Preface: These are my thoughts and things from my perspective and don't necessarily represent the views and experiences of others at HubSpot. I'm guessing that people, especially our founders and management, from HubSpot will add more perspective in the comments.
When I joined HubSpot in November '07, I was extremely excited. HubSpot was a perfect fit for my passions at the intersection of online marketing, small business marketing services and software as a service. I had a conversation with Auren Hoffman shortly afterwards telling him what HubSpot was doing. He remarked, you really are attracted to business models that help small business owners grow their business. I hadn't thought of it in that light. But, he was right. I love helping small business owners with what is usually their most pressing problem: lead generation.
Being in a fast growing business in a rapidly evolving industry, however, I quickly grew a bit concerned about some of the sentiment internally about selling our services to small business owners. Every decision HubSpot makes is based on analysis and numbers. And the first few months, while I was there, a larger % of small business owners had cancelled their subscriptions (even though it was only a small number and usually because they were going out of business or changing direction). Also, previous to joining HubSpot, the majority of the sales team had sold larger products to larger companies. So, they all pretty much preferred selling to marketing teams with established budgets, instead of small business owners that needed a lot more education and had to decide between buying HubSpot and taking their family out to dinner each month. The marketing team was also making large strides at attracting marketing professionals to our site and converting them into sales ready leads. They recommended those leads get priority in our queues and most of the sales team happily obliged. Further, the development team was developing more advanced inbound marketing capabilities like closed loop marketing and lead scoring and focussing less on solving the problems of small business owners. We even starting requiring small businesses to start paying for a year long subscription in advance, to ensure that they were committed.
In short, it seemed like we were raising hurdles that prevented us from helping small businesses, while shifting the company focus up stream towards larger small businesses.
A few months into my time at HubSpot, though, things started to change.
I started selling our content management system to small business owners as a primary reason why they should start with us. I specifically remember some early clients like Dr. Edward Kwak, Darcy Cook and Dave Lima where HubSpot had an immediate and extremely positive impact on their lead generation and business growth because they now had control over their site.
A few months later, we instituted an internal scoring system to determine our most successful, most engaged and most improved clients. In aggregate, my clients, many of them small businesses were getting the highest scores.
Around this time, the numbers were crunched and it was determined that small businesses who use our Content Management System (CMS) were almost always successful.
Things started to turn around internally. Management realized that we could serve both small and mid sized businesses successfully. But, it was quickly becoming apparent that they had different needs.
As a result, on September 1st, HubSpot Owner and HubSpot Marketer were launched. HubSpot owner is a complete system for small businesses to manage their website, blog, traffic acquisition and lead capture. It also includes our internet marketing training program which teaches internet marketing practices in SEO, PPC, blogging for business, social media marketing, etc. It includes all of the SEO tools, social media marketing and blog analytics tools, marketing analytics, lead intelligence, etc. It sounds a bit complex to the average small business owner, but the brilliant thing is that this is all they need to make the web work for them. It actually makes the process simpler by putting everything into one package.
Altogether, HubSpot Owner provides a complete low cost turn key lead generation system for small businesses, as long as they are willing to dedicate the time to making it work. It removes the need for a technical webmaster. It removes the need for external costly custom web development. It lessons the need for hiring external marketing resources that most small businesses and solopreneurs cannot afford and who rarely generate a measurable ROI. It makes it possible for small businesses to be in control of their website, online marketing, their online lead generation and ultimately the growth of their company.
As you can tell, I'm pretty excited. By the end of August, we signed on 155 new clients bringing us to 750+ clients in total. When I started in November '07, we had <100 clients altogether. It's been an absolutely amazing ride. We're helping so many small businesses generate leads. I'm very confident, with the new product streamlined for business owners, we'll help many many more in the future.