Hubspot Lifecycle Stages 101

Matthew Deal

Hubspot lifecycle stages are a way to organize your contacts.

Organization and collaboration are two critical components to keeping up with the competition in today's ever-changing business world. For instance, you might be receiving qualified leads from your website and marketing efforts. However, if your sales team only tracks deals they have landed or connected with, other leads will go unnoticed.

Imagine if your sales and marketing teams could work together and weed out unqualified leads. It will be much better for business as it will keep your pipeline full, right?

Exactly.

Tracking your prospects is essential to a successful campaign. That's where using HubSpot's Lifecycle Stages proves quite valuable. HubSpot's Lifecycle Stages show you where your customers are in the buying process so that your team doesn't let anyone slip through the cracks.

HubSpot and Lifecycle Stages

Lifecycle stages are a progressive series of stages through which something grows or develops. In business and marketing, a Lifecycle typically refers to buyers. When buyers become more aware of and interested in your product or service, they progress through different stages. After all, the concept is that one should constantly be advancing!

Hubspot's Lifecycle Stage, specifically, is at the core of HubSpot's philosophy and ideas behind inbound marketing and HubSpot's unique approach to converting strangers into customers. The goal is to help businesses categorize their contacts, leads, and customers to better plan their marketing and sales strategies.

Hubspot won't let you adjust the default properties of the lifecycle stage field.

Hubspot won't let you adjust the default properties of the lifecycle stage field.

Lifecycle Stage is a unique HubSpot field in that it is not like other HubSpot fields for two reasons.

First, the field is set up to push contacts forward through lifecycle stages, but not backward. In other words, setting or adjusting this property in a workflow requires that you manually clear the property and reset it. This isn’t the typical behavior of most dropdown select Hubspot fields.

Wherever someone enters the company or contact is where it will stay. For instance, even if you use a workflow to set the Lifecycle stage, Hubspot will not downgrade a person's status by default. And if you import the contact without a Lifecycle Stage, it will remain blank until someone adds a value or something happens, such as when a contact completes a specific task.

Second, the field isn’t editable in Hubspot—meaning you’ll need to create an entirely new field if you want to change those values, you’ll need to create an entirely new field that functions similarly.

When it comes down to it, HubSpot Lifecycle Stages fall into three different categories: Visitors, Leads, and Customers. Each stage has its unique characteristics and triggers. It's important to remember that the Lifecycle stages might not follow each other in the sales funnel. It is not likely that every contact will become a lead, MQL, SQL, and finally, a customer.

However, it's essential to know what each stage represents.

Lifecycle Stages are Different for Each Organization

One aspect of Hubspot lifecycle stages to consider is that they are different for each organization. Hubspot won’t allow you to edit or alter the behavior of the default lifecycle stage property, but defining what those values mean is slightly different between organizations.

Lifecycle stage setups are unique to every organization.

Lifecycle stage setups are unique to every organization.

Deciding on which forms will trigger and assign what life cycle stage is specific to each organization. Defining what makes a marketing qualified lead versus a sales qualified lead is different for every Hubspot account.

One aspect to consider is that this concept of lifecycle stages is specific to Hubspot, but many organizations simply create a new custom field (typically a dropdown select) and effectively create their own system for organizing leads.

Subscribers

The first step in applying lifecycle stages in Hubspot is to, well, get contacts. If your marketing strategy is rooted inbound marketing, you’ll likely focus on be focusing on producing leads from your website or digital properties.

While a subscriber is someone who has visited your website or blog and chooses to receive your content, to even classify someone as a “subscriber” means you’ll need to get your visitors to convert (e.g. fill out a form) on something. That conversion could be anything from subscribing to your blog, downloading a white paper, or filling out a contact form.

And since most subscribers will probably not turn into customers, your brand needs to position itself as an authority/trusted partner and gain your subscriber's trust. You want your subscriber to convert to the next stage.

Subscribers have merely indicated that they want to receive and consume your content, but that isn’t the same as them saying “I want to do business with you.”

In an ideal work, some subscribers will eventually move out of that lead stage and eventually become leads.

Lead

A "lead" is a broad term that many organizations use interchangeably to describe a prospect or potential customer. Essentially, leads are the contacts in your system but have the lowest level of engagement with your brand. A lead is someone interested in your company or product and has taken an action (e.g. a “conversion”). Once a lead has converted, they enter HubSpot's CRM and this, effectively, begins the sales process (in a way that doesn’t happen per se with only subscribers).

You do not necessarily need to engage with every lead in the same way. For instance, you can choose whom you would like to stay within your CRM but not receive your emails (because email requires permission to email).

Leads, as conceptualized by Hubspot, are the lowest lifecycle stage that describes someone as potentially becoming a customer. While typically this is related to a form submission, this could also be because of other data-driven factors (such as lead scoring) that would allow you to identify potentially good leads.

Thinking about lifecycle stages as a funnel, your goal is always to advanced contacts down the customer lifecycle path. Thus the goal with lead is to transform them into marketing qualified leads.

Marketing qualified leads should be passed on to sales once they become recognized, and sales qualified leads are those who have progressed through a sales cycle.

MQLs and SQLS are both trying to earn the most money for the company. SQLs will achieve this more quickly than MQLs, however.

Once you have moved your leads to an MQL or SQL, the real work begins.

Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)

MQLs are a great way to gauge whether or not your marketing campaigns are working and if people are engaging with your brand.

MQLs are not necessarily always ready to have a conversation with a salesperson. Perhaps the MQL is someone who has downloaded a whitepaper or inbound guide. It may mean they did so because they wanted the content, not necessarily to talk to a salesperson.

Marketing qualified leads may not be ready to talk to the sales team.

Marketing qualified leads may not be ready to talk to the sales team.

Generally, MQLs should be passed on to sales to begin the qualification process once identified. Still, a successful sales funnel relies on marketing and sales working together to make that determination.

Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)

A sales-qualified lead is a contact that’s ready to talk to the sales team. The marketing team produces these leads, and “hands them off” to sales.

This can be determined when the lead has answered a certain number of questions or filled out a form indicating they are interested in your product or service.

Sales qualified leads work better with tightly integrated sales and marketing teams.

For example, this may be someone who has filled out your "Contact Us" form, or maybe it's someone who has called a sales number and left a voicemail that they are interested in hearing about prices. They want to talk to a human being.

Once ready, sales can begin converting them into customers.

Opportunity

Within HubSpot, you have deals or potential deals with which your organization is associated. MQLs become SQLs, and then eventually Opportunities when they meet specific criteria set by your sales team.

This means there's a deal on the books. If you record this in Hubspot, this change will happen automatically with contacts.

An Opportunity can be won, lost, or stalled, and it's essential to keep track of where each one stands to make the most of your chances.

Lifecycle Stage vs. Lead Status in HubSpot

A Lifecycle stage is a broad categorization of leads based on their engagement with your company. The Lifecycle stage refers to where a lead is in the buying process. Conversely, Lead Status reflects what has happened with that lead. It can be one of five statuses: New, Open, In Progress, Open Deal, Unqualified, Attempted to Contact, Connected, and Bad Timing.

Each status captures the necessary actions sales reps take with leads to move them through the funnel.

Customers

When a business Opportunity becomes a paying customer, they enter the Customer stage of the HubSpot Sales Lifecycle. Customers are people with whom you've closed business. This essentially means that they bought something from your company.

In this stage, your goal is to keep them happy and engaged. You want your customers to promote your brand. You want them to continue to purchase your product or service. And you want to know this because it is helpful information. After all, you do not want to bombard your customers with emails or exclude them from specific promotions.

You can do a few things to keep your customers pleased and engaged. For example, keep them updated on their account or purchase status. Thank them for their business, and perhaps inquire about their thoughts and reviews. If they require assistance, offer customer service.

Evangelist

The final stage of the HubSpot Sales Lifecycle is Evangelist. This is when a customer becomes an advocate for your business, and their networks help generate additional leads.

You must give excellent customer service and continue to wow customers for them to become evangelists. This implies going above and beyond what is required, delivering valuable information or content, and being readily reachable.

Others

Others are those who don't fit within any of these categories. They could be people who are not yet customers, or they could be evangelists for your company.

You need to keep them in mind as you create content and marketing plans. Your goal is to make sure that you're reaching everyone who might be interested in what you have to offer.

You also don't want to neglect those who are already customers or evangelists; they can be some of your most valuable advocates.

Think about all the different types of people who might interact with your company, and make sure you cater to their needs. That way, you can ensure that you're making the most out of every opportunity.

The goal is to create a HubSpot Lifecycle that works for your business and helps you achieve your goals. If you're unsure which HubSpot Lifecycle stage to use, start with the basics and add on. You can always adjust as you go. The most important thing is getting started and seeing what works for you.

Keeping Contacts Tidy

Lifecycle stages are just a framework for introducing something that every Hubspot account needs: organization. By using a single field to describe where a contact (or company) is in their buyer’s journey—you can coordinate how contacts are interacted with across your organization.

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