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Inbound marketing strategy: How to build a better qualified lead

Hubspot User Group Meeting Meeting December 2017 - London HUG

Note: You can download the slides from this presentation here.

This is a transcript of the talk given by Ed Fry at at the HubSpot User Group Meeting in December 2017.

HubSpot group it's good to get to know each other a little bit more. How many people know, I was supposed to be sort of fifty yet and we will grow to hundreds, so we talk a bit about that next. Everyone has an HubSpot account, right? Hands up if you're on HubSpot right now. Right. Hands up if you have been on it for a year. Two years? Three years? Five years? OK, so look around the room for where the interested people are. What I want to share today is some of the cool stuff we'd be doing with HubSpot customers and how. But just kind of set some context to share a little bit how I ended up in the kind of HubSpot ecosystem, the HubSpot world.

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How HubSpot was born

This is me with Dharmesh Shah and Rand Fishkin - Dharmesh who founded HubSpot - a little while back about 2013. They were like: 'We need to create this community for marketers like yesterday, but everywhere online'. And so they founded a site called has anyone heard of it? Okay, cool. So I did my job, which was to manage this community early on, it was most growing venture backed. Both Rand and Dharmesh were pretty busy, so they hired me aged 18 to sort of look off the community: 'Its 500 bucks a month for your time, it's 12,000 dollars to last and indefinitely go fly'. And over the course of 4 years we grew that community from around 500 of people when I joined to 265.000 people HubSpot acquired it formally in about late 2013-14. That's really how it fell into the hubs ecosystem and using HubSpot and using that within the community.  But so what?

A big challenge: engaging people 

Inbound org had an engagement problem

 That didn't actually mean anything as a community, as our metrics, our metrics all cared about engagement, about content. So:

  • We had a ton of content.
  • We hada ton of people producing content.
  • Member acquisition was actually really easy (we never had to pay attention to this, we had plenty of people want to be partner, plenty people who talked with us, all that big limb bound stuff which you've heard about before).

"But what matter is driving the engagement amongst community".

How did you get those people who sign up to take action to contribute? Just to share some numbers which are behind this kind of engagement model, every discussion that we seeded at the community each week we'd expect about 2.7 more members to be doing something, contributing more content. And with that we've got to drive every single one of those about 4 more weekly active users.


 Now, this is the key metric we were chasing after, people who were actively engaged in the platform. So we needed an increasing number of contributions. But the thing about this community is like: 'Look around, everyone's different. Yes, we might all be using HubSpot and yes, we might all be trying to chase this methodology about building better businesses within Inbound marketing and Inbound methodology. But all these people were different.


 So how can we increase contributions across that?' So, increasing engagement is really about supporting this fit, like: 'Who are the best people to answer a question, to comment on an article and their intent (like their willingness to contribute)?'


 And the reason why I want to start with community is it ties exactly on towards what we're doing when we're building a business:

"Lead Qualification is about building fit and intent".


 So we are going to come back to this chart a lot because it gives us a canvas to work, a canvas for think about how we can quantify leads and build a better qualified lead.


 So qualified lead set up here in upright. And they don't really look like these in the top left, like someone signs up for your products but they haven't really done much, and maybe there is a small team of small start-up and not a big company like HubSpot.


 So what? Your newsletter subscribers. Maybe all you've got is their email address or maybe - just maybe - you've gone back and bought a cold email list, turned spam people again. Maybe that's a really good fit list but it's cold, it's not up there and it's upright. So the Inbound that we're trying to do is nurture everyone, everyone just whoever they are, just push them over to the right hand side. It doesn't work. As So Dharmesh has a foreword - what he calls a 'strategic plan' - a forward mantra:

"Do fewer things, better".

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And whatever it is and whatever he's worked on, he's always boiled down to this principle: how can we do fewer things better. So who are these right people or how do we engage them? Who are the best fit people for whatever that conversation was, whatever that thing we were trying to drive engage with.


As someone wants to share really briefly, it's that scalable, repeatable outreach playbook we use at and what it means for you and your marketing funnel.



How to create engagement with personalized emails

So a big part of our engagement was around Q&A, around questions, so we'd find something like this, something which someone had posted, something that was needing and answer but that was answerable.

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I tidy this up a bit - like the problem with User Generated Content is sometimes a bit messy - and then leave a comment. No one wants to arrive first and leave that first thing like arriving an active party.


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And that it has been HubSpot. So we had all our contacts, all our members inside HubSpot, building that unified profile rights inside of HubSpot, and we set up an email:

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 'How long it takes to create your best content? Write a little plain text personally email. Hopefully you can read this in the back. But this is curious to see if you could help out with this thread. Mike from Pittsburgh bla bla bla. I've left a comment and appreciate if you could share with us yours. Thanks'. That's it, nice and simple. Then hop into my pre-built set of segments.

Creating Smart Rules

 You see things here like skills, job titles, interests, things around page views etc. and we select some of these pre-built segments since you're right a job title writer etc. You need to reference back to things that people are. Prepare these lists, these pre-built outreach lists, right inside HubSpot. 

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 So over here you can't see this, that's outreach EMEA, outreach America's, time zone been very important to us - human questions being answered the same day, preferably within that same morning - and we suppress people who'd already had e-mails, suppressed people who had outreach in the past ten days and suppressed Gmail contacts. When you're sending out personally like this, just a small thing is you don't be necessarily emailing people you really know, or, if you do, you want to change how you say. So suppressing those and send.

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 I'd just rather than doing that one by one Gmail, I've just sent 400  emails and right away I've had about 29 opens and a couple of figures come back an hour later. I've got 53 people through and about 10 comments.

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"This for us was the breakout on the site. This is where that conversation becomes self-sustaining continues to grow".

So this is the kind of outreach playbook we could repeat all day every day. And it was awesome. With these kind of outreach emails, with this kind of engagement. 

"We could try 4 times higher click-through rate than our traditional e-mails than our newsletters, sometimes as high as 40%".

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You'd probably not guess how that particular e-mail that we sent did that... but it was sending to Dublin members inviting them to an event called 'Learning about Dublin', where the subject line was literally just 'Pub question mark': everyone opened it, free event, people signed up. I know you shouldn't stereotype, but in that case you did. But what this meant? It's quite quickly:

  • We could double a weekly contribute with this targeted outreach.
  • We did fewer things better and those weekly contributors - as you saw from our engagement model - would drive so much more growth in the community.


I think it's sharing the slides afterwards so I put in links. We can go and see the full story and sort of how you can repeat that, especially some of the lessons from scaling personal email (like where you're trying to replicate email, quizzes and pretty hilarious and all good results). You definitely check that out.

How-to-build-a-better-qualified-leadBut Inbound marketing is this, your numbers sing when you get this right.

"Your numbers sing when you get that content, pulling the people at the top".

But bring that through the rest of the funnel, your numbers are four times better than a newsletter. Everyone gets newsletters. So what? But I'm reaching out to you, ask you to do something really specific. How-to-build-a-better-qualified-leadThis is really cool, but this was taking a lot of engineering time, like all that data on our community that send back end database, a sequel database. That's not acceptable to me as a marketer. So writing into HubSpot, with a ton of engineering time, we could send these highly segmented, highly targeted emails.

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 The importance of the mid funnel


So then I saw Hull and I moved to Hull, because it makes this all possible, makes this all accessible to a marketer. And what I want to share today is some of the stories about how we can integrate this together. Earlier we heard about HubSpot Connect and building that unified profile inside of HubSpot, so that you - as sales manager, as a marketing manager - have access to all the state of your campaigns, your Lead Qualification for whatever you want to do. You need access to that as a marketer, but so often that data sits in different places like analytics tools, like in ads tools, like in enrichment tools etc. And this is a really important part of what we want to do.


Working around this kind of data, working around these possibilities, we're working with companies like these, who are using HubSpot (like Drift, Mention, Appcues) to build a better qualified lead. 

"Having better qualified leads has a profound impact up the funnel and down the funnel".

That will weigh through to sales and the whole customers lifecycle by building a better qualified lead, by having that full data on each lead, customer, visitor etc.

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So the point which I really want to make: you are already doing great Inbound marketing at the the top of the funnel. Everyone's talked about it, everyone's talking about great content, everyone's talking about building search, social etc. But that's not the only part of an Inbound strategy.

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So often we capture that email and then we just relentlessly nurture, and there is no better than where marketing was beforehand. It's just spam. So what I want to tell you today is how to win across the whole funnel by building a better qualified lead.

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So previously the story was something like this: marketing captures a lead, they sign up a newsletter and whatever; marketing qualifies the lead - maybe there's has some nurturing, there's some score which takes over; they send it through to sales and sales (whether it's in HubSpot CRM or sales force or whatever the disconnect is) they actually call them up, disqualify them and that's the end.


 How can we fix this story? How do we stop this happening again and again and again? Well, the answer is right where you're not looking and I've pinched it before: the top of the funnel has the big vanity metrics, everyone likes to talk about business, everyone likes to talk about this big vanity metrics. The bottom of the funnel has the money, like sales guys are answerable to money, you can't argue with that. The middle of the funnel is not so sexy, like: who really cares about the hundreds of people you've nurtured that month?

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No one like this - these are just a couple of snippets from something I saw that day when I built this. It's just not interesting, but it's secretly awesome.

"The mid-funnel this is where the money is".

This is where us as marketers have so much control and so much power of the whole customer lifecycle.


 The top of the funnel is scalable, you can drive all the traffic through Google, maybe ads, maybe whatever referral network. How do you want get traffic being lacks data on each lead? You don't really know that much about them.


 Suddenly the bottom of the funnel we have plenty of data, like a sales guys inside the CRM are gonna have so much on each lead, on each person they need to talk to, maybe down to their favorite coffee. But you're limited by one to one interaction. It's not scalable, only the mid funnel has the data and ability to scale and this is why was really really awesome, because you can personalize and automate messaging at scale.





Who you talk to comes before what you say

Personalized and automate messaging at scale is how you get these high results. So may think about personalization, at Hull we use a five part personalization framework for this. And the first rule, the Golden Rule: who you talk to comes before what you say.


"Personalization isn't saying 'Hi first name' and then just continuing on with the spam standard sales data".

It's really who are they? What do they care about? How can you match that message up for that? And the Golden Rule is where HubSpot excels. You've got all your smart lists and static lists - that is data baked at the HubSpot perfect -, I mean you've got the content, whether you're sending out (like a landing page, an email or whatever). You have the ability to dynamically update that content too: this is where HubSpot is really really good. And they realize this is a way back in 2011. 

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 Again check out this link. So Brian Halligan detailed about how they shifted from focusing on these type of funnel products, these vanity metrics, to the middle of funnel products. Because this is why they're seeing the biggest results and the best retention amongst cohorts. This is a very interesting link, check it out later. But why can't you do this already? Why is this still a problem? We've been talking about methodology for coming up on 11 years-12 years now, so it's really a data problem.


It's not that we don't want to do this kind of stuff, this really personal empathetic marketing throughout the funnel, it's that we don't have the data in the right place.

How Oz Content succeeded in triple the open rate of their newsletter [Case Study]

I'll tell you about Oz Content, a HubSpot User we are working with.


They sell software to help people ideate around what content they need and they are piling up about a thousand leads a month: people sign up to newsletters, different offers etc. and they have about 15000 leads in total. But despite all that the Inbound funnel was not fully working. They had just a trickle through to sales at the end of it and here's the problem.


Most of the leads thought out just like this, like, like I have. So what they wanted to do is fill in the blanks and this is where they turn enrichment providers and come in.


 So to take that e-mail address and return all these values - what is my name, what is my job title, what company I work for, how many Twitter followers I have - told me about more about that company. Filling that profile, filling the blanks.

"Using a data management provider through Hull, they could sync this data through into HubSpot".

Every new lead that will come in, will come into Hull, Hull also has a unified customer profile but extends beyond just our sales marketers, and it extends to everything. 

How-to-build-a-better-qualified-leadBut enriching these profiles with data and enrichment providers, we had that full profile inside Hull which we could then sync up in HubSpot in real time, which means we can update those lists and that dynamic content in real time as marketer. So now Oz could identify fit upfront, they could 'do fewer things better', they could just find the best fit customers and start to nurture.


They'll be looking for things like tag, someone on HubSpot is a good use case with them, with 50+ employees: they want to talk to a marketer, maybe a VP (exact level so they have a buyer) and they want to talk to people in the US.


 "So they could have all this data inside of HubSpot, they could build their segments and they could nurture based on that".

So now these segments: who to talk to - remember the Golden Rule. They could build these precise segments and match with precise content.


 Now they have to be experts from the field of content ideation. They then put on really niche, really specific webinars for these small really targeted audiences. 

How-to-build-a-better-qualified-leadSo they knew what to say (remember the Golden Rule). So one sending these highly targeted webinars to these highly targeted audiences they found these open rates tripled. Think about that for a second. And they also notice a bunch of e-mail forwarding. So whoever the marketer was, whoever the person on the list, they would be forwarding the rest of the company, they saw attendance from these accounts really increase. How-to-build-a-better-qualified-lead So all the attendees were marked as a Marketing Qualified Lead and sent through to Sales and Sales had the easiest intro ever: they knew who to talk to - people who had attended - , they knew what to say - it was this niche problem which you've just listened to for an hour about, a problem at your company. How-to-build-a-better-qualified-leadI mean you went to say it right off the webinar. So what was cool (and this is a really great Inbound story) is that their sales stopped sourcing their own leads. They stopped doing this called outbound:

  • Previously 80% of their sales qualified leads were coming from themselves, only 20 percent for marketing
  • Then marketing was able to saw 20x increase in marketing-sourced qualified leads. This is what you can do when you fix them and follow.
  • As a result of that they have 4x increase in qualified leads overall and they made them marketing better.

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This is Inbound methodology. So you talked a bit about founding fit and nurturing across there.


 How to grow Intent


What about intent? Appcues is a company based in Boston. Hubspot is a customer of them. When you see the interstitials, the Hubspot products, recommending you to try different things, that's how keeps working there. How-to-build-a-better-qualified-leadAppcues has a free trial-based model, you can sign up for free, you can still buy little snippet, you start creating these important messages with ease. The problem is sales don't know if an account is ready to buy. They're already doing this: are they a big enough company? Are they a good fit? They don't know how far along this buying cycle lay off. The data for this all sits with important analytics tools as not what they want in those tools, a stream of events by users or by contacts.

"It's not what a sales rep needs, which is 'this person is protocolized, this person is getting value from the product'."

You should call them because they have done it and having that inside HubSpot CRM. How-to-build-a-better-qualified-leadSo sales reps just need the simple insights inside their workflow, they don't want to be dotting around between tools, especially complex analytics tools, especially complex data tools. How-to-build-a-better-qualified-lead So by connecting these 3 apps (they have product analytics, right that into Hull, a stream of data), what have people been doing? Enrichment data ('Are they a good fit company?') and then write this into HubSpot in a way that makes sense, which doesn't junk up HubSpot. So now the sales reps can see trial modal limit viewed. This is something which the Appcues products would trigger when their trial modals limits had run out. And 'viewed' means they've seen this message they needed to upgrade. So then - and only then - where they put a 'qualified' and they were sent through the sales.

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"Support sales could focus on these product qualified leads, the 30% leads to focus on and they knew exactly what to say, who to talk to". 

They also had a question about Slack earlier, this pin through to HubSpot is a pin through Slack, so the Hull team have real time notifications on when a new account came qualified, which is also a different kind of motivator. Previously a lot of this can be quite on the dark, when you don't have this unified set of data, when you don't have everything visible. But even in HubSpot only certain people have access to Sales. So having that complete view across the company when all this is taking through. How-to-build-a-better-qualified-lead Sales with these insights could also:

  • Personalize the outreach, not just fewer people but what to say.
  • They could talk specifically to promote usage within the Appcues.
John Sherer, the Director of Sales, talks about it, about 'identifying the moments people are moving through the buyer's journey and then taking the information in and reacting'. How-to-build-a-better-qualified-lead (61) it's how you can turn that content into that top right corner. But what if there's not enough intent? How can you increase engagement? How can you nurture someone through that buying cycle? So the problem with email is low scalable, as low as very available, HubSpot was very good at it.

"You can burn out leads by doing too much".

But another scalable channel, another platform can do this stuff within ads. 

How-to-build-a-better-qualified-lead So by using e-mail and ads together to nurture over each hump, each piece of content, each step of the buyer's journey. So by thinking clear bit data, HubSpot data and Facebook ads together...



Facebook Ads: a perfect way to improve the customer's intent

How many people in the room are familiar with Facebook custom audiences? OK, so for those who aren't yet familiar, this is an idea of an ad audience, built off an email list, a telephone number, or another identify which Facebook has.

"Imagine your HubSpot list inside of Facebook and then Facebook matching that up with the right Facebook Id".

So now you can really precisely target your ads and what you can then do is update those ads like you would a HubSpot smart list in real time. So we had an account do it, he's bringing 1700 leads (about 3,50 dollars each, all in). How-to-build-a-better-qualified-lead (65)This means the top funnel is working. This is great, but what they could also do by getting the sequential nurturing is getting 53 sales qualified leads of their first campaign, less than 30 dollars each. They were selling this for 4-5 figures, this went pretty well. So building that sequential multi-channel nurturing to grow intent. Also because this was Inbound and that was Outbound, these one were cold leads, these one were people who weren't engaged the company, didn't understand the content. Now they'd already engaged and so Sales had easiest intro and again they knew who to talk to, what to say, when to say it.



  • 3% lead to SQL [Sales Qualified Leads] as a result here. Now, I didn't say it was sexy, but it does mean your mid-funnel is working and impact on that is significant, turning 3% to 4% is significant.
  • And what this means is Inbound strategy is beginning to work (again, I didn't say it was sexy).
  • You have a lot on the top funnel, on the bottom funnel increased optimizing that middle. It's very powerful.
Just before I have to give the slide, we had another customer come in, who increased from 1% to 6% lead to customer in two months with a similar strategy: the sequential nurturing via multiple channels.
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I didn't say it's sexy but that's significant: 1% to 6% through the sales, but you've just increased sales pipeline by 6x.

"What I want to leave you is to encourage you to take control of your mid funnel"

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You've heard all about the top the funnel, your sales are going to tell you all about the bottom, but joining the bid in the middle is really, really important. This stage of the mid-funnel is where all the magic happens. Solid mid-funnel marketing, solid lead qualification is Sales enablement. You set up your sales success this way. And I've just shown you 3 examples, but think of the possibilities: all this data in different places that you as a marketer have access to yet, you use a sales team to have access to yet.


What did you have that inside of HubSpot? How can you use any creative interesting ways?


So to sort of recap:

  • How to build a better qualified lead? The top of the funnel is not a complete Inbound strategy. You have the best content but if you are spamming, if you're relentlessly nurturing everyone, do fewer things better, focus on the best leads.
  • The Golden Rule of Personalisation: who you talk to comes before what you say. 'Hi first name' is not personalization.
  • The mid funnel is is data-rich and scalable, top of funnel isn't, bottom funnel isn't. This is where the magic happens.
  • You can find fit upfront with data enrichment (I left the link in the slide you can go and check out a free data enrichment provider that you can test today). Maybe you can download and upload to the HubSpot, you can try that this afternoon.
  • Find intent by taking your marketing engagement data, your product engagement data and computing that.
  • And then you can nurture for higher intent by using multiple channels, coordinating this message across different places.
I talked a lot today about data, just something which helps teams in terms of understanding how this works, it is a sort of diagrams to show the data flows:

PS can we send you the playbooks

It says the kind of playbooks which you can grab this with. So that's how to build a better qualified lead.


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