Interview with Sarah Bedrick, Founder of HubSpot Academy – What Are Your Marketing Principles? – Episode #45

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“If I feel like I am getting close to perfection, it’s almost too late…will it work even it is not perfect in my eyes?”

Sarah Bedrick is a marketing advisor and former VP of Marketing. She’s spent the last 13 years working in SaaS startups and scaleups.

Her journey includes most recently co-founding Compt, an HR software company, and building the business and marketing engine from scratch. One of her biggest career wins was starting the HubSpot Academy team and growing it into a world-class educational institution for marketing, sales, and customer success professionals.

Sarah is also a new mom, loves to explore by bike, and is a life coach to fellow people in tech.

In this episode, we discuss inbound marketing, what makes HubSpot Academy a great resource for marketers to get new skills, how she built Compt and Compt’s marketing engine, why she left the company she co-founded, her marketing principles, universal challenges all marketers face when launching a campaign, and more!

 

Full Episode Transcript:

 

Kenny Soto  0:00  

We’re gonna hit record. And I can never get used to how louder voices. All right, we are now recording in 5432 Hello everyone and welcome to Kenny Soto’s Digital Marketing podcast. My guest today is Sarah Bedrick. And I’m excited to pick her brain and provide some insights to everyone after listening to this episode. Hi, Sarah, how are you?

 

Sarah Bendrick  0:26  

I’m good. Kenny, happy to be here.

 

Kenny Soto  0:29  

Awesome. So I like to start off each episode with a blanket question that I think can give the listeners some more background and context on who you are as a marketer. So my first question is, how did you get into marketing?

 

Sarah Bendrick  0:47  

Yeah, I was one of the lucky few that was a kid and knew what I wanted to do. Ever since I was little, I knew that I always wanted to be in business. And as I studied at university, I had like one of the best professors ever, for a marketing related class, my Consumer Behavior class, and he brought the coolest books in the world to the table. And that is really where like, my passion for marketing blossomed. 

 

And after that, it’s just most of my my professional career has been in marketing in some capacity. I’ve also been lucky to dabble in product management, and CO founding a software company. And at the core of it, it’s always been about people, which I believe is what marketing truly is about.

 

Kenny Soto  1:43  

Now, this is a two part question. The first part is what is inbound marketing? And the second part is, how has that definition changed over time? If any?

 

Sarah Bendrick  1:59  

Yeah, what is inbound marketing. So inbound marketing is the permission or pull based marketing strategies that you can find a lot on as a digital marketer today. So a lot of people when they think of marketing, they think of the traditional types of marketing like billboards and advert advertisements in newspapers, or magazines, or even TV commercials. 

 

Inbound Marketing is the antithesis to that because what those are is all in your face, types of marketing that people aren’t actively out there, pursuing. And so like, if you think about when you’re watching TV, and a commercial comes on, you’re not usually like, Yay, this is so helpful. You’re like, Oh, boo, this is not really relevant to me. And it’s kind of disrupting my experience as well. 

 

And so inbound marketing is, as I said, like the antidote to that, where it’s focused on delivering value and educating your potential consumers in the market. So that could be helpful blog posts. It could be fantastic videos that you upload to YouTube that help people to accomplish a goal. And it’s focused on educating them as a way to pull them through your marketing funnel versus the the in your face mass marketing. The other question, you’re, you’re gonna have to remind me, so what is inbound marketing? And what was the other question?

 

Kenny Soto  3:26  

As that definition changed over time?

 

Sarah Bendrick  3:30  

Ooh. Honestly, I’m not quite sure it has. I mean, for me and my own understanding and models of operating and doing inbound marketing, it hasn’t changed. It’s always been about like the core, which is delivering value and education, for your users, for your potential consumers. So I don’t think it has changed. I think maybe what has changed is like how you go about doing inbound marketing. But like, at its core, it hasn’t changed much.

 

Kenny Soto  4:00  

That’s reassuring. My next question is, there are plenty of places that a marketer can go to to learn about marketing. What makes HubSpot Academy so special?

 

Sarah Bendrick  4:15  

Yeah, so I’m going into my career archives a bit here. I was really fortunate. And I just, I’m touching my heart right now because it was such a wonderful journey. For me. I was fortunate enough to be one of the founders and builders of HubSpot Academy. 

 

So over like six and a half years of my career at HubSpot, that’s what I focused on. And HubSpot Academy is an online learning platform that creates content in the form of classes, courses, certifications to help marketers, sales professional sales professionals and Customer Success professionals to uplevel their knowledge to improve their career. You’re to get a new job. And so, yeah, essentially HubSpot Academy is just an education platform for people to learn how to how to do more and grow more and become more.

 

Kenny Soto  5:12  

And for the listeners that don’t have any context on what HubSpot is, can you explain essentially what kind of tool is HubSpot?

 

Sarah Bendrick  5:22  

Yeah, sure, HubSpot is a marketing sales, customer success. And now I believe operations tool that allows small medium and enterprise sized businesses to to grow better. And so it’s a tool that helps if you’re a marketer, there’s I use it for I’ve used it for the companies that I’ve started since leaving. But it also plays nicely with having this CRM, which is basically a customer relationship management platform so that you can keep all of your data in one place.

 

Kenny Soto  5:57  

Now, I think this is a good segue into one of the companies that you started in the past, which is comped, can you tell us the story of how you built the company? How you built the company’s marketing engine? And why did you ultimately leave?

 

Sarah Bendrick  6:15  

Yeah, yeah. So I started comped with a fantastic leader that I met in the Boston based tech ecosystem, Amy Sperling. And I knew that when I left HubSpot, I have learned so much from starting the HubSpot Academy team, and I wanted to hone in on something that was a big passion of mine. And that was the people side. And so when I met Amy, she was looking for a marketing co founder to help her round out her own skin. 

 

And the platform if you’re not familiar with comped, it’s a perk, stipend and bonus software for remote and global teams. And basically, if you think about it as employees like we oftentimes have access to so many cool perks, like maybe when you were working in the office, you had an on site gym, or there was pizza Fridays, a candy wall, like all these amenities for employees. 

 

And the problem with that, though, is that an onsite gym is great for some people, but what about the people who just don’t want to work out in front of their colleagues, or maybe they prefer to run outdoors, maybe they like yoga, or prefer to work out with their partner at a local gym. That was my situation. And so the the whole premise is perk stipends allow for personalization for all employees so that they can get what they truly want and need. And how that relates to marketing is that that was such a new and fresh and innovative idea. 

 

That for me as the marketer to try to create demand and capture demand on something that was so new was incredibly challenging. It was in a time when people didn’t even have the words to describe what we were doing. And so it took a lot of a lot of testing a lot of patience, a lot of iterating and improving. And just lastly, being honest with myself with like, what’s working and what’s not working. And over the course of the three and a half years I was there. I mean, I learned a tremendous amount. 

 

I thought I learned a lot on the HubSpot Academy team. But this was a whole nother level of learning. And I think some things that might be helpful for your listener that ultimately what I landed on, was that for marketing, I came up with my own marketing principles or ways of thinking about marketing at that company, building it from scratch, I had the luxury and also the challenge of starting something that no one had ever heard of. Even the concept no one had who hadn’t even heard of. And it was really helpful creating these tenants or principles for me, as to act as guideposts for what I would do and what I wouldn’t do.

 

Kenny Soto  9:05  

Sarah, or sorry, since before you dive into those principles, would you say that they were a necessity because you were technically first to market? And that provides its own challenges?

 

Sarah Bendrick  9:21  

Yeah, yeah, I would say there were a necessity for that. And I would say they were just a necessity for me and giving me the permission. And yeah, the permission and the acceptance to lean in to my strengths, my weaknesses, and to really be honest, as we grew, and so I tried to create them in a way that was very transparent for other team members. And also very transparent for myself. 

 

Like, as a marketer. I’ve done a lot of different things, but I haven’t done it all. And being able to be honest about that and saying like, these are things that I’m not familiar with If I won’t do but we’ve should probably try it and test out by outsource thing. Just gave me the permission that I needed to really bring my full self to, to the marketing engine.

 

Kenny Soto  10:12  

So can you give the audience some of those principles that you leveraged?

 

Sarah Bendrick  10:18  

Yeah, sure. So I hope that I can remember them all. But I’ll just share a few that I thought were really helpful for me personally, one of the first being always start with the end in mind, it can be really tempting when you’re starting at a new company, or when you’re starting a new company, to just get into the busy work and just just do this, do that and just want to try to deliver value in some capacity. 

 

But for me, by always starting with the end in mind, it forced me to really focus on the goals that the company had, how the marketing team could impact those goals, and what were the results that I was trying to achieve? So every time I would try a new channel, or a new approach, I would always think through like, what is the goal of this? And what are my desired results? And that allowed me to, to do the work but also know like, what is this all for? What’s the whole point of it? So that was one. 

 

Another one for me was focusing on quality over quantity coming from HubSpot, which was a massive organizational, I shouldn’t say massive, but for me, it felt massive. It was 200 people when I started and over 2000, when I left, they had the privilege of being able to focus on quantity and quality. And HubSpot creates content, several pieces of content every day. And so for me, at a startup that was very short on marketing resources, aka money, and people, one of the things that I knew that I could do was focus on the quality. 

 

So everything that I put out, I would make sure that this was either a unique perspective, it was education that hasn’t been brought to the market in some capacity. And that allowed me to once again give myself permission to not just try to turn out content left and right, that would add noise to the market. But add value in a way that like I knew was going to be meaningful for people who who do who did land on that content, or who did read it. Some other ones were focusing on embodying the mission and everything I did. 

 

So we had a really fantastic mission at comped and something that I think every organization could benefit from. And so I always tried to live and breathe that in the content that I put out, always tried to be consistent. And that’s with my, I would say what I did, in terms of like branding, try not to use, I mean, when you’re getting started, like it’s so tempting to be like, Oh, this color palettes a little cooler than this one that we’re using now, or the way that I phrase this is slightly better, or just to get so distracted. 

 

And so focusing on consistency, with our messaging and with what I was doing allowed me to make sure that we weren’t just like sloppy or messy in the market. And then as I wanted to make changes, I could be more intentional and purposeful about them. And then the two other ones that come to mind that I really loved. Because they felt great for the the head and the heart. One of them was always being data driven and taking big, calculated risks. And what I mean by that is, this could just be who I am at my core. 

 

But I do believe it’s important for successful marketers, and that is to be comfortable to go against the grain. I met with a lot of marketers that I admired when first starting comped and I said, if you were in my shoes, what would you do? How would you build this thing from essentially zero. And I got a lot of great advice that followed the same path that it was like fill the top of the funnel, create high level education build a brand. And I didn’t one of the first projects that did that. And the results were

 

bad, they didn’t achieve the goal that we were really striving for Conte. And so what I did was the exact opposite of that I went against the grain of what a lot of marketers were doing and I focused heavily on the bottom of the funnel. And so every piece of content I created, you know, every pillar page that I created focused on really specific keywords that were highly relevant to the products we were selling. 

 

And so the market now has started to shift and does more of this but high intent, keywords that are more educated, I would say educated potential consumers focusing on that. And while we didn’t have like mind blown In traffic numbers, what we did have was mind blowing conversion numbers. And so people, you know, there may be was 100 visitors coming to these pillar pages every, every week. But we had a great conversion rate because people were finding what they needed and could see that we were the potential answer to their problem. So being comfortable going against the grain zigging when others are zagging, and doing it in a data driven way. 

 

And then lastly, taking things 80% of the way there, it can be so tempting to want to get things perfect, like feel like that’s really perfect before you push it live. And I think a lot of that came from my later years at HubSpot, when we did have a lot of resources. And the HubSpot Academy team had hundreds of 1000s of users, you couldn’t ship an email that had typos on it, you couldn’t ship an email that wasn’t perfect. 

 

And so for me, I had to really allow myself and give myself the permission to take things 80% of the way there. Because when I did that it allowed me to see what’s the response in the market is no should I go back and update this and make it better. And that allowed me to be really efficient, with my time so that I was working smarter and not necessarily harder.

 

Kenny Soto  16:21  

Sarah,

 

Sarah Bendrick  16:22  

quite a few in there.

 

Kenny Soto  16:24  

How do you? How do you find a balance between the marketing principle of quality over quantity? And focusing on just getting 80%? There for efficiency? How do you strike a balance between those two principles specifically?

 

Sarah Bendrick  16:43  

Oh, my gosh, that’s such a great question. I think we all have our internal benchmark for what we consider to be perfect. And what’s perfect to me, Kenny, and might be different than what’s perfect to you and your other listeners. And so I think for me, since I was the only marketer there for a bit. It was about like, if I feel like I’m getting to perfection, like it’s almost too late. So like, is this high quality enough? Is this at least 80% of the way there? Does it have the meat that it needs to get the response that I need? And I guess what it gets down to like tactics, it’s like, instead of including three examples to make a point, I might include one or two. 

 

Or instead of including, like the most perfect analogy, like does this analogy, stand strong enough? Will it work, even if it’s not like perfect in my eyes? And so I wish I had a more concrete answer there. I think maybe if you’re at an organization where like your marketing leader has put out principles that they want you to stand behind as decision making guideposts and that can feel conflicting, it could be helpful to gain more clarity on like, what is 80% of the way there and your eyes? Like what concessions are you willing to make in that 20% to get something live?

 

Kenny Soto  18:12  

Perfect. My next question is what are some universal roadblocks or challenges that you believe all marketers will eventually face when running a campaign and to give a little bit more calm context? When I say campaign, it can just be like in any business setting. And it can be from personal experience as well, whether it’s b2b b2c, anything in that kind of scenario?

 

Sarah Bendrick  18:42  

Oops, I’m gonna have to think on this one for a bit. I mean, one thing that immediately popped up, in my mind was what we all envision success to look like. When we think about success, we always think it’s a straight arrow. And I would say like, the universal roadblock could be that success isn’t it’s often not a straight line. It’s usually like a, an a line that’s riddled with ups and downs. 

 

And you know, loop de loops and detours and persistence is what takes you to success. And so a roadblock could be thinking, like, is this going to be the perfect campaign from the beginning? Is this going to just hit every mark perfectly? And I think if you have that expectation for yourself, it can be a really demotivating or a deflating experience when when launching a campaign because inevitably, you might learn like this. 

 

Messaging could be better or the story could be better or the medium. This might have been better for a different medium, like video format, instead of a blog posts or maybe our email, maybe the database that we sent this to or was too large. And so we can’t distill the insights that we want. So as far as universal truths, nothing really comes up except for just not in self imposing a roadblock of having it all figured out before you before you launch.

 

Kenny Soto  20:21  

This is somewhat of a follow up question. And it’s, I guess this question is coming from past podcast, Gus, putting this seed of an idea in my brain, I want your opinion on this statement. All KPIs to some degree can also be seen as vanity metrics. What are your thoughts on that?

 

Sarah Bendrick  20:47  

My first thought is No. No, I don’t think so. And when you say vanity metrics, I mean, I guess I have a definition in my mind, you’re just saying metrics that are like self serving or ego driven or are are not actually impacting the business.

 

Kenny Soto  21:07  

So yeah, I would say, the reason why I bring up that statement is because I’ve been tackling the the idea of like, are all reports created equal? And based on the objectives? Obviously, some of them weigh more than others. So I bring up that statement to know from your perspective, how do you how do you go about thinking about reporting in general?

 

Sarah Bendrick  21:35  

Yeah, yeah, oh, my gosh, my mind is just jumping from like, idea to idea. So I’m going to explain it maybe backwards, and I would have originally based off of what you said, so let me and let me know Kenny, if some of this needs some clarity, or or fiddling. So sometimes when people think of like vanity metrics, or their own KPIs, they think about the work that they do and their own individual KPIs. 

 

So if you are the social media marketer, you might be focused on reach, you might be focused on brand mentions, you might be focused on interactions with your content, like your your posts. And what I think is really important as for a marketer is to understand how those metrics feed in to the marketing department’s metrics, whether it’s a focus on leads, or more specifically MQ, ELLs, or maybe conversion rates, like whatever the marketing teams focused on or revenue. 

 

And then also think about the even bigger picture of how does this fit into the overall company’s focus or metrics that they’re focused on for this quarter or this year. And I think that sometimes can be challenging if you’re in a silo, and you’re like, maybe the only person on your team or working with a leader who isn’t able to help you connect the dots to how what you’re doing is impacting the larger marketing department as well as the larger organization. 

 

And then when I think about reporting, like I want, and this is just based off of a byproduct of being recently a VP, and that is like, what is the focus for this quarter or this year? Like, what is our we must achieve this number, and then backing into it from there, and that’s how I set the marketing departments numbers. So thinking about like, Okay, if it’s a revenue number, what do we need to do on the marketing department in order to achieve that revenue number? 

 

So as a leader, I think about it like backing in from the highest level and most important goal for the business. And I think it’s also important depending on your role, if you’re more focused on a specific, I don’t wanna say niche, but maybe more specific channel, thinking about how your number translates upwards.

 

Kenny Soto  24:08  

That ties how was that? Yeah, that ties perfectly to what you mentioned previously, about keeping the end in mind. So I think that that connected very well. My next question is, what is one failure that you’ve experienced in your career that has provided a tremendous amount of insights that you use today?

 

Sarah Bendrick  24:33  

One failure, Kenny, he wanted us one

 

Kenny Soto  24:36  

 or any notable ones that come to mind.

 

Sarah Bendrick  24:38  

Yeah, yeah. So the one that comes to mind for me, is the goal that was set for me by the executive team and my last couple of years at HubSpot, so we were really focused on building the best HubSpot Academy to build like the best Just online platform like the best online resources possible. 

 

And once we had achieve that goal of creating really remarkable education from experts that truly was transformative for learners, we wanted to share it with more people. And so the executive team gave me a goal, which was to 10x, the number of learners and who, oh my gosh, that was a learning journey. Because if you know me, Kenny, like, I don’t like, not achieving goals, like I think almost most of the goals that I’ve set forth for myself, like I always I’ll do whatever it takes, I’m not coming, killing myself to achieve them. 

 

And the 10x goal I didn’t achieve. And I went from being like my myself, which is like bubbly and happy and determined and focused to being, you know, disappointed in myself and being skeptical. And so it was really hard to not achieve that goal. And it really actually didn’t just have an impact on the work I did. It had an impact on the way I showed up at work. And I look back on those years, and I kind of cringe because I’m like, you know, I didn’t achieve the tech school. 

 

But we achieved, like an incredible amount of growth that we wouldn’t have achieved without that. Like, while the 10x goal, I think it was like 800 learners to Yeah, I think it was like we Yeah, it was 800 learners per month to 8000. I think I’m saying that right, I can’t quite remember. But it was, we still achieved remarkable success. And instead, from this, I learned that I ended up focusing on what a lot of career coaches and strategic coaches call the gap. I focused on the gap. Like what I didn’t achieve. 

 

And while I wasn’t achieving it, I focused on how big an obstacle it was ahead of me. And that just felt horrible and deflating. And I think my biggest learning there was I, you know, if I were to do that over again, I would take a step back and be like, Okay, I didn’t achieve this goal. But what did I or we achieve instead? And like, what we achieved instead was like, we ended up creating more content, we ended up having tremendous amounts of greater volume, like we, we grew so much, like, how much did we actually grow? And how much was that beyond where we had grown before? And what did we learn in the process, and just focus on all of the amazing things that actually did come of it, it was just a byproduct of what I was focusing on, I was focusing my attention on the gap instead of the game. 

 

And so that’s something that like, I’ve just taken with me to a lot of different things, whether it’s like myself, missing a goal, or if it’s a team member missing a goal. It’s like, okay, we missed it, what did we learn? And what did we gain instead? So I think that was probably one of my biggest career learnings, that is relevant for marketing. But it’s also I just think, relevant in life focusing on the gain instead of the gap. Much more. Yeah, enjoyable experience, as well. Like as you’re going about it so much more fun, and energizing and positive, which becomes a self fulfilling loop of motivation and excitement.

 

Kenny Soto  28:30  

Yeah, I would agree. I would definitely agree with what you just said. Two more questions. Yeah. What are some marketing trends or industry news that you think isn’t being talked about enough?

 

Sarah Bendrick  29:01  

I’m just pausing here to think

 

Kenny Soto  29:06  

that’s how I know, the question was good.

 

Sarah Bendrick  29:10  

Yeah, it was a really great question. Um, you know, I, so I have a background in marketing. And I studied marketing, and I’m a marketer by trade. But I don’t like to think in terms of marketing, I pull a lot of what I learned from other business units, other departments, a lot of other industries. And so you’ll notice maybe throughout this, like I don’t even use a lot of the traditional marketing language because I connect more to like the greater business and maybe just greater landscape as well of different industries and different ways of thinking. 

 

So ultimately, one thing that popped up for me is I think, there is so much for b2b marketers to learn from b2c marketers. And that Something that I’ve been doing a lot of lately is like, what are some of the best b2b brands out there doing? And like, what, if anything, can I translate to what I’m doing today? I know that the purchase cycles and timeframes and purchase amounts are different. b2c has one, often one person buying or head of household buying, and there’s buying committees for b2b, but there’s still a lot to learn from them about being like a relatable brand about being a strong brand about having a frictionless buying process. 

 

And so I think that’s something that like, could be discussed more, and could even be highlighted as a way for marketers to get better at their own marketing skills.

 

Kenny Soto  30:47  

Amazing. Now, my last question for you is a hypothetical one, if you had access to a time machine, and you can go back 10 years, with all the knowledge you have right now, how would you get to where you are today? Just faster?

 

Sarah Bendrick  31:04  

Well, number one, I would have gotten a coach for myself sooner I if you know me, I talk a lot about the power of coaching. And I got a coach four years ago to help me make the decision of whether I should leave HubSpot or not. And I’ve had a coach ever since. And I think coaching is the secret weapon to most people’s success. So I would want 100% have gotten a coach sooner, I would have also leaned into my mentors more. 

 

Something that I started doing a lot in the last four or five years was really leaning into having mentors and seeking Well, I should say, seeking mentors. And I don’t mean formally, like will you be my mentor, I mean, people that have a career that I want to build or have a way of thinking that’s foreign to me, or are really excellent CFOs, or really excellent at a completely different discipline, to see what I can bring over to the marketing world. 

 

And so I would have definitely sought out mentors more, and leaned into them more. And I think one other small thing, I read so many books, and sometimes I won’t even finish them, if I feel like I got a really great insight or I got the point of the whole whole book, I’ll just stop there. I wish that I kept a catalogue of like the golden nuggets or insights that I gained from each book, because it’s all a big hodgepodge in my mind. And I think a lot of them like, probably have already forgotten or if, yeah, I’ve forgotten or lost the lesson. 

 

And I just invest so much time in that. And I wish I had distilled my own insights down more like take take in my own learnings and turn them into my own personal wisdom that I could keep with me. So that’d be a small thing. But I think the other two are just would be would have been game changing from the start.

 

Kenny Soto  32:57  

I like your answer, because I’m starting to realize if there’s a trend where I think you might be the sixth or seventh person whose answer to this question was getting a coach sooner or getting a mentor sooner. So I think there’s definitely an overall theme there. If more than one person says it, then it has to be true. Or at least somewhat true.

 

Sarah Bendrick  33:18  

Yeah. And can I say I’m so happy to hear that as well. Coaching used to be something that, I don’t know, I don’t know, if people still have this belief, at least people in my realm don’t. But I think a lot of people used to think that having a coach was a sign of weakness, but in truth, it’s a sign of strength. 

 

Because you’re able to be open enough to explore enough to be honest with yourself enough to like, say there might be a better way of doing this. And what are my own personal roadblocks keeping me from success? And so coaching is just I think one of the most underrated like most fantastic mediums that’s available to us as humans. So if your company offers it, I I cannot recommend it strongly enough.

 

Kenny Soto  34:04  

Sara, if the listeners wanted to connect with you online, where can they find you? Yeah,

 

Sarah Bendrick  34:10  

um, so find me on LinkedIn. I think that’s probably the easiest way and then I also have my website, Sarahbendrick.com. I think there’s a contact form for people to reach out but LinkedIn is is my go to place now.

 

Kenny Soto  34:22  

Perfect. Thank you for your time today, Sarah, and thank you to you the listener for listening to another episode of Kenny Soto Digital Marketing podcast. And as always, I hope you have a great week. Bye.

 

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