Whether you’ve consciously defined them or not, your contacts, leads, and customers have unique stages they progress through before making a purchase. The actions taken — like filling out a form or starting a conversation with your live chat — and length of the stage will vary greatly depending on your industry, products and services, buyer personas, and more.
HubSpot refers to the steps in this process as lifecycle stages. And as a key player in the marketing software game, we trust HubSpot to know what they’re talking about.
In fact, many of HubSpot’s reports are based on the Lifecycle Stage property.
Here at Horseshoe + Co, we’ve worked with dozens of businesses from many different industries to help them implement and optimize their HubSpot portals. We hear some of the same questions when it comes to these lifecycle stages:
“What’s the difference between a lead and a marketing qualified lead?”
“Aren’t contacts just customers and not-yet customers?”
“What do lifecycle stages do? What’s the benefit of using them?”
So buckle in. We’ll address each of these common questions (and more!).
To properly categorize your contacts, leads, and customers — and move them through the funnel — it’s imperative to know the difference between each stage, and more importantly, what triggers a move from one stage to the other.
Below you’ll learn how HubSpot defines lifecycle stages. Later, we’ll get into how to customize each lifecycle stage.
To simplify the way you use lifecycle stages, we’ve divided them into three main categories: visitors, leads, and customers.
Subscriber: contacts who know of your business and have opted in to hear more from your team. These are likely visitors that have signed up for your blog or newsletter.
Lead: contacts who have shown sales-readiness beyond being a subscriber. An example of a lead is a contact who signs up for a content offer from your business.
Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL): contacts who have engaged with the team's marketing efforts, but are still not ready to receive a sales call. An example of a MQL is a contact who fills out a specific form in a marketing campaign.
Sales Qualified Lead (SQL): contacts who have indicated through their actions that they are ready for a direct sales follow-up. An example of a SQL is a contact who submits a question about your product through a contact form.
Opportunity: contacts with real sales potential.
Customer: contacts with closed deals.
Evangelist: customers who advocate for your business and whose networks may be leveraged for further leads.
Other: a wildcard stage that can be used when a contact does not fit any of the above stages.
Now that you have a clearer idea of how a contact can be categorized into lifecycle stages, let’s talk about variations — sometimes the stages your customers go through might not necessarily fit Hubspot’s default lifecycle stages definitions.
Maybe you’re a B2C company that sells handmade necklaces. Your marketing qualified leads might not go through the SQL stage because they won’t necessarily need a sales follow-up.
Instead, a lead fills out and responds to a specific marketing campaign form turning them into an MQL — the next stage that they go through before becoming a customer might be visiting the Reviews section of your page to help them finally make a decision to click the Order Now button. They’ve skipped the SQL and Opportunity stages. What can you do in this case?
Be mindful of the lifecycle stage you assign to contact imports. Sometimes you might have varying types of lifecycle stages in one spreadsheet. For example, if you met 50 people at a trade show, are all 50 of them in the same consideration stage of the buyer’s journey? Not necessarily.
Leverage the hidden form field feature. This means that when someone fills out a key form on your website (like a demo form), you can automatically assign a stage to that lead — no workflows required.
Here’s how to do it:
In your HubSpot account, navigate to Marketing > Lead Capture > Forms.
In the form editor, hover over a form field and click the pencil icon to edit.
In the left pane, select the Make this field hidden checkbox.
Next, specify the value to pass into the property on the contact record when the form is submitted. This varies depending on the property field type:
Date picker/Number/Single-line text/Multi-line text: enter the value in the Default value text field.
Dropdown select/Multiple checkboxes/Radio select: select the value from Field options.
Single checkbox: click to toggle the Select checkbox by default checkbox on.
Know that, by default, if someone fills out a non-HubSpot form on your website, they’ll get tracked as a lead in HubSpot. You’ll need a hidden form field or workflow to override it.
5. Finally, click Publish.
Using HubSpot’s Lifecycle Stages properly will help with segmentation, personalization, reporting, and overall optimization of your investment.
Understanding of Hubspot’s Lifecycle Stages helps identify where leads and customers are in your sales process. This allows you to make accurate decisions and helps your contacts move down the funnel by receiving the right information at the right time.
Want to connect with others on HubSpot tips, tricks, and updates? Head over to the HubSpot Community to join a conversation or start one of your own.
Originally published Mar 10, 2020 9:00:00 AM, updated March 10 2020