14min read

HubSpot Custom Objects The DNA of Your Company Operating System

by Article by Remington Begg Remington Begg | September 22, 2020 at 5:24 PM

If you’re reading this right now you likely are in the same boat as many companies: You’ve built or use many different applications and tools to operate your business and serve your customers.

If the above is true, then it’s likely you also have your customer and company data in different silos that are based on the capabilities of the software you utilize. 

These data silos often create disjointed experience both for customers and internal teams.

What are HubSpot custom objects? Learn more.

Many tools attempt to be the out-of-the-box solution for this problem, but they’re a far cry from a company operating system: the end to end platform and process for running your business and reaching your customers.

Fortunately, with HubSpot’s release of Custom Objects for the CRM, there are now nearly-unlimited opportunities to turn HubSpot into the foundation of your company’s operating system.

What are HubSpot Custom Objects?

In HubSpot, Custom Objects are a record type in your CRM, Sales, or Marketing instance (HubSpot enterprise customers). Custom Objects let you move beyond HubSpot’s standard objects to extend the way you use the tool and customize it as your business operating system. HubSpot’s standard objects are contacts, companies, deals, products, and tickets. With the introduction of Custom Objects, HubSpot allows you to create additional record types (and name them and use them however you need). 

Custom objects have individual names (such as “Conversion Object”) and are composed of properties, just like HubSpot’s standard objects. Each of these custom objects can be associated with one-to-one or one-to-many relationships, have object-based automation, reporting, and lists. This allows you to build HubSpot's software around your company rather than fitting your company into the software.

10 Examples of HubSpot Custom Objects:

  1. Conversion Object
  2. Referral Partner Object
  3. Service Object
  4. Membership Object
  5. Feedback Object
  6. Deliverable Object
  7. Onboarding Object
  8. SMarketing Resource Object
  9. Campaigns Object
  10. Course or Certification Object

The options are endless -- and that’s where it becomes especially important to focus on what you’re looking to accomplish, not what object you want to add. Along with the opportunity to add the custom objects for your company you need to think through the processes that your company should be executing on.

Here’s how to start thinking about the object needed

  1. Map out an ideal process. If you were to revisit your organization’s operations today, how would you build it? What’s working today, and what is not? Without considering technology, team, or the limitations of today, what would you do? If you can map that out, great. If not, consider some of the following questions as well: 
  2. Think about friction points. What’s hard for your team to do? What’s hard for your customers to see? These may be opportunities for adding custom objects that streamline the experience and improve your workflow. 
  3. Look for associations or time based holes. If you need to be able to cross reference actions of your company data, odds are you’re thinking about it in an “object” mindset. Furthermore being able to have multiple instances associated to show progression over time could be another symptom.
  4. Check your automation. Are you using workflows to map information from contacts to companies, or companies to deals, or deals back to contacts? Do you have a workflow that checks a box to let you know if a contact is already in a workflow? Some of these actions should stay as they are...but some might indicate that you have opportunities for custom objects. 
  5. Revisit your wish list. Most organizations maintain a “wish list” of features they’d love to see in their CRM - and we have many examples listed below. If you’ve ever said “I wish we could…” it’s time to take that list and consider custom objects. 
  6. Audit who uses CRM and what data they need. In a time where sales reps were the only ones using CRM, custom objects were a bit less important. Now that marketing, sales, service, operations, and others may use CRM, there are far more needs - and opportunities for custom objects. 
  7. Consider reporting needs. Part of the beauty of HubSpot’s custom objects is their use in reporting - especially cross-object reporting. Your ideal reports are likely unlocked by implementing custom objects. 

Wait, did you say company operating system?

Before we dig into examples of custom objects, let’s back it up for just a minute. Do you think about your company as using an operating system? At the beginning of this post, we made the not-too-radical assumption that you and your organization are likely using a somewhat disjointed set of tools to function on a day-to-day basis. Some of the symptoms of this include: 

  • Lots of data, but no single source of truth 
  • Many platforms, apps, and tools to sign into during the day 
  • Team members say “download a Google Sheet” 
  • Days of work to pull reports every month 

These symptoms indicate that you may want to consider shifting to an operating system. Just as when you turn on your computer, there is a system in place that guides you through startup, login, and getting started, your organization and teams need an operating system that organizes their work lives.

The challenge with creating a company OS is that there are many tools that solve for just one slice of the company experience - marketing or website, sales or service, customer engagement or prospecting. Sometimes there are even different tools for sales reps and BDRs! Every tool is a handoff point, a chance for data to be dropped or input incorrectly, a chance for a password to be forgotten… A company OS strives to consolidate those tools into one central source of truth - your CRM - creating a hub-and-spoke approach to your business technology. 

Any tool will need some customization to truly run as an operating system for your business. Now, with custom objects, HubSpot is an incredibly compelling option.

10 Examples of HubSpot Custom Objects 

1. HubSpot Custom Conversion Object

HubSpot is very good at tracking conversions, but is somewhat limited in terms of how contact-level conversions and reconversions are reported. We have built in properties such as: 

  • First Conversion
  • Recent Conversion
  • Number of Conversions

Historically, HubSpot doesn’t have a reportable field that includes every single conversion action a contact has taken and how many times they’ve taken that action. 

With the addition of a conversion object and some clever workflows, you can do just that: Use a form submission to create and associate a conversion object with a contact, company, or deal, every time a conversion event happens. 

2. HubSpot Custom Referral Partner Object

If your organization uses referral partners, a single person or organization that refers multiple prospects to your business, you may have tracked referral sources with custom HubSpot properties in the past. And if you’ve done it this way, You may have found it difficult to understand how each referral partner contributes to your bottom line. You may have even had problems adequately compensating these referral partners, or successfully managing a pipeline of them, or easily accessing contact information for referral partners associated with deals. 

In the old days, managing referral partners was a little bit of a hack, and a little bit messy. 

With custom objects, there’s a much more cleaner, measurable way. Simply create the “Referral Partner” object with the properties you need, then add or upload a list of your partners. From there, those partners can be associated with contacts, companies, or deals, and you’ll be able to see referral partner data on those records. In addition, you’ll be able to run reports and cross-object reports on your referral partners, so you’ll be able to ask and answer questions such as:

  • Which partners refer the most deals?
  • Which partners refer the most revenue 
  • How does referred revenue compare to self-sourced revenue?
  • How long do referred customers vs. self-sourced customers stay? 
  • How do CSat or NPS scores compare for referred vs self-sourced customers, or for different referral partners? 

If you want to really step up the game, you can also create custom dashboards for your internal team and your referral partners using custom objects and CMS Hub Enterprise (But that’s another blog post entirely… for now, just ask us how.)

3. HubSpot Custom Service Object

Unlike a ticket, a service object isn’t about an issue, it’s about the day-to-day engagement between your organization and your customers once a deal has been closed. 

A service object lets your team understand what a customer purchased, why they purchased it, and the timeline for execution. The internal team gets a notification when the deal is closed and can see a pipeline-style view of the projects or clients they work with, whether that work is project-based or recurring. 

Operationally, this helps manage workloads, timelines, and resources. The service object can also serve as a hub for any additional client information necessary for project implementation, assigned account team members, and more. 

As clients move through the pipeline, associations between service objects and companies can help marketing teams understand cross-sell and up-sell opportunities. When a client no longer needs your services or when a project is finished, the pipeline approach can help you see, manage, and automate follow-up: feedback requests, next steps, and more. 

4. HubSpot Custom Membership Object

By now, you probably understand that custom objects let you double down on the things that really matter. For a subscription based business, that means focusing on membership. Historically, you could use deals to track membership, but that could get messy, quickly: Do you have individual memberships? Company membership? Membership tiers? Do you manage these in different pipelines? Or stages? What happens if an individual signs up for a membership and their company is already paying? OW. 

With a custom membership object, the multiple-pipeline-and-stage web is simplified with an object and properties. You also get the ability to continue the pipeline-based approach to show critical status necessary to engage the member or prospect, tracking:

  • Site or app usage 
  • Website revisits
  • Start and end date or membership term 
  • Paid vs free status

You also gain reporting capabilities: 

  • Number of engaged users based on number of paid seats from a company 
  • Amount paid monthly
  • Recent visit-to-membership-site date 
  • Renewals and retention rates 

5. HubSpot Custom Feedback Object

Collecting customer feedback doesn’t require a custom object, but having a custom object certainly helps you track and measure feedback over time and across an organization. A company can have an overall disposition (Company X rated us 4 stars), but so can individuals (what happens when, as a marketing agency, the CMO thinks we are 5-star, but the marketing manager is having a 1-star experience?). 

With a feedback object, you can: 

  • Ask for and associate feedback with contacts, companies, or other objects 
  • Track a contact or company’s feedback trend over time (Were we a 5 in December but a 2 in April? What happened?) 
  • Aggregate feedback across companies in your database and see where you may be providing a below-average experience 
  • Request feedback at a variety of different milestones (onboarding vs. ongoing work vs. end-of-project) 
  • Roll up contacts’ feedback to a company record to get a bigger picture view 
  • Divide feedback reports by line of business, account managers, retention, sales rep, etc.

A feedback object is all about taking a one-dimensional view of “How are we doing?” and turning it into a comprehensive, actionable way to improve your performance.

6. HubSpot Custom Deliverable Object

Can your CRM be a project management system? With custom objects, it’s possible. Using an object for “deliverables,” which could also be “projects” or “Milestones” let’s you track work and the status of that work on a per- deal, company, or contact basis. If you’re working with multiple departments, that means you could associated deliverable objects and create customer dashboards that  let a COO see all of the work you’re planning to deliver to her team, while showing the Marketing Director only marketing deliverables and the IT team only technical deliverables, if necessary. 

These deliverables can be organized into a process pipeline that shows what’s yet to be started, what’s in progress, what’s in review, and what has been completed. With automation tools, you can also flag work that is stuck and needs follow up or escalation, or send a feedback request on work marked as completed.  

7. HubSpot Custom Onboarding Object

What happens in your CRM after you close a customer? Whether you’re a SaaS solution that needs to get a new user into your product quickly or a service provider who wants to help clients get started in the right way, using an onboarding object to track where new customers are in your onboarding process is an ideal solution. With a custom object, you can: 

  • Associate onboarding in general or onboarding steps to only the contacts involved in onboarding, or to an entire organization
  • Use a pipeline to manage which customers are at which stage in onboarding
  • Use automation to share the right resources with your customers at the right time 
  • Create internal or client-facing dashboards that walk them through the onboarding steps 
  • Get notifications and escalate service when someone gets stuck in onboarding
  • Use feedback surveys to gather data about what’s working - and what’s not - in your onboarding process

8. HubSpot Custom Smarketing Resource Object 

Your sales team gets questions, your marketing team helps them create content to answer them. It’s a simple workflow that’s somehow gotten very complex. How does sales let marketing know about the question that’s been asked? How does marketing prioritize those questions? How does marketing update sales when the content has been created?

A “Smarketing resource” custom object helps you do just that. Here’s the flow: 

  • Sales has a conversation with a prospect, who asks the question
  • Sales searches in HubSpot’s custom object for that question - any nothing comes up. 
  • Sales rep creates a new instance of the custom object for the new question
  • Automation notifies marketing of the new question. 
  • Marketing creates the content and attaches it to the question in the custom object
  • Sales gets a notification that the question has been answered 
  • The prospect gets a notification that the question has been answered 
  • One of our website pages now shows this new content in response to an FAQ.

It sounds magical, but it’s simply a custom object. 

9. HubSpot Custom Campaigns Object 

If you’ve worked in Salesforce.com or other tools, you may be used to associating contacts or companies with campaigns for attribution reporting. In HubSpot, campaigns always functioned a bit differently - they were based on content and conversions, not contacts and attribution. With a custom campaigns object, similar to the conversions object, you can now establish these associations. This is particularly useful for companies who are combining inbound marketing with account based marketing and need to move beyond first-touch attribution. 

10. HubSpot Custom Course/Certification Object

If your organization offers any kind of certification or credentialing, a custom object may help you track contacts’ progress to their objectives. For example, if you were using an LMS (and yes, you can build one in HubSpot! For this use case, we even recommend it) to track course completion and quizzes in order to assess whether or not a contact has enough hours of education or the necessary CEUs, a custom object is the perfect place to track. 

In this case, that custom object and associated automation are particularly useful for sending reminders to your contacts so that they are able to finish their education before their credentials expire. 

Are Custom Objects Right For You?

This custom object stuff is compelling, but it might not be the right fit for every organization. As always, we recommend that organizations take a crawl, walk, run approach. 

  • Crawl: Create and document your processes. If you don’t have processes, custom objects won’t help you execute them better. Focus on creating processes that will scale long term.
  • Walk: Get familiar with HubSpot’s standard objects, pipelines, and functionality. Because custom objects in HubSpot are build on the standard objects’ foundations, understanding how they work and what they do - and maybe pushing the boundaries a little bit - will help you when it’s time to get custom. 
  • Run: Build the operating system of your dreams. Implement custom objects (you might need some development help for the first few!) and engineer workflows and processes. But make sure you document those processes first. 

Don’t forget: you can always ask for help. HubSpot is incredibly user friendly and has great support, but some technical requirements may mean custom objects aren’t solely a DIY job and may require looking outside (🙋🏻‍♀️) for assistance. For the best reporting, you may also need to think ahead on whether you use objects or fields or pipelines - it’s as much an engineering feat as it is operations. As a shameless plug… we LOVE this stuff and we’re here to help