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Hi, my name is Kieran. I work at a company called HubSpot. During my time there I've helped to grow our international business, our freemium business, and our global demand.

Previous to that I did marketing for Salesforce, Marketo, and helped many B2C companies generate more business through organic search.

I should be able to help with anything on:

- Acquiring more demand - SEO, Content, Paid, Virality, and other crazy ideas to grow an audience. - Turning demand into paying customers - activation, monetization - Structuring marketing and growth teams in product lead companies - and generally anything about scaling demand :)

I also co-host the GrowthTLDR.com podcast where we speak to leading growth experts in the space, so I can pass on all the excellent advice I've learned from others.

Lastly, I'm also happy to discuss anything related to Pugs, as that's my real passion in life!

  • MS

    Martijn Scheijbeler

    6 months ago #

    Hi Kieran, Thanks for doing this :), I'd love to learn more about how you're scaling demand generation on a global level. So my questions are:
    - Do you split up Demand Generation on a local/area level (EMEA, Americas, etc.)?
    - How do you share global versus local knowledge across the organization and leverage what comes out of that?

    6 Share
    • KF

      Kieran Flanagan

      6 months ago #

      Hey Martijn

      My answer to those questions has probably changed a lot over the years. For some context, I did international marketing at Salesforce, Marketo and started HubSpot's international marketing team, before switching roles to grow out our freemium business.

      1. The hardest thing you need to figure out is:

      - When does it make sense for me to have a single central team who is responsible for all languages?

      - When does it make sense for me to separate teams by language

      - When does it make sense for me to separate teams by region/country

      a. Centralizing Teams:

      Given how distribution works today, it makes sense to have some functions where all distribution is centralized. That means you have a central team who services all regions/countries.

      For example, I would create one central world class SEO team who can facilitate growth in all languages you're targeting.

      I would create one central paid marketing team who can facilitate growth in all language you're targeting.

      It works better than having on a central team who are doing all the stuff for USA or English, and a couple of other people doing the same thing for other languages but reporting into different managers. Those people who're dotted around your other offices reporting into different managers lose the chance to learn from people who are great at the thing they're doing.

      Having one central team means the best people within a given discipline can learn from each other.

      b. Organizing by language

      In a lot of cases, it makes sense for a team to organize themselves around language. For example, let's take your blogging team. Imagine you're an international company with offices in USA / UK / Australia.

      It doesn't make sense to launch separate blogs for each country, instead, you have one blogging team who create all your English content. In my experience, there isn't a huge amount of difference between what people are searching for in different countries (at least in the industries I've worked in).

      But, it does make sense for you to create a separate team for each language you want to support, e.g. French, German.

      c. Organizing by region

      Some functions make sense to have a real local strategy — for example, events, field marketing, PR. These are teams where they need to be immersed in a specific country/region.

      When making decisions around team structure, ask yourself, what upside do I get by creating a team focused on a single language, or a team focused on a single region.

      If the answer is zero, you might be better sticking to one central team who services all languages.

      If the answer is a lot, you should break those teams out by language or region.

      2. It can be hard to share learnings among different offices, but certainly not impossible. I think part of it is making people feel they're part of the same team.

      Yes, sure, people might sit in different offices, but they share the same goals and vision as each other.

      The leaders/managers set a lot of the fixes here. Making sure people feel regional teams are important and making sure those people have a voice in meetings, and feel there are lots of opportunities for them to share their work.

      At HubSpot, our international teams are part of the reason we've grown so fast, so everyone understands out immensely talented they are :)

      4 Share
  • KF

    Kieran Flanagan

    6 months ago #

    Hey All,

    I'll be back online in a couple of hours to answer all remaining questions. I need to go home and feed my pug :)

  • PC

    Pedro Clivati

    6 months ago #

    Hey, Kieran! Thank you for doing this.

    My question goes around Growth Experiments and Management and Pugs:

    1) Is the growth team responsible for coming up with all of the growth ideas or is this something democratized among the company and the selection of which goes to production belongs to the growth team?

    2) Does the growth experiments fall under any area of Hubspot? For example, if the company is struggling to hire new product managers and this is limiting the company's ability to grow as a whole, is it ok for the growth team to help the People's area?

    3) It's ok to love Pugs, but... do you really think they are pretty?

    • KF

      Kieran Flanagan

      6 months ago #

      Hey Pedro

      Love that you asked a question on Pugs :)

      Let me go through them in order.

      1. HubSpot has always been a company that's encouraged people to run experiments. It's also a big company, so many different teams run tests against their metrics.

      So, I can answer this in two parts.

      - Each team is responsible for experiments against the metric they own. Those teams can span across paid, email, SEO, blogging, onboarding, monetization, etc.

      - Within those teams the experiment process is democratized, in that, everyone is encouraged to run experiments and own the entire process end to end.

      Here are some other follow up points to that, as it's something I'm currently writing a post on :)

      - I talked with Jeff Chang who is a growth lead at Pinterest on the GrowthTLDR podcast, and he spoke to this very point. He talked of autonomy being a lever to scale experiment ideas, and people within their growth org being encouraged to own the end to end process for tests.

      - I also talked to Brittany Bingham who did growth at SurveyMonkey and is now VP Marketing @RaiseMe. She also talked about how at SurveyMonkey they democratized growth and provided other teams with the tools they needed to run experiments. Doing that is a great way to scale your testing program.

      2. We generally think of growth split across acquisition, activation, monetization, and retention.

      But, would people pivot what they're doing if the company felt something else was more important and could benefit from some growth resources, yes.

      It comes back to having a small group of leaders picking the company priorities and changing if required.

      3. Pugs are my favorite thing on the planet. Every pug I see I want to adopt and take home !!

      2 Share
  • OM

    Ohad Mastboim

    6 months ago #

    Hi Kieran, I would love to know about your process in choosing your north star KPI.
    Is there any tips in creating this KPI when your are a B2B platforms with multiple usecases and value points.
    Also how often are you reviewing this north star KPI? Did you ever change it? why did you do this change.

    • KF

      Kieran Flanagan

      6 months ago #

      Back when I started on HubSpot's freemium model we choose a metric that correlated heavily with us seeing better upgrades and retention e.g. delivering value to users.

      We made that our north star metric, in that, if we saw that metric improve, everything else would look better.

      Could you give me more details on what you mean by B2B platform with different use cases and value points?

      Generally, your NorthStar metric should be something that captures the value your product/service delivers to customers.

      You 100% want to review the metric you've chosen and checked if the reasons you choose it still exist e.g. is it still the best representation of the value you deliver to customers.

      You also want to have indicators of success that you track more frequently. Brian Balfour wrote an excellent post on that here

      >> https://brianbalfour.com/essays/north-star-metric-growth

      2 Share
  • SM

    Sherry Mason

    6 months ago #

    Hey Keiran,
    Thanks for doing this AMA!

    My question is about content creation. What content creation process would you suggest for a SaaS company that's got a niche product (which means fewer subjects to write about)?

    PS: Great question on sharing global vs local knowledge across organization, by Martijn Scheijbeler, !

    • KF

      Kieran Flanagan

      6 months ago #

      Ok, so let's assume you're talking about content to attract an audience.

      Your content strategy for attraction is about winning the hearts and minds of your audience.

      If winning the minds of your audience, you want to create content that generates 'silent' traffic. You want to create content that is 'promotion' first, in that you've purposely designed it to acquire traffic from somewhere.

      In most cases that's going to be from search engines. So, I would create less content, but content that targets a specific grouping of keywords. I would focus on promoting every post vs. promoting the overall blog and hoping to be a standout blog in the industry.

      I wouldn't care if people knew about my blog or not, I would think of each post as it's own acquisition engine.

      If winning the hearts of your audience, you would create content that you do want to create 'buzz' around your company. It would attract people who share the same vision/mission as you. It's designed to make them feel something or think differently about a problem.

      I would think less about needing this content to generate traffic/conversions and more about it creating a brand for your company over the long-term. Hint: It's a long-term investment.

      I suspect most companies would at first want to focus on winning the minds, so for you, I would build an entire keyword map of what I could create content on, and only invest my time/resources on creating content where I can attract traffic.

      Oddly enough :) We just released an entire podcast episode on that very subject today

      >> https://www.kieranflanagan.io/podcast/rethinking-your-content-marketing-strategy-with-jimmy-daly-animalz/

      2 Share
  • JY

    Jason Y

    6 months ago #

    Thanks for taking the time to do this AMA Kieran!
    I've got a question about the digital publishing space (I started a digital magazine recently).
    -What are your thoughts on the digital publishing space? IE. Forbes and New York Times switching to a subscription model to survive
    -Digital Marketing comprises of a lot of different specializations. If you were to pick two for T-Shaped Marketers to have as their specialization (stem), which would you pick?
    -Lastly, what's your favourite characteristic of pugs?

    • KF

      Kieran Flanagan

      6 months ago #

      Hey Jason,

      Thanks for the questions.

      1. I think it's a good idea if you have high-quality original content. Once the user can get the same content elsewhere for free, you've failed. If you're relying on your brand to get people to signup over other companies where the same content is free, I think you're going to fail.

      For example, it's working well for companies like Medium where there are a lot of great writers publishing original content.

      2. I don't know if I like T-Shaped marketer as an expression :). I think you should generally be great at something. Even if you decide to learn a lot of things, you still need to be great at something.

      Some of the best marketing leaders I know started their careers in search, or onboarding, or analytics and then grew into other things.

      They were able to expand their skills and always lean back on their foundation.

      For a T-Shaped marketer, I would want to know what my foundation is.

      I think good things to know in the future are search, analytics, experiments, data, content, creativity.

      Of course, most people would add coding, but seeing I'm an ex-developer who isn't great at coding, I'm jealous of other people who can code, so I'm showing all other people like me you can have some type of career without being able to write code :) (but, I wish I could!).

      3. I love everything about Pugs, but some of my favorites are:

      - How they go in circles when excited, e.g., getting food
      - How they always follow you around, I mean, literally walking into your feet
      - How obsessed they are with teddys. My adopted pug as over ten teddys that she carries about from room to room :)

      3 Share
  • RB

    Rupert Brenn

    6 months ago #

    Hey Kieran,

    2 questions for you.

    1. There are so many definitions and variations of "growth" nowadays. Companies looking for growth marketing, growth product etc. How would you define it?

    2. What do you look for in someone searching for a growth role (based on your definition above)?

    Others already asked about your pugs so look forward to reading your answers there ;)

    Thanks man!

    • KF

      Kieran Flanagan

      6 months ago #

      Hey Rupert

      1. Urgh, I know it's tough right :) I'm sure some people can define it a lot better than I can.

      I think of growth as a framework on how you approach growing a business. It's breaking your business down into a growth model where you can map out how that business is going to grow (qualitative), you can then take that model and turn it into a dashboard with each metric you should track (quantitative).

      You then have teams who can obsess over the metrics that matter and approach growing those metrics in a very systematic way, e.g. experiments, iteration, etc.

      However, that's my definition of the top of my head, as I don't tend to think about it too much, I'm sure other people would have a better description.

      2. I think growth is such an all-encompassing term. Let's say I'm looking for someone on the SEO team, or paid team, or onboarding team, or conversion rate optimization team, there will be some variation on the things you look for.

      However, generally what you look for in people who are going to be good at growing something you care about is:

      - Deeply curious about the problem. I had one person on my team who was terrific at this. She would jump on the call with customers, or speak with real people, look at data, do surveys, etc etc. to establish the real story behind something.

      - Able to learn the mechanics of how something work. Consider someone who is great at search, or Facebook marketing, or onboarding users onto a product. They all can pull apart how something works and understand its mechanics.

      - Team player, growth is the result of collaboration with other teams. For me, it's something that's more important than ever.

      Just some of the things I would look for.

  • WV

    Wynand van Niekerk

    6 months ago #

    Hi Kieran

    1. Has the freemium model for Hubspot had more success than any previously tested models and what have you experimented with?
    2. How did Hubspot decide on the features for the Free option vs the Paid options, is there a specific recipe?
    3. And, do you think a freemium model is the best subscription model for a SaaS product where the aha-moment is immediate, but there is a bit of work to get fully up and running with the product?

    We're also a Hubspot client, great product, but pugs rule :).
    Thanks for your time, appreciate it.

    • KF

      Kieran Flanagan

      6 months ago #

      Hey Wynand

      1. Freemium has been a real success for HubSpot. I'm not sure what you mean by more successful against other tested models.

      There are two distinct paths people have on their way to becoming a HubSpot customer:

      - Either people discover our content, want to download more, and realize we have tools that can help their business grow, and upgrade.

      - Or people discover our free tools, use them for some length of time, and see value in the paid features.

      Both of these models have been successful for us.

      2. Great question and one I don't have a great answer to. We have general managers for each of our main product lines - Marketing, Sales, Customer Success. The GM's are tasked with helping to guide what features are free, remain in paid etc.

      They seek info from other teams for input. They want to know if there are features we could take into free that would help fuel acquisition, are their features that are particularly strong monetization paths to other tiers of product.

      3. Another great, and hard question :) I think freemium works great when:

      It's easy to understand the value of your product in a short amount of time. It has a broad appeal and you can onboard people to the product in a low friction way.

      You would choose freemium when you have:

      - A large market (a lot of users to attract)
      - You're maybe trying to displace a well-established brand. You get traction in the market by offering a subset of the most popular features for free.
      - Your product lends itself to network effects so it's in your interest to have a lot of people using it.
      - Your product has viral loops so people using the free version helps to acquire other people

      Thanks for being a HubSpot client, you're all the stars of the HubSpot story :)

  • LT

    Linh M. P. Tran

    6 months ago #

    Did you utilise push notifications at HubSpot, if so, how have you planned for them?

  • KV

    Kumaran Veluppillai

    6 months ago #

    Thank you Kieran for taking the time to share your learnings!

    What growth teams do you regard highly in London, which is where I live and work today? or more broadly in the UK.

    • KF

      Kieran Flanagan

      6 months ago #

      Hey Kumaran,

      I could probably use your help to hear about more awesome growth teams in London. Please suggest some for me as I would love to connect with more people there.

      I caught up with Fabrizio Ballarini from transferwise, he and his team have done some awesome stuff.

      Other teams (probably not surprising) - Pinterest, Patreon, EventBrite, Wealthfront, RaiseMe, Invision.

      There probably more, I'm blanking :)

  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    6 months ago #

    Hey Kieran,

    So cool to have you on!

    What advice would you have for someone looking to get started in a demand gen career.
    Other than great resources you can recommend (and pls do recommend some), for someone who is not yet in such a role, what can they practically do to "learn by doing" to build a foundation and up their skills?

    • KF

      Kieran Flanagan

      6 months ago #

      The thing I love about marketing is you can get started long before you ever secure your first job.

      You can have a small site and rank it for keywords. You can create a blog and create some great content. You can create videos and put them on Youtube. You can start a small ecomm store and do some drop shipping.

      My advice would be, don't think you need to wait until you secure your first role to get experience, you can start getting it right now.

  • RS

    Rodrigo Severo Matos

    6 months ago #

    Hi Kieran,

    Super thanks for sharing some of your experiences with us today.

    I'd love to hear about how you deal with the different cultural aspects when setting your strategy aiming to grow your international business.

    Regarding Pugs, people tend to say they are sedentary dogs. What are the main activities you recommend a Pug enthusiast take his/her little ones?

    Thanks again!

    • KF

      Kieran Flanagan

      6 months ago #

      Hey Rodrigo

      Great questions on the international business. I have some level of experience in doing this as I've been part of an international team at three fast-growing SaaS companies now.

      It's an interesting question about dealing with different cultural aspects. I'm sure it's something I could have done a better job at each of the international roles I've done.

      Here is how I think about creating a more inclusive environment for regional teams (not sure if that's what you're asking?)

      Some easy things:

      - Make sure you have meetings that work for everyone where possible. Don't schedule a meeting that's at 11pm for people in other countries, that sucks.

      - Create an environment where the regional marketers can share the work they're doing and the learnings they've had. Often you can create an environment where it's viewed all the great work comes from the central teams, and the regional teams just replicate that.

      Make sure you don't have that perception and you're making everyone aware of the great work regional marketers are doing.

      - Take time to understand what it's like to live and work from those countries. Go visit them for a week. Dial into your regular meetings. See how hard some of it can be.

      That's a couple that spring to mind.

      Oh, Pugs love chillin !! I take my pug for walks, but what she loves to do is play tug of war with her panda bear. I take her panda and run around the house with it until she manages to chase me down and grab it off me :)

      Ha, you can imagine how weird and wonderful my home life must be !!

  • KI

    Kevin Indig

    6 months ago #

    Hey Kieran, thanks for doing an AMA and sharing your knowledge! I wonder what books and courses/classes taught you the most about Growth? How do you continuously develop your skill-sets?

    • KF

      Kieran Flanagan

      6 months ago #

      Hey Kevin

      Great questions,

      - I'm biased, but I think Brian Balfour and that crew have done something special at Reforge.com. It's great content and Brian is extremely talented at distilling down complex topics into frameworks and processes. They also have an amazing great of lecturers. 100% worth the investment.

      - Although I wish it wasn't so, as I'm an introvert by default :) talking to people is probably the way I learn most today. I love talking to new people and learning how they've solved hard problems.

      - When I was 100% SEO focused, I did a bunch of courses, I can't even remember now. I learned a lot from a couple, but it's because I was very good at applying the learnings to either client sites or my own.

      I learned a lot about SEO by creating my own sites and messing about with them. I think that's still true of how I try to learn, whether that's creating content, podcasting, video.

      Today, I think the best way I can continually develop myself is to ensure I keep having new, difficult problems to solve, and talking to people about their experience in solving something similar, applying my learnings and seeing how it goes :)

  • WB

    Wes Bush

    6 months ago #

    Hey Kieran! :) I'm curious. What metrics do you track for HubSpot's freemium model? Specifically, how do you break the metrics down by team? Does each team have a quality / quantity metric?

    • KF

      Kieran Flanagan

      6 months ago #

      Hey Wes

      1. The metrics we look at have evolved a lot since we first launched the freemium business. We look at a LOT today :)

      Here are some of the ones we look at in our very first growth dashboard (very summarized version, there are 120 rows).

      - Number of people signing up for freemium
      - Number of people activating on the product (have used it in a meaningful way)
      - Number of teams who activated on the product (two or more people from the company used it in a meaningful way)
      - Weekly Active Users (number of users using the product on a weekly basis)
      - Weekly Active Teams (number of teams using the product on a weekly basis, this was the metric we obsessed over)
      - Loss/Churn of Weekly Active Teams
      - Churned accounts
      - PQLs (Product Qualified Leads)
      - Upgrades

      2. Most metrics are broken out across acquisition, activation, monetization, and retention, however, there are nuances.

      Let me know if I can add more color her.

      3. We look to the quality of the users we're signing up via the metrics above. However, there are a lot of cases where we don't hold individual teams accountable for metrics they can't own.

      For example, our global SEO team's job is to generate more leads and new software users for our freemium products. It probably makes sense that we hold them accountable to a metric like new active users (e.g., quality metric).

      The problem with that is you're holding them accountable to a metric they don't fully own. They don't own the signup experience, they don't own the user onboarding, so things other teams do can impact their numbers.

      Instead, we hold them accountable for the demand they generate, and we'll dig in if we see quality drop off on demand being created.

      Regarding acquisition, you tend to see this most on paid where you can drastically increase demand with additional budget or loosening of targeting. For paid, they would be accountable for return on ad spend, which takes into account LTV.

  • AS

    Alanna Sousa

    6 months ago #

    Hey Kieran, thanks for taking the time to share your insights with us!

    You mentioned being able to help us with crazy ideas to grow an audience. I'm wondering if you're a twitter hacker and if so, can you please share some tips on how to use Twitter as a tool to engage and grow your audience, without missing the momentum?

    Also, what are your Pugs names? :)

    • KF

      Kieran Flanagan

      6 months ago #

      Hey Alanna,

      I'm def not a twitter hacker!

      Honestly, I have no magic tricks or tips here. I try to share interesting stuff on Twitter and be genuine, but I'm no influencer on Twitter :)

  • JC

    Jack Carter

    6 months ago #

    My question is about content creation. What content creation process would you suggest for a SaaS company that's got a niche product (which means fewer subjects to write about)?

  • SC

    Sara Candido

    5 months ago #

    Hey Kieran! Since you´ve worked in so many great companies, what is the best Performance Review Model that attends and acchieve a great development procces for people in Growth? Thank you!

  • RM

    Rodrigo Mendes Lopes

    5 months ago #

    Hey, Kieran! Fine?

    I've found this AMA through a newsletter I'm subscribed in, and I think it happened in such a great time.

    Just to give you a little context: I'm work in Recife, in a software design and development studio based at Porto Digital, the 'Brazilian Silicon Valley'.

    Recently, I was invited to create a Product Management Office in our company (www.bemind.com.br), which is a kind of new thing for someone who has spent the last years in Project Managements - aka me.

    The question is: based on your personal experiences, what would you recommend me to do in the very beginning?

    I hope to come back here asking more specific questions soon! :) Thank you!

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