HubSpot’s Christian Kinnear discusses the CRM platform’s growth in the UK and the keys to its success
Having started out as an email marketing platform for small companies, HubSpot has rapidly transformed into a full CRM platform with a market valuation of over $30bn and customers including the likes of Revolut and Skyscanner. Now, the company has announced a physical expansion of its presence into the UK, with a commitment to creating 70 new jobs across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
In an exclusive interview, CX Today welcomes Christian Kinnear, SVP of International Sales and Managing Director EMEA at HubSpot, to discuss the move and the broader lessons HubSpot has learned from its continuing growth.
The opening of a London office is informed both by the changing requirements of its customers and its history in the UK. “HubSpot has been helping businesses in the UK for almost ten years, but our needs and those of our customers are changing,” says Kinnear. “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.
“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 and excited to take the step through local presence and more face-to-face customer engagement.”
With the UK having become HubSpot’s second-largest market globally, the country’s business landscape provides a unique opportunity for the company. “As a company and business leader, it’s very fulfilling to see that more than 10,000 UK companies rely on HubSpot to help their growth and scaling efforts, from emerging start-ups and accelerating scale-ups to market-leading organisations,” says Kinnear. “The UK is a hugely attractive market with a thriving business scene buoyant with tech-savvy companies that are early adopters of technology. UK business leaders realise 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 position more CRM platform solutions, support larger businesses and commit to deeper partner deals and integrations.”
So too is HubSpot planning to make use of the UK’s extensive talent pool, many of whom have used the pandemic as an opportunity to relocate. “Our new formalised hybrid working model means we’re able to offer opportunities for the right talent based on their potential, not on their postcode, and we are excited to tap into the UK’s outstanding talent pool to continue helping thousands of UK businesses grow better.”
Kinnear identifies three key learnings from its rapid growth, the first being the importance of being customer-obsessed over just customer-centric. “The main reason HubSpot has experienced this level of success is that we are hyper-focused on building a customer-centric business strategy,” says Kinnear. “We help businesses grow by building better customer experiences, which requires gaining insight into and supporting every part of the customer journey. As such, we have been adjusting and evolving our technology to cover the full customer lifecycle based on the needs and demands of our customers as well as those of theirs. We believe that having a system of record (our CRM) integrated with systems of engagement (Marketing/Sales/Service/CMS Hubs, APIs, integrations) provides the best foundation for businesses to scale. It’s impossible to make customer-centric decisions unless each customer-facing team has the same, complete view of a customer’s history of interactions with your company.”
Kinnear also points to the company’s refusal to blindly chase fads and its confidence to go with its instincts as vital to its success. He points to the adoption of a freemium model five years ago as a prime example. “The general perception of freemium is that the model isn’t suited to B2B companies targeting long-term, large-scale growth. In our experience, companies shouldn’t be afraid to go against the grain – often, the advice to not try something comes either from fear or a lack of experience. And this has proven successful for us, with 60% of our customers starting out with our free offerings upgrading to access our more powerful, paid-for tools.”
A culture of innovation has also served the company well in its growth journey. “At HubSpot, we are committed to building technology, not buying it, and innovation has always been a key driver of growth,” says Kinnear. “The buyer’s journey is constantly changing, and for you to scale your business, you’ve got to keep up with your consumers and their buying habits.” As a result, HubSpot’s product strategy is continuously evolving to meet and even anticipate the needs and demands of its customers. “We have a best-in-class product and engineering team and all of our tools, components, and systems are crafted in house, seamlessly working together as the building blocks of the user experience. Because we started building our own in-house development capabilities early on, the great thing is that it has been a positive reinforcement cycle. As our team has developed more of our platform, it has become more capable, with better tools and led to even more innovation internally and externally.”
Far from resting on its laurels, the company is focused on continuing to craft its offering. “HubSpot CRM is a true CRM platform. This means it has been crafted to be fit for purpose, not cobbled together. We really focus on what a modern CRM platform should be and are fundamentally built with customer experience in mind, allowing us to support.,” says Kinnear. “We support company growth by helping front office teams deepen relationships with customers and provide a best-in-class experience. We make this possible through a powerful and easy to use CRM, complemented with hundreds of apps and tools that can be integrated out of the box.”
For HubSpot, a modern CRM should be shaped by customer expectations, as Kinnear explains. “In today’s changing environment, you don’t call customers; they come to the website and use that front door. Or they may choose to use a free trial of the product, which might be the front door. The digital journey begins with the website and carries through with the many interactions that your customer has with you and you need to capture all of that information.” The CRM, then, has become a holistic and multi-purpose solution vital for success. “Today, CRM powers your entire end-to-end customer experience and is inclusive of tools like CMS and core engagement apps. We’re seeing more businesses recognize that CRM is indispensable – as shown in HubSpot’s UK Sales Enablement Report, there is increased adoption of CRM software of 40% compared to pre-Covid levels.”
Looking to the future, HubSpot anticipates a continued merging of B2B and B2C experiences. “Unlike a few years ago, the buyer has all the information and, therefore, the power,” says Kinnear. “B2C experiences are setting the standard for the type of experience we expect as users of B2B products. Think about buying a car in 1997 vs today – then, it was an extremely painful and nontransparent process that created distrust. Now, digital dealerships are literally bringing the cars to you to test drive. This is the level of innovation that B2B companies will need to adopt in order to delight their customers. Today’s buyers want businesses to be easy to buy from, easy to engage with, and easy to get service from, both in B2B and B2C worlds.”
To find out more about HubSpot’s CRM offering, go here.