So many of us have been looking to HubSpot for years for marketing wisdom and expertise when we need it most. And thanks to the company’s robust content library, they’ve not only become marketing go-tos, but they’ve set an incredible example for the rest of us to grow our own brands.
While you’re probably familiar with the company’s super accessible content, you’ve likely never heard the incredible backstory of HubSpot’s content experimentation, strategy, and downright wizardry.
At Casted, we’ve had the honor of sharing mics with marketing strong-hitters like Dave Gerhardt, Mike Volpe, Jeanne Hopkins, Ellie Mirman, Sam Balter, and Meghan Keaney Anderson. Almost as fun as playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, after having these powerhouses as guests on our podcast, we realized there was a single thread connecting them all together: HubSpot.
From the early days of live streaming (HubSpot TV, anyone?) to HubSpot’s The Growth Show podcast (one of the earliest B2B podcasts out there!), these six marketing gurus all had a hand to play in the way the company leveraged streaming content to develop a raving fan base. Not only that, but the crew went on to give new brands powerful voices through podcasts as their careers bloomed.
When HubSpot asked us to create an exclusive podcast for this year’s virtual INBOUND conference, we jumped at the chance. You can listen to the whole episode here, but we wanted to recap some of the key takeaways so you don’t miss a thing.
As we dug deep on how HubSpot’s rich content history unfolded, a few things became clear. HubSpot has become a success story by today’s standards, but it didn’t happen overnight. And it didn’t happen without strategic approaches taken by a passionate, driven team.
You’ve got passion and drive. I know you do. So why not take a few pages out of the HubSpot playbook to make the magic happen at your own company? Here goes.
Don’t be afraid to try something new.
Back before our smartphones were very smart, I found myself, a newly minted marketing director, hoping my Internet connection would hold long enough for me to consume a live video show that was slowly gaining traction, HubSpot TV. I still have fond memories of some of those early episodes that had me hooked from the get-go. And what started out as an experiment grew a massively loyal audience that still talks about the show today.
The man behind the show, Mike Volpe, shared with us how it all started in 2008
“At the time, we were trying to build a name for ourselves and build a market and create a movement...and I think that the rise of real-time discussion social media platforms like Twitter fed into everything that was happening,” Mike says.
HubSpot had a successful web presence and blog at the time, but they saw what was happening with audiences on Twitter and decided to join the fun—in a new way. Having a live video show would allow for the same kind of real-time engagement, but with the added richness of video.
This was definitely a leap for the company. And it paid off. More than 200 episodes were produced, and HubSpot more than made a name for itself through this promising new medium.
And they were just getting started.
Build something people want to be part of.
One thing you might not know about HubSpot TV is that it started with a live audience. HubSpot invited locals (and staff) to join the fun by sitting in the audience while the show was filmed and streamed live.
“We knew that marketing teams and agencies would watch it together,” offers Mike.
So the company chose Friday afternoons with the hope that East-coasters would be able to grab a beer and watch it with their teams before heading out, while folks on the West Coast might catch it at lunch.
One of HubSpot’s first (and best) hires, Ellie Mirman, remembers the early days of HubSpot TV in person.
“It was huge. Every Friday at 4:00, everybody would grab a drink and settle in...It was a huge part of our culture. It was a big part of our marketing efforts around that time, too, but I think it ended up becoming a bigger aspect of our internal brand and culture efforts more than anything else,” Ellie shares.
Even remote audiences felt the love from afar. Mike and his co-host Karen watched a community of loyal fans grow quickly. Because of the intimate nature of video (same goes for podcasts), audiences felt a real connection with Mike and Karen, often reaching out to them personally and fangirling (and fanboying) when they saw them out and about.
Keep at it (and dream bigger).
How often do we let our shortsighted vision keep us from reaching great heights? When cooking up a new initiative, it’s easy to fall into the trap of keeping the bar set low so we don’t feel like we’re setting ourselves up for failure.
HubSpot had no idea when it launched those first experimental episodes of the live stream show that it would one day be a household name in marketing offices worldwide. But they kept their heads down, kept showing up, and kept that record button pressed. And it worked.
“There weren’t a lot of examples of companies doing this, but we wanted to try it. Then there was so much momentum around it...even crazy points where we had a lot of special guests, and the viewership started to get bigger and bigger. We got the founders of Twitter on the show. We even had MC Hammer once. It just seems ridiculous that these things happened,” Ellie says.
Give your people what they want, the way they want it.
HubSpot’s early marketing channels (namely blogs and HubSpot TV) were smashing hits with the marketers they so dearly loved. But as the company and offerings grew, they wanted to find a way to reach CEOs and other C-level execs who often were making final purchasing decisions.
So HubSpot asked themselves two critical questions: what are C-suiters interested in and what’s the best medium to reach them with?
Internal brainstorms and research showed that more than anything, C-suite execs wanted to learn more about growth. And they trusted their peers more than anyone else when it came to expertise. Not only that, but they didn’t have time to consume some of the more traditional media out there. They were crazy busy, always on the go, and needed easily consumable content.
Enter The Growth Show podcast.
“It was really the first thing we had done at HubSpot that was meant to reach the C level. And five years later, that show is still around,” shares Mike.
Be okay with starting imperfectly.
HubSpot’s current VP of Marketing, Meghan Keaney, acts as the current host of The Growth Show. Prior to being the full-time host, she had been a guest host on a few occasions. But she knew she still had lots to learn.
“It’s funny, now I listen back at those [early episodes] and I’m like ‘Oh, I’ve grown a little bit’ when it comes to hosting skills because I was clearly nervous...but you evolve over time and you learn things,” Meghan says.
Mike echoes these same sentiments when he reminisces about HubSpot TV: “The first couple episodes were frankly terrible and super embarrassing,” shares Mike. “But by doing it, we got better and better over time.”
Don’t wait to do it perfectly. It’ll never happen. You just have to jump in and do it. There’s always the next iteration. In the words of Seth Godin, sometimes you just have to ship it.
Stay curious and don’t get lazy.
Even though HubSpot TV saw massive success, the company didn’t stop there. After creating its pilot podcast, The Growth Show, they went on to experiment with other podcasts to serve different people in different ways.
Sam Balter managed the marketing strategy at HubSpot’s early network of podcasts from 2018 until just this past year and saw its evolution firsthand.
“We started a broader awareness show called Weird Work, where I interviewed people with weird jobs. And then we had a show that was very education-focused called Skill Up. One of the great things was that each show addressed a distinct need and distinct audience,” says Sam.
While HubSpot didn’t necessarily set out to create their own podcast network, it just sort of happened.
“Each podcast has a distinct problem that it’s trying to solve and/or a distinct theory that it’s chasing down,” shares Meghan. “So every new show that we add, we hope it will teach us something.”
Bring your brand’s personality to life.
Podcasts and videos built around conversations are brilliant ways to let the personality of your brand—and your team—shine. There’s something innately intimate and connective about these kinds of media, and the conversational nature allows personality to stream through in a way print and other media just can’t.
As HubSpot’s VP of Marketing from 2009 to 2012, Jeanne Hopkins saw firsthand how this can play out.
“What we got out of [the live stream show] was a level of excitement...and it had a personality, and it helped define what HubSpot was. And when you think of HubSpot, you usually smile because the whole aspect of it implies joy, and that’s what marketers are looking for. We’re looking for personality and joy in our lives,” Jeanne shares.
Harness the power of conversation.
As a podcast platform built on conversation, you don’t have to tell us twice at Casted how incredibly powerful conversations are. You can use them to change minds, change courses, or even change the world.
And no one knows this better than Dave Gerhardt, former marketing manager at HubSpot. Now CMO at Privy, Dave has built a name for himself in the podcast sphere. He used the power of conversation to grow Drift into the powerhouse brand it is today.
“When I went to Drift, I had a really cool opportunity to work with Founder and CEO David Cancel, and I was the first marketing person at Drift, and I just needed to get marketing content out of him. And so I just started interviewing him with my podcast gear that I had...and that morphed into this really cool conversation about these two people at completely different ends of their spectrum..you have this proven CEO and this like no- name, up-and-coming marketing person. And we ended up turning into a podcast called Seeking Wisdom,” shares Dave.
Before long, Dave went on to launch three more podcasts at Drift and now podcasts are really a cornerstone of anything he does in marketing.
“If 20 years ago somebody said to you, ‘Hey, you can have your own radio station and you really wouldn’t have to pay much to do it. And if you do it right, you could get thousands of your dream customers to listen to you. Would you want to do that?’ For whatever reason, people still don’t seem to think of that when they think of podcasting,” Dave says.
The bottom line? Podcasting hasn’t just inspired connections between brands and listeners. Those who make the magic happen—like the incredible leaders you’ve heard from today—find themselves forever changed. Each of these insightful leaders, all connected through HubSpot at one time or another, have gone on to make podcasting a foundational part of the work they do. Want to hear more from these marketing mavens? Check out their individual episodes in Season 4 of the Casted podcast.
At Casted, we’re as giddy as you are about growing brands and creating raving fans. And we have staked our claim on podcasts as the best way to do it. Let us show you how you can use our exclusive B2B podcasting platform to access, amplify, and attribute your podcast’s ROI.
Listen to the full INBOUND episode below.