How to use lifecycle stages

Last updated: January 13, 2017

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Lifecycle Stages help you organize your contacts based on the stage they are at in your sales cycle: subscriber, lead, marketing qualified lead, sales qualified lead, opportunity, customer, or evangelist. Since your interactions with your contacts vary depending on what lifecycle stage they are in, it is helpful to have the ability to segment your contacts based on this information. For example, HubSpot's marketing team uses lifecycle stage settings to ensure that our customers do not receive emails intended for prospects and leads.

Depending on the structure and needs of your business, you may find yourself using all of the Lifecycle Stages, only a few of them, or creating a custom contact property that functions in a similar manner.

This article will go over the following topics:

Why you should use the Lifecycle Stage property

Using the Lifecycle Stage property helps to give you a full understanding of where all of your contacts stand in your marketing and sales processes. Ensuring this property is populated in HubSpot can help answer the following questions:

  • Who haven’t we marketed to yet?
  • Who is the marketing team in the process of nurturing
  • Who needs to be passed to sales?
  • When is it appropriate for sales to reach out?
  • How quickly is a lead passed to sales?
  • Who is currently in an open deal/opportunity?
  • Who are your customers?

It can help you establish a clear understanding of the handoff between marketing and sales:

  • When and how is the marketing team passing leads to the sales team?
  • How quickly is the sales team working these leads?

Lastly, the Lifecycle Stage property helps you to close the loop on your marketing and sales processes and understand how long it takes for a stranger to become a customer.

What are the different lifecycle stages?

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Best practices

Setting up your lifecycle stages in HubSpot will allow you to do the following:

1. Segment your contact database so you can send the right message to the right person at the right time.

2. Create targeted content so you can show different offers to both your leads and your customers.

3. Leverage social media to offer support and nurture your contacts.

Learn more about setting up your lifecycle stages in our Academy's project page.

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Subscriber: Think of subscribers as those folks who know about you and have opted in to hear from you periodically. In many cases your subscriber base is the segment of your contacts database that has only signed up for your blog or newsletter and nothing else. You should nurture a long-term relationship with subscribers and offer them content that will increase the chances that they will move forward in the customer lifecycle.

Lead: Leads have shown more interest in what you offer than subscribers have. Typically a lead has filled out a form with more than just an email address, often for some sort of content-based offer on your website. We see companies use the lead lifecycle stage for what we think of as general, broadly appealing, or top of the funnel offers. As each lead demonstrates a higher degree of sales readiness and qualification, they will move to further stages.

Marketing Qualified Lead: Marketing Qualified Leads, commonly known as MQLs, are those people who have raised their hands (metaphorically speaking) and identified themselves as more deeply engaged, sales-ready contacts than your usual leads, but who have not yet become fully fledged opportunities. Ideally, you should only allow certain, designated forms to trigger the promotion of a lead to the MQL stage, specifically those that gate bottom of the funnel offers like demo requests, buying guides, and other sales-ready calls to action.

Sales Qualified Lead: Sales Qualified Leads are those that your sales team has accepted as worthy of a direct sales follow up. Using this stage will help your sales and marketing teams stay firmly on the same page in terms of the quality and volume of leads that you are handing over to your sales team.

Opportunity: Opportunities are contacts who have become real sales opportunities in your CRM.

Customer: This is everybody’s favorite lifecycle stage: an actual, paying customer.

Evangelist: Evangelists are those contacts that are advocates for your business - they sing your praises from the rooftops! They are usually a small but vocal group who will refer new business to you unsolicited. Leveraging their networks often bring in new customers and help you reach leads you may not have been able to otherwise.

Other: Other is the wildcard lifecycle stage. Examples of what this stage has been used for include: closed lost opportunities, customer renewals, and key accounts.

Please note: the default Lifecycle Stage property option cannot be edited to add new or rename existing lifecycle stages. If you want custom lifecycle stages, you can do this by creating a custom contact property.

Where you will find lifecycle stages in HubSpot

Contacts: Lifecycle Stage is a default property in HubSpot Contacts and will appear on all contacts' records. From the Contacts Dashboard, you can filter your contacts using Views to segment for contacts based on Lifecycle Stage (Sales Qualified Lead to see who is ready for prospecting or Opportunity to see who is in your pipeline, for example). You can learn more about creating views here.  

Lists: You can segment contacts by Lifecycle Stage using either Smart or Static lists in the Lists tool. 

Workflows: (Marketing Professional and Enterprise): You can create a workflow to change a group of contacts’ lifecycle stage based on a form submission or on their inclusion on another list.

Sources: Contacts with a Lifecycle Stage of Customer will appear under the Customer filter in Sources. All other lifecycle stages will appear under Contacts.

Conversion Assists: Contacts in the “Customers” lifecycle stage will appear under the Customer filter in Conversion Assists. All other lifecycle stages will appear under Contacts.

Smart CTAs and Smart Content (Marketing Professional and Enterprise): While Smart CTAs and Smart Content can be based on any contact property, HubSpot gives you a default option to base your smart logic on Lifecycle Stage.

Adding lifecycle stages to Contacts

There are several ways that you can set lifecycle stages on your contacts' profiles. The first is to import your contacts with Lifecycle Stage as a contact property. You can click here to learn how to import a list of existing customers.

Alternatively, you can manually set lifecycle stage for an individual contact, use a workflow to automatically change a lifecycle stag when a contact triggers the starting condition of that workflow, or you can set a lifecycle stage by using a hidden form field.  

Setting lifecycle stage for contacts

You can set a lifecycle stage for a contact manually through the Contact Profile. From a contact's profile, select View all properties.

This will take you to the Manage properties screen where you can search for the lifecycle stage property. When you locate the property, click within the field to change the property value, then click Save.

You can also create a workflow to set a contact's lifecycle stage. For example, you could create a workflow that enrolls people from a certain contact list of trade show attendees and sets their Lifecycle Stage to Marketing Qualified Lead.

Lastly, you can set a lifecycle stage through a form field. On your form, set the Lifecycle Stage field as a hidden field by hovering over the fireld and clicking the pencil icon. Next, choose the Make field hidden checkbox. When a contact fills out their information, the Lifecycle Stage field will automatically be filled. 

You can be certain your field is a hidden field when you see the blue eye present on the field in your form builder.

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Updating lifecycle stage to an earlier stage

A contact's lifecycle stage is only meant to progress forward, down the funnel. Imports, workflows, and form fields can only set the default Lifecycle Stage property to a lifecycle stage further down the funnel.

For example, when importing a list of contacts whom already exist in your database as any of the lifecycle stages Lead, Marketing Qualified Lead, or Sales Qualified Lead, if on the import screen you select Subscriber as the lifecycle stage to import as, all of the existing contacts will retain their current lifecycle stage -- they will not have their lifecycle stages moved backwards to Subscriber. However, for the same set of contacts, if you were to import with the Customer lifecycle stage, their contact records would be updated to reflect them as customers, because customer is a later lifecycle stage, further down the funnel.  The order of the Lifecycle Stages is as follows:

Subscriber > Lead > MQL > SQL > Opportunity > Customer > Evangelist > Other

If you ever find yourself needing to revert a contact's lifecycle stage, you can change the lifecycle stage manually from his or her individual contact record, through a workflow by first clearing the contact property Lifecycle Stage before setting a value for that property, or via HubSpot's API. Read more about reverting a contact's lifecycle stage backwards in this article.

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