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HubSpot Custom Objects Deep Dive, Examples, and Strategy

by Article by George B. Thomas George B. Thomas | October 16, 2020 at 4:34 PM

Recently HubSpot released their new HubSpot Custom Objects functionality into the world. With this release, they also created a ton of questions around HubSpot objects, custom objects strategy, and the need for HubSpot custom object examples.

We created an article when the new HubSpot functionality was released on HubSpot Custom Objects The DNA of Your Company Operating System and, we scheduled a Webinar/Live HubSpot Custom Object AMA as well to help answer those questions you might have.

As soon as we saw the flood of custom object questions coming in, we knew it was time to interview Remington and get him to share some of the things we've done with HubSpot custom objects around our Sprocket Talk project.

As well as where Impulse Creative has been able to help folks in the past with better reporting and data management.

With that said, here is the transcription (doctored up of course) of the interview for your reading pleasure. Or, just sit back, grab a beverage, and hit that play button and watch our HubSpot custom objects conversation unfold.

The Custom Objects Deep Dive Interview

George B. Thomas  

I'm super excited because, this view right here that you're looking at Remington Begg and George B. Thomas together on an episode of Unpacked has not happened for a long while.

What's even more interesting is that Unpacked used to be a hidden away nugget for folks who were part of Sprocket Talk, which is a platform that Impulse Creative built to help the HubSpot community.

We decided, you know what, it's time to go ahead and help the entire community and bring Unpacked to the masses.

Remington How do you feel, and how are you doing today fine, sir?

Remington Begg  

Good, I'm jazzed up, and the world is our oyster.

George B. Thomas  

I wouldn't say I like oysters, but I like that saying, my man, I have to be honest with you. Maybe fried oysters? Or is that clams anyway? I don't know.

I didn't live on a boat like you. But today, I do want to talk about and dive into the brain that is Remington Begg.

You've been doing a nerdy deep dive on something that I think, honestly, every single HubSpot user on the planet could use at some level.

It comes down to their company fitting inside of HubSpot differently, in a better way. But first of all, let's start at the very beginning because this has to do with objects in HubSpot, more importantly, custom objects. 

Let's start at the beginning and explain to those folks who might be watching this a might not understand what the heck is an object in HubSpot?

Remington Begg 

Yeah, great question. The most straightforward example of an object is contacts in HubSpot, that is an object. Other objects that people are very familiar with if they're in HubSpot is a company object, or a deal object or a ticket object; those things are all very natural.

The beauty of the HubSpot custom objects is they are trackable, listable; they're able to be their own things.

And the most important part is they're able to be multi-dimensional, they can associate with each other. Meaning, a deal can be associated with a company, and contact or multiple deals can be associated with multiple contacts.

What it does, essentially is creating a relational database; it's the nerdy piece.

But it allows for an added dimension, so in reporting, you get a lot more exciting stuff. You get cross object reporting and it allows you to know how many deals were associated with contacts who did X or Y.

There's no limit to the types of things you could measure.

George B. Thomas

Now you know what a HubSpot object is. You understand that HubSpot custom objects can be associated with each other.

When I think of these custom objects, I immediately go to: with an object, you can have properties, and with those properties, you can do a bunch of creating lists and reporting and all sorts of stuff.

Some fundamental elements of the object are that you can create custom properties to fit inside of that. Remington, explain why so many people wanted the ability to do these custom objects in HubSpot.

Remington Begg

HubSpot has been fighting the enterprise fight up against Salesforce and some of these other more senior CRMs.

I was going to say more fully-featured, but that's gone; those days are gone. People have been using deals; ourselves included up until we got access to custom objects to do things that they weren't designed to do.

There are trade-offs that make it dicey and can kind of mess up your numbers or mess up your data in some way, shape, or form.

Because you're using a deal, for instance, for a service delivery item. 

The ability for custom objects now makes this so instead of shoving your business into a CRM. All of a sudden, HubSpot unshackled companies, and now we can fit around your company in the way you want things to operate.

It allows you to shape the HubSpot CRM around your company instead of trying to fit into this box that you may not have fit in before.

That sounds like a straightforward thing. But it's profound.

It's transformational regarding what's possible because now, you can double down on the things that matter. You can build operations in your organization and you can reference and cross-reference things that you never could before.

George B. Thomas

Talk to me about the actual things that people may be doing wrong.

That were right a minute ago but wrong now because of this new functionality. Give us some examples of that, and maybe even dive into the one you gave before. What's happening and why it's happening that way.

HubSpot Objects: What You Might Be Doing Wrong

Remington Begg

We have CRM; it helps us with lead generation because we have the website built on it. We keep track of deals that are in the sales process.

Jackie, on our sales team, goes through, and she is working deals through this deal pipeline. Then what happened is, after we won a deal, we'd celebrate for a minute, and then we'd roll into delivering on the service.

In order to keep track of that, everyone references, most everyone, reference lifecycle stages, like who's the customer and who's not.

I'd say nine times out of ten; I go into a HubSpot database, and if they are using that, we can look at people who haven't been customers in three years and their lifecycle stages still says that they're a customer.

That field isn't defined enough to say it is always a customer or is currently a customer and there's a lot of areas that can get fuddled up there.

Right now, that lifecycle stage switches into an opportunity the second that you turn on a deal? The problem is if you have other companies or other contacts, that now become a part of the conversation because you're now servicing the deal.

Those contacts automatically get attributed as customers because now they're associated with that deal object.

When they may not necessarily need to be, and it can lead to incorrect reporting.

Look, we got 100 new leads and customers this month. Our conversion rate is awesome. ๐Ÿ˜

When you look at it, it's 50 people from the same organization involved in the project. ๐Ÿ˜ช

Now what we can do is we can shift that mindset over instead of having a deal object that we're keeping track of the length of the customer, instead it's the website project that we're working on.

We've created a service object, and that service object gets created as soon as the deal is won.

Then it moves over into servicing the deal. 

  • What's the start and end date of that project? 
  • Who needs to be involved in that project?
  • Who on the team is owning the different pieces of that project?

Now it's, this person was a customer over this time, and the time being the start and end of that service.

What's cool is we can circle back, and we can look at that information and think, now they're no longer a customer, they were a customer, but now they're no longer a customer. So what's next?

Right now, when people think one-dimensionally in their database to go, that lifecycle stage says they're a customer.

In a lot of cases, marketing doesn't touch that customer because they're a customer.

But what if they're inactive? Is there a reason?

  • Are they happy?
  • Are they sad?
  • Were they acquired?

There's so much opportunity, and there's just a problem with that one-dimensional thinking. It can be really dangerous for your business.

George B. Thomas

When I hear you say that Remington, I hear having the ability or level of granularity you don't have right now.

I also immediately have questions in my brain like;

Once that service ticket time is done, should there be a workflow that then sets the customer to not a customer, but to maybe an evangelist or to some other lifecycle stage, so that marketing and sales know to do these actions?

What I love about this is that we talked about lists, we talked about reporting, but workflows fit into this whole thing of automating some of the operating systems or procedures that you may have around your business.

Remington so people can get a hold of the power that we're talking about the things that impose creative could help folks with as we kind of move forward.

What would you say to somebody who has longed for years and days and weeks and months and centuries to be able to do some type of partner program inside of HubSpot?

Partner Program Built on HubSpot Custom Objects

Remington Begg 

This one's fun, and you know, we got more magic coming from this as well. 

When we think partner program, I know people are using tools like partner stack or using another CRM to keep track of their partners. I'm going to repeat that another CRM to keep track of their partners and the referrals coming in as a marketing tool.

HubSpot Custom Object - Referral Object

If you're using the marketing tool and not keeping track of where those referrals are coming in, there's a huge opportunity lost. 

Whether it's referring to existing customers or whether it has referral partners, there are a whole plethora of ways you could display the information on your website using custom objects.

But that's another episode. ๐Ÿ‘

When we start thinking about keeping track of contacts within the system, or companies that were referred, that becomes a really powerful thing. 

Right now, people are paying thousands of dollars a month for functionality, for information to be in a different area just to keep track of these deals, and these contacts that are attributed.

When in all reality, it should be kept in one spot. There's so much value to having data in one place. There's so much intelligence that's possible. It's just a matter of trying to put it together. 

When we think partner referral partner object, you could have a lead form or a demo form that George referred someone to your demo form.

They come to the referral, or they're a referral, and in the URL, it says, partner equals George. Now, if a partner equals George, what we want to do is we want to save that information. You could do that with a hidden field at the contact level and HubSpot. 

The magic starts to come into place because you could create a partner object with automation based on that transaction.

A contact had partner equals George, let's go ahead and create a referral partner object that says, George was the referral partner. And then you could start seeing how many contacts had George as the referral partner.

But you could also start automation around associating those contacts to those deals that let you go in and just pull up George and see all the people he brought in.

If we're connecting that data to deals and looking at cross object reports, now it gets really interesting because we can take all the revenue of those deals that closed and attribute it to George.

That could be a company level, or that could be an individual level, really there's no limit there.

George B. Thomas

I love talking to Remington, especially on some of these nerdy things; he loves to fly by things.

In that last section, he mentioned that you could do a hidden field inside a form to capture the information you're doing with that custom object.

Therefore, now we've talked about how custom objects can affect your list, affect your workflows, affect your reporting, and affect or impact the forms and the form strategies that you may be applying to your website or, not applying.

Of course, depending on if you're paying attention to things like this in your strategy.

Remington, let's talk about, are there a top three, big pick for custom objects?

That you would say, everybody who's watching this could implement and make their business run smoother, with less friction, and more impact?

Remington Begg

Yes, I'm going to throw a disclaimer on this, that custom objects are uber powerful but could add to an uber mess if you don't build them and think them through. 

Cake CuttingWe've done a lot of work, thinking through and building out this infrastructure and thinking about how all these things work together. But the more layers you add to the cake, the more careful you got to be about cutting into it.

As we start thinking about all these different elements that we add in each of these custom objects, it adds more complexity.

But also can unlock a really robust data set that we never could see before.

It's just essential to understand the trade-offs we're going to deal with before we dig into these.

HubSpot Conversion Custom Object

The first one that I would do is going to be around a conversion object.

Now the conversion object is really important because, in HubSpot, the conversion is one dimensional.

It's when a form submission happens; it's labeled as a conversion. You get the contact level data or ticket level data in some cases, but you get the contact level data that comes in. 

If someone comes through and fills out another form, you get additional information added to that contact record.

HubSpot Custom Objects - Conversion Object

So, form number one, George did first name George and last name Thomas. In form number two, the form prefilled with George's name because we knew who he was. Now he's adding company name, and he's doing extra things that are valuable for building the contact profile. 

But, when we start looking back when George pays that million dollar contract on becoming a customer for Impulse and looking back at his journey, we know how many conversions, and we know what conversions he had.

We can look back at that data, but we don't have a really good picture of the dimension of time between those things.

The conversion object allows us to pay attention to the first attribution source.

But it could also allow us to collect the buyer's journey stage and the attribution of each conversion if we're paying attention, and as we start thinking about the different ways that things are influenced.

I'm not talking about revenue attribution from a reporting standpoint; I'm talking about just understanding, in general, how effective your content is in the buyer's journey.

If it doesn't hit where it's supposed to hit, is that a problem with the Ideal Client Profile?

The conversion objects are super important.

The way we're using this at Sprocket Talk is with guest passes. We have a guest pass conversion that happens every single time someone converts on more content.

What's cool about that is we're starting to see which blogs or which content is generating more engagement and conversions, and we're able to associate those soon because we're collecting some additional data.

  • Are these people in a trial?
  • What category tags did they convert on?

Any extra information that you wouldn't normally get in your reports that you're like, I wish I had that, you could now collect.

It's just a matter of thinking through your needs, so conversion objects, probably one of the more important ones.

HubSpot Referral Custom Object

Referral partner object I don't have to explain. But I think that business is human and so there's going to be people referring us. It's going to be our customers in a lot of cases, or we might have a lot of really great referral partners, HubSpot being one of them.

Wistia is also another great partner.

Several Martech tools, customers, and other people who compliment the business are sending us referrals as well. In our case, quite a bit of other agencies sends us referrals.

Being able to track that and know when to send a bottle of champagne or thank you card or commission check is important.

I think that the referral partner object is not something that people usually think about. But it's very different than a referral source.

The referral source in HubSpot is the website it came from. 

The referral partner part is literally who's the individual that made that introduction. Right now, that's likely coming across as an offline source in your system.

The HubSpot Feedback Custom Object

The next one is a feedback object

Not to be confused with HubSpot service feedback tools, but tracking an object separately so that you could get and measure feedback over a certain period.

The feedback area is really interesting because how excited is someone when they just become your customer?

Then how excited are they the week after they pay?

How excited are they when they're in the middle of the project versus how excited are they when they finally get to deliver a project or product?

You aren't going to connect those dots if you don't have the associations to those custom objects in your HubSpot Hub.

It's going to allow for you to understand that, right after people pay, they actually go further down in their emotional feeling about things because they just paid.

Now they are sitting and waiting, and you're going to be able to connect those dots where you couldn't before. 

Those are the three that I would go after.

But there's the deliverable object, and the onboarding object is important too. 

It just depends on your business.

George B. Thomas

It's interesting, because again, we talked about the granularity, which sometimes and you kind of leaned into this equals complexity.

I always love to cover hurdles in these interviews.

What are the things that people are going to face? What should people be watching out for if they decide that they will implement these custom objects?

Are there things that inevitably, they're going to go too far? Not go far enough? What are your thoughts on that Remington?

HubSpot Custom Objects Limitations

Remington Begg

So you can have a maximum of 10 Custom objects in your portal.

That's a limitation that HubSpot currently has right now.

I would look if your customers are exploiting spreadsheets or management is using spreadsheets to see data.

How is that data different than context?

We have a company that's in the automotive market. They don't measure leads at a contact level. They don't measure leads at a company level either. They measure leads at what they call "rooftop level," which is the number of auto dealership locations. 

That's a custom object that they would need to measure effectively because right now, they're doing crazy math in a spreadsheet to add up all the number of rooftops.

In general, you start thinking about how those spreadsheets create friction in your life from a reporting standpoint.

Think of all the different spreadsheets that have to get updated or all the other places that your data will be critical. It could be payments for subscriptions, or it could be invoiced contacts.

You're not going to be able to keep all your accounting information in HubSpot, but you're going to be able to keep track of the status of invoices if you needed to.

Start looking at the areas where the information is living outside of your HubSpot CRM and ask why it isn't living inside your HubSpot CRM? Historically, it's because there's not a place to put it? You got a place now!

George B. Thomas

I love the fact that we have a place to put the data, and it can truly become the all in one place to hold the company, contact, and now custom object information. 

Now Remington, here's a question that I'm going to ask because I think there will be people out there asking this question of themselves. And it's merely this, when should they think about having a HubSpot partner, like Impulse Creative or somebody else help them with these custom objects?

When should they take that journey and feel like, Yep, I can do that on my own?

Remington Begg

I think the ability to do it themselves is there.

It requires the technical ability to create the object in HubSpot, and we can help you there. But it's nothing crazy. 

The operational strategy around why it's there and how it ties into everything else is the more complicated part. 

Mind Mapping is critical; use Mind Meister, Lucid Chart or something like them.

Try and figure out the relationship; understand what you're trying to get out of the object before you go trying to build it. Then realize you got a whole different set of properties to keep track of.

With Impulse Creative, if you came to us, we're going to talk to you about your operation at a deep level first.

We're going to talk to you about how things are working? 

  • Where's your data?
  • Where are all the different places your data stored?
  • Things like, are you using Zendesk?
  • Are you using another CRM?
  • What are you using for accounting?
  • What are you using for sales enablement?

Are you 100% in HubSpot?

None of these answers are wrong, but it adds to the operation's overall complexity, and we got to make sure that we know where all that data is coming from.

That's something that at Impulse Creative, we're going to do naturally, just as part of our process. Call it the courting process!

We need to have an understanding of where you're trying to go.

If you're going to do it yourself, by all means, go for it. But realize that you've got to make sure you have that 30,000-foot view of the organization and what you're trying to accomplish.  Sometimes that's hard to see the forest through the trees, and that's where a partner comes in handy. 

It can be a one-off thing, or it could be an ongoing optimization; we've got clients we help with both sides of it.

It just depends on the use case and what's needed.

Find out more by joining us for our webinar/Live AMA or, head over and read the article HubSpot Custom Objects The DNA of Your Company Operating System.

Either way, educate, execute, and enjoy!