Too much of a good thing can sometimes be a bad thing. I was usually told this after eating too much candy on Halloween and waking up the next morning wanting to stay home because I was sick. My mom would love that I’m writing this, but I should have listened to her advice. Instead of eating a lot of candy all at once, I should have spread out my consumption over a longer period of time. Not only would I have not gotten sick, but I would have enjoyed the candy even more. This is called a best practice, and they exist to ensure we are taking actions that support what’s best for us now and in the future. The same goes for marketing ops and how we handle our marketing automation platforms.
We all know there are many different marketing automation platforms out there, but I’m going to only focus on HubSpot for this article. HubSpot offers some guardrails to help us maintain best practices, specifically in regards to properties (fields) and lists. At the end of the day, though, they are only guardrails and can’t fix poor practices all by themselves. Practices are actions we must constantly take to ensure we are setting ourselves up for success, and here are some of the best ones I have learned the past few years to avoid seeing our candy come up the same way it went down.
What are best practices with properties in HubSpot?
1. Avoid property sprawl like the plague.
We have all experienced it before. Another stakeholder wants yet another property created to aid them in their marketing efforts. Their request may even be extremely valid and you recognized the value yourself. But what about those five other properties that haven’t been touched since you created them last year? This is where we, as marketing ops professionals, can get creative in how we problem solve and operate. Before immediately creating a new property in your HubSpot instance, think about if there are any existing properties that can be archived or repurposed for your current use case. You may not see the benefit immediately, but after a few years of practicing this you’ll look back and be thankful you did it.
2. Use “Choosing options” property types over “Text input” whenever possible
This will help ensure you have a standardized list of values coming into your HubSpot instance and avoid many painful hours of cleaning up your data on the back-end. HubSpot even offers some pretty nifty tools to auto-magically populate dropdown select options when you select that as the property type option.
3. Ensure the property label matches the property internal name.
This usually happens when a property is repurposed to a different property, and the new information being collected is vastly different than what was previously tracked. And while you may have context into the update that was made, there is serious potential future teammates can get confused on the purpose of the property. Even worse than that, you might get confused too when setting up an integration down the road or inspecting your forms. Do the work upfront and save yourself the hassle in the future.
4. Maintain a tight loop of communication with your CRM team when adding new properties or picklist values to existing properties.
While it may seem like a minor, harmless enhancement to your form, nothing happens in a vacuum in marketing ops. Unannounced changes to properties can cause sync errors with your CRM, which can ultimately cause lead records to not be properly routed to your sales reps. Needless to say, notifying your CRM team early and often is a must.
5. Get in the habit of populating a description for each property and regularly reviewing.
This is a great opportunity for you and your team to come together and establish what information is essential for your team to know about a property. Who created the property and when it was created are already on the property, but it might also be helpful to indicate how the property is populated, how the property syncs with your CRM, or even a ticket ID that provides context into why the property was created.
What are best practices with lists in HubSpot?
1. Establish a solid folder structure and communicate to your team how to use it.
Team structure varies company by company, so there’s no one right way to go about doing this. Start with parent folders that are classified by how your business is structured. This could be by geographical location, team membership, or some other way. Then break it down by a timeframe, whether that’s a fiscal year or quarter. Remember, there may also be nuances in what you use your lists for. Some lists will be tied to operational processes and therefore should be evergreen. Great! Create a separate folder for those. However you choose to approach, stick to the plan and communicate to others how it all works.
2. Establish a naming convention for your lists.
Usually this will include information like the year, date, object (contact or account), and a brief description of the list, but adjust this to your company’s needs. This allows for quick reference to your lists across the rest of the instance. By using a standardized naming convention this allows you to use “contains” criteria logic instead of “is”, allowing your team to move much quicker. Similar to property names, the names of your lists should be indicative of the purpose for each list.
3. Regularly evaluate the use of your lists and delete unnecessary ones out of your instance.
This tails off of implementing a naming convention for your lists, specifically when you include the year and date. With a clean naming convention, you can simply search for a specific year and month for when your list was generated. Those older lists may have once served an important purpose but now are no longer needed and can be deleted. I also like to use the “Used By” value to see where the lists are used across the instance. If the number is low, see if you can delete it.
4. Clone existing lists as your starting point versus creating net new lists.
Work smarter, not harder. HubSpot list criteria can get a little tricky to understand, especially once you start racking up the filters. First, check your existing lists (again, naming convention and folder structure will pay dividends here) and see if you can simply clone an existing list and tweak the criteria a bit instead of having to start over from the beginning. This isn’t groundbreaking by any means, but you’ll be drastically improving your speed to serve your stakeholders over time.
5. Create instance-wide operational lists and regularly review them.
A singlez source of truth is key in our jobs. This is no different when it comes to running your operational processes out of HubSpot. At Etumos we have a variety of frameworks we implement that often involve the use of active lists. Whether it’s understanding which lifecycle stage an individual resides in or whether or not we should be emailing a certain prospect record that came in, we need to make sure these lists hold the truth. By building out these operational lists and directing your teammates to utilize them versus building them out themselves, you can make sure your team is running your most critical business processes correctly.
What next steps should my company and I take to ensure we are following best practices with properties and lists?
There’s a lot to digest in what I mentioned above, but rest assured knowing that it is possible to make these changes happen. If I had to prioritize the best practices I mentioned above into 3 key next steps, here is what I would do:
1. Conduct a property audit.
Use the “Export all properties” functionality in your instance and review each property used in your instance. Pull out your favorite Halloween candy (Dots, anyone?), pause notifications on Slack, and provide your analysis of which properties are still needed, which you’re not sure about, and which you are confident are not needed. I like to color code with green, yellow, and red. Once you’ve done that yourself, create another version with your immediate team (if you have one). Go through the same exercise with them. Chances are they’ll have additional context you may not have about some properties. Then, sit down with other business units who use HubSpot and run through the document with them. Change isn’t always easy, but reminding these teams of the long-term goal and providing solutions to their heartburn can make the transition go over a bit smoother.
2. Create a folder structure and move around lists accordingly.
Based upon what I mentioned above, think about how your team is structured and what type of hierarchy makes sense for the wider team. Think about what patterns exist in your lists and how you can begin to organize them. Renaming the lists can even come later, but establishing the foundation of where your lists will be located is a great first step.
3. Create documentation and present it to your team.
The part we all love the most: documentation. In all seriousness, I actually don’t mind documentation. I think it’s a great way to communicate important changes to your stakeholders and allows them to feel empowered and self-sufficient. If time allows, I would also take the extra step in hosting enablement sessions with each of the different teams to visualize the updates and what value they provide. This gives your stakeholders a chance to ask questions and may even open your eyes up to something you hadn’t previously noticed. Again, these are best practices, and practices are something you and your team do on a consistent basis based on the instruction you provide.
I eventually learned over time how to properly eat my Halloween candy. It didn’t happen overnight, and I definitely learned my lesson the hard way after not listening to my mom for many years. Best practices are in place for a reason, and not just to avoid those tummy aches. Best practices also help us ensure we are leveraging our HubSpot instances to the fullest extent and setting ourselves and our teams up for success both now and in the future.
Thinking about your HubSpot instance and how you want to improve? Contact Etumos today for an initial audit from one of our team members.