The revenge of the sales and marketing suite - HubSpot CMO Kipp Bodnar on product updates, training, and education

Profile picture for user barb.mosher By Barb Mosher Zinck December 11, 2020
Summary:
For a while, sales and marketing software seemed to be leaning best-of-breed, but is the suite back? Perhaps, but with a platform twist. How well is HubSpot positioned in all this? A recent talk on product updates sheds light.

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The latest research tells us that marketers are once again looking at integrated suites to help them deliver their marketing programs, as opposed to best of breed tools. Gartner's 2020 Marketing Technology Survey found this to be the case:

Fifty-nine percent of respondents in this year's survey say they now prefer to select their technologies using an integrated suite approach instead, relying primarily on a single vendor with multiple interconnected capabilities to satisfy their needs.

Going with an integrated suite may save on technology budget. Not because an integrated platform is less expensive than a set of standalone solutions, but because the work required to integrate single solutions has the potential to delay marketing programs and drive up unexpected costs. 

The good news is that many of the integrated suites available today are not closed-door solutions that force you to only work with what they offer, because vendors understand this isn't possible. Marketing and Sales need a complete view of the customer across all technologies if they are going to provide a good customer experience.

From a B2B perspective, marketing and sales also need an account view, which includes more than one customer (contact) in a company. And that's why we are seeing account-based marketing capabilities showing up in marketing automation solutions.

These technology trends are reflected in the recent updates to HubSpot. I spoke with Kipp Bodnar, HubSpot CMO, about some of the updates, and HubSpot efforts in the marketplace and education.

A platform for sales and marketing

HubSpot has been a platform that works for both Sales and Marketing teams pretty much since its inception. But it has evolved to bridge the gap that exists between how the two groups traditionally work. 

Bodnar told me that HubSpot customers are trying to work across accounts. They need a unified customer experience that supports the work everyone in the company does to attract, win, and retain customers. He talked about the CRM market in general, noting that low-end players don't have the ability to scale and high-end platforms are too complex or cobbled together.

HubSpot sits in the middle of that spectrum, providing both the database and a fully integrated UI with a core set of tools for marketing, sales, and support. I won't say HubSpot is cheap; depending on the number of contacts in your database, it can get pretty expensive. But I will say from experience; it is a tool that is easy to understand and use (and it's backed with some pretty extensive training).

We talked about some of the new capabilities in HubSpot (Professional or Enterprise):

  • CRM-powered marketing - Bodnar said that marketing needs real-time CRM information to improve its targeting, ads, and automation. New capabilities (some in beta) enable marketing to capture more data using custom objects, improve ad targeting, and send CRM-powered programmable emails.
  • ABM - New ABM capabilities in HubSpot let you identify target accounts, indicate roles of contacts in those accounts, send targeted ads or emails, and report on marketing and sales by account. It's not a full ABM solution, but it's a start for companies that use HubSpot and want a place where they work with both leads and accounts.
  • Revenue Attribution Reporting - HubSpot provides several different attribution models to help you understand how your marketing and sales efforts contribute to revenues. This one is for Enterprise customers. Bodnar said it's similar to Bizable and is deeply integrated with the CRM.
  • CMS - HubSpot's content management system received a significant update, at least to the enterprise version. It includes new content-editing tools, local development, adaptive page testing, and the ability to create interactive, personalized web apps on your website.

Along with all these updates, there were many updates to the Sales Hub, such as improved sequences for Sales enablement, AI improvements to scan email signatures and pull relevant data in the contact, a new personalized home for Sales reps, CPQ integrations, better reporting, and much more.

HubSpot is an integrated suite, but Bodnar said they also understand companies use other tools and need to integrate them with the platform. This is why HubSpot is focused on becoming a platform of applications. 

Expanding the HubSpot ecosystem

Bodnar and I talked about the importance of building an ecosystem that supports developers and other technology providers who want to work with HubSpot. He said they would continue to expand the ecosystem through API and data access improvements.

Being part of the HubSpot ecosystem is something many tech providers want. Over 600 apps in the App Marketplace support a range of marketing, sales, and customer success capabilities. There are apps for startups and agencies included, as well as a number of free apps.

HubSpot is focused on supporting the tech people using and integrating with the platform. Bodnar said they are working towards features that are low-code/no-code and help developers work together and build more. 

Growing its education

HubSpot is well-known for its training courses. Who hasn't taken or are taking one of the many certifications - HubSpot related or not. 

HubSpot also has an Education Partner Program, where they give free access to HubSpot university to college and university professors. It includes access to the software, all the training, and the community for students and teachers. 

They are preparing to go even farther.

Bodnar said they were working on accredited courses for operations, technical, and marketing. The idea is for a person to work with someone to show that they can apply the knowledge they learn in training. This month, after my conversation with Bodnar, HubSpot announced that it donated funds to the Howard University School of Business to establish the Center for Digital Business.

The Center for Digital Business will provide a vibrant, multipurpose space within the School of Business to facilitate education, collaboration, and innovation among students, faculty, staff, and business leaders. Programming for the Center will focus on three key areas: academic offerings, experiential learning opportunities, and support for job readiness.

My take

I've worked with clients who use HubSpot, and it is a good integrated solution that provides the core tools marketing and sales need to support their programs - if you have the Professional or Enterprise versions. The Starter tools are okay, but limiting for marketers who want to do automated campaigns, build custom landing pages, and do more marketing activities. 

The new features HubSpot continues to add - and the support for a marketplace - move the product to even more of a platform of applications. This seems to be the ultimate goal of many technology providers, as they build up their platforms to enable other solution providers to integrate. It makes you wonder if we'll soon end up with a bunch of suites that everyone has to integrate with to ensure they get a piece of the pie.

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