Community is a hot topic at the moment. And for good reason — it’s a strong and proven strategy for sustainable growth. Mark Kilens is the OG of community-led growth. He founded HubSpot Academy and has built Drift’s Insider community into the powerhouse that it is today. I’m thrilled to share this conversation with you.
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(6:19) When you’re starting something new, the key is activity and quick feedback.
My golden rule is activity, activity, activity. So get quick feedback and cycles on whatever you’re trying to do. And do that in unscalable ways. We started off doing weekly topical series-based webinars that were very educational. And then we built a blog, guides, and worksheets; we built a ton of content, and through that started to build up a community.
(9:57) The difference between product-led growth and community-led growth is the difference between acquiring free users and generating members.
To simplify it down, it’s members as community-led growth, and you’re using content and community-esque things to drive that. And then you have users for product-led growth, and you’re using your product to create that value and as a way to introduce them to the brand.
(13:52) To measure community-led growth, look at your engagement metrics and how the various data pools can be integrated together.
Think of it as a lake. Each of your engagement sets of data is a lake of engagement data. You’re trying to filter that down into a river, so that they become a user or a member. So the question is, how do you design those lakes and rivers, but to do it in a way that doesn’t feel forced, and it’s very natural for the buyer to go and explore and find?
(19:27) However, focus first on members, not metrics.
This is a thing to help you grow your brand, engage more with your buyers, educate more of your buyers, take some pressure off the sales team. So when they talk to the sales development folks, those buyers are warmed up. They feel like they understand what your solution is. And they’re just more educated.They’re more bought-in at the end of the day.
(20:44) For community-led growth to work, you must start by going where the people already are, and you must be willing to invest in headcount and strategy.
You’ve got to grow an audience, and then turn that audience. And then provide that audience with something more valuable that they’ll be excited about, that they’ll then share. And that’s how you can start to create that membership flywheel, if you will, that community-led growth motion.
(25:49) Having people who passionately believe in the brand vision, mission, customers, and products is essential.
Do you believe? I think that’s the first step. You start by building up belief, and you build up results. But what you really need to be successful with this is passion. So much of this comes down to who actually works on your community-led growth initiative.
(28:25) Brand is everything. Understand the heart, soul, and mind of your brand, and make sure you have distinctive personalities that represent the community early on.
Brand is one of the only ways to be differentiated. There’s better, and then there’s differentiated, and those two things are different. A lot of people chase better, but what you really should chase, in many ways, is being more different. And that’s where a lot of brand stuff comes in.
(Laura 1:17) Okay, Mark, I am excited about our conversation today! So thanks so much for coming on the show.
(Mark 1:25) My pleasure, Laura. Thank you for having me on the show. Looking forward to the conversation, too.
(Laura 1:30) Awesome. So I like to always start out with just a little bit of background. If you could share a little bit about Drift, and also what you do there.
(Mark 1:39) Yeah, sure. I’m the Vice President of Content and Community over at Drift. I’ve been with Drift for about three-plus years now. Drift is a conversational marketing and sales platform. We call it the Conversation Cloud. And what we do is we help marketers and salespeople really figure out how to match the way buyers, specifically B2B buyers, buy today. A lot has changed — especially because of what’s happened within the last two years — to how people buy things online from a business to business standpoint. So we help companies really improve their buying experience, across the website, across email, across video, across all the channels they use to engage with buyers. So it’s a bit more personalized. It’s more real time. It’s just a better experience. Our core philosophy is “everything starts with a conversation,” so we really focus on helping buyers and marketers and sellers connect and build those relationships through the power of using conversations.
(Laura 2:47) Yeah, awesome. And I’m sure a lot of people have engaged with the, you know, Drift product, even if they haven’t realized it, as they have been looking around online as well.
(Mark 2:58) It’s true. We have like, you know, the classic experience you would have on a website through live chat, or hopefully a very well-crafted chatbot-type experience. It could be an email-type experience you’re having with Drift, more in the background. It could be Drift Video, which is free to everyone, by the way. So you can check out Drift Video, which has a chat experience integrated into Drift Video. It could be one of our newer SMS voice products. So yeah, it’s interesting. We just try to remove — it’s a very cliche thing to say at this point, but remove the friction from communication and that relationship building process.
(Laura 3:35) Awesome, awesome. So you also founded HubSpot Academy, and I would love to know a little bit about the story behind that and how that played into your interest and focus on community.
(Mark 3:51) Yeah, so I’ve been, you could say, in the marketing space, the marketing discipline, for 15 years. I’ve worked at three businesses since I came out of college. So I tend to stick around, you know, at a business for a long time. I was at HubSpot for eight and a half years. And the reason I joined HubSpot was my past — at my past company before HubSpot, my first job out of school, we used HubSpot. We were one of the first — I know this because they made a big deal of it — first 1000 businesses to use HubSpot. And this was during the Great Recession, and we saw a massive success in helping grow the business because of HubSpot, in many ways, and the whole inbound marketing movement and methodology and mindsets.
So I decided that, look, like I think HubSpot is onto something pretty big. I feel like I want to get a job at HubSpot. So after about two and a half years, you know, at that first company, I was able to join HubSpot. And because I had that customer point of view and that customer experience, that deep empathy and that feeling and understanding for customers, I came into HubSpot with the idea of: there’s something more that HubSpot could do for its customers to help the customers really understand and get more value from what HubSpot was selling at that time, which was really just marketing tools. It wasn’t a suite. It wasn’t a platform. You know, this was back in 2010. It was a collection of mostly, you know, top-of-funnel tools to help you attract people to your website and convert them, engage them, in a way.
And I said, “Hey, let me do this nights and weekends project,” with the help of dozens of other people at HubSpot at the time. So thank you to everyone who helped out with this, this experiment — it really was an experiment — that then lent itself to creating HubSpot Academy. And that then kind of kicked off this huge kind of community and brand and a lot of other things, which I’m so proud of today, from all the people that helped build it. So yeah, I mean, it started off as a pure experiment, nights and weekends project. And we can unpack it more if you want. But that’s the genesis for how it got started.
(Laura 5:58) Yeah. Yeah, it’s incredible. I mean, speaking as someone who has done many of the courses, it’s a great thing. So yeah, I mean, I’d love to hear a little bit more about, you know, how you maybe conducted the experiment: how you proceeded to get feedback, and integrated that, and all of that. Maybe just a little overview would be interesting.
(Mark 6:19) Yeah. Yeah, it’s definitely a lot to unpack. I mean, at the end of the day, like when you’re starting something new, my golden rule is activity, activity, activity. So like, get quick feedback and cycles on whatever you’re trying to do. And do that in unscalable ways, things that don’t scale, necessarily. So we started off as doing weekly topical, kind of series-based webinars that were very educational. Very educational, not just like us saying, “Oh, why this is important. And here’s like a high-level thing and how to think about it,” like no. Like, this is a quick update on why it’s important. Here’s how to really do it specifically. And here’s what it can look like, either using examples or showing the product or bringing in product managers or other customers, other people that have made this idea of, for example, how to write amazing blog articles that, at the time, you know, had huge impact on your SEO and traffic, how to do that in very specific ways.
So we did a whole, like, I remember, like a month-long, every week for four weeks, webinar series on that to prove that out. And at the time, you know, very few people were doing this. So we were getting 800-1200 people to attend each webinar live. And I wouldn’t even call it a webinar. It was a training session. It was a workshop. And we did that for three or four months, and the feedback was just outstanding. People were like, “Wow, this is helpful. This is awesome.” And then we started to like, instrument it in a way we could see, from who was attending, you know, what companies were they at? Can we start to isolate this down to, say, what was their product usage before attending then after attending, so like, pre-90 days to post-90 days? How can we attract more people to attend? We started to do a live training twice a week. You know, we built a blog; we built a ton of guides and worksheets; we built a ton of content. It was just a ton of content, training — started to build up a community, at the end of the day.
And what we found was, through a lot of these mini experiments and just trying things, that we did have an impact on customer adoption. We also found that we could use this during the new customer onboarding phase to help customers be more successful and scale out how HubSpot was onboarding customers. That was a huge advantage. We found it helpful for support people, or CSMs, to use this so they didn’t have to do ongoing training on the phone. Like, a CSM should not — in my opinion should not — be doing training. If it is training, it is then highly customized to the account and that business objective and need. If they’re just doing just, you know, generic overall training, like they probably shouldn’t be doing that. That should be something that, like, HubSpot Academy-type thing helps initiate and do.
So we learned all these different things, and after about a year and a half, it was, like, very apparent: even all the way through looking at like NPS comments, people saying, “Oh, wow, this HubSpot Academy thing” — it was called Content Camp as the experiment — “is awesome. We love it. We want more of it. Do this. Like, this is helping.” We decided to fund it as a three-person team and see where it could go from there, give it a little bit more direction and focus, and that started to lead us to understand pretty quickly that this isn’t just a customer success, net dollar retention thing. This is going to be something that can probably be used to generate a lot of — you know, for HubSpot — inbound interests to help grow the brand, you know, help acquire customers, if you will. And that’s what it’s doing today in a pretty big way.
(Laura 9:37) Yeah. Awesome. So that’s a good segue into our topic today, which is community-led growth. So before we dive into the specifics, I’d love for you to — for those who are, you know, new to the concept or you know, not as familiar with it — if you could just kind of define what that is and how it’s different from, say, product-led growth.
(Mark 9:57) Yeah, I mean, I don’t know if this is the right definition; this is my interpretation of that. To keep it simple, and how I think about it, is, from a product-led growth standpoint, you’re trying to acquire users. You’re trying to, you know, acquire free users that then activate or adopt some part of the free product, and you’re trying to then retain them. Through, then, that retention and activation, you upgrade them, either through a purely self-assisted, you know, a non-human, touchless upgrade experience, or maybe a sales assisted path as well.
With community-led growth, you’re not trying to generate users; you’re trying to generate members. So that’s like — keep it really simple — so you have members that are free members of your community. Sign up for HubSpot Academy, sign up for Drift Insider, you become a member. You get all these member benefits. You get a lot of value in the form of, typically, contents and programs, and events, maybe. And you activate those members, right? You activate, like, an activation point, for example, could be they attend — I’ll just keep it simple — when they sign up for one of the courses and they get certified. Right? That completes their activation loop. And then you’re trying to say, okay, great, out of those members, just like your free users, which ones have potential for someone to reach out to talk to them more about the solution? Do they fit into my ICP, right?
And it’s just kind of the same motion. A little bit more sales assisted, I’d say, on the community-led growth side. But this is where it gets interesting. Where, if you have a PLG motion as well, and what we’ve done at HubSpot in the past is you weave those two things together. You start to introduce people through your community-led motion to your products, your free products, in the right way. You cross-pollinate, and you try to cross-pollinate your free users into your more community content-type experience as well. So you start to cross-pollinate, and then that gives you even more ability to scale, because the buyer is buying on their own. Right? They’re coming to their own conclusions. They’re gonna then be, like, in a position to say, “Alright, I’m ready to talk.” And that’s where you selfishly use conversational marketing and sales to make sure that that buying experience is seamless. But to me, to simplify it down again, it’s members as community-led growth, and you’re using content and community-esque things to drive that. And then you have users for product-led growth, and you’re driving — you’re using your product to create that value, and you’re using your product as a way to introduce them to the brand. I’ll pause there.
(Laura 12:31) Yeah, yeah. So that’s really interesting. It brings up a question in my mind: Do you recommend that companies choose one direction over the other? Or do they work together in many ways? What are your thoughts there?
(Mark 12:44) It’s a loaded question. I would need, like, a company example to answer it. I pretty much feel like every, for the most part, every business will or should have a community-led growth function. And again, it’s the idea of membership. I think you have to have a way for it to turn someone into a member of the brand. That’s the key. And I don’t think many people have that today. So I think it’s very early days. At least, again, that’s the way I define it.
Product-led growth, I think is pretty much, you know, if you can do it, if it makes sense, and you can afford to do it — because there is a big product investment to it. It’s a go-to-market strategy. You know, both of these are go-to-market strategies at the end of the day. You have to have that right alignment at the very top to pull, really, either of these off successfully. And I was fortunate to have that at HubSpot and at Drift. So, simply put, yes. But there’s a lot of dependencies.
(Laura 13:39) Right, right. So I know a question a lot of people are going to have is: How do you measure community-led growth? So maybe you could talk a little bit to that, especially how, you know, you guys are doing it with the Drift Insider?
(Mark 13:52) Yeah, I mean, there’s community like — it’s like oh, how do you measure community? — I actually don’t think it’s as hard to measure community as people think. I just think their definition of community is maybe incorrect. So to me, there’s, you know, kind of three core things a marketing team needs to be really good at if you’re trying to really grow and scale a business, and support that business, and be a good, like, steward of the brand in business. And one is brand marketing. Second one is revenue marketing. And the third is customer success, actually.
So like, we kind of talked about customer success in the beginning as it relates to HubSpot Academy. But to unpack your question, I put, you know, this idea of community-led growth, for sure, in all three. But where you get started from a measurement standpoint, it leads into this brand marketing idea, which is engagement. Engagement, engagement, engagement. How do you measure engagement of your brand? So community, in my opinion, is a very brand-forward thing, right? And community teams, and community-led growth, for the majority of companies, I believe it should sit in the marketing team. And we can unpack that if you want.
But measuring engagement. So, all types of engagement. Like, engagement: How many people visit the blog? How many people subscribe to your weekly newsletter, if you have one? How many people subscribe to your blog? How much engagement is going on in social media? How much engagement is happening on YouTube? How much engagement is happening with your podcast? How much engagement is happening with your overall content and offers? How much engagement is happening with your classes or courses, certifications, if you have them? Like, all of this engagement is, in my opinion, like, core to community. So that’s how we look at it. It’s just all these engagement metrics.
Then it’s like saying, “Okay, including email capture” — I would put email capture as an engagement metric. I think lead gen is more brand marketing these days — then it’s like, “Okay, how do I work now with other marketing teams and the sales team and customer success team to turn that engagement into revenue?” That’s where revenue marketing comes into play, and customer success. And then, for a community-led function, it’s like, “Well, selfishly, I want to turn some of that engagement into members.” Just like I said, right? But then also, if you have a product-led growth function, you want to turn some of that into users.
So then it’s like, kind of figuring out through these different… lakes. Think of it as a lake, right? Each of these engagement sets of data is a lake of engagement data. You’re trying to filter that down into a river, so that they become a user or a member, right? So like, how do you design those lakes and rivers, but to do it in a way that doesn’t feel forced, and it’s very natural for the buyer to go and explore and find? So ultimately, it’s engagement to the members, and then how you think about your membership. It’s like, how do you put those members in front of the sales team? How do you deepen the engagement with members? How do you make sure the members that fit into your ICP are getting the right treatment from a buying experience standpoint? So I’ll pause there, in case you have any other follow up questions.
(Laura 16:49) Yeah. So you know, thinking about — like taking Drift as an example — you know, when you’re thinking about designing those streams and whatnot, are you looking at the engagement patterns themselves? Are you looking at information on the accounts and personas and all of that? Kind of how are you thinking about that? Or is it a combination of all of the above?
(Mark 17:12) Yeah, definitely a combination. We definitely segment based off of which of the people fall into our core segment. And then in that segment — we have like four or five different segmentations we look at, based off of how we segment the business. And then we say, okay, great, out of all this engagement, which fits into those five segments by more firmographic information? Then we look at it based off of more persona-based, but persona-based stuff really looks at — we look at that more when they become a member, because we’ll have more information about them, or when they provide us with their email address. Like we need some — some of the segmentation is predicated off of the fact that you have to get a little bit more information or data from the person visiting the website or engaging with whatever. For example, like, we can’t get that if we’re just looking at podcast data that’s offsite. But we do have a lot of podcast data that is actually part of, you know, our Drift infrastructure that we can see, at the end of the day, like, who is engaging with our podcast, and we’re trying to get a lot smarter with that. Casted is one of our providers of software, and they’re building some really interesting ways to help you identify podcast audiences and whatnot.
So yeah, we definitely do that. And then it’s like, great, how does that, those people that are at these accounts that fit within our account model, more from a revenue marketing function — going to that second core job that marketing, I think, has. You know, we have to ask, then, with revenue marketing and others, how do we nurture and mature this engagement into real business? Into revenue? So we view it as a very integrated thing at Drift and at HubSpot. You’ve heard of integrated marketing before? Integrated marketing campaigns? And I think that’s where community has to, where the community teams and the community programs have to be part of that. They can’t be not integrated into all of these other things, or it won’t get as much ROI, and/or it’s not going to feel very natural for maybe the customer at the same time.
(Laura 19:44) Yep. Yeah, and that’s one of the things that I love about this approach. It is so organic, and it feels that way, which I think is, obviously, important, you know, when you’re trying to provide a good experience.
(Mark 19:27) It’s true. Yeah, it has to feel organic. You have to focus first on members, not metrics. That is so important. Kind of going back to the discussion we had about like, you know, what is community-led growth? How do you measure it? Like, both for Drift Insider — which is almost turning three years old now, which is over 50,000 members — like, we just looked at member satisfaction for the first like three months, six months. Yeah, and we were collecting data, starting to look at it, but, like, are people finding value from this, you know, more premium membership experience? And by the way, it’s free. Like, I don’t think you should charge for these membership experiences. You could have, over time, maybe things that are add-ons that you could charge for. But like, our belief at Drift, and it was at HubSpot, is like, this stuff is free. This is a thing to help you grow your brand, engage more with your buyers, educate more of your buyers, take some pressure off the sales team. So when they talk to the sales folks or the sales development folks, those buyers are warmed up, they feel like they understand what your solution is, what you’re talking to them about. And they’re more — they’re just more educated. Right? They’re more bought-in at the end of the day.
(Laura 20:29) Yeah. So I’m sure that there are misconceptions that people have, you know, about community-led growth. What are some of those misconceptions that you see? And, you know, how do you address those?
(Mark 20:44) Yeah, so we have a new podcast, myself and Carly Dell. She’s the VP of Marketing at Pavilion. We started this new podcast called Community Sense. And we get into a little bit of this during our first season. The theme is, like, community is collaborative. I mean, that’s — we actually asked the question during season one, ironically, just to kind of go on a tangent, like, the last question we asked all eight of our guests was: What are the biggest misconceptions when it comes to community building? So there were some great ones. Like, I’ve got to recall my memory now on some of the ones that stood out to me… One would be that, like, you know, you can do it on your own without the help of other teams. It goes back to my comment on integration; like it has to be treated as like a first-class citizen, if you will, to do it right.
Another misconception is, like, it has to be done like, you know, it only can be done on your website. Like no, no, no. Community-led growth, you go to where the people are, right? You go to where your members are or where your potential members are coming from, and you in many ways start there. You know? You do that first. I mean, that’s what Drift did. That’s what HubSpot did. And then it was like, okay, great. Now that we’ve had a spark to the community — you know, Drift’s big spark was seeking wisdom and a lot of the social media presence that happened because of our co-founders, more David Cancel and then Dave Gerhardt, the VP of Marketing at the time. Those sparks that initiate a community-led growth function are really important to figure out what those can be. You know, I really think you need that. Like for HubSpot Academy, it was these Inbound Learning Broadcasts, we called them. And they were these, you know, series of monthly topical-based trainings that we did. And we grew an audience. And you’ve got to grow an audience, and then turn that audience, and then be able to like, you know — I hate to say to “be able to” because not very, it doesn’t sound very good — but then be able to provide that audience with something more valuable that they’ll be excited about, that they’ll then share. And that’s how you can start to create that membership kind of flywheel, if you will, that community-led growth motion.
So there’s a lot of misconceptions at the end of the day. Underinvestment, I’d say, is one more than we can hit on before we pause. If people think like, oh, we don’t need to invest too much in this, or whatever — like, programmatic marketing dollars, maybe not. You might not need to invest too much programmatically, other than, like, doing events. Like, I think events and community go hand-to-hand. So one of the teams that’s underneath me here at Drift is the Global Events Team. Like, we did that very purposefully. Like, they go hand-in-hand together. So, programmatic wise, other than events, you know, you don’t need to spend a lot of money. You need to spend money on headcount, though. Like, you need to make sure, like, you have headcount and a strategy, and it’s funded enough.
And I know, like I’m saying this, and I realize, like, this is not like a simple thing. It’s kind of like, you know, I view it as like, another iteration of almost, you know, inbound marketing in a way. Like where, you know, inbound is like, you know, you exchange an apple for an orange, and I’m gonna have you fill out a form for that exchange to be validated. This time, it’s like, it’s still an exchange, you’re signing up to become a member, but there’s a lot more thought that has to go into it for that membership conversion, if you will, that membership — for that visitor, for that person to become a member. It’s kind of like another evolution of that, almost.
(Laura 24:03) Yeah, yeah. So something you said caught my interest. You know, especially thinking about the audience building when people are first starting out with this, I’m imagining that the experimentation would be a foundational must-have to figure out exactly what is going to resonate with people: what formats they prefer, what channels they’re using. Do you have a recommended framework for that experimentation? Or is it kind of just, you know, pay attention to what you know about your ICP, and kind of create some hypotheses and test them out?
(Mark 24:45) I mean, I would just rip it off from product-led growth experimentation handbooks. It’s really, that’s what we did. So like, a growth team at a company, it’s — a growth team should help both with product-led growth initiatives and community-led growth initiatives. That’s exactly what happened at Hubspot.
(Laura 25:00) Yeah, okay. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.
(Mark) Yeah, it’s a growth marketing function. Yeah. And so it’s really like, you have a control, you have treatments, right? And you really just do the real experimentation frame. You have a hypothesis, right? And you really clearly define the audience, the objectives. Yeah. Like, that’s what I’d recommend. I mean, there are cases where, like, you don’t need to do it to that extreme. Don’t get me wrong. But if you’re really trying to play with funnel mechanics, conversion mechanics, like that’s where I would go.
(Laura 25:30) Right. Awesome. So I would love to hear any other advice that you have for SaaS marketing teams who, maybe they’ve just started exploring community growth, or they are, you know, haven’t started yet, but they’re intrigued. What advice would you have for them?
(Mark 25:49) Do you believe? I think that’s the first step. Like, you gotta believe in this. Like, do you believe — I mean, it’s always philosophical. Everything you do, that’s, I think at the end of the day, it’s successful or not successful, it’s a philosophical thing. It’s a belief thing. Is that part of your kind of culture DNA? Like, if it isn’t, and you’re like, “Oh, we just need to do this, but I don’t really believe in it.” Or like, “Ah, you know, it’s like, we’ve got to do it, but like, whatever.” Like, it’s not gonna work, I don’t think. It might in some rare cases, but… So you’ve got to get that, first, understood. And to do that, sometimes you need to do a test and an experiment, like we did at HubSpot. I think that community-led growth is very part of HubSpot’s core DNA, but for it to become apparent, we had to like, you know, try things. Like, you shouldn’t be expected to just say, “Okay, cool, I’ll get a half a million dollars, or a million dollars, to start this team and do all these things. And off we go.” Like, that’s not how either Drift Insider or HubSpot Academy started. You start by building up belief, and you get, you build up, results, you know, compounding. This goes back to my comment on activity. Just activity, activity, activity is so important. And what you really need to be successful, though, with this, is passion. So if you don’t have the right people working on it, that will lead to failure, most likely. You need to have really passionate people that believe in the brand mission, the brand vision, the product, your customers, and are excited about building this. I cannot stress that enough. So much of this comes down to who actually works on this type of — who works on your community-led growth initiative.
(Laura 27:24) Yeah. Well, that’s such a good point, because not only is it a heavy lift, but also, like you said, brand ties in so closely. So you have to make sure that that’s really strong, have the team that really believes in the brand, so you can, you know, put that energy into it. That’s a really good point.
(Mark 27:43) It is. It’s not easy. There’s going to be a lot of, like, just lessons, failures, great wins as well. But you know, you have to have someone who’s willing to stick around to work on it for, like, many, many years. Like two, three plus years. Like, this isn’t a thing that’s like, “Hey, come do it for six months. And you know, that’s all you need to do.” Like no, no, no. It’s a journey.
(Laura 28:05) Yeah, yeah. But it sounds like it pays off tremendously if you’re willing to do that.
(Mark 28:12) It does. It definitely does, at least from my past two experiences. Yeah.
(Laura 28:16) Awesome. So, last question is just: Is there anything else that maybe I should have asked you that I didn’t ask? Anything else that you would like to share with folks?
(Mark 28:25) I mean, the point you just made about brand is super important. You’ve got to really understand who your brand is, the heart, soul, and the mind of the brand. So if you don’t really know your brand’s archetype, the brand persona, you don’t understand the brand deeply. Like if you don’t have like your brand pillars, kind of like more defined like — it could also just be, like, it can start from like a cultural standpoint, like if you don’t have your culture of your company and team really defined — like, you need one or both of those things to be super successful here. Because like, that’s how you build a movement. A movement is really just what people think and feel. And then they believe. So it’s like, that’s a lot of community, but community and movement are very, like. synonymous. And, you know, a lot of that is the more art of marketing, which is the brain side of it. So the storytelling. I think, having people become almost like mini personalities of your community early on, at your company, super important. Go back to Dave Gerhardt, David Cancel. At HubSpot, right, there was Mike Volpe, Rebecca, Karen Rubin. You know, and then I started to build that up, and drafted off that for like, this HubSpot Academy and Content Camp experiment, right? Like, there’s a need to have those types of personalities for your community as well.
And then, of course, like some of those personalities need to become your customers, your community members, things like that. But I wouldn’t underestimate either of those two things, on the brand side, the personality side. Because at the end of the day, it’s like it’s a people-centric thing. So you have to have — goes back to my point on passion — you have to have these really passionate people helping the team, who’s executing more of the community-led growth strategy, out. Yeah, I’ll pause there.
(Laura 30:09) Yeah. No, I mean, that’s really helpful. I think a lot of times, with such an emphasis on, you know, revenue and metrics — which is obviously important, because that’s the end goal — but I think a lot of times, people overlook the impact that brand can have, you know, in those early stages. And it’s good to emphasize the impact, I think.
(Mark 30:32) Brand is everything for a business these days. If you’re not focused on your brand, it doesn’t matter if you’re in, like, the startup phase, the scale-up phase, the sustaining phase, or the surviving phase — I think there’s four phases of businesses — if you want to be successful in any of those phases, or try to get out of like the sustaining phase and surviving phase and get back into the scale-up phase, brand is critical. Like, look at IBM. Like, IBM, I would argue it’s either at the end of the sustaining phase, or it might be in the surviving phase. I don’t know. That would be an interesting case study to do. I’m sure people have done it. They’re trying to reinvent their brand. They’re like, now — I just read something — they’re coming out with some new brand stuff after, you know, for the last — it hasn’t happened for the last decade, I think. So like, I just think, you know, brand is one of the only ways to be differentiated. There’s like, there’s better, and then there’s differentiated, right? And those two things are different. And a lot of people chase better, but I think what you really should chase, in many ways, is being more different. And that’s where a lot of brand stuff comes in.
(Laura 31:31) Yeah, yeah. Awesome! Well, this has been fantastic. I know a lot of people are going to really benefit from this and get excited about it. So thank you so much for sharing and for coming on the show.
(Mark 31:46) My pleasure! Thanks again for having me. And yeah, if anyone wants to connect with me, just shoot me a text or follow me on LinkedIn or Twitter. Happy to help out.
(Laura 31:55) Awesome. Yeah, I will include links to all of those, as well as your new podcast, so people can check that out as well.
(Mark 32:01) Thank you.