If there is one kind of company that knows all about the renewed importance of customer data, it is a CRM vendor.
HubSpot is a big deal, with more than 150,000 customers in over 120 countries and a $13.45 billion market cap in 2022 - scale it achieved through a strong marketing programme of its own.
I chatted with HubSpot chief marketing officer Kipp Bodnar about growing through useful content and why B2B isn't boring.
Excerpts below, or watch the full video.
RW: Tell us about the journey HubSpot has taken.
KB: "The first phase of our marketing strategy was really all about creating really valuable content, giving it away for free on social media through search engines, largely through our blog, email, social channels.
"We built a really big business based on the ability to just be really great at educating and creating content for our target market. ...
"About five and a half years ago, we launched the HubSpot CRM product that was a freemium product. ...That opened the next chapter of growth for us - we now have a huge amount of people coming in every month, signing up for free, building their business, seeing the user experience, trying before they're buying."
RW: Tell us about the emphasis you place on 'inbound marketing'.
KB: "The biggest shift that I would encourage everybody to understand was about really owning your marketing assets versus renting space from somebody else.
"If you wrote a really great blog post, not only would people read it that day that you wrote it ... but they'd read it a year later or two years later. ...
"We were able to start a blog, in the early days that people started reading, and now our blogs are read by over 13 million people every month."
RW: We ran some content for you guys last year, within that you were giving away free advice. You're a big believer in content marketing. Give us some examples of things that you've tried successfully.
KB: "We've up-levelled our approach to content. We acquired a company called The Hustle that has a really popular business daily newsletter that goes out to over a couple million people every month now.
"We built the HubSpot Podcast Network, which is listened to by almost 10 million people a month now.
"Content is in our DNA. Our goal is to educate and inspire the business consumer of the world. ... I host a show in our HubSpot Podcast Network called Marketing Against the Grain. ... All of us are deep, active creators and educators in the craft that we're passionate about. That's all worked really well."
RW: B2B hasn't always been championed. Tell us about your passion for connecting customers.
KB: "In the partnership we did with you all for the lessons around CRM last year, one of the core lessons that we shared was the consumerisation of the enterprise and B2B experience. The B2B market looks way more like the consumer market today than it did a year ago. ...
"We did a tonne of data and survey research around companies coming out of the pandemic. ... Companies have never felt more disconnected... How do we give somebody one clear platform that connects their data, their systems, their teams together so they can better engage with their customer?"
RW: What is HubSpot's approach to growing and utilising first-party data?
KB: "If you're a marketer, especially a B2B marketer, first-party data has never been more important.
"Competition for ads continues to go up, so the prices go up for ads ... At the same time, the push of data privacy means that your reporting and targeting and everything around those ads is getting worse.
"The best way to help close that gap is owning, collecting, controlling the data around your prospects and customers. ...
It's the marketers that get started really investing, cleaning that up early that are going win over the next few years."
RW: Your recent pirate TV ad was about tech and people coming together. How do you think that works best?
"Business and popular culture are coming together. ... The financial sub-areas of Twitter are the funniest parts of the internet. ... The intersection of technology and humanity is going be the core thing."
RW: What's the role of traditional media for HubSpot?
KB: "It's never been better and easier to own digital channels ... we reach 50 million people on our own channels every month.
"But it's not enough. We also know that we need to partner with the best and high-quality media brands for high-impact moments in storytelling, whether that be print, out-of-home, radio, linear TV or OTT.
"We're spending similar investments across what we own and what we are partnering with, because we think that's the best way to tell our story. If you're a modern CMO today, you're going to want that balance."
RW: What's on your marketing roadmap for the next 18 to 24 months?
KB: "Google's been an awesome tool for us to grow, but Google's monetizing the search engine results pages at a much higher rate. That means your click-through rates and your traffic that is coming from certain keywords is definitely getting hit. How do we continue to grow our audience in a world where all of these challenges are ahead of us?
"I'm pumped about video. The power of video and the power of audio are still way under-tapped related to text-based communication.
"I'm so excited about AI ... that can free up your team to do higher-value, more creative work."