Looking at a customer relationship management (CRM) tool can be quite daunting. You have to figure out where your tools live, how your data is structured, and how you can organize it to report on your business metrics and overall goal. Regardless of the system, this can get overwhelming. 

Understanding the structure of one’s CRM allows you to optimize the tools within it and reach its potential as a single source for all of your teams. It should also validate your decision to purchase a CRM.

The HubSpot CRM is designed as a simplistic and easy-to-access system. After understanding its layout, businesses can collect, manage, and later visualize their data for better decision making. Moreover, the terms referenced here can help one understand how to optimize the relationship(s) you have between your HubSpot instance and other systems, to sync data in the best way possible. 

This can help with the central questions organizations face, such as:

  • What marketing channels are most accurate in depicting the customer journey (measured via number and quality of leads)? Nic Holland from HubSpot wrote more about that in this post.
  • What are the common characteristics of closed won deals and where are your points of friction? 
  • What are the most common issues your customers face and what feedback are they giving you about it?

Let’s first dive into HubSpot’s structure. 

HubSpot’s Data Schema

So, how is the HubSpot CRM built? Conceptually, a CRM tool is built around having objects, which consist of properties (also known as fields). You can find a list of glossary terms covered in this section here.

  • Objects are a group of field types, organized around a particular theme. The HubSpot CRM provides you with access to four default objects regardless of your tier —  Contacts, Companies, Deals, and Tickets. 
  • When using the custom report builder in HubSpot, Engagements (also known as activities), Feedback Submissions (only available with Service Hub Professional or Enterprise), and Products (only available with Sales Hub Professional or Enterprise) are classified as objects. However, each of these are associated with a default object as a dependency. Engagements can be associated with any one or multiple default objects, Products are associated with the deals object, and feedback submissions are associated with the contacts object. 
    List of objects that HubSpot organizes data by for reporting purposes.
  • Properties are the data field types that live within your specific objects. HubSpot provides you with a list of default properties under each default object, as well as the ability to create custom properties specific to the nuances of your business. At this time, you cannot create custom properties for Engagements, Feedback Submissions, or Products. 
  • Records are the instances of an object type a specific Contact, Company, Deal, or Ticket. As referenced in the knowledge article above, “Tom Smith” could be represented as a separate contact record in the CRM. He will have separate properties living within the contact’s object that relate to his specific record. 

An easy way to think about the relationship between the above terms is by comparing the CRM to an Excel spreadsheet. In an Excel spreadsheet, there are different sheets (or tabs at the bottom), column headers, and rows. The different sheets represent data at the object level. Every time you add a new contact, company, deal, or ticket to HubSpot, you are essentially creating a new record of information to that particular sheet. The details about that specific record are then stored in properties, which are the columns of the spreadsheet. 

A screenshot of objects within the HubSpot CRM and an Excel spreadsheet to show how the two are similar in format.

When diving further into properties, you may realize that properties can store various types of data, including numbers, options from a drop-down menu, a true/false checkbox, or even a HubSpot owner’s name. Depending on how you want your properties to be structured or show up in reporting, it’s important to understand HubSpot’s property types. This is especially important for your organization’s custom properties because you have the ability to visualize data, which allows you to make better decisions for your business. 

Before creating custom properties that fit the needs of your business, it’s important to note that HubSpot has default properties under each of the four objects. This can help you tack on relevant entries to form submissions to consolidate information or to note a certain event taking place. 

Custom properties, when created, sit under the object that is associated with them. This means that when considering automation to set a property value, or copy from one object onto another, it’s important to know where the initial property lives. 

Data Management

Once comprehending how HubSpot is structured, you can better understand how to collect, manage, and visualize your data. Collecting and consolidating data can take a few forms: 

  • Form submissions: Any question you ask on HubSpot-hosted forms whether it’s information included in our default properties or custom properties representing answers to questions asked on the form will be stored on that particular contact’s record.
  • Integrations: Contacts created through an integration are passed through the native system (or if it’s a custom API), and come into HubSpot. Their creation and interactions will appear on the contact record’s timeline. The integration’s complexity and nature will determine how much of that data is viewable and can be manipulated within HubSpot for further segmentation, automation, and use in reports.
  • Import files: Importing data means that this is a static update/creation of values onto properties. As a result, some data can be lost when you export it from the legacy system and into the new one, whether it’s HubSpot or any other system.  

Even though these actions are predominantly talking about affecting contact records, you can still do the same to other objects. HubSpot has tools where you can associate records from different objects together, create automation to copy properties from one object to another, and even import files to multiple objects simultaneously. This makes full use of all of the objects HubSpot has provided your business, and organizes your data in a conscious manner. 

Takeaways

Understanding how your data is classified into properties stored under certain objects can help mitigate bad practices to better manage your business’ data. Here’s how you can better manage your data, highlighting the tools available and where you would use them. 

More importantly, understanding how HubSpot is classified can help you and your organization in the long run. It allows you to visualize your data, which ultimately, spurs better decision making. If you integrate your HubSpot instance with other systems, think about the objects that data is coming into and how that will form in HubSpot. This will further enhance your data’s value to you, and it will also give you a better idea of how data moves back and forth within all the systems of your technology stack.

Originally published Jun 16, 2020 11:00:00 AM, updated June 16 2020