BOSTON — HubSpot got a chance to see just how well its 10-year old marketing program worked this week.
In July, the executive offices of the Cambridge, Mass.-based B2B Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) marketing automation and CRM company were hit with a scandal. It was a twist for a company that preaches inbound marketing.
HubSpot fired its chief marketing officer, the fifth employee of a company that now includes more than 1,000-employees. Its vice president of content resigned. Its board of directors fined the CEO. The company produced a press release with many of the unsettling details.
And the story hasn’t ended.
There are unconfirmed reports that the scandal, which involves a manuscript allegedly stolen from an ex-employee, has triggered a criminal federal investigation.
“If anything, it actually improved how I perceived their brand," said Allison Boyajian, a marketing specialist with iMarc, a Newburyport, Mass.-based digital agency that uses HubSpot and works with HubSpot clients. "The team managed to uphold its integrity and their decency," she said, adding, "They sensed a tiny bit of fishiness, and they said this isn’t what our company’s about and we don’t want anything to do with it.”
HubSpot had won her over long before the book scandal — and the controversy didn't change anything.
During an interview with CMSWire yesterday at INBOUND, HubSpot’s annual customer conference in Boston, she said, “We trust the content they put out. I follow the HubSpot blog every single day. And if they say something, I say OK it must be true. It’s HubSpot."
Since it was founded by Massachusetts Institute of Technology grads Dharmesh Shah and Brian Halligan in 2006, HubSpot has told marketers to create engaging, valuable content and messaging that resonates with customers.
Now, it's the job of new CMO Kipp Bodnar (shown below) to tell that story. He took over for former CMO Michael Volpe.
Make prospects come to you. Don’t fish for them with impersonal, auto-generated marketing emails or random website home page color switches.
Trust. Confidence. Today, at least 100,000 people believe in the message -- those who follow the company's inbound.org inbound marketing community, according to Shah. That number has nearly tripled in a year, Shah told the audience at INBOUND yesterday
The Impact of the Scandal
In one sense, this is a technology company. It's not saving lives. Executive musical chairs probably doesn’t bother Joey Marketer who uses HubSpot and wants to generate more leads every day.
But should customers be concerned about the scandal?
Not one bit, said HubSpot customer Mark Geene, CEO of Denver-based Cloud Elements. “To me it’s more of a HubSpot internal issue that got blown up and really at the end of the day it doesn’t matter.”
Speaking with CMSWire at his company’s exhibition booth at INBOUND, Geene concluded that company leaders can’t control everything other employees do — even other members of the C-Suite.
HubSpot knows it has work to do still. The story’s not over, and Shah and Halligan promised to beef up their company's business ethics program. They've boasted about employee happiness.
If HubSpot is transparent with customers and partners as the story unfolds, that will be a good thing, said Mark Nardone, executive vice president of Boston-based PAN Communications, a HubSpot user.
“That issue became a public crisis rather quickly,” Nardone told CMSWire. “The more transparent they remain on the issue, the higher level of confidence we will have in their solution. We’ve had minimal issues with their platform — and remain excited about their investment in innovation to remain ahead of modern marketers’ needs.”
Ex-HubSpot employee Jonah Lopin, founder of Crayon.co, a Boston-based marketing design search engine, worked on the management team with Volpe for almost six years. Volpe was also one of the first investors in Lopin’s new company, which he founded last fall.
“Well-run companies like HubSpot have ‘deep benches’ in every department so that they don't crumble when a key person moves on,” Lopin said. “Mike left some big shoes to fill, but Kip is incredibly talented and has a great team around him. I suspect HubSpot will continue to do what they've been doing since 2006: growing like crazy and leading a massive revolution in marketing.”