The Business Part of Business

Hubspot, and ‘Building a Moat Around Your Company’ using SEO

Hubspot’s Brian Halligan is one smart dude.

I’ve written about Hubspot several times, and once before, I wrote about Hubspot’s CEO. As in that piece, today I’ll be pointing you to a video of Brian Halligan, this time talking about a very cool idea: you need a moat around your business.

It’s OK that the point of Halligan’s talk was to promote Hubspot. And by the way: he slipped in the promotion of Hubspot’s services without ever once saying “buy our services”. Instead, Halligan pointed his viewers at a page on the Hubspot web site ranking marketing efficacy of the Inc. 5000 companies, implying that Hubspot is the tool to fix their marketing problems.

Nice story, told compellingly. Let’s break it down.

Here’s the Hubspot Marketing Grader score for Answer Guy Central as of this morning:

The Hubspot score is constantly fluctuating. Yesterday Hubspot thought Answer Guy Central was worthy of an 87. Before Hubspot made a large scale change to their marketing score algorithm earlier this year we ranked pretty consistently at around 96.

And like most ranking matrices, Hubspot Grader doesn’t “mean” anything; it’s an example of statistics lying, and a snapshot of a particular point in time compared to a specific set of criteria. You have to trust that Hubspot’s method is the right method to answer your marketing questions, and that’s just the beginning of any conversation of your Hubspot Grade’s “rank”. Let me disclose that I find Hubspot’s “Grader” tool to be a pretty good measurement of . . . something, and I use it all the time, despite all of that.

But ultimately Hubspot Grader is a great marketing tool—for Hubspot. So let’s talk once again about what Hubspot is, and what you get when you build a moat around your business by using it.

Hubspot’s CEO is 100% correct in the point of his speech. As time goes on it gets harder and harder to stand out; that’s just the way the Internet in general and Search Engine Optimization in particular work. Ironic that I came across Brian Halligan’s speech on the same day I talked about that in this piece on comedian Louis CK; I had just made the same point as Mr. Halligan, myself.

And Hubspot is a great tool for building that moat around your company. But when you use Hubspot, you’re also building your company’s headquarters on land owned by Hubspot, and Hubspot is building a moat around you.

If that’s OK with you, go ahead: buy Hubspot. Google did.

But if building that moat and also having a drawbridge you can lower when you want out is important, you have to stay away from Hubspot, no matter how great their tools seem to be and no matter how great a speaker Brian Halligan might be.

I was gratified when Hubspot’s Mike Volpe pointed out that to date Hubspot pricing has never changed for existing customers. I’ll say again now as I’ve said before that Hubspot is a great place to be if you’re building a web presence from scratch, want things to be not just simple but all available in one place, and don’t mind being held captive in your moated-off castle.

But that last point should be a deal breaker. And guess what: we can make all of this stuff work for you without holding you hostage.

As I said over three years ago, Hubspot is a great example of creating switching costs that are so great it makes no sense to ever leave them.

That’s not the moat you want to build around your business.