HubSpot's been in the news this week after a gargantuan investment by Sequoia, Google and Salesforce.com, among others, with a D round that totaled $32 million.
Compare HubSpot's web site with any B2B publication and you'd be hard pressed to guess which is in the media business and which is the software company. The Boston startup has not only minted a standard industry term (Inbound Marketing), but their free tools, Web Site Grader, Twitter Grader and the like are used by literally millions of marketers.
I sat down with Mike Volpe, VP of Marketing for HubSpot, and a talented innovative marketer in his own right. Here are some highlights of our conversation:
Mike, did you invent the term Inbound Marketing?
I don't think we invented the term. We just talk about it a lot because we believe in it. Marketing is undergoing a big transition today because how people evaluate and purchase products has changed. Outbound marketing channels like advertising, cold calling and direct mail are becoming less effective because people have more tools to ignore them and filter them out. To reach people today, you need to attract them using the tools with which they are engaging - like blogs, search engines and social media. Using these tools to attract people to your company is inbound marketing. Some people used to call it pull marketing or permission marketing or attraction marketing. I think inbound has become the most popular term, but no matter what you call it, I promise you it is way better than the alternative.
What's the advantage to a marketing to being prodigious free content producer? Why is it worth the investment?
As a marketer, you can do two things. First, you can pay money to advertise next to other people's content. If you do that, you are basically renting space, and as soon as your budget dries up your ads go away and you are back to having no presence in the world. You have not built any sort of a lasting asset for your company. Or second, you can be your own media company, start a blog and publish your own content. The great thing about this is that you are building an asset that has long term value. After you have built up the subscribers and traffic to your blog, even if you stop publishing articles, people are still finding your content through search engines and social media. I'd much prefer to invest in assets (inbound marketing) than in expenses (outbound advertising).
What does your marketing organization look like? How many staff? What are their roles?
We have about 10 people in marketing at HubSpot. We tend to have more people, but much less advertising expense, as compared to other companies our size. This is because of our emphasis on inbound marketing - it takes more people but you spend less on advertising.
Our team is split according to the stage of the sales and marketing funnel. We have a "top of the funnel" team (aka TOFU) that is responsible for all of our content and initial conversions. They run our blog, our webinars, create ebooks and other content and more. We also have a "middle of the funnel" team (aka MOFU) that is responsible for helping nurture our leads into customers, they work on our free trial process, our group demos, and work with the sales team on the presentation of our product. Some other companies have started to copy this marketing organizational model, but I'm pretty sure we started it first.
You'll notice that "social media" is not explicitly in any of the roles. Everyone at HubSpot uses social media for their job. I think any company that has a "social media manager" is doing it wrong. I mean, you don't have a "telephone manager" right? Or "email manager"? Everyone just has a phone on their desk and an email account. Social media is technology. Not marketing.
How do you track and measure your own Inbound Marketing success?
Sales. A leading indicator of this is website visitors and leads, which we also measure. We actually produce a 100 page marketing report every month that measures dozens of metrics in great detail, but the ultimate goal is sales. All the other metrics are just leading indicators of sales.
What's the biggest success you've had at HubSpot?
What did you learn from it?
We learned that simple, useful tools will spread without a lot of expensive promotion, and you should try to build marketing assets and create an inbound marketing machine to attract more visitors and leads to your company. Over 3 million people have used Website Grader to grade their website, and it is still (4 years later) one of our most important marketing assets.