free today to learn how the solution can help you optimize your sales pipeline!

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