In this interview we talked with Stef Sample who is has used HubSpot for over 10 years in multiple capacities, as a business owner, to a HubSpot Administrator her expertise with this software has time and practice to back it.
In this interview she shares how she implemented HubSpot for her new non-profit Pailor starting with the free version of HubSpot. We talk about how she leveraged social ads to grow her lead generation and workarounds she used to bypass the lack of automation until she was able to upgrade her account. Listen in or read below for Stef's insights on best practices and her favorite tools in HubSpot.
Q: Can you tell me a little bit about Pailor, first of all, and what version of HubSpot you're using?
A: Pailor is a nonprofit. It's a professional network for women business owners that own businesses that have at least three employees or $500,000 in revenue or above. Our mission is to increase the amount of revenue, or essentially capital, that women business owners control. And as a result of that, the waterfall effect we're looking to solve is the gender pay gap and benefits that keep other women in the workplace. Just those things. So big, big things that we're going after. We have HubSpot Marketing Pro Sales Starter, and Service Free.
Q: So in your efforts to launch this new nonprofit and using HubSpot, how did you use HubSpot to attract and gain members to Pailor? Can you give us a little bit of your strategy there?
A: So before we even launched Pailor, what we did was create a HubSpot account and we were in the free version at that time. Although we did end up upgrading because we were getting leads, we started with just using the ads tool in HubSpot, not the paid ads tool, just signing into our Facebook ad account and our LinkedIn ad account. We ran both Facebook and LinkedIn lead ads, which LinkedIn is just so expensive. HubSpot accommodates both lead ads really well and that is what we used to attract potential Pailor members. The lead ad was a form and we asked more than the basics. So we had people qualify themselves through a lead ad by saying, what is your qualifying company? Do you meet these minimum qualifications? Those were all on the form from Facebook.
They would then come into HubSpot automatically, as they do, then onto a list. And because we were on the free version, it was a little bit manual, but we also had no money. So we made it work. And how we did it was we would have a list populate when one of those lead ads got filled out and we would manually go into that list every day and look through and make sure that people qualify. Then we created a custom property that said, "Are they an approved Pailor member?" We would change that to yes, which then put them on a different list.
Then we would go into a marketing email that we created, not for automation because we didn't have workflows, and we would click “send to more,” and then add the list that said “Approved Pailor Member equals yes.” So it's like once a day we were kind of doing something that you can do really smoothly through workflows. But we were a brand new company, we didn't have any money yet. So that's kind of our approach to making HubSpot work. Now we have workflows. So now when they fill out the form, if that box is checked, yes, they automatically get the, "Welcome to Pailor" email and are taken through that process.
Q: That's got to be an interesting experience having so many years with HubSpot and having to really use the basics there.
A: It was good because when you go back to the manual way too, you also see how valuable the tool is and how it does. So once you've used pro or enterprise for a while, you can forget how much time it's saving you. So going back to the basics is, one, good to remember how things work, but also a good reminder of every month when I pay for Marketing Pro, now being like, "This is actually saving me time."
Q: And at what point did you set your marker where you started paying for Marketing Pro?
A: So when it was really hard for me and I was having to be really disciplined because I understand Marketing Pro. But we did it when we launched Pailor. So about a week before the actual launch. We knew once we went from having kind of a wait list, to actual members on our platform, we were going to have a lot more going on. So we did it right before the launch.
Q: So now that you have Marketing PRO, can you give me an example and maybe share your screen of a workflow that you're using for your members?
A: All right. So here is my HubSpot account. I only have a few workflows right now, like we just launched in mid May.
I'll give you an example of one I kind of like, and I guess I'm kind of proud of. So this one is when someone joins Pailor, they sign up directly on the platform, but they have to qualify themselves. So we have a HubSpot form, which is our application on a landing page, and we need that new member on our platform to fill out this form. So what we do is, I set my enrollment trigger as “List membership equals Pailor member,” which is populated through a Zap that connects to our platform.
And then I essentially say “Time delay one day,” because right when they get on the platform too, they can fill out their application that way. So I want to give them a chance to do that before I bug them. Then I use “If / Then branches.” So you can see here, I said, "If the form submission person has filled out the member application," so that's the form I referenced, is “yes,” it goes like way over here and does nothing at this point, which is probably how we'll keep it. But if they have not filled that out yet, then they come over here. So what I'm essentially trying to do is make sure that I'm not bugging new members that have already filled out the application because that's a really bad user experience and annoying to all people when they get follow up emails for something they already did.
So then if “no,” then they come here and we send them that email that asks them to fill out the form, which we can see has a good click rate and all that because it's really relevant. Then I wait four more days and then the same “If / Then branch” repeats. So I essentially duplicated my “If / Then branch,” where it then sends it to them a second time and then delays two days, and then it sends it. And then a third time, what we did was instead of sending them a marketing email, we decided we would send them a message on our platform. So that's why it goes here instead and that is an internal email. Right now, internally, we aren't using HubSpot tasks, so this was the easier solution.
But this could have been a HubSpot task. Three days, again, have they filled it out yet? If no, we have another email. Three more days, have they filled it out? So we just kind of keep going, trying not to be too annoying. We actually ended up calling them at some point. This workflow might seem a little bit extreme, but in order for our members to feel safe and confidential, we need to know that they qualify and then they're in a safe spot. So we take it pretty seriously and we just keep going with it. We also will just start emailing them and calling them instead of sending them marketing emails. I like how it is.
Q: So when you don't have the ability to set tasks, you can just send an internal email to one of the teammates with essentially the details of the task that needs to be taken?
A: That's what we did right here. Another option that we could have done, if I click here, is we could have used a connected app. Sometimes this shows up below. We do have Asana. We could have logged into our Asana and created an Asana task. Down the road, when we grow and we're busier, we probably will. Right now this is perfectly sufficient because we may get five to ten emails a day. So getting an email on a task is no big deal right now. But down the road, we'll probably do an Asana task.
Q: That's a great workflow. So you mentioned that you did use digital ads for Pailor to attract members. Do you still have those going right now?
A: They aren't live right now, but I could talk to you about them.
Q: Tell me a little bit about what platform, you already mentioned that LinkedIn was pretty expensive, so you did most of your ads through Facebook. Tell me about your strategy of setting a digital ad account, especially when something has not launched yet.
A: I started playing with HubSpot's ads tool a couple of years ago when it was almost like a sin for it to go live because ads seemed so “not-inbound.” But now HubSpot's changing their tone and saying it's part of inbound. So, we had no customers, we had a pretty good idea what our ideal customer looked like. Because of those member qualifications, early on when you're doing ads, it can be kind of tricky because in HubSpot you can do lookalike audiences, but you have to have 300 people or even more. We launched with demographics and then we refined. It was really easy to launch with demographics and then never go back and change it. But it becomes a really inefficient spend of your marketing dollars because as you start getting people filling out those lead ads, you could then refine and create a lookalike audience out of the people actually filling out your lead ads or actually visiting your website.
We only did demographics on both LinkedIn and Facebook for like two and a half, three weeks. And we got hundreds of leads, like it went really well. I think we spent a total of $4,500 for like 650 qualified leads. So then after two and a half weeks, we went back and we created a lookalike audience based on website visitors, because we were getting a lot more traffic from our ads. We created a lookalike audience out of other people that had already filled out our lead ads. And then we kept a third, that was still a demographic, but we set a budget a lot lower on that one. We continued to let it play out with those form lead ads to have them do a very specific action.
One thing that was tricky about HubSpot for me, that I actually still haven't solved yet, is on the attribution reporting, on the ads tool, like right now my number looks really bad because it looks like I got 650 leads, that became contacts. But right now customers says zero. So that could be kind of discouraging when you look at it. But that's just because I haven't done anything to update the lifecycle stage of people that actually became customers or members of Pailor. That's a laziness thing that I think a lot of us do, but I really should do that when I go in. So essentially what I would recommend is using a workflow for mine that says, when someone is on the list “Pailor member,” update their lifecycle stage to “Customer.” So that I start getting attribution reporting and seeing how much a real customer is or a member is, versus keeping that as a zero, which I think happens a lot. And we see that happen a lot and yeah, so I'm lazy too.
Q: If someone doesn't have the workflow capability, that's just a manual thing that they just have to go in and make sure that they're updating the lifestyle cycle stage?
A: Yep, and I've done it that way too, where essentially I could go to the list. I can select the box on the top left to select everyone on that list that's a Pailor member, and then hit edit, type in lifecycle stage, update to customer. And it would, in mass, update all of those to customers. So you don't have to do it one at a time. You just have to know what property to filter by, to then edit a bunch of contexts at once.
Q: Good tip for those of us who are working with the lower versions of HubSpot. So a lot of our members are always asking what are some best tips and best practices. So what is one of your favorite HubSpot tools that you think everyone should use?
A: Well with Marketing Pro, I think all problems can be solved with workflows. I've said that for a few years. It's like whenever I come up against some issue or some problem, I'm like, "Oh, we'll have to do a workflow," which is really nice. There's a couple, one in the deals pipeline. I really like the backend automation that's now available and it's even available in starter now, which is great, to do things just like even just updating properties or nudging sales people. So using the backend of the deals pipeline.
I think lists are pretty magical too, both active and static lists. I used to think if you're using a static list it's because you can't think correctly about your properties to know how to make it active. But actually, there's a lot of good use cases for static lists, like how I populate my Pailor member lists based on a Zap, and not static. Also, you need static lists for some other things like mass enrolling people in sequences, things like that. So lists, I think are really valuable tools. But I guess my biggest thing with HubSpot is taking a step back before you dive in and thinking about your company and what's unique to that company, and trying to customize it before you get too far into it. Also locking properties is a best practice I tell people, you don't want everyone in your company to be able to change properties or else your HubSpot account will become a data disaster, and there'll be a lot of duplicates.
So when I think about taking a step back and thinking of a company, it's so easy to ask a friend like, "How'd you build out your HubSpot?" But realizing HubSpot is really flexible and you can really customize it to just about anything. So just because your friend uses the ticketing pipeline to onboard new customers doesn't mean you're doing something wrong if you don't. So I guess the thing is just more about, there's no right way to use HubSpot and to just think about your company and customize it based on that.