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.
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.
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.
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.