Startup Marketing ABCs

By Mike Volpe on June 9, 2010

The following is a guest post from Mike Volpe, the VP of Marketing at HubSpot, who has helped grow our marketing software company from a handful of customers to nearly 3,000 customers over the past 3 years.  You can find more of his thoughts through the HubSpot Blog, on Twitter, and his personal blog.

I was recently asked to speak about "startup marketing" at Atlassian Starter Day in San Francisco.  I have spoken about marketing at over 50 conferences, but never specifically about marketing at startups.  I decided to try to have a little fun and talk about some of the learnings from our experiences at HubSpot according to the alphabet.


Avoid Addiction

Google AdWords and most forms of advertising are addictive drugs to marketers.  They make you feel good (leads!) but they are expensive, and when the good feeling is gone, you need to buy some more to feel good again.  This leads to marketers being lazy, and not building assets that improve the value and business model of the company.
A much more sustainable strategy is to build assets - just like equipment in a factory.  Marketing assets are blog articles, subscribers, inbound links, SEO rankings, social media followers, opt-in email lists, and other tools that help you generate more and more leads over time without ongoing expenses. 

Blog Beforehand

Many startups today have a blog, but most of them do not start blogging until after they have launched a product.  One of the smartest things the HubSpot co-founders did was start blogging before HubSpot had a product to sell, helping to build an asset 
The second mistake most startups make is that they blog about their own product and on topics that they want people to read about.  That works ok, but not nearly as well as thinking about your content from the point of view of the customers that you want to attract through inbound marketing.  Media companies think about what content people most want to consume - you should think of your blog as a media company for your market.  Don't talk about your product much at all, talk about what people are most interested in reading and sharing.

Create Convenience

More and more people have the expectation and the capability to sever themselves.  Making each and every thing that you do to acquire new customers as simple and convenient as possible helps to increase the conversion rates for each step in the process, and improves your yield.
One of the things that has worked well for HubSpot is creating free tools that are really convenient.  For instance with Website Graderyou just type in your URL and you get a pretty useful report back quickly.  Making our tools and content as easy to use and as easy to share as possible has helped them spread far and wide at a low cost.  To date Website Grader has been used to evaluate over 2.4 million websites, and we have spent almost nothing marketing it. 

Data Drives Decisions

Most entrepreneurs know that marketing at a startup requires you to do some experimentation and use that marketing data to drive your decisions.  We have found that taking this to the extreme works well.  Each month the marketing team produces a report about marketing that is over 100 pages long, plus many other special reports.  We produce over 2,000 pages of reports each year, just for marketing.  We have targets for our key metrics and track those daily.  We know within a couple days if we are behind on a certain metric and can adjust our activities to compensate.
Tracking our business each month (or day) helps us optimize and evolve faster.  If you track your business monthly, you optimize and improve your marketing 3 times faster than a company that measures quarterly.  Measuring in smaller increments is key to evolving your startup marketing faster, by experimenting more and learning more quickly. 

Employ the Exceptional 

In the Inbound Marketing Book Dharmesh and Brian talk about the DARC criteria for hiring.  We use those criteria for hiring at HubSpot, also adding criteria for hiring marketing pros that "get stuff done" and are smarter than we are.  Experience is not as important as many people think because marketing is changing and evolving fast, such that too much experience can actually be a liability because you might prefer older and less effective marketing techniques. More than 2 years of experience might not add any additional value in terms of marketing expertise. (It does add value in terms of leadership and management and communication experience.)
What do you think?  What are the most important startup marketing lessons you have learned?  Leave a comment below and share with the community.
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37 Startup Insights

By Dharmesh Shah on June 7, 2010

 Earlier this year, I had a chance to attend SxSW.  One of the highlights of my trip was a startup dinner which included Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, the founders of 37signals.  At the time, they had just come out with their new book "Rework".  I had downloaded a copy to my Kindle, but hadn't had a chance to read it yet.  Now I have.  Twice.  It's a great book.  Lots of practical advice for entrepreneurs.  I highly recommend it.  My second time through, I decided to pull out some of my favorite parts. onstartups rework

You're encouraged to share your favorite insight by using the convenient "tweet" links next to each one.  

 37 "Signals" From 37 Signals

1) Great businesses have a point of view, not just a product or service. [tweet]

2) Writing a plan makes you feel in control of things you don’t actually control. [tweet]

3) You have the most information when you’re doing something, not before you've done it. [tweet]

4) Stuff that was impossible just a few years ago is simple today. [tweet]

5) Failure is not a prerequisite for success. [tweet]

6) Don’t make assumptions about how big you should be ahead of time. [tweet]

7) Don’t sit around and wait for someone else to make the change you want to see. [tweet]

8) When you build what you need, you can assess quality directly instead of by proxy. [tweet]

9) Solving your own problem lets you fall in love with what you’re making. [tweet]

10) What you do matters, not what you think or say or plan. [tweet]

11) When you want something bad enough, you make the time. [tweet]

12) The perfect time to start something never arrives. [tweet]

13) Start a business, not a startup. [tweet]

14) You need a committment strategy, not an exit strategy. [tweet]

15) Huge organizations talk instead of act, and meet instead of do. [tweet]

16) Build half a product, not a half-assed product. [tweet]

17) Getting to greatness starts by cutting out stuff that’s merely good. [tweet]

18) The real world isn’t a place, it's an excuse.  It's a justification for not trying. [tweet]

19) The big picture is all you should be worrying about in the beginning. Ignore the details. [tweet]

20) Decide. You’re as likely to make a great call today as you are tomorrow. [tweet]

21) The longer it takes to develop, the less likely it is to launch. [tweet]

22) It’s the stuff you leave out that matters. [tweet]

23) Focus on substance, not fashion.  Focus on what won't change. [tweet]

24) When good enough gets the job done, go for it. [tweet]

25) When you make tiny decisions, you can't make big mistakes. [tweet]

26) Pour yourself into your product. [tweet]

27) You rarely regret saying no but you often regret saying yes. [tweet]

28) Better your customers grow out of your product, than never grow into them. [tweet]

29) You can’t paint over a bad experience with good marketing. [tweet]

30) All companies have customers. Fortunate companies have audiences too. [tweet]

31) Instead of out-spending your competitors, out-teach them. [tweet]

32) Let customers look behind the curtain. [tweet]

33) Leave the poetry in what you make, there is beauty in imperfection. [tweet]

34) Marketing is not a department, it's the sum total of everything you do. [tweet]

35) Don’t hire for pleasure; hire to kill pain. [tweet]

36) Don’t make up problems you don’t have yet. [tweet]

37) A business without a path to profit is a hobby. [tweet]

What are your favorite insights from Rework?

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