The inbound philosophy is all about having a single view of the customer. It’s about ensuring you’re communicating with the right people at the right time. But how do you know when the right time is? That’s where HubSpot Lifecycle Stages come in.
If you’ve been introduced to the world of HubSpot or inbound, you’ve likely heard the terms “Subscriber”, “Leads”, “Marketing Qualified Lead”, and “Sales Qualified Leads” before–you might have even heard them before in the sales or marketing sphere. But do you really know what they mean or how to use them to help you have a single view of the customer?
Every CRM tool has it’s own version of these terms, we find the HubSpot ones are the best when it comes to closing the loop and getting that single view of the customer you’re looking for. So, let’s look at what each of the HubSpot Lifecycle Stages are and how you can use them to Attract, Convert, and Delight your buyer personas.
What are the HubSpot Lifecycle Stages?
In a nutshell, the lifecycle stage is a property in HubSpot which helps you categorise where your leads are in their buying cycle. This helps you identify how ready someone is to receive communications from your business and who in that business should be doing the communication.
According to HubSpot, “To properly categorise your contacts, leads, and customers — and move them through the funnel — it’s imperative to know the difference between each stage, and more importantly, what triggers a move from one stage to the other.”
The lifecycle stage property in HubSpot uses the below stages:
- Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)
- Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)
Each plays an important role in ensuring you’re talking to your personas at the right time. When they are actively ready to be engaged by you and at what level - marketing, sales, or service.
Try this article to find out more about understanding lifecycle stages.
Using Subscriber and Lead
Most marketing teams are used to jumping right from visitor to lead, but there is actually a step before which should be kept in mind, and that’s Subscriber. This stage is reserved for people who subscribe to your blog or newsletter and nothing else.
Why is this an important stage?
Well, it allows you a quick win for gathering a person’s email when they are still in the awareness stage of their buyer journey. This means you can start understanding a potential lead’s problem so you know what kind of content to offer them in order to help them solve their problem - building you as a thought leader from day one.
Spitfire Tip: The challenge with the subscriber stage in HubSpot is the name “subscriber” in some industries can be a customer, for example, if your business model runs on a subscription basis. But don’t let the wording put you off. In this case, we recommend you don’t use that stage (as it may cause confusion internally) and just start from lead.
The Lead stage in HubSpot is the standard, point one stage. Anyone who fills in a form (not a subscribe to blog form) automatically becomes a lead. This is someone who is identifying themselves as an interested party but could still be focusing on research - someone likely in the awareness stage of their journey. This stage gives you have the opportunity to look at their engagement and identify areas where you can help them. Then use all the amazing tools in the HubSpot box to start sending them helpful information. The goal is to get them to a point where you feel they are ready to be more actively marketed to. At this point they then become a Marketing Qualified Lead.
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Understanding Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL)
You’d want to use the Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) stage to pin point a contact who has shown some sort of interest in making a purchase, essentially something beyond just doing research. They’re open to the idea of a sale and have taken an initial step to engage with your business, without yet buying. Think of this as someone who is in the consideration stage of the buyer's journey.
HubSpot defines a marketing qualified lead as a lead that the marketing team has deemed more likely to become a customer compared to others. This determination is based on criteria such as which web pages were visited, content offers were downloaded, CTAs were clicked, and social posts were interacted with.
While the definition of a marketing qualified lead is a general one – a lead that is qualified to be marketed to – it’s important to note that every business has a different criteria set for what that MQL would look like. Your criteria will be very specific to your company buyer personas and their behaviour.
Spitfire Tip: start with your best guess and then use the data gathered over time to optimise these criteria. Remember, it’s important to strategically mapped out your buyer personas in order to identify a marketing qualified lead.
Getting them to Sales Qualified Lead
A Sales Qualified Leads (or SQL) is the stage at which you can comfortably say that a lead is ready to speak to a sales person - and that they won’t be shocked to hear from you.
In the world of inbound, there are two key ways to identify an SQL:
- Someone has filled in your ‘contact us’ form and actively asked to speak to a sales person.
- Someone has engaged enough with your business for you to start having a sales conversation with them.
Knowing the difference is key as the way you would approach the sales conversation with the two would be completely different. Using a lead scoring system is a great way to identify the second type of SQL.
At times, you might find it a bit tricky to distinguish between an MQL and SQL when you start with HubSpot because these terms are often used differently in other marketing philosophies. Keep in mind that what differentiates a Marketing Qualified Lead from a Sales Qualified Lead is the lead’s need to solve a problem vs their perceived willingness to make a purchase.
Spitfire Tip: not all contact form leads are created equal. Including questions to determine why a person is visiting your website can help you easily segment and classify them as an MQL vs SQL (or a career seeker).
Opportunity, Customer, and Evangalist
The final stages you’ll find in the HubSpot Lifecycle Stage property are Opportunity, Customer, and Evangalist. These are the stages where the lead moves away from being a marketing lead and becomes a sales lead. Remember, an SQL lives in the marketing and sales realm as they could still be disqualified by sales if they are not ready to buy and moved back to continue nurturing.
Once a deal is created in HubSpot, the lead associated with that deal will automatically become an Opportunity. Once the deal is closed they then become a Customer. The benefit of tracking these stages (both as a sales and marketing person) is that you get a better understanding of the quality of your leads and can make decisions on your marketing efforts based on this data.
The Evangalist stage in HubSpot is designed to identify those people within your customer companies who are your promoters. Remember, the Flywheel is all about adding force and removing friction. By knowing who your Evangalists are, you’re able to delight them, which then ensures they push more leads your way.
The importance of Other
Many may think that the Other lifecycle stage doesn’t really serve a purpose but in actual fact, it’s a very important stage to have. Every business has data in their CRM around suppliers, staff, and career seekers. These are people you likely don’t want to marker to. You also don’t want them skewing your data. In HubSpot, you can exclude people with this Lifecycle Stage from key elements including reports, Smart content, workflows, and most importantly, emails.
Spitfire Tip: create a “Lifecycle Stage - Other” list so that you can easily exclude these contacts from marketing workflows. We also recommend you mark these contacts as non-marketing contacts to ensure they don’t affect your contact tier.
Using a report to visualise your Lifecycle Stages is also a great way to understand where the bottlenecks are in your marketing and sales efforts. If you look at the example below (pulled from test data) you can easily see that the majority of contacts are Leads, this indicates that there is a gap in the Lead to MQL process.
Remember that not all leads are made equal. Some leads require more nurturing and aren’t ready to make a purchase while others want to jump on the wagon immediately. It’s crucial to understand your data and lifecycle stage and to develop a solid relationship between sales and marketing teams.
Communication is always key. Aligning your sales and marketing teams can significantly improve business performance and help the business increase sales, boost ROI, and growth.
Want to know more about HubSpot terminology? Download our HubSpot Terminology Guide and find out all you need to know.