If you've been in the agency business for very long at all you're familiar with the constant cycle of drama and change that we call agency life.
As an agency principle you're constantly under pressure to stay relevant, know everything there is to know about an industry and quickly pivot to meet any shifts in the landscape -both for yourself and your clients.
Which makes it difficult to stay on top of every subject, every new martech company that could revolutionize the industry, etc. What you need is a solid foundation to build your offerings around, a community of supportive experts in every field and the software and resources to put it all to work.
As it turns out, that's exactly what HubSpot has been quietly building over the last few years.
With a move from "solution to platform", HubSpot suddenly upended the agency industry, giving tens of thousands of agencies deeper access to clients and a network of partners to work with to divide and conquer the opportunity.
HubSpot announced the launch of their Connect library of integrations last year and this year followed with a more robust unveiling of their vision to weave their agency partners into this grand plan.
Brian Halligan, CEO and co-founder of HubSpot, described the opportunity at Partner Day 2019 as a 4x multiplier of HubSpot's own market opportunity, "For every $1 spent on marketing technology, $4 will be spent on managed services..." (I'm taking the liberty of an approximate quote here...).
To take advantage of the massive opportunity of providing managed services around the hundreds of integrations available now (and the thousands to come), it's worth considering if "drinking the orange kool-aid" is right for your agency.
What is the HubSpot partner agency program and why should I care?
Starting a new HubSpot partner agency is pretty straightforward (everything with HubSpot is easy). A $3,000 setup fee and $800/m gets you access to the partner program, once your application is approved.
At that point you’re given access to your HubSpot partner portal and scheduled for onboarding with their delightful customer success team.
Your CSM (customer success manager) will schedule regular video calls with you, which are immensely valuable, where you’re shown how to integrate HubSpot software into your website and introduced to their training program through a practicum (think of this like your HubSpot homework).
Beyond the logistical / technical setup, the real benefit of working closely with your CSM is their experience with other agencies and the valuable, genuine advice they can provide on how to get your business set up for success.
You’ll also be introduced to your CAM (channel account manager) who is your partner in business development, sales strategy and is even available to help you demo HubSpot for prospects, work out discounts and special offers and close more deals.
In my experience, your CAM is your foxhole buddy. They’re goaled around increasing your HubSpot-related sales but they recognize your overall success as an agency translates directly into more opportunities to sell HubSpot and are willing to go above and beyond to assist you in growing your agency.
As a HubSpot partner agency you’re encouraged to sell HubSpot software and receive a number of benefits for doing so. Mostly these benefits relate to greater access to HubSpot’s tools and experts, training and community events, sneak peeks, etc.
Since the tickets to Inbound (HubSpot’s massive annual inbound marketing conference) aren’t cheap, these partner agency benefits translate to meaningful opportunities to grow your business “for free”.
How does HubSpot evaluate agency partners?
Your HubSpot sales are tracked in your partner portal by two metrics, 12 Month Sold MRR and Managed MRR (MRR is an abbreviation for Monthly Recurring Revenue).
12 Month Sold MRR is the sum of HubSpot fees generated each month from the accounts you sold within the last rolling 12 month period.
Managed MRR is the sum of all the fees related to any accounts your agency manages on behalf of clients. Frequently you’ll sell agency services to a client who already purchased HubSpot, so in those cases, you wouldn’t get credit for any Sold MRR but you would still receive credit for the Managed MRR.
When your 12 Month Sold MRR and Managed MRR both pass certain benchmarks your agency tier status is upgraded. There are 4 tiers and the benefits your agency receives increase fairly substantially at each level.
The levels are Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond and a new top-level tier will be announced at Inbound 2019 (a few months from the time this article was published).
If your sales decline and don’t climb back up again, your status will be downgraded eventually when HubSpot recalculates tier statuses about twice a year.
It’s important to note that HubSpot upgrades accounts almost immediately (at least once a month) and only downgrades twice a year; giving agencies plenty of time to address declining sales before losing the benefits of each tier.
For more information about HubSpot partner agency tiers and their requirements visit this HubSpot resource.
At a high level, this is how the HubSpot partner agency program works and how you can benefit from being a member of the community. HubSpot is an incredible platform and an excellent foundation upon which to build your agency.
This makes sense if you’re starting a brand new agency, but what if you’ve been around awhile?
Most agencies aren’t starting from scratch when they join the HubSpot channel partner program. Many agency principles have built businesses around a variety of other services, from traditional to digital marketing, web development and even, in some cases, public relations.
Building a HubSpot agency from the ground up allows you to closely follow a well established model for growing and profiting from selling and managing HubSpot software. But there are also many benefits (name recognition in particular) that come with an established agency that’s already managing clients and generating revenue.
The rest of this article will dive into the most common challenges in integrating HubSpot into your traditional agency business model and strategies for setting your team up for success.
How do I integrate HubSpot into my traditional agency and reap the benefits right away?
Coming from the context of a traditional, or at least an established, agency, HubSpot (and inbound marketing in general) is immediately different in a few significant ways. Traditional marketing either involves direct response tactics to encourage specific actions or a broad, brand marketing approach to build familiarity with a target audience.
HubSpot and the inbound marketing approach turn the tables on marketing, moving from pushing messages on people to attracting people with the promise of better information.
Inbound functions on the simple principle that people are very interested in finding solutions that improve their lives and don’t require a hard-sell, if sold the right solution at the right time (when they know they need it).
This benefits your agency in 2 ways:
You’re a revenue driver, not a cost center...
First, agencies operate on a service model that’s quite fickle and new business always needs to be tended to make sure there is sufficient incoming revenue. Leveraging HubSpot and inbound marketing strategies is a great way to establish a sustainable sales pipeline for your agency.
Second, your agency can offer services that align better with how your customers evaluate marketing success and allocate their budgets. While marketing budgets grow and shrink with each year’s revenues and goals; sales seems to stay well-funded even in the down years. This is because sales is very visible when business is closed. Sales gets to claim the wins while marketing only gets to claim qualified leads -marketing budgets just aren’t that sexy.
By positioning yourself as a trusted partner that manages the overlap / the alignment of sales and marketing; you’ll be seen as a key revenue driver rather than a bundle of costly fees that only impact the top of the funnel.
Inbound is the wheel, your services are the spokes…
Perhaps the best part about expanding your offerings with inbound marketing services is that inbound strategies don’t work without a robust infrastructure of content, creative, development, analytics and automation in place.
Inbound drives demand for these additional services, which is where you’ll reap the majority of the financial benefit of being a HubSpot partner agency.
As HubSpot moves away from being an all-on-one solution and into its rightful place as the platform of choice for integrating and extending your martech stack, agencies that fully embrace HubSpot and an agency-to-agency partnership model position themselves to reap significant benefits.