When you first enter the HubSpot world, whether it’s a new portal or one you’re inherited, it can feel like a lot.
HubSpot is a pretty robust software solution after all, and it takes work to set it up.
While there isn’t an exact color-by-number plan that fits everyone, patterns and best practices do emerge after you’ve been in multiple portals with many users over thousands of training sessions.
So, if you’re wondering where to get started, what to do first for maximum efficiency, and how not to screw it all up, you’ve found your guide.
A quick note about me: I’ve been a HubSpot user since 2010. I sat in my office, new to the marketing world (from TV news production) and new to this marketing software thing in front of me. I was excited but nervous.
Thankfully, I went through that early onboarding “program,” and learned from the ground up. After several years of using HubSpot and teaching my growing team the ins and outs of it all, I was pretty comfortable.
Plus, I was an early learner at Inbound Marketing University, which later became HubSpot Academy. Now I hold 42 of 44 available certifications, a few extra Academy Bootcamp certifications, and I’m an accredited HubSpot trainer at the Elite Partner, Impulse Creative.
Hundreds of clients, thousands of training sessions, a few workshops, and many helping conversations later and I’m ready to share wisdom and insights with you.
Ready to launch your HubSpot journey?
Ready to relaunch your HubSpot passion with purpose and strategy?
Time to Dive Into How to Use HubSpot
HubSpot can be a lot. Heck, setting up any new system can be a lot. But HubSpot is meant to be an intuitive, easy-to-use tool that your team will adapt quickly.
And it has to work well within your business.
So the initial setup is pretty important, to put it mildly.
What are the most important lessons I’ve learned helping folks go through onboarding and training?
1. Move slow to move fast - planning is key
We learn to walk before we run. It would benefit you to do the same when first getting into HubSpot.
Whether you’re using Sales Hub, Marketing Hub, Service Hub or another option, it’s best to take each step with purpose and awareness.
I’ve seen new users get into HubSpot and want to send their first marketing email immediately.
Side note: I love the passion new users have and I appreciate the desire to GSD* … but there’s a problem with running without looking.
If you send an email without knowing how the subscription type factors into your marketing emails and half your audience unsubscribe from the one type you have, you lose the ability to email them with different content next time.
So, in order to work efficiently as you grow, you’ll want to make sure to learn, strategize, and plan so you’re not moving “nowhere” fast.
*Get “Stuff” Done
2. Boring work like data management is magical
Closely related to efficient growth through careful consideration is the idea that you’ll want to ensure your data is clean.
Dirty data leads to bad decisions and other issues.
Here’s an example: Imagine you want to create geographical segments of your audience. Perhaps one of these segments is the Great Lakes region.
When your state property is an open text, your choices for setting up a segmented list could look like this:
- Michigan, MI, Mich, Mich., Mi.,
- Minnesota, Min., Minn., MN (is it MN or is it MI?)
- Wisconsin, Wis., WI, Wisc., Wisc,
- Illinois, IL, Ill., Ill, Il.
- Indiana, IN, In., Ind., Indy
- Ohio, OH
- Pennsylvania, PA,, Penn., Penn
- New York, NY
You get the idea. And what happens if someone in your CRM is supposed to be in New York but the state is listed as N.Y.?
So while the strategy of your data management may not seem all that fun, it’s critical to set up your HubSpot portal for success.
A few things to understand: What are HubSpot objects and what are their unique identifiers to avoid duplicates, what are standard properties, what are custom properties, how to handle custom objects, the difference between demographic and behavioral/analytics data, and how to view the data that exists in its various places.
3. Asking why is better than asking how
When working with a new HubSpot user who’s chomping at the bit to get going, the major question flavor is “How?”
- How do I email my prospects?
- How do I track deal stages?
- How do I count customers?
- How do I send an email campaign automatically?
Tactics are great and necessary. Knowing the why (strategy) along with the how (tactics) will ensure you’re ready to grow smarter.
Best case scenario, you’re asking both “why” and “how.” But asking why first will help you set up the right tactics.
4. Foundational work is key to building something that lasts
HubSpot is not magic. It’s not the silver bullet to fix your business woes.
It’s a tool. And tools are only as good as our knowledge and skills to use them.
So, if you want to build a HubSpot portal that serves your business for years to come, you’re going to need to work on understanding the platform (training) and building your world (administrative work).
For example, workflows can be a great helper in marketing email campaigns and the marketing-to-sales handoff both.
But your HubSpot portal won’t have it all done for you. You’ll have to build what you need.
This means understanding workflows at a basic level and building on that to understand tactics like branching logic and cross-object property management.
When you know this, you can create a lead nurturing campaign that includes several emails (and even SMS marketing with the right integration!), branches for what happens when they click on specific email links, and then record owner rotation when their lead score hits a certain threshold.
Foundational work like building process workflows isn’t the shiniest task, but it’s critical.
5. Cross-hub work is [chef’s kiss]
One Hub is great. Multiple Hubs is the dream. And using tools from all the HubSpot Hubs is 🤌.
For example, Marketing Hub users can use Sales Playbooks to help increase communication efficiency between the two teams.
Or the Sales team can help build powerful marketing automation in workflows with their marketing colleagues that focus on teaching prospects everything they need to know to become great BOFU leads.
This hack will help your business put the power of HubSpot to use in entirely new ways. As Dharmesh Shah said back in 2013, with HubSpot 1+1=3.
6. Data imports work best when planned
When conducting an import of data into HubSpot, you can make adjustments on the fly.
For example, your spreadsheet may have a column for “secondary phone number,” which is different from a mobile phone, and you notice HubSpot isn’t going to map it because that property isn’t a standard option.
At this point, you can simply create the custom property from the import screen.
But what I’ve learned from thousands of trainings, including many data imports, is that a better way is to plan for the imports by researching the properties that exist, deciding on what data from the previous system is needed, and then creating the properties you need ahead of time.
This planning helps with data cleanliness, as well as keeping your portal’s properties strategic and organized.
7. Someone always knows something you don’t (hubris is hurtful)
This hack is as much for me as you.
After more than a decade of working in HubSpot, speaking on my success at INBOUND, helping to create a HubSpot Academy Bootcamp, assisting hundreds of clients, and learning from some amazing people along the way, you might think I know it all.
I do not.
There’s more than one recipe for a casserole, and just because we know a few ways, doesn’t mean we know them all.
I’ve learned from new HubSpot users and experienced experts alike.
Curiosity > judgment, even when working in a CRM. When we think we know it all, we stop learning, and that can harm our business’s growth.
8. Complexity for the sake of complexity has no value
Simple solutions win over complex answers — especially if it’s just for the sake of complexity.
It could look like building a workflow to set the original source based on a hidden field in a form when HubSpot analytics automatically does this.
Or perhaps it’s setting up a pipeline with too many stages instead of necessary stages combined with lead status on the contact level.
The lesson is: Adding unnecessary complexity feels more like a play for job security than helping with smarter growth.
Look for the simple answer where you can, and build on it when necessary.
9. Playbooks can help all departments
I believe the Playbooks tool is the MVP of Sales Hub.
While playbooks (available in Sales and Service Hub Pro & Enterprise tiers) are a sales tool, if you have access to them, you can use them across multiple teams or departments.
For example, in the learning and development team, my colleagues and I use a playbook to help make a handoff from a happy trainee to our sales teammates.
And we get to give sales the information they need to help make the prospect feel known, rather than having to start over.
In addition to sales, the customer success team can use Playbooks to help with the sales-to-service handoff, helping ensure the new client feels “taken care of.”
10. Reporting is both simple and difficult
So many business professionals from accounting to marketing to sales have such a disdain for reporting. And I don’t blame them.
I hear folks ask about building a report “every week” so they can understand their data. Or they describe how they build a report and it’s just “building a list” they have to export and then analyze with a tool like Excel.
That would drive me mad, too.
Here’s the thing: It doesn’t have to be that way.
When you’re working in your HubSpot portal and you want to know how your work is paying off, start with standard HubSpot dashboards and reports.
Then if that’s not enough (more than a dozen dashboard recipes and more than 100 reports), explore the “Analytics Tools” in your reporting section.
These additional tools help you think about your data and visualize everything from how many sessions happened on your website in the last 30 days from organic search traffic, to how many calls and meetings your sales team completed this month.
Finally, if none of that works, explore the custom report-building tools like attribution reports, funnel reports, single object reporting, and the powerful multi-object custom reports builder.
Start simple, then build on that knowledge as you progress through into more custom solutions for reporting on your data.
Bringing it all together
HubSpot isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it magic wand. It’s a tool that takes time and effort to set up.
But it’s also, as I love to say, not rocket surgery. Or maybe it’s sprocket surgery…
We love helping new HubSpot users get into their portal and set their teams up for success.
Whether it’s HubSpot onboarding, training, or working with our client success and strategy folks, we got you.