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Episode 22: Thinking Outside the Box with James Gilbert

Welcome to Episode 22 of HubShots!

Interview: Thinking Outside the Box with James Gilbert (@jatgilbert) – HubSpot Demand Gen Marketing Manager Asia Pacific

Recorded: Friday 12 February and Wednesday 24 February

In this episode we interview James Gilbert, Demand Generation Marketing Manager for HubSpot Asia Pacific and discuss:

– Marketing on community sites (Medium, Product Hunt, LinkedIn Pulse, Reddit)
– owned, earned, paid media
– short term versus long term traffic channels
– the value of being an authority figure in your industry
– how building owned media can help you increase your pricing
– the benefits of owned media protection
– building a moat with owned media: http://www.inc.com/laura-montini/how-the-value-of-marketing-appreciates.html
– distributing your content on other platforms such as Medium and LinkedIn Pulse
– feedback loop between marketing and sales – SLAs
– goal: leads that close
– constantly kicking off new campaigns
– tip for LinkedIn sponsored content

Follow James on Twitter at @jatgilbert

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Interview Transcript

James Gilbert: Okay. So I work at HubSpot. I’m based in the Sydney office, and I look after demand gen for the APAC region. So that essentially means I need to make sure we’ve got enough leads and marketing-qualified leads for our sales team.

Ian Jacob: Wow. Is it just yourself or do you work a part of a larger team?

James Gilbert: So I’m part of a larger team. So we have a marketing team in APAC and we’re slowly building it out in regions too, so we’ve just hired someone in Japan, someone in Southeast Asia, and then there’s a few people based essentially here in Sydney.

Craig Bailey: So what we’re interested in talking with you today about is tips and kind of like strategies for marketing managers. And I guess this is kind of almost what you do in a way.

James Gilbert: Yeah.

Craig Bailey: And so it’s really good to touch about some of the things that you’re doing to drive leads for the business. So what have you seen working especially in the last year or so in terms of marketing and driving leads?

James Gilbert: Yeah, so really interesting trend we’ve noticed and have started experimenting with is actually marketing on community sites. So if you think like medium as a publishing platform, we started doing a lot of efforts around that. We recently did a campaign where we launched one of our tools that has existed for a while, Website Grader, we put it on Product Hunt, and that was very, very successful in driving, I think, more visits than it’s ever had, and it’s been around for quite a while. So we’re noticing those third-party platform popping up as a great distribution mechanisms.

Ian Jacob:I was just going to ask you, was this purely an APAC thing in terms of the Product Hunt thing or is that something that was driven out of Boston?

James Gilbert: So that was driven out of APAC. It affects the company globally because it naturally like has a global audience but that was an initiative we undertook and we promoted the tool on Product Hunt. I think it’s the 28th highest up-voted product of all time on Product Hunt, and generated lots and lots of visitors and leads for the business, so it was very successful.

Interviewer: That’s fantastic. So when you talk about leads, now we know we can obviously segment people down, or segment these leads down. Were they mainly to do for the web platform or was it actually to do for inbound or the HubSpot platform? What was the goal essentially?

James Gilbert: Okay. So with this particular tool, so with Website Grader, you enter your details and you kind of grade your website and then you send the results there. So that’s what people’s intention was when they came to Website Grader, but the great thing for us as a company is then we’ve got their data and we can continue to send them information around different things they might be interested in, and hopefully bring them to down the funnel.

Craig Bailey: So that’s really interesting. You’ve actually then talked about using other web properties as kind of a referral traffic. It kind of raises the question in terms of, I guess, the different channels you use. And I know one of the things that you’re very mindful of is this breakdown of earned media, versus paid media, versus owned media. How would you kind of frame that for a marketing manager in terms of how they consider each of those channels? And maybe what’s the definition of those channels as the best point?

James Gilbert: Yeah, so when we think about owned, it’s kind of all the assets that we create. So it’ll be like our ebooks and our blog posts and then even tools like Website Grader, and how that helps us attract visitors. And then, obviously, paid is just all your advertisements that you do, and sometimes, depending on your business, you actually might need some owned assets to really promote by those paid channels. And sometimes if you’re a company that more just sells products, you can probably advertise just around those actual products, and that’s essentially how you bring people in. And then earned is really the distribution that you get from your owned assets that’s from other websites. So other people finding out about your content and linking to you, and if they’ve got a particular blog that maybe generates a lot of traffic, you’d call that earned media because of the strength of your owned asset.

Craig Bailey: Right. So reaching out to them for them to recommend you or endorse you, and let them drive traffic.

James Gilbert: Yeah, or like I’ve heard quite a few stories where people, on communities, like Reddit and things like that, have picked up a story, and then that has kind of gone on to other websites maybe like Hacker News or something, and that’s resulted in a lot of referral traffic, and that’s a great example of earned media.

Craig Bailey: Right. And so what would you say to marketing managers that, I guess, are putting more priority on paid then as a channel over others? Do you see issues with that?

James Gilbert: Yeah, I see a few issues. I mean, it can work for certain if your economics makes sense. I mean, we do paid as well. But part of the thinking is that it’s a bit of a short-term solution, and it also doesn’t give you a lot of things that you might get if you pursued more kind of an owned inbound strategy. But if you pursue the owned inbound strategy, I imagine it does take longer to start showing benefits. But then when it does, not only are you getting that benefit over a longer time horizon, and so the net costs of any traffic you’ll be getting will be continually decreasing. But it’s also raising you as an authority figure. The fact that you’re getting that traffic is clearly indicating that people are interested in what you have to say, and the fact that the traffic is growing means that there’s valuable content. And I think that puts you in a really strong position as a business because it’s putting you as a thought leader, and then that has all sorts of benefits.

It means you get a lot more earned media just by the fact that people look to you as a reference point. It also means, from a business level, you can probably do things like price your product higher because you are seen as that kind of the elite standard within your industry. And I think that’s a really powerful thing that not a lot of businesses talk about . If you look at someone that developed a really strong inbound strategy over a medium time horizon versus someone that just went down the paid route, maybe the person at the paid route would get stronger results initially. But once you got 12, 24 months down the track, if that person was still pursuing a purely paid kind of media mix, they’ve got no protection from someone starting up and just pursuing the same path with the same budget, they’ll get the same results.

Whereas the person that went down, the kind of, the slower but probably more impactful content-driven approach, and in year two, someone has to pay a lot just to get to the same level, let alone anything beyond that company. So I think there’s a lot of benefits.

Craig Bailey: That’s an excellent point. And earlier when we were chatting, you mentioned this idea of building a moat between your own business with your earned media versus a competitor.

James Gilbert: Yeah, so I mean, in that example, if someone, if you had pursued the paid strategy for the last cycle of your business for someone to compete, all they need is the same budget and they’re able to do it, and they’re probably able to do it with equal authority to their audience. Whereas if someone pursued that kind of inbound strategy, they’re a thought leader, they’ve got huge economic advantages because you’re going to need a budget just to get to the same level as they are, and then any budget beyond that, they might be able to match. So I think from a pricing standpoint, it’s brilliant from making sure you compare to this, can’t compete with you that easily, it’s brilliant. It’s not only good for marketing. It’s really good for the business.

Craig Bailey: Fantastic insight.

Ian Jacob: Now, James, would you say that this is a saleable business asset? Have people invested in this? And is there a system in place?

James Gilbert: Yeah.

Ian Jacob: It’s a saleable business asset.

James Gilbert: I think it would have a huge impact on your valuation if you were selling the business. I mean, you just need to look at, like the fact that some media businesses get bought. And essentially, if you’ve developed a really strong inbound strategy, you are tapping a media business onto your core business. When you think about someone that has a purely paid strategy, I don’t see why they would get much of a valuation at all because all it takes to compete with them is budget and the same products, which is probably very easily sourced these days.

Craig Bailey: All right. So we want talk to you a little bit also just in terms of trends that are happening. You touched on this at the start. But are you seeing any trends change in terms of marketing that marketing managers should be aware of?

James Gilbert: Yeah, so there’s definitely been a trend for the last kind of 12 to 18 months where people were spending a lot more of their traditional AdWords budgets on, like paid social channels. Like I know Facebook is allowing people to do really interesting things, and a lot of people are seeing a lot of success there. And I think it also works better with…you do have that more kind of content strategy if you are going down a channel like Facebook. You can kind of use the power of quality content to make those ads cheaper in terms of their ranking algorithm. If your content is what is deemed to have a good quality score, the ads costs you less. So it’s a combination of those platforms getting to a real critical mass where you can pretty much advertise to anyone, and the content have been very appealing and driving down the costs of those ads that I think is seeing most platforms rise.

That’s probably the most noticeable one I’ve seen on the paid front. And then on the content front, like I said before, the emergence of these platforms like medium and a few other areas like that where they’re really becoming a huge distribution channel for the content, and now it’s not just enough to have the content on your own site. You really need to be getting it on platforms like that, or like LinkedIn, also something like that, to bring in a wider audience.

Ian Jacob: So, James, if someone had never tried any of these other platforms, how do you get started?

James Gilbert: Yes, so the great thing is they’re super easy and they’re also free. So with LinkedIn Pulse and Medium, you just simply setup an account and then you can start writing your content. I would definitely assess the landscape first, try to see what type of content has done well in those platforms in the past. You can use tools like BuzzSumo to look at like social interactions around particular themes and see what has really resonated with people, and try to know that the piece of content you’re creating will have distribution when you do it, and do that by looking at what’s been successful in the past.

Ian Jacob: Excellent. So now, moving on from that. You’re obviously providing marketing-qualified leads to sales. How much interaction do you have with sales and how does that shape a lot of what you do on a day-to-day basis?

James Gilbert: Yeah, so we interact all the time. I just was in a meeting with them about five minutes ago. So it’s a constant, and it’s a great… you want to have a constant feedback work between the two systems because it’s not enough for me to be generating leads. Our goal is to generate business and which requires that I’m generating the right leads. So I don’t want to be feeding the sales team leads that won’t close. I want to be generating them the absolute best quality leads that raise more volume so that we can hit our revenue targets which is ultimately what’s going to keep us in business. So I think it’s absolutely vital that you have clear lines of communication between the two groups, and a great way to do that is through having an agreement like a marketing service level agreement.

And I’m actually working on this at the moment which is us looking at the revenue targets the sales team has to hit, and then backtracking to determine how many marketing-qualified leads that would be, and then we’re going to make a commitment to them to hit that target every month.

Ian Jacob: Fantastic. That is really good. So, OK, so that’s great. Now, how do you track it all, and how often do you meet with them? Like, what are the specifics of this?

James Gilbert: Yeah, so we track it all in HubSpot, naturally. We use the tool ourselves and we just setup some reports there that can identify this for us. So we setup the goal and then we just track towards that goal during the month. And we meet…there’s formal meetings once a month, and then ad hoc meetings, I would say, like multiple ad hoc meetings weekly. And the dashboard, as to how we’re tracking, gets emailed to everyone every night so everyone knows if we’re tracking to the goal we need to. And we do that through a waterfall graph so you can see if we’re tracking at the right volume at the right time of the month.

Craig Bailey: So just in terms of how you time your campaigns, because you’re seeing that growth daily, how often do you actually creating campaigns? Because I could imagine that that Product Hunt campaign that you mentioned, that would have taken a fair bit of planning, and then you’re setting up how that’s going to be promoted and all that kind of things. So it’s not like you just dreamed that up today and you did it the next day.

James Gilbert: Yeah.

Craig Bailey: There’s a bit of planning involved.

James Gilbert: Yeah.

Craig Bailey: How often are you actually kicking off new campaigns that are actually contributing to leads?

James Gilbert: Yeah, so we’re constantly kicking off new campaigns. We have quite a big marketing team now as a company. I think we’re at around 110 people, and we’re lucky in APAC that we can leverage things that are happening in North America, and just by the work we’ve done as a company over the last 10 years, we are getting north of three million visitors a month to our marketing URLs. So that generates a fantastic baseline of leads, and marketing-qualified leads. And what we can do is once we know our service level agreement and what number of MQLs our sales team require to hit our revenue goals, we can look at what kind of lead volume we can expect from those organic channels that we’ve been developing for so long, and then identify where a gap might be, and what type of campaign is best appropriate to kind of plug that gap.

Ian Jacob: Excellent. And our final question, can you share with us a pearl of wisdom that you have gained the last 6 to 12 months? Something that really stands out that can make a difference to somebody who’s listening.

James Gilbert: Okay. I’m going to betray my HubSpot roots a little bit and give a paid pearl of wisdom, although you need content too to make it work.

James Gilbert: But with LinkedIn sponsored updates, the way that algorithm works is you don’t want to just put up one piece of content. You want to put up four at the same time, and no more than four because it won’t have any impact on there. They will only show those four. And you can put up the same piece of content with different images, and over the weeks see which pieces performing best and then cancel the other three and only support that one piece of content, because what it’ll do is they’ll rank it in terms of how prevalent they want it to be in the newsfeed and how little what should cost you. And just by making sure you’re doing that, it can save you a lot of money on advertising with LinkedIn sponsored updates.
HubShots Episode 22

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About the Author

HubShots: A weekly podcast for Marketing Managers discussing HubSpot and Inbound Marketing. Hosted by Ian Jacob and Craig Bailey.

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