Why It's Only the Top of the First Inning for Entrepreneurs

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While Brian Halligan was helping venture-backed startups with their go-to-market strategy, they started to notice something curious: Customers had gotten really good at blocking out interruptive marketing and sales tactics. The tried and true tactics of old (direct mail, email blasts, cold calls) simply weren’t effective anymore.

Conditioning to ignore advertising has only gotten worse since then. Look at how noisy and ineffective Twitter has become. Ad blocking software on computers and mobile is the norm; DVRs skip commercials; does anyone click on Google Adwords' sponsored links? The list goes on.

There's still plenty of time and space for traditional advertising. After all, if you have money, it's the quickest way to buy attention. Social media mogul Gary Vaynerchuk has often said, "Traditional advertising isn't dead per se, it's just overpriced." But if you don't have much budget, inbound marketing, a term most give Halligan credit for coining, is the arguably more effective alternative.

Halligan met Dharmesh Shah as a graduate student at MIT in 2004. During the early development years, Shah’s blog OnStartups was seeing massive growth in traffic. They'll admit, “We were surprised. How had this tiny blog with no budget generated more traffic than companies with professional marketing teams and way bigger budgets?” They said it felt like a modern-day David versus Goliath.

So after many meetings, coffee and the occasional Belgian beer (a shared favorite of theirs) they came to the simple observation:

“People don’t want to be interrupted by marketers or harassed by salespeople. They want to be helped.”

Halligan and Shah realized it was time to make the marketing and sales process human. Time to treat buyers like people, not numbers on a spreadsheet. Time to build an inbound community and help people achieve their business goals in a more personable, empathetic way. They called it HubSpot. 

The company grew from $255,000 in revenues in 2007, the year the software was released, to $15.6 million in 2010, according to Boston Business Journal. It started out targeting companies of one to 10 employees, but "moved steadily upmarket to serve larger businesses of up to 1,000 employees," according to Forbes.

HubSpot filed for an initial public offering with the Securities and Exchange Commission on August 25, 2014, for listing on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol HUBS.

Click play on this episode of Behind the Brand to hear more from Halligan about the implications of technology on marketing.

Related: The Key to Winning Influence

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