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A messy HubSpot portal is not your problem: Here’s why

HubSpot portals get cluttered over time, and cleaning them is a good idea. Just don't let that distract you from the larger issue: Someone on your team needs to "own" HubSpot

A messy HubSpot portal is not your problem: Here’s why Blog Feature

John Becker

Revenue & Features Editor, Co-host of Content Lab, 15+ Years of Writing and Teaching Experience

February 5th, 2021 min read

So, you’ve got a messy HubSpot portal and you’re not sure where to start?

Before we get going, let me make a few other guesses:

Are you relatively new to your role?

I thought so.

Has your company been using HubSpot for a while — probably since long before you arrived on the scene?

Figures.

And, are the people who are most responsible for the current state of your portal no longer with the company?

It all makes sense!

Now, your situation might not exactly fit what I just outlined, but I’m guessing that I was close. 

So, know that you’re not alone. HubSpot is an amazing platform of tools, but it can become unwieldy and overwhelming if not managed properly, which might be what you’re experiencing.

The thing is, HubSpot portals become messy over time. It just happens. The same way basements and garages do. Stuff gets stored there.  No one bothers to clean it all that often  — and when they do, they’re afraid of throwing away something that someone else actually needs. 

But here’s the truth. A messy HubSpot portal is not really your problem — and a clean one isn’t going to solve the problems you have. 

Take IMPACT, for example. We’ve been using HubSpot for about a decade. We publish tons of content, have thousands of web pages, and our database contains hundreds of thousands of contacts.

Trust us, our portal is pretty messy. It comes with the territory.

Now, I’m not saying that portal hygiene isn’t an important goal. After all, cleanliness is next to godliness — at least according to my third grade teacher. But it’s not going to provide an instant solution for your challenges.

If you’re new to your role and feeling overwhelmed by the mess you’ve found in your HubSpot portal, we feel you.

Here’s what to do.

🔎Related: HubSpot for beginners: How to get started with HubSpot Marketing Hub

When we talk about messy portals, this is what we mean

First off, let’s split the messy portal situation into two camps. One one side is the mess of landing pages, email campaigns, forms, blog posts, and more. You know, marketing assets. On the other is the mess of contacts in your database. 

We’ll attack them one at a time.

If you’re overwhelmed with marketing assets

Carina Duffy is one of IMPACT’s certified HubSpot trainers. She helps clients set up their portal, establish lead conversion paths, build workflows, and properly get accustomed to the HubSpot platform. She also hosts the Hubcast podcast. Suffice it say, she knows her stuff.

According to Carina, the mess associated with content and marketing is something that you need to handle in-house. 

So, if you’re overwhelmed by email campaigns, landing pages, and more, clear some time on your calendar, brew a pot of coffee, and start digging in.

“[Marketing asset cleanup] is something that most people should be able to do internally. It just takes time to go through and see that ‘Oh, this workflow was created four years ago and it's still running.’

"Really, you should plan on doing these sorts of audits regularly.”

Take the time and go through what’s needed, what’s outdated, what’s broken, and what’s working. If your company has put you in charge of your HubSpot portal, they likely understand that you’re facing something that needs to be sorted through. 

It might feel like thankless work, but it will be time well spent. I promise.

If you’re overwhelmed with contacts

On to the second problem. Too many contacts to know where to start. 

This is the much more common scenario.

But why is too many contacts a problem? You know HubSpot charges based on contacts in your database and that you get punished by HubSpot (and more importantly, email servers) if your deliverability slacks, but at the same time you don’t want to erase important contacts that your company needs. 

So, what to do?

Use tools at your disposal

There are tools that can help you with database hygiene. Carina recommends two specifically.

Neverbounce is an email authenticator that can run through your database and tell you if certain email addresses are undeliverable. It’s effective and inexpensive. 

Insycle is a great data management tool that integrates with HubSpot. It looks for problems in your data like duplicates, inconsistent formatting, and more. Having clean data gives you more confidence in every email you send — and also lets you use personalization tokens and segmentation more effectively. 

On top of this, HubSpot conducts regular sweeps for duplicate contact data. So chances are your contact list is not that bad.

Recently, HubSpot changed its pricing structure for contacts. While you were previously charged for any contact in your database, you are now able to differentiate between “marketing contacts” and others. In other words, you only need to pay for contacts you’re actively marketing to. More information can be found on HubSpot’s website

You still may need to clean up your data, but the new pricing structure allows you to keep those extra contacts and not pay for them.

🔎Related: List hygiene and email deliverability: Getting into inboxes and in front of subscribers

Make a better plan for new data

A useful feature of HubSpot is the ability to segment your contacts to send emails just to certain people. You might want to target only folks in the manufacturing industry or only C-level company leaders. 

However, you can’t do any of this if those are not fields of data you’ve gathered. If you don’t ask for industry or job title on forms you use to collect contact information, you’ll never be able to segment by these criteria.

You can’t change what’s past, but you can implement smart, useful data practices so that everything you collect in the future will be legally compliant and beneficial to your company. 

So, as you plan for future data collection, make sure you’re asking for the information you need.

Remember, a clean portal won’t make you money...

As Carina herself is fond of saying, HubSpot is not a marketing strategy. It is a tool that can help your strategy come to life, but it’s not a magic wand or a money printing machine.

Same thing here.

A clean portal is nice and all, but it won’t make you money.

“Do you need a clean portal to use the platform and function in it?” says Carina. “No, you don’t.”

You can function just fine in HubSpot with a messy portal. But that doesn’t mean portal hygiene shouldn’t be a goal.

...but incomplete data will hold you back

List segmentation is one of the most compelling features HubSpot offers — and a major reason many companies use the software. 

A clean portal won’t guarantee that you can segment properly, but incomplete data will make it impossible. 

According to Carina, “segmentation is less about having a clean database and more about having the right data in your database,” so make sure to begin gathering the data fields that will allow you to segment your marketing communications. 

It’s crucial that you understand the data you’re collecting, as well as the value it offers your organization.

🔎Related: HubSpot pricing: Your guide to what HubSpot costs

So, don’t blame your portal when there’s a bigger problem

When clients come to us for a portal audit or data hygiene, it’s often the symptom of a bigger problem. As we established in the beginning, those asking this are often inheriting a mess that feels overwhelming. Yes, we can help you with that, but it’s important to address the bigger problem, too. 

Nine times out of ten, a messy portal is really an ownership problem. As Carina says:

“The bigger problem is the fact that there isn't a singular owner who has governance over what can be done or shouldn't be done in the HubSpot portal. And so you kind of have a free for all in there.”

Someone at your company needs to be in charge of the HubSpot portal. If that’s you, take time to build the processes necessary to make sure that data stays clean and marketing assets are properly labeled and organized. 

This ownership problem is only exacerbated by turnover, brand pivots, and shifting roles. The more hands in the portal, the worse it gets.  

If you’re newly installed in your company’s HubSpot role, establish governance protocols to guarantee that the mess never gets out of hand.

And dive into the portal and start making sense of what’s there. It will likely feel less overwhelming once you fully take stock and start to get to work. 

🔎Related: We just finished HubSpot onboarding — Now what?

If this sounds like you, here’s where to start

If this is all hitting close to home — that is, that you’re a new marketer who’s inherited a cluttered, tangled HubSpot portal, taking over for someone who’s no longer at the company — here’s how to get started.

Unfortunately, according to Carina, there are no shortcuts. “If you don't have anybody in-house that can help you understand what's been done in the past and why things are set up the way that they are, you’ll need to sit down and take the time to do an audit of your own portal.”

  • Start with the database and look at what properties you’re collecting. Check out what custom properties have been created. Does it all make sense? Has your organization been getting the information it needs? Should things be changed going forward? 
  • Next, use the tools listed above to get your data as clean as possible. Remember, you want your deliverability to be as high as possible, so good data is vital. 
  • Then, take time to learn the tools, monitor the workflows, and evaluate the assets. 

As you do, create process documents for your teammates to follow. 

Carina offers this encouragement: “It’s just going to take time to figure it all out, but once you do, you can really begin to take ownership and start fresh with your own vision.”

As you audit, keep this question in mind: What is the customer experience like?

As someone comes to your site, fills out a form, downloads an asset — what automation gets triggered? Are they best serving your buyer and representing your brand?

This is your chance to refresh and optimize the experience your customers have. Take the time to get it right. 

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