Contextual Marketing in HubSpot: A Beginner's Guide

You might rank well for a term in Google, but if your target buyer hits your page and your content isn't immediately relevant to them, they'll go back and find another search result.

Regardless of the product you’re selling, you need to capture the attention of a person who is used to moving very quickly between different media, content, activities, and other stimuli. It's not that they're attention-poor; today's digital natives move fast, and if your web page doesn't immediately capture their interest, they'll already be looking for one that does.

Just getting visitors to your website is no longer enough. Your marketing strategy needs to look past reach to engagement. The best way to get your website visitors to engage with you? You need to have the right context.


  • What is contextual marketing?
  • How to put together a contextual marketing plan
  • What data do you need for real-time contextual marketing?
  • Contextual marketing advice: start small
  • How to personalise your messaging
  • Speak your prospects' language with contextual marketing

Learn how to align your marketing strategy with you buyers and start improving  ROI by downloading our ebook. 

what is contextual marketingWhat is contextual marketing?

Described by HubSpot as 'delivering the right content, to the right people, at the right time', contextual marketing is basically using what you know about your prospects, leads, and customers to make your content as relevant as possible to them.

While contextual marketing is a term that HubSpot uses (and have a certification for, if you fancy delving into it further), I've also heard personalisation and smart content used to reference similar ideas.

"Think about it. Someone who's going to close as a customer in the next few days is going to be looking at your site in a very different way to someone who's just found it via organic search."

The live prospect may be very interested in case studies and product sheets, but show those to the first-time visitor and they may well run a mile. They are much more likely searching for an answer to a question or a challenge that you might be able to help them solve.

By using context to create content tailored to those varying needs, you can boost your conversion rates and stop losing visitors who feel overwhelmed by a wealth of technical information on their first visit.

That all may seem a little easier said than done. How can you actually start using context in your marketing to really speak to your buyers?

NOTE: Before I delve into the next section, which goes into how to start putting together a plan for implementing contextual marketing, it’s worth saying here that this next part is very specific to HubSpot, as this is the platform we work with and encourage our clients to use.

How to put together a contextual marketing plan

1. Who are you targeting?

Segmentation is crucial for personalising your marketing with context. If you don’t know who you’re focusing on, how can you tailor it?

There are various ways you can decide to segment your data. Here are a few examples:

  • Device. This can be a great one if you get lots of visits to your site from mobile and want to streamline a landing page so that there is less text and a shorter form if the visitor is on a smaller screen.
  • Source. This one is a bit of a hidden gem in the crown of HubSpot’s smart content options. If you’re running a very targeted campaign across say, LinkedIn then you can customise a page based on whether they came from that or not.
  • Lifecycle stage. A great starting point, and the one I’m actually going to use as an example for this blog post. Lifecycle stage is a standard property in HubSpot highlighting which stage of a buying cycle a person is at. Read more about how to use lifecycle stages.

For the purpose of our contextual marketing example, I’ve stuck with lifecycle stage and have chosen the following three segments:

  • Unknown visitors. You always need to have a default with smart content, mainly because this is what will be indexed by Google, and needs to be applicable to anyone.
  • Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs). These are live prospects and will most likely be in talks with your sales team. You’ll want the content for this segment to be helping them on their path to buying, but will treat them slightly differently as someone who is brand new to your site.
  • Customers. Taking into account the delight stage of the inbound methodology, you don’t want to forget (or worse, ignore) contacts once they become a customer. The opportunity for future sales and brand advocacy should mean you're wording sections of your site so that they don’t feel forgotten once they have closed as a customer. (Learn how to improve customer service and get more referrals.)

What data do you need for real-time contextual marketing?

Often overlooked, a crucial part of making a workable plan for implementing contextual marketing is knowing exactly what information you need in order to create your segments.

This a great article from HubSpot talking you through how to do progressive profiling using smart fields in your forms. If you’re wanting to segment based on industry, for example, you need to ensure that you collect that information at the right point.

"Progressive profiling is also a great way to collect information without having lots of very long forms on your site, which will also help you with your user experience and improve conversions."

In our contextual marketing example, we'd need to make sure that all of our contacts have the correct lifecycle stage assigned. This would involve having a process which marks customers as such when they close, or as a sales qualified lead once they have been picked up by sales.

I've written before about the importance of using your data to positively impact your sales and marketing strategies. You may even find that you've already identified interesting trends and insights that could help your marketing, so a marketing audit may be a good idea.

Contextual marketing advice: start small 

As I’m sure you’re starting to see, contextual marketing can quickly become complicated when you’re aiming at multiple segments, so it’s always a good idea to start small.

Using my example, we are looking at personalising for three different audiences. That’s already a lot of content for one landing page, never mind if you want to roll it out across all site pages.

Consider where you can start making the most impact and go from there. This might be a landing page for a guide that would be really useful for all segments and would benefit from slightly different wording for each to help conversions. It may even be your homepage if you’re segmenting by source and want to show visitors from a specific campaign a very specific first message.

How to personalise your messaging

You’ve got your chosen segment and know which page you’re going to customise first. Now it’s time to decide which elements of the page you're going to make smart.


Phrasing can be everything. Optimising it contextually can be a simple yet effective way to see a positive lift in conversions and helpfulness to your visitors.

Let’s take your homepage as a quick example. Picture the module at the top of the page. A new visitor will need to know exactly what sort of problems you help people to solve within seconds, so that they know you're worth their attention.

Someone in a conversation with your sales team could be checking out your website to validate what the sales team have been saying. Consistent messaging that reinforces what the sales team has been saying could be crucial.


This is a quick way to build conversions. If a lead has already downloaded an offer, show them a different offer CTA that makes sense as a follow-up to better engage them and enables better sales qualification at the same time. 


A smart form can be something as simple as not asking a returning visitor to fill out all of the same fields every time they complete a form. If you have the information, you don’t need to ask again.

Remember, progressive profiling can help you to build a great bank of useful information about a contact which can be used to help them without forms seeming overwhelming.


If you have a video on your homepage, why not have it tailored so that a case study appears for leads and an awareness stage video for visitors that helps them to address their problems?

The key to all of this is thinking about your segments. How would a customer be attracted to an offer differently to a new visitor to your site? What would be important to someone who is currently considering buying your product or services?

NOTE: Make sure you’re sensible with this. Greeting your visitors with their name on your homepage can come across as a little creepy, so keep obvious personalisation to areas where it makes sense like a thank you page or once they've logged in to a gated section of your site.

Check your conversion path

Now that you’ve got all of your elements ready, consider what each segment will do in order to get to that page, and where they will go next. Do you need a smart CTA to get them there in the first place? And does that CTA need to be smart in order to match the way you phrase the offer on the page? Putting yourself in the shoes of each segment will help make your personalisation watertight and logical.

Speak your prospects' language with contextual marketing

Contextual marketing is all about putting the customer at the core of your operations. Make sure that every aspect, from the design and layout of your website to the copy, is tailored to your target personas to really boost that user experience and ultimately lead to better results in line with your business aims.

This is often an under-utilised marketing strategy, and for good reason — it can quickly become complicated and demanding on your resources. If you'd like a hand, our inbound consultants are always available to help.

As an Elite-level HubSpot solutions partner, we've helped dozens of our clients to unlock the full potential of the HubSpot platform and get to grips with contextual marketing. If you're interested, we're here to help you, too.

If you want to experiment with contextual marketing yourself, the sure-fire way to do it well is to start small. Build up the way in which you are using context to tailor your marketing to really start seeing an impact on the number of people engaging with your marketing.

 Download our free guide to learn how contextual marketing fits into your wider sales and marketing plan. Click the image below to download your copy, available now.

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