January 20, 2020

HubSpot: Inside the ‘Inbound’ Revolution


The term “inbound marketing” was coined by HubSpot’s co-founder and CEO, Brian Halligan, in 2005, the same year that the company opened its doors.

“Inbound” is “the notion that people don’t want to be interrupted by marketers or harassed by salespeople — they want to be helped.” This concept has shifted how businesses approach marketing and in doing so, influenced the content stream that companies publish on the internet. 

HubSpot grew its revenue from nothing to $271 million in 10 years. Its website has a #5 traffic ranking among marketing tech websites worldwide.

The bottom line: bold ideas can have big impact. And the best model for customer success can be your own. 

[Debt Matters: Do you know the difference between ‘good’ debt and ‘bad’ debt?]

Here’s what SaaS Founders can learn from HubSpot: Inside the ‘Inbound’ Revolution

Teach leads and customers alike something new. 

In order to be successful, HubSpot had to make “inbound marketing” more than a buzzword. So, they taught customers how a new set of marketing strategies could improve their customer reach and sales. In 2010, co-founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah released the book (literally) on inbound marketing, titled Inbound Marketing: Attract, Engage and Delight Customers Online.

The book was never required reading, however. Halligan and Shah put many of their secrets to marketing on the HubSpot website, and for free.  

In addition to free webinars on everything from branding to blogging that attract visitors to the site, HubSpot launched HubSpot Academy in 2012. The idea of a former HubSpot user and enthusiast turned employee, HubSpot Academy offers free courses on marketing, sales, and service, in addition to certification programs. 

But, if all of that is free, where’s the return? Customers that are users of HubSpot’s free education offerings tend to be more invested, more satisfied, and more likely to renew.  Non-customers are more likely to adopt HubSpot’s paid services.

According to HubSpot’s CTO and co-founder, Dharmesh Shah, “People don’t value marketing software. They value marketing success.” In the case of HubSpot, their education offerings help their customers and leads alike to be more successful in big and small ways, which ultimately helps HubSpot. 

Offer an assessment tool. 

HubSpot’s Website Grader allows users to submit a URL and email address for a free assessment of their website on a scale of 1 to 100. Not only does it rank on performance, mobile readiness, SEO, and security, it offers education—from articles to tools to eBooks—for how to fix each website’s weak points.

HubSpot’s Website Grader was used to assess more than 4 million websites just between 2006 and 2011. That’s a lot of free advice, a lot of solutions, and a lot of engagement.

Plug calls to action everywhere. 

Sign up, subscribe now, try for free… they pop up and in a lot of cases, we click. Once you generate traffic to a website, appropriate calls-to-action (CTAs) move visitors to leads. CTAs can as much as triple the number of leads generated by one blog. Not only did HubSpot use calls to action to grow their lead and customer pools, their software services provide a variety of automated calls to action in the form of bot chats and more.

HubSpot’s attention to personalized customer experience enabled them to personalize calls to action, increasing their effectiveness. Their software also helps clients to do this. 

Be growth-focused rather than profit-driven.

According to Dharmesh Shah’s Customer Code, “making your customers more successful, building relationships by doing the right thing, and focusing on the long-term even when it’s not the easiest path” is the key to growth. 

When HubSpot first started, it had just three customers. Fast forward to now: HubSpot reported 56,628 customers as of December 31, 2018, up 36% from December 31, 2017.

HubSpot tells this story of growth on its blog, but not its own version of it. Instead, it describes three customer companies that achieved growth by investing in its customers. And, real customer success is good marketing. 

Provide realistic expectations. 

While it’s true that HubSpot touts the fact that companies who prioritize blogging are 13x as likely to see positive return on investment, it doesn’t promise that any customer’s portfolio will multiply overnight. 

To this day, HubSpot doesn’t promise overnight success. In a recent interview with Halligan in which he was asked how inbound marketing is different more than ten years later that when it became mainstream, he explained that because there’s more content on the internet now, seeing the returns of inbound marketing can take more time. 

HubSpot is confident that its services and methods will work for customers, but clearly states that it will take time. 

HubSpot and its inbound marketing phenomenon encourages businesses to prioritize the “humanness” of its customers, and in doing so, helps its customers in much the same way. This human touch—something that applies in a real way, either an article that teaches you something, a website assessment specific to your content, or something else—is what generates high quality leads.

And, therein is the magic of inbound marketing and HubSpot: Inside the ‘Inbound’ Revolution.