Open Mic is a monthly Q&A Series by Invoca that offers a fresh perspective from today’s smartest marketers working at start ups, brands, agencies, and everything in between.

headshot-2013For this month’s Open Mic, I was super excited to chat with Meghan Keaney Anderson, VP of Marketing at Hubspot, where she leads the content, product marketing and customer marketing teams. Together with her teams, she’s responsible for the company’s blogs, podcast, and overall content strategy as well as the company’s product launch and customer demand campaigns

We talked about the evolution of Hubspot’s content strategy, the keys to mobile conversion, and why it’s important to always be jealous.

Q1: How has Hubspot established and maintained its reputation as the pioneer of inbound marketing?

A: I think there’s really three phases here, the first being around the creation of content. Our founders embraced the idea that people no longer wanted generic ads and batch-and-blast communications from brands. People were no longer paying attention to these marketing tactics, but they were increasingly responding to relevant, interesting, educational content.

Capitalizing on this trend, Hubspot built up a robust marketing blog and content library that were critical to the company’s early days and really sparked our growth. This content helped Hubspot to get found online through organic search, and the result was this: hockey-stick growth where the amount of traffic and leads continued to increase, despite content production remaining constant.   

Phase two was about the optimization of that content. The special thing about content is that it compounds over time. In a given month, 70% of our traffic comes from content we wrote in the past. So we decided to dig into this trend and determine the top 15 posts – regardless of when they were published – that are killing it for us month over month. Then, determine how we optimize those posts to keep them fresh, including bringing in new data and improving the conversion paths off of that content.  Now we have a team dedicating time to “optimizing the past,” and it’s really been paying off in terms of growth and making sure that we squeeze every last result out of that content.

I think that gave way to another era of Hubspot marketing, which is this idea of experimentation. Learning to find opportunities for growth and conduct experiments with a clear thesis, a defined outcome, and a timeframe to help us get us get smarter every single month on one point of conversion or another.

In summary, our strategy has been about getting some really strong content out there, figuring out how to optimize the past and always looking for new growth strategies within our marketing.

Q2: You have an incredibly well-read blog, podcast (The Growth Show), and Medium publication called ReadThink. What’s the process that you go through when evaluating whether to launch a new content channel or initiative?

A: Inbound marketing as a philosophy is centered around how people want to consume information. Ten years ago, the mentality was to pull people into your website through search. Now we’re in this stage where content is decentralizing and moving away from the company website. Where people might have just gone to your blog in the past, now they’re spending time getting content in bite-sized pieces from sites like Medium, Facebook Instant Articles, podcasts, and even mobile apps. When we started seeing these patterns in behavior, that’s when it made sense for us to experiment with some off-site content.

If you’re trying to figure out whether you should start a podcast, Medium publication or get on Snapchat, my advice would be to first understand your audience and figure out where they are. There’s a lot of assumptions we make about who our audience is and isn’t, so do your research. Especially in B2B, we tend to forget that the businesses we’re selling to are filled with real people. What they use in their personal lives with their friends might just be a hop skip and a jump away from where they engage professionally.

The next thing would be to set some timelines and goals for how long you’re going to experiment with a particular channel and what you’re trying to prove or get out of it.

Q3: How has the rise of mobile impacted your marketing efforts?

A: It fluctuates, but about 30% of Hubspot’s web and blog traffic is coming from mobile. All of our web content and emails are of course responsive, adapting to various device types and sizes.

What we’ve been looking at more recently is how behavior changes when someone is reading content or making a purchase decision on mobile. What’s going on in their heads as they’re scrolling and clicking on the go? We’ve found that people are much more action oriented on mobile – they’re on a mission to learn or purchase, not to browse the way they would on a desktop.

In response to this, we’ve developed conversion strategies where our platform recognizes when someone is on a mobile device and automatically updates the lead form to either disappear entirely or significantly truncate the number of form fields. We also feature click-to-call phone numbers across our website, so that people have the option to have a live conversation right away. We’re also closely watching the emergence of messaging apps and how that will impact the way people interact with businesses.

Q4: Where do you find inspiration for new campaigns or ways engaging Hubspot’s audience?

A: I think you need to build it into the structure and priorities of your team. A couple very tactical things that we do include a bi-weekly “out of the box” meeting, where the team gathers – usually at the end of the day with beer and food – to share things from the outside world that are inspiring them from a content standpoint. We surface a broad range of ideas and things we can learn from and implement into our own marketing. For example, we were recently talking about the cool interactive pieces produced by the New York Times around the Rio Olympics. In between those meetings, team members are encouraged to share ideas and inspiration on our #jealousylist Slack channel.

Q5: What advice do you have for young people who are just starting out in marketing? Anything you wish you would have known when you were that stage of your career?

A: There are two pieces I would point to here. The first is to leave a trail. If you’re starting out, don’t be afraid to start a blog and create interesting content on any of the social media channels. The very first thing I do when interviewing someone or looking for candidates is to figure out what they’ve done online and if there’s substance there. There are too many people at the early stage of their career who are afraid to put themselves out there for fear they’re not good enough. I would rather hire  somebody who blogs infrequently than someone with no record whatsoever. We live in a magical time where anyone has the power to go out there and create something, and the amount of people who don’t do it is staggering to me.

The second piece of advice is a lesson learned from my own career, which is that I waited way too long to study numbers and the economics of how my content was doing. I didn’t need to be afraid of that because it has opened up so much for me in terms of understanding what makes a good piece of content. So, even if you’re prone to right brain activities like writing, don’t corner yourself.  Make sure that you learn how to analyze the metrics that are relevant to your role – it will pay off!

Q6:  What model is your first cell phone? When did you get it? What was your ring tone?

A: I got my first cell phone on September 12, 2001, the day after 9/11. I was in college and my Dad showed up at my apartment unannounced with a bag containing first aid equipment, canned goods and a Nokia early-days cell phone with an antenna that you actually pull up. I think the ring tone selection in those days was limited, so I picked the least ear numbing one!

Laura Schierberl

Posted by Laura Schierberl

Laura Schierberl is director of content marketing and communications at Invoca. Prior to that she held positions at Oracle, Responsys and Hill & Knowlton where she honed her skills in all things PR, content and social media. Laura earned a B.A. in Spanish and Communications at Wake Forest University. Fun facts: she loves crime TV shows and her labrador has dabbled in modeling.

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