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Scaling a Unicorn: Interview With Mike Volpe, Hubspot CMO

Author Sangram Vajre Category Account-Based Marketing

Mike Volpe is the Chief Marketing Officer at HubSpot, one of the fastest growing marketing automation companies in the U.S., if not the world. I recently had the chance to join him on a Google Hangout to learn the secrets to how he’s managed to scale Hubspot from a small startup to global domination. He joined the company way back when as the fifth employee, and he’s now a key part of an 800-person team.

Before we dive into the video, here are few fast facts about Mike Volpe.

What’s his favorite book?

• Permission Marketing by Seth Godin
• The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott

Top three people to follow on Twitter?

• Scott Brinker – Co-Founder & CTO of ion interactive
Scott Stratten – “Unmarketer,” author, & keynote speaker
Shankar Vedantam – Host of NPR’s Hidden Brain podcast

If he weren’t a marketer, what would he be?

A marketing or strategy professor

And now, on to my interview with HubSpot’s Mike Volpe!

Here are my top takeaways from my chat with Mike:

Go Big Or Go Home

Hubspot is all in — but not just on marketing automation. The company went public last year and has since expanded its offerings to include a CRM and an email tool called Sidekick. Mike’s goal is to focus on expansion in all of these products.

He quickly mentioned that there is still a lot of room to grow in the marketing automation space as well. Most of Hubspot’s marketing automation customers are new to the concept and are not switching from another platform. 

The company also aims to capture the international market, an audience that is just beginning to warm up to marketing automation. They currently have customers in over 90 countries and also have offices in both Dublin and Sydney.

[Tweet “The biggest challenge for @Hubspot is to become a multi-product company. – @mvolpe”]

Where Passion Goes, Energy Flows

I was curious to learn what made Mike spring out of bed every day with excitement, and his answer was simples. “I love marketing,” says Mike. “If you love chocolate, you would want a chocolate brownie with chocolate ice cream with chocolate sauce on top.”

In this vein, Mike expresses his passion for marketing to marketers. “I get market about marketing to marketers within the context of a marketing software product every single day,” he says. “I definitely get my triple overdose of marketing.”

To round out his passion, Mike mentions how much he loves his team. “They are the sharpest, most passionate, hardest working group of folks that I’ve ever been associated with,” comments Mike. “And if you’re working with good people, it makes it easy to get up in the morning and be excited about where you are going.” 

[Tweet “If you work with good people, it’s easy to get excited about going to work. – @mvolpe”]

Simplify the Frankenstack

The frankenstack is a word that is quickly entering the martech vocabulary. It means that marketing stacks are comprised of many “misfit” products that may or may not work well together. Mike’s prediction is that this will change in the near future. Marketers will start looking at “platforms that do more than one thing,” he predicts. Marketers will also desire a more complete view of the accounts and individuals they’re selling to, and they’ll have a better view of this data across all touchpoints.

Simply put, B2B buyers want more integration across their marketing technology.

[Tweet “@Hubspot #CMO @mvolpe predicts an end to the #MarTech Frankenstack.”]

The Renaissance of Advertising

When Hubspot started eight years ago, there was a trend away from advertising and a greater shift to content marketing. Mike feels that advertising is now making a comeback in the B2B marketing industry.

“Do everything in moderation,” Mike recommends. “It is best when used in conjunction with the other things you are doing.”

Advertising technology has definitely helped with this resurgence of B2B advertising by providing marketers with new ways to better target your audience and provide them with relevant messaging and content.

[Tweet “#B2B advertising is best when used in conjunction with other #marketing campaigns. – @mvolpe”]

Organizing a Team of Champions

No doubt about it: Hubspot is a behemoth when it comes to marketing. I was curious to know how they organize their team to work so efficiently. Mike’s approach is quite innovative, to say the least. They currently have 80 marketers worldwide working on four different teams.

The first is the Funnel Team. This group of people is charged with creating demand generation programs and lead nurturing. Approximately 15 to 20% of Hubspot’s leads come from paid advertising, so they have people dedicated purely creating and optimizing those campaigns. Their marketing operations gurus fall within this team as well to help optimize the customer journey.

Next is their Content Team. Hubspot’s content game is incredibly strong. I don’t think I have ever met a marketer who has not read a Hubspot blog post or downloaded a piece of content from their website. They are currently producing three blogs — sales, marketing and agency — with a team of 12 people. All this content plays a huge role in helping to drive an average of two to three million blog visits per year.

[Tweet “Whoa! @Hubspot publishes three different blogs & drives 2-3 million site visits per year. “]

The third is the Branded Buzz Team. This team organizes Hubspot’s events and public relations. They also provide video, design, and creative to the marketing mix. “We actually do 95% of our creative work in-house,” says Mike. 

The last is Product Marketing, which helps ensure that Hubspot is positioning the product properly within the right markets. This is absolutely crucial with their rapid growth and global aspirations.

Overall, each team plays a crucial role in the marketing funnel.

[Tweet “Ever wondered how @Hubspot produces so much quality content? Check out this interview w/ @mvolpe.”]

Flipping the B2B Funnel

I asked Mike which is better: the traditional sales funnel, or the new, flipped funnel. His answer? “You need to do both.”

When talking about the flipped funnel, he referenced the show Wicked Tuna, in which fishermen are tasked with catching giant bluefin tuna with only a rod and reel. There’s no secret that this is really difficult, but focusing on catching solely tuna which makes it somewhat less challenging. 

Alternatively, fishermen could use a giant net attached to the back of a boat (assuming it were legal) and drive around the ocean all day to catching whatever fish came into the net. Once they got back to the dock, they could just pick out the best tuna to keep and discard the rest. This would be similar to the traditional funnel marketing strategy.

[Tweet “Do you need #FlipMyFunnel, or should you stick with the traditional #B2B funnel? @mvolpe explains.”]

Mike shares two reasons that a broader reach is important:

  • It helps with SEO. “To perform well in SEO, you need huge audiences to follow you,” explains Mike.  Even if a target audience is conducting a targeted search, you need broad reach and social proof to rank high enough for your page to be found in the search results.
  • It generates awareness. Traditional lead generation helps with generating awareness, Mike says, and those leads may become a good fit later on if they move to another company.

While a bunch of leads can be overwhelming, technology makes it easier to find the “tuna” in the net among the other fish. Lead scoring methods can help you to identify your best-fit prospects and nurture them to become your customers. “We generate about 50,000 leads per month, but we certainly do not pass all of those to our sales team,” said Mike. “We are only interested in sharing the leads that are truly a good fit.”

[Tweet “We generate 50k leads a month — but we certainly don’t pass them all to sales. – @mvolpe”]

He recommended using account-based marketing to generate additional touchpoints for key decision-makers in companies where the lead is not a good fit, but other people in the company may be. Many prospects and accounts take between four and seven touchpoints to convert to a customer, so having the ability to reach them across multiple channels is crucial.

[Tweet “Account-based marketing provides additional touchpoints to help drive revenue. #ABM”]

Leading marketing for the top marketing automation company in the world is no easy task, but Mike Volpe has stepped up to the plate and hit a home run. He has skillfully scaled Hubspot from small startup to a massively respected global organization in just a matter of years, and he and his time show no signs of slowing down. What was your favorite part of the interview? Do you agree with Mike’s assessment of lead generation versus account-based marketing? Drop me a comment and let me know!

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