Case Study, Featured

New Video: UpCity CEO Dan Olson Recommends Growth Panda

Arman Ghosh
Written by: Arman Ghosh

UpCity was founded in 2009 as a software business, providing search engine optimization (SEO) software to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and agencies. As their business model evolved, UpCity created the Top Local Agency marketplace (TLA), which provides a comprehensive directory of trusted marketing services professionals in local markets and across industry verticals, complete with verified reviews. They have found that this is the most effective approach to connect SMBs with great agencies and digital marketing professionals.

While their TLA created a powerful business model and a steady stream of organic lead generation, UpCity brought Growth Panda in when they hit a wall with their sales and marketing technology stack. At Growth Panda, we are addicted to solving the most difficult technology problems, so this challenge was right up our alley:

Growth Panda - UpCity from Pat Holden on Vimeo.


UpCity established their position as a trusted advisor in the digital marketing industry by publishing and creating valuable content and tools like the SEO Report Card, but they struggled to move beyond top-of-funnel marketing and needed a good process for turning their high volume of inbound leads into sales. UpCity had Salesforce in place, but their lead generation forms routed all leads directly into the CRM, regardless of source or quality.

Due to Salesforce’s lack of deduplication and segmentation functionality, UpCity’s Salesforce platform had become disorganized and full of bad data, making it hard for the marketing team to engage and segment their contact list. Similarly, members of the sales team were filling their days reaching out to unqualified leads and prospects already engaged in the sales process with another rep, causing confusion for the prospect and long lead response times. Even worse, time constraints meant that leads were often lost in the shuffle if they did not convert immediately, never to be touched again.

The executive team at UpCity was frustrated by both the lack of visibility into conversions by channel and by the need to increase headcount just to handle the large volume of (largely unqualified) leads. They knew that TLA and Salesforce alone would be unable to solve this problem, and they would need an enterprise-grade marketing automation solution to help them scale their business.

UpCity’s data showed that leads converting from Top Local Agency pages were 100% inbound, which is why they decided to join Hubspot in January 2018. With the implementation of Hubspot, UpCity could use Salesforce data, build an effective lead nurturing content program, and attribute marketing conversions to the relevant Top Local Agency pages. UpCity developed a strategy that would leverage a custom integration between TLA and Hubspot, and integrate Hubspot with Salesforce, setting Hubspot as the main lead prioritization and evaluation engine within their lead qualification process.

In order to overcome these challenges, UpCity needed to:

  • Understand Hubspot’s platform and how it fit into their marketing tech stack
  • Filter out unqualified leads and focus more on their target buyer personas
  • Define and automate lifecycle stages to re-engage lost opportunities
  • Streamline their Hubspot integration with Salesforce
  • Integrate TLA with Hubspot
  • Implement the Hubspot Tracking Cookie (HUTK) on all Top Level Agency pages to attribute marketing conversions, and push that data through the integration
  • Effectively nurture leads down the marketing funnel

How Growth Panda helped UpCity

UpCity has an exceptional inbound lead capture process, but lacked a reliable marketing-to-sales handoff and a proper lead generation, qualification, and nurture strategy to align with each funnel stage. They enlisted the help of Growth Panda, a Hubspot Platinum Partner, to help automate more of their process and align their marketing and sales efforts across disparate systems.

Our Process:

1. Build the foundation

UpCity’s main focus was to optimize their Top Level Agency pages and their free SEO Report Card offer. These pages were generating leads like crazy, but sales struggled to keep up with the volume and to prioritize the right leads.

Our team at Growth Panda determined that the majority of their leads came from either international sources or SMBs looking to be paired with an agency. We started by defining the Buyer Personas that UpCity would want to target, and used Hubspot to filter out leads that didn’t match this persona using reported and behavioral indicators.

We developed a form strategy that could efficiently segment the qualified and unqualified leads automatically as they entered the system. Using a combination of custom and standard contact properties in Hubspot, inbound leads could be evaluated using their IP Address and self selection criteria (Agency vs. SMB, for example). Additionally, we leveraged the integration between Salesforce and Hubspot to identify previously disqualified leads. Better yet, Hubspot workflows evaluated all of these items automatically, sending only the most qualified leads to Salesforce.

Build the foundation

2. Streamline the Hubspot-Salesforce Integration

To successfully automate the lead handoff process, the Growth Panda team built lead routing automation workflows in Hubspot to route existing leads to the correct salesperson, and to send new qualified leads to Salesforce. Previously, only net new leads would trigger Salesforce lead assignment, buty syncing the contact owner back into Hubspot, the team could tell at a glance whether an active Sales Rep was assigned to that lead and create rules to re-assign it as the prospect became ready for a sales touchpoint.

This ensured that no leads were getting lost in handoff, and reps knew which leads they should be working. We were able to filter for type of lead, ensuring prospects were matched with the best reps, as well as keep consistent handoffs by evaluating who had worked with the customer in the past.



Our team at Growth Panda also worked with UpCity to define lifecycle stages that better aligned their marketing and sales teams. We developed a standard sales process that is easy to implement throughout the organization, including well-defined leads statuses that helped Sales Reps immediately identify a lead’s stage in the buyer’s journey.

For instance, an SEO Report Card lead would begin their journey in Hubspot as a Lead, but were only sent to Salesforce when they had taken enough action to become a Marketing Qualified Lead. This process leveraged a Salesforce Inclusion List in Hubspot to ensure that only qualified leads would be synced.

Since our process ensured that only the most relevant leads were sent over to the Sales team, they were better able to prioritize their time and reduce the amount of noise in the Salesforce database. This led to an increase in the conversion rates from Marketing Qualified Leads to Sales Qualified Leads, from 65% to 87% over the course of our engagement. And this increase took place all while total lead volume continued to increase.

"Before Hubspot, I spent most of my day calling people that weren’t a good fit. Now I know that every lead I call has been vetted by the marketing team and is someone I definitely want to talk to."  - Trent Snyder, Sales Development Representative


The proper integration of the two platforms allowed us to create a full-funnel marketing and sales engine to attract and convert quality leads, nurture them with tailored content for their engagement level and streamline a proper lead handoff to sales.

3. Segmentation

As part of Growth Panda’s effort to help UpCity get the most out of their Hubspot investment, segmentation was key to guide their campaign strategy and messaging. Using Hubspot’s Smart Lists and Hubspot insights fields, contacts were sliced and diced into meaningful groups and targeted accordingly. Some examples of the types of segmentation that became possible because of the integration with Salesforce:

  1. Persona-based lists were created in association with a contact’s “Hubspot persona.” If we were unable to obtain persona by manual input, a contact’s persona was determined by the content they continually interacted with, or collected by a sales rep at the time a contact was contacted..
  2. Lifecycle stages lists that would help UpCity understand when to market to their contacts and how. UpCity wanted to understand where a prospect was in their buyer journey without having to reference every lead status. By leveraging automated lifecycle stage transitions, UpCity was able to accomplish this and sync back in Opportunity- and Customer-level data from Salesforce. This way they could ensure the right content was sent to customers based on where they currently are in the sales process.


  3. Reason Codes were configured into the sales process because UpCity had lots of leads that weren’t converting, but the reasons why weren’t clear .Reason codes worked into the sales process would capture why a prospect didn’t convert, and educated the sales team about what each combination of status and reason meant. We could then use Hubspot Smart Lists to segment contacts based on the reasons the sales team provided within Salesforce. This allowed the UpCity marketing team to send targeted email re-engagement campaigns that addressed the prospects’ reasons for not converting during the sales cycle, instead of generic emails asking them to talk to UpCity again.


4. TLA Integration

Prior to initiating work on the integration, Growth Panda knew that it would be key to understand how data would flow between these systems. With Salesforce already in the mix, we had to understand when data would be flowing from which system, and when. In order to help us work with the UpCity engineering team and give non-technical users a platform to provide input on the project, we put together a technical swimlane document that outlined which system controlled data when.


To begin our data integration process, we implemented the Hubspot tracking code to TLA pages and forms so that UpCity could see when a prospect they were selling to visited their TLA profile. Then, by integrating the Top Local Agency system with the Hubspot Forms API, we could send across the HUTK token to associate anonymous analytics data with specific contacts. Whenever integrating a contact creation system with Hubspot, it is key to use the forms API and capture the HUTK token. Without this, page views would be blank and the original source would show as OFFLINE SOURCES in Hubspot.

By connecting marketing and sales data—where deals close and revenue metrics are held—UpCity no longer needs to guess the revenue impact made by their marketing team. Every deal can now be tied back to a specific marketing action, even though that action may be on a system independent from the website.


The UpCity sales process can start at a variety of points in the customer journey. Some agencies have no profile, some agencies have profiles that aren’t claimed, and other agencies have already claimed their profile. By integrating the profile claim process into Hubspot Contacts and Companies, UpCity is able to provide context to their sales team so that reps know exactly what a prospect was viewing when they converted, and what drove them to fill out a form.

Not only can this data be accessed in Hubspot, but leveraging the Salesforce integration, the team can view this data right where they spend their time working with leads, and with 1 click navigate to the full hubspot details.


Empowering the sales team with this data has allowed them to speak directly to the prospect’s needs, and be knowledgeable about what they’re interested in before ever picking up the phone. This makes a huge impact on how prospects perceive the business and its value, and the metrics show it. UpCity has seen their booked meetings go up by 180% since connecting TLA to Hubspot, and pushing those insights down to Salesforce.

"Before Hubspot we had very little insight into when a prospect claimed their profile and provided valuable information about their agency. Having this new real-time data has allowed us to segment leads and incorporate intelligent lead scoring in ways we never thought were possible before. Now, we have a fully-integrated, automatic workflow that puts the best agencies who are ready to buy in front of sales engineers and reps that know their market, know the services they provide, and are ready to help those agencies grow their business." -Andrew Peron, Growth Marketing Manager


  1. UpCity has seen their marketing qualified lead volume increase by over 40% since January, but due to efficiency gains and improvements in lead quality, they haven’t had to increase their sales headcount. This translates to significant operational ROI for the business, and sales reps that are far more productive.
  2. By focusing on the right personas and improving the sales experience, the average deal size has more than doubled since the start of our engagement.
  3. UpCity has seen MRR Increase over 2.5x since the implementation of Hubspot and working with the Growth Panda team.

In less than a year, our team at Growth Panda has been able to make massive improvements in UpCity’s systems, team, and performance. Ultimately, what we built for them wasn’t just an integration, but an entre inbound methodology. One that will help them continue to adapt to fast-changing needs—not just with marketing, but the entire customer experience. By combining this with Hubspot Marketing platform they now have the right tools that attract, engage, and delight their customers.


Like most businesses that incur massive growth, UpCity is now experiencing growing pains. Given the massive increase in customers, churn is starting to become a serious focus for the business. The Growth Panda team is now working with them to create an account management function, to help transition sales team members to a customer-focused role where they work with existing clients to help them see value from UpCity’s offering and grow their relationship with the company.

We are actively working to implement the Hubspot Service Hub to help UpCity delight customers throughout their experience. We believe that by focusing on not only acquiring new customers and converting them, but actively engaging with and adding value to UpCity’s existing customer base, we can create a flywheel growth effect within the business.


The work we have done so far was focused on optimizing the top of the funnel for UpCity, but with Hubspot, we can increase the impact of that work on all parts of the business and drive value to multiple teams within the organization. Our team at Growth Panda is excited to continue our partnership with UpCity, as they take the next steps to turn their customers into evangelists—and beyond!

Don’t believe us? Then maybe you’d like to hear from Dan Olson, Founder and CEO of UpCity:

“The Growth Panda team brings a level of strategy, robust systems knowledge, and a focus on execution that is unmatched in other firms. Their ability to not only understand the technical aspect of our complex systems stack but bring strategic direction to our business technology has been key to UpCity’s growth this year.”