How to beat Hubspot at its own game

robot army

I like to help new bloggers and I had an interesting conversation a few weeks ago with a young woman who was exasperated over what seemed like a hopeless situation.

“How can I ever beat Hubspot?” she asked. “They have so many resources and put out so much great content. Why would anybody read my blog for content marketing advice?”

I can certainly understand her consternation. It can get downright depressing watching these big companies pump out post after post when all of us little guys are lucky to produce one great piece of content every week!

Let’s look at this problem and come up with a strategy to win.

First let me say that I admire HubSpot so this is not an anti-HubSpot post. They are a solid company with a great product and they are “walking the talk” by investing in content.

Having said that, you do not want to be Hubspot. You want to be you because you can win your niche on your terms. Here’s how.

Blow apart your expectations.

This is an important step. Forget about size. Forget about traffic. Forget about being HubSpot.

Focus on AUDIENCE.

Traffic is an ego metric that is not necessarily going to deliver business benefits. Would you rather have 10,000 readers a day who never come back or 10 passionate readers who engage with you and eventually buy from you? HubSpot is focused on building search traffic with Terminator like efficiency and they will win that game. But you can build your own meaningful audience who cares about YOU.

HubSpot is a machine, you’re not.

To stand out on the web, you need to be original. And to be original, you need to dig down deep and have the courage to show your personality and passion through your content,

There is only one you. You have no competition, including HubSpot. Be you and attract your own audience.

You can own your niche

To generate the thousands of posts HubSpot tosses into the blogosphere, it has to cover a pretty wide number of subjects. HubSpot is a generalist but the world also needs specialists and that is you.

Most pundits will tell you that you need to pick a specialized topic before you start creating content. I disagree. Let me ask you this: the job you’re doing now — is this exactly the job you thought you would be doing five years ago? The answer to that is almost always no. You carve your path in life by discovering your opportunities all along the way, Blogging works the same way.

So if you don’t know your niche yet, don’t let that stop you from creating content. Just start. It’s likely that your specialty and interests will evolve and perhaps even transform over time until you find your niche.

HubSpot has no soul

Every week I receive dozens of blog posts from HubSpot. They are all by different authors … people I have never heard of before. In fact, they have so many authors, the byline at the top of the post is almost invisible to me. I don’t even care who wrote it because it is a revolving door.

When I leave a comment on a HubSpot blog post, I don’t get a response. Why? Because comments probably don’t contribute to inbound leads as much as the original content becoming indexed by Google.

So, I have zero emotional attachment to HubSpot. They are a content machine.  I don’t know these people writing for HubSpot and they don’t want to know me either.

This is your opportunity

Think of the opportunity that YOU have here. People buy from people they know and trust. You can connect with me and I can connect with you because we can get to know each other … first in the comment section, then maybe through a call or email exchange. There is hardly a week that goes by that I don’t meet a {grow} blog reader in real life. And that’s when the real magic starts to happen!

By the way — the young blog reader who first asked the question about HubSpot? I got to know her through her blog comments on {grow}. We had a phone call so I could help her with a problem. Now she’s working for me. That’s the way building a real audience works. And that’s how YOU can beat HubSpot at their own game.


Illustration courtesy Mary Huang

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  • Another timely post from you Mark. You’re spot on about how “hubspot has no soul”. I have NEVER left any comment on hubspot because the comments on posts that I’ve read there never gets responded to. I do however read the comments because many of them are quite useful.

    I prefer to leave comments on blogs that is more personal like yours. Perhaps hubpost is like a huge ass conference where only the speaker is able to speak.

    But, blogs like yours is like the after party of the conference where people engage and learn from each, the place where real conversation starts and relationships sparks.

    So, you could say that hubspot may have gotten the traffic, but you my friend, gets the readers heart.

  • IMO, what you described here is what Social Media IS all about. The “machines” create traffic, but how much real value? And if any, to whom? By interacting the way you did, a difference was made in people’s lives, that’s social.

  • You are making a very good point about content marketing. It is not the hits that matter but the engagement that matter. I view Hubspot as a one way communication. They hardly ever engage with people who comment. Why post if you have no time to engage?

    You on the other end engage with people who post comments. I believe content marketing has to be one-to-one, otherwise it is nothing but “content” advertising.

  • Exactly my point Aaron although you stated it much more eloquently than me! Thank you so much for your comment!

  • I agree and that is hard to scale across a big enterprise. Both a problem and an opportunity, right? Thanks Steve!

  • Yes, it truly is a machine Jay. A very effective one, too. Will be interesting to see where it all ends up. My theory is that in the long run, content marketing is not sustainable.

  • Absolutely! Huge opportunity for those who really “get it”!

  • I agree that they produce good content but I differ with them in a sense that they believe content is a marketing tool, and I think content is more of an engagement tool.

    Why use content if you are not going to engage? It is lprobably lot easier and cheaper to just advertise than to produce valuable content. We will see where this goes, but thanks for getting us to think about this.

  • Vee Tardrew

    Wow Mark, thank you for this very timely post! I’ll admit I’ve been pushing myself through much blogging exasperation as a result of this exact same issue. How wilI I ever make an impact?! So thank you for those reminders that there is definitely opportunity and value in being the ‘small guy’. Happy to have found this blog.

  • Rachel Strella


    I read this and literally cheered! (And, of course, I’m being heckled by a few Hubspot “soldiers”).

    I see way too much quantity with Hubspot. I’m not a fan of the one-size-fits-all metrics that are not relevant for every business. My small business clients could never measure up to what they ‘offer,’ but what are they really bringing to the table?

    As you mentioned in a podcast a few months ago, one aspect of ‘winning’ the online game requires establishing a loyal and emotional connection with your readership. And this is something that can’t always be measured. Social proof and website traffic are valid and both very real metrics, but what does it mean if the audience is not truly passionate about the content – or the person writing it?

    You’re a great example of what building an established community is all about. Your readers are loyal to the bone – and that can never be manufactured. While Hubspot pieces are popping up all over the web, it’s the human element that will win at the end of the day.


  • Simple reason: Google Juice. Engagement doesn’t necessarily matter in that scenario,.I think we have to ask ourselves why the HubSpot authors don’t engage. I mean it would be easy enough, right? It is probably not the best use of their time if the goal is Google ranking (which leads to inbound leads).

  • Awesome Vee. Glad to have helped. That makes me feel great!

  • Beautifully said Rachel. And thanks very much for you kind words and loyal readership! We probably should skype soon and get to know each other better. We’ve been connected quite some time now! Maybe closer to the holiday?

  • Rachel Strella

    Thanks, Mark. We spoke on the phone two years ago – it was a great conversation. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the SMC events when you when the Harrisburg area. I know that you’re heading this way in April and I have added it to my calendar (even though I’ll be going out of town that evening)! I’ll ‘meet’ you yet! Wow. I haven’t Skyped in ages. Aren’t Hangouts the cool thing these days? LOL! Yes, let’s plan to do so.

  • I had to laugh when this post because it’s the blog form of the great song “Nine People’s Favorite Thing” — one of my favorite things ever. I’d never thought of it as social media advice before. You should take a listen!

  • If HubSpot was a restaurant, it would be a fast-food place with food prepared based on efficiency. It’s a place I’d only go to pick up a quick snack of content marketing tips if I absolutely have to.

    But your blog, Mark, is like my favorite restaurant. A place where the owner stops by my table for a friendly chat. Where the food is prepared with love and care. A place with soul where you want to come back again and again.

    When a blog just shares useful tips, it’s easy to swap it for any other blog, because there’s no connection, no emotion.

    To build a loyal audience bloggers need to truly engage readers and that means their readers have to get to know, like, and trust them. The secret ingredient to win clients with a blog is the blogger’s personality.

  • This is one of your best posts I have read and I read your posts often. You are so spot on right! I couldn’t agree more! A company like HubSpot has no heart! A company like GROW has a heart! You told me once to have the courage to blog about my own opinions. I followed that advice and have never looked back. My business has changed since I became a voice that people want to listen to. I’m not a copycat, I’m an original. I worked with HubSpot for a time and felt like a number. I could tell that conversations were simply churn and burn. Most small business owners and entrepreneurs want to work with companies that really care about there success. When you get as big as HubSpot there is no place for heart.

  • Thanks for this post! Definitely needed to hear, “It’s ok.” I feel the same pressure while managing clients’ blogs. It always seems tough to get them past the ego metrics and maybe that’s because I’ve been holding myself to the Hubspot standard, unrealistically.

  • Agree entirely Mark, individuality is the key. I read posts for the personal viewpoints of the author, their particular writing styles and the originality. I’ve probably ready quite a few HubSpot posts but couldn’t tell you the title or author of any.
    I share articles from other blogs of a similar genre, comment on their work and interact with them on various networks, that’s the difference, individuals care about the audience engagement, corporations care about figures, just figures.

    Leave the sites like HubSpot to churning out faceless content, write your own, that’s what I’ll be reading 🙂

  • Indeed you
    made a very good point. It can be depressing to read huge machine blogs with
    several posts a day. I struggle so hard to publish one real good (or sometimes
    not as good as I wished) post a week. As you said, we must keep going and find
    our way on the way. Retargeting, rearranging, however not too focused on
    figures because it is impossible to compete with big blogs’ numbers. Thus, for
    all of us: KEEP CALM AND BLOG.

  • That’s a great song! Thanks for sharing it – and it’s great advice.

  • I’m so glad you wrote this post. I’ve been struggling again with blogging and part of it is just exactly what you wrote about. On the one hand I know that I have a unique set of experiences and insights that I can provide. I also know that blogging does work and does generate leads, even for folks flying solo like me, because I’ve experienced it.

    On the other hand it is daunting to keep up with companies like HubSpot. I would also throw in the folks that have a major social presence on channels such as Google+ and Twitter.

    I just can’t seem to keep up and service my current client base and have some balance in life.

    The key isn’t really about being “big” it’s about being genuine.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  • Awesome. Thanks!

  • This is such a truly beautiful comment. Adds a lot to the discussion and is very inspiring to me personally! Thank you so much!

  • Very cool Julie. This post was a risk. People normally don’t call out HubSpot. But when I take risks like that I am normally rewarded by the community. I hope you are finding the same thing?

  • Don’t be too hard on yourself. I get swayed by that “traffic” thing all the time. It’s hard to stay focused some times. For me, the best metric is “return visitors.”

  • J Sandifer

    Another excellent post, I do think there was an inflection point with Hubspot. I’ve never been a member, but use to feel like I had a connection to the person emailing me…now they come too often and from varied “writers”.

    Point well taken on winning your niche and truly understanding your own voice in the industry you play in!

  • Same here Barry. Feel the same way. Thanks for taking the time to comment — and I’ll be seeing you in June!

  • Ha!! Love that. Thanks Lilian.

  • No problem!

    June it is…. 🙂

  • A constant battle. I write ahead as best I can so when I get into those busy periods I have a reserve to call on! The reserve has been low lately though! : )

  • Thanks sir. Appreciate the comment.

  • Meg Tripp

    This is one of the two things I see people struggling with as they embark on writing as a facet of their marketing or promotional efforts: how to be noticed in a world full of content machines. The other thing? How to be seen in a universe populated by “big-name” bloggers — or even just people with strong, engaged medium-sized audiences who are read/shared/quoted/promoted regularly across channels.

    And I have two answers to both challenges: a) you have to write for YOUR business and YOUR audience and YOUR purposes, and let them be who they are; and b) blogging isn’t for everyone, and you should only start a blog if you enjoy writing and developing your ideas into larger conversations… and you don’t require a ton of affirmation to keep doing it. Because, odds are, you won’t get it. 🙂

    I don’t write a business or marketing blog for myself, though I have ghostwritten plenty of posts, and written them for my FT gig. My own personal blog (now broken at the original home, and newly restarted elsewhere) has had some big ups and downs; for a while there, back in ’06/7/8, I had a pretty solid flow of traffic, lots of commenters, and lots of inbound links (some of which came from being one of the original overTweeters.:) I loved it, because I prefer to write for an audience — I’m not a journal kinda gal.

    Then I became too busy writing for $ to write for that audience, and that audience went elsewhere. They didn’t ever come back (though some stayed), and now my audience is mostly people who know me personally, or who have interacted with me frequently on social networks.

    In reality, my audience as a writer has grown a zillion-fold, because what I put out there now — albeit not under my name — has a big audience. But my personal audience has shrunk. For a while, I let my blog stay broken and unattended as a result, but then I realized that, while I may prefer to write for a big, engaged audience, I have to let that go.

    Now I know that I am better off writing the kind of pieces I love best for six people who care about it and growing in my “craft”, than giving up because I’m not getting the attention I want.

    Same goes for writing content about your own area of expertise. It matters to the people it matters to, it helps you grow as a communicator, it strengthens your own grasp of your subject matter, and you never know… that six people could blossom into twelve. 🙂

  • BOOM. What a great comment Meg. Nothing to add to perfection.

  • I just want to back up what Mark is saying here (not that he needs backing up…). But focusing on really talking to your audience and not worrying about numbers really works. I am living proof. When I try and feed my ego by increasing reach, I am always left annoyed, aggravated and frustrated. When I focus on my perfect prospect I get attention and occasionally a new client. It really is the only way.

  • douglasburdett

    Mark, what I hear you saying is that I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.

  • Carol Lynn Rivera

    I love this. It ties in with a conversation I was having just last week about this topic. “It has no soul”… couldn’t have said it better! I’m going to borrow that for next time 🙂 There is always room for good content.

  • I am going to link to this post on Thursday of this week in my blog. The small entrepreneurs need to hear this story.

  • Todd Lyden

    Hubspot = Olive Garden… your biz blog = local Italian eatery that has been there for 30 years…. START BUILDING

  • Andrea Howard

    Hilarious – thanks for the laugh this cold Monday morning.

  • Andrea Howard

    I just ended my year contract with Hubspot and I like what they offer, it is just too expensive if you don’t maximize the hell out of it (which i did not). I learned a lot from them, and now, like Eric said, I’m doing my own thing and glad for it.

    I seemed to have developed an audience of social media neophytes who regard my content as a necessary evil…well, not exactly, but they are mostly business owners who resist the tide of inbound marketing. Because this is mostly my client base, it has been challenging to develop an audience of more engaged social media users.

    Any advice?

  • Send me a meeting invite after Dec 18 and we’ll catch up!

  • Great. Thanks!

  • Oh that is me exactly!!! I have to keep talking myself down : ) Thanks Mike.

  • Oh I always loved that. Wonder whatever happened to that actor? : )

  • Cool. Glad I could help you out Carol.

  • Indeed. Love the new pic BTW. You were a cartoon for so long : )

  • This actually sounds like a patient opportuniy Andrea. I once had a customer in that category — resistant. In fact, I worked with them for three years before they were ready for social media. But once they were ready culturally, they were a passionate and loyal customer because I had guided them all those years. There is a difference between “dumb” business owners (don’t go there) and “resistant” owners who probably have had success for so long in other ways they are conservative about switching. Smart owners will eventually switch and they will love you always : ) Keep educating patiently if they are in the smart category! They’ll get it.

  • Totally agree great post here Mark. People really do buy from others they like, know and trust and it’s hard to build that trust if the other party isn’t there to engage. Customers will always prefer that personal approach which is why I also prefer engaging on these more personal written blogs rather than that revolving automated door.

  • One of the characteristics of social media is that it is two – way. Otherwise it’s an ad, right? : )

  • Rachel Strella

    Will do! 🙂

  • The song is hilarious. And the post is a good reminder. I wonder why it is so easy to forget that? I need a blog “cheat sheet” to stick on my monitor while I’m writing my posts. LOL

  • Love the positive message of this post — when competing against the big guys there’s ALWAYS an opportunity to differentiate by getting incredibly focused, making more meaningful connections, and simply being more “real” (in other words, doing things that don’t really scale).

    I do have to disagree somewhat with the “no soul” part — at least as a blanket statement. I actively look forward to posts from individuals at HubSpot — Dan Lyons (@realdanlyons) and Laura Fitton (@Pistachio). They both produce awesome stuff and know how to connect with their audience (to be fair, they also do things a little differently and aren’t quite so tied to lead gen). I think it’s also fair to say a lot of people have strong emotional attachments to HubSpot, though I’m with you 100% as far as valuing quality over quantity and not wanting to be pummeled by dozens of more-of-the-same posts. Interesting to read everyone’s takes. Thanks!

  • His life continued on a downward spiral, and word has it he hit bottom and is now in a line of work that people don’t generally want to admit in public.

  • exactly, Ravi. The ‘know, like & trust’ factor is huge. I was going to say the same thing. People do business with people. Everyone is unique, and it’s not because I help people with Online Presence that they work with me. There’s thousands of others who offer the same. They work with me because they like my style, they know like & trust me. And the same goes for your audience 😉

  • I can testify to Hubspot having humanity and soul because I’ve met so many helpful people there. But they have more than enough ability to do that themselves. It will be interesting to see if anyone from Hubspot chimes in.

    I receive more information from Hubspot and their competitors than I can possibly process and apply. But when I’m looking for B2B marketing help (on behalf of our agency or our clients), I can always find something useful in the content Hubspot provides. They also provide a great amount of free training.

    That being said, I don’t think they can come close to the level of personal engagement provided by {grow}. And the {grow} comments section is like no other.

    Soul or no soul, judging from the previous comments, it looks like it would be smart for Hubspot to do a better job responding to comments.

    As a Hubspot certified agency, at the very least, I wanted to show I have a soul!

  • Great answers, Mark. Never try to beat Hubspot on content volume. You cannot. But you can beat them with point of view, consistency and focus on your niche.

    Jeff Ogden, Creator and Host
    Marketing Made Simple TV

  • Outstanding advice Mark… I find the comment about how no one ever comments back on your Hubspot comments especially interesting.

    Biggest mistake all those authors are making is failing to treat Hubspot’s blog like it is their blog — at least for the day their post goes live. Why would they not want to engage with a reader that has commented on their blog post just because it’s not on the author’s own blog.

    And Hubspot should encourage that engagement, maybe even reward it somehow– it makes the blog stronger and could go a long way towards helping develop that missing relationship you have with the Hubspot blog… IMO

    – Tom

  • stefankrafft

    Definitely right Mark! There is a huge difference between producing tons of content with one clear goal – getting a lot of inbound links and producing personal content aiming for building relations within your audience and get them to want to buy from you. They are (Hubspot) almost doing some kind of “content-spamming” and that is not how it should be. Good post Mark! Thanks.

  • This is an awesome post Mark! I wondered the same thing when starting my content marketing blog about 18 months ago, but because I’ve just been myself, tried to relate on a very human level and been there to talk, respond and help, I’ve built a strong, loyal following and have had wonderful clients come my way. That’s not to say there’s no room for improvement. I still get frustrated about the numbers of people taking up my products and programs but that’s something to work on for 2014. Thanks for this. I’ll be sharing on my networks.

  • Ha. Well done buddy.

  • Thanks for mentioning those two epic bloggers Jonathan. As I said, I really do have admiration for the company.

    But to win at the inbound lead game, you need to be overwhelming. Sad but true. When that is the primary goal, it takes the humanity out of it, don’t you think?

  • Thanks for the dissent Billy but I don’t think we really disagree. Every enterprise is made up of people and HubSpot has some great ones. However, the overall attitude on the blog is pretty distant. But it is achieving their goals, so I guess that is good.

  • Thanks Tom. In the back of my mind, I’m hoping this post will get some attention over there : ) It does seem a shame to bring these people to the altar and then let them stand there all alone! An honor to have you in the comment section.

  • There is a thin line between spamming and creating a lot of content, isn’t there? Really good pont Stefan. They do produce some good stuff though.

  • That is so awesome Cas. I’m so happy you are staying “centered” and experiencing that kind of success! Thanks so much for sharing that. Really an inspiring comment!

  • Yes – both blogger and platform missing the bigger picture there… but then it seems that so many are missing the bigger picture as the limit their field of vision to the “metrics” of their content marketing vs “impacts” from their content marketing.

    Glad to see someone bringing that topic back to the surface. Cheers to you for doing so sir.

  • You’re welcome Mark. It’s so easy for small business owners to get discouraged. I’ve been there! Have a terrific day!

  • well said Mark, couldn’t agree more 🙂

  • Kris Bradley

    I agree Mark. This is a great comment Henneke and is so very true about the importance of engagement and getting to know, like, and trust the writer.

  • Speaking as a HubSpot Certified Partner since 2011, I can say that at one time, I felt that pain as well. But then I began a concerted effort of building my own online presence… blogging (in the beginning) 1x/week, and now 2x/week, plus regular activity in Socialmediatoday, LinkedIn, GooglePlus, MarketingProfs, SpinSucks, SteamFeed, and more. Growth has been incredible. In a nutshell, go for it.

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  • Kind of makes me miss the early days and the “roots” of social media. The studios have taken over with “blockbuster films” and I hope there is still room for the independent artist.

    The interesting thing is, I have some theories about how this will evolve and I don’t think what they are doing is sustainable in the long run. Is this the game Google will reward in the long run? Is “overwhelming” a legitimate business strategy? Will be interesting to see.

  • Glad to hear of your success. Do you have time for client work as well? : )

  • Corey Eridon

    Hi Mark,

    Interesting post, and my apologies for the long comment (I just re-read it before publishing and, well, it got long).

    As the editor of the Marketing section of HubSpot’s blog, as well as a frequent writer for it, I’d like to chime in to say that we have a small group of people here that actually take a lot of care with the content we put up. With the group we have, we do the best we can to respond to comments (we do respond to some, but we don’t get every one), and take immense pride in providing a diverse group of writers for our blog (we like that it’s not all big names — we think everyone with a great piece of content should be able to get published).

    I do take issue with the “has no soul” portion of your post; the ladies and gentlemen I work with put a lot of thought into their content, and try their best to educate, enable, and sometimes even entertain readers.

    I do agree with the sentiment in your post that more people should feel empowered to blog, even if they don’t have as many resources as other companies out there doing it. That theme is central to a lot of the content we create, and I personally care a lot about making content creation more accessible. In fact, I remember when I first started my job here I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to be able to do it — this whole “writing all the time” thing. The tricks I learned to make it easier are the things I try to share as often as possible.

    FWIW, a lot of people here are fans of your content; if you’d ever like to write for the blog, we’d love to have you.

  • Fortunately, I have a great team!

  • A great post for us little guys, Mark! Thanks for posting this, although I never really looked at hub Spot as competition, but certainly see how some could. It comes down to creating context with your (our) readers.

    Also, love the bit where a blog commenter now is working for you. That is really cool and shows the other benefits of content marketing/creating a community.

  • I really enjoyed this post. Everything from the catchy headline that hooked me in, through the post with just enough snark to make the point without being a jerk. Always fun to read your stuff Mark.

  • soniasimone

    Great post. This in particular was 100% true for me:

    “So if you don’t know your niche yet, don’t let that stop you from creating content. Just start. It’s likely that your specialty and interests will evolve and perhaps even transform over time until you find your niche.”

    Part of the power & beauty in being small is being able to noodle, to experiment, to find your own voice. Embrace that freedom, don’t take it as a negative.

  • How funny you should mention “sustainability” — I was just talking about this during a keynote recently… Google can’t reward it IMO — only 10 people or maybe better stated, web pages can “win Google” — after that the amount of click traffic (based on research) shows a tremendous drop off.

    So if only 10 pages can win any one term — how can that be a sustainable marketing strategy for the majority of competitors?

    Would love to talk through this over cocktails one time — bet it would be an incredible conversation… hopefully our speaking paths will cross again very soon and we can make that happen.

  • Not even 10 — probably 3. So the overwhelming win. Google can’t let that happen in the long term. Let’s try to find a way to get together in 2014!

  • Thanks for chiming in. Your view is certainly an important one but of course, at its heart, this is not just about Hubspot. It’s about how content will or will not make the world go around.

    HubSpot and its competitors are overwhelming. That’s the goal and a lot of others feel like they are drowned out (see the comments). To many, you guys are like Wal-Mart putting the little guys out of business. I tried to show another perspective.

    And I’m sure you have great people. I know many of them. No need to defend that.

    I would be happy to write for you, or anybody if the price is right. I don’t need “exposure” : )

    BTW, I’m curious as to why most of your writers do not respond to comments. It is so widespread, it must be a policy of some kind? Certainly this lack of engagement reinforces a perspective that HubSpot is … well … is kind of soul-less : ) If you’re not trying to build community, what’s the point?

  • Every employee, contributor, and business partner I have started as a blog reader.

  • I try to avoid snark. Hope I didn’t cross the line. I hope to present fair perspectives. Thanks Jeff.

  • Amen. Great comment and thank you!

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  • Now that is really cool! Thanks for sharing that, Mark!

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  • I think you accomplished the task of being fair. And I don’t think you were being overtly snarky or over the line. But relative to some of your previous posts, this one had a bit more edge to it.

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  • Ray

    I recently tweeted a request to connect with copywriters on Twitter. Someone suggested I follow resources like Copyhackers, Copyblogger and.. HubSpot. Even though she misread my request to connect to people, not websites, I asked her why HubSpot.

    Her reply: “Because there’s a focus on strong copywriting within inbound marketing. Inbound marketers will share the best copywriting info.”

    Of course, HubSpot chimed in to share with me a copywriting 101 post. I didn’t bother to read it. At this point I have already spent too much time in the drive through lane.

    Look: I highly disagree that the best copywriting info will be found from an article factory based around a buzzword that is less than a decade old. HubSpot is not bad. Copyblogger is not bad, either. Those sites just lack personality. Those sites are article driven, not message driven.

    I still am looking for copywriters to connect with. Copywriters that discuss the core messaging behind copy, not what is currently ranking on whatever people use to rank websites nowadays.

    sites like or or

    Those are the sites that showcase the thoughts behind the minds of copywriters that have been in the trenches for 30 years! THAT is where the best copywriting info is found.

    You don’t need to have 30 years of experience of XYZ skill to provide value. What you can do is take your unique experiences and use them to tell your story about the things that are important to you. I will gladly read that over some clickbait headline that regurgitates something for the purpose of getting clicks.

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  • stefankrafft

    I do agree, they do produce a lot of good content. The problem is the ever ongoing flood that keeps on coming without any filtering as it seems. I receive at least two or three different pieces every day and I have stopped trying to figure out what could be useful for me just because its just to much.

  • Mark, this comes to me as I sit at a definite crossroad in my business and life. I’ve only been blogging/online for coming up to 3 years in February. As a matter of fact, I started blogging for the sole purpose of eliminating the self-editor in me, and writing what I hoped would resonate with others. I believe I’ve accomplished what I set out to do, and have a small but very loyal community.

    My dilemma now is this: I’m happy to be “nine people’s favourite thing” so to speak, but by investing time and focus on my audience and the writing, it has not brought the level of business I’d hoped. Perhaps it’s only now that I have enough traction to make the adjustments and tweaks to my positioning and branding, to more effectively detail my value/services/”what I do…for you”, because my somewhat “soft” approach (which works beautifully IRL and has done so for 30 years now), seems not to translate online.

    Life is a constant ebb and flow and challenge, and I love that. But right now, as I’ve travelled the path less travelled, I wonder if I need a new compass, a new approach and a new direction. Thanks Mark: the timing of this post for me is impeccable. Cheers! Kaarina

  • AlisaMeredith

    Wait a minute! I sometimes write for HubSpot (as an Insider) and I want to know you! If I ever see a comment on my posts, I reply ASAP. I suspect there may be some I haven’t seen, so maybe the issue is that the writers aren’t notified of comments?

    I know what you are saying though. The article reminds me a little of one I read called “Why I Hate Copyblogger,” published on Copyblogger’s own site. Smaller companies like mine can’t compete, but we don’t need to. When we put our own special something into our content, it stands on it’s own.

    PS – Corey is awesome.

  • Great post Mark! I hear this all the time. You said it rightly, there can only be one you and one unique vocal print, called a voice.

  • Great post @markwilliamschaefer:disqus & it had to be said. Bottom line, people buy, share, engage, tweet with, talk to, hug, care about & do biz with people. Yes we can automate almost everything in marketing. However, we can not automate human connection, trust & relationships. They take time, investment in human beings and communities such as this for people to have real conversations, learn and grow.

    To me it’s about quality over quantity. Of course numbers matter and a good combo of both quality and quantity is good. Yes, I could crank out more blog posts than I do to get the numbers up. I could play the social influence (Klout) game and have a higher influence score than I do. However, I have learned time and time again when I do such my real biz metrics often suffer. I’d rather spend the time with my family, friends and serving my community. Heck, that’s why I started this biz in the first place… to leave corporate, to have freedom, work life balance.

    I met you right here on this blog in the comment section a few yrs ago. Now we are friends, you have introduced me to several people who I am as blessed to know as I am to know you. To me, that’s what matters. You can never get that connection, the personal benefits when you only behave like a machine & focus on the numbers.

  • Daniel Newman

    She said what I was thinking so I’ll let Pam be my proxy on this one 🙂 Nice post Mark.
    BTW – I never feared the soulless content machines. I was too stupid to know they were there #Facepalm 🙂

  • We do need more tailored content in general, don;t we?

  • Thanks Jeff. Maybe the Terminator comment went too far? : )

  • Thanks for the compelling and well-thought-out position on this Ray.

  • You are a great writer with experience and some great ideas. The coaching business is a tough one. Maybe we can have a call close to the holidays. Maybe there is something I can do to help you out. Who knows? : )

  • Good for you for responding to comments. You are in the minority though! Thanks for joining the discussion.

    I want to know you too!

  • Thank you for taking the time to comment sir. An honor.

  • Me too Daniel. I just did my thing. : )

  • That is simply an awesome comment Pam. I am amazed at the breadth and depths of relationships I have through the web and this blog. Many of them are in the comment section today. And these are not just Facebook “Like” friends. These are have over to dinner and stay at your house friends. And those are the people we will trust and business with forever.

  • This is my first favorite thing today

  • You are so generous, and your support means a lot to me:) And you help out others with everything you share. I’d like that. I’ll be in touch. Cheers! Kaarina

  • Cool. Look forward to it.

  • Thanks Jeff.

  • Holly McIlwain

    “People buy from people,” not business to business and this is always at the heart of my sales training and sales strategies. I find myself on the same sheet of music with your blog more times than not. But here’s what I did not know, “So if you don’t know your niche yet, don’t let that stop you from creating content.” This is may be exactly the advice I need right now with a plethora of blog topics and none completed nor published. I’m right there in a seat at Rutgers listening to you when I read “Grow.” Always learn something truly useful. Thanks Y’all.

  • I know that may seem like unusual advice, but I think it is true. It took me years to find my “voice” and my niche but it never would have happened without trying and refining, trying and refining. I hope that works for you too Holly. I’m pretty sure it will!

  • Holly McIlwain

    I’ve been reading you for months now, and I’m willing to try anything you suggest. Everything you’ve taught me so far has turned out great. Thank you for putting so much into your work.

  • AlisaMeredith

    Corey informs me that a new feature WILL start alerting authors of comments on their posts. I went in and checked out some of mine and was embarrassed at how many I’d missed.

    Well, if you’re ever in Wilmington, NC, I’ll buy you lunch! I’d say “Or meet me at Inbound 2014,” but I’m guessing you won’t be there :).

  • Alisa, I LIKE Hubspot and hope to attend one of your events soon.

    I would like to draw your attention to something that makes my point.

    Corey left a comment on this blog. It is the only comment among many that does not have an avatar. In this case, the leader of the HubSpot blog is quite literally faceless.

    I asked him a question three days ago. He never answered. The leader of the HubSpot blog is unresponsive.

    His comment garnered an extraordinary number of “up” votes — 13. I have never seen more than 5 on any other comment in the history of this blog. Almost all of the votes came from “guest” which is also unprecedented. I am guessing that these up votes were somehow manufactured by Hubspot as the most likely scenario.

    If you put these together it kind of speaks “soul-less” to me.

    If my blog post was the catalyst for a better commenting system at HubSpot, you guys should be thanking me : )

    But again, the point is not about HubSpot. It is about competing against a content Goliath. Don’t take it personally please. : )

  • AlisaMeredith

    Great to hear back from you again, Mark! Oh, I don’t work for HubSpot. My agency is a partner and I just write for them sometimes.

    Point taken. In fact, Corey is a lady :). Which everyone would know if she had an avatar! I definitely see your point. Having spoken to her in person, I can tell you there is a lot of soul there, but it isn’t obvious here.

    Your blog post was what reminded me (again) to ask about notifications, and I guess they’d already implemented it. I’m anxious to see how it works next week on my upcoming post.

    No, I get it! There are several Goliaths out there and our task as agency owners isn’t to beat them, it’s to differentiate ourselves. Still working on that!

  • Amanda Gant

    Hey @Henneke:disqus! Beautifully said and I couldn’t agree more. This is one of the very few blogs I look forward to reading everyday. Kudos to you @markwilliamschaefer:disqus!

  • Thanks for posting this Mark, it’s reassuring to know that there is room in the blogosphere for all of us, even when it seems busy and noisy.
    My philosophy is that people gravitate towards people – we seek out those types of people who we are in alignment with.
    Hubspot is brilliant in the sense that it offers a buffet of content from a huge range authors. It also gives some relatively new “no name” authors a chance to get some visibility. (Argh, sorry, I TOO used the restaurant analogy)
    However, there’s a lot to be said for passion, refinement, and dedication to your audience. Five star dining, as opposed to hotel buffet perhaps?
    I love reading a few blogs that I regularly come back to. I would love to think eventually I’ll have readers for my own blog, that regularly come back – for ME, because they like what I have to say.

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  • Carol Hawkins

    Great article. Sometimes it can get discouraging when it seems everyone else is focused on getting more followers, more likes, or whatever. It’s important to remember who your audience is and create content that will benefit them. The rest will fall into place.

  • I think you have the right attitude Kiera. Now, do you have the persistence to do it? It really took years for my blog to catch on. I hope you’ll keep at it, discover your voice and your audience,. Many thanks for your wonderful comment!

  • Likes, followers and Klout scores don’t create business benefits. That comes from an engaged audience! Thanks, Carol!

  • Michael Naughton

    Right on the money Mark. Traffic is an ego metric.

  • Thanks Mark!!
    I sure hope I’ve got the stickability. We’ll see. Haha… check back in 6 months 😛

  • Peter Caputa

    Glad you’re encouraging people to create content, Mark. People find reasons to have conversations with other people every day. Blogging isn’t much different than that. I was talking to one my peers the other day, our VP Corporate Sales at HubSpot, and we we were talking about blogging. He asked me how I found time to blog. (I’ve been blogging for a decade or so.) I said that I don’t have much time but sometimes I make time and sometimes, I just feel compelled to write. I told him that I think our sales team should be blogging more as it helps salespeople connect and engage with people. (I actually did a webinar on this the other day with Rick Roberge and Frank Belzer).

    The “no soul” content was a good way to stir the pot a bit. And I could see why my co-worker, Corey, would be offended. (She’s awesome, btw.) But, what I think you really meant is that we don’t engage with our audience like a smaller bloggers do. I agree with you there. But, i don’t think that the problem is that we just have too many contributors. I think the problem is that we don’t value engagement as much as others do. But, like you, I think that’s a mistake for us.

    Here’s why I think this way: I’m on the sales side at HubSpot. I imagine that you do some selling for your business. You and I understand how a community of people who actually know, like and trust you can be a great asset in building sales. It’s also just fun.

    Here’s why I don’t think we get it right. At HubSpot, our marketing team is charged with growing traffic and leads. Our sales team is charged with connecting with prospects. I think if we closed this disconnect and made each team accountable to each other’s metrics, we’d find more reasons and ways to engage our audience. Just so happens that one of my (and our CMO’s shared goals) is to improve our lead to customer conversion rate. I think one of the best ways to do that is to teach my salespeople how to be more like you, engaging people genuinely online. My guess is that one year from now, we’ll look a lot more “soulful”.

    Btw, Most experts like you find a way to join us, as opposed to trying to beat us. I can see that you don’t need the exposure. But, if you’re looking to grow your revenue instead, maybe we can help with that. Let me know if you want someone to reach out to talk.

  • Hi Mark: Let’s hear it for the little guy. 🙂 Maybe it’s my *ahem* age, but I tend to forge my own path. I don’t try to compete with the “big boys,” or follow all the must-do strategy.I appreciate great content, like anyone. Who created it doesn’t really matter to me.

    I happen to be a stickler for responding to Comments. Of course, my very low volume makes that simple. 🙂 Because you never know where your next customer or business partner will come from, I don’t understand why a person would ignore someone who makes an effort to connect. Well, that, and the fact I was raised to be polite. 😉

  • Thanks Michael.

  • First Peter, thanks for the excellent, honest and thought-provoking comment. This is a tremendous addition to the discussion.

    I’m not trying to “beat” Hubspot. I started the post by complimenting you guys! : ) I understand that the “soul-less” comment might sting, but my point is that this is a machine on automatic, not a person, or even a company that is nurturing an audience in a human way, let alone an authentic way … and I think your comment verifies this.

    I think your ideas for improvement are on track. Here is what you’re missing out on. You’re attracting eyes through your content, but are you attracting hearts? That takes time and attention but indeed, your conversion rate would go up if the content side of your business had a more human face. That is definitely a challenge to scale.

    I would love to work with HubSpot under the right situation. Your software is tremendous and many of my customers use it so one way or another I do need to get more involved with what you are doing there in Boston.

    Thanks very much for the time you put into this comment and I look forward to connecting with you.

  • Right on Cathy!

  • Krystian

    Nice article. I read somewhere, that it’s not a point to beat Hubspot or any other marketing software in terms of content quantity. With enough budget it’s possible to produce many content pieces with a decent quality. The thing is not to be another Hubspot, Moz or Kissmetrics. It’s about finding your own voice to win the readers hearts.

    I’m aware that numbers are important, but when the content doesn’t stand out, it’s going to end with a label “another great marketing blog”.

  • Dawn Blumetti Golden

    As a new blogger, such words of encouragement are very much appreciated. I know that branding me and remaining true to what I have to contribute and offer others in my niche will stand the test of time and prove to be well worth it in my future.

  • Well said Krystian. The battle is to cut through the clutter in your own voice.

  • Thanks Dawn. As new blogger, you may enjoy the book “Born to Blog.” Good luck!

  • Well said!

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  • Ermolay Romanoff

    Got here explicitly searching for articles, deposing HubSpot, Copyblogger, SME and other such faceless websites with keyword rich posts about first-move strategies and truths based on common sense.

    There is a line to be drawn, by the reader’s own intellectual compass, to distinguish something useful, from clearly SEOized Heidi Cohen (who has the guts to call herself an “actionable marketing expert” without apparently working in an ad agency of any kind a day of her long successful life— she’s a bold old lady, I give her that!).

    Mark, thanks for speaking up. And everybody (like 1 or 2 people who’ll ever see this ;D), blogging can be your outlet to express feelings, to comment and speculate, or perhaps it can be your free-pass outlet to express opinion and expose controversy, to make intellectual mistakes, and grow your subscriber community through conversations about important issues in modern world, modern business. That conversation is what provides you leverage and authority, as a leader of the community, to compile, fact-check and scrutinize that shared knowledge you have developed together, and then publish it for everyone to see. And the circle will repeat, you will be wrong, or you will be trolled, but your community will not have a “zero emotional attachment”

  • I really loved this article. Being a blog owner myself, I sometimes get discouraged that visitors to my blog are so few but on the other hand, when my readers do participate and ask me for advice, the feeling I get from being able to help them is priceless and my overall reach is no longer important. I’m happy to be helping just one person at a time!

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  • Mark Espanol

    You put it perfectly when you say “When I leave a comment on a HubSpot blog post, I don’t get a response. Why? Because comments probably don’t contribute to inbound leads as much as the original content becoming indexed by Google.”

    Because Hubspot is a generalist, they start conversation for the small guys….. if you are small, pick up the conversation and go deeper with more tailored content to the audience you want to serve….. For us, it just means diving deep into the specific details.

    exp. HubSpot writes a post on Data-Backed Headlines for blog post…..

    The little guys can write a Data-Backed Headlines Blog Post towards E-commerce companies.

    The smaller guys can write a Data-Backed Headlines Blog Post towards Fashion E-commerce companies.

    What do you think about using Hubspot the Generalist, as an opportunity to be more tailored to the audience you want to serve?

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  • Still at it, Mark 😉


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