Can Hubspot be used in China?
It is no surprise that China's 'Great Firewall' begs the question: Can HubSpot work in China?
The short answer is Yes, but depending on the intended purpose of Hubspot, there are limitations.As a Senior Customer Onboarding Specialist for HubSpot, over the course of 3.5 years, I have boarded over 300 APAC customers and I have noticed that we are getting more and more customers whose businesses are:
- Based in China, using HubSpot for international customers
- Based outside of China, with end customers in China
- Based outside China, with management and core functional teams (i.e. marketing) based in China
I offer guidance and facilitate the implementation of the HubSpot software for customers over a 3-month period. Having onboarded a number of customers with the above business models, here are some insights that I'd like to share with you.
As a CRM Platform
HubSpot is a good CRM option for Sales and Marketing teams based in China if the English language isn't a barrier for the team. However, your team may encounter the following roadblocks:
1. Logging email conversations in HubSpot
If you are using Chinese mailbox providers (i.e. QQ, Tencent, etc.), the HubSpot Sales Extension may not do its job in ensuring that email replies from contacts (who are using Gmail) are logged in HubSpot.
HubSpot requires the ‘reply-to' field in the email reply to match the messageID of the original email in order to log a reply from a recipient successfully in HubSpot.
The issue with Chinese email providers is that the Chinese servers may provide an invalid message during the SMTP process (due to misconfiguration, not following RFC standards, etc.). As a result, if the email is sent to a recipient using Gmail, Gmail's SMTP server automatically generates a new one for the email. Hence, the message ID of the reply will not match the original message and is therefore not logged to the CRM.
Note: So far, this issue occurs for HubSpot users using a Chinese mailbox provider, sending emails specifically to contacts who use Gmail.
Option 1: Address the server configuration issue with the Chinese mailbox provider
It is likely that the issue lies with the Chinese mailbox provider's server misconfiguration. As such, you should enlist the assistance of your IT team that is responsible for setting up your mailbox. We’ve done some research and found this thread that offers various potential scenarios of how a mailbox provider may be misconfigured and caused this issue. However, this may be a shot in the dark as what causes Gmail to change mail headers isn't very well-documented.
Option 2: Have your IT team set up a forwarding email address to [Your HubID]@forward.hubspot.com
This will be an always-on option where all replies that arrive in your mailbox will have the emails also sent to HubSpot. In this way, we can ensure that all responses are always captured (although if the message ID is different the reply will not be threaded) and appear in the activity timeline record.
This option would mean ALL emails will be forwarded and log against a contact record. To exclude certain contacts or contacts from certain organisations from logging and being created as contacts in HubSpot, you will need to ensure that you have the 'Never Log' settings set up.
Option 3: Manually Logging Email Responses that were not logged due to this issue.
This is the last option which is to forward specific emails that are missed to HubSpot using the same forwarding address [HubID]@forward.hubspot.com. Although this is a more manual process, this allows you to have better control of specific emails that you want/don't want in HubSpot.
As a CMS Platform
1. Page Load Speed
Every now and then, you may face issues loading your HubSpot CRM as HubSpot does not have servers based in China. The customers that I've onboarded so far are able to use HubSpot Landing Pages for their website in China. They do detect a slight page load delay of about 1 - 2 seconds, but it is negligible.
2. HubSpot Forms, CTAs do work
Hubspot Form does WORK in China. It works perfectly in bringing data into HubSpot. Having said that, I do have customers who realize that the page load speed of pages that have a HubSpot form may be a tad slower (1 - 2 seconds delay), but nothing too serious to affect the website browsing experience.
As an Email Marketing Platform
1. Marketing Emails Deliverability to Chinese mailbox providers
If you are using HubSpot's marketing email automation tool to send marketing emails to contacts who use Chinese mailbox providers, they may not receive these marketing emails or the emails may head to the spam folders. The reason being most international email providers are blocked from delivering emails to Chinese inboxes.
The best way to ensure email deliverability into Chinese mailboxes would be to use a Chinese email service provider. However, since we are using HubSpot, that is out of the question. We can only ensure that we stick to content creation best practices for email marketing in China per the pointers listed in this article.
It is worthwhile to note that email campaigns in China are significantly less effective than SMS/Direct message campaigns (i.e. WeChat). As such, exploring integration between WeChat and HubSpot through our agency partner (Parllay) will be a better option.
Other HubSpot Features
1. Ads and Social Tool
You will only be able to utilise HubSpot's social and ads tool if you are running LinkedIn social media posts and ads for China. If your marketing campaigns encompass Baidu, Weixin, etc. there are additional integrations and 3rd party tools that you can explore with HubSpot's agency partners.
Create tracking URLs for all your social and ads assets. They will appear in the Traffic Analytics for reporting purposes.
2. SEO Tool
HubSpot currently does not support searches in Chinese or crawls the Baidu search engine for insights. Therefore, in this aspect, our HubSpot SEO tool may not be able to add any value at this point in time.
While there are limitations, HubSpot does work in China and can be a great CRM tool for the Chinese market. The limitations and solutions explored above are based on my own experience so far. If you have other discoveries or roadblocks that you've found, I would be keen to hear from you as well!