At Grow With Inbound 2020, Huble Digital Group CEO Bob Dearsley interviewed HubSpot’s EMEA Managing Director, Christian Kinnear. This blog highlights the discussion which touched on HubSpot’s recent success, the challenges brought on by the pandemic, as well as where the company’s priorities lie for the future.
Bob Dearsley:The big thing that’s impacted everybody is, of course, the pandemic. I’m very curious to understand how things have changed for HubSpot through this period. Could you tell us how you’ve adapted to things?
Christian Kinnear: The business itself already had quite a flexible, autonomous culture. We tend to lean into ‘it’s what you do, not where you do it’ and place trust in our employees.
Before the pandemic struck, the company had a remote program manager enrolled and people designing programs for remote working roles. These things had been in place for eighteen months, so when the pandemic came we were as shocked as anyone, but HubSpot was well-placed for the shift.
We implemented remote working across the company, with an ‘opt in’ offer to return to the office with zero expectations when it was safe to do so. Going forward, HubSpot is formalising a sort of ‘Choose Your Adventure’ option for employees. They can formally choose to be an office employee, go the flexi-route with two or less days in the office a week, or work from home full-time.
We expect that the vast majority of roles will soon be location-agnostic.
Bob:Given that you’ve managed the ‘people part’ well, how about your customers? How are they adapting to the changes?
Christian: It’s a bit of a mixed bag, to be honest. From the customers themselves — at a macro or high level — we’re seeing that small businesses and prospects have reacted the fastest. This makes sense: if you’re a smaller business you’re probably more precariously positioned in terms of being able to absorb the impact of the pandemic. It’s adapt-or-die to a certain degree, and they’ve made decisions very quickly.
Mid-market and upmarket clients have been a little slower. Again, it’s very understandable as they have complex business units to manage, and they’ve had to pause and reflect more deeply on how to course correct and change trajectory.
From a customer point-of-view, we’ve been really mindful that companies of all shapes and sizes would be feeling the pinch in the eye of the storm, which was probably around the March–April window. We adjusted and rearranged a bunch of things, and introduced flexible payment structures and cashflow support for clients that needed it.
We thought this would be an interesting opportunity to help our customers keep in touch with their customers. To pass on the cascade effect, we unlocked a bunch of product features, saying, “Even though you haven’t paid for it, let’s help you contact your customers through calling and mail and video and other channels, to just help you communicate in this time when everyone is looking for some assurance.”
Bob: I’m curious to understand how it’s worked for you overall. The indicators I’ve seen lately are very positive. How’s HubSpot faring during these times?
Christian: We’re in good shape. Be it from a consumer or business angle, what COVID-19 has done is push us into digital transformation. This means there’s a tailwind in the SaaS, tech and digital sectors that’s helping us on an industry level. It’s been an interesting exercise to try and understand what those drivers are and how things are looking.
To your point — we released our Q2 results and, from a revenue, profit and cashflow standpoint, we’re in good health. Our cash-in-bank is also very strong — which is really what you want to be storm-proof. It was also a record setting quarter in terms of the number of new customers we’ve taken on, which is something we’re incredibly proud of.
On the retention side, we predicted that we’d see a significant drop-off if the pinch came. When it did arrive, however, the drop was lower than expected which was a pleasant surprise.
After holding conversations with customers, we confirmed that our clients see HubSpot as business-critical to sustaining their customer bases and finding new business, which is tremendous.
Bob then guided the discussion back to customers, as well as what strategies are proving effective for sales and marketing development in our current climate.
Bob: With Inbound coming up — HubSpot’s new virtual experience — I promised to ask if there are any spoilers you can give us?
Christian: (Laughs) It’s exciting to see that Marketing is still building out a really nice product set. The guardrails we have set are that our Marketing products need to retain ease-of-use and intuitiveness, but with a ton of more enterprise-level power built into the product. So while you can still use it easily, you also can unlock more potential and really leverage it for the business.
What gets me even more excited (if there’s such a thing) is what’s coming up for Sales and Service Hub Enterprise.
Christian elaborates in the video below:
Bob then opened up the virtual stage for questions from attendees:
Question 1: Any plans for setting permission levels at a property level?
Christian: Yes, yes there are.
Question 2: During the pandemic, both internal and external offerings to clients have changed. If you had to redo things, is there anything you’d do differently knowing what you know now?
Christian: Like everyone else, at the very outset we didn’t know if this was going to be a one month, three month or one year time window. Setting up home offices for staff proved to be a problem. I think we all underestimated the level of help and support our employees would need, and by that time we were a little bit tight-handed ourselves. The ability to distribute equipment to employees’ homes became the main issue as we couldn’t go into the office, and couriers were all tied up too.
That was definitely the speed bump I’d liked to have seen coming first.
Bob wrapped up the discussion with a look to the future, asking Christian what he thought businesses could do to emerge from 2020 in good shape: