I haven’t decided yet if this is the final tenet in The Customer Code or the “platform” that supports the entire Code. But I think it’s the most important of all — do the right thing, even when it’s hard … especially when it’s hard.
But it’s the difficulty and the rarity that makes this work valuable.
Doing the hard things is an opportunity to differentiate ourselves and stand out.
At HubSpot, we talk about wanting to build a business that we’re proud of and that has long-lasting positive impact. We won’t achieve that by just doing the easy things.
At the start of the series I wrote about how growth alone doesn’t interest me anymore. I want HubSpot to grow, but more importantly, I want us to grow better. I want us to grow in a way that is good for our customers, partners, and employees.
That’s what The Customer Code is all about. It’s an attempt to create a sort of “code of conduct” that defines how we run our business, and early indicators are that it is working. In our annual planning and in our investments and product decisions, one question keeps coming up: “Does this approach support the tenets of the Customer Code?”
For years we’ve talked about “Solving for the customer.” It’s been a pillar of our philosophy, but it always felt a bit nebulous. The Customer Code is how we now turn that philosophy into practice. It’s how we hold ourselves accountable to do the right thing, even when it’s hard, complicated, expensive, or time-consuming.
In the same way that The Culture Code gave us common language to describe how we as individuals work with each other, the Customer Code is giving us a common language to describe how we as teams and leaders solve for our customers.
So I hope you’ll join us. Either in adopting the Customer Code or creating a code that makes sense for your customers and business.
Every business seeks to grow, but doing the right thing for customers, even when it’s hard (especially when it’s hard) is how we grow better. The Customer Code makes sure we here at HubSpot keep on doing the hard things.
We believe the world has changed. We see businesses using more kinds of software, not less, that all needs to work together. To help our customers grow better in this environment, HubSpot is evolving from an “all-in-one” suite into an “all-on-one” platform.
Delivering remarkable end-to-end customer experiences is a team sport. Our goal in becoming a lovable platform is to make it easy to complement HubSpot with a rich landscape of apps built by other companies, or custom apps built uniquely for your business by an agency or your own developers.
We want to make it easy for our customers to orchestrate all of this.
In collaboration with our growing collection of platform partners, we made great progress in that mission over the past year. Here are our platform highlights from 2018:
1. We listed 94 new apps in our directory, growing our platform partner ecosystem by 70%.
Good platforms are flywheels: More customers attract more developers, who build more apps, which attract more customers, and so on. Customers get an ever wider set of capabilities, while developers get an ever wider audience they can distribute their apps to.
That flywheel is starting to accelerate on our platform, and it’s inspiring to see the wide variety of innovative companies who are bringing new integrated apps to our customers.
We welcomed 94 new official apps into our ecosystem in 2018, bringing our integrations count to over 200 across 17 categories, that help grow our customers’ businesses.
One of the categories that grew the most in 2018 was Calling. Just within that category, you can find 21 different apps for video conferencing, integrating with cloud-based phone systems and call centers, inbound and outbound SMS, voice-powered chatbots, AI-driven analysis of phone calls, and more.
In 2018, the top 20 most popular apps in our ecosystem by total number of installs were:
As you might expect, many of these were our earliest partners, and it’s great to see their continued success. But we were also excited to see new partners quickly gain traction. The 10 fastest-growing new apps in our ecosystem last year were:
Whenever we build an integration ourselves, we look for ways to enable other partners in our ecosystem to build off those same extension points. For instance, when we built our Shopify integration, we also created the Ecommerce Bridge API, which enables companies to sync and manipulate ecommerce data using HubSpot functionality. One of our integration partners, Unific, enables customers to connect their Magento, Shopify, Bigcommerce, or WooCommerce store to HubSpot using this API. We also recently added a tight integration with Zoom and are working to make it possible for other video conferencing providers to plug into HubSpot in the same way.
2. We added 95 new API endpoints and hosted our first annual platform partner day.
Our product teams have been enthusiastically opening more APIs and UI extension points to enable developers to build and integrate more kinds of apps on our platform.
Last year, we added 95 new API endpoints (for a total of 355), creating programmatic access to tickets, products, line items, CRM pipelines, GDPR compliance features, and more. We launched an Ecommerce Bridge API and Analytics API to facilitate deeper integrations with a wide range of partners in ecommerce and analytics categories. And we unveiled a new Workflow Extensions model that lets partners create branded, native-like actions for customers within workflows across our Marketing Hub, Sales Hub, and Service Hub products.
Last spring, we also hosted our first annual Platform Partner Day at our headquarters in Cambridge. Over 60 of our top integration partners joined us to meet with our engineering and marketing teams, learn about upcoming product releases, and discuss how we can jointly create better apps and integrations for our shared customers.
We’re now gearing up for our second annual Platform Partner Day this spring with exciting new developments to share and even greater opportunities to collaborate.
3. Customers adopted integrations at a record pace.
There’s a positive correlation between the number of apps a customer connects to HubSpot and their growth on our platform. It makes sense: The more our customers invest in a unified experience for their customers, the more they can accomplish.
App adoption across our customer base in 2018 was record-breaking. The vast majority of our customers now have at least one other app integrated with HubSpot, and the average number of apps per customer jumped by more than 50% year-over-year. We’re talking hundreds of thousands of additional app installs.
We’re energized by this number, which indicates that customers are seeing benefits from our platform. But it’s also exciting for our platform partners who are seeing greater adoption among our customer base.
4. We connected our platform partners, agencies, and startups.
Some of the most valuable opportunities we can offer platform partners are connections with programs and communities across HubSpot.
For instance, our global network of thousands of agencies and consultants helps businesses leverage our software to grow better. Increasingly, these providers are adding our platform partners’ products to the solutions they’re delivering to clients. This gives their clients more capabilities, expands their own service offerings, and lays the foundation for a powerful go-to-market channel.
To facilitate these types of relationships, we launched the Apps for Agency Services program last spring. It provides a structured way for platform partners who qualify to help agencies sell and service their software, including sales enablement tools and a free subscription for their own internal use.
HubSpot for Startups is another thriving program partners with over 1,500 accelerators, incubators, and VC firms (like Y Combinator and Sequoia Capital) to provide startups with educational resources, event programs, and startup-friendly discounts on our software.
We were inspired by all the successful connections between platform partners, agencies, and startups that happened last year. We’re committed to facilitating even more of them in the year ahead.
5. We launched HubSpot Ventures and announced co-investment from Amazon Web Services (AWS) in programs to grow our ecosystem.
In addition to expanding our platform’s APIs and extensibility and creating new app distribution opportunities for partners, we also made a couple of big announcements about growing the ecosystem itself.
In December, we launched HubSpot Ventures, a new $30 million fund to invest in startups that align with our mission to help millions of organizations grow better. Some of the previous investments that we have made include Blissfully, Grow, Lorem, Privy and Terminus.
And, in the spirit of investing in our platform partners, we also extended HubSpot for Startups discounts to all certified platform partners who aren’t yet HubSpot customers but want to make the switch.
Onward and Upward in 2019
We’ve got big plans for our platform ecosystem in the year ahead. For customers, we’re eager to bring you more apps and integrations that will expand your business’s digital superpowers. To see the latest ones, check out the new and noteworthy category in our directory.
For partners, we’re dedicated to creating more opportunities for you to build your business on our platform. Last year, our entire executive team went on a field trip to learn from some of the best platform companies in the Bay Area. Our overarching takeaway was this credo: A platform should be measured by the success of its ecosystem. In 2018, we added three key hires to our team who are specifically tasked with helping our ecosystem succeed. Samantha Ceppos, our director of global partner and platform marketing, scales our ecosystem and ensures our partners are always looped in to changes and updates. Elizabeth Ruscitto, our director of developer relations, is leading the charge in improving our developer documentation, tools, and support. You can access our latest resources and sign up for a developer portal for free here. Hugh Durkin, our director of platform partner success, is focused on shaping our platform partner program to help partners grow their businesses within our ecosystem.
If you want to see an otherwise calm and collected person switch to blind rage, ask them about a time they tried to cancel a service.
Ask me about my attempts to cancel cable.
My colleague’s gym only allowed cancellations if you showed up in-person, during business hours.
And don’t even get me started on the nightmare of cancelling magazine subscriptions.
We’ve all had these experiences. They are universally loathed, and we remember them — and still get angry! — one, five, even 10 years after they have happened.
But there is often a gap between what we know as a person, and what we do as a business.
Recently our COO, JD Sherman, told me about a meeting he had with one of our customer success managers. She was nearly in tears as she told him about a customer she loved working with, who also loved working with her. They’d had a long and successful relationship together. But they were in a difficult situation as a business and needed to downgrade.
The customer missed the contractual window for downgrading, and because our customer success team is incentivized on revenue retention, she was put in the position of placing her needs and the company’s needs above the customer’s.
Legally, she had everything on her side. Personally, she knew it was wrong.
At the end of their conversation, her customer said, “Okay, you’ve got me. I’ll pay, but after we’re done with this I don’t ever want to work with you again.”
Wow. I am so sorry — to both our customer and our employee.
The goals we had in place for our customer success team forced them to solve for revenue dollars instead of the success of our customers.
We were blocking the exit even though it meant destroying the relationship.
Jason Lemkin says concisely what we as humans know to be true, but we as business leaders too often forget:
If I can make a purchase with one click, I should be able to cancel that purchase with one click.
If a company makes it easy to buy, they should make it easy to stop buying.
And I’m not just saying this because it’s the right thing to do; it’s also better for business.
The HubSpot Research team asked, and 89% of consumers reported they are more likely to buy if a company makes it easy and simple to cancel.
If a customer’s meant to be, they’ll be. If they’re not meant to be, let them be.
The 9th tenet of The Customer Code is: Don’t block the exit. I give HubSpot a 7 out of 10 on this. We’ve done a lot in just the past year to improve here. Most notably, we reduced our cancellation notice window from 45 days to 10 days, but we’re not finished yet.
I want customers to be able to cancel or downgrade with a click of the button. My hope is that the experience of leaving HubSpot feels more like quitting Netflix and Spotify than it feels like cancelling a business contract — or a cable subscription.
Not only do I want it to be easy for customers to stop paying us money, I want it to be easy for customers to take their data with them. Today, we support exports of key CRM objects. In 2019, we want to support the export of all activities associated with those exports. If it can be brought into HubSpot, we want customers to be able to take it out of HubSpot.
I don’t want anything blocking the exit, because when we block the exit, we also block the return.
This solves for customers and it solves for employees. And any change that is good for both of those groups is ultimately good for the company.
We all know that companies that retain customers grow. But companies that gracefully allow customers to leave, grow better (and leave an open door for customers to come back to them in the future).
Here’s a secret — I wanted to launch the first version of The Customer Code at INBOUND 2017. I was excited about the idea, and wanted to start talking about it.
But our leadership team pushed back on me. They said there was no way we could ask other companies to step up and embrace their customer-first ideals when we still had so far to go ourselves. Of particular concern was the communication around our pricing and how customers got billed.
We had to be the change.
The way our pricing works varies quite a bit throughout our product lines, for customers at the Starter level, it tends to be extremely simple, but as our customers’ businesses gets more sophisticated, pricing tends to get more sophisticated as well. And feedback made it clear that, when it came to pricing, our most unhappy customer segment were customers at the Marketing Hub Professional and Enterprise levels — so that’s where we dug in.
Like many SaaS companies, we lock-in pricing for customers during their billing period so what they’re paying won’t increase even if their number of contacts does increase. It’s a way to show value before we extract value. But of course:
Customers often wouldn’t remember pricing was locked in for the billing period (they’re busy)
During the year, usage would increase
(If you want to get into the weeds, you can read our Terms of Service here, but that’s the high-level gist.)
So year two renewal would roll around, and a lot can change in a year — a customer’s business may have grown, people forget about the details of a contract they signed 12 months ago, or perhaps the person who originally signed the contract is no longer with the company and a new person is now managing the account — and suddenly customers were getting a bill that was noticeably higher than the prior billing period with little context on why. Yes, many were very (and rightfully!) unhappy about this.
The change needed on our end was actually quite simple–we simply changed the communication approach in our renewal process. First, we adjusted the timing of our communication about the new bill and made a change to our Terms of Service which reduced the number of days notice we needed to honor a non-renewal request – dropping it from 45 days to 10 days. Second, we now go out of our way to inform customers about growth in their contact database before the notice of non-renewal window closes. These changes give our customers far more time to evaluate the product, the value delivered over the past year, and decide if HubSpot still made sense for them. But most importantly, we can feel confident that we’re not surprising customers with an unexpectedly large bill.
And with those simple changes in place…no more upset customers.
Because our customers don’t mind paying, but they do mind feeling played.
The same is true for your customers.
No one should be surprised by an unexpected bill.
No one should need a math degree to figure out what they’ll pay you.
No one should need to jump through hoops to figure out what it might cost to do business with you.
If we had gone live with The Customer Code in 2017, I would have given HubSpot a 5 on Tenet #8: I don’t mind paying, but I do mind being played. Today, I give us a 6. We’ve been doing some things right for awhile – our pricing is transparent and available on our website – and we’ve made substantial improvements on improving communication around renewals, but we’re not done yet.
We recently asked our customer-facing teams how we’re doing when it comes to pricing transparency. Our support and success teams care deeply about the customer, but also understand the needs of the business, and we wanted to know how they think we’re doing when it comes to pricing.
The vast majority of our customer-facing team members feel that our pricing, discounting, and cancellation process are all fair. But when we asked them what one thing they would change for our customers today if they had a magic wand the #1 request was simplifying pricing, packaging, and renewals.
Fair isn’t enough to create a great customer experience.
Transparent doesn’t always equate to simple.
We’re being honest, transparent, and fair; but our customers don’t always feel that way.
We can do better, and we’re going to. We have two plays kicking off that pair VP-level executives with our Voice of the Customer team to improve the billing and contract experience.
Confusing pricing is a negative force on the flywheel of every business. Sixty-nine percent of people said that confusing pricing keeps them from making a purchase.
After seeing this data at INBOUND one HubSpot customers, WashCard, went back to work and decided it was time to give transparent pricing a try. While the industry standard is to require a conversation with a salesperson before giving pricing, WashCard saw this as creating friction in their flywheel so they pulled back the curtain–boldly displaying pricing on their website for all to see.
Amy Olson, the Director of Marketing at WashCard said, “A month into this, we’re getting more leads out of our pricing page than any other page on the website, they make up two thirds of our online conversions. Our sales staff can see that a prospect has looked at the pricing page, and it totally changes the conversation when contacting new potential customers. Game. Changer.”
Customers don’t mind paying, but they do mind being played, they mind unexpectedly big bills, and they mind jumping through hoops to figure out how to budget for your product or services.
If you want to grow, you have to charge for your services. But companies that are open and honest about their pricing, while making it simple to understand – grow better.
Companies that use data effectively have made my life so much easier.
I used to call a cab and explain my location, now Lyft just detects where I am and lets my driver know.
I used to manually program my phone so it could tell me who was calling, now my phone looks at my email contacts and just tells me (or makes a pretty good guess).
I can’t imagine running my business without data, and today I take an abundance of dashboards and charts for granted.
I want companies to use my data, when they do the end result is that my life becomes a little easier, a little more convenient, I’m able to get more done in a day.
But I don’t want companies to abuse my data.
Spammy emails. Sloppy data storage. Eerily targeted ads. Data that is collected without my permission. That’s data abuse.
The fourth tenet of The Customer Code is: Use my data, but don’t abuse it. I give HubSpot a 9 out of 10 on this. This is one of our highest scores, and there are three reasons for this:
1) We are sticklers about doing the right thing when it comes to protecting our customers’ data.
To some extent data protection can be solved with money and time, which we have done, investing money and human hours in data infrastructure and security.
We’re thoughtful in how we build the architecture of our software–from the way our Sales Hub products connect to customers’ email accounts, to the SSO implementation that allows seamless (and safe) transition across portals.
We made the decision to apply GDPR principles globally, meaning that regardless of a customer’s location, we will apply the principles around fairness, transparency, and data portability.
But where I see our team really standing out is that we have optimized for fast resolution of vulnerabilities. There is no vulnerability-free software, and attempting to achieve that often slows the pace of innovation. Instead, we’ve invested in testing: in-house testing, four annual penetration tests, continuous vulnerability scanning, and a bug bounty platform. Our team is able to identify, prioritize, and resolve bugs quickly and efficiently.
2) We are sticklers about helping our customers do the right thing when it comes to protecting their customers’ data.
We’re big fans of GDPR, which aligns very nicely with the philosophy of inbound.
Earlier this year, we released a set of features that make it easy for our customers and their teams to comply with GDPR and other data privacy regulations. These features are made available to all HubSpot customers.
3) We want to make our customers’ lives easier by helping them use data to make their customers’ lives easier.
HubSpot customers are growing businesses, many of whom have more impactful things to do than figure out a full AI integration.
Our team is doing the work to figure out when, where, and how growing businesses can leverage AI:
Our content strategy tool in Marketing Hub uses machine learning to understand the themes that search engines associate with your content.
In the Sales Hub, we launched a send time optimization tool that gets your emails to the right person at the right time.
Our machine learning team is currently building automated A/B testing that will run in the background, quietly optimizing campaign performance.
HubSpot stores an enormous amount of data for our customers. We want to protect that data, help our customers derive value from it, and put a stop to all forms of data abuse.
Data is a powerful tool that can be used for good, evil, or just general annoyance. Companies that choose to abuse customer data can certainly grow. But companies that protect data and use it thoughtfully to make customers’ lives just a little bit easier, grow better.
This post is part 5 of 11 in a series on HubSpot’s Customer Code. You can find more info on The Customer Code and how we score ourselves here, and watch my INBOUND talk on this topic here:
“Unriddled” is HubSpot’s weekly digest of the tech headlines you need to know. We give you the top tech stories in a quick, scannable way and break it all down. It’s tech news: explained.
Unriddled: The Tech News You Need
1. YouTube Subtly Adds Free(ish) Movies to Its Collection
AdAge reported late last week that YouTube added free films to its Movies collection in October, allowing users to watch full-length features with commercial breaks. The ad-supported model creates an alternative to other feature-film-for-pay options online, like iTunes or subscription-based streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime. The latter two services haven’t yet introduced the option to view movies for free with commercials. Read full story >>
2. Messenger Makes Its Unsend Feature Facebook Official
Last week, we covered a story that Messenger would imminently roll out an unsend feature to all users — a feature that was previously (and controversially) only available to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Now, according to TechCrunch, the feature has officially become available to users in Poland, Bolivia, Colombia and Lithuania, with hopes of global rollout “as soon as possible.” Read full story >>
3. Instagram Launches Its “Time Well Spent” Tools
Over the summer, Instagram and its parent company Facebook both announced they would integrate new tools to show users how much time they spent on each app.
There was no clear timeline for this rollout when the announcement was made, but last week, Instagram officially launched its “Your Activity” dashboard — which not only gives users a visual time management display, but also helps them set daily limits for using the app and mute notifications. TechCrunch has more on how to find and use the new feature. Read full story >>
4. How Do People Really Feel About Amazon’s Big Announcement? Here’s What We Found Out.
News of Amazon’s geographical selections for its second headquarters has received mixed responses. We asked hundreds of people to weigh in on the news — here’s what we learned. Read full story >>
5. Instagram Cracks Down on Fake Followers
Instagram has started removing followers from user accounts that have gained a following through automated apps that leave comments, follow, and then later unfollow other accounts on their behalf. Although these apps were made to help users build an audience, Instagram considers this behavior (and many of the new followers gained) to be “inauthentic.”
With these changes, Instagram accounts that have used these apps to build a following might see that following shrink — an occurrence of which Instagram has warned users with an in-app message. Read full story >>
6. LinkedIn Might Be Adding New Social Tools
According to a report from Social Media Today, LinkedIn might be testing social tools such as emotion-driven “reactions” to posts — similar to Facebook’s Like, Love, Laugh, Wow, Sad and Angry post reactions. The possible new feature, which the company has yet to confirm, was first discovered by computer scientist Jane Manchun Wong, who tweeted that LinkedIn’s versions of reactions appear to include “Like,” “Clap,” “Insightful,” “Hmm,” and “Support.”
If LinkedIn does roll out these reactions, it could be the latest in a series of moves by other social networks to emulate and potentially provide alternatives to Facebook’s business and social tools (see below). Read full story >>
7. Why the New Google My Business App Makes for a Pivotal Marketing Moment
Google has built a new place for businesses to build a profile and connect with customers. Find out why it represents a pivotal moment in marketing. Read full story >>
8. Self-Driving Cars Will Hit the Road in a Few Weeks. Are We Ready?
In a matter of weeks, self-driving car company Waymo is rumored to pilot a commercial, driverless car-hailing service. But are people ready for autonomous vehicles to hit the road? Read full story >>
9. Google Used Search Data to Create This Report to Help You Navigate the Holidays
Data nerds and holiday enthusiasts alike, rejoice: Google has compiled historical search data to help users navigate Thanksgiving this year. Here are the report’s highlights. Read full story >>
10. Is Gamification the Key to Better Video Engagement? [New Data]
App and video developers all over are creating a new type of video: the kind that invites the user to participate and interact with it, a la a digital game show. But is that truly the key to better video engagement? Read full story >>