If you use HubSpot, you may have noticed some announcements about custom objects near the end of the year before 2021 (you know, the one we don’t talk about anymore).
As names go, “custom objects” succeeds in sounding both vague and esoteric. Not exactly sizzle on the steak. But as features go, it’s a useful one for many businesses – especially larger businesses with more complex data requirements.
In this post, we’ll provide a simple introduction to this feature along with examples of common use cases and next steps to getting started if it makes sense for your business.
What Are Objects?
To explain custom objects, let’s start with standard objects. You’re likely familiar with the standard object types available to you in HubSpot now: contacts, companies, deals and tickets.
These objects are the components of your database – the categories of information that contain properties that are mapped to values.
An easy way to think about it is to look at an example. Here’s a breakdown of elements for a contact record of someone named David:
Property: first name
Property value: David
Along with having properties that can be assigned values, objects can also be associated with other objects.
For instance, if I assign myself a task in HubSpot to follow up with David, I’ve associated a task and a contact property. If David works at David Mart, we’d want to make sure his contact record is associated with the corresponding David Mart company record.
Here’s what that looks like in your HubSpot portal:
In short, the object functionality allows you to organize and sort the data in your CRM, rather than having one flat list of indistinguishable records to manage.
So, What Are Custom Objects?
While HubSpot’s standard object types provide good coverage for most small businesses, others need to track data categories or events that don’t fit neatly into these groups.
Let’s say your business manages insurance programs for mid-sized companies, and you work with both employers and insurance brokers. When you work with the employers, they’re buying service directly from your sales team; when you work with the brokers, they’re selling your service to employers.
In this case, you might want to have a custom property for “Brokers” so that they’re not lumped in with the end-users/employers. This will let you associate (i.e. connect) brokers with employer companies and contact records, and differentiate deals and tasks in a very clean, defined way.
Another potential use case for custom objects could be for manufacturers that work with independent sales representatives to sell their products.
An established sales rep likely represents a bunch of other manufacturers, and if you’re relying only on standard objects, you can’t associate their contact record with multiple company records (HubSpot allows contacts to be associated with only one company).
However, if you were to create a “Sales Rep” custom object, you could configure this to associate the contacts with the various other companies they represent.
Membership associations might consider a “Membership” custom object. Global companies might use a “Territory” custom object. Real estate companies can use a “Showing” custom object, and so on.
Once you’ve set up your custom objects, you can incorporate them into your reporting, use them for personalization tokens and trigger workflow enrollments based on their property values.
Ultimately, you can use custom objects with as much granularity as you wish (up to 10 custom objects per CRM.) If you’re inclined to get deep into data modeling and map out all of the relationships between your data, this will help you out.
How to Get Started Using Custom Objects in HubSpot
Given the cost and resource requirements needed to access the functionality, there should be a strong case for using custom objects before you move forward.
For enterprise companies and growing businesses that require more data modeling and analysis than the standard objects provide, custom objects will help you get more insights by providing a more granular way to categorize and associate data.
However, if your data fits just fine with standard objects or you can easily sort and analyze data using tools like filters and workflows, we recommend you stick with the standard objects.
For many small businesses, using lists to segment different categories of contacts, companies, deals or tasks will do the job of keeping these categories of data separate and organized enough to meet their needs. But if you’re finding that your objects truly need to be one-to-many (like the sales rep example) vs the one-to-one capability of standard objects to be useful, then the Enterprise upgrade to unlock custom objects is likely worth the investment.
Charlie is the Chief Strategy Officer at Simple Machines Marketing. When he's not doing the marketing, he likes playing guitar, hanging with his family in Chicago and lots of other stuff too but this seems like a good amount for a blog bio.