If you are at all familiar with the world of marketing and SaaS, you’ve probably heard of HubSpot.
But in case you haven’t: HubSpot offers “all-in-one” marketing and sales software designed to handle a company’s entire marketing and sales needs.
And I mean ALL OF THEM:
Everything from a content-management system for launching a marketing site and landing pages to a blogging platform for publishing posts to a marketing automation app for nurturing leads to a CRM for managing deals: it’s all there, in HubSpot.
It’s the opposite of a point solution.
While I have mixed feelings about using a single platform for all of this (vs. stitching it all together from various pieces), there’s no denying this: HubSpot has built one of the most productive and effective content marketing engines in all of SaaS.
HubSpot produces and promotes content like it’s nobody’s business. They maintain three blogs, publishing 10-12 posts PER DAY. They have an ebook and white paper library that is a veritable Alexandria of inbound marketing advice. Across blog subscribers, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, they have over 1.4 million followers.
And the results speak for themselves. The company has over 13,500 customers, went public this year, and has a market cap of $1.2 billion.
With all of HubSpot’s success, you would expect their marketing site and product storytelling to be masterworks. Well in fact, while Hubspot’s homepage and wide range of product pages do some things right, they do a lot wrong, as well.
Today, I’m gonna dive headfirst into HubSpot’s homepage site and illuminate its strengths and weaknesses, section by section, line-by-line.
With this exercise, I hope to demonstrate how you, yourself, can:
- Make even solid copy much stronger
- Transform so-so copy into powerful messages
- Tell a better, clearer, and more persuasive story
In the process, you’ll see that even hugely-effective marketing operations are not immune to copywriting and storytelling mistakes.
Let’s take the plunge:
HubSpot’s old homepage: So many goals, so little pizzaz.
We’ll start at the top:
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As you can see, the top section of HubSpot’s homepage is off to a good start. The title of the page “Grow Your Business” speaks simply and directly to the key benefit of using its software: it will help you grow, and everyone in business wants that.
But surely, the most important copy on the page (nay, the entire site!) could and should be far more compelling.
The most emotionally-resonant titles don’t just offer a generic benefit. They make a huge but believable and concrete promise. They offer a timeline. And, at their best, they address a major objection.
This is not easy to do in a single line. But it can be done. My unpolished alternative to HubSpot’s homepage title would be: “Double your growth/traffic/leads/deals in 12 months,” or something to that effect.
(OK, I didn’t manage to nail the objection part in the time it took to write that line. But 2/3 ain’t bad.
Meanwhile, the subhead (“More than 13,500 companies in 93 countries use HubSpot’s marketing and sales software to grow”) is almost great.
Pointing out that 13,500+ companies use HubSpot is strong social proof: lots and lots of people are using this thing. The 93 countries reassures me that no matter where I run my business, this software is for me.
But like the title, this subhead would benefit from more compelling specifics.
Here’s a first-pass revision:
“13,528 companies in 93 countries use HubSpot to double their traffic, capture 50% more leads, and add 20% to their top line.”
Of course, those numbers need to be adjusted to match reality, but you get the idea: focus not on abstractions like “grow” but on the concrete, measurable results you will help your customers achieve, and you will go far.
Let’s take a look at the next section of the page.
The first product headline is a bit bland.
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Ok, let’s start with the section header: “Inbound Marketing & Sales Software.” On first pass, it feels like this copy was written more for Google’s bots than for human brains.
This is a reasonable thing to do: HubSpot wants to rank for the terms “Inbound Marketing Software” & “Sales Software” and having those terms in a major heading on the page could help with that.
But I’m a writer, and until Google’s technology develops emotions, I believe in speaking to humans over machines.
On a long-scrolling page, the main point of a header is to keep people reading and get them more deeply engaged with the story.
A header that just describes the software and not what it will do for me fails to accomplish that goal. So let’s try a compromise between writing to rank in search results and writing to persuade human beings.
“HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing & Sales Software Gives You Every Single Tool You Need To Build A Revenue-Generating Machine”
The subhead: “HubSpot tools are easier and more powerful because they are integrated” could also be up-leveled:
“From blogging software to landing pages, from email marketing automation to social media and CRM, HubSpot integrates your whole marketing and sales process into one easy, powerful tool.”
The funnel visualization below the title and subhead my favorite part of the page: the whole story is right there. I might have fleshed out the graphic with some more context and explained the various parts of the funnel, but simplicity is good, too.
Next up, the design branches to the two key parts of HubSpot’s platform: the “Marketing Platform” and “The Sales Platform”
My main gripe with the former is that the copy “The world’s #1” above “Marketing platform” is almost unreadable. Being the world’s #1 marketing platform is a huge deal (and great social proof). Why make this fact hard to see?
The copy under “Sales Platform” needs more attention: “intuitive tools that take the manual work out of selling” is a bit uninspiring. I don’t know much about HubSpot’s new CRM, so I don’t have a more compelling version off-hand. But I’m confident that there is one to be written.
My biggest complaint in this section is about the CTAs: “Learn more” is super generic. I’d go with “Show me the marketing tools” and “Show me the CRM!” to give the CTAs some energy and life.
The next section of the page features case studies and testimonials.
The testimonial section needs CONCRETE RESULTS!
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Again, we’ll start with the header: “HubSpot software drives growth at any scale.”
That’s a decently strong header: it re-iterates the core benefit (driving growth) and hints that HubSpot is not just for small businesses or large enterprises, but for companies of all shapes and sizes.
What’s missing here is a good subhead to hammer the point home. Something like “Our customers range from small companies of 10 to large enterprises of 5,000+. No matter what your size or stage, HubSpot will help your business grow.”
But it’s the testimonials that need the most improvement here.
First, the images are generic. Where are the smiling, contented faces of these customers? But even more critically, the testimonials, themselves, aren’t persuasive or compelling.
Great, persuasive customer testimonials aren’t just aspirational. Like a great headline, a great testimonial speaks directly and clearly to remarkable, concrete results. The quotes that HubSpot chose for these testimonials don’t highlight any metrics, nor do they reinforce the point about serving businesses of all sizes.
Along with the smiling faces of the people who said these things, I’d like to see data about their growth in traffic, leads, and revenue. I’d like to see the sizes of the companies next to their names.
I want to see myself in the testimonials, and imagine getting these great results for myself.
The content resources copy lacks oomph.
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There is much to love here.
Those incredible subscriber and follower numbers leap off the page and fill even effective marketers with envy and desire: if I’m not already one of these hundreds of thousands of subscribers, I’m probably missing out!
Also, I love that the web team landed a picture of a cat on the homepage.
But there are still some things that are crying for help.
Again, the title of the page (“Award-Winning Marketing & Sales Resources”) seems more like it was written more for to speak to search engine crawlers than to human emotions.
“Our Award-Winning Marketing & Sales Resources Will Take You From Padawan to Jedi In Record Time”
If Star Wars references are too geeky or goofy for HubSpot’s brand, a solid alternative might be: “Our Award-Winning Marketing & Sales Resources Will Help You Make The Most Of Your Growth—Whether You Choose To Use HubSpot Or Not”
Yeah, that’s the ticket.
The subhead “”Thousands of blog posts, ebooks, training programs, and social media resources are at your disposal” is strong: Any company that puts THOUSANDS of content assets at my disposal must be doing something right!
But even this strong copy could use some notching up: “We’ve produced thousands of blog posts, ebooks, training programs, and social media guides to help you master the arts of marketing and sales. In fact, we wrote the book on Inbound Marketing. All of these resources (and more) are at your disposal, free of charge.”
Linking clearly to the three resource sections is also a smart move. Doing this passes SEO juice from HubSpot’s juice-heavy homepage to each of those resource pages. Using the anchor text “HubSpot Blog,” “Inbound Training,” and “Free ebooks” is smart, too, since those are the key terms.
HOWEVER: I’d like to again blend that noble SEO goal with more emotionally-resonant copy:
- “The HubSpot Blog offers the latest marketing & sales strategies, five days a week”
- “Our Inbound Training gives you the fundamentals you need to radically grow your traffic and leads”
- “Our free ebooks library covers everything from lead-generation on LinkedIn to marketing automation (and everything in between!)”
My last critique of this generally-excellent section is the “Follow us for fresh content” line.
Honestly, I don’t want fresh content. There is so much fresh content on the web every day that it boggles my mind.
What I do want is useful, insightful, or thought-provoking content that makes me better at my job. That is still somewhat hard to find.
Thus, the more impactful promise: “Follow us for the best marketing & sales content on the web.”
Even if it’s not truly “the best,” those tremendous follower counts will make me believe that it is.
The hiring section should make me NEED to apply
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OK, so I know that with a company and website as big as HubSpot, the homepage has to satisfy a lot of different goals. It’s not enough to get people to sign up. It’s not enough to drive traffic and SEO juice to other valuable parts of the site.
You also need to fill your recruiting pipeline with job applicants.
Thus, the last section of HubSpot’s homepage is dedicated to hiring.
But as with the rest of the page, the story could be up-leveled here, as well:
While the title (“We are hiring”) is unambiguous (and true) it’s not particularly inspiring. Sure, you’re hiring, but why should a potential employee care?
How about “Join our team and help us give every great company in the world the chance to double its growth!”
The next line asks “Are you a HubSpotter at heart? Let’s change the way the world does business – together.”
While website visitors and potential employees may possibly be HubSpotters at heart, how would they know if they were. The copy certainly doesn’t clarify what being a HubSpotter means.
I don’t know what HubSpot’s core internal values are, but I’d use them here if I did. Something like: “HubSpotters are focused, efficient, and driven to help businesses of all sizes become dramatically better at marketing and sales. Sounds like you? We are hiring like mad for every role.”
Ideal recruits are not only competent. They also buy into your vision, values, and mission, and are willing to leave good jobs to help move those things forward.
Making your vision, values, and mission abundantly clear will help you attract more of the right people, and weed out more of those who would otherwise waste your time.
It’s just like good lead-gen copy in that regard.
Conclusion: Make ’em FEEL somethin’
Though I included a bunch of suggested copy for HubSpot’s homepage in this exercise, the copy suggestions aren’t the point.
No, the point isn’t about this word or that word, or any individual turn of phrase. It’s about writing copy that tells a story, and using words to stir emotions.
Of course, we’re not talking about any emotions. You don’t want to infuriate your reader to the point that he or she abandons your page and curses your family’s name.
While agitating your reader is a perfectly legitimate thing to do in some cases, the goal of your copy is to turn website visitors into readers, readers into active readers, and active readers into people who can’t wait to learn more.
What learning more means depends on your calls-to-action. Maybe it’s scheduling a demo. Maybe it’s signing up for your free trial. Maybe it’s just downloading an ebook.
Whatever it is, the more deeply you can connect with your audience, the better your copy will perform.
This is true not only for the copy on your homepage, but also for the copy on your product page, in your marketing emails, even in your product, itself.
Des Traynor of Intercom put it quite well in his post: “All Content Is Marketing”
Everything you write should be crafted with the intention of selling, educating, or increasing customer loyalty.