Once HubSpot unlocked the back end of its platform, the entire suite of tools became just a little more complicated. This meant the limits of what you can do in HubSpot were available to anyone with the technical expertise to take advantage of it.
This also unlocked the HubSpot customer base to dream and create several interesting uses, applications and requirements for all the HubSpot hubs.
It also meant customers needed a lot more technical help to implement their amazing ideas, keep the newly configured portals running and make additional changes or fix things that broke. This requires ongoing help, just like with Salesforce, Adobe and other enterprise-level CRM and marketing automation tools.
In short, what had been an easy-to-use but limited set of tools is now a challenging-to-use but newly open set of tools that can do almost anything.
What this means is that HubSpot customers are increasingly seeking technical support from agency partners like Square 2.
This isn’t a problem, it’s an opportunity for HubSpot customers. Using a partner means you get to benefit from our expertise. What might take your team four hours to do should take us 30 minutes to do, primarily because we’ve done it before and you’re figuring it out for the first time.
However, it’s not always easy to sift through the partner ecosystem to find the right partner for your work, your project, your company, your HubSpot instance or your specific use case.
Here’s how to navigate the HubSpot partner landscape to find the best technology partner for you.
You can learn a lot about a potential HubSpot partner when you look closely at the sales process. First, who are you meeting in the sales process? If it’s just a new business rep, that would concern me. You should be asking to talk with at least someone from the technical team who can assure you they understand your requirements and can deliver on your expectations.
Check the steps in the process too. If you spend 30 minutes talking to them and they’re ready to give you a proposal, that’s a red flag for me. How can they understand all your technical requirements without doing a deep dive into your use cases, requirements, technology setup and HubSpot configuration along with a review of any other technology being used that might impact your HubSpot projects?
There should be a step in the process where they ask to look at your HubSpot instances and access your portals. This gives them the best chance to see firsthand what you have and what you need. Without this peek under the hood, it’s hard to provide an accurate estimate or recommendations for what you might need. To make this easy, we offer a 13-point HubSpot checkup for prospects seeking help with HubSpot technical work.
Finally, look at the proposal. If it has everything you need in one project, I’d be concerned too. Technical projects work best when broken out into phases that inform stages. The first project should be a requirements documentation or assessment phase that provides everything needed to work in your instance with an understanding of your requirements and use cases.
This is probably more appropriate for an integration or migration project, but it could also apply ongoing HubSpot project work. Without knowing what you need and what you have, it’s hard to give anyone an estimate of the work required and the level of investment that goes with it.
The last thing you want to do is pick a partner based on the estimated project cost and have them increase that cost once they actually know what needs to be done.
Technical work is a lot different than traditional agency creative work. While the creative process includes a lot of back and forth with iterations, approvals and options, technical work should be much more prescribed and process oriented.
One of the best questions to ask your potential partners is this: “What is your process for delivering on our technical projects?"
The answer should be documented and it should be visual. Anyone from the company should probably be able to describe it for you. Better yet, request a document or graphic that illustrates the process used when delivering technical projects in and around HubSpot.
At Square 2, almost every technical project starts with an Audit Phase. In some cases, it might be a series of audits. We even provide a free audit for potential clients to look under the hood and use these findings to help during the sales process.
After the audit, we move into a Requirements and Use Case Definition Phase that defines all the requirements and use cases for the project. This ensures we know everything about what our clients need and what they expect once the work is done. This is an important phase because it defines the business outcomes the company needs and exactly how the technology will deliver them.
Then we move to the Design Phase for the agreed-on solution. Think about this like the instruction manual. Again, this ensures everyone is on the same page about what’s about to be built. This documentation also ensures our development team is clear about what’s needed from them and when.
We then go into the Build Phase. Following the instruction manual we created in the design stage, the team hits the ground running to efficiently and expeditiously do the configuration and/or build in HubSpot to your exact specifications.
Finally, an important but often overlooked phase is the Testing, Rollout and Training Phase. This ensures that all the use cases and requirements are being met flawlessly. You never get a second chance to roll out new technology. If it bombs, everyone looks bad. To prevent that, we have an elongated quality assurance (QA) and testing phase.
Then we do a controlled rollout or pilot rollout. Feedback often comes in from this step that contributes to some tweaks or optimizations that are applied before the full rollout. Of course, we train the trainer or train the entire user base, depending on our client’s requirements.
The result is a perfectly executed rollout of any HubSpot-related technical deliverables. For more on this, check out this page of our website.
Finding people who know their way around HubSpot from a technical perspective can be challenging. Not every agency has an experienced team, even if it looks that way on their website.
Worse, a lot of agencies use an outsourced model, where they rely on companies (some of these overseas) to deliver HubSpot technical work for their clients.
This can be problematic for several reasons. First, you’ll be competing for resources with this agency’s clients. Next, quality control isn’t in your agency’s control, it’s in the control of the company they outsource work to.
You should ask specific questions about the people who will be actually doing the work. While they don’t have to be full-time team members, they need to be dedicated to the agency, they have to be deeply experienced and they should be highly credentialed with HubSpot.
I would even suggest you speak with at least one of the technical people during the sales process to get a firsthand understanding of how technical they are, their experience and how deeply they understand HubSpot inside and out.
The HubSpot Partner Directory is a great place to look for HubSpot partners. However, pay close attention to the reviews. Not every agency partner has hundreds of reviews. In fact, some of the top partners only have a handful of reviews.
This is an indication of two things – they’ve only been doing this for a short period of time, or they lack the experience to deliver highly satisfied customers.
When you’re done looking at all the top-tier partners, move to the second tier and look for those agencies that do technical work but have a ton of reviews. Remember, being in the top tier simply means they have a lot of HubSpot clients. It doesn’t mean they do a lot of technical work. It means they might be bigger, not better.
Ideally, look for partners that have been around for a while, have a lot of reviews and have the capabilities to deliver the technical work you need to support your HubSpot initiatives.
Some of the partners do technical work on HubSpot, but it’s not what they do every day. Look for agency partners that have specific Technical HubSpot Practices.
This means a practice lead, a team of people that make up the practice, process and defined methodologies around delivering work like this. Pay close attention to the QA process and process around delivering finished work to clients.
Another way to uncover this is to look for visible client stories, testimonials and successes on their website. You want real people telling real stories about the agency’s capabilities around HubSpot. Agencies that have a lot of technical expertise are more likely to publish this type of information, and they’re going to find it easier to get clients who agree to be part of these stories.
This last item is a cautionary tale. With so many HubSpot partners in the market, it’s easy to look at three or four and pick the cheapest. After all, how much difference could there possibly be, right?
In fact, I would never go with the low bid in this case, because you are destined to get lower quality work, delays in the project, poor communication, less experienced team members and weak project management. The list goes on and on.
If you’re curious as to the root causes of the above scenario, just think downstream a bit. There is a reason they are less expensive. They hire less experienced people or outsource the work overseas. They have invested less in their own tools, processes and frameworks.
Because they have less experience, they’re willing to price it lower to get the experience they need. Because they hire less experienced people, their project is going to take longer, communication is going to be more sporadic and the chances of a successfully completed project are lower.
In this situation, there are very few bargains to be had. You get what you pay for.
In our experience, these projects are always extremely critical to the ongoing revenue generation efforts of our clients. Those that want to invest in a high-quality partner understand the stakes and want to make a decision that ensures their project will be done on time, on budget and at the highest quality level. This generally requires an investment that matches those expectations.