Use lifecycle stages in HubSpot

Last updated: September 27, 2018


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.

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.

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: Subscribers are contacts 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. Companies often use the lead lifecycle stage for general, broadly appealing, or top of the funnel offers. As each lead demonstrates a higher degree of sales readiness and qualification, they 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 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 in that it can be used for a variety of scenarios, as defined by your business. Examples of what this stage has been used for include: closed lost opportunities, customer renewals, and key accounts. Keep in mind that while the definition of Other is entirely up to you, this is always the last stage of the funnel. Learn more about updating lifecycle stages to an earlier stage in the funnel below

Please note: the default lifecycle stage property option cannot be edited to add new or rename existing lifecycle stages. If you want to create custom lifecycle stages, you can do so 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 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 saved filters 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.

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.

Setting lifecycle stages for your contacts

Manually on a contact record

You can set a lifecycle stage for a contact manually on a contact record. Navigate to your contacts, then click the name of your contact. In the About secton on the left, click View, then 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.

Using the workflows tool

You can also create a workflow to set a contact's lifecycle stage (Marketing Professional and Enterprise only). For example, you could create a workflow that enrolls people from a certain contact list of trade show attendees, then use the Set contact property action to set their Lifecycle Stage to Marketing Qualified Lead.

Learn more about adding actions to workflows here

Using a hidden form field

Lastly, you can set a lifecycle stage through a form field (Marketing BasicProfessional, and Enterprise only). On your form, set the Lifecycle Stage field as a hidden field by hovering over the field and clicking the pencil icon. Next, check the Make field hidden checkbox and select a default lifecycle stage by clicking the corresponding radio button. When a contact fills out their information, the Lifecycle Stage field will automatically be filled. 

Learn more about creating forms here

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, if you import a list of contacts that already exist in your database as leads and you select Subscriber as the lifecycle stage for your import, all of the existing contacts will retain their current lifecycle stage; their lifecycle stages will not move backwards to Subscriber. However, for the same set of contacts, if you were to set Customer as the import lifecycle stage, the contacts' lifecycle stages would be updated to Customer because it is 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 Lifecycle Stage property then 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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