Jon Dick of Hubspot – Inbound Marketing, AI and Future of Stack Interaction

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Jon Dick, VP of Marketing at Hubspot talks about high touch sales motion vs. low touch, improving the prospect experience, the “Speed to Action” trend, and what tools are in their stack besides Hubspot!

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John Wall: Hello and welcome to Stack and Flow. I’m John Wall.

Sean Zinsmeister: I’m Sean Zinsmeister.

John: For those of you that have heard me before, you’ll realize that I have a cold. I do not normally sound like Barry White. This is departure from the norm for us. Today our special guest is Jon Dick, the VP of marketing at Hubspot. Jon, thanks for joining us today.

Jon Dick: Hey guys, nice to meet you both.

John: Before we opened, I said to Sean I’m surprised and astounded we were able to get you in, you guys have Inbound coming up right around the corner and actually by the time this sees light of day it will have passed and this will all be history, but I know you guys are busy and we’ll get into that too, we’ll talk about Inbound.

As we open up with the news, this week, this distributed denial of service attack, DDOS attack on Dine was all the rage, people looking at tech terrorism and the like. Sean what was your take on that? Did you guys grind to a halt?

Sean: We were not personally affected on our technology side but it definitely had an impact on our marketing. What was interesting is to see the message about what’s happening be pushed upstream into the mainstream about how people realize if it’s actually a middle man, for people who don’t know, is Dine, was one of the big companies that was attacked and that it eventually brought down all these services.

While people are like oh, what are we going to do without Spotify and Netflix during the work week? There were other services that were affected, like I remember I got an email from somebody on my team and they’re like hey I’m trying to access this content to send to a prospect and our marketing automation system was using that and in this case it was Pardot and that had gone completely offline, so between that and then some of the publishing we were doing with Twitter, definitely some of those sort of interruptions with services, I can’t imagine we were the only ones affected but, yeah, it’s something that just is building the awareness that people have to understand.

I was talking with Christopher Penn last week and he’s ready to bunker down and build his own DNS server in the basement to make sure he’s got that backup system, but I do think if you’re an IT person looking at this whether you’re mid market enterprise, it’s definitely something that’s got to be top of mind for what it means for your business and how it’s impacted.

Jon D.: I thought Dan Primack from Fortune had a really interesting point of view on it which was basically who would’ve thought the biggest tech news of the week was going to come out of a company in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Sean: Yes, exactly. I guess any PR is good PR sometimes bu tI think most people had never even heard of Dine and now it has made the front page, so for better or for worse there’s a lot of awareness now.

John: Yeah of course Twitter was the other huge hit, any time Twitter crashes everybody lights up and tries to figure out where they’re supposed to post complaining about that because they can’t tweet about it.

Jon D.: Who can figure out what’s down when the Internet’s down?

John: The internet itself, right? The life blood is down. We’ve got Inbound of course coming up on election week,, what have you guys got on tap? Big stories and talking about the platform, what have you guys have got going on, what are you expecting?

Jon D.: Really excited about Inbound. I’m pretty new to Hubspot so I joined in June and so this is going to actually be my first Inbound experience and certainly the excitement of the team alone has me excited. It’s, I believe, a very powerful week where we get people who are big supporters of the inbound movement. We get customers, we get thought leaders, luminaries together and really just celebrate how marketing continues to evolve.

This year obviously a lot of focus on kind of where marketing’s going because, as everyone would agree, we’re kind of at one of those inflection point moments where things are really radically changing again. One of those big shifts, of course, is kind of in how people interact with their stack which I think is really interesting and kind of this idea of obviously bots continue to be very prevalent in the news, which is this concept of trying to make it just very simple to use software. Obviously there’ll be some talk around that.

One of the big things that Hubspot certainly be talking about a lot and we think will connect with folks is how we are helping people grow beyond just in marketing. One of the big focus areas for Hubspot over the past two or three years has been in the sales space. We have a free CRM and we have some sales tools that help folks. We actually are really focused right now integrating marketing and sales software to create more of a full stack growth stack focus for our customers. I think it’s one of the trends that we’re seeing a lot in how marketing’s evolving is going beyond just getting prospects in the door and nurturing them but bringing that through the close and the interaction between sales and marketing is a really big focus that we’re seeing.

Sean: John I know that you’re still new to bringing Inbounds together as an event, but curious, anything that was feedback from your team about the big changes or evolutions of the show that’s new just in addition to some of the new themes you touched on?

Jon D.: I think one of the things that’s really interesting that we’re seeing is how much marketing and social media in particular continue to e prevalent for mainstream celebrities, so some of the headliners of this year’s inbound include Alec Baldwin, Serena Williams, Anna Kendrick. The reason that they’re relevant to bring to an event like Inbound is because they themselves are involved in new media as a way to evolve their brand and to build their audience, so Alec Baldwin’s podcast is obviously very popular. Anna Kendrick has a new book about how she used social media to build her brand. Serena Williams, grew up, her whole career evolved as social media took hold. She’s got this really full life cycle perspective on it.

I think that’s one of the things bout this year’s Inbound that should be really interesting for attendees.

Sean: I know that putting on these events, it’s always a huge undertaking for companies of any size. Is Inbound really an all hands on deck kind of approach from a company wide, does everybody sort of participate or is it something that the marketing team owns?

Jon D.: Absolutely. What’s really interesting about Inbound and one of the things that I find really inspiring about Hubspot overall and one of the reasons I was excited to have the opportunity to join the company is that Hubspot invests a lot in things that are not just about the brand. One of the differentiators I learned really quickly when I joined and started talking about Inbound is we don’t view Inbound as a conference. It’s not a customer conference. Many customers come but it’s really an industry event. Similar with other marketing investments that we make as a company in things like The Growth Show and things like our Medium Blog – ReadThink, they’re really not branded Hubspot, they’re really focused on getting good information, building the movement, helping create a platform for people to collaborate and share ideas and I think that’s one of the things I’ve been really inspired by about Inbound and one of the things I’m really looking forward to is it’s not just a customer conference.

That said it is all hands on deck and everyone on the marketing team is participating, everyone is staffing all sorts of shifts to help direct people around the conference center and things like that. Everyone’s very excited about it and we think it’s going to be a great event.

Sean: Okay now normally we usually jump into the stack but I want to touch back on what you had mentioned earlier about actually, you mentioned that interacting with the stack is something that is going to be big this year, so unpack that a little bit. What are you looking for there and what’s coming?

Jon D.: Well some people have probably seen Growthbot which is something that came out of Hubspot labs that our co-founder Darmash has really been spearheading. Growthbot is essentially, it’s a Facebook messenger bot or slack bot where marketers can essentially interact with their software through a bot interface. For me, and this isn’t me just because I’m an employee here, but every Monday morning when I get on the bus to ride in to work, I get on Growthbot and I start asking it questions about how the week went last week and how the day went and it’s a really interesting interface to interact with your data and understand how your marketing performance is going.

Overall as Brian and Darmash think about the future of marketing and help lead the company forward, I think there is a big focus on how people interact with their data and with their marketing stack to understand how performance is going.

John: Yeah do you see that as the evolution, because for so long it was all about the dashboards and it almost became kind of a joke in that you had these dashboards and people would never even dig down in to see the details. It seems like messaging inspires digging down further. It does just kind of kick back the relevant facts and force you to dig further. Do you see that as something that could happen or … is this information more valuable? I guess that’s the real question.

Jon D.: What I think it forces you to do is frame up your questions. For me I studied science and I always have tried to take a scientific approach to things and I feel like a huge part of being successful as a marketer is understanding what questions you need to ask. There is something about the thought process that puts you through, like giving you a piece of information and you looking at it and having the opportunity to say what questions do I have about that and then asking followup questions. I think it helps frame up your question set and thereby it helps you put focus on what it is that could need improvement or that’s going really well. I always think that’s really helpful.

Sean: Looking sort of inwards then as you guys think about Hubspot being a sales and marketing technology company, what about looking at your own stack, how do you guys … Obviously you guys are using probably a lot of your own stuff like Hubspot definitely is one of your systems of record. How are you guys sort of organizing and thinking about technology internally?

Jon D.: At Hubspot, number one Hubspot is our main stack and Hubspot is an all in one software platform. There are some aspects where we certainly have gone beyond the core Hubspot platform. We have a pretty robust integration environment where we have a lot of integrated partners, so Infer is one of our integration partners so any Hubspot customer can actually easily connect Infer with Hubspot and we do that also. We’re always looking at Hubspot about trying to build an all in one type software. We really try and make it easy for customers and customers come to us because they want it to be easy to do their marketing. They want it to be fast to do their marketing.

In the places where we’re not doing core investments as a company is where we start building out our platform with our integration partners. We do, with many of our integration partners, we leverage those components in our stack also. We leverage Infer as a huge part of our predictive lead scoring. I think everyone would agree that predictiveness is something that increasingly matters to marketers and to sales people. When you think about wasted time for a sales person and if marketing and sales can help predict who’s going to be a better person to contact, I think that’s something that really can make reps more productive and more efficient.

Sean: I wanted to also ask more about the technology, but I think I wanted to zoom out just a little bit because in your role, I know Hubspot’s all over the world, you guys have global offices I know in Dublin and APAC and how are you guys organized? I’d love to learn a little bit more, tell people about your guys’ team structure and how the marketing team is kind of organized under you.

Jon D.: Yeah that’s a good question. I report to the CMO Kipp who I think has done John’s podcast.

John: Yes in fact we’ll include a link to that in the show notes but yeah he had just completed a world tour. He was down in South America too, you guys are over there.

Jon D.: Yep so we’re a global company and we have offices in Cambridge and Dublin and Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Sydney and Singapore. We just opened our Tokyo office. The way that we organize the team is that we have a couple of different marketing leaders that focus on very specific things. We have a marketing leader, Meghan Keaney Anderson who really runs our content strategy and our product marketing. We have a VP responsible for our brand and for PR and kind of continuing to get the Hubspot brand out into the world. She’s responsible for the Inbound event which we were just talking about.

Then we have two VPs that are really focused on the funnel. We have different responsibilities within the funnel. It’s kind of breaking down between more or less a high touch sales motion and a low touch sales motion. My team has responsibility for the high touch sales motion. By high touch I mean actually connecting with a sales person and deciding what the right software package for the prospect is and low touch being someone who can actually go and just purchase software touchlessly or use free products.

Most of the marketing technology is owned under the high touch funnel because so much of our stack is about lead generation and getting the right leads to sales people when those leads are ready to actually talk to someone. That team actually sits under me.

John: For the funnel itself obviously Hubspot covers you’ve got email and analytics and CRM is all built in there but are there other tools that you need to build out the funnel, tools that help move stuff through the process?

Jon D.: Yeah absolutely, there are a number of partners of Hubspot that we leverage for different capabilities. Generally the activities that we think about of course are attracting visitors, capturing leads, enriching in scoring, rotation of those leads and the nurturing of those leads and the closing of those leads. Throughout all of those different activities there are different partners and softwares that we leverage to try and help us do those activities more efficiently. Particularly in places where Hubspot has decided we’re not going to build out core capability.

A good example of that would be live website chat. That obviously is related to the capture phase, if you will, but we use SnapEngage for that. They’re a great partner of ours. Another place that we don’t have great capabilities built directly into Hubspot is call tracking so obviously Hubspot’s an inbound marketing company and the most highly qualified inbound lead you could get is someone who literally picks up the phone and wants to speak with a sales rep to actually discuss software, so we use Invoca for that and that’s great because it also allows us to track and obviously phone calls can be pesky to track if you don’t have the right software in place and can be difficult for marketers to do attribution.

Those are a couple examples of partner softwares that we leverage throughout our funnel.

Sean: Jon, in your past roles, even leading up to the role that you have now at Hubspot, bringing new technologies into an organization can always come with an amount of friction, trying to build adoption and trust with what you bring to teams. I’m curious in your sort of career journey, had there been best practices that you learned along the way that maybe you might think about instilling as you go through some of these decision makings at Hubspot or anything you might be able to share?

Jon D.: Number one it’s all about testing and learning. Every marketer should constantly have a few new softwares they’re trying out and trying to build the business case around. When you are a marketing team at a company that doesn’t rely on sales people, like I think it’s all about building trust with product and engineering, you know, If you’re a touchless revenue company and you start introducing new technologies onto your website and those technologies cause some sort of site issue, that’s a big problem.

Building trust there is huge. If you work with a sales team, which is what we do a Hubspot and the way we did things at Trunk Club, I think it’s all about testing and learning and then piloting. I think you need to take a group of people. You need to get them to actually experience what leveraging some of that software might be like and then really leverage success from that pilot to push out to the broader organization.

Sean: Speaking of the broader organization, the other thing, we had Jeff Canada who runs global marketing operations over at Quantcast and something that I’m always interested in is how organizations handle the sort of technological strategies when it comes to global teams. Does each global business unit at Hubspot sort of, are they going to have independent decision making or is headquarters in Boston where you guys are, sort of the central hub and then everything kind of spokes out from there? What’s the sort of strategy?

Jon D.: At Hubspot it’s a mix. One of the beautiful things about Hubspot is one of our core values is around autonomy. Our regional teams are definitely empowered to go out and test new channels and test new technologies. When we see success there it’s all about trying to then make it available to all of the regions through global teams. We have a single marketing operations team but there are new technologies that are tested that that team is just kind of informed about but are not the core people who are actually doing that.

What we see with that is we see a lot of innovation that comes out of the regions, you see that both at the campaign level, the content level and also in the technology level.

Sean: You had mentioned Darmash is really spearheading the Hubspot labs and some cool stuff that has come out of that. Does Hubspot itself become the first customer of things that come out of that? Can you talk a little bit about some of who the labs and sort of Rn’D stuff work and that kind of process?

Jon D.: Yeah it’s really cool to work as a marketer at a company that does marketing software. I’ll just say that. Having worked at a couple of other companies now. Number one because the product leaders and engineers, they know marketing and they get marketing and it’s really cool to be able to sit down for lunch next to an engineer and have a really informed discussion about what’s happening in the world of marketing.

A lot of our product roadmap does come from us talking to the marketing team actually talking to the product team about challenges we’re seeing. I think the product team really takes those inputs as voice of the customer and tries to develop technology that will help solve those problems. That’s one of the really cool things about working at a marketing technology company.

Sean: Yeah, I can see that because at so many organizations you literally, first you have to sell marketing before you can do anything. You know what I mean? Sometimes you run into executive groups that are just suspicious of marketing itself.

Jon D.: Yeah, at Trunk Club we sold, when I first joined, we sold only men’s clothes and so we all looked really, really good, but not everyone knew marketing.

John: Okay and talking about the flow of leads now, you guys obviously have millions and millions of leads, you’ve done an amazing job at promoting the product getting all the way to IPO. How does the stack help out with hygiene in kind of keeping that stuff churned? Do you have a point where leads just go out the back end after four or five years and you give up on them? What’s the flow like?

Jon D.: Obviously a core goal at Hubspot is to provide a positive experience and a good prospect experience. I think that’s one of the hallmarks of the Inbound movement is how you do that. A piece of that certainly involves ensuring that we have list hygiene and we’ve invested a lot in, especially as we’ve gone global and trying to figure out how we do proper segmentation of lists so that the messages can be as relevant as possible to everyone.

John: Yeah because it’s interesting that over years as a marketer, you see lists start to get diminishing returns and then it just kind of becomes the junk drawer, there’s no business incentive to go back and clean those things up.

Jon D.: One of the key metrics that we look at is on lists and then what helps us build out our global suppression lists are basically sends since the last engage for email, so we try and keep a pulse on how engaged a person who is in our funnel is and especially people who have come into our funnel because they downloaded content and wanted to learn but weren’t at the time interested in buying. We really try and leverage engagement as a metric to determine who we should continue to message and who we should let sit in a more passive state and only engage at certain times.

Sean: I’m curious because you guys again have that great perspective of a lot of the customers coming to you with some of these problems, are there any trends that you’re noticing? Maybe this plays into some of the big themes that you guys are talking about at Inbound. Are you noticing any sort of patterns with newer problems that are coming up for customers that you guys are looking at?

Jon D.: Since I’m new still to Hubspot in the last couple of months, some of my perspective even just comes from me being a marketer prior to joining Hubspot and generally what a lot of marketers are seeing right now is they’re seeing that they’re getting lower open rates on their email messages and they’re trying to figure that out, so that’s something that we obviously are spending a lot of time thinking about. One of the core ways that you want to help marketers as a marketing software company is obviously through predictivenss and benchmarking for people and you kind of see that across the industry right now, this rise of AI within marketing software.

Obviously the biggest news around that was Salesforce talking about Einstein, but you even see small new players in the email space like Klaviyo. Their differentiation as a company if you go to their website is that we have built in best practices and that makes it really easy for you to improve performance. Just performance on your messages continues to be a big thing.

Another big trend that I’ve seen a lot of marketers starting to talk about is the speed to action, so over the years I feel like as marketing stacks have built up, especially when you don’t have an all in one platform, sometimes everything’s not instantaneous or sometimes you put things into manual processes on a daily basis or you do batch jobs or whatever. We’re increasingly seeing a lot of marketers talk about their desire for speed to qualify, speed to rotate things along those lines. I definitely saw that at Trunk Club. I think that was one of the big breakthroughs that the team came across is we were doing a lot of different testing and a lot of it was driven by our product team about just trying to really fundamentally think about what onboarding was for people who got to our website.

Instead of it becoming a lead that got rotated once a day to a sales person, how do you get an instant connection with someone? You have a visitor on your website, they’re potentially interested how can you be helpful to them right then and there?

Sean: You mentioned AI obviously making a big splash with Salesforce’s announcement at Dreamforce and things like that. In addition to AI I was curious to get your thoughts around the other trend that a lot of marketers are talking about obviously with account based marketing being very big hype now. Are you seeing a lot of noise around that and how are you guys sort of translating those messages for your customers around ABM, what it is, what it isn’t, as well as AI?

Jon D.: I personally don’t think that ABM is particularly anything new-

Sean: AMEN.

Jon D.: Just my observation but I think it’s really relevant if you are going after very large enterprise accounts. I think you need a strategy to figure out how to do that. I worked in BD when I was at Klout and that’s how you approached big deals is you tried to figure out how you would work your way in, learn how you could be a partner, things like that. At Hubspot, we’re really focused on mid-market customers, small business and so for us it’s not as relevant of a trend. I mean, I think what is means to me is be thoughtful in who the best possible customers are for you and our approach to that is through predictive lead scoring. Again we have a good partnership with Infer on that and I think that for us, I think that’s a big piece of how we think about it is just how do you get the right leads to reps so that they can connect with people who want to be connected with?

Sean: Yeah and I think that you’re making a great observation. I agree with you on the ABM piece. In fact, I definitely was one of the first people who picked up Brian Halligan’s Inbound book when that came out back in the day and it’s so funny to read some of the ideas that are there that these guys were really talking about, this philosophy around inbound marketing now sort of repackaged into ABM and it’s sort of, you’re seeing the same ideas with a little bit different wardrobe, which is … Same with the social media and a lot of things around social selling and things like that. I’m curious if any ideas there.

Jon D.: I think people always are looking for, especially marketers, they’re always looking for what’s new because there are limited windows where you can get a jump on a strategy and you can actually really grow your business dramatically because of it. That is more or less the premise of growth hacking is try and find an opportunity and go for it. I think marketers are naturally inclined towards new ways to think about problems, new ways to get ahead and so I don’t think it’s super surprising to see similar ideas brought up, packaged in new ways that help people get excited about their strategy.

John: John that’s great if people want to learn more from you or get in touch with Hubspot, what’s the best way to do that?

Jon D.: Well I’m on Twitter @JonDick and Hubspot is of course @Hubspot on Twitter.

John: All right and Sean if people want to learn more about account based management for their company, where should they get in touch with you (laughing)?

Sean: I like that you always stick that with me. You can always Google Sean Zinsmeister and you can find all my stuff there. is another place to find any of the pieces I’m working and of course Twitter, LinkedIn, @szinsmeister is a great way to get in touch.

John: Alright and I’m John Wall, you can hear more from me over at and that will do it for today. Jon thanks for joining us.

Jon D.: Thanks a lot.

John: That’ll do it for this episode and we will see you next time in the stacks.

John Wall

John Wall

John J. Wall speaks, writes and practices at the intersection of marketing, sales, and technology. He is the producer of Marketing Over Coffee, a weekly audio program that discusses marketing and technology with his co-host Christopher S. Penn, and has been featured on iTunes.

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