Everything marketers need to know about HubSpot!
Updated: Oct 25, 2021
Using examples from our work for the The Evil Galactic Consultancy Group to show the platform in action.
HubSpot is one of the tools that has a lot of buzz about it. Having now used it for a while now, I can understand why!
HubSpot is marketing, sales and customer service software that supports a 'Inbound Marketing' methodology. There is a ton of overlap between Inbound Marketing and PR and as the HubSpot Academy runs you through its tools, the use cases and applications immediately become clear.
Here, I try to bring you a condensed version of what it's all about. To illustrate the bits and pieces, I’ll be working on behalf of The Evil Galactic Consultancy Group, which provides goods and services to evil forces across the Galaxy (excluding the Outer Rim).
“Inbound is about education,” says HubSpot.
It’s about establishing a company as a trusted advisor on subjects important to stakeholders, “...people don’t want to be sold to - they want to be educated.” Sound familiar? It should to PR people.
However, the focus here is on direct one-to-one relationships through timely and personalised content. That is a little different from traditional PR, which has focused on reaching audiences via journalists and analysts (for reach and credibility). But today’s sophisticated tools mean we can go direct, which (dare I say?) makes it a hell of a lot easier, not to mention a lot more measurable!
At the core of the HubSpot approach are 'Contacts', defined as “anyone relevant to the business”. The good professors at HubSpot explain that as much detail as possible is needed about Contacts so that they can be segmented and effectively targeted.
Side note: I’ve often worked with clients that use Saleseforce or similar. More often than not it’s been my experience that the platforms, although touting a ton of potential, are regularly used as glorified contact databases or project management tools. I often felt there was resentment about the manual processes required to keep the systems up-to-date, which lead to gaps and problems. HubSpot combats a lot of this through its sophisticated automation tools and integrations (more later).
Effective segmentation of contacts requires ‘Buyer Personas’ and an understanding of where contacts are on the ‘Buyer's Journey’.
A Buyer Persona is a representation of an ideal customer based on market research and real data about existing customers. Below are extracts of two of the The Evil Galactic Consultancy Group’s Buyer Personas - the full personas are more thorough affairs but for security reasons, these are just snapshots (obviously real personas require a lot of thought, these didn't).
For Darth Vader
Level of education: Apprenticeship (Jedi Knight)
Social networks used: The Force
Brand ambassador for the Empire
Assisting Emperor Palpatine on an ad-hoc basis
Overseeing the development of evil superweapons
Promoting/demoting Admirals (at will)
Restoring order to the galaxy
Goals or objectives
Ensuring new ‘Death Star’ battle station is fully operational
Chasing down and destroying rebel forces
Death Star plans falling into rebel hands
Convincing others that devotion to “that ancient Jedi religion” is not “sad”
Uncovering leads as to the whereabouts of rebels
Whom they report to
Grand Moff Tarkin
How/where they get information
Word of mouth
For General Cassio Tagge
Imperial Army Leader
Level of education: Officer Training, Imperial Military
Social networks used: Holoprojector
Overseeing Death Star's defenses
Overseeing the Imperial Fleet
Goals or objectives
Ensuring new ‘Death Star’ battle station is safe during construction
Monitoring systems functions and defensive armament
Convincing others that rebels finding and exploiting a weakness in the Death Star is 'impossible'
Darth Vader strangling him
Whom they report to
Grand Moff Tarkin
How/where they get information
Word of mouth
Defining Personas is important in delivering the right content. In the above example, both Personas ultimately work for the same prospective client, but have different roles and very different outlooks.
Some content will be relevant to both. For example, both will likely be interested in materials that details design flaws of battle stations. But the ‘Dark Lord’ may be particularly interested in material on ‘Hiring Competent Admirals’ whereas the ‘Imperial Army Leader’ might be more interested in 'Preventing Strangulation from Sith Co-Workers'.
The Buyer’s Journey is equally important in ensuring people are targeted with the right content at the right time.
HubSpot defines three buyer journey stages: Awareness, Consideration, Decision. More below.
1) Awareness (education/research around a problem)
Example content includes: education resources, research data, opinions and insight.
For the above personas, this could be…
Blog post: The Big Battle Station Flaw: Well Placed Torpedos are Causing Reactors to Explode
CTA: Subscribe to similar blog posts
2) Consideration (having put a name to the problem, researching how to solve)
Examples content could include: whitepapers, ebooks, data sheets and case studies.
For the above personas, this could be…
Ebook: Ensuring Exposed Exhaust Parts don’t lead to Total Annihilation
3) Decision (ready to buy)
Examples content could include: demos, trials, FAQs, Consultations
For the above personas, this could be…
Demo: How the Evil Galactic Consultancy Group Safeguards Evil Battle Stations from Rebel Scum
The Inbound Methodology is built on 'Lead Nurturing'... “The process of building relationships with prospects with the goal of earning their business when they’re ready.” Again, sound familiar PR people?
A key part of Nurturing is serving people the right content at the right time and this requires automation.
Side note: the difference between Inbound Marketing and Content Marketing is that Inbound also includes SEO, service trials and interactive tools (more later).
HubSpot’s marketing automation tool is called ‘Workflow’. Workflow is used to manage Lead Nurture Campaigns. It helps users automate tasks and create timely follow-ups with contacts dependent on the relationship stage. It is used to set-up “a series of automated actions that trigger based on a person’s behaviour or contact information.”
At a basic level, a workflow could be set-up as follows; if a subscribed Dark Lord visits a post about the “Best Ways To Stop Your Bounty Hunters Using Disintegration”, the event triggers an action to send that contact a link to a Podcast about “The Best Stun Guns Available Today.”
A lot of this is made possible through lists; ‘Active Lists’ change based on automated actions, whereas ‘Static Lists’ are manually managed. So deep are the HubSpot capabilities and integrations, you could set up actions based on all sorts of information.
But, as automated as the processes are, you need humans to interpret the vast amount of data on offer and to create Workflows. How long a Contact watches a video, or how long they spend on a page, may be useful but only if the right people are interpreting and iterating. And that’s why I’m throwing myself into this stuff!
It’s fun to see this data and play with the approach to improve results.
HubSpot puts forward a ‘Topic Cluster Content Strategy’. This is designed to match the way we search for things today (which has changed considerably).
Instead of putting very specific queries in Google, we now expect a certain level of interpretation. We expect Google to return relevant results that may not match the exact keyword but are relevant nevertheless.
It’s no longer about matching content to queries but finding the right content based on the search’s intent.
These changes have had a profound impact on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Inbound Marketing. That is why you should be wary of self professed veterans of this stuff; it’s just all so new!
SEO agencies that only a few years ago made a ton of money gamifying search based on the criteria at the time, are faced with a completely different landscape today.
The focus is now on topics and not keywords. If you rank for a topic, there is a good chance you’ll rank for a multitude of keyword terms too. HubSpot has a framework and tool to reflect this, hence ‘Topic Clusters’. They are made up of three main parts:
Core topic (pillar page)
Subtopics (blogs and videos)
The Core topic is what you want to rank for; a search that’s related to a product or service and carries enough search traffic to make it worthwhile (at least 300 monthly searches).
To rank for a Core topic, the Topic Cluster approach advocates ‘Pillar Pages’. The type of Pillar Pages we talk about here are called ‘10x Content Pillar Pages’. These pages are comprised of owned content (the other type of Pillar Page is comprised of links to external sources).
Pillar Pages are at the centre of the Topic Cluster and cover the Core Topic comprehensively.
For example a Core Topic for The Evil Galactic Consultancy could be ‘Tie Fighters’. The topic directly supports our service of ‘Tie Fighter Maintenance’.
Subtopics break down the Core Topic to closely related parts. These topics signal to Google what we’re experts in. Normally Subtopics are covered in blog posts, but they could be anything (such as video and audio).
So, if Tie Fighter is the Core Topic, Subtopics on a ‘10x Content Pillar Page’ could be…
Maintaining twin ion engines
Why having no deflector shields can be problematic
How to turn down that screeching sound
Helping Tie Fighter pilots come to terms with their expendability
Maneuvering trench runs
Using L-s1 laser cannons
The Subtopics need to connect back to the main Pillar Page via hyperlinks. Hyperlinking everything back helps search engines understand the relationship.
The more quality content on that topic, the more credibility on that topic!
Of course when crafting this stuff, you have to ask: does it make business sense? What is the search opportunity? How difficult is it to rank? What are others doing and can we really compete? Being brutally honest here is important.
Deciding on content topics
As powerful as these tools are, they don’t mean a thing unless they have the right people using them. At the end of the day, the content needs to be up to scratch.
HubSpot advises creating a Content Roadmap that is as reactive and agile as possible, “like a pension, you need to be contributing to it regularly for it to be effective.”
A content audit is recommended to document content already at your disposal and should be listed by: Title, Buyer Journey Stage, Format and the Buyer Persona its targeting. This allows materials to be repurposed or modified.
However, coming up with new ideas is easy too and can be done by simply asking sales what they’re using and what people are asking them.
This is where the ‘content compass’ of PRs is invaluable.
PRs should know what makes a good story. Such skills are easily transferable. If they can’t find the right stories internally and tailor content to the readership in a way that best represents the organisation, then I don’t know who can.
HubSpot provides the following thought starters, to come up with topic ideas.
What do our buyer personas need help with?
What do you wish people knew about our industry?
What are our competitors talking about?
Once a general topic is decided upon, it will often need to be narrowed down. This is where keyword research is important. HubSpot believes the long tail keyword (a more specific topic or subtopic of the head term) should be used in the title, description and meta descriptions - if it can be at the beginning, then great!
It promotes on-page SEO practices such as referencing the core topic in the page title, URL, H1 and H2 tags and image alt tags. I believe this needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. For example, if the quality of the content is of paramount importance (which it is) you need to be careful. Plus, the purpose of ALT text is to make the images accessible for the visually impaired using screen readers and not, in my opinion, to ‘game’ search engines.
Using synonyms throughout and looking at Google’s ‘related searches’ will help avoid too much repetition and still be beneficial to SEO.
HubSpot also provides a bunch of guidelines about top performing content, for example…
Bracket clarifications work well in titles, such as: Finding Rebel Bases (15 free tools)
Apparently 2,100 words is the optimum post length
There are detailed descriptions of how to best place Call-To-Action (CTA) buttons
Adding a video is advisable as the longer a person spends on the page, the more Google values it
And so on...
Again, all useful guideline but that’s all they should be in my opinion.
GOALS and Measurement
This is where things become extremely interesting for PR people (who have forever struggled to measure results). When everything is in one place, HubSpot should clearly show the fruits of your labour and allow you to iterate and improve.
The Inbound stages that HubSpot promotes are:
“Attract, Engage and Delight”.
Delight? Shudder. I’m selling to an evil Sith Lord, even if we handed him a map to all of the Rebel bases, he’s still not going to be ‘delighted’, but he might refrain from killing us and maybe even give us repeat business, which is as much as we can hope for.
HubSpot used to use:
“Get Found, Convert. Analyze”
...which I think is better. But the logic behind the change is that analysis shouldn’t be a stage at the end, but a consistent, ongoing process. I completely agree (Red Five PR and Marketing’s methodology is: “Listen Plan Act, Repeat”). I guess I’ll let it slide then...
To properly make full use of the analysis tools, you need to pretty much go ‘all-in’. Landing pages will need to be on HubSpot (albeit designed to look like the rest of the site) and so will things such as blogs.
But great integrations exist too. For example, if you use the likes of MailChimp, Slack and Eventbrite, you can carry on doing so, but will need to integrate them. And that’s great. You can really get everything in one place. You can make data driven decisions and constantly iterate on what works. You have real time reporting in granular detail. And to a PR, that stuff is a God Send. Finally, you can see exactly what is resonating with the end users. The people you’re trying to reach, rather than pitching to a gatekeeper and then largely being out of the loop beyond gathering coverage.
What are we trying to achieve?
HubSpot advocate ‘SMART’ objectives, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely.
It says that Inbound marketing Campaigns are short-term initiatives that are meant to support a long term content strategy. Typical marketing metrics such as “increase monthly website traffic”, “Convert website traffic to known contacts” and Nurture contacts to qualify and deliver to sells” are all still usable and acceptable, but you can add specific numbers based on accurate analytic tools.
To illustrate the point of all of this, below is an example of an Inbound marketing campaign, in support of a topic driven content strategy, that we ran here at The Evil Galactic Consultancy Group ran for the The Federation of Freelance Bounty Hunters. One of our topics that they/we want to be known for (and build a domain authority around) is ‘Bounty Hunter’, and so we align all our marketing efforts with that term.
However, it’s difficult to rank for the term, and so the best way to rank for the topic is to bring context. This led to a campaign around the subtopic...
How to become a bounty hunter
...If we can rank on the first page for this subtopic, it gives us a fighting chance of ranking for ‘bounty hunter’ in the future.
Launching a campaign to educate and inspire people to become bounty hunters, the goals were to...
Increase the long-term visibility of a ‘How to Become a Bounty Hunter’ pillar page by increasing its ranking on google from the fifth page to the first
Reach 5,000 website visitors per month with a 7 percent conversion rate and 15 percent new customer rate
Together, we created a step-by-step guide on ‘How to Live and Work as a Bounty Hunter’.
Who was this aimed at? Our buyer persona ‘Aspiring Assassin’.
Aspiring Assassin is 25-35, has three to eight years experience in the imperial army, likes what he does and is dedicated but has reached a plateau, wants a job where he can work flexibly, is considering investing in his own equipment and going freelance but not sure how to go about it...
Mr Assassin likes to search through his social media, following brands like Sienar Fleet Systems, Baktoid Armor Workshop and Czerka Weapons...
He thinks about being out on his own, rather than being surrounded by thousands of fellow troops...
As he scrolls through his (space?) phone, he notices a video posted by Baktoid Armor Workshop. In the video, people are living the dream, hunting down Rebels on their own terms...
Interested, he sees Baktoid Armor Workshop has a blog post from a brand called The Evil Galactic Consultancy Group on ‘How to Live and Work as a Bounty Hunter’. The post features a video that showcases the lifestyle. Still interested, he clicks to read and watched more...
As he watches the video, the stories and tips seem pretty attainable and relatable. Again he reads through the education blog post and sees a link about more resources and clicks through to the ‘Pillar Page’, where there is more for him to consume without asking for anything in return. He finds it useful...
He sees the offer of a transformation guide and clicks the link to a landing page that provides more information about the content...
He completes the checkout process, receives the download (along with an encouraging message)...
But life gets in the way, so his intention to read it is put on hold. A week goes by and he hasn’t read much, but he receives an email from us that encourages him, and reminds him of why he downloaded the guide. He starts reading again...
A month goes guy and he’s read the entire thing. He has some further questions, it just so happens he gets another email asking him to send any questions and we’ll get back to him...
That’s an example of a campaign that has made a meaningful connection with a contact. Of course, there are more steps to come, but that is fundamentally the Inbound approach that HubSpot champions.
And there you have it! So much potential, in what is a really cool platform, and one which I'll be spending a lot more time on.
To finish up, I’ll share a few more important tidbits!
Contact information is the currency in this approach. It is therefore important to create a sense of urgency (what are they missing if they don’t sign-up to your content?) and alleviating anxiety is important (explaining what will be done with their information upfront helps)
It apparently takes 6-8 touches to make a sales lead
In HubSpot campaigns are defined as concentrated efforts around a single effort or goal (different to some other definitions)
Pillar Pages and Landing Pages are different: Pillar Pages cover all aspects of a topic on a single page, whereas Landing pages frame a particular content offer
Ungated content is great for ranking, lead building and generating trust, while the strength of landing pages is their focus on a key objective. For example a Tie Fighter Pillar Page would convey great expertise in the star fighter, designed to lead nurture and improve SEO, whereas a landing page may promote a webinar on Tie Fighter combat, which generates qualified leads interested in Tie Fight Weaponry. Landing pages are there to convert visitors into leads. They are the virtual sales reps trying to gather details about prospects.
A good landing page tells visitors (quickly) what exactly is being offered, what the benefits are, why the visitor needs then now, how to get it.
Thanks for reading!