Video: How to Choose Between Active and Static Lists in HubSpot

Matthew Deal

In this video, we cover the ins-and-outs of when to choose active versus static lists in HubSpot. The full transcript is below for those that like to read.


Today, we're going to dive into lists. The idea with lists is that these essentially become the core of how you manage your contacts in HubSpot. We get a lot of questions about in what situations you should use a smart list, right? Or in what situations should you use an active list versus a static list, but really these things are the core of what matters in terms of making for effective marketing.

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Hey everyone, thanks for joining me for another HubSpot tutorial. First and foremost, thank you so much for the continued support as I experiment and put these out. It's my goal, hopefully that this is useful information to somebody, especially if you work on a tactical level, but there's also informing in terms of relevance for somebody who might be at the director level or C-suite to get more context about what's happening in HubSpot. So you can make better decisions about your data and your marketing, your DemandGen ops, and things like that.

If you haven't already please like, subscribe, please visit the website. We've got a couple of new guides this month that are great examples of how to leverage marketing automation for your organization. And definitely a good jumping-off point for learning more about how to leverage the existing software you already have, or telling you more about how people who don't happen to have HubSpot, how you can dig into those details a little bit better.

My Approach to HubSpot Lists

So when it comes to lists, the way that I approach it is I like to think about these in terms of groups of people that I want to group together. And I think the grouping mechanism is how most people tend to view that, rather than getting lost in the minutiae of who belongs on what lists. I'm going to tell you right now, every HubSpot account I've ever looked at has ended up with hundreds, if not thousands of lists over time. And that's because they are designed to be flexible. So there will be lists that become core portions of your marketing program that you will stick with, and you will continue to reuse.

And there are lists that you will use one time, one afternoon, to be able to either assist with an email send or an ad campaign or to be able to target through text, whatever method, it doesn't matter.

But the point is is that unlike forms, which is a separate topic, because it's something structural to own media, lists are fine. Nobody outside of your organization is going to know, or really frankly give a shit about how many lists you have in your organization. So when you're thinking about how to slice and dice data with your base set in HubSpot, using lists is I think an excellent way to do that.

Active vs. Static Lists

So let's jump into probably the most common question as it relates to lists, which is whether we should be using active or whether we should be using static lists, which are the two main divisions. So I'm in my demo account, again, I'm an official HubSpot Partner. So if you happen to need HubSpot, please contact me. So let's go to contacts, you're going to click that first contact tab. In the top left hand corner, you're going to click lists. And this is the main mechanism that you're going to do.

So in this particular case, I've imported a series of dummy data for this exact video. So almost every time that you do an import, it's a good idea to make a list from that group. And it'll give you an option when you're doing the import. All of these are static lists to begin with. And so when we go to the top and choose create a list, we're basically going to get this first option where it's saying, what is the object that we're after? This is really dependent upon what that sales cycle looks like for your group, right?

In some situations you will be targeting by, if you work in Salesforce, effectively accounts, right? In this case, company-based, which might... A company is essentially a group of people who are doing something for business, right? That's not that difficult to take away. And so I find I tend not to target based on company base very often. Usually it's the individual contact data that I'm after. But again, that's really specific to the type of organization and what you're after in terms of either an email send or how you intend to actually use the list data for that stuff.

Contact-Based Lists in HubSpot

For the purposes of this discussion, we're going to keep this dead simple. We're going to focus on contacts based, and what this means between contact-based and company based is essentially what data you want to use to be able to build this list. After we make that decision of usually being able to say whether this is a contact-based data or company-based data, you get the option as well of choosing an active list or choosing a static list.

Using Active Lists and HubSpot Data

Active list I think are the heart and core of any good email marketing or demand gen program in HubSpot, mainly because active list use data, whether it comes from a form submission, whether it comes from chat flow that you've had built into HubSpot, whether it comes from an integration that you have with another system, active list is using data.

And so that's essentially a living list. It's growing, it's changing, it's shrinking, it's expanding at various times. And I think that that sets you up in a position to be able to really be effective in how you want to market and really being able to live not so much in the nitty gritty of having to create static lists, but really being able to leverage the power of HubSpot.

Static Lists are Dead Lists

So the most significant difference between static lists and active lists is that one of these lists is essentially a living list, and one of these is essentially a static or a dead list that simply represents a group of contacts.

If you have five people and you create those based on an active list, you must implicitly choose some piece of data to be able to build the list. The assumption is that over time, you may have more people that meet the criteria for however you made the list in the first place, and thus get automatically added to an active list. With the static list, the contacts that are there essentially stay there until the end of time, until you physically either remove them.

There are reasons in which static lists are easier and faster to do in some cases. I may individually know that I need to exclude three people from an email. I can quickly add those three contacts to a static list, add those to an exclusion, and then be able to refrain from sending those folks email. ‘

Speed and List Creation

And I would argue that that task is a lot faster than going to set up a separate field for that, populating that field, then making the active list from there. When I use static list personally, they tend to be single use. There's not very many situations in which I find myself going back to a static list after two weeks, after a month. There are very, very few situations that exist. Again, this is really specific about how your organization works.

The active list should be the core. I would say this needs to represent 75, 80% of the list in your account. As you get more specific with these lists, what tends to happen is that your email sends get better, your open rates, and your CTRs, because you're targeting better and creating messages for specific subsets and groups. Your ads make it better, so if you are into the ad tool and ad words, and you have specific active lists that you have, and that you are using those for remarketing purposes later on, that's also an excellent idea. But active lists really need to be the core of where you are because those represent actual physical data that are attached to the contact record or the company record or the deal record.

I want to show you an example here. So I'm going to start with the most simplest kind, which is a static list. So we want to take a look and be able to say people who like peach cobbler, going to hit next. And then we're just going to hit save on this. And so the static list, it doesn't have any filters and that's what a static list is. So no contacts match the current filter, that's 100% behavior we would expect. And so I'm actually going to open up a new tab, and then we're going to go back to our dummy data here. And then we're going to go to Sally Smith, at readymade.com. It's a fake contact. And then we're going to scroll down on the right-hand side. And then we're going to look at list memberships and we're going to click manage. And then we're going to add her to a list, and it's people who like peach cobbler. There's Sally.

HubSpot Static Lists

So this list, Sally will stay on this list until the end of time when the robot uprising happens and the dystopian nightmare that we all know and come to expect finally occurs, Sally Smith will still be on this HubSpot list until I physically take her off. Moreover, anybody that needs to be added, I need to manually do that. I think there are plenty of situations in which a static list is helpful and is quick.

And it's designed to be fast. You're not having to make fields. You're not having to worry about the data values within fields. There may be situations with imports that are also a huge pain. So if you need a quick and dirty way to be able to do that static list, are going to be your go-to way to do that.

Organizational Memory for Static Lists

The other thing to keep in mind is that these static lists can also represent things you want to know over time, but often the way I see organizations use these, is they have the static list set up and then years go by, and nobody remembers what happened in fall of 2019, when it says send for Tuesday. The data, the information, and the contacts gets lost. If somebody in that role ultimately moves to a different role, it probably also likely gets lost as well, because who has time for documentation? So we want to really leverage the opposite of this.

So if you've got a situation where you have static list that stay there for the end of time, on the opposite end we want to be able to introduce active list, which are basing that off data related to Sally Smith. And I'll give you an example here. So we've got Sally, she's on this list. If I wanted to make a... and we'll just name this static, and we're going to go back and then we're going to create a list. People, cobbler, active. We're going to choose active list this time.

This is a critical step in optimizing HubSpot accounts, as it is a common issue that we encounter in almost every account review.

Cobbler and HubSpot Lists

Now in this particular case, what we're looking for is a filter that will meet the conditions to be able to populate Sally Smith. Now, many times when you do this, you're going to run into the situation here where the data does not physically exist yet. So we have to go as a prerequisite and make the data, make the field, and then assign that value to Sally Smith, which will then populate on a list that needs to be created later. So for example, if I go under contact properties, cobbler preference, actually not a property. Who would have guessed that, right?

So, obviously we need to go up to our cog wheel and then we need to go down to properties and then we need to go to create a new property and let's do something fancy. Contact information, cobbler preference. What's the matter with you, if you don't like cobbler? Dropdown, select. I think the decision we had to make tonight was apple versus peach. What kind of savage would choose apple over peach? Create.

So now we have that field created, but that has nothing to do with assigning the values to individual people like Sally. So we need to go back into her contact record. So we're going to go back down to Sally. So we're going to go into view all of her properties and we're going to type in the field we just made, cobbler preference, and we're going to go down and click peach, and then we're going to hit save. So when we go back to lists and we make our new list, let me copy that because I like naming conventions, create list, active.

Functional Difference Between Active and Static Lists

So now again, we have a new property about cobbler preference. Just an example, could be literally anything under the sun, cobbler preference. In this list, what we're specifying are the conditions in which we want to group people together. So in this case, we want to only group people who have a preference for peach cobbler. So we're going to choose peach and then we're going apply filter and hit save. So Sally Smith comes up here, literally the exact same as the list here. There's no functional difference between how she arrived and ended up on the static list versus the active list. The difference is, is that the active list, depending on data values over time, may actually change.

So let's say that years go by and Sally has grown cold when it comes to thinking about peach. So she may switch her preference. And so she may say, "Oh, I actually don't have this preference anymore." So she would be taken off this list. And at the same time, we may have new people that do have that preference, and they'll automatically be added to this list here. So when we think about active versus static, really try to have leverage most of the majority.

Again, that's 70, 80% on the active side, just for your own sake later on. It's a great way, it's a great exercise to be able to encapsulate data in fields. And it's also a great way to be able to keep your list organized over time. Again, no [inaudible] on the number of lists. You're not charged for them. Nobody really cares. The customers can't see them or your potential leads can't see them. So that also doesn't matter as well. And it's a great way to be able to segment out data based on fields.


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