My Biggest Mistake in a Decade of Building Marketing Software

Around 2008, there was a nascent marketing software industry. All we really had was WordPress and Google Analytics.

Back then, people were still trying to hack together and figure out how to produce content and attract website visitors. They were asking questions like, “How do I get a website going? How do I generate business online?”

So around that time, my co-founder David Cancel said, “Let’s build a service that can make all this stuff easy to do. Let’s start Performable.”

But as you’re about to discover, the approach we used to build marketing software back then is a lot different from the approach we use now.

For the full story, check out these slides from a recent presentation I gave (or keep on reading below).

Customer-Driven Sales & Marketing from Drift

How We Built a Marketing Platform

We started by taking all these lessons from Sean Ellis about growth hacking, A/B testing, finding the conversion rate, getting the right message on lead capture forms, finding the right call-to-action (CTA), getting your stuff above the fold — we took all those basic lessons and we productized them.

First we built the content management system (CMS), which allowed you to do A/B testing.

Then we built an analytics system that gave you quick results on A/B testing and conversion rates. (At the time, that type of reporting was difficult to get with Google Analytics.)

So we built the CMS, reporting, and then the third big thing we built was an ability to send emails.

We built an email tool because the greatest growth hackers in San Francisco were saying that when someone signs up for your service, you should send them an email three days later to remind them that they signed up if they hadn’’t activated yet. And so we said, “OK, let’s build a drip campaign service.”

^ At the end of the day, if you didn’t have a developer, you couldn’t do this type of stuff.

So we built those three products — a CMS, analytics, & email — and that’s when we got HubSpot’s attention.

Then in 2011, we got acquired.

Operation: Automate Everything

When we joined HubSpot, they said to us, “Come and build all of those tools over here. Oh, and by the way, there’s this thing called inbound marketing.”

This was their philosophy. This was the movement they were trying to build.

The timing was right in the market to say, “Want to learn about SEO? Here’s how you write lots of content and get people to come to your website.”

At HubSpot, David and I followed the model of automating what we thought was the right thing to automate at the time.

We said, “Let’s create landing pages, let’s create forms, let’s create thank you pages, and let’s make sure people can check their conversion rates and have a way to test everything.”

Voilà, you have HubSpot.

And in 2014, we watched the company go public as David and I moved onto our next project.

Correcting a Huge Mistake

At HubSpot, we did a bad job of thinking about the customer.

We just went and automated what we saw was happening in the marketing space. We were solving for the fact that marketers didn’t have developers. So we wanted to be their developer.

But we were solving for the wrong person.

We were so focused on being a personal developer for marketers, that we forgot about the end user.

As a result, this is an example of a best-in-class B2B sales funnel that we’ve been forcing buyers to go through:

It’s like we’re spending all this time and energy getting people into our stores, only to hand them forms to fill out before we’ll talk to them or sell them anything.

And after we make people fill out those forms, we follow up with them via phone or email when it’s convenient for us.

But since leads aren’t waiting patiently by the phone or checking their inboxes every minute for our follow-ups, we often miss them.

It’s an inefficient process. And it puts no emphasis on the preferences of the actual buyer (9 out of 10 want to use messaging to talk to businesses).

At Drift, we’re thinking back again to what the customer wants, because we’ve made it too complex for the customer to buy.

The Path Forward

We need to make it as easy as possible for people to buy.

If leads want to come to your website and talk to you, why put them through the punishment of filling out a form?

And so that’s why we started Drift. That’s what we’re doing now. Our focus is on coming up with a new set of playbooks that simplifies the buying process.

Instead of forms and follow-ups, we’re using live chat and bots to capture and qualify leads while they’re live on our website.

We’re even using bots for scheduling sales meetings, which means no more email back-and-forths and endless games of phone tag.

By removing complexity from the buying process, we’re putting the customer back at the center of sales and marketing.

See why thousands of businesses are using Drift to generate lead and close deals faster.

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