One of the pioneers that has helped popularize the discipline of inbound marketing is HubSpot. The company has created and grown a technology platform which allows companies of all sizes to take full advantage of the most effective tools and techniques in the online space and has helped over 5,000 businesses transition their marketing efforts from the ways of the past to the promise of the future.
Sounds like marketing fluff, right? Well, it’s not and here’s why. Along with the individual businesses that have recognized the power of inbound marketing and the importance of having a technology platform to run and manage all the various elements (blogging, SEO, social media etc), agencies of all sizes have jumped onboard as well.
I had a chance to speak with Pete Caputa who is the VAR Sales and Marketing Manager for HubSpot. The first time I spoke with Pete was almost three ago when the HubSpot channel partner program was just getting underway. What a difference three years can make. Our conversation covered the history of HubSpot’s work with agencies, the impact of the program on the business of HubSpot, their agency partners and businesses as well as a look into future plans.
Caputa: Well, it wasn’t something that everyone at the company immediately loved. Several years ago we were generating around 10,000 leads per month through our own inbound marketing efforts and we found that 11% of those leads were agencies and consultants. Of course, as salespeople there is the notion that if you have the agency working with you it’s a clear path to having their clients do the same.
We had a lot of “We want to learn your software” inquiries, which turned into demos which then, unfortunately, often turned into no action. Over time these agency contacts were not performing so the support to go after them with a program was hard to find.
I kept at the idea but we found that even with agencies that bought in we had a low close rate for getting businesses to use the HubSpot inbound marketing software platform. Things started to change though.
To make a long story short after about 4 months of personal production that was at 150% of our direct reps (while also being a sales engineer), we started our program.
MP: What did you do differently?
Caputa: We started to concentrate on doing the same thing that we have our customers do which is to generate content to educate this market and let them come onboard for all the right reasons rather than having to sell them on the idea.
MP: When did you know you were on to something bigger for HubSpot?
Caputa: When I was able to do about 200% of the business of our reps who were talking directly to businesses, we were convinced that something bigger was happening so we hired our first sales person for the channel 18 months ago. Now there are 17 Partner Account Managers that account for about 20% of HubSpot’s overall production and we are aiming to be about 40% of that business very soon.
MP: What should an agency partner expect when making the decision to use HubSpot to grow their business?
Caputa: Well, we had found that for a variety of reasons the marketing agency model, especially for smaller players was broken. What was once a retainer / fee business was being fragmented as SMB’s and businesses in general began hiring project based providers to handle SEO, PPC, social etc. What the agencies were able to keep caused very uneven performance and a “feast or famine” situation with cash flow. As a result many agencies were barely keeping the doors open.
Our goal is to help agencies transform their business by giving them a best in class marketing software solution for their clients to implement. Once the clients see just how much opportunity there is and how much work it requires, they are going back to the agency on retainers of $2k to $10k per month to help develop, manage and execute an inbound marketing system for them.
We help agencies get away from the project mentality and help them to be a business partner to their clients. They are able to use our experience and success to help their clients understand the power of moving to an inbound marketing mindset. Our track record and data showing success rates can help agencies convey to their customers and prospects a very good idea of what they can expect to generate in business when using the combination of the HubSpot inbound marketing software platform and their agency expertise. It’s quite powerful.
MP: HubSpot has investment from the likes of Google Ventures and has been growing rapidly. Are you looking for sales talent?
Caputa: We are always looking for the right kind of sales talent. Our sale is very consultative and we have been down the road enough to know who does and does not work in terms of bringing agencies on board with HubSpot. We have added 8 sales people over the past three months and are looking for more hires by the end of the year. There’s a lot of opportunity out there but it takes the right skill set and attitude to help agencies perform using the HubSpot platform.
MP: So you have investment money and you are cash flowing right now. What should the market be looking for in the future from HubSpot’s Partner Program?
Caputa: Plenty. Being in the Internet marketing space is fast paced enough but when you are providing a software platform that needs to change at the same rate of speed as the market we are always looking to the future.
This September we are rolling out new pricing structures. More importantly we are offering our agency partners a chance to be part of our automated services market, which will allow our partners the chance to get in front of the very companies that are using the HubSpot Internet marketing software platform and could be in the market for additional services.
In addition there will be a Partner Portal that will be built on top of Salesforce.com CRM for registering and tracking leads for our agency partners. It’s a very cool system and one we are excited about for sure.
All of these improvements and opportunities will lead to new tiered opportunities for agencies. The better performing agencies will reap the rewards of their efforts, which include additional support from HubSpot for services and co-marketing opportunities as well.
We have over 500 partners currently with a funnel full of about 170,000 other contacts who have identified themselves as potential agency partners. Needless to say we are pretty excited about the future.
MP: Anything else we should know?
Caputa: We are looking to open our first European office in Q1 2012. Our international reach is growing significantly and we intend to fuel growth not only here in the states but abroad as well.
MP: Thanks for the insights!