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April 20, 2021

How to Identify Who Should be a Marketing Contact in HubSpot

At INBOUND 2020, HubSpot announced a change in the pricing structure for Marketing Hub: instead of paying for the total number of contacts they had, users would only need to pay for contacts that they designate as marketing contacts.

“What this is gonna help folks do is identify what customers they really need to be actively marketing to, and that kind of serves our customer twofold: it’s going to allow them to only pay for the contacts that they need to be actively marketing to and also serve as a strategic point of contact because when you’re forced to think about who you’re going to be paying for in your CRM, it starts the conversation of ‘How do I need to structure my marketing process to make sure I’m serving those folks that it would benefit us to be marketing too as well?’” says Deanna Schwarz, a Principal Onboarding Specialist on HubSpot’s Advanced Onboarding Team.

As more and more companies leverage HubSpot as a growth platform, instead of just a marketing automation tool, teams outside of marketing started to amass contacts in the CRM too. Current customers, partners, evangelists and employees might all need to be in a company’s CRM, but if they’re not receiving any marketing communications, it didn’t make sense for them to contribute to the cost of Marketing Hub. 

The new pricing structure helps ensure HubSpot users aren’t overspending on the tool and pushes them to think more strategically about the contacts they have in their database.

Marketing Vs. Non-Marketing Contacts

As the name indicates, marketing contacts are people who you’re actively marketing to. They’re the only contacts who can receive marketing emails and paid ads. Additionally, you can only use marketing workflow actions like “send email” or “add to ads audience” with marketing contacts. Non-marketing contacts are every other contact in your CRM that won’t receive marketing communications.

“There are a ton of other emails that can reach your contacts that are set as non-marketing,” Deanna says. “If you set someone as non-marketing, it doesn’t mean you can’t communicate with them as a business; it’s just very prescriptive about what type of email you are sending.”

Sales emails, chat transcripts, registrations, ticket kickbacks, transactional emails, customer feedback surveys, etc. can all still be sent to non-marketing contacts.

How to Identify Who Should Be a Marketing Contact in HubSpot

When defining who should be a marketing contact for your company, it can be helpful to start with who shouldn’t be: contacts who’ve opted out, who are unengaged, who are completely unqualified, etc.

“When it comes to figuring out who should be a marketing contact, it’s all about auditing your marketing process to say ‘how are we going to identify the people who have actively indicated that they do want to hear from us?’” Deanna says. “It’s very similar to a lead scoring approach. We want to quantifiably say, ‘This visitor has taken X, Y and Z action. Let’s make sure that we’re going to send some marketing information to them.’”

A good initial question to ask when narrowing down your definition is “If you release a new product or launch a new service, who needs to know?”

“That’s the first question I ask: Who needs to know about any of your changes?” Deanna says. 

Other questions to consider include:

  • Who do you send marketing emails to? Who do you target ads at? Since both of these features can only be used on marketing contacts, it’s important to ensure your definition includes everyone who needs these types of communications.
  • Do you have an upsell or cross-sell motion? This will help you determine whether or not customers need to be included in marketing contacts.
  • How often do you launch new campaigns? This will indicate how frequently you need to re-evaluate your contact classification.
  • How many weak leads does sales think you send to them on a regular basis? Thinking through this can help you understand if you need to tighten or loosen your qualification criteria.

“It’s a very similar conversation to the marketing-to-sales handoff,” Deanna says. “The types of questions are very similar because they’re indicative of who’s going to be valuable to have in our CRM.”

Leverage this free checklist to start aligning your marketing, sales and  service operations.

When Should New Contacts Automatically Be Set as Marketing Contacts?

If you have marketing contacts enabled in your HubSpot portal, new contacts will automatically be created as marketing and non-marketing. For imports, conversations, integrations and forms, you can adjust the creation settings, but contacts created from the contacts home, the mobile app, email logging, the meetings tool and email extensions will be set as non-marketing by default. You can adjust the setting manually at the contact level, and you can also create workflows to set the property.

When it comes to managing marketing contacts in HubSpot, Deanna suggests that “you should treat a marketing contact management system in HubSpot the same way you manage your MQL system in HubSpot, meaning that the best practice is to have one workflow that has all the enrollment criteria, and the only action in the workflow is to say ‘set as a marketing contact.’”

“What that allows you to do is have that one source of truth of ‘this is our definition of what a marketing contact is, or what a marketing contact is not,’” Deanna continues. “This creates flexibility in scale and ease of auditing — if you need to change what a marketing contact means to your business, the definition lives in just one location as opposed to potentially dozens of disparate workflows.” 

However, if you want contacts coming from forms, integrations, conversations and imports to be designated as marketing automatically, you can do that without sending them through the workflow — you just need to think about whether or not doing so makes sense for your business.


The setting for whether or not contacts created through forms are automatically marketing or non-marketing is universal. That means it’ll apply to either all of your forms or none of your forms, so you need to carefully examine the quality of contacts coming from forms when making the decision.

How much of your traffic and form fills come from good-fit contacts? If a large portion of your traffic is poor fit and those visitors are filling out forms, it might be better to default to non-marketing and let your workflow qualify everyone.


By default, integrations are set as non-marketing, but you have the ability to change that for every integration you have. Choosing the best option for your business will rely on your understanding of how each individual integration is being used.

For example, if you have a HubSpot-Salesforce integration, you need to know why you’re using each tool and which direction the sync is going.

“If you are pushing data to HubSpot and HubSpot is your marketing CRM, everything should be created as a marketing contact because it only lives in HubSpot if it is a marketing contact by definition,” Deanna says. “If you have a bi-directional sync to keep them both up-to-date and keep parity between the systems, that’s when you’re going to have to be more granular about ‘if it’s created from Salesforce and meets these other criteria, then set it as a marketing contact.’”

On the other hand, if you have integrations for advertising platforms like Google Ads, LinkedIn Ads and Facebook Ads, it makes sense to automatically add associated users as marketing contacts, since you won’t be able to target them with future ads if they’re set as non-marketing.


Because HubSpot’s conversations tool can be used for both marketing chatflows, customer support chatflows and live chat, contacts created from it are set to non-marketing by default. If you only use it for marketing conversations and the majority of the contacts sourced from chat are high-quality, then you can change the default. 

However, if your marketing, sales and service teams all use the tool, it’s probably best to rely on a workflow to set contacts as marketing and non-marketing. You can include qualification questions in your marketing chatflows to help aid the process.

The Takeaway

While this change to marketing contacts is all about pricing on the surface level, it also prompts HubSpot users to re-examine their marketing strategies. 

To identify who should be a marketing contact in your CRM, you need to closely examine how you’re communicating with your audience.

Who do you want to actively guide down the funnel? Who will receive value from your marketing communications?

You shouldn’t be repeatedly sending the same automated emails to stale contacts, and the marketing contact pricing structure gives companies a financial incentive to keep their database clean and up to date.

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Quinn Kanner

Quinn is a writer and copyeditor whose work ranges from journalism to travel writing to inbound marketing content.


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