HubSpot Attacks Middle Of The Funnel On Its Quest To Dominate The Marketing Software Industry

HubSpot has been on a tear, claiming close to 7,000 clients using its Inbound Marketing software to generate leads at the top of the funnel. Most of these clients are self-employed business owners who do their own marketing and small businesses that have a couple marketers on staff.

At its Analyst Day yesterday, HubSpot’s Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah shared some new capabilities of what HubSpot now calls All-in-One Marketing Software. The news should surprise no one, as Brian was clear when he acquired Performable last June that the company wanted to expand from top of the funnel to middle of the funnel and move further up-market to the medium-size enterprise space.

 Here are a couple of my takeaways from the day:

  •  Expanding into middle of the funnel makes perfect sense, as the B2B marketing leaders I work with who are trying to transform marketing from providers of "air cover" to drivers of demand have to drastically increase the flow of new leads into the funnel to make it worthwhile to automate the engagement of those people as they move through the funnel. When HubSpot’s SMB customers improve top-of-funnel performance, they move the demand-gen problem further down and are using tools like Eloqua and Marketo. Now these folks can have a single platform for managing the top and the middle.
  • What HubSpot showed was a very well-designed email engine and contact database, with ability to create rules for dynamic list segmentation and workflow for automated emails and actions when people fill out forms. While I agree with its claim that this is 90% of what people use in marketing automation, I was disappointed to not see more of the vision Brian laid out when acquiring Performable of “embracing communication and collaboration into MoFu (middle of funnel) beyond just emailing segments of your database.” Your prospects who first interact with you through social media and mobile want to continue the interaction through the same mechanisms. HubSpot has a great opportunity to bring its top-of-funnel experience and expertise in channels other than email into the MoFu relationships, and I was hoping to see it.
  • I like how everyone on the HubSpot team sings the same tune on ease of use and simplicity. As they build out more marketing automation capability for middle of the funnel, there is a mantra to keep it “Apple-easy” and not fall into the feature glut and resulting complexity of many of the other systems out there. These aren't just words; it is HubSpot’s DNA.
  • As HubSpot moves up-market, there are a lot of departmental deployments of marketing automation within large enterprises that are so decentralized and independent that they operate very much like HubSpot’s historical SMB market, so I expect to see HubSpot take on more of these logos.
  • But also in the enterprise space, they will be encountering marketing departments that are mired in the inertia of how things have always been done and the challenges of getting the behavioral changes required to succeed at the middle of the funnel, particularly in historically sales-led organizations. A cottage industry of demand-generation strategy firms has formed over the past few years, with firms like Left Brain DGA, The Annuitas Group, and Renaissance OPTI. I (and others) advise enterprises to formulate their lead-to-revenue strategy before selecting marketing technology, and some have started to listen, so HubSpot will need to build a partner program with this breed of agency to be a player up-market.

If you’re a B2B marketing leader in a larger enterprise, HubSpot should now be on your radar. While HubSpot is moving further down the funnel, the marketing automation vendors are adding more capabilities at the top of the funnel. It’s too early to make a call on which approach will result in the best solution. I have some thoughts on this I'll save for an upcoming post. Nevertheless, the advice is the same, identify your prospect engagement strategies and your lead management processes first, not the feature requirements checklists, and be real about what capabilities you really need.

Comments

MOFU for the Masses

Jeff,

Thanks for the "analyst take" on HubSpot's strategy and recent moves. As HubSpot Partners, we are decidedly insiders, i.e. huge fans of HubSpot and have generated quite a nice business providing HubSpot-centric services to our clients across many industries. The move to MOFU and even BOFU makes perfect sense as we try to more closely align sales and marketing and deliver ROI faster through sales funnel optimization. We have modeled our approach after HubSpot's as well, moving down the funnel and up-market in our emphasis as well. As you said, the challenge for us (and HubSpot) will be displacing the current vendors and service companies, but maybe not. I think there's plenty of room for collaboration in this space - it just hasn't been tried before.

MoFu delight

Glad for the objective look at this Jeff. As another HubSpot Partner voice, like John above, there are challenges to changing current vendor relationships, and in some cases not at all.

I've been also seeing a hybrid combination of some sorts, Eloqua + HubSpot, and in some cases Marketo + HubSpot, although they compete, especially with HubSpot adding in more MoFu tools every day.

Definitely shows the need and importance for all companies to be thinking, and they are per surveys and stats, to be focused on lead management and conversion.

A needed evolution!

Good to see Hubspot focusing on moving further down the funnel. As a past user of the platform (who liked it enough to try and bring it over to a new company), I think this is definitely a much-needed step if Hubspot is hoping to drive more enterprise adoption. The feature-set was great for small businesses but sorely lacking in features that would support longer, more complex sales cycles and larger organizations. Looks like a step in the right direction!