How do I define my lifecycle stages?

Define and document your lifecycle stages so that you can automate your marketing-to-sales hand-off.

What is a lifecycle stage?

A lifecycle stage represents how far a contact has moved through their buying journey. HubSpot includes a default property for lifecycle stage. The stages are:

  • Subscriber
  • Lead
  • Marketing-Qualified Lead
  • Sales-Qualified Lead
  • Opportunity
  • Customer
  • Evangelist
  • Other

The stages in this default property cannot be edited. If you need to use different lifecycle stages, then you will need to create a custom lifecycle property.

Automatic progression

HubSpot is configured to move a contact to the next lifecycle stage automatically under two circumstances:

  1. A Deal is associated with a Contact/Company: this automatically progresses the lifecycle stage of the Contact/Company to 'Opportunity'
  2. A Deal is moved to Closed-Won: this automatically progresses the lifecycle stage of the Contact/Company to 'Customer'

One of our goals at this stage in your onboarding process is to identify the circumstances under which we will tell HubSpot to move a contact through the other stages.

Hand-off stages

In most organisations, there are two hand-off stages:

  1. Marketing-Qualified Lead: this represents the hand-off between marketing and sales
  2. Customer: this represents the hand-off between sales and customer service

Common definitions for each lifecycle stage

You should feel free to use the lifecycle stages how you see fit. Most of ESM Inbound's customers find that the following definitions work well for them:

  • Subscriber: Subscribed to receive email updates from your blog.
  • Lead: A contact that marketing should nurture until they're ready to be contacted by sales
  • Marketing-Qualified Lead: A contact that marketing has identified should be contacted by the sales team.
  • Sales-Qualified Lead: A contact that the sales team has identified as being a good fit for becoming a customer.
  • Opportunity: A contact who is in active conversation with your sales team.
  • Customer: A paying customer.
  • Evangelist: A customer that actively promotes your business.

You can find a slightly different definition of the lifecycle stages in this knowledge base article from HubSpot.

How can I document my company's lifecycle stages?

ESM Inbound has created a template that you can use when documenting your lifecycle stages. This simple spreadsheet allows you to:

  • document your definition of each lifecycle stage
  • note any contact properties (or combination of properties) that should automatically mark a contact as fitting into a specific stage
  • note any behaviours that should automatically mark a contact as fitting into a specific stage

Download the template here:

Why do we map both contact properties and behaviours?

Contact properties represent fixed information about a contact (such as their industry, job title, etc). Behaviour represents a contact's interaction with your website and email marketing. Combining this information is a powerful way of identifying a contact's movement through the lifecycle stages.

For example, you might want to mark a contact as a Marketing-Qualified Lead if:

  • their job title is CEO or COO, their industry is IT services and they have 30 or more employees
  • or they have downloaded your price list
  • or their job title is CEO or COO, their industry is IT services and they have downloaded one of your case studies

This allows you to combine explicit and implicit information in order to identify the leads that should be contacted by your sales team.

Your homework

If you're reading this as part of your HubSpot onboarding with ESM Inbound, then you have some homework to do!

  1. Complete the template for documenting your lifecycle stages
  2. Create any custom contact properties you need in order to identify contacts at each lifecycle stage