Should Your Startup Be HubSpotting?

May 6, 2013

9:00 am

HubSpot reminded us all of its industry dominance in the inbound marketing arena with the recent release of its State of Inbound Marketing report.

To summarize the 164-page report (…no, I did not read it all):

Inbound marketing is growing. More companies are adopting its methodology as well as the philosophy behind it – namely, that it’s possible to create marketing that is both effective and respected (or even loved!) by eliminating annoying interruption tactics and focusing on connecting with customers in the ways they want to be sought after.

There’s no question that inbound marketing is on the rise in just about every industry for businesses of all shapes and sizes – and that HubSpot deserves much of the credit for igniting this revolution. The question is:

Is it worth it for a startup to spend a sizable chunk of its precious little cash to tap into HubSpot’s marketing software? 

Of course, only you can answer that question. But, while you’re kicking around the idea, keep these things in mind.

ROI vs. Runway

It’s not difficult for HubSpot to rationalize away the five-figure upfront cost associated with using its software from a return-on-investment (ROI) perspective. As a self-proclaimed power-user, I can attest to the amount of time saved coding, tracking, emailing, reporting, researching, analyzing, and more by using HubSpot. From a pure time standpoint, you’re able to get to the positive ROI pretty quickly (e.g., “Instead of hiring another person, I invested in the software”). The results, which typically start to spike somewhere in the 12- to 15-month range, serve to merely validate whether you’re spending your time wisely or not.

For startups that are surviving in 3- to 6-month increments, waiting a year-plus for results is simply not feasible. If you’re in this boat, HubSpot can wait in favor of shorter-term concept validation efforts. For others, it’s important to recognize that the results will come exponentially over time.

Lead Generation vs. Customer Acquisition

Defining the goal of your inbound marketing push is the next step in determining whether or not to jump onboard the HubSpot train. For most startups, that goal can be boiled down to one word: traction.

Depending on the stage and business model of your company, the (attainable) traction you’re seeking may or may not include revenue from customers. This matters because the inbound approach includes generating leads and methodically converting them to customers and, ultimately, promoters of your business. Thus, in order to measure the value of your results, you need to be able to both define and place a value on a single lead or customer – which is much more easily done for a paying customer than a site or app “user.”

If you’re unclear about how to define or measure the value of a customer, you’re probably not ready to take full advantage of HubSpot.

Quality Content vs. Time

Assuming you are ready to pull the trigger on the software, be prepared to make a significant time investment into your inbound marketing strategy. The software is a huge time saver, but it doesn’t run the show for you.

Being that content generation is core to the inbound approach, it’s probably good to have more than one person contributing to the content creation process. All data indicates that higher-volume, higher-quality content always wins. Needless to say, there are no shortcuts to volume or quality.

Adding the investment of human capital into the ROI equation does change things a bit, but it certainly does not make getting to a positive number impossible by any stretch. The key is to use HubSpot to scale your business when, and only when, you’re ready to invest in scale. Any earlier than that and you might find that it’s just not worth it.

Guest author Eddie Earnest is a big-thinking entrepreneur focused on staying ahead of the marketing curve and using that knowledge to help build awesome companies. His latest venture is seedRef, a web platform for simplifying personal references and measuring character in the process. You can follow him on Twitter: @eddie_earnest.

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