Q&A With Hubspot Co-Founder on Business Tips, Advice

NTC Texas interviewed Brian Halligan, Co-Founder of the internet marketing company Hubspot, about his perspective on everything from time management, to startup financing to partnerships. Read a transcript of the interview below.

1. Sales: One simple sales tip I was given was always go into a meeting with a clear goal ahead of time, whether it’s scheduling a next meeting, submitting a proposal, or another action item. What’s one simple sales strategy you live by?

Solve pain. Everyone has pain. Great sales people are very, very good at finding that pain efficiently and crafting solutions to make that pain go away. Solve pain.

2. Partnerships: How important do you see key partnerships for tech companies?

Oh gosh — its critical. If you want to move mountains, it is exceptionally difficult to do it on your own.

At HubSpot, we’ve built a thriving partner channel. We go to market with 1,500 agencies around the world who help us spread the word, market/sell our products, and service our customers. They are ginormous piece of the HubSpot puzzle these days.

3. Partnerships: What’s one great partnership you acquired and how did you or someone on your team form it?

We do a few co-marketing campaigns with Twitter per year. When we began the relationship, we started with one webinar that was educational in nature to test the waters and ensure there was value on both sides. After we demonstrated success with the webinar, we expanded our relationship to include more and more activities throughout the year. We got it by proving we understand their business, can help educate marketers on how to leverage Twitter, and were willing to start small and expand.

4. Efficiency: A lot has been said about the importance of leveraging. What’s something you’ve leveraged that went a long way that others can mimic to grow their businesses?

Wowsa — Inbound marketing is 100% about leverage. Traditional marketing is all about renting space on someone else’s “asset” (tv show, radio show, application, newsletter, newspaper, etc). Inbound marketing is all about owning your own “assets” (YouTube channel, podcast, freemium app, email marketing, blog, etc), increasing the number of those assets over time, and increasing the return of those assets over time.

I’ll give you a real example from my own company — HubSpot’s blog. It generates over 1.5 million views every month and the majority of our leads every month. The interesting part of that is most of those views and leads would still come in even if we didn’t post at all in a given month and our blogging team took vacation for a month. All those articles we’ve posted over the years are permanent assets that pull in customers forever — little mini customer magnets. Inbound marketing is the gift that keeps on giving.

5. Startup financing: What’s one tip you would give to other business owners in regards to pitching, securing, and using venture capital to grow a company?

Here are a couple of tips:
a. Raising venture is much more time consuming than it looked on “The Social Network” movie. To convince a vc to invest, you typically need to have about 10 meetings with various levels of skeptical investors inside and outside the firm. You need to have your “A game” for each of these meetings (controllable), but the people your meeting with also need to have their “A game” (not controllable).
b. You need to find a vc who fits the following filters: top tier (gigantic benefits associated with the brand of someone like Sequoia and gigantic knowledge transfer), correct stage (vc’s all say they do “card table” stage, but very few have the stomach for it), and domain expertise (unless the parter you are dealing with has domain expertise in your field, they’ll have a hard time convincing their partners to invest).
c. In early stage, syndication is not a good idea. You only need one vc for a Series A — make them compete for your deal.

6. Time management: As a Co-Founder of one of the fastest growing companies, what’s your number one time management trick?

I think of myself as half “manager” and half “maker.” Managers typically have days packed with meetings and makers need a lot of quiet time to think and create. In order to facilitate that type of work, I work from home every Wednesday — I don’t care if the Pope is coming to town, I work from home on Wednesdays.

I also happen to be an introvert (although people think I’m an extrovert), so that break from lots of human contact in the middle of the week gives me a real battery charge.

7. Competition: One of Hubspot’s competitors is Infusionsoft. The main difference is the COS, but they both do automation and workflows. Other imitators to Hubspot have been popping up as well, often at a much more affordable cost to business owners.What will keep customers coming back to Hubspot instead?

Because HubSpot works insanely well. Our average customer starts with x number of leads per month and twelve months later they have 5.7x leads per month.

I think it works insanely well because of three things. First, our software is fantastic — it is by far the most comprehensive on the market and it is built from the ground up for mere mortals…it doesn’t feel like confusing enterprise software. Second, our methodology is fantastic and it foots perfectly with our software. Third, our people are fantastic at teaching and hand holding. Those things are hard to replicate, IMHO.

8. Future: What is one marketing shift or phenomenon you predict in the next couple of years?

LinkedIn is turning into Twitter and Twitter is turning into Facebook.

My best source of predictions is Mary Meeker’s annual internet report: https://www.slideshare.net/kleinerperkins/internet-trends-2014-05-28-14-pdf

9. Music: What’s on your iPod or Spotify most regularly these days, outside of Grateful Dead?

Alison Krauss, Susan Tedeschi, Jackie Greene, Grace Potter, Miles Davis, & John Coltrane. Consuming most of my music through my favorite new “app” — Sonos.

About the Author

At NTC Texas Jackie Clews works with the team on content marketing strategies, campaign execution, and analysis. She also hosts the NTC Texas All Star Experts video series and is a Co-Founder of Digital Marketing Direction, a digital marketing agency.