Lifecycle Stages in HubSpot: Breakdown Part 1

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Lifecycle stages are the most important property inside of your HubSpot portal. How you define and use lifecycle stages will determine how easily you can:

  • Identify marketing leads inside your database
  • Measure the volume and velocity of sales qualified leads that are assigned for follow up from Sales
  • Build strategies that continually push leads into paying customers

When people run into problems with the above, they often look at everything but their lifecycle stages.

Problem with identifying marketing leads in the database?

HubSpot users will often try to add more data to the database by using custom properties and filters instead of harnessing the power of lifecycle stages. Their time would be better spent defining what an MQL is with their team and setting automation to support this definition in the portal. 

Having trouble assigning SQLs to the sales team?

Admins often look to tweak the automations in the system and come up with uber-complex enrollment filters to improve assignment. Their time would have been better spent coming up with an SLA between marketing and sales to define what, when and where leads get handed off to sales, then make sure the SQL lifecycle stage is being properly applied.

Don’t have a strategy to push your Subscribers into Leads, Leads into MQLs, and SQLs into Opportunities?

You first need to define each of these stages and how your contacts will progress through them. 

The truth is, if you are having trouble with lead routing, marketing to sales hand off, or just having trouble segmenting your database into people that are interested in your product and people that are very interested in your product- then you most likely have a lifecycle stage problem.


The first step is finding where your problem is.


Here are some tips and guidelines on how to understand lifecycle stages in your HubSpot Portal. 

What makes Lifecycle stages different from other properties?

At its core, Lifecycle stage in HubSpot is simply a property like any other- just like First name, Last name, Email, and Phone number are properties. And as a property- it is really just a place where a data value is stored.

In the case of the Lifecycle stage property, it simply stores the value of where you believe a particular contact or company is in their customer journey along a spectrum of Subscriber, Lead, MQL, SQL, Opportunity, Customer, Evangelist, or Other. You can view the definitions for each here.

Now what are some things that make the lifecycle stage property unique from other properties?

Here are a few to list:

Lifecycle stages have specific rules for editing

The lifecycle stage property is one of the few native properties for which HubSpot has specific editing rules. Since Contacts are meant to go through the stages in chronological order, HubSpot has put safeguards in place so that you can't accidentally send them "back in time."

This means that if a Contact in the Customer lifecycle stage goes through a workflow with an action to set them to an MQL lifecycle stage, the action won't take place and the workflow will get an error message. This makes sense--if they've already become a Customer with you, why treat them as another stage? However, if you do have a use case where you need to set the lifecycle stage back, you can first clear the property, then set it to the stage you'd like. 

YARN | Wish we could turn back time | twenty one pilots ...

All contacts and companies must have a value for lifecycle stage

Depending on how a Contact enters your database, HubSpot will automatically append a lifecycle stage value to Contact and Company records if one is not specified. If you import contacts into your database, this default value is Subscriber. If a Contact fills out a form, the default value is Lead. However, a recent update allows you to customize the lifecycle stage the form will set the Contact as in the form settings

Contacts and companies lifecycle stages can be automatically sync’d via association

Usually if you want a Contact property to be sync’d with a Company property, you'd need to build a workflow that copies the value of the Contact property to the Company property. 

For lifecycle stages, HubSpot has a default option in settings to automatically sync lifecycle stages between associated Contacts and Company records. This underscores the importance of lifecycle stages to the management of the database. 

Lifecycle stages are also sync’d to deals

Lifecycle stages are sync’d to Deals in that a Contact’s association with Deals will also automatically determine their lifecycle stage. There are two cases in which this is true.

One is Opportunity. The definition of an Opportunity is a Contact with an open Deal. So when a contact is associated with an open Deal, then HubSpot will automatically change the lifecycle stage of that contact to an Opportunity.

Another is Customer. The definition of a Customer is a contact with a closed Deal. So when a Deal associated with a contact is closed, that contact is automatically changed to a Customer.

All of these features make Lifecycle stages a very robust property in HubSpot- with the goal of making your life easier and your database more manageable.

Yet- a lot of times client find these features actually make it HARDER. 


Why is that? Well, let’s talk about it in the next section.

Why lifecycle stages are not working for you

Customers say to themselves:

“So HubSpot built out this robust, fully featured property that tracks the customer journey and sync’d it up with a whole bunch of other object types. So then why do I feel like it made my life harder?”

Often, customers are daunted by the idea of creating a full customer journey map, defining each of the stages, and reflecting this with automation in their portal. 

Particularly when, as we discussed above, all Contacts and Companies are required to have a lifecycle stage. This can often result in messy lifecycle stage assignment that undermines the data integrity of the CRM.

For example, HubSpot knows what to do when someone subscribes to your blog- they’re a Subscriber, and when someone submits a form- they’re a Lead, but what about when you import a cold list of leads into your database?  

We’ve all done it, but this list of cold leads may not fit neatly into any of your lifecycle stages. HubSpot will try to set them as Subscribers, but they are actually more of a Lead than Subscriber since Subscriber implies these people have given some sort of consent to be communicated with. 

But they are not a lead because a Lead implies they are even more qualified than a Subscriber when they are actually even less qualified.

Forcing Contact records into criteria they don't necessarily fit means your individual lifecycle stages become a hodgepodge of different types of contact records that are only tenuously related. This criteria creep then devalues the definitions of the individual life cycle stages and decreases trust in the overall system. 

Lifecycle stages then become disorganized and something to look upon with suspicion, in other words they become the enemy they were meant to organize.

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I KNOW right, Obi-Wan?

The Solution, in Part 2

So what are we all to do about that?

Head on over to Part 2 of the Lifecycle Stages in HubSpot breakdown, where we have outlined the solutions we have developed for many organizations over the years to finally straighten out your lifecycle stages and get your portal in order.

See you there! 

You might want to check out a few of our other blogs on the CRM:



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Remotish is hyper-focused on servicing companies that plan to use or currently have HubSpot. We have been keeping up on our HubSpot skills since 2013. We make HubSpot awesome.


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