A New Program Creating Symbiotic Relationships Between HubSpot Agencies and App Developers

Launching Apps for Agency Services to empower our best agencies with 28 leading apps across HubSpot’s platform ecosystem

by Scott Brinker, VP Platform Ecosystem at HubSpot

Everything today is a “platform.” Or at least many products and services seem to get labeled as such. But what does that really mean? (Asks the person who has that word in his job title.)

Generally speaking, there are two kinds of platforms:

  1. A platform can be a foundation upon which other products and services can be built. Operating systems, such as Apple iOS, are a classic example of this kind of platform.
  2. A platform can be a market where two or more groups get optimally matched to each other through an exchange service. Ebay was one of the early examples of such a platform that the Internet enabled.

At HubSpot, when we talk about our mission to become a lovable platform, it’s often about that first kind — a centralized, open CRM platform upon which developers can build or integrate an amazing range of applications.

But we believe there’s also enormous opportunity to create value for people through platform dynamics of the second kind too. HubSpot is at the intersection of three groups who can benefit from being matched:

  1. Customers
  2. Developers
  3. Agencies

We now have more than 44,000 customers, primarily SMB to mid-market businesses, who have adopted our marketing, sales, or service software as a foundation of their digital front office — along with many more starting their journey with our free CRM.

Many of these customers are interested in augmenting their marketing and sales technology stack with more specialized apps from certified developers in our ecosystem.

At the same time, many also want to leverage the services of agencies and consultants who can help them apply these technologies to full advantage in their business. HubSpot works with thousands of agencies who provide these services to customers all around the world.

To help those customers find good matches for both of those needs, we maintain a curated directory of certified third-party apps in our HubSpot Connect program and a directory of tiered and customer-rated marketing agencies and sales consultants who offer expert services around our software.

While each of these programs have been successful on its own — matching customers with the right Connect partners and matching them with the right agencies — we realized that there was another powerful pairing we could facilitate: bringing Connect partners and agency partners together with each other.

Connect Partners and Agency Partners Complement Each Other Perfectly

We regularly survey the thousands of agencies who participate in our partner program to learn what’s important to their businesses.

In our most recent Marketing Agency Growth Report for 2018, 45% of agencies said that they planned to invest in “diversifying agency services offerings” in the year ahead.

Agencies are looking to expand the set of capabilities they can offer to provide more complete solutions to clients, spanning marketing, sales, and service — the complete digital front office — as well as the rest of their business operations. This is increasingly the desired scope of a trusted advisor in today’s digital world.

By bringing more capabilities to the table, they can deliver greater value to their clients and establish deeper relationships with them. In turn, this lets those agencies grow their own services revenue and extend the duration of client engagements. It further elevates their role beyond transactional outsourced work to more strategic advisory services.

HubSpot’s Connect partner ecosystem is a cornucopia of new capabilities that agencies can bring to bear in the service of their clients:

  • influencer management
  • advanced video marketing
  • account-based marketing tools
  • specialized analytics
  • offline direct mail automation
  • ecommerce marketing
  • online and offline events
  • interactive content development
  • and much more…

Agencies can specialize in particular HubSpot Connect apps — or combinations of apps — to differentiate from their competitors. One might develop strength in video production. Another might focus on designing interactive content, such as assessments, surveys, calculators, and solution finders.

These different tools have a wide range of services that can be offered around them. Some products are simple to plug into a client’s stack and deliver an immediate benefit — such as AI-powered send-time optimization for marketing emails. Apps like that add value to the client’s overall solution, and they don’t require much additional work by the agency.

On the other end of the spectrum, some Connect products have tremendous opportunity for services to be built around them. For instance, offline direct mail automation needs strategic insight in how to weave online and offline touchpoints together — determining when an online activity should trigger the delivery of personalized direct mail — as well as the creative design of cross-media campaigns and assets. This is a more complex engagement, which also makes it more valuable and differentiated.

For a nautical analogy, you can think of Connect products as different kinds of boats. Some are like a kayak where you can jump right in and start paddling, and have an enjoyable time without much training or effort. Others are more like a multi-masted sailboat, such as a schooner, that requires greater expertise to captain effectively. But once you develop those captaining skills, you have a valuable service to offer others. Agencies can assemble any collection of these to grow their fleet into an impressive armada. (With apologies for overextending this metaphor.)

This is how our Connect partner ecosystem can help agencies grow.

But agencies also have a lot to offer Connect partners in return.

The biggest challenge most SaaS companies face is retention.

They can sell people their software, but if customers don’t apply it effectively and prove its value in their business, they’re going to churn. Relatively speaking, real adoption is usually harder than the initial sale.

Agencies can help overcome that adoption hurdle by masterfully wielding Connect partner products on behalf of their clients. They can show clients how to achieve results with these extended capabilities, which significantly improves the likelihood that those products will be retained.

As trusted advisors, agencies are a meaningful channel for recommending — or even directly selling — the right Connect partner products to the right clients. Because in many instances, they’re not selling, they’re consulting. They’re being paid by their clients to deliver outcomes, which transcend individual products. They’re in the position to serve as informed, independent brokers.

This is how our agency partners can help our Connect partners grow.

It’s a symbiotic match made in heaven.

Introducing Apps for Agency Services

Realizing just how powerful the alliance between our agencies and Connect partners can be, we’re launching a new program to greatly accelerate collaboration between them: Apps for Agency Services.

Certified HubSpot Connect partners can opt-in to this program. By doing so, they agree to provide their software to qualified HubSpot agencies and consultants — those at Platinum or Diamond tiered level — at no cost for a year. Participating agencies are restricted to only using the software for themselves, not for any of their clients.

Our goal is to let proven agency partners learn how to use these Connect partner apps — and decide which ones they may want to incorporate into their services portfolio — at no risk. They can apply it to their own business, and they can demonstrate it to their clients.

If the agency partner refers or resells a single client for a participating Connect partner app in that first year, they may continue using the app for free themselves for another year. As long as at least one client is retained for that Connect partner in a given year, they can keep using the software in their own business at no cost.

In addition to their software, participating Connect partners also agree to provide extensive sales and service enablement materials to these agencies and consultants, based on HubSpot’s training methodology that we’ve used to teach them about leveraging our own products in their service offerings. Structuring app enablement content in this form further reduces the friction for agencies to effectively incorporate these additional products into their portfolio.

We’re excited to announce that with the launch of this program, 28 Connect Partners have already committed to participating, offering their software and detailed enablement resources to HubSpot Platinum and Diamond agency partners. We expect more to join over the next several months.

Of course, any agency and app developer in our ecosystem are welcome to collaborate with each other beyond the scope of this program. But this is one concrete way that we believe HubSpot can help match some of the best product creators and service providers in our orbit, to the benefit of each other — and ultimately, to the benefit of our mutual customers.

Interested in becoming a Connect or agency partner? You can learn more about our Connect program or more about our agency partner program with those two links.