REV: MAY 28, 2009
THOMAS STEENBURGH JILL AVERY NASEEM DAHOD
HubSpot: Inbound Marketing and Web 2.0
None of [the old rules of marketing] are true anymore. The Web has transformed the rules, and you must transform your marketing to make the most of the Web-enabled marketplace of ideas. — David Meerman Scott, author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR Business was good at HubSpot. Founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah were thrilled with the progress their young company had made in the two years since they began their journey to convince corporate America that the rules of marketing had changed. To be successful in the marketplace, HubSpot needed to be much more than just a software company. Its founders had to become evangelists, preaching a new way of doing business that would fundamentally change the way marketers reached their customers. To their great pleasure, Halligan and Shah were finding a willing audience for their ideas. HubSpot was now considered a thought leader in the Web 2.0 space, coining the term “inbound marketing” to describe marketing strategies and practices that pulled prospective customers towards a business and its products, through the use of Web 2.0 tools and applications like blogging, search engine optimization (SEO), and social media. Halligan and Shah realized that their business was at a crucial juncture. They had just reached the noteworthy milestone of 1,000 customers, attaining this level of critical mass by practicing what they preached. HubSpot had built its business by turning its back on traditional marketing methods and was solely using innovative inbound techniques to acquire customers. Looking ahead, the founders wanted to accelerate their growth rate and increase profitability. Ironically, they were grappling with many of the same issues that their customers faced when implementing inbound marketing practices. Halligan and Shah realized that they would need to work through these issues in order to achieve their goals for the company. First, they would need to decide which customers to serve, pulling the best opportunities from the diverse pool of customers who were contacting them. Second, they would need to make some decisions about their current pricing model to entice new customers to the company and to maximize the profitability of existing customers. Third, they would need to assess whether they could achieve enough scale through inbound marketing efforts, or whether they needed to supplement their inbound programs with traditional, interruptive outbound programs. This was more than a test of HubSpot as a company; it was a test of the inbound marketing business philosophy. If HubSpot couldn’t scale its own business using inbound marketing, then how could it convince its customers that inbound marketing would work for them? ____________________________________________________________
Professor Thomas Steenburgh and Professor Jill Avery (Simmons School of Management) and Naseem Dahod (MBA 2009) prepared this case. HBS cases are developed solely as the basis for class discussion. Cases are not intended to serve as endorsements, sources of primary data, or illustrations of effective or ineffective management. Copyright © 2009 President and Fellows of Harvard College. To order copies or request permission to reproduce materials, call 1-800-545-7685, write Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston, MA 02163, or go to www.hbsp.harvard.edu/educators. This publication may not be digitized, photocopied, or otherwise reproduced, posted, or transmitted, without the permission of Harvard Business School.
HubSpot: Inbound Marketing and Web 2.0
The two HubSpot founders met at MIT. As early and eager students of Web 2.0, Halligan and Shah recognized the transformative power the Internet possessed for changing the way small businesses operated. After graduation, Halligan joined...