How HubSpot Sparked A Movement Behind Their Brand (Just Like Beyonce)

mike_volpe_headshotNever mess with the Beyhive.

That was the advice of angel investor, VC, and former CMO of HubSpot, Mike Volpe, who kicked off the recent Advocacy Advantage roadshow in Boston on September 19, 2016.

His main goal: illustrate the sheer power of fanatic, loyal advocates. In the case of Beyonce, her dedicated fans (known as the Beyhive) always rush to her defence.

This is only possible because of the tribe Beyonce has built up around herself. It’s similar, according to Mike, to the fervor that HubSpot was able to create around inbound marketing—a term they coined 9 years ago when “nobody knew who HubSpot was”.

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This was about more than just starting a company. It was about creating the perception of a movement.

P.S. If you want to hear from other phenomenal marketers like Mike in your backyard, join us for our Advocacy Advantage roadshows in Toronto, Chicago and Seattle this fall.

Why create a movement?

Emotions play a strong role in purchasing decisions—even within B2B. “You become much more than a product if you can make your company about a movement, not just what you sell,” says Mike.

Creating a movement can drive an irrational bias in your product’s favor. Customers will then make a buying decision due to their loyalty to your cause, and not because of a logical feature comparison against your competitors.

Companies that have a “movement aura” around them can also punch well above their weight class and be perceived as much larger than they actually are. In the case of HubSpot, the company was not only able to create a much larger digital footprint than other companies their size, but they also surpassed that of huge players in their space, like SAP and Salesforce.

The right ingredients for a movement

The conditions for a movement must be right for it to exist within your company and your market, says Mike.

First, decide which kind of business you are. Are you building a better mousetrap (like Zendesk)? Or are you creating a category (like HubSpot)?

Then, find an enemy. “Find something that exists that you think should not exist. In the case of HubSpot, we rallied against traditional marketing. For Salesforce, the question was SaaS vs. traditional software. What is the thing you are campaigning against, or trying to change?”

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Mike also says that creating a movement requires us to think far beyond our products. “It’s not about what you do. It’s not about your features. It’s about creating a positive impression with your team and your movement. Fill in the details later.”

This could mean you lose control. Mike shared that HubSpot faced a decision early on as to whether the brand should trademark the term “inbound marketing.” They decided against it, which allowed the term to become bigger than the company.

Soon competitors were claiming to have inbound marketing software, too. Events on the topic were run by those unaffiliated with HubSpot. Books were even written by authors Mike had never met. All of this only contributed to making the movement bigger.

6 ideas to try

Mike shared 6 tactics that worked for HubSpot’s inbound marketing movement:

  1. Be personal. HubSpot sent casual and friendly marketing emails from a variety of employees to engage potential prospects.
  2. Write the book on it. Consider authoring the book on your topic/movement. This is not about your company, but what you’re trying to change in the world.
  3. Content marketing. “This is where people most often make a mistake. They make content too much about their product/company, rather than about the movement.” Focus on big picture content, not just product marketing copy.
  4. Speak at events. HubSpot executives participated in many speaking engagements in the early days. “There’s some amount of legitimacy given to people on stage. This evangelism is important for your movement.”
  5. Create a certification program. Unlike many software certifications, HubSpot’s certification program had nothing to do with their product features. Instead, it was made freely available to teach marketers about the components of inbound marketing, further validating the movement as a whole.
  6. Run your own events. Or, in Mike’s words, “build your own Dreamforce.” HubSpot had far more success running their own event than paying to be part of other people’s events. “If you’re starting to build a movement, that movement needs a physical home, a family reunion. It’s hard to do that at someone else’s event.”

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How to leverage your movement

The benefits of the HubSpot movement were felt throughout the business. Customers were happy to speak at events, write blog articles, or present webinars to evangelize the business—even without being paid to do so. It was relatively easy for the company to generate a massive amount of positive online reviews from their tribe, and surpass their competition.

Even for those contacts in HubSpot’s database who would never make good sales targets, Mike’s team found a way to leverage their love for the brand. He would segment them specifically, sending messages that asked them to share new content to fuel social media buzz.

“Every person in your database has value; you need to determine what that value is,” he says.

The movement also allowed HubSpot to team up with companies much larger than them, such as LinkedIn, for co-marketing activities that helped to expand the brand’s reach and increase its credibility.

Mike’s most important advice can be summed up in three words: ignore the haters.

“It’s impossible to build something that thousands love, unless someone also hates it. Take an opinion. Have an enemy,” says Mike. “There will always be someone on the other side. It means you’re successful, that you’re creating an emotional bond. Move on, and build the movement bigger.”

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2 Responses to How HubSpot Sparked A Movement Behind Their Brand (Just Like Beyonce)

  1. Rick Burke says:

    Great article Jim. Mike did a great job with this presentation, and was spot on. You have to be willing to lose control and take leads from your customers on positioning, product direction, customer support requirements, training – pretty much everything. They will definately tell you what they like and don’t like. Thanks for putting on such a great user group event in Boston!

    • Jim Williams says:

      Thanks Rick! Totally agree – Volpe nailed it with his message! There is so much to learn from how Hubspot built the inbound movement. It’s all about marketing getting out of the way so the customer can take control of the your message, your brand, your community. Glad you could join us and welcome aboard!

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