The following is an interview with a fellow HubSpot consultant about one of her recent projects with a subscription-based SaaS company using HubSpot Enterprise. If you would like to meet this consultant, jump to the bottom of this post for an intro!
Hi, thanks so much for meeting with me today! Can you tell me a little bit about your client, the industry, their team size, how long they’ve been using HubSpot, and which Hubs they have?
Yes, this is a SaaS company with an app and a subscription model, working primarily B2C with some B2B clients sprinkled in. They have about 50 employees and have been using HubSpot for the last three years. They are now using the Enterprise Growth Suite and we added transactional email as well.
What challenge did this client come to you with and what was that conversation like?
It was the Director of Sales who first reached out. He’s relatively new to the company, has been there a little less than a year, and he inherited an absolute nightmare of a portal. He said they had over 400 workflows with maybe 300 of them firing on a relatively regular basis, but nothing was working as it should and actions were taking too long to complete, like renewal deals or onboarding tickets sometimes taking 15 minutes to trigger.
I asked if a lot of the workflows have only one or two steps and he confirmed that was the case, so we were quick to identify that the workflows were not implemented correctly to begin with and were probably just buried with band aid fixes over the years.
He mentioned that the people who originally built out their HubSpot are all gone and they have marketing, sales, and service teams all building workflows without communicating to one another, so it got messy and redundant very quickly.
They were also getting lots of errors on a daily basis and needed to keep adding manual fixes to correct workflow errors, so it was difficult to manage as they were trying to scale.
So all in all, due to lots of turnover in HubSpot ownership, too many Super Admins, and poor implementation and training, they didn’t know how to untangle what they had, and needed someone to make sense of it, clean it up, and get them to a point where the tools started helping them instead of working against them.
Yeah, sounds like a mess. Sounds like a daunting project to take on. How were HubSpot users being impacted by this challenge?
There were just too many work-arounds. So anytime they were hiring a new employee, it wasn’t just, “oh, here’s the process.”
It was, “oh, here’s the work-arounds that I figured out, and you may have to find some of your own as well.” Everybody had their own process or fixes, it was a system of band aids trying to keep the ship from sinking.
Nothing was institutionalized. Everything was a little messy. Every department was running their own sort of logic and things were getting very cumbersome and there was a lot of friction between departments for communication.
It was affecting the whole company through and through, including the customers. Because the customers weren’t able to get good communication about their subscription status, their renewal status, or their onboarding status.
Got it. And how was the business being impacted, if at all?
There were a lot of impacts. Reporting was an absolute nightmare because there were duplicate properties across different record types. They were called slightly different things and there were a lot of repeated properties, because one person would come in and call it something else.
For example, the phone number property: the next month someone would come in and call it a mobile number and then call it a contact number. You had three different properties tracking essentially the same data, so the reporting was just a nightmare.
It was very difficult for everyone to manage so they were losing a lot of leads, and attribution was a particular pain point for the marketing team.
We eventually upgraded them to Marketing Enterprise so they could get that multi-touch revenue attribution reporting and get some of those additional touch points, because they were getting a lot of pressure to prove how many MQLs and SQLs they were driving.
How did you suggest getting this project started and what was your impression of their portal once you got into it?
I confirmed it was a mess and definitely a lot going on!
Before I could begin to make sense of their workflows, I first had to understand how the company is currently operating and how they wish they could operate. So I began with team interviews and collected as many complaints, requests, and concerns that I could uncover and documented everything diligently.
And then I took all that feedback and I bulleted out everybody’s primary goals, primary challenges, and some early quick wins we could implement team by team. Then I circulated that document with everyone and collected a second round of feedback to ensure anything that landed between multiple teams was addressed and optimized.
This was a very eye opening exercise for everyone because since historically there wasn’t great communication between the segregated teams, seeing it all laid out they realized how many issues they had that overlapped and affected multiple teams, or even errors in one place that were caused by a poorly implemented fix elsewhere. It was also clear that there was a lot of love between the teams and several teams had expressed concerns on behalf of other teams as well. In the end, it really helped everybody to get aligned around our priorities and the goals keeping the company from growing.
After that was all done and I had an idea of where there was some pent up friction, I went through all the workflows one by one and documented their purpose, errors, dependencies, and redundancies.
By the way Operations Hub Pro / Enterprise was a massive time saver when it came to working through all the properties and workflows. The data management tools made it really easy to see what would be affected with every property or workflow that was changed so we didn’t end up causing any new issues over the course of this process.
Everything went into a master project plan that was shared with everyone for transparency, and we all worked together to prioritize the biggest fires/leaks that needed to be addressed, especially anything that was customer facing or revenue driving, and starting chipping away at those first and consolidating.
It’s been a little over a month at this point and they’ve already reported big improvements in their onboarding and renewal workflows that trigger as soon as a deal is closed/won. Those used to take 10 or 15 minutes to go all the way through and now we’re down to a few seconds so everyone is really excited about it.
How long was this project?
We’re currently two months in and we’ve got one more month to go. The bulk of the work has been done already and we’re getting into the QA phase.
Is this a common challenge you hear from HubSpot users? And if so, why?
This is the most common complaint that I get, and I honestly don’t know that it’s something that can be completely avoided. If you have a lot of turnover, or any turnover in five years and ten years, the longer you’re using something there’s going to be change of ownership, and there’s going to be things that fall through the cracks.
It’s a hard problem to avoid completely, but some of these things can be prevented with really good documentation and really clear processes that are written down somewhere, so that if somebody leaves the next person is going to say, “oh, here’s exactly how this process has been done.” They can improve on it if they want, but they’re not trying to make their own impressions of what’s already been implemented.
So it is very, very common. Some kind of accountability and tracking of those workflows is really, really helpful. The other thing that I’ve started doing to help my customers prepare for any changes in the future is when we’re going through these workflow audits, we make sure to identify where things need to be updated.
So highlighting and documenting which workflows need to be updated when products change. If you’re adding new products, if you’re adding new offices, if you’re adding additional teams, we’re highlighting the things that rely on some of those branching logics.
So people know that, okay, great, if we’re adding another product, these are the three workflows I need to update that have branching logic for particular products or anything like that.
Those are some of the ways that we try to mitigate future problems. But you’re definitely not alone if you’ve come into a messy HubSpot portal that’s been done and redone 10 times and nobody knows where to find anything.
Good advice. During the course of this project, did you uncover any other challenges the client needed to address?
Yeah, so this one was actually pretty interesting because there was a lot of love between the teams, but there was also some tension specifically between the customer service team and the marketing team.
It turned out that there was a deeper problem because customer service was using marketing emails for communicating important account updates. So onboarding notifications or directions, account renewal updates – all those things that are actually supposed to be transactional emails.
And so CS was always really worried about marketing running campaigns because the more that marketing did their job, the more CS was worried, “oh, somebody’s going to unsubscribe from all emails and they’re not going to be getting our account updates and we’re not going to be able to onboard. We’re not going to be able to renew. We’re going to get all these other big issues.” There was always that tension between CS and marketing.
And so when I came in and identified this issue, it became very obvious that they were not using marketing emails correctly and that transactional emails were going to solve for that problem right away. So they added the transactional email add-on, and everything that was account related got switched to a transactional email.
It was a quick and easy fix of the workflows that needed to be updated. And now we removed that subscription type from the subscription types. So there’s no membership updates. Now it’s all marketing specific. Even if people unsubscribe, they’re still safe getting their onboarding and account related emails.
It solved a big problem and now marketing is really excited about having more freedom to run campaigns, do some remarketing, and get more opt-ins.
Fantastic. Last question: as a HubSpot consultant, what did you like most about working on this project?
I really enjoyed getting all the teams on the same page. Because in this particular company, every single person that I’ve talked to cared about their team, they cared about the customer, and cared about the other teams. It was really just more sharing concerns about other teams rather than complaints. It was really refreshing that everybody was in it for the customer, everybody was in it for success, and they wanted to help each other out.
Another really important thing about the success of any project and what I really enjoyed about this project is that everybody at the company was very committed to its overall success. So the homework that I assigned was completed on time. Everybody was super communicative and responsive, added me to their Slack channel, etc. We had constant communication on a daily basis, asking questions, providing feedback and saying, “oh, I thought of this other thing.”
So it really goes to show that it takes a village on projects like this. And when I came in, everybody was really excited because everyone within the company felt some sort of pain from their HubSpot being so messy.
Everybody was very open with feedback and jumping on meetings. Having that buy-in from a customer is really important for me to be successful in fixing problems and in helping to build a better system to scale, because without that I’m throwing spaghetti at a wall. If I have unresponsive clients, it doesn’t matter how great my ideas are.
There has to be buy in and ownership on the inside. I care about my clients, I care about their business, and I need my clients to care about their business too. It’s been very fun to work with people that are as excited about better processes and HubSpot in general and all the cool things that it can do.
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