Scott Brinker is the VP of Platform Ecosystem at HubSpot and a key figure in the world of Marketing Technology (he is commonly referred to as the Godfather of Martech.) With a wealth of knowledge on partnerships and the evolution of marketing as we know it, sitting down for a conversation with Scott was an opportunity we couldn't pass up.
In this interview, Scott covers the importance of partner ecosystems, effective collaboration, and evergreen strategies to keep your workforce aligned with constantly evolving technology.
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Community-led growth is really about putting the customer at the center of what we do. Before, you’d have your partners, you’d take them to dinner, you shake hands, and these are the plans. Being able to leverage technology to optimize the ways we find those collaborations is a whole new world of innovation.
One of the more emerging and super exciting things happening is how we're leveraging these digital technologies for collaborating with our partners and our channels and our ecosystems
HubSpot’s ecosystem is large. And actually, I only have a piece of it that I work directly with. There is a massive ecosystem of our services and solutions partners who help us with co-selling our platform. We have a whole other group focused on partnerships targeting particular groups. For instance, HubSpot for startups. We just launched something similar for non-profits as well.
And then there’s my world—which is really focused on people building apps or assets that either integrate to HubSpot or built on top of our platforms. It’s quite the spectrum but really it’s about the smaller companies who are just getting started.
Our ecosystem’s prime advantage is accelerating the time to value for those smaller businesses. because HubSpot plays nice with the rest of their tech stack. It’s a real value proposition for partners.
My career has followed a very strange path of highly different things. I was a software engineer, I’ve been a marketer, and I ran partnerships. So my personal measurements have changed radically. But I will say that for HubSpot, partnerships by their very nature are highly cross-functioning. We collaborate with product teams, with our marketing teams, and there’s obviously the relationships with our multiple partners. There’s always the thought of, “How do I help partners to better succeed with the services and solutions in that channel?”
Each of these different things has a set of metrics that can attribute to what’s working, but we try really hard to keep pulling it back to an actual measurement as it relates to the customer’s view of this. At HubSpot, probably the number one metric we look at for technology partnerships is the actual active adoption rate of these products by customers. In fact, that’s really what the success of my team is measured on. If our partners end up getting a lot of adoption within the HubSpot install base, we’ve won. As you might imagine, this puts us in perfect alignment with our partners because those are the exact same goals they would like to see.
This metric correlates incredibly strongly with customer happiness, customer dollar retention, and customer expansion. All the other teams at HubSpot have some sort of stake in this as well. It’s a way for us to internally align on how we can get their help in helping partners grow adoption.
HubSpot has very strong expansion possibilities. We have a tremendous number of small businesses that get started with HubSpot and then grow with us. There are certain partners that are provided a mechanism to make it incredibly simple for people to onboard onto HubSpot. We partner with a lot of companies. Once those businesses have started a website, there are plenty of opportunities to onboard a CRM for free.
Our internal teams are very excited about that acquisition mechanism. That facilitates a strong relationship between those teams and our partner community. What is most important to them when they’re engaging with our corporate sales organization is, “Does this integrate with the primary tools that I have in other departments?” If the answer is yes, then the prospect is happy. And if the prospect is happy, our sales team is happy. It’s really powerful to be able to leverage these external relationships to benefit all stakeholders involved.
It’s really looking at the cadence for both new and existing partners on how they can gain greater adoption inside our ecosystem. We experimented with partner campaigns and now run them on a monthly basis with a specific marketing theme.
One of the learnings we recently saw was from when we featured a collection of partners around a particular theme for a given month: It would get them a surge of traffic for that month. When we moved to the next month and a new set of partners, the old boost simply went away. So, we looked at the vehicles we were using to promote and how many of these monthly campaigns we could turn into evergreen content. From this analysis we could run a series of experiments that became highly successful.
There are a ton! There’s a new generation of startups. One of them is called QuotaPath,and I’m impressed with how they are translating customer feedback into product improvements, and in the way they’re able to communicate their value proposition In things like our HubSpot marketplace, along with sales enablement materials and content.
There’s an underlying playbook of just listening to customers, addressing their needs, and telling the story through the right channels - if you can get that well-executed, you’re 80% of the way there. Anytime we can help partners perfect that playbook, it feels good to see them succeed.
There are a few themes that I feel are progressing very rapidly. One of them is more no-code capabilities. It’s about giving more general marketers the ability to create things whether it’s creative assets or apps or workflows or analyses—the technology is advancing to put more of those powers into the hands of a general user. I think we’re going to see more of that here over the next year.
I think one of the other things that are really exciting is what I call the transition from Big Data to Big Ops. For so long we’ve talked about all the ways in which we collect, store, and analyze this enormous volume of data. The challenge isn’t so much about the data, but it’s the fact that on top of that data foundation, we now have all these different apps, automations, and agents that are all running simultaneously. This is creating really wild dynamics. A lot of opportunity for how we’re able to leverage this data and trigger things across the organization in a more real-time fashion. I think you’re going to see a lot of advancement in the MarTech space helping marketing teams be successful in this new environment!
There’s another side of all this innovation and advancement. It can be really scary and stressful, feeling like you’re behind. I just want to assure people that you are not alone. Everyone is in the same boat, just the world is moving very fast. None of us can keep our arms around all of it. Take a deep breath and take a piece of it at a time. Enjoy the fact that there's never been a better time to be a marketer!
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