Getting Started on HubSpot: A Real-World Overview That Just Makes Sense

Getting Started on HubSpot: A Real-World Overview That Just Makes Sense

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Getting started on HubSpot can be intimidating. We’re here to give you a no-nonsense guide (from someone who’s actually done it) on what you need to think about to get your marketing automation up and running.

1. All about the data:

The first step in getting started on HubSpot, or any marketing automation platform really, is to look at the data that you need for import. This seems simple, and if you’re starting from zero data, it is…but it’s also the easiest to mess up and then regret for the rest of your natural life (no, I am not being dramatic).

You’ll want to consider the following when setting up your fields (called properties in HubSpot, so I’ll use them interchangeably):

The fields you need to track:

HubSpot has out-of-the-box properties for Contacts, Companies and Deals, but are there extra fields you’re tracking?

Pro tip: Of course there are! You’re a marketer trying to stalk your prospects across the internet, for their own good. How would you know which ad to serve if you don’t know their second cousin’s husband’s name?

Make sure you have a list of all the properties you need to capture and then compare it against the out-of-the-box fields to see what you’ll need to create as custom fields.

The types of data that go in those fields:

Speaking of stalking…er, tracking…prospects, some field types make building segments much easier. Standardize everywhere you can: checkboxes and picklists are great at making your data less chaotic (and your life easier) down the road.

Pro Tip: Certain fields (Title, I’m looking at you) can be the Wild West. Sure, people need to express themselves, but unwieldy text fields are tough to segment. Create a standardized field to group variations. For example, put Chief Executive Officer in your “CEO” standardized property, but Chief Equestrian Officer in “Other”. I rarely spend my marketing dollars on “Other”…

Timing for data migration:

If you’re migrating from an existing platform, I suggest giving yourself one month of overlap so you can do a side-by-side comparison of systems and match the fields as closely as possible.

Pro Tip: If you are changing platforms, NOW is the time to purge those John Smiths and Mickey Mouses like they’re your pre-pandemic jeans. It feels so good to be honest with yourself: those leads will never convert, and none of us want to wear pants with buttons ever again.

Pro Tip x2: Don’t forget to download a list of your current unsubscribes, and make sure their subscription status is updated in HubSpot. HubSpot doesn’t charge for contacts uploaded as Opted Out (although they do charge for contacts who opt out later), and you do not want to f^&k with CAN-SPAM and GDPR.

Once you’ve documented the fields you need, start building them in HubSpot. Figure out which system fields you can use and how many new fields you need to create. Yes, there will be some tears, a little wine, and a bit of cursing in this phase, but I cannot express how important it is to avoid the “We can fix it later” trap. It is ALWAYS harder to do later, I promise.

2. The only legal form of stalking: Marketing!

Website code:

The next step is to install HubSpot tracking code on your website. If you’re using WordPress, just install the HubSpot plugin. If you’re using a different CMS, you’ll have to plug the code into your website’s <body></body> tag.

Pro tip: if you have multiple marketing applications using tracking codes on your site, try Google Tag Manager to keep your site’s code clean.


This is another mundane but important step. If you have forms on your website, you’ll have to decide how to use HubSpot forms. Once the tracking code is on your site, HubSpot will automatically recognize your forms and create a corresponding HubSpot version, but you have two options on how to approach:

  • HubSpot forms: These are forms you build and manage in HubSpot and embed on your website. The biggest benefit is that you control what happens to your contacts (do they get an email? Do you get a notification?) directly from within HubSpot or the HubSpot WordPress plugin. You can also use some cool features like progressive profiling, where you can queue up different questions to deliver each time a known contact interacts with a form on your site, so that you build out their profile over time. The downside is you have to build them all manually, form by form.
  • Non-HubSpot Forms: This cool feature finds existing forms and creates a “Non-HubSpot form” equivalent…automatically. This means you can capture data without recreating every form on your site. The downside is you have less control *in HubSpot* over what happens with your leads. You’d have to manage response emails and thank you pages in the form provider you’re using.

There isn’t a “right” answer, so you will need to decide what works best for your organization.

Social media:

Connect your company’s social accounts so you can push your genius out to the world via Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram or Facebook.

Pro Tip: Check out the scheduling function — it will be a lifesaver (ok, mild exaggeration, but really, it will make your social posting super easy).

Ad management:

I can’t even joke around about this. Being able to connect your ad networks to your marketing automation platform with such seamless integration (yes, I know, buzzwords…but sometimes they feel soo gooood), is wonderful.

Pro Tip: You can build your ad audiences directly into your automation workflows. That means you can truly build an omnichannel marketing approach (yikes, buzzword!).

3. The admin: Not as fun as stalking, but still important

Admittedly, the admin section is one part of HubSpot that can be a bit confusing. The best way I’ve found to manage it is to go through each section and make sure you’ve populated all of the important information, such as:

Account defaults:

Upload your logo, set your default colors and corporate address (used in your email footer).

GDPR settings:

Decide if adhering to GDPR standards is right for your company. Most of the time, the answer is yes, but, I’m not your mom or your CMO, so learn about GDPR and make good choices, kiddo. HubSpot makes it easy to configure your account to stay compliant.

Connected apps:

As you build out your campaigns and set up your chat, you’ll notice HubSpot connects to a lot of the other tools marketers use. Are there any must-haves from day one? Go ahead, get wild and set it up. For example, the Slack integration makes it impossible to ignore activity in HubSpot. If your sales team is using Slack, I highly recommend integrating the two.

Email integration:

One of the most powerful parts of HubSpot for salespeople is the ability to log 1:1 emails sent from and received by your usual email account. If your company uses Microsoft or GSuite, HubSpot will log the emails right onto the contact records, letting reps track prospect communications without interrupting their workflows.

User setup:

You might notice that we haven’t gone over setting up users. That’s on purpose. For every new person you bring in, you’ll have to answer a dozen questions like, “How do I do this?”. Even the smartest person in your organization will turn into a three-year-old asking “why” a million times a day until they get used to the system. Save yourself from ruining every professional relationship you have and get to know the system yourself first so you can train others, properly.

4. It’s time to fly, young one

Now, get on with your marketing (What took you so long? Why don’t you already have a 500% increase in lead gen…jeez…)! Upload the data you meticulously standardized in step one. Set up some test campaigns. Create sequences. Post some things to social media with reckless abandon. And don’t forget to avoid these common HubSpot pitfalls.

Warning! Everyone will want to know why your lead volume hasn’t increased immediately after this investment. Take a deep breath, sip/chug some wine, and calmly remind them that while HubSpot is AMAZING, it is still just a tool. Your strategy generates leads, and HubSpot supports your strategy. So everyone calm the F^&k down and launch a webinar or two.

Are you still considering marketing automation platforms? Check out our HubSpot review.

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