There's a lot of shakeup in the world of inbound lately. As more organizations are adopting the methodology, they're understanding the necessity for getting all their teams in the inbound mindset.
Inbound is not just about marketing. The philosophy is also being used in recruitment, sales, and service. Entire workplace cultures are being built around inbound.
These recent evolutions, including the introduction of the flywheel framework, are reminiscent of when our Bluleadz team first adopted inbound.
The Early Days
We started as a PPC, SEO, and website design agency. In those early years, we were building sites using HTML.
As we earned more clients and continued growing, I started looking for a CMS. At the time, Joomla, Drupal, and a few others existed, but they were hard to come by. WordPress wasn't nearly as ubiquitous as it is today.
While shopping around, I found HubSpot's CMS. But I didn't just see a CMS. I found the future of marketing the more I learned about them.
HubSpot: The Pioneers of Video and Inbound
Every Friday at 4pm, I tuned into HubSpot TV, which was revolutionary at the time. They produced a live video series, hosted by Karen Rubin, who was the former product manager at HubSpot and is now the VP of Growth with Owl Labs, and Mike Volpe, the former HubSpot CMO who is now the CEO at Lola.
I also discovered their inbound marketing blog. The more I learned about the inbound methodology, the more I believed in how the marketing world was changing.
I drank the Kool-Aid.
So in 2009, I made the switch.
Inbound Marketing – The Way We Buy
The most obvious element of inbound that stood out to me is what the methodology is built around. From a consumer standpoint, inbound marketing made sense to me.
It aligns with the way I buy. When I'm considering paying for a product or service, I research and look for credibility and authority from brands. I need to feel like I can trust an organization before I do business with them.
And I knew I wasn’t alone in how I made purchasing decisions. After understanding this, I jumped on the HubSpot train, which lead to us changing our entire business plan.
A Proud Partner Agency
As we started implementing HubSpot into our agency, we worked closely with Pete Caputa. Pete was the one who started the HubSpot Partner Program as he climbed the ranks to VP of Sales. He is now the CEO of Databox.
After we switched over to HubSpot, we started getting our clients onboard. Our new business model was focused on earning inbound marketing retainers.
I knew inbound was the future of how businesses were going to grow. We were proud to become one of the first partner agencies, and now as a Diamond Agency Partner, we're still dedicated to helping more businesses grow through inbound.
Now, as outbound practices fade away and inbound has become a business philosophy, we can see that we hitched our cart to the right horse.
Not only was I impressed by HubSpot TV and their educational content; I was most inspired by how their product simplified everything. They brought all of marketing into an all-in-one platform.
While it wasn’t nearly as robust as it is today, it was certainly revolutionary back then for a number of reasons.
Closed Loop Reporting
One of the most difficult things to do in 2009 was measuring the flow of ad dollars to the customers being generated. And from an agency standpoint, this was frustrating. You wanted to prove how your strategies were delivering tangible results, but it wasn't easy to accomplish this.
Fortunately, HubSpot addressed this issue by providing an overview of the full cycle. You were able to track your leads all the way through the process — when a visitor first comes to your website, what webpages they go to, how they convert to a lead, and how that lead becomes a customer.
Using one single platform to manage all your digital marketing efforts was unheard of back in 2009.
Smartphones were just being introduced. Social media was starting to ramp up, but there was no way to track how social engagement created leads.
We used to have an HTML website, and we were using Google Analytics, which was limited then as compared to how much data you can evaluate now. If you were conducting email marketing campaigns, you only had a few choices, like Constant Contact. For paid ads, you had to do all of it through Google.
To put it simply, having a comprehensive toolkit for digital marketing was hard. There were so many different moving parts.
HubSpot was the first one to promise an all-in-one solution. The idea of using one hub, integrated with everything you need, was awesome. You still had to use a few more tools outside of HubSpot, but at the time, it was a godsend.
A Needed Change in a Time of Transition
The world of marketing was significantly changing in 2009.
Paid media was getting super expensive and highly competitive. In the world of organic search, black hats were finally starting to get filtered out, thanks to Matt Cutts and the Google team cracking down on sketchy SEO tactics. A lot of people in SEO were trying to game the system.
Bottom line: companies needed a better method for generating traffic. There was a need for honest, responsible marketing.
HubSpot is altruistic, and they use white hat tactics for SEO. They followed a simple philosophy: Create content your audience wants to read and Google will reward you.
They provided us an avenue to continue doing the right thing, which us one of our core values that we built our culture around.
Even inside CMSs like Drupal, it was still a complex process for making basic changes to webpages. Designers would have to handle most updates.
But thanks to the HubSpot platform and its user friendly interface, marketers could make several changes on their own. It democratized a lot of digital marketing processes.
Our transition to inbound happened at the perfect time, thanks to a confluence of events. The recession had just started, and companies were looking for better ways to market themselves. But they didn't want to commit and get locked into huge contracts for online marketing.
White hats were starting the swarm the organic space, and it became apparent to many organizations that they needed to go all in on digital marketing. Through HubSpot, we were able to expanded our offerings to fit their needs.
Baby Steps: From Funnel to Flywheel
The evolution of Bluleadz took some time.
First, we needed to crawl. Thanks to an easy-to-use platform, we learned how to do the right thing. We used white hat tactics and were able to grow our business and offerings.
HubSpot enabled us to generate more traffic for our clients and create conversion points without a designer.
Once we learned how to crawl, we stood. We learned how to develop efficient, effective content strategies as we put the inbound methodology to practice. From creating buyer personas to researching keywords and content mapping, we delivered even better results over time.
Finally, we went from standing to running by pulling everything together — user experience, blog content, social media and email campaigns, sales enablement, and everything in between. Thanks to the holistic nature of inbound, we learned how to generate more traffic and high quality leads.
And now, with the flywheel, we're seeing the whole picture. We're walking on the moon.
When companies were first asking us to help them get out of the yellow pages and print ads circa 2009, most marketing professionals were cheating SEO and throwing a lot of dough at paid.
Fast forward to now, nearly 10 years after going all in on inbound thanks to HubSpot, we are providing value on all digital marketing fronts for our clients. Through its holistic, honest approach, HubSpot was not just another tool.
HubSpot was the catalyst for helping us scale the agency and, more importantly, helping our clients scale their businesses as well.
New Beginnings … Again
When we first started using HubSpot, we were focused on educating prospects and clients on the new inbound methodology. In fact, we had to use simplistic language so newcomers would understand the ultimate goal behind inbound marketing. We would say, “We will get you leads from the internet.”
As archaic as it sounds today, back then, few business leaders barely knew about how Google worked and how the behavior of consumers was changing.
Now, most organizations know about basic search engine marketing tactics. We are less focused on educating and more focused on showing clients how the flywheel framework delivers sustainable results.
HubSpot was invaluable in creating the market for inbound, and now, the flywheel approach is yet another new market. The idea of creating a full inbound organization, including marketing, sales, and service, is what will set early adopters apart from those dragging their feet.
For Bluleadz and for our clients, the only direction to go with inbound is forward.