Home > Internet Marketing > Inbound Marketing on the Web – Brian Halligan from HubSpot

Inbound Marketing on the Web – Brian Halligan from HubSpot

I had the opportunity to watch a wonderful webinar given by Brian Halligan, CEO of HubSpot in November 2009. The webinar is titled: A CEO’s Guide to Internet Marketing, and can be viewed at the preceding link (brief registration required). Presentation slides can be viewed here. Halligan also co-authored the book Inbound Marketing: Get Found using Google, Social Media, and Blogs, with HubSpot co-founder and CTO Dharmesh Shah.

Rather than summarize the webinar, I’m going to provide portions of the webinar transcript below. The categories that organize the webinar are either my own, or have been taken from the book. So with that introduction, the rest of the post contains the words of Mr. Halligan that most resonated with me from the webinar.

Shopping has changed, has your Marketing?

There’s a big change going on in the marketing world … There’s a major change going on in the way [people] learn things, shop for things, and buy things. People more and more spend their day searching on Google. More and more people live in social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. And people are more and more turning to their favorite bloggers, and niche blogs on the Internet – and less and less [publications] like Life Magazine and the Boston Globe.

There’s been a fundamental transformation around how people shop and learn. So the idea behind this Marketing transformation that I’m starting with is you need to match the way you market your products with the way people shop and learn today. And you need to transform the way you market from outbound, interruption-based techniques like advertisements, cold calls, e-mail spam and trade shows and seminars, and [instead ask] more how do you pull people in in the natural course of the way they shop and learn? How do you take advantage of Google, Social Media and Blogs to pull people in?

Inbound Marketing – Turning your website into a Marketing Hub

Links are to the Internet [what] the US dollar is to the US economy. Links are really the currency of the Internet, and what makes it work. And to become a successful inbound marketer … to have to turn your website into a hub … and you need to pull people into it.

The following passage is from the book:

“If your company is like most others, you put all your Web energy on your site. Seventy-five percent of your focus should be on what’s happening off your web site concerning your brand, your industry, and your competitors. Your focus should include creating communities outside of your site for people to connect with you and your products and others within the community. Ultimately, this “outside” focus will drive people back to your site. … You want your web site to be a large dot that’s connected to many other websites – in other words, a hub.

Transforming the way you Market your Company on the Internet – Step-by-Step

Now I’m going to talk about step-by-step what you need to do inside your company to transform the way you market and pull people in. It’s a five-step process.

Step 1: You need to turn yourself into a publishing company.

A modern marketer, a modern company, is half marketer and half publisher. So take my company for example, we have about a hundred people now. And our second marketing hire was a fellow named Rick Burns, who’s a former writer for the New York Times. Our third marketing hire was a gal named Rebecca Corliss who we hired right out of school, and she creates – using videos essentially – viral videos. So we’ve turned ourselves into a content creation factory.

If you look at who really wins on the Internet, on Google, it’s people who have lots and lots of content, lots and lots of pages inside Google’s index.

So you want to think like a production house. You want to think like Warner Brothers or Disney. So very tactically, you should start a blog, and create really remarkable content on that blog. I steal that term “remarkable” from a friend of mine, Seth Godin. And the term remarkable is just right, because you want your content to be so interesting that other bloggers and other website owners and Twitter users and Facebook users are remarking about your content with links into it and sending people to it. … This content becomes a magnet for links on the Internet.

So that’s step 1, creating lots and lots of content.

Step 2: Optimize your content – for both Google and Social Media


Step 3: Promote your content across Social Media sites/channels.

If your content is truly remarkable, it will spread like wildfire. Where people get in trouble is when they create content and they sell too much, they sell their product too hard. But if you’re creating content about your industry or trends in the industry, and it’s really good and high-quality, the barrier to its spreading is very very low. And use Facebook and Twitter and StumbleUpon to pull people into your site, and turn your site into a magnet with all that great content.

Step 4: Once you’ve drawn people into your website, provide a strong Call to Action

OK, we’re starting to pull people in through Google, we’re starting to pull people in through links from other blogs, and through Twitter and Facebook. Now I’ve got them to my blog article, but now what? I don’t care about visitors. I want qualified leads, but what I really want are customers. And a mistake a lot of people make is they bring people back to their home page or blog, and there’s nothing that compels the person who is visiting to take an action. And so it’s really important – it’s a really basic marketing concept that 90% of folks get wrong – is a very strong call to action on your website.

Step 5: Measure results and adjust

You want to analyze the results, and you want to make better decisions and tweak what you’re doing. … A good way to do that analysis in the modern marketing world is to look per channel at what’s going on. So here’s the way we do it here at HubSpot. We look at Organic Search (or links into our site) vs. Paid Search, Direct Traffic (people typing in http://www.hubspot.com), our e-mail marketing campaign, people coming from Social Media, and then other stuff.

And then what we like to look at is (i) how many visitors did I get? – for example, from organic search (ii) how many leads did I get? (iii) and what’s the % of visitors that convert to leads? (iv) and then we look at how many customers did I ultimately get from organic search, and what’s the conversion rate from leads to customers? (v) and what’s the overall yield from visitor to customer?

And by looking at this information across our entire funnel – this is about a week’s worth of data for us – we can see the total yield per campaign. And then we can see our total yield across our entire funnel. And based on this as a CEO, I can look at this data and say “OK, organic search is working really well, e-mail marketing is not working as well, let’s double-down on organic search.” And then I can drill down in each one of these things. So for organic search, I can split it into organic branded search, organic unbranded search. I can drill into social media and look at Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon – all the different social media sites and look at them side-by-side – and look at the shape of the funnel. And this is the report we show to the Board here at HubSpot.

So that’s the process: Create Content. Optimize it. Promote it through the Social Media-sphere. Make sure you have calls to action, so you’re pulling these visitors into your funnel. And then analyze what it is you’re doing, and adjust it based on the data you’re seeing. So at HubSpot we have this concept of Inbound Marketing. And we have this framework essentially for helping you think through how to do it.

The Modern Marketing System

OK. So assuming you buy into the fact that Shopping and Learning in changing, and that you need to match the way you market your products with the way people shop and learn. So let’s talk a little bit about your team, and who should be on your team, what skillsets you need. And then let’s talk about your organization …

This is kind of how I think about the Marketing System, and how it works today. And this is a picture we use here at HubSpot – we’re just showing you inside our sausage machine how it works. So across the top are kind of our magnets – how we pull people into our site. So we have a very active blog, we’ve been running it for 3 years now, we have 10’s of thousands of links, we rank for 10s of thousands of keywords, we have 25,000 subscribers, it’s very very good. And then we have something called InboundMarketing.com, which is a community for marketers. We do a little bit of Google organic paid search. A lot of SEO. And then we get a lot of traffic from social media sites like Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn. And then we build these Graders. We built a tool called Website Grader, Twitter Grader, LinkedIn Grader, Facebook Grader – we have a whole suite of these Graders that help you grade yourself on a score of 1 to 100 on, for example, how sticky is your website. So we build these applications that are kind of like content.

So this is how we get found. This is all content that we built, and it pulls people into our website and our landing pages. And this is our website and our landing pages here (in the middle of the diagram). And this is how I think you should think about your business. What are those magnets like? How do I get more leverage out of these magnets? And then we bring them into leads. … We score our leads, and the qualified leads go to our sales reps. The unqualified leads go into that marketing database, and we have a huge 450,000 database now, where we nuture them along the way, and try to turn them into demonstrations and customers.

Not every business is the same. But if you’re a B2B company, I think you should be looking something this. This is how I kind of think of a Modern Marketing System. So instead of the whole top of your funnel being paid advertisements, how do you create a lot of create content that’s like a magnet that pulls people in kind of forever in the top of your funnel.

The Modern Sales Organization – the Org Chart

OK. That’s the modern marketing system, what does the modern marketing org chart look like?

So this is the org chart for the marketing team here at HubSpot. We have a VP of Marketing, Mike Volpe. And then we have different groups, and it’s these first three groups that I wanted to point out.

This first group is a Get Found group. There’s a gentleman in there named Rick Burns who I mentioned earlier, he’s the former NY Times writer. And then Rebecca Corliss. Rebecca’s a student from BU that creates a lot of music videos and viral videos for us. So all we’re really doing, this is a content creation factory – where we’re cranking out brilliant, remarkable content that pulls people in, that hopefully convert to qualified leads down the road.

And then we have another Get Found team that just builds applications. So Dan Zarrella I mentioned earlier, and Eddie Hebert’s a developer – they build these Grader tools, these applications that are very interesting that pull people in.

And I think this is the right way to do it in the modern marketing world. How do you build that content creation factory? How do you create blog articles, webinars, videos, applications that pull people in sustainably over time so you’re not throwing money into the machine every month.

And then we have another team, the Convert team. There’s 3 folks in it, and they basically own the database. So they own the 450,000 people that we pulled in through our blog and our webinars and all this different stuff. And they nurture them over time, and try to turn them into qualified leads and customers.

And then we have standard Partners and Evangelists over here.

We didn’t break this out, but what I recommend for a lot of companies is that they have one person just doing Analytics. So you have a Get Found-Convert-Analyze group – where you’re creating a lot of reports, and those reports help you make better decisions and better investment decisions.

But this is what I think your modern Marketing Org Chart should look like as a CEO.

The role of the PR Firm in the Modern Sales Organization

OK, so while we’re on the organization and what people are doing, and extension to a lot of organizations is a PR firm. The PR industry is going through a lot of change, and I suspect many of you hire PR firms. Some PR firms are really, really on top of this modern marketing transformation that’s going on, and are really helping people take advantage of the changes and grow there business. Others are a little bit stuck in the old PR ways. …

So when you’re working with your PR firm, I would encourage you to think out of the box, and think about creative ways to measure their progress and get them aligned with what you think is important.

For example, some things you might want to measure them on is how many links into your site. So if you look at your site today and you have 5,000 links into your site, and on average you add 200 new links per month. Once you hire a PR firm you should expect rather than adding 200 links per month, you should add 400 links per month.

So PR is really changing, and I think you as a CEO need to understand that and work with your PR firm to make sure everyone is well-aligned.

The Changing role of the Salesperson

The other thing that’s changing is Sales. Sales has changed a lot. So I started my career in Sales in the early 90’s, and I remember as a sales person it was very asymmetric information. I controlled all the information about references, about discounting, about pricing. And if a potential customer wanted information about my company or my products, he really had to go through me. And every time they want through me I’d expect a piece of information. I’d qualify them. So information for access, or something like that.

And I just think about a salesperson today, and boy is it different – really, really different than it has been. The information is completely transparent and symmetric. So if someday wants to find out if a product is good, they can go onto Twitter and say “hey, is XYZ product good or bad”. They can look up on Google and say “is product XYZ good or bad”, and you get a whole bunch of information very very quickly. If you ask inside Google or Twitter about pricing or discounting information, you can find information very very quickly. So things are much more transparent.

And the sales person has actually lost a lot of power. So what happens today is instead of the sales person being in control from the top of the funnel all the way to the bottom of the funnel, the salesperson is getting involved much, much later. And the potential customer knows as much, if no more sometimes, than your sales rep.

So sales is changing a lot too, along with changing buying patterns and shopping patterns. And I think you ought to be aware of that. And you need to think through your comp plans for the sales guys, and you need to think through the implications of the internet on your sales process.

In Summary

Some powerful messages from Brian Halligan. I highly recommend the webinar – it certainly challenges traditional approaches to “outbound”, broadcast-style marketing.



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