Hubspot CRM is often feels deceptively simple but is getting more powerful every year. It is the datastore that has powered the entire suite of HubSpot's extensive product range for many years. It holds and segments information for all parts of the buyers journey from visitors, interactions to customers and companies. It can power Inbound and ABM strategies and can exchange data with Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics CRM and many other platforms and tools through its extensive API and integrations marketplace. In short, it is very much at the core of Hubspots functionality. Without Hubspot CRM, none of its other products would be of much use. During Inbound 2020 Hubspot also announced a lot of new features for Hubspot CRM. One of them is the ability to create custom objects. This brings Hubspot CRM on the same level as many other paid CRM platforms in terms of customization possibilities making Hubspot more useful as a full end to end platform and making it easier to use it to replace other CRM products such as Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics CRM. This brings new opportunities to organizations that use Hubspot and a third party CRM system. Removing an additional CRM product from your product stack means a reduction in budget and and less integration headaches. The extra functionality in CRM can of course bring extra complexity and this makes it even more important that you manage your Hubspot CRM processes, data and segmentation correctly.
All data and segmentation in Hubspot CRM does need to be properly managed and maintained though. Unfortunately many Hubspot users miss the boat on managing their CRM database properly from the start. Many operations and maintenance tasks often get missed because it is hard to see the need when Hubspot is first used and the dataset is small. The value of maintaining your database and being consistent in approaching your dataset only becomes clear when you have enough data in your database and multiple reports and automation depending on it. At that stage it becomes harder to implement the maintenance tasks and procedures as there tends to be a lot of "mess" to clean up.
At About Inbound, we often get called in to help with Hubspot CRM operations tasks because CRM data becomes unmanageable or reporting becomes inconsistent. Often times our clients are unaware that they need to spend time on processes such as deduplication of records, data quality, documentation of properties or consistent segmentation. As a result these tasks that would have been fairly straight forward to implement at the beginning, can become huge and complex cleanup operations that many companies don't have the internal resources to complete. To help you understand the kind of maintenance and operations tasks that you should look at within your Hubspot CRM we have created a summary of the Hubspot CRM operations activities that are most often overlooked and give you some pointers on how to approach them.
This post is part of a series of articles we are writing about Marketing operations. Have a look at at Why we need marketing operations to achieve long term growth to understand why its important to focus on your marketing operations.
These are the types of data you will find in Hubspot CRM:
Hubspots’ CRM database consists of many different types of records that are all related to each other but at the base level there are only a few object types types which have many possible properties:
- Contacts records and their properties
- Company records and their properties
- Deal records and their properties
- Ticket records and their properties
- Dynamic and static Lists (Containers with contact records – also referred to as segments) and contact views
- During Inbound 2020, Hubspot released the agility to create your own custom objects and to use them for Automation and reporting too. This allows additional object types to fit your organizations unique needs.
The main marketing operations tasks that you should complete in Hubspot CRM:
There are 3 main types of CRM database tasks in Hubspot that are often overlooked:
1. Tasks that define your data types and uses
- e.g. maintaining custom properties and lists.
2. Tasks that define your data security.
- e.g. defining and maintaining the security of your contact records and their properties.
3. Tasks that set and document data types or processes
- e.g. executing maintenance tasks on a recurring schedule to ensure that the quality of the standards and data is maintained.
How to create and document your Hubspot CRM custom objects, properties and lists:
Hubspot provides logical and standardized naming conventions for all their out of the box contact records and properties and they are well documented in their Knowledgebase. This is also true for the default lists. This means that all the built-in functionality in Hubspot relating to these contact types properties and lists is well defined and covered.
Even though Hubspot provides a comfortable way to get you started with their CRM using its standard objects, much of the power of Hubspot CRM lies in the simple and quick ways to create customized objects (new since september 2020), properties and lists and to use these for automation tailored to your business needs. Many Hubspot users will customize Hubspot CRM with unique lists and properties to support their unique growth strategy. Almost every organization will have their own static and active (dynamic) lists to support their segmentation efforts. These lists then form the basis to apply automation to groups of database records. Lists can only be identified by name and stored in folders. They don’t contain comments fields:
This screenshot shows some of the standard lists as created automatically for the new Hubspot ABM features in 2020.
It is great to have this flexibility to customize but It’s very important to make sure that you use consistent naming for any custom properties and lists and that you remove any custom lists or properties that are no longer in active use. This keeps your lists view clean and your properties understandable. We recommend that you sit down with your team and make sure that you set standards for naming lists and properties and that you add clear the descriptions to properties if they are for specific uses. This could fall into your sales and marketing alignment activities for example.
For custom properties Hubspot does provide comments fields where descriptions can be added to each custom property that is created. We recommend that you store key information about Why, what for and by who it was created:
This screenshot shows basic property details shown for an out of the box Hubspot CRM property.
Custom objects and properties should only be created for global usage needs (don’t create a for any specific event if you can avoid it in any way). Objects define the core data types that you can store in your CRM. (An example of an object is the the Contact object) They are what defines the organization of your database at the highest level. It has only just been made possible to create custom objects this year (2020) so it is a very new feature in Hubspot CRM. Introducing a new Object introduces a new level of complexity. Properties also contain data and are associated with customer records so creating to many of these could inconstancies which can result in confusion and chaos. You should always verify whether there is an out of the box property that might suit your purpose first before thinking about creating a custom property. If you do create a custom property, you should write clear documentation about it and keep notes about its intended use available to anyone who might need to use it in future. It is important that there are clear guidelines on when a property should be created and what it should be used for.
The same goes for lists. They are often used as criteria for automation in Hubspot but they are not always needed. We see portals with hundreds of lists simply because it seemed easy to create lists for automation while there are other ways to accomplish the needed automation steps. In many cases the same goal can be achieved using an existing property from Hubspot CRM instead of creating a new list segment. Before creating a new list, you should always ask yourself. Is there an existing property value that I can use to qualify my records for this automation instead? If the list you are going to create, will be used for reporting, ask yourself if you can’t create a report without using the custom list.
For quick checks and visualization of groups of contacts, Hubspot provides an alternative to lists in Contact Views:
This screenshot shows the contacts view in Hubspot CRM. Filtered views can be used, created and saved straight from this view.
Filtered contacts views cannot be used for automation but you can use them to create reports. One big advantage of using contact views instead of lists for reports is that these filters are not applied to your contact records themselves. A contact will be a member of a list but a filtered view does not need membership. A practical advantage of using views for visualization and reporting is therefore that you don't pollute the contact record timelines with loads of unneeded list memberships.
How to clean up Hubspot CRM lists and deal with properties that are no longer of use:
Remember to set tasks to delete lists (or move them to an archive folder) when they are no longer needed. In many cases lists are created to support a campaign or automation for an event with a definite end date for instance. This means the list becomes obsolete as the automation or reports are no longer needed at some point after the campaign or event has ended.
If the list is not in active use, it’s time to delete or archive it to a separate folder so that it no longer appears between your active lists.
When you delete a list, all you do is remove a container. The contact records in that list will stay in your database so there is no risk of losing user data in this way.
Before removing a list, you should check that the list is not used as a target or source for any workflows or automated emails, because connected tools or reports will stop working If you delete the list (they will keep working if you move the list to a folder so that is always the saver option). Luckily Hubspot provides some information about this in the list of lists. Look towards the right of you lists to see if it is used anywhere. If it is you can click on the number to see details on what automation or reports might use this list:
For those of you that have found out the hard way that the lists in Hubspot have not been maintained and see lots of unused lists, Hubspot also provides a table of all lists that are not used in any automation and have not been updated in the last 2 months. This could be a good starting point to check for lists that may be obsolete. Be careful because some of these lists could be used by our colleagues for manual reporting etc. Always do a thorough investigation of its use before deleting a list!
A quick tip when you want to delete an active (dynamic) list but are not 100% sure If it’s still needed, is to take a snap shot of its filter criteria as that will allow you to recreate the list if it turns out it was still in use for something. For a static list this doesn't work as well as it is a snapshot of a point in time and therefore some of the records in it might no longer exist or new records might populate when you recreate it.
Why you need to clean up low quality and duplicate records in Hubspot CRM:
Let’s have a look at a very common mistake that many of us make when it comes to our CRM database records.
Here is something that many marketers think:
It’s great to have many contact records in our CRM database. It means that we have many leads on our hands and many of these should turn into customers and inevitably grow our revenue.
Unfortunately, this idea of having a giant database of contacts to generate business from is very much overrated. It doesn't matter what the amount of contacts is that you have managed to gather in your CRM. They are only useful if they represent people who you can provide value to, who are ready to receive your messages and who can be progressed to the point where they are interested in your companies services. It’s all about quality.
There are many processes that are defined in modern marketing methodologies such as inbound marketing to increase the quality of your leads. Many of these focus around how to qualify leads so you know if they are valuable and how to nurture them to help them progress towards your goal of selling to them when they are ready. They idea is to guide them on their why towards your service using automation based on funnels, flywheels or other strategies.
You are probably thinking “great! So why are you writing about this in a marketing operations tasks article?”
Well, even though many marketing teams have well developed lead generation tactics and lead scoring systems, the nature of modern marketing and it’s many conversion paths is that your database fills up with contacts from many different sources. There are offline sources such as lists from events or phone conversations with your sales reps that can generate contacts. Then you have all your different online sources, from social media to ad-campaigns, online events, blogging, email and video marketing. All of these lead generation activities can have different conversion points. There are chat-bots, CTA’s, video forms, landing pages, excel spreadsheets, etc., etc. The fact that your contact records can get created from all of these different sources means there are large margins for error that are hard to control when these records get created. This big variety in inputs inevitably means that your CRM database fills up with lots of low quality and duplicate contact records beside all the great leads your marketing sales and service teams generate.
There are 2 critical marketing operations tasks that you should implement to clean up these low quality contact records in Hubspot CRM..
How to deal with unengaged contacts in your Hubspot CRM:
A large part of the contact records that have filled up your CRM database over time will likely never progress through to sales. They might have gone through lead nurturing campaigns, but have never engaged with your brand again after that initial conversion where they entered your CRM database. The email address they provided might have contained a typo, or worse they were just interested in what they could get in return for their contact details and have filled out a bogus or incomplete address on purpose.
There are many systems that measure the quality of your contact and take its engagement into account. While unengaged contacts are mainly referred to in the case of email and grey listing, in reality the implications of having these contacts in your database are way more global. Your organization pays more in subscription costs as your contact database grows. You spend time and resources on these contacts in your automation only to end up causing possible damage to your brand. In short – you need to make sure to remove these unengaged low quality contact records from your active data. Hubspot has just published some content around email list quality. You can find it here: https://knowledge.hubspot.com/email/how-to-clean-up-your-contact-lists-to-improve-deliverability
Because every business model is different and every product or service can have a different buyers journey length, there is no one fits all process for cleaning up your contact records. There are many different criteria to take into account such as whether the contact is already a customer. At what point they may have stopped engaging with your content etc. We wrote an extended blogpost on how to deal with these low quality contact records that you can use to create a plan to fit your organizations specific needs: https://www.aboutinbound.com/blog/how-to-find-and-deal-with-unengaged-contacts-in-hubspot
How to clean-up Duplicate contact records in Hubspot CRM:
Another annoying but very important task in Hubspot CRM is to get rid of duplicate contacts. Duplicate contacts are the worst type of data to deal with. They are often partial records that need to be combined or records that have no use at all. They can be the result of automation errors or accidental duplicate imports of lists from offline sources. They often exist in large number and do absolutely nothing for your marketing pipeline.
Until this year (2020) it was very hard to remove or merge duplicate contact records in Hubspot CRM. You had export these lists, and then go through a tricky manual deletion process with a good bit of room for human error. Luckily Hubspot has recognized the importance of these clean-ups. They have now made it easier to get rid of duplicates for their professional and enterprise tier customers. There is a special tool to see duplicates since June 2020. We will write a full guide on this soon and will link it here. In the meantime, have a look at this Hubspot blog post to see how it works.
It is also possible merge individual records if you come across them during your marketing activities. Have a look at this post to see how that works.
We’d recommend that you set aside some resources on a regular basis to make sure that the amounts of duplicate contacts and unengaged contacts are kept to a minimum.
How to handle your Hubspot CRM data security and access control:
While are seeing an increased awareness of privacy and security implications within the Hubspot customer base, there still seem many that have not clearly defined security strategies when it comes to access to their Hubspot CRM data. The lack of consistent access control processes for Hubspot tools, exposes these organizations to big security and privacy risks. If an organization falls victim to a security breach that affects the private data of their contacts, the damage can instantly wipe out all the hard work to build a quality brand. It can wipe out revenue streams and result in large fines. I hope this helps you understand how important it is to have clear and consistent security and privacy strategy as part of Hubspot CRM operations tasks.
Good security is all about awareness, consistency in processes and clear responsibilities. Luckily, the basics of these processes doesn't have to be very complex. a few hours of your time is often enough to have a consistent security strategy planned out. The complexity comes with the size of your organization and the variety of staff that might need access to your database, so the longer you wait with implementing a coherent access control strategy, the harder with will get. This counts even more for implementing the strategy since you will have to work with different departments to divide responsibilities and get them to understand and mitigate the risks and you will need to run any such strategies by your organizations legal/hr department too.
The access control process needs to be understood by everyone within your team to work properly. It is super important then that you keep the basics simple and specific so that every person within your organization can understand how and why it is implemented and maintained. The strategy that we are going suggest here doesn't have to be limited to your Hubspot CRM. It can be applied to security of all your Hubspot tools.
To ensure that you have the basics covered we recommend that you take time to understand and define the following pillars:
1. Be aware of the default rights that any created user has to your Hubspot CRM records and the impact this has on the security of your contacts.
- Understand the default access rights a new user gets and avoid creating individual user rights.
2. Create pre defined user roles and teams to use as templates:
- Create templates for all your user roles and document them. Use teams in your user management to ringfence any access that they will have to Hubspot CRM client data. Always limit access as much as possible.
3. Define who will implement new access requests and who is responsible for providing approval:
- Create a process around creating new users and managing their access to Hubspot CRM features and Data. Define who needs to approve and implement these requests.
4. Communicate this processes to all members of your organization that deal with or are responsible for any CRM data:
- Document your approval and implementation process and share this with everyone that will work with the Hubspot tools, so that there can be no confusion about this process.
5. Define review periods and revoke times for access rights to your Hubspot CRM:
- Make sure you put a procedure in place for temporary or project accounts. Make an expiry data part of your approval process. Make sure that active users are reviewed so that only accounts of active users can access Hubspot CRM.
6. Enable Multifactor authentication for all your Hubspot CRM users:
- This is fairly simple to set up and document but ads an extra layer of security and data protection. Follow this guide to set it up.
Recap: Take these tasks into account when you are set up and maintain your Hubspot CRM Contact Database and lists:
- Remove unneeded and low quality contacts from your active database.
- Deal with unengaged contacts.
- Archive unneeded lists.
- Set naming conventions for properties and lists
- Find and address sources of low quality contacts.
- Create process for access to Hubspot CRM features and client data to control the security and privacy of your records
And most importantly... DOCUMENT and COMMUNICATE these procedures so that you can consistently and frequently keep things clean!
Need help with Hubspot CRM? Book in some time with us for a free chat!