When we first started HubSpot 5 years ago, we were greatly influenced by the iPod, which was really hitting its stride back then. There were a lot of other MP3 players already on the market before the iPod was released, and none of them got any market traction. So why did the iPod take off? Well, we reasoned that it was because it was more "simple and integrated" than any of the other MP3 players at the time. We used to joke that you needed a degree from MIT to figure out how to get an MP3 player configured correctly and get music on it. The genius behind the iPod was not just that the device was simpler, but it was also how the device worked with the application (iTunes) and the content (music). The end-to-end experience was so easy that mere mortals like me were able to figure out how to carry 1,000 songs around in our pockets. By making that integration work so simply, they were able to get non-consumers to start buying what was previously thought to be pretty complicated stuff only usable by geeks.
Okay, so what's this got to do with HubSpot? Well, we feel like the internet marketing industry looks a lot like the MP3 industry did. There are lots of very good point solutions on the market (Google Analytics, SEOMoz, TweetDeck, Wordpress, Drupal, Marketo, etc.), and if you are a geek, you can figure out how to use some of them and maybe even try to figure out how to get one or two of them to talk to each other. But for the rest of us mere mortals, that's a daunting task, so we are essentially non-consumers or barely-consumers. In copying the iPod PLUS iTunes PLUS the music, HubSpot built an internet marketing "system" from the ground up that included an application (SEO + social media + blogging + CMS + analytics + email + lead nurturing + etc.) PLUS hand-holding from an internet marketing consultant PLUS content/services from our services marketplace PLUS 3rd party applications from our application marketplace -- all in one integrated (1+1=3) system. Inspired by the iPod, the idea behind all of this is to make internet marketing easy enough to get mere mortal marketers to look like black belt ninjas without having to be geeks.
So how about you? Are you following Steve's playbook and trying to get non-consumers to buy your products, or are you engaged in a death march trying to replace competitors' products? Is there a way you can win by simplifying your product and integrating it together with adjacent products into one easy experience like Apple? What would Steve Jobs have done if he were CEO of your company?
I'll close with a hearty thank you to you, Steve Jobs. Your inspiration has helped us build a thriving enterprise with about 300 people and 5,000 customers. I love your products, envy your taste, and admire the way you lived your short life. May you rest in peace.
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