Engage Your Customers with Remarkable Content: A Q&A with HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan

In this exclusive interview, we talk with HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan, co-author of the bestsellingInbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media and Blogs. We talked with Brian about how businesses can use an inbound marketing strategy and create compelling content to attract and engage their prospects and customers.

Can you describe what you mean by inbound marketing? How does inbound marketing differ from more traditional forms of "outbound" marketing, like direct mail, cold-calling, email blasts and advertising?

Brian Halligan: My co-founder Dharmesh and I coined the term ‘inbound marketing’ based on a simple observation: the way people live, work, shop, and buy has change dramatically. No one likes sitting through interruptive, annoying ads or getting spam emails. It’s time companies change how they market and sell to match how modern consumers shop and buy. The old marketing playbook is broken; today, instead of renting customers’ attention, brands have to earn it in order to stay relevant. That’s where inbound marketing comes in. At its core, inbound marketing is about getting found online through engaging content and delighting customers with a personalized, and ultimately more human experience. While outbound marketing broadcasts one-size-fits all messaging, inbound marketing attracts, engages, and delights leads, prospects, and customers with the right message, on the right platform, at the right time.

In Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media and Blogs, you mentioned one method to creating a remarkable strategy for inbound marketing is to be the world's best at what you do within your existing market rules. How can today's service agencies and small businesses apply and benefit from this approach?

Brian Halligan: Inbound marketing is about the width of your brain not the width of your wallet, so any business can benefit from a more inbound approach. Many HubSpot agencies compete with companies 100 times their size because they create and optimize remarkable content, and that’s really exciting to me as an entrepreneur. The people and companies we admire at HubSpot didn’t follow the mold; they charted a new course. Two of the first conference rooms at HubSpot are named after Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead and Steve Jobs of Apple. Both of them were simply undaunted by the status quo and spent their whole lives proving the impossible possible. That’s how I want our team to think here, and that’s how I encourage businesses to think about their own strategy and marketplace. Don’t do what everyone else does: create really compelling social media accounts, publish educational, entertaining, or fun content that aligns with your brand, and align your marketing efforts with what your customers actually want and need.


You talk about the concept of lead nurturing in Inbound Marketing. Can you describe the concept and why effective nurturing can turn leads into customers and broaden your marketing reach? Is lead nurturing a long-term marketing investment?

Brian Halligan: Not everyone who comes to your website is going to want to buy your product right away. In fact, selling too hard too early can turn people away from your brand entirely. Instead, you want to offer people calls to action that are appropriate based on their engagement with your brand to date. For example, if they just read one of your blog entries, consider encouraging them to subscribe to your blog moving forward. If they downloaded an offer specific to social media marketing, consider sending them emails with additional related content or offering to provide a ten minute consultation on their existing social media approach. Lead nurturing is about having a strategy for maintaining a relationship with a prospect or lead so that if and when they are ready to buy or recommend you to a friend, you’ve given them the appropriate content and call to action to do so.

How important is the relationship between page content and search engine optimization? Can you provide a few tips for how to optimize content in blogs, landing pages and on a website?

Brian Halligan: A good SEO strategy includes both on and offline components (for more details on yours check out this article by an awesome member of our marketing team), but fundamentally, it starts with creating content your customers actually want to share, consume, and engage with on an ongoing basis. Being the world’s best at what you do means identifying an unmet need in the marketplace, developing a compelling strategy to create content to deliver on that need, and optimizing and improving it over time. Don’t create the same content as your competitors; invest the time and energy to be remarkable. Beware of trying too hard to fit a ton of keywords into your content; it will end up being a terrible experience for your audience and could give you a bad name. Google is extremely savvy to keyword stuffing, so focus on creating quality content and keep SEO top of mind throughout the process.

Congratulations on becoming an inbound marketing maven!  Next, become an expert on accounting terminology.