HubSpot Direct or Through a Partner Agency?

Take yourself back to 5 years old. It's your birthday, and you've just unwrapped your present. It's the one. That toy that you wanted the most. You can't wait to play with it...but what's that? It's stuck in a hard plastic clamshell and restrained by thick elastic bands. You have to find an adult to liberate it before you can play.

Remember that feeling? 

That's why I always cut the plastic tabs off of my children's toys before I wrapped them. A simple bit of prep work saves everyone from a serious bummer and missed photo ops (pro tip: you can also put tape over speakers in kids toys to take the decibels down from ear-piercing to bearable). 

The same applies to the toys you buy for your business. While a shiny new SaaS tool isn't restrained by plastic manacles, it still requires prep work before it can be used and enjoyed. 

If you've just signed up for HubSpot (or are about to pull the trigger), you're finding yourself at a crossroads of how to proceed with onboarding that new toy. DIY, or hire? There are a few considerations to keep in mind when trying to decide the best way forward. 

Do I Have to Do HubSpot Onboarding After Purchase?

Yes - it's mandatory to complete onboarding for the majority of Hubs and tiers. Beyond expert setup being an actual requirement by HubSpot, it's also simply necessary to effectively use the software. Think of it like getting a brand new phone - you'll want to make sure all of your apps, photos and contacts are ready to go before you can start using your phone daily.

What is a HubSpot Partner Agency?

HubSpot partners are certified through HubSpot to be experts and offer onboarding + additional HubSpot services. HubSpot partner agencies must meet HubSpot's criteria for competency and expertise.  There are a few different types of HubSpot partnerships, so you'll want to look for an agency that is trained at the highest level with the Platform Enablement Accreditation. This accreditation means that the agency and employees were reviewed by HubSpot team members and had to meet stringent standards to achieve accreditation - the process includes interviews of past clients, review of customer portals, employee certifications and passing an additional exam. Trust me, it's a lot of work - I've gone through it! 

Is a Partner Agency the Same Thing as an Implementation Specialist?

When you purchase a HubSpot Hub at the Pro or Enterprise tier levels, you'll likely get paired with an Implementation Specialist for the first 90 days. This is much different than working directly with an agency. An Implementation Specialist is there to provide tutorials, guidance and fast-track support questions, but they won't actually execute any actions on your behalf.  

So while you can ask your Implementation Specialist questions, they won't be able to troubleshoot issues for you or take over and do onboarding for you.

Working With a Partner Agency

Working with a partner agency for your onboarding takes the vast majority of the heavy lifting off of your team. However, there are a few factors to consider. 

Pros:

  • Drastically reduce time spent on setup - First and foremost, you'll be offloading the vast majority of setup work to the agency. This means that you and your team will have to spend a lot less time on onboarding.
  • Ensure proper set-up - Working with a partner agency means that you can tap into their expertise. Since they have experience setting up other HubSpot portals, they'll often be able to provide insights and tricks that you didn't even know were possible.
  • Easily troubleshoot and customize - One of the biggest advantages of working with a partner agency is you can ensure your portal is  customized for your team. Each business has quirks that might not easily work with HubSpot's default options. A partner agency will account for this and create seamless solutions that work for you. 
  • Gain access to a full team - When you work with a partner agency, you don't just unlock an expert - you unlock a whole team. The team experience can be extremely valuable because you'll likely find that different team members have unique talents and specializations. 
  • Access to better pricing - Because of their partnership status, partners have access to partner-exclusive discounts that they can apply to their clients. This means you can oftentimes save money on your annual subscription cost for your HubSpot Hub(s) by working with a partner.
  • One-on-one training - If you learn better with one-on-one training versus watching videos, working with a partner might be a better option. Your program will include personalized training that's based on your exact portal.

Cons:

  • It's an extra cost - Because partner onboarding is a much more involved and customized process, that also means that it's going to be an extra investment on top of your HubSpot subscription. The specific cost depends on the number of Hubs, what tiers and the complexity of setup.
  • You're going to have to sit through some meetings - While a partnership will offload a majority of the setup work, you and your team will still need to check in frequently with your onboarding team. This ensures setup is done correctly to your specific requirements, which usually means you'll need to touch base at least once a week during the first month of setup.
  • You need to know your buyers journey and your goals - For any HubSpot implementation to be successful, it's vital to know exactly who your target buyers are and what their journey looks like. This is critical for setting up features like lifecycle stage, product interest and persona data in HubSpot. Additionally, you need to know what your goals are out of the system. If you haven't identified these elements yet, you might not be ready at this stage to source a partner.

Going Direct 

Going direct is another option for businesses, and in some cases can be the better choice. Here's what to know.

Pros:

  • Can be more cost-effective for very simple setups - If you're only onboarding the CMS and a HubSpot tier at the starter level, and you have a limited amount of data and customization needed, then going direct might be the more cost-effective choice. 
  • Cookie-cutter is fine - Likewise, if you are a small business with a limited contact pool that doesn't need much customization, then the one-size-fits-all option might be sufficient for your needs.
  • Useful for dedicated internal HS employees - If you plan on adding team member(s) whose focus will be on HubSpot work, having them do the onboarding can be a beneficial training exercise. Because they'll be handling the setup, they'll have a deeper understanding of HubSpot when they transition from onboarding to daily use.

Cons:

  • Big-time investment - If you plan on going direct, you'll also need to strategize internally to assign employees to the onboarding process. This will eat up a lot of their time and take them away from other duties.
  • You have to do everything yourself - Migrating your CRM data, mapping contact properties, setting up custom steps, etc. - you'll have to do everything yourself. Depending on the size of your contact list and which Hubs you're onboarding, this can be a lot.
  • You have to teach yourself while you're trying to do it - While you can tap into your Implementation Specialist for questions, you'll still need to do a lot of self-education. Any team member who will be assisting with onboarding will also need to train themselves, which adds more time.
  • Troubleshooting is frustrating - Like any complex tool, hiccups are common. If you're doing setup yourself, troubleshooting is a manual process that requires a lot of research to resolve.

→ Related Content: 10 Common HubSpot Implementation Mistakes New Users Make

How to Decide Between Direct vs. Partner Agency

I've covered some pros and cons of both direct versus partner, but if you're still not sure, consider the following questions and which answers apply to your use case. 

  1. How quickly do I need HubSpot to be usable? 
    • If your answer is in 90 days or less - Partner
    • If your answer is doesn't matter or 90+ days - Direct
  2. Do I have an internal team member(s) who can dedicate at least 40 hours per week toward onboarding work?
    • If your answer is no - Partner
    • If your answer is yes - Direct
  3. Follow up to question 2 - does that person(s) have prior experience using HubSpot?
    • If your answer is no - Partner
    • If your answer is no, but experience using another CRM - Possibly Direct (but account for more hours of training needed)
    • If your answer is yes - Direct
  4. Am I onboarding a CRM + at least one Hub?
    • If your answer is yes - Partner
    • If your answer is CRM only - Direct
  5. Am I able to pay more for white glove onboarding now, to avoid paying for a fix later?
    • If your answer is yes - Partner
    • If your answer is no - Direct

HubSpot is a significant investment. If not implemented and used properly, you're not getting the most out of this powerful tool. You can go it alone, but working with a HubSpot partner agency means you don't need to become an expert in HubSpot to get the most out of your investment.

Get the Most out of HubSpot Pro with a HubSpot Partner Agency

HubSpot-Platform-Enablement-AccreditedBizzyWeb is a HubSpot Platinum Partner: we offer full-service HubSpot onboarding, enablement and strategy for all hubs. Our team has over 196 certifications in HubSpot (and constantly growing). No matter what your HubSpot needs are, our team is ready to handle them.

Plus, we are the only agency in Minnesota with a Platform Enablement Accreditation from HubSpot - sounds fancy, but it means we're top-notch in making HubSpot work within your business.


BizzyWeb is a Minneapolis-based digital marketing and web design agency that helps companies get the high-quality leads they need to grow and thrive. Our tactics include inbound marketing, SEO, advertising, web design, content creation and sales automation. We are an accredited HubSpot Platinum Partner and we offer full-service HubSpot onboarding, enablement and strategy for new and current users.

Jen Meyer
Author: Jen Meyer
Jen Meyer is the COO and Vice President of Marketing at BizzyWeb, and a HubSpot expert.