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Customer Development

Hubspot User Group Meeting December 2018 - London HUG




This is a transcript of the talk given by Caragh Kennedy from Hubspot at the Hubspot User Group Meeting in December 2018 in London.

Download slides from this presentation here

Happy customers are the key to growth

Time and money are not always of the essence at the end of year. To focus on the inbound opportunity, which is something that we're going to talk about today. In particular:

"Happy customers are the key to growth."

Caragh asked, “So does everybody agrees or does anybody disagrees with this statement? So just hands up who agrees with this?”

HubSpot for CRM startups

My name is Caragh Kennedy. I've worked in Hubspot for nearly five years, and I've worked on five different teams at Hubspot. At the moment, I'm working and managing Hubspot for startups. Everyone knows that HubSpot has the best free CRM for startups but has anybody heard of Hubspot for startups? Anybody looking for funding right now or in the process? That's the team I'm currently working on.

Starting a company is easier has never been easier

At Hubspot you've got a direct team that are selling to direct clients, enterprise, small business. We've got the partners side which is Clwyd and Whitehat reselling into different markets. Then we've got the Hubspot for startups team which would offer support to people that are starting and essentially don't have a lot of money to do so. Besides that, the focus for today is on the customer. Hubspot in the last four months, made a major play towards the platform which is focusing on this. The flywheel.

The importance of flywheel

Historically, businesses are obviously built to grow big and fast. What happens is post sales isn't always a priority. This is something that Hubspot depended on the funnel for years and this is what we got a lot of value of. Attracting people into the funnel, converting, closing and delighting. But now with the changes that have happened, in terms of how people buy and essentially how people are actually quite impatient today. They don't have a lot of trust.


Generation Y now can't even read emails. They're only able to look at videos or audio and due to this we've changed the model to focus on the flywheel model. Whereas in the past, the funnel, the customer was always the output. Whereas now with the Flywheel, essentially we're going to focus on the customer as the core of every step of the journey.

The idea of trust and essentially with the idea of still referrals are the top, in terms of actually generating new business. You essentially should generate x by six from new business that you have. And if you're bringing that business in organically, you should retain it, hire and maintain it. I suppose right now, starting a company has been easier than ever but scaling a company is extremely difficult.

Scale the business

I started on the startup team, I moved from enterprise where people had a lot of money to a business where people had no money. At the time when I moved, I realised that startups were very similar to puppies. They were very excited about getting involved in multiple tools. What I found a lot of were people had 15 different tools and no actual visibility into actually what was happening with the business.

There were a lot of people managing 15 tools, as opposed to managing the business to grow and scale and with the customer at the forefront. To be able to get visibility, start correctly and grow with system like Hubspot. Or integrate with different tools like circle loop and have that closed loop reporting is extremely important. As opposed to having a system that's built on top of a system and you have no clear visibility.

Then we started Hubspot Ed. There was six competitors back in 2004, that were in the automation market. Now there are 6,000 companies that are in that market, so that just is an idea of the amount of companies now that are in the same level giving freemium, etc. Being able to start right is extremely important.

Persona Profile Checklist


Creating buyer personas

Today the focus and the importance is on the customer and how we actually develop our customer and customer onboarding HubSpot is key. How many in the room have created buyer personas? This is a common terminology in the inbound world. Has anybody created a negative buyer persona? Not yet. Has anybody created more than one buyer persona? Interesting.

Holding on four key factors. So how do we find potential customers? What do we ask them, Hubspot's customer development from when we started as a startup to how it looks now. And why is this important. Most importantly, why is it important to your business and what you can do today actually action any of these items.

Where do I find potential clients?

Especially in the startup community, people have very niche products for niche ideas. They always want to know, where do I find potential clients? The first thing is, these are key tips to looking for these potential clients. If you're Red Bull, your audience is probably going to be looking at videos, YouTube. As opposed to if you're selling consultancy for accounting, it might be a white paper.

"Find out where your potential customers live."

About four years ago, I was working for a shipping company. I spoke to the head of marketing in the shipping company, it was a Finnish company. And the Head of Marketing said, Caragh, nobody online wants to talk about this tanker that's under the water. I'm not going to be able to do marketing. And I said, well what we can do is try to find where these people are living online.

Turns out on Quora has a large group of people that are talking about this underground tanker. That they put for this ship, in Finland, online. So what he did is he said, hey guys, I'm thinking of, writing a paper about shipping tank underwater. What would you like to hear, so everybody started discussing it. Essentially, he wrote that paper and published it. People started downloading and that generated traffic leads and ideally clients.

I always try multiple channels. I remember working for an Irish company down in Cork, but there were selling Aran jumpers into Germany and the United States.

Turns out, Bing was the default browser on laptop that was bought by people who like Aran jumpers in the US. So what we did was we advertised on Bing and we dinged a lot of deals from that.

If you're able to know where these people live, where they circulate, is a great start. Again, like the industry events today, tap into your network, direct message on twitter, asked to guest blog, multiple channels will create a multiple channel approach to understanding who your customer is and essentially where they live.

Hubspot Customer Development


Develop relationships

How do you make contact? So tell me who and why. Obviously in today's world things are a lot easier. We've got Google, we've got context in order to make a consultant first call, but like share who you are when you're contacting the person. 

Get in with a connection from LinkedIn, etc. and this is another way to kind of connecting with your potential buyer persona or your customer.

True story: Currently my daily work is, I have to convert new business. And new business for me is an incubator accelerator or VC in Dublin. We get to work into Latin America. Traditional incubator for me would be, in this case was wider, which is run by Telefonica.

It's got 32 centres globally, which means I need to talk to and create a partnership with all of those contacts globally. In my situation we have a great relationship with Madrid at the moment. We have a great relationship with UK and rock'n'roll relationship with the Germans, but for some reason Mexico won't talk to me. I originally started my career working in Madrid, so I was able to speak Spanish. That was something a bit different and I was obviously able to use my Spanish.

I was able to use the video system and I speak Spanish, but don't write it very well. But I was able to use this video recording to describe what I was doing with the other partnerships. I put it to Augustine who's managing partners who thankfully speaks English, via LinkedIn and we immediately were able to connect on this.

We have the contact, we're developing the relationship. That's all about the customer and the developments in terms of how you can connect. I was really sceptical when I started using video. One, I had no other choice. I'm not in the stereotypical where you go to college, so I had to use video to communicate to my audience in Latin America.

Then I started doing it into Europe and if I talk to somebody is in their forties or fifties they might get sick of me doing, “Hi, this is Caragh”, but people loved it. With the generation below, things like videos are a lot easier to watch than reading a long email. In my opinion, this is definitely something in terms of a takeaway to test with your audience, to see how you can connect.

5 "Whys"

Maybe they aren't too busy, it might be the fact that you're not asking correctly. What do you ask? You want to ask what do they want? The pendulum summit about three years ago. It's an Irish events, it's nothing serious.

I met this person, I personally didn't meet him. He made 10 million euros. He lost 10 million euros and then he made 10 million again. I was amazed, thinking to myself this is really interesting. He kept his presentation really simple, but he got on stage. He'd written an acronym and he said basically very simply at the end of the presentation. He went, if you want to do what I did, you just find out what these people want, you go get it and you give it to them and that's it. There's no more to it. And that's how he made 10 million again.

Number one, what are you trying to get done? These are the five "Whys" developed by Toyota, which is understanding what are you trying to get done? Build a fence. Why? So I can surround my front yard. Why? So I can plant the garden. Why? so I can grow my own food why? So I can save money on groceries.

This is an example in terms of when you're employing the five why's. My brother always said in my family, mom would be a great sales rep because she creates pain like that. Recently, my brother Kevin moved back from Australia and he got a letter into the post. My mum rings up straight away and she says, Kevin, you have a brown letter from Australia. Kevin said, oh, that's fine. I look at it later. She said, do you not want to look at it now? It could be bad news. Kevin says, okay, open the letter. My mom replied, oh god, Kevin it said tax. He said, well, forget about it. I'm not living in Australia. My mom said, Kevin, what happens if you have kids in the future and they want to live in Australia and you have to pay tax? Kevin said, okay mom, send up the letter.

Creating the pain, understanding what that pain is, you can offer someone the solution to their problem. And it is an extremely important way, in order to understand your customer as well. Obviously develop on finding a solution for that customer. I'm going to bring you to something you've probably seen before, but ideally we're going to talk about it just a little deeper for your own business. Which is the persona profile checklist. Has anybody seen this before?

Develop your personas

Just bring it back to the people who had created multiple personas, which are your ideal clients. Having one persona is a great start. Remember? The puppies, you want to stay focused, in order to actually scale the business. Generating one persona who is your ideal client is a starting point. I'd recommend, will help you ask the questions you need to generate your first persona.

Example persona

For Example, in the Dublin office, you'll have the corporate team talking about corporate Cathy. You'll have the small business team talk about marketing Mary. The partner team who are reselling talking about agency Ian and you'll have now the new team which is salesperson Sam. These are all personas that have developed over time when Hubspot started back 14 years ago.

Growth Flywheel

We were just an automation system. We were new and we didn't have any customers. We could potentially sell to enterprise Aaron who was the marketing person in coca cola with access to a large pool of money and a team that could execute on using Hubspot. We knew we could focus on marketing Mary who was second in line to the actual decision maker. She would essentially use the product, but she'd be in a very small business.

It's very important to go to market for Italy, Germany, different countries. And agencies are going to take you that level to scale because they'll resell into those countries. The problem was there was only four people on the team, so we had to choose one direction. After multiple debates, enterprise Aaron will give us a great boost, but it’s a long sales process. Marketing Mary was the final decision.

Is there any reason why we chose marketing Mary to focus on in terms of buyer personas to start the business? Any obvious reason? Advocate your product to people. I'm sure she network. We've always as well. Larger market, huge market in north America, where we started with a free crm software for small business. She was closest to the decision maker or decision maker herself because she was at a small business.

Any other reason? Shorter sales cycle, so we could be talking, tend to praise Aaron until the cows come home and as they say in Ireland. We were a startup so our main focus was to grow. To bring in money and to bring in customers early days in order to get to that next step, we chose marketing Mary.

Marketing Mary is still spoken about in Hubspot, but now we've got marketing Michelle. So what's the difference with this lady? She's more senior. Marketing Michelle was a few years ago, we realised marketing Mary is actually turned into marketing Michelle. Mary is grown up so she's now like actually not living out in the suburbia. She's living near the city. She's got more experienced, aspiring CMO. She's using different systems now like Uber, et cetera. She's evolved.

The takeaway here is as the business evolves, your buyer personas will evolve, your market will also evolve. You need to make sure you're consistent. Consistently evolving on your persona development. When I started at Hubspot for startups in Dublin, I went after growth Gary. I didn't want to talk to marketing Mary or enterprise Aaron and I wanted to focus on people who actually ran startups. I developed this persona to somebody who is working in a seed series, a company that was being funded in the startup world.

Understand your customers

The takeaway here, in terms of what customer development can do for you is making sure that you understand what your customer eats. They like in order to get to them on a day to day basis. Now people are using brands like Lyft, Dollar Shave Club. Is there any reason why these brands are so important or what makes them different on the market? Recently this Dollar Shave Club was bought by Unilever.


Why would Unilever buy this company that's only three years old, maybe older. Unilever is huge, but this Dollar Shave Club has data which always speaks reams ahead of the rest and has a recurring revenue model where you'll get blades every month. And this is almost built into this personas life.

This isn't just a one-off deal. This is something that when whoever use Dollar Shave Club wakes up in the morning, this is the brand that the forefront. It's like the Starbucks, this brand is part of that person's day. They'll get into a car and used Lyft, Uber or my taxi. It's the brand at the forefront, because the brand has put the customer and the customer experience at the forefronts.

Unilever bought this Dollar Shave Club because they've developed this data over time around their persona, around their customer. So they don't just know that it's a male living in Dublin, they know it's a male living in Dublin that uses Lyft every morning at 9:00 and works in Hubspot and doesn't like eating sushi. They leveraged that then to their advantage to become a part of that person's life.

Happy Customers Statistics

Happy customers are the key to growth

Why is continuous customer development important? Because happy customers are the key to growth. Happy customers are the key to growth. So it costs five times to 25 more money to acquire new customers and to keep existing ones happy. Referrals are still the number one most common source of new leads for business around the world. And finally engaged customers by 90 percent more often and spend 60 percent more per transaction. 

Additional reading


  1. Download the slides from this talk
  2. Sign up for the next HUG event
  3. Download our guide to inbound marketing here
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