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Managing your CRM data Ugh.

While tools like HubSpot make it easier to attract and convert new contacts, arguably the most important (and agonizing?) step is organizing and managing those contacts so you can engage them in a more personalized way.


What makes it even trickier is when you need to import contacts and companies into HubSpot CRM from different sources, as the required contact information isn’t always uniform.

Turns out, this happens quite a bit. We talked to dozens of marketers on these challenges, and while there were several reasons that necessitated importing data into HubSpot CRM, the most common response we heard was “leads captured from others systems.”We also asked what they find the most difficult about importing contacts into HubSpot and their tips for making it easier.

Almost all of them have imported contacts in the past six months, and the vast majority have uploaded other things, too:

So what problems do they run into? And how do they deal with them? Let’s take a look.

Cleaning and Formatting Data

“Typically, the biggest delay [when importing data into HubSpot] is the structure and hygiene of our clients[‘] data,” says Richard Wood from Six & Flow. “If the data is being brought in from multiple sources, it often needs normalising first.”

“Make sure your data is as accurate as possible before the import. Make sure it's structured as you would expect and check the number of rows you're importing—it's the quickest way to check if the data is all in there after the import.”

Build Your Excel Skills

“The most difficult part of importing contacts/companies into HubSpot,” says Revenue River’s Kelley Wrede, “is if the original .CSV file doesn't have clean data.”

“If first and last name are combined into one column you have to go in and ensure they are separated to properly map those values into HubSpot. It can get even messier when some people have middle initials or middle names and/or prefixes/suffixes included.”

To solve this problem, “you can use the ‘text to columns’ functionality in Excel to split the information into multiple columns if they were previously combined into one in your .CSV file. If you use ‘space’ as the criteria to split things up, it is a great time saver.”

“However,” Wrede notes, “data can override your other columns so you sometimes need to first insert columns in between.”

Henri Pallonen from Hehku Marketing agrees: “Importing contacts/companies into HubSpot require good Excel-skills. You want to make sure that the data has been correctly cleaned before you start your import.”

“Before you start importing contacts and companies to HubSpot make sure that you're familiar with mass editing functions of Excel. You'll get the best result, when you do your data cleaning before initially starting your import. That way you'll make sure that import is successful and you can easily manage your imported contacts.”

Growth Hackers’ Jonathan Aufray uses a different strategy: “We hired an 'Excel' expert. Thanks to a few hacks, we can now easily remove duplicates, unwanted white spaces or characters, correcting the grammar, replacing commas or other characters. Having an Excel pro helps us a lot!”

Jonathan Stanis from Weidert Group imports contacts into HubSpot daily, and also recommends learning Excel. “[E]specially the macros feature. I have saved a ton of time formatting using them to clean up imports.”

Format Your Database Correctly

Several marketers recommend taking the time to set up your database so that it better matches what HubSpot is looking for.

“Depending on where the data is coming from, it's not organized in a way that's easy to import into HubSpot,” says Shannon Howard of You Need a Shannon.

“For example, if you have Street Address and Street Address 2 as two separate columns, you'll need custom properties in HubSpot to reflect that Street Address 2. Same with countries—if your forms typically collect City/State/Zip Code, you'll need to create other fields for other countries and how they format addresses.”

“Make sure that wherever you're pulling data from uses the same fields and nomenclature as your HubSpot fields. That way, when you export into a CSV, you can easily and cleanly import into HubSpot.”

Jon Martin from TANK New Media says “the biggest tip to importing contacts/companies etc into HubSpot is making sure you have your database structure and logic set up properly for ongoing usage as well as build spreadsheet templates to make sure your input data is mapped correctly.”

You can also use a template to make the process easier, says Babelquest’s Chris Grant:

“Create a template that exactly matches the contact/company/deal properties that you have in your Hubspot CRM. Use it as the standard for all data uploads. This will dramatically reduce the time you spend resolving errors.”

Getting Contact Properties Right

“More often than not, the struggle comes in preparing and customising HubSpot for a business' data,” says Oliver from Catalyst. “If there are many different custom fields needed and different access to data for certain members of the team, that's where businesses tend to get a bit stuck.”


“As a company that has helped dozens of HubSpot customers get [set up] for success, we believe the key is in the preparation. When you first sign up for a new tool like HubSpot, you're often incredibly excited by the possibilities and potential the system has.”

“My advice would be don't jump the gun; you'll never get any of the benefits HubSpot promises if you don't upload your data correctly in the first place. Plan your custom fields, pre-create your lists and make sure your team are trained on how to enter new data before they start using the system.”

“If you just stick your data in and hand over control as quickly as possible, there's a good chance the team won't even adopt the system because it won't be intuitively [set up] for them.”

“Alternatively, there's also a chance that the team members who do adopt the system may enter information in incorrectly—some adding new data to the Company Record while others add it to the Contact Record, for example—leaving your whole portal in a real mess.”

“In a nutshell, my advice is plan, customise, train then launch.”

“You can, of course, slowly roll the system out, too, by giving your team members access to new areas as and when they've learned to use them. This is a great way to ensure people aren't swamped with a whole new system to learn and increases the chances of a good adoption while also decreasing the chance of HubSpot being used incorrectly.”

Set Up HubSpot for Your Data

“The most difficult part of importing contacts or companies into HubSpot is setting up your import document to fit the same descriptions and information that you currently have,” says Kristen Buerman of Leighton Interactive.

“This can be time-consuming, but critical so that the new contacts you're uploading pull into lists in the future. For example, if you currently have contacts in your HubSpot database that include their ‘title’ but your import document uses the term ‘position’ you will have created a new field and in the future you will not be able to pull this same information across all your contacts.”

“Take the time to make sure all of the fields in your import document match the fields in your current database. This will help with the upload process and you won't have to try and find the correct field or make changes after the upload.”

Ironpaper.com’s Brian Casey says that “The most difficult part of import[ing] contacts into Hubspot is porting over contact properties that speak to original conversion. The conversion form fields that exist for Hubspot[-]generated leads cannot be imported. Web Analytics & Conversion properties such as ‘Original Source’ cannot be imported because they aren't created in Hubspot.”

“The biggest issue is that imported contacts aren't able to be run in reports with the same form fields. ‘Became a lead’ is another example of a contact property that exists in Hubspot that you cannot match with an import of your list. An import will track when they were created in Hubspot as the create date.”

“Make sure that your contacts are in a .csv or .xls file in an organized fashion with form field headers that you easily understand and closely align to Hubspot properties.”

Matt Desilet from Lola.com recommends “Download[ing] all example HubSpot CSV’s and customizing them for your company. Have 10-20 rows of example content for each record type (Contacts, Companies, Deals, etc.) and distribute to people in the organization so they know what the formatting should look like. Always refresh your process as well.”

Matt Antonino of Digital Eagles also shares a specific tip for dealing with broken connections in HubSpot:

“Create a ‘temporary’ Company field in the Contact. With this, you can then easily match up the correct Company later but in the meantime, you know who you're dealing with. This can save quite a few headaches when the Contact doesn't have a Company email address, especially.”

Set Up Your Data for HubSpot

Paige from Digital 22 says “The most difficult thing is figuring out the contact properties before an import. How will HubSpot gather and display the data? Does the CSV have numbers, like a budget? Days? Time? Do we need dropboxes, or a single line box? How can we use this data efficiently and trigger the right actions?”

“This can cause errors in the import due to the fact HubSpot wasn't able to read or pull through the data, so something has gone wrong when creating your properties. Be as specific as you can, make sure the columns are labelled correctly before an import.”

“HubSpot doesn't recognise ‘Prospect’ as a lifecycle, only ‘lead.’ ‘Surname’ needs to be ‘Last name’ for the data to be pulled through properly, otherwise it won't be displayed as it should be in the contact's HubSpot profile. If a client is putting together a spreadsheet, go through what data you need, what you don't need and show them how to manage/format the columns. Create a video tutorial if needs be.”

Rade Kemalova from CIENCE shares a simple recommendation: “To name columns in the import .csv file word-to-word with the Hubspot properties—saves time to match the columns with existing properties during import.”

Don’t Mistake Notes for Properties

“The notes in HubSpot during the import process are NOT contact properties,” says ClearPivot’s Chris Strom. “If this is used as such, critical information about your import can be lost and contacts will not be saved correctly, if at all.”

Deduplicating Data

“Hubspot has only minimal dedupe function during load so once you load data, you will realize lot of Company is duplicated due to minor spelling issues,” says Vijay from AltaFlux. “Hubspot doesn't create company names based on domains but rather based on maybe bad data that [you] are loading.”

“[You] have to understand how the different fields in Contacts and Companies are connected with each other and how your data load impacts once [it’s] loaded. For eg. You can have lot of missing data—but if you don't have the right domain name or company name then you will have orphan contacts that are not associated with companies.”

Perryn Olson from My IT agrees: “The hardest part of importing contacts into a CRM is preventing duplicates regardless what CRM.”

“Once we downloaded a list of clients & prospects to generate a mailing list for Christmas cards. When cleaning up the spreadsheet, we deleted the email and contact ID columns. After filling in numerous blank address fields and making corrections, we couldn’t import the spreadsheet back into Hubspot because we deleted the two pieces of data it would use to deduplicate the contacts. Then, we had to update the info manually.”

Olson also shares a tip for preventing this problem: “[H]ide, don’t delete, unnecessary columns when making edits to a contact list.”

Use the Right Tool

Kitchen Magic’s James Marshall brought up this problem: “By default HubSpot allows deduplication only by email address. This leads to many duplicate leads in the CRM as typos on email addresses are common. This also leaves no way to deduplicate records which don't have email addresses.”

“I recommend using Insycle, a third-party integration with HubSpot. Upserting via Insycle allows deduplication by any field. We use our own internal lead id number to match records upon importing. Furthermore, we use the email address as a match to provide our contact records within HubSpot with an internal lead ID so that can continue to be used as a universal identifier for future record updates.”

Agnieszka from InfluencerDB also uses Inscyle, and gives this tip: “When uploading I always use the ‘valid’ tab—it helps me to see in a blink of an eye how many duplicates Insycle detected.”

If you’re wondering if you can do the import without a tool, the answer is yes . . . but it’s not recommended.

“The most difficult part of importing contacts and companies into HubSpot is when you try to do things manually,” says Nettly’s Thorstein Nordby.

“I would highly advise agencies to use an automation tool that lets you export data from most CRMs and MAPs, and automate the whole process of moving data between the systems you are using. This will reduce the errors a person would do, and if will free up tons of hours you can spend on other high-value activities.”

Creating and Maintaining a Business Process

“The most difficult part about importing contacts or companies into HubSpot is maintaining consistency across systems,” says UNINCORPORATED’s Ian Evenstar. “Not ironically, this is also the most time-consuming part: exporting a spreadsheet of contacts from one system, formatting them to match HubSpot, and checking them for quality control.”

Evenstar gives four tips for solving this issue:

  1. “Use the same naming conventions in HubSpot as you do in your marketing and sales tools

  2. Whenever possible, integrate your software with HubSpot directly

  3. Match the form fields in your Facebook lead ads with the internal name of the contact properties in HubSpot

  4. Use an import template that includes the correct column headers so properties match and you don't forget a business critical property”

Jenay Sellers from SmartAcre sees these problems when companies import contacts: “Overwriting existing data, appending data, not having a conversion event to set for lead attribution tracking.”

“For example we often upload lists with pre-existing contacts so while we would like to potentially update some properties, we don't necessarily want to update them all. Therefore, we only import the bare minimum and then have to use workflows to set other important information like custom field property values, lead source data, conversion information, and campaign membership.”

Sellers has a recommendation for getting around these issues: “Standardize a process!”

“Everyone has different lists and different reasons for wanting to add them to HubSpot. Set a required number of fields and carefully document what should and should not be done as part of your import process. In addition we need data appended to records after import (i.e. update lead source only for newly created contacts) and we must ensure newly imported lists are ran through those workflows as well.”

“Lastly, we have alerts [set up] so that one person in the org can monitor the overall health of our database to ensure nothing is missed along the way.”

Know What You’re Importing

Two marketers pointed out that importing contacts into HubSpot is only part of a more extensive business process.

“Understand[ing] the business use cases that go along with the imports” is important, says LyntonWeb’s Jennifer Lux.

“While there can always be some technical glitches in any upload, the most significant challenge is often on the business side of things. Just uploading a list from another CRM is not enough, the challenge is often understanding the business story behind the data being uploaded. Understanding both the sales and marketing processes for clients helps us upload data for maximum business benefit.”

“This might include custom properties, updated fields, new mapping, and even setting workflows to make the data more specific, and actionable. This all enables clean reporting and therefore, data-driven business decisions.”

Zac Johnson of Blogging.org agrees:

“The most difficult part of this process is making sure each of the leads you are importing are of value. From a customer perspective, this isn't as important, but when doing any type of high-end business or direct response, you want to make sure all of the lead data is correct and updated.”

Import Your Data and Fix the Issues Later

Sometimes you need to run the import and deal with difficulties later.

“In my experience, the most time-consuming part has been getting clients to understand that importing information isn't a ‘one time only’ thing,” says ONEFIRE’s Adam Bockler.

“Clients seem so concerned about getting it right the first time, but holding the process up doesn't help, either. When clients go weeks and months without importing their data, it's difficult to demonstrate the value of HubSpot. The agency partner can't email those contacts to get them to reconvert using a HubSpot form if there are no imported contacts to message.”

“Draft some minimum amount of information you need to parse through your contacts and companies. Then, create your import list and actually import it. Later, go back to refine it. You can always edit the records once they're in HubSpot, and you can import more data later to add to the contact or company records. The data will be automatically deduplicated based on email address.”

Whether you run the import and address issues later or spend a lot of time preparing for the perfect import, make sure to use the right tools and consistent processes. It will save you hours—if not days—in the long run.

How Insycle Improves Importing & Data Management Processes for HubSpot Customers

By identifying the key issues that most companies run into when importing data and designing a system that not only accounts for these issues but solves them in simple but intuitive ways, Insycle help customers reliably import critical business data into HubSpot CRM (and other tools).

With Insycle, you have complete control over the data that you import to prevent adding bad data, creating duplicates, or overwriting existing values. You can validate and tweak values before the actual import, choose to append data  only when values are empty, compare csv rows to contacts or companies already in HubSpot, bulk set fields not included in the csv like Owner or Lifecycle Stage, and then add imported records to a new or existing list.

Besides importing data, Insycle provides easy ways to manage the data you already have in HubSpot. You can normalize values, add or remove prefix and suffixes in bulk, break full names into two fields, standardize inconsistent titles, roles, and industries for accurate segmentation and reporting, consolidate and migrate legacy fields, and a lot more.

 

Learn more here about how Insycle can help you save time and headache when importing data into HubSpot.
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