How HubSpot Used Word of Mouth To Share Inbound Marketing With the World

Learn how 2 MIT students created a worldwide movement that changed marketing forever. Creating a new marketing strategy that is taught in universities around the globe.

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The global marketing automation industry is expected to grow from $3.3 billion in 2019 to over $6.4 billion by 2024. HubSpot has found a way to dominate the space by offering a full suite of tools for automating repetitive tasks and personalizing your messaging across your marketing, sales, and customer service channels. Join us as we discuss how HubSpot created their own market and used their story to help spread word of mouth.

What is HubSpot and what do they do?

Don’t just grow bigger, grow better.

HubSpot is an inbound marketing company that offers a full stack of software for sales, marketing, and customer service teams around the world. Their tools are broken up into Hubs, which you can purchase separately as needed, but work best when combined to help you grow your traffic, convert more deals, and automate the tasks you hate. All while analyzing the success of your campaign and tracking user behavior.

HubSpot’s three main pillars.

Marketing Hub: Attract more of the right people by creating and sharing useful content, running tailored ad campaigns, and engaging with leads through personalized messaging.

Sales Hub: Give your sales team everything they need to sell in a more personalized and relevant way that’s better and more efficient. Not just for your sales reps but your customers too.

Service Hub: Engage with your customers, guide them to solutions, and turn them into promoters who help grow your company even more.

The best part is that it’s all built on HubSpot’s free CRM. Providing you with everything you need to track, organize, and build better relationships with your customers.

Bringing everything together to form a single source of truth, and because HubSpot is a CRM, it easily integrates with your other tools and workflows.

HubSpot is perfect for companies of every shape and size. No matter how big or small, HubSpot will grow and scale with you.

What people say about HubSpot

It’s insane how many HubSpot reviews there are online, probably because over 200,000 websites use HubSpot. Unfortunately, after reading through 40 or 50 of them, they all start to sound the same.

  • It’s easy to learn and use
  • It’s a real all-in-one solution
  • It has a fantastic online community
  • It’s the most affordable software with enterprise-level features

And for the most part, these statements are all true, but I’m sure you’re thinking, there has to be something wrong with this platform.

However, in all honesty, the cons I’ve seen have been minor or cosmetic, at best. Things like having more flexibility with custom PHP or improving the user interface of the landing page builder – some people feel it looks out of date. 

But despite the marketing automation industry being so competitive right now, and with other companies like Marketo, Pardot, and Act-On offering amazing solutions. HubSpot continues to rank higher across various leading, independent review sites, such as:

  • #1 in Marketing Automation by G2 Crowd
  • Highest Rated Marketing Automation by TrustRadius
  • #1 in Marketing Automation by VentureBeat

In my opinion, there are plenty of other tools out there that perform various specific marketing tactics better. But clearly, HubSpot is thought to be the best all-in-one platform by many.

How HubSpot got started

Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah founded HubSpot in 2006 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Both Halligan and Shah had already found success early on in their careers before meeting in class.

With Halligan, working at Groove Networks as VP of sales, which was acquired by Microsoft in 2004, and Shah had already grown and sold his first company, Pyramid Digital Solutions, which was acquired by SunGard Business Systems in 2005.

After Groove Networks was acquired, Halligan went on to become a venture partner at Longworth Ventures as a VC Halligan’s job was to invest in startups. No matter the business, Halligan would ask the startups’ CEO, “What’s your plan? How are you going to grow this little startup into a big business?”

The CEOs would typically say the same thing. We have this playbook:

  • “We’re going to buy a list of prospects and send lots of emails.”
  • “We’re going to hire sales reps to do cold calls.”
  • “We’re going to hire a PR agency and throw an event.”
  • “We’re going to run advertising on Adwords.”

The more and more Halligan heard these pitches and looked at their playbooks. The more he found himself thinking, these marketing strategies are kind of broken.

He realized in the digital age that it was nearly impossible to reach people or better yet grab their attention. With new advances in technology like spam protection and caller ID, people had become immune to marketing. (remember this was 2005)

That’s when Halligan met Shah at MIT, who recently started blogging. Halligan remembered watching the success of Shah’s blog and how he pulled people in from Google and social media.

They both agreed that people needed to start rethinking their marketing strategy, from being more outbound and interruptive, to more inbound and informative.

Coining the term “inbound marketing.” (Yes, Brain Halligan came up with Inbound Marketing.)

Thus, HubSpot was founded on the very simple observation that the world had changed. And most importantly, what had changed was how people shopped and how they bought and how they shared their experiences. Thanks to better search engines and social media.

But major brands just had not kept up.

How HubSpot grows through word of mouth with Story + Value

(See all of our word-of-mouth drivers.)

They came to the conclusion that traditional online marketing didn’t work anymore. And that what businesses needed to do, was to rethink their go-to-market strategy to match the way modern humans shopped and bought things.

Now before I go any further, I would like to come clean. HubSpot’s growth can actually be attributed to three word of mouth drivers: Story, Value, and Product. But for the sake of this post, we will only be focusing on two.

Inbound marketing concepts and strategies had been around for over a decade before HubSpot coined the term. So how did HubSpot turn these simple concepts into a modern-day marketing staple?

It was all in their story.

See long before HubSpot’s product launched, they were already blogging. Spreading their gospel about how the world had changed and how direct marketing was less effective than ever before.

By paving their own road, HubSpot created a reason WHY this concept matters by pointing out a change in the market that they could prove and one that their customers could see happening with their own eyes.

Shah, being a developer by trade, was able to provide a unique approach and data for their hypothesis, further feeding their ideology. But HubSpot doesn’t just espouse an ideology. They actually provide the resources needed for people to implement the strategy within their company.

They get people excited about implementing inbound within their businesses, and then they give them exactly what they need to do it.

This generates much more brand loyalty than merely telling people what they need to do and letting them figure out how to implement it themselves. By selling an ideology instead of a product, HubSpot can group seemingly unrelated products into a central hub/platform. Providing everything a business needs to scale its inbound efforts.

But HubSpot’s real value isn’t in their all-in-one platform. It’s in their content.

HubSpot produces over 50 pieces of content every week, providing its users with plenty of actionable/educational insights to guide their marketing strategy. Not to mention HubSpot Academy, and countless inbound certification they offer all for free.

See HubSpot practices what they preach and honestly believe the best way to acquire new, long-lasting clients is through finding them when they are most interested in your service, which is during their research phase.

Think about it from the buyer’s perspective. How do they become aware of the problem you solve.

  • What solutions do they consider?
  • What is your unique advantage?
  • How do they evaluate their buying position?

All of this usually takes place online via search engines and social media.

Rather than blasting out a marketing message to potential leads through traditional marketing and cold outreach, Inbound marketing shows you how to attract customers to your site by creating useful and original content. Inbound leads are typically more relevant and have higher close rates than the leads you would get from any traditional channels.

The one obvious thing you can take away from HubSpot’s growth is that inbound marketing works. But I’ll break it down further content marketing truly works.

No matter what kind of business you run, no matter the industry or size, you should be producing original content. Now before you say but Matt, I run a small brick and mortar store, and I don’t think too many people would read my posts.

Starting off, you might be right, but as long as you keep providing great content, your audience will grow, and more importantly, so will your site’s domain authority and backlinks. Thus building more trust with search engines while increasing your overall search ranking.

A stunning 43% of businesses admit they don’t blog or regularly post original content, leaving the door wide open for companies who are willing to do a little extra work.

Not to get too far off-topic, but to drive this point home. A friend last week told me they were planning on opening up a BBQ restaurant in VB. They already have a successful food truck but was nervous about opening a brick and mortar and not being found online. So he asked me the million-dollar question, “How can I make sure my site ranks number one for BBQ in VB?”

This isn’t a simple question, so I opened up Ahrefs (SEO tool) and did a quick competitor analysis and found that all the websites ranking on page one of the SERPs had less than seven backlinks. Not surprising, I mean, these are BBQ joints, but that was great news for us.

So how does he guarantee his site ranks above the competition?

Simple, he writes a great piece of long-form content geared towards his primary keywords. In this case, it’s a step by step guide on how to make the perfect Virginia BBQ. Back in Ahrefs, we go to find websites with decent link profiles with 404s that focus on recipes and how-to guides about BBQ. Last but not least, you have to reach out to these sites and ask for a link.

It can be a lot of work, but it’s honestly one of the best things you can do in terms of SEO.

HubSpot word-of-mouth rating: 5/5 (From the rooftops)

(More on our rating system.)

HubSpot receives a 5/5 on our word of mouth scale for several reasons, but if I had to choose one, it’s for their story. They forever changed the way we market, turning a simple concept into a worldwide movement, and a marketing strategy that is taught in universities around the globe.

HubSpot realized that a compelling story is easy to remember, inherently interesting, and, most of all, persuasive.

A story is the perfect selling tool to help people spread word of mouth. Human beings have always communicated by stories, from cave art to elaborate folktales. We instinctively share stories because stories speak to us in a way that facts, figures and ROI don’t.

HubSpot’s growth hasn’t stalled since the day they launched back in 2006. Original starting off with three clients they knew from their network, HubSpot quickly started working on their beta and finished their alpha model within the year. By 2007 they had 48 customers, in 2010 they had 3,855 customers, in 2013 they had 10,595 customers, and to date, they have over 64,500 customers in over 100+ countries.

HubSpot grew a cult-like following through their free content, podcasts, webinars, and events. They held their first Inbound Marketing conference in 2012, with 2,857 attendees. At their last Inbound conference, they had over 26,000 attendees.

HubSpot doesn’t show any signs of slowing down with their last valuation coming in at over six billion dollars, and recently announced plans on integrating with LinkedIn Ads platform to better analyze their effectiveness.

If there’s a product or topic, you would like me to cover. Please drop me a line in the comments, and as always, thank you for reading.

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