A few months ago I was talking with David Levine, the owner of Central Square Florist, about his web site and the ways he was trying to promote his business on the web. He asked me if I had heard of an internet marketing company called HubSpot.
"They're a bunch of MIT guys who really know what they're doing. They have a ton of content on their site, and you can really learn something there," he said.
I hadn't heard of HubSpot, but I checked it out, and a few months later I'm thrilled to be working there. I can't think of a place I'd rather have landed after at great three-year run at Faneuil Media.
On a basic level, HubSpot is just a fun place work. It's a five-minute bike-ride from home, they have good snacks in the kitchen and I'm working with 40 or so smart, down-to-earth folks.
On a deeper level, the thrill of working at HubSpot is the thrill of an opportunity to build something big.
I say this for four main reasons:
(1) HubSpot solves a big, important problem. If you're a small- or medium-sized business, your traditional marketing options are mainly direct mail, telemarketing, display advertising, events and pay-per-click advertising (ie, Google). This is all expensive, and consumers are getting better at avoiding your messages.
Instead of interrupting people who don't care about your product, you need to be there when people are searching for your product. HubSpot provides a platform of tools that help companies do this by optimizing their pages for search engines, monitoring keywords, links and pages, tracking incoming leads and creating content.
When I first learned about HubSpot, I didn't see the value in all this -- a lot of it already exists in one form or another already. I pointed this out to Brian Halligan the first time I met him, and he gave me an answer that made sense immediately: "We're like the iPod -- we pull together a lot of different features, and put them together in a simple, robust package."
(2) HubSpot has lots of customers. In its two years, HubSpot has built a roster of hundreds of monthly subscribers passionate about their product. This is good for the balance sheet, but even better for the product. It means they've built something useful. Now HubSpot can focus on scaling and improving the product. And this will be much easier with an existing base of customers to tap for referrals, data and feedback.
(3) HubSpot uses (and thrives on) its product. HubSpot sells marketing software and uses its own software to manage its marketing. More importantly, the HubSpot product and methodology are one of the main factors in the success of HubSpot the company. HubSpot's, well-optimized, well-monitored, content-heavy site is a lead-generating machine.
All software companies should use their own products, but this is a unique case where the product itself is a huge part of the company's success.
(4) Heads at HubSpot are screwed on straight. The people at HubSpot are modest, frank, data-driven and agile. They know how build things. They're more concerned with iteration and learning than with product perfection. They understand online communities and they participate in them. They understand content, and they create it. They gravitate towards startups, and many have tried their own. Most importantly, they understand that the road ahead will not be smooth, and they're prepared for it.
Last week Seth Godin published a piece about icons. He summed it up like this:
(Btw, Seth Godin fans, don't miss him speak in Cambridge in a few weeks.)