The early 2000s was a time for tacky television ads, telemarketing, outbound cold calling - basically anything outbound. But anything mainstream soon becomes expensive. Advertising became unimaginably unaffordable, leaving smaller companies and startups completely out of the outbound circle.
But with the advent of the internet, whatever was happening offline started moving online. And with the internet, things were in your control. You could watch movies whenever you wanted, download whichever music you liked, and browse what was interesting to you. In a nutshell, the internet personalized user experience that enriched their lives, making outbound ads less relevant by the day. People were able to shop for what they liked and became less tolerant towards interruptive sales calls and ads.
Two MIT students - Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah - picked up on this changing notion and thought of inbound marketing as the next big thing where people find your product through their network. They realized that people wanted to be helped and not interrupted in their process which is what the inbound notion was all about.
So in 2004, Brian and Dharmesh laid the groundwork for creating a solution in response to this changing landscape of marketing and sales. In 2005, the duo worked on a prototype and presented their idea. They even started a blog and gathered early supporters and a community of folks who considered this idea to be a revolution in advertising and marketing as we know it.
HubSpot was officially founded in June 2006 and the early days were mostly laying out the groundwork which meant doing quite a bit of hard work to gain people’s trust.
The software didn’t do much until customers would ask us for help and we made up for the inefficiencies in the software by giving them good advice on how to optimize their website or how to get going on social. But we didn’t want to fall into the trap of being called a consulting company so our early challenge was to figure out how to take all these things we were consulting for and turn them into an automated product. - Brian Halligan, Co-founder of HubSpot (Interview with YCombinator)
What got the engine going for HubSpot was SEO. All the SEO stuff they did in a way really changed the direction in which they were headed. Also, websitegrader.com, which was an early HubSpot tool, helped change the way people saw the product. Almost a year into building HubSpot (around late 2007), HubSpot was finally being identified more as a software company than a website consulting firm. Around the same time, in September 2007, HubSpot raised its Series A for $5 million and grew to $255K in revenue.
By 2010, HubSpot had crossed the $15 million mark in revenue. In 2011, the company bought Oneforty - an app store for Twitter. In 2011, Halligan was given the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2011 New England Award. At this time the company revenue reached $65 million in capital investment.
From a product standpoint, the company continued to evolve through new features that personalize the website experience for individual users. They also added more products to their Martech stack and HubSpot also started targeting larger companies to expand their target market. By 2012, it had achieved large-scale market adoption.
HubSpot raised a total of over $100 million in funding and opened its IPO in 2014. This was also the year when they launched their legendary CRM which, to this day, powers thousands of sales and marketing teams. As of today, HubSpot has over 128,000 customers in 120 countries and the revenue of the company crossed a billion dollars in 2021.
HubSpot realized the power of content and organic marketing which is why it invested a lot of resources into building its content strategy and prioritizing SEO over everything. Brian still thinks that SEO is the most underrated marketing strategy there is. HubSpot managed to build a website that drives over 10 million in monthly traffic and that’s almost entirely because of SEO and content. There is no inorganic marketing involved whatsoever.
We were a content machine and I still think of HubSpot as a little bit of code, a whole lot of content, and a community that’s around it. This is really how HubSpot works underneath the covers. - Brian Hallinger
Brian also discusses the importance of customer experience in B2B and how it can be a breaking point for a lot of users to move away from your product. People don’t want to get on sales calls to understand the product, they want to discover it on their own. They want to signup, maybe have a chat if they can’t figure something out, and eventually understand the product on their own terms with a little help.
In fact, the early team at HubSpot would write two blog articles per week to see which ones get the most leads. It was deeply rooted in HubSpot’s belief system that you have to write really great content to be able to stand out and establish a reliable inbound marketing engine. It didn’t take long for HubSpot to be considered experts in inbound marketing because what they drove to their advantage was a certain ‘polarization effect’ which, in Brain’s opinion, is a way of getting attention by highlighting the opposite of what you’re selling. In this case, HubSpot really did justice to the Outbound vs. Inbound argument and that is what really made people understand not only the difference but also the importance of the latter.
HubSpot has done quite a lot for spreading the concepts of inbound marketing. Initiatives like the INBOUND event and HubSpot Academy exemplify how HubSpot has not only pioneered a product but has positioned itself as a leading brand in helping businesses build an inbound engine organically.
If there’s one thing that HubSpot has really nailed is inbound and organic marketing. From context Building the biggest ecosystem of sales, marketing, and customer success professionals doesn’t just happen overnight. HubSpot’s community advocacy and user programs exemplify community-led growth and how to scale the right strategies, follow the right KPIs, and nurture the most sustainable flywheel capable of running and maintaining itself.
HubSpot’s community is a place to discuss everything HubSpot. Network with peers, connect with like-minded folks from your industry, expand your HubSpot knowledge, join user groups, and learn how to better manage your business from others who’re doing what you’re doing.
Let’s take a closer look at the HubSpot community.
Discuss everything from sales and CRM to marketing, RevOps, and Inbound. You can post ideas, take part in conversations, learn, share, and make the most of HubSpot.
AMAs and discussions from folks from different organizations. A unique part about these AMAs is that they’re from the HubSpot team and they talk about new features, implementations, initiatives, and even strategies.
Here’s a recent AMA from the HubSpot team about the most underrated HubSpot feature.
HubSpot gives shoutouts to community members every week and gives an interview-style look into their lives, what they do, and what inspires them to be a part of HubSpot’s community.
Learn from past events and on-demand webinars about to use HubSpot and manage your business funnels better.
One of the biggest global business events - INBOUND is an annual business meet led by HubSpot’s community. Get an opportunity to network with some of the biggest organizations, and sponsors, and connect with the community.
Become a part of user groups and connect with leading professionals from around the world who are doing what you’re doing. Learn from folks from different backgrounds, identities, and perspectives.
A HubFan is a customer or a partner that loves helping others. They are experts, thought leaders, and HubSpot power users who know how to grow businesses with HubSpot.
HubSpot offers great rewards, badges, and points which brings them to the inner circle of the HubSpot community of champions. You get more opportunities to speak, host programs, have networking group meetups, and more.
There are also meetups for HubFans and advocacy group programs to let other community champions network amongst each other and help one another.
Furthermore, there are advocacy groups of HubFans, enthusiasts, and champions where you can get access to invite-only events and programs.
Advocacy spotlight highlights the achievements of HubFans or HubSpot advocates who have major accomplishments or contributions in the community.
In an episode of Threado Community Hour, Christina Garnett, a Senior Marketing Manager for offline communities, talks about how you can build an advocacy or champion program from scratch.
HubSpot Community Champion Program is a program for the most active and knowledgeable contributors on our online HubSpot Community forum. To get started, become a registered member of HubSpot’s community, start responding to threads, and become a top contributor.
Benefits include - a community champions badge, exclusive access to the champions forum, swag, events sponsored by HubSpot, and more.
HubSpot’s organic growth is perhaps one of the most referenced and talked about strategies in SaaS businesses. Their community initiatives work because they’re inclusive, collaborative, and most importantly, sustainable. HubSpot's partner programs like the solution partner program or the startup program. These programs are designed to not just help businesses make better use of HubSpot as a platform but also build better businesses through all kinds of support possible.
In a customer story about getting better with the HubSpot community, he talks about how Blend, a rather young B2B company grew its platform and became a HubSpot Diamond partner. HubSpot has helped countless companies build better funnels and strategies. Doing this gives other companies all the more incentive to become better HubSpot users, which in turn helps HubSpot build a community of champions and experts. A perfect example of how community can be the most scalable growth strategy if done right.
Appsmith happened after multiple hands-on experiences of co-founding startups, learning from their failures for about 10 years and bouncing back stronger at it!
A deep-dive into how Airbyte scaled to 3500+ Slack users in a year with a community-first approach to growth.