How to be a marketing opportunist
  • 11 Apr 2019
  • 5 Minutes to read
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How to be a marketing opportunist

  • Dark
  • PDF

Article Summary

Kieran Flanagan
Keiran Flanagan
VP of Marketing , Hubspot

About the speaker
Kieran Flanagan is the VP of Growth at HubSpot, a marketing and sales software company. He is responsible for the growth of HubSpot's freemium products, monetization of their freemium funnels and optimization of their global web strategy

Conference: SaaStock 2018

In this article, Kieran Flanagan discusses his marketing experiments that led to real growth stories. Also, the tactics that were tested and adopted by companies that crossed the start-up and tended to scale-up in the growth stage. This can be intimidating, but understanding the concepts and experimenting it in your company can produce significant results. Let's dive in...

Growing in Hubspot International business

Kieran and his team of 12 people was the part of the first teams at Hubspot who watched its growth from a single office to many offices, many people and many X revenue growths. After this success, he was again invited to be a part of another mission-Hubspot's free chrome extension and which later turned into a freemium business.
It's interesting to hear in Kieran's words "So by the time Hubspot had given a small group of people, the task of going away into the dark corner of the office building to figure out the way of how they would disrupt Hubspot's current business model. Being a typical SaaS company, we generated many traffic leads and converted those leads to customers, and they release this free Chrome extension called sidekick, and they went to market through a freemium"
So this is what we call as genuine Product led Growth- by providing a freemium chrome extension and allowing the customers to upgrade to paid products through a touch motion. Freemium is an integral way of how we take products to market.

Learnings from experiments

Scaling at growth stage is even harder than at the start-up stage. It is tough to continue to grow demand for your services and products. Moreover, the reason is you have to either find new growth flavors within the existing channel or find brand new channels that have a material impact on your numbers.

How to break Growth Ceilings?

The scale-ups that succeed figure out how to break through the growth ceilings or find ways to avoid them in the journey. Here are the tactics that are mostly about people because the first thing that matters for you to be a successful company, is that the people you hire matters a lot. Hiring talented people and onboard them to the value of the company, this is to show them that they can have a real impact on company growth. This is the "wow" moment for employees when they feel connected to the company, and we try hard to retain them. Also having a diverse team is best for your scale. As a scale-up you have a lot of complex challenges and opportunities, people from diverse backgrounds tend to have a lot of different perspectives on how to solve them.
hire ppl.png

Kieran adds "the number one tip I would give is to build a remote work culture that has helped me more than anything else. So that is my job as a leader."

Things to Remember

Anyone team does not own breakthrough success, but it depends on the collaboration of teams. This is essential for scale-ups and product-led growth companies.
True collaboration happens when all people in those teams share the same metrics for success.

collaboration teams.png

How to start experimenting with new channels?

Most scale-ups at some point in time have to find new channels to support their future growth. For example, Canva has a great approach to this combo have grown like a weed. They are one of the most successful companies who do freemium, and they assign startup. They assign co-founders to each New Growth opportunity. They treat it like a start-up who come to them.

Prioritization model matters a lot in scale-up, with all the opportunities and challenges we need to prioritize work items. Kieran shares his work on a 2x2 matrix as below.
new channels for growth.png

Scalable Growth- This is the growth bucket for the next 12 months with all existing and predictable challenges.
Incubator- Like the Canva model, provide the support for the ideas and move them to green quadrant.
Gold quadrant- High return and low effort. It is hard in scale and exists in the startup.
Black hole- Lot of effort and no return.
We need to keep moving things from incubator to scalable growth and then to gold.

Relaunch content and website

In predicting the growth for the next 24 months and with changes in the Google search algorithm Hubspot relaunched every one of their sites. Google is always working to make their user experience better. In 2018, Google ran 200k experiments that resulted in 240 changes (1.2%) to the search algorithm. The results were that the growth team faced many failures than success, but the least amount of success contributed to higher growth. Since Google and has evolved into voice and audio, they need to describe your products in feature snippets. A full stack team can look for opportunities to grow through snippets (text, video, and audio). It reorganized all their content around topic clusters- means Google cares more about the topics than keywords. Moreover, so they interlinked all of the content relevant to specific topics and relaunched all of their sites.
changes in google search.png

How and when to diversify your time?

You need to diversify the time spent between the things you know that will contribute to the growth and the new channels which you need to explore. So, to start with this calculate the time and money spent on existing channels against new channels as in the following graph.

new channels for growth.png

Wrapping it up, spend your time and energy in hiring growth-minded people and try to retain them at high rates. True breakthrough success depends on team collaboration that shares their metrics for success. Balance your time spent on existing growth channels and discover new ones.
If you are interested in growth classes, follow Kieran's podcast at

About Hubspot
HubSpot is a developer and marketer of software products for inbound marketing and sales. Its products and services aim to provide tools for social media marketing, content management, web analytics and search engine optimization. It is an inbound marketing software platform that helps companies attract visitors, convert leads, and close customers.

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