Revenue & Features Editor, Co-host of Content Lab, 15+ Years of Writing and Teaching Experience
July 11th, 2019
It’s a common mistake that many businesses make. They sign up for HubSpot Marketing Hub (or Sales Hub or Service Hub) thinking it will be a quick fix for all their marketing woes.
However, the tool is only as good as its user and use. HubSpot can help a business with many common digital sales and marketing difficulties, but a well-thought-out strategy is essential — as is the sustained effort to implement that strategy.
The most successful HubSpot users have a clear idea of what the tool can do for them, and how they can implement its capabilities.
I sat down with Carina Duffy (local HubSpot expert and co-host of the Hubcast) to talk about what you need to use HubSpot successfully, common pitfalls, and why she never made it as an X-Games rollerblader.
John Becker: When I first asked you to interview, the topic of “Why HubSpot won’t fix your Marketing and Sales Problems” came up immediately. It sounds like there's something you want to get off your chest.
Carina Duffy: Yes. I've run into a lot of people, a lot of clients, or people that I talk to at events who find out that I work with HubSpot every day who seem to think (or have previously thought) that purchasing HubSpot is going to fix their marketing and sales problems.
It could be people who are just starting out with HubSpot and are thinking that it's going to do everything for them, or people that have had HubSpot for a long time and are frustrated that they still have marketing problems.
JB: So, why is HubSpot not solving all of their problems?
CD: I think it has to do with what I call “Sales Utopia.” This happens when people are vetting HubSpot — and it happens with software, I think, across the board.
I think we get into this mindset when we're vetting tools like this that we start to see these amazing success stories of how people have used HubSpot and have had incredible revenue increases or just amazing successes with any kind of metric you pick.
HubSpot's going to show you all of these case studies. Their salespeople are going to demo the perfect scenario for somebody using HubSpot. And what you don't see is kind of the trudging that people had to go through to get there, and the hard work that people had to go through to get those results. And you don’t see the other cases that maybe didn’t end as perfectly.
I think that's the beginning of people just getting into a mindset of, "Okay, if I purchase HubSpot, then I will become one of these success stories," and "It's the purchasing of the thing that is going to get me there," rather than "This is a tool that I can use to implement strategies to be successful."
JB: It's funny that marketers who make their living presenting things in the best light possible don't realize that they are being marketed to.
CD: Yes, which I am just as guilty of — especially in terms of thinking of something being a tool and not a strategy. I like to use the analogy of this awesome pair of rollerblades that I convinced my parents to buy me when I was a kid, and I had this pipe dream of becoming an X-Games athlete.
I convinced myself that if I got a hold of these rollerblades, I was going to be like those success stories that I saw on TV. I convinced my parents to get them for me. I put them on, and the second I put them on I was like, "This doesn't feel like what I thought they were going to feel like. I feel clunky. I feel awkward."
And then I started trying to use them and felt even more clunky and awkward because I didn't know what I was doing. I had no coaching. I had no strategy for how I was actually going to execute becoming an X-Games athlete.
So eventually what happened was I used my rollerblades, but I used them for things like skating around the neighborhood rather than becoming this professional athlete.
So obviously, HubSpot is to my rollerblades here.
I find that there are a lot of people with HubSpot that have never taken a step back to think about "What's my strategy for using this tool?" They don't have documented marketing strategies or documented sales strategies.
So in my opinion, HubSpot is one of the top pairs of rollerblades you can buy. But if we don't use it properly, and if we don't have strategies for how to get good at it, and be successful with it, then the thing isn't going to get us there.
JB: The tool is only as good as the use that it's put to.
JB: Success stories always seem to gloss over the hard work: “here’s step one, and here’s step three,” and, strangely, step two gets less attention. So, if you are a company who is either just getting into HubSpot or is considering HubSpot, how do you avoid this common pitfall?
CD: If you're reading this, you're taking a step in the right direction because you’re putting yourself in the right mindset.
The first pitfall to avoid is what I like to call the implementation swamp.
With any tool — even a tool that's as easy to use as HubSpot — it takes time to get things set up. It takes time to understand how an individual piece of software functions. If we put ourselves in the mindset of "this is going to be all sunshine and rainbows and bubblegum,” we’re quickly going to find out that it's going to be difficult and it's going to take time.
The second thing that I recommend is before you swipe the credit card on HubSpot or before you get into your portal, put together some kind of documented strategy around how you're going to use the tool.
Understand what you can do with the tools. But before you ever go in there and start setting things up, create a strategy for your team or your organization. If you go through a standard onboarding with HubSpot, whether it's with HubSpot Academy or with people at HubSpot, it's really, really helpful, but it's also very general because it's for every possible HubSpot customer.
So, if you don't take the time to translate it into your specific company, that's when you can really get caught up in just skating around the neighborhood.
You can see all of these tools and think, "Oh, I could do lead nurturing, lead scoring, and emailing, and workflows, and all of this stuff," but you need to make it work with your specific company, and what you’re selling and who you’re selling it to.
Otherwise, you might be using all the "tools," but they're not getting you to that success-story kind of level. I recommend you get outside of the tool, create your strategy, and understand how you're going to use the tools before you even get in the HubSpot portal.
JB: I’ve heard you referred to as a HubSpot ninja. Can you offer any kind of expert tip for users out there?
CD: I'll give you the secret to people thinking that I'm a HubSpot ninja: It’s understanding how HubSpot functions at a fundamental level with its data. HubSpot functions around objects. A contact is an object, companies are objects, deals are objects, and tickets are objects. Those are really the main ones.
When I wrapped my head around what that meant, I then came to understand things like object properties. (You can create all kinds of custom contact properties, custom deal properties — and HubSpot already has a whole bunch of default ones.)
But when you understand how your data is structured and managed within HubSpot, which is the same for everybody from a basic level, that's when you can really start to leverage the tools.
I can liken it to really understanding physics and how, if I really understood physics, I probably could have gotten a lot farther in my rollerblading. Think of all the cool tricks that I was never able to do because I didn't understand how to make my body and my rollerblades do the things that I saw other people doing.
Most marketers like to put on a facade that they're all about data and metrics, but most of the data they see is very nontechnical. They might like the front end data, but they don't understand where it's coming from or how it's getting pulled in or what's happening. But when you can understand that side of things in HubSpot, you can do really powerful things. Not just with tasks like segmentation, but with things like creating custom reports, and more.
If you can take time to understand that, you're going to be a lot more successful with the tools.