Explained: Setting the Lifecycle Stage When Importing Into Hubspot

As you may be familiar, Hubspot allows you to import Contacts in bulk using their native CSV-import tool. It is a requirement of this tool that you set a Lifecycle Stage for these Contacts to be imported (what is a Lifecycle Stage? See more info on that here).

There are 2 main options you have to set this field during your Contact import:

  1. Set the same Lifecycle Stage for all of your Contacts at once during the import setup. It looks a little something like this:

2. Import individualized Lifecycle Stage values for your Contacts by including this data in your CSV


We’re going to focus now on the second option, as there are some nuances here that you might not be aware of. This guide is intended to breakdown and simplify the process so you know what you’re doing the first time around and ensure you only have to do the import once

Tip 1: Make sure you you have a column in your CSV file which contains the Lifecycle Stage values you want to import

I’m going to stop you here already and warn: make sure your values in the column match Hubspot’s display value or you will get an error!

See how the values in my CSV file match the values that Hubspot shows you (not the abbreviated versions — such as “MQL” or “SQL” for example).

Otherwise, you will get an error like this:

Tip 2: In case you are inclined to skip this step mentioned above and deal with the errors later, it is important to know ahead of time that in these cases, Hubspot will still process this record and it will treat the row as if it were blank (i.e. you didn’t have a value here). In all cases where Hubspot reads a blank value, it will automatically take the selection you made during the import setup:

The moral of the story? You may end up with values that you weren’t expecting, and need to do some tedious clean-up if you are not careful.

Assuming you have the above under control, proceed to import as you would normally, including selecting the default Lifecycle Stage value (see above).

Tip 3: If you are updating existing records in Hubspot, review Hubspot’s Lifecycle Stage funnel rules in advance! Hubspot does not let you set Lifecycle Stage values backwards in the funnel. Identifying the Contacts in your CSV file that may be in this situation prior to importing can help you more easily find and fix any values in Hubspot as a post-import clean-up step. More info on Hubspot’s rules here.

To put this in perspective with a real example, if you have a Contact in your CSV file with a Lifecycle Stage of “Lead”, but this Contact already exists in Hubspot with the Lifecycle Stage “Marketing Qualified Lead”, you will see “Marketing Qualified Lead” in Hubspot after the import. Hubspot ignores the value in your CSV file.

Add-on tip: Hubspot will also ignore the default selection you made in this case, even if it is even further ahead in the funnel (i.e. “Sales Qualified Lead”). So you may have set your Lifecycle Stage during the import setup, and have a value in your CSV file, but Hubspot will keep what you already had on the existing Contact record in your database — no changes will be made.

In the case where you have a Lifecycle Stage value in your CSV file that is further ahead in the funnel than your existing record, Hubspot will update this Contact when you import. For example, if your Contact in the CSV has a “Lead” value, and your existing Contact in Hubspot is set to “Subscriber”, you will see this Contact updated after the import with the new value, “Lead”.

Hopefully this helps you understand Hubspot’s features a bit better, so that you can make educated decisions on how to prep your data for import and avoid potential messes!

See you next time with more helpful tips & tricks!