Pitfalls to avoid when adopting HubSpot and creating an Inbound Marketing strategy

Read this if you are a Marketer in a SME. Definitely read this if you are a B2B Marketer working in a SME in APAC and Inbound Marketing is on your mind.

Short background — why we subscribed to HubSpot.

Shortly after I joined the company, I realised that the scope of my responsibilities, which include regional work, and the lack of a Marketing team (I am the only marketer) means I need to automate some of the processes. I also wanted to be able to measure which of the channels are working and for which country. Singapore and Thailand, for example, are very different markets. Lastly, I believe in Content Marketing as much as I do in books, wine and ice cream — which is a lot.

Why do I like Inbound Marketing as much as wine and ice cream?

With Inbound you are genuinely trying to help others with content. When a person has a problem they go online and search for a solution. If your product/service is related to what they search, you should be there with a helpful answer.

Outbound Marketing definitely has a place in your Marketing strategy, especially to get your great content out there. But Outbound can be expensive. A great, SEO optimised piece of content will bring in organic traffic even if you are not doing much to promote it. Outbound requires you to shell out day after day. Plus, Outbound can be good for capturing bottom of the funnel leads — people ready to buy. But what about the top of the funnel? People for whom your product/service might be a great fit but they are not ready to buy yet. Let me illustrate.

I googled — what is an Inbound Marketing strategy. This is what I got.

I am just researching. I am nowhere near ready to talk to a salesperson about Salesforce Cloud. Marketing Mix is not what I am looking for at the moment, and even though the third ad uses the right keywords, the content inside is different.

The first result after Wiki is HubSpot’s blog post which is actually helpful. Even better, the CTA at the end is not an intimidating “schedule a demo” or “talk to us now” but a friendly “see the software”.

It makes sense because if I just googled WHAT IS AN INBOUND MARKETING STRATEGY, chances are I am just researching. I don’t want to buy now. But that doesn’t mean I am not a good fit and a qualified prospect.


Pitfall — management buy-in.

Symptom

You are the only person using HubSpot’s Marketing capabilities.

Why it matters

APAC is lagging behind in lead nurture. Last, but not the first time, I’ve heard it discussed was in a LinkedIn webinar. What it means is that it is more difficult to get management buy-in for a lead nurturing program and the expenses related to it. The Singapore and the regional B2B industry is still very much about Outbound.

Marketers in SMEs don’t have the luxury of being able to run side projects. Unlike in big companies, there is no one else doing the same thing you are, meaning that, unless you can convince management that Inbound Marketing is a priority, your time will be spent elsewhere.

If you are the only person using HubSpot’s Marketing software, you will have to work twice as hard to justify the investment.

Remedy — I would have created a two year plan.

With Outbound Marketing you set up an ad in 15 minutes or less. Inbound, on the other hand, is a long term strategy. You and your boss need to be on the same page about how long exactly it will take to transition from mostly Outbound to mostly Inbound Marketing. Make sure there is a clear understanding of expectations and what resources will be needed.

Inbound does not bring immediate leads, so have a transition plan in place. Use Outbound to help you reach your quarterly goals but put time aside each week to focus on making your Inbound Marketing program grow.

Create a spreadsheet that has your revenue goal at the top. Work backwards to figure out how much website traffic you need to generate a sufficient pipeline. When setting desired conversion rates you can look for industry averages online, see your past performance or see averages of how HubSpot’s other customers are doing (this can be seen when you are setting SMART Goals in the software).

Sample calculation — the multipliers (what percentage of contacts become leads, etc) depend on your business. I have added sample multipliers of 1.5, 2, 3.

Pitfall— lack of lead nurturing.

Symptoms

  1. One of your main uses for HubSpot is to build landing pages (because you probably don’t have a designer) and email templates.
  2. It has been 6 months but your most sophisticated lead nurturing program is an automatic white paper send.

Why it matters

Unless you are actually trying out lead nurturing, you are not using HubSpot to turn contacts into SQLs and customers.

Seems like a no brainer, right, so why does it happen?

For us it happened because I did not want to spend money integrating our old website with HubSpot because it was clear it had to be changed to something that did not resemble a 90s sitcom. I kept putting off lead segmentation based on behaviours because of the lack of integration and kept waiting for an approval for investing in a new site, which would also include a blog.

Another reason for not building lead nurturing programs is lack of good content.

Remedy — I would have built thank you pages…

…for all of the over 60 landing pages I created in HubSpot. I would have put an additional offer there and gone ahead with some form of lead nurturing program, without having waited for the new website (which was eventually launched just three months before the scheduled HubSpot contract renewal date).

If the latter is the case, you simply need to get a freelance writer. Working at a SME, you might not be able to afford the most experienced talent and, perhaps, your business is very technically complicated. You can still make it work by outsourcing to a fresher (ability to write well trumps experience) and by using Google Alerts. Those will help you get ideas which then you can pass on to the freelancer. Make sure to give links that explain some of the more technical stuff.

Use BuzzSumo to see what type of content works. Lastly, I love to use Twitter to research keywords to see what people are saying.

FYI

HubSpot recommends using thank you pages instead of inline messages to take contacts further down the funnel.

Pitfall — you have no idea who you are selling to or you are trying to sell to everybody.

Symptoms

  1. You have more than 3 buyer personas.
  2. Your buyer persona is the second cousin of the ideal customer you want to sell to.
  3. You don’t have a buyer persona.
  4. Your view to contact conversion rate is good but contact to SQL/Customer leaves a lot to be desired.

Why it matters

We have 4 buyer personas which is at least two if not three too many. It is very possible that your business is catering to many different industries and functions. However, you probably don’t have the time to create an elaborate content strategy for each stage of the funnel for all of them.

Additionally, I feel, SMEs can be quite opportunistic. Instead of following a long term strategy, they sway with the winds a bit too readily. Perhaps because of the loss of idealism, characteristic to startups, and the present unattainability of the financial security net of larger organisations. So you take what you can get.

What can happen and happened in our case was that I put off creating a proper content strategy for longer than I should have because it just didn’t seem manageable. We cater to 20 or so different industries, 10 functions, 20 service areas, business and IT users, additionally, all this needs content for all of the three stages of the funnel. I remember the feeling of utter powerlessness when ever I thought about it.

A non existent content strategy can still get you a good view to contact conversion rates, but don’t be deceived. You might have created a handsome looking landing page and clear, yet intriguing ad but, without a content strategy that is aligned to a company strategy and actually is feasible with the resources at your disposal, you are just blindly throwing stuff out there, hoping something will catch. You are not purposefully going after your ideal customers, you are playing Blind Man’s Bluff.

I really fell for this one because my visit to contact rates from social media marketing were really good by industry standards. But then the contact to SQL rate was bad. It is easy to get people to download a paper. Much harder to turn them into customers.

Remedy — I would have picked one buyer persona and given it my all.

Chances are you won’t get your content strategy 100% right with your first try. It is better to fail fast and then to move on. But it’s not possible when catering to a ridiculous amount of buyer personas. Get a permission to focus on one buyer persona. Perhaps look at your existing customers and pick an industry/function that is the strongest.

Corner your sales people once a week for 15 minutes and ask them for a sound bait — an insight they have heard from prospects/clients. Use that to produce a very short but original and helpful content.

Future of Inbound Marketing in APAC

Lead nurturing might not be as mature in APAC as, say, the USA. But actually it doesn’t matter. That is just the marketers perspective, not the buyers. Even when it comes to B2B and making large purchases, people go online and do research. I want to be there and I want to be helpful. It is our chance to make the internet work for all of us and, secondly, to start interacting with our potential customers at an early stage.

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