There are few in the inbound marketing world who have not heard of Pete Caputa. Caputa, who many know as "the father of the HubSpot Partner Program," started his career as a chemical engineer before returning to school to study coding, hoping to get in on the ground floor of the tech boom.
After a few years working for a marketing startup that failed colossally, reaping a $16,000 return from a $250,000 e-commerce site, Caputa struck out on his own, branching into sales and online event planning before meeting Mark Roberge, discovering the idea for HubSpot, and becoming the 15th employee in 2007.
At HubSpot, Caputa began pitching his idea for the partner program as a scalable method for growth, but he encountered resistance from higher-ups who felt the partner program would be a waste of time unless it could drastically exceed the productivity of an internal team. Caputa's pitch was rejected twice, but once he "started crushing [his] numbers," ignoring him was no longer an option, and HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan gave him the green light. The HubSpot Partner Program was born, and digital marketing would never be the same.
In this episode, Caputa, who can be reached via Twitter, lists the four most common mistakes that partner agencies make, how they can avoid them, and who in the inbound world is doing it right.
1. Agencies Don't Define Themselves
- According to Caputa, agencies often struggle with defining "who they want to help and how they want to help them," and instead try to be "all things to all people."
- The automatic response to every client request should not be "Oh, we can do that."
- "That’s how agencies stay small, that’s how they stay unprofitable, if they do that shit." - Caputa
- Agencies that find their niche and stick to it tend to be more profitable.
2. Agencies Don't Market Themselves
- An agency that focuses exclusively on servicing clients at the expense of marketing itself cannot grow and is vulnerable.
- Good internal marketing can create "a steady flow of new clients" that can sustain an agency through setbacks in other areas.
- There is no one right way for an agency to market itself.
- Bob Ruffolo of IMPACT immediately started "blogging like crazy" and never let up, producing a constant stream of content.
- Paul Roetzer of PR 20/20 produces less content than Roffolo, but the content he does produce was exceptionally unique and creative and brings him a caliber of client that is usually beyond the reach of an agency that size.
3. Agencies Don't Prospect
- According to Caputa, agencies tend to believe that inbound will magically bring them clients without any sales prospecting on their part.
- "Marketing by itself does not produce clients; it produces leads." - Caputa.
- In order to turn a lead into a client, the agency must reach out in a meaningful way.
- Agencies also fail to get buy-in from prospects early on.
- The first step should be strategy: setting expectations, establishing trust, and delivering early wins.
- Marcus Sheridan of The Sales Lion (featured on this earlier episode) does a good job of putting strategy first by gathering the prospective client's stakeholders for workshops early in the on-boarding process.
- Remington Begg of Impulse Creative (featured on this earlier episode) excels in prospecting by using HubSpot's free tools to deliver value to prospective clients.
- See Caputa's blog post on using free tools to deliver value to prospects quickly and easily.
4. Agencies Aren't Creative
- When he was building the HubSpot Partner Program, Caputa laid out a framework, but now he says that some partner agencies are following it too formality.
- Many agencies blindly crank out a set number of blog posts, create a landing page with an offer, and then sit down with the client once a month, but sometimes more creative solutions are needed.
- Stream Creative, a Milwaukee-based agency, ran a campaign for a local paving company that, rather than blogging, ran a promotion that raised customer awareness by partnering with a local animal shelter.
- "If you build your agency plan right… all these good things kind of happen. If you screw up one of them, it just doesn’t work as well." - Caputa
We hope you enjoyed this episode and the insight Pete shares from years in the trenches! If you enjoyed the show, make sure to reach out on Twitter and thank Pete for taking the time to share with this community.
Podcast recap written by Grayson Quay.