Clearly there is a divided consensus about inbound marketing today. Does it work? Is it the "marketing of yesterday" that only early adopters, who were lucky enough to jump in at the right time, are reaping the rewards? Is it something companies should honestly invest in, or should they think of other avenues to send their marketing dollars? And lastly, should agencies who want to grow their business seriously consider becoming a partner? Is the HubSpot Partner Program worth it?
I’d be a fool if I didn’t tell you the answer to all of those questions is a loud and clear… “Yes," which I know sounds like a contradiction. The overall theme is really built on the idea that you have to adapt, move into markets and services when they are uncovered, and be willing to train and work hard.
Let me share my journey through the world of HubSpot, and how we got to where we are today.
I entered the world of HubSpot as a 2-person company in rural Indiana in 2014. We had been around since 2010, but at that point we were only making small WordPress sites for local clients like Galo’s Italian Grill (damn tasty pizza, I might add).
I was joining the partner community at HubSpot in the shadows of giants who I respected immensely. I think in those early days of our inbound struggles, I looked at the websites of Media Junction, Square 2, Impact, and several others almost daily - oddly enough, many of those guys I consider my friends now.
I had no idea if the partner community would work for me. I thought, “well if thousands of others have done it, then so can I.”
It was hard to cut through the noise and figure out how to differentiate. You need to create content and do inbound for yourselves… And I didn’t feel like I could compare to a quarter of even the untiered partners at best. I sure as shit didn’t know what inbound marketing really meant, but I drank the orange kool-aid, anyway.
So, we had to find something different that others weren’t focusing on that we could become a thought leader for. We didn’t know what that was, but knew there was something we had to find… a “niche” if you will.
We got to work. We ate up the resources HubSpot provided. We were diving in 100% into training and testing things out on our site. I couldn’t get enough of the training certifications. I remember trying to figure out how to play the videos through my car audio, and this was prior to having a vehicle with bluetooth and the ability to listen to training in audio format. I also realized I was awful at sales, and I needed the relationships from HubSpot to help us really get a grip on this whole "inbound marketing" thing. I emailed and/or called my CAM and CC all the freaking time… I’m sure I annoyed the shit out of them. But, it was critical!
It took me 18 months into the HubSpot partner program until I sold my first real HubSpot deal. 18 MONTHS! Most people would not have renewed - and trust me, it was something I was considering as well. We had been doing lots of WordPress work and non-HubSpot related work, but were still trying to break through into that market, and we stuck with it. I believed in the inbound methodology, I believed in the HubSpot team, and I knew my strengths. I knew that persistence was key, and that success isn’t made overnight.
I turned a corner when we decided to go “all-in" on developing on the HubSpot COS. We knew we could manipulate and command the software to do virtually anything we needed it to at the time, and we had the capacity to invest our time and energy in that market. We quickly became known for our development work. We made a lot of relationships that have been delightful, which helped us build notoriety in the world of HubSpot website development. And that was awesome.
“But I don’t build websites, and you just got lucky that you got in early. That won’t happen for me…”
Uh… no, asshole, I didn’t “get lucky.” We saw an opportunity. It was the same opportunity available to the three thousand other partners out there, and some of them saw the gap and capitalized on it as well. And guess what? These opportunities arise ALL the time.
(Side note - The Partner Program is one of the most collaborative, helpful, and envelope-pushing groups of people I’ve ever been a part of, so if you are truly looking for quick wins, this is not for you.)
Here’s the secret I’ll let everyone in on that’s reading this and thinking about becoming a partner, or is currently a partner looking for their place in the market: HubSpot is always innovating. in 2014, it was the COS that was the real opportunity. We saw it, we capitalized on it, and we’re still working on establishing our place in that market even further. There are new product tools being released regularly, and new opportunities for companies to capitalize on regularly. Sales enablement? Chatbots? come on...
If I’m a brand new partner today, or I’m still looking for my place in the market, I’m going to be sitting there like a hungry wolf watching what HubSpot is going to do next. You can guarantee that when they release a new product or focus that don't hold a lot of “experts” in the industry, it will be a race to get there first. The ones who do, will be known as THE dudes for that service. Get it?
We used the HubSpot Marketplace as our vehicle of choice to work our leads. You want to be very present where your leads are conglomerating or visiting frequently. Where do people go who need help with HubSpot development? It was a natural fit for us.
We make hundreds of transactions through our free templates every month. We nurture many of those into website or inbound clients. So… what’s your version of the marketplace?
The Partner Program is not some magical service you sign up for that will be your ticket to success. You have to work hard, and that’s not an understatement in the least bit. I have a team of 11 employees now, and I still work my ass off. I invest most of our company profits into making improvements for our team and growth of the company. I pay some employees more than what I bring home. And when times were tough back before the HubSpot thing really started taking off for us, I didn't pay myself just so I could afford to keep the doors open and make sure my staff had a check to take home, knowing the benefit they provided to the company and how much hope I had that we'd get through tough times together.
Would I sign up for the HubSpot Partner Program in 2017? The answer is a loud and clear yes. But I can say that’s just because I’m self aware enough to know that anything that is super important to me is worth working tremendously hard for, and I’d be willing to do it.
Would I recommend it for other people? I would only recommend it for those that understand the importance of giving more than you’re taking - in value, in attention, in effort/rewards. If you’re not willing to put your heart and soul into your agency and really strive to provide some of your best value completely free in some way, shape, or form, it’s not going to work for you. It’s that simple. If you want to work 5 hours a day and be your own boss - you’re an idiot, number 1, and number 2, no it’s not going to work. But for those that do - you have made literally, THE best choice for your organization, and you are about to reap the rewards of all that HubSpot provides.
I truly look forward to shaking your hand and having a beer at the next Partner Day. And if you ever see me around, don’t hesitate to stop and chat!