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HubSpot’s EMEA MD on UK expansion and what it really means to ‘grow better’

HubSpot’s EMEA MD on UK expansion and what it really means to ‘grow better’

With growth top of mind for any business today, it’s no surprise that HubSpot, the full customer relationship management (CRM) platform for scaling companies, is going “all-in on the UK market” by opening its first London office and making a commitment to create 70 new jobs to help the communities it serves thrive in a post-pandemic world.

Going behind the headlines to find out more about its UK expansion strategy, The Drum caught up with Christian Kinnear, managing director, EMEA at HubSpot to discuss what it means to ‘grow better’, why it’s not about what you sell, but how you sell to today’s customers, and how HubSpot is creating opportunities for the right talent based on their potential, not on their postcode.

HubSpot has undergone a profound transformation in the last few years, evolving from a marketing automation tool for marketers to a CRM platform for customer-facing teams to help companies grow better. What can you tell us about the business’ evolution, and what does ‘grow better’ really mean?

As a business, we believe not just in growing bigger but growing better. Instead of making short-term decisions that undercut the customer experience and sacrifice long-term relationships, ‘grow better’ is a cry for more companies to align their own business success with that of their customers. When companies grow better, they’re focused on meeting even the highest of customer expectations, and the result is a better business, better relationships, and a better foundation on which to grow.

And this belief has allowed us to grow rapidly over a relatively short space of time. We have gone from helping marketers from small startups accelerate their growth through marketing automation software and educational resources, to supporting more than 120,000 companies worldwide, through a CRM platform that serves as a single point of customer truth.

Throughout this journey, our most significant takeaway is that today isn’t about what you sell, but how you sell. Buyers are increasingly vocal when dissatisfied, products are easily replicable, and traditional trust in businesses is eroding, leading buyers to be more sceptical. Companies win and lose based on their customer experience, and businesses need growth strategies that support the entire customer lifecycle. Delighted customers are now more powerful and influential than any marketer, salesperson, or service rep can be.

With a strong reputation among marketers of SMBs predominantly, HubSpot now serves major players such as Revolut and Skyscanner. How has your customer base changed, and which type of business does HubSpot aim to help scale and grow?

HubSpot’s technology is built with scalability in mind, meaning that it starts free and scales to meet companies’ needs at any stage of growth. Originally HubSpot was predominantly focused on helping small businesses grow but, as we continue moving upmarket with an enterprise-ready CRM platform, our powerful and easy to use solutions are now suitable for scaling businesses – from emerging startups and accelerating scaleups to market-leading organizations. We aim to become the number one CRM platform for scaling businesses, and we are excited about the future.

HubSpot has been helping thousands of UK businesses grow since 2013 – how has your company supported UK businesses without a physical presence, and why the decision now to establish physically in the UK?

HubSpot has been helping businesses in the UK for almost 10 years, but our needs and those of our customers are changing. According to our research, more accessibility and face-to-face interaction have proved increasingly important for UK business leaders as the nation recovers from the pandemic, with 72% of CX professionals claiming that they plan to invest in more human customer interactions going forward.

It's never been more important to be available to customers and provide easy lines of communication with real people. We're at a point where most UK businesses are planning for growth again and getting the customer experience right at scale is essential to that. There's often still a need for human engagement within the customer journey, and our approach to the UK market is very aligned to this insight. While our presence in Dublin has supported our growth in the UK well, we are now ready to take the step through local presence and more face-to-face customer engagement.

You’ve committed to create 70 new jobs and hire employees across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; what skillsets will you be looking for and do you think your hybrid working model will open up the pool of talent available to you?

As a business leader, it’s very fulfilling to see that more than 10,000 UK companies rely on HubSpot to help with their growth and scaling efforts. The UK is a hugely attractive market with a thriving business scene buoyant with tech-savvy companies throughout the country that are early adopters of technology. UK business leaders realize the importance of investing in technology to delight today's demanding customers, and our CRM platform is designed to help these ambitious businesses realise their growth potential. As such, we're going all-in on the UK market and will look to deliver more CRM platform solutions, support larger businesses, and commit to deeper partner deals and integrations.

What’s more, there is a hugely talented pool of individuals in the UK, many of whom are looking to return to work after a period of leave or who have used the pandemic as an opportunity to relocate. During the pandemic, HubSpot set out a clear policy around flexible working, committing to a hybrid model whereby employees can choose from three work preferences (@remote, @flex or @office) to build work around their life. A year into the pandemic, a staff survey revealed that 83% believed remote work had been a success and the flexible working model is now a permanent feature. This new formalized hybrid working model means we're able to offer opportunities for the right talent based on their potential, not on their postcode.

Why should CRM be top of mind for marketers today, and where should they make better investments to stay relevant in an increasingly digitized world?

CRM should be a business priority for all organizations, not just marketers. With the acceleration of digitalization caused by the pandemic and the consumerization of business tools such as Zoom, buyers are now more independent, demanding and empowered to switch services if the experience isn’t up to their standards. The focus on the digital experience has led disruptors to see unparalleled growth; however, there are potentially devastating risks for those companies that are unwilling to reconsider their digital experiences.

"Who are your customers?" is no longer a valid question. Instead, you should create a complete picture of each individual customer. What does the digital journey look like? When, where and how have they interacted with your business? What do they need and want from you now and expect from you next?

However, almost every business leader feels their tech stack is growing endlessly because of so much new technology and channels coming to market, making this process complicated. At HubSpot, we believe that a delightful experience comes down to moving from ad hoc single solutions to investing in a unified CRM platform. When your CMS sits alongside marketing, sales and customer service solutions in a centralized CRM system, customer-facing teams can see each customer's journey as a whole, enabling them to anticipate their customers’ needs and wants, put them at the center and deliver seamless, contextual experiences across all touchpoints. This is how companies win today.

What advice would you give a marketer right now?

First, make sure you spend a significant amount of time understanding your customer. In today’s competitive and unpredictable environment, how you sell is why you win. There used to be this whole paradigm that it was just the product, or it was just the brand that motivated people to buy. And in fact, I think the more significant transition is that buyers are actually in control of the entire sales and service process. They make their decisions to buy based on the seller, their interactions with the seller, the whole sales process, and the whole experience of that sales process. So it’s more important than ever for a business to understand their customers deeply.

Second, delighting the customer is more important than winning the customer. The customer journey starts, not ends, with the sale. The era of the buyer has taught us that that’s just the beginning of the journey with the customer. Continuing to delight the customer, delivering a better customer experience, and ensuring that your customers end up not just being passive customers, but promoters of your solution is way more important.

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