The 3-Step Approach HubSpot’s VP of Marketing Uses to Set Goals for Continuous Growth

Author's avatar Ground Up Podcast Feb 26, 2020 3 minutes read

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    Peter Caputa

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    Back in October, HubSpot’s VP of Marketing, Kieran Flanagan, sat down with our own John Bonini for an episode of Ground Up.

    Kieran shared a little bit about how they’ve grown HubSpot (including their freemium offering) over the last few years.

    When Kieran started at HubSpot in 2016—running marketing and growth for the freemium product—marketers, engineers, PMs, and salespeople were all trying to collaborate despite competing goals and processes.

    As Kieran put it, it was chaos.

    But out of that chaos came some really key learnings that helped Kieran and HubSpot create a culture of growth throughout the organization and to scale that culture as HubSpot took off.

    Below, we highlight the 3-step approach that came out of that chaos.

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    1. Decentralize Growth—It’s a Part of Everyone’s Job

    As Flanagan explained, HubSpot’s growth team went through an evolution as the company grew. But they ended up in the place where most companies want to be today—a place where everyone from marketing and sales to product is responsible for growth.

    Because here’s the thing about having a separate growth team: Other teams aren’t always incentivized to do what they ask or help them reach their goals.

    As Kieran and HubSpot worked around that challenge, growth became less of a function and more of a discipline—one that everyone practiced as part of their role.

    Each team owned growth goals and wove growth, as a discipline, into their day-to-day. PMs were taught to include growth in the way they create products. Sales reps learned to frame their goals around growth targets.

    2. Reverse Engineer Team Goals from Revenue Models

    Speaking of goals, Kieran detailed HubSpot’s goal-setting process as a bottom-up exercise. Their goals start out tied directly to revenue—if they need to hit a set revenue goal, how many MQLs and PQLs do they need to get there? With a set dollar value attached to QLs, that’s an easy goal to figure out.

    Starting with revenue eliminates a lot of the ambiguity many teams face with goal-setting.

    Individual teams figure out how many content leads or users they need to have, and from there, they can develop more tactical plans and goals to generate those leads and users.

    3. Set Forward-Thinking Goals

    Kieran explained how the numbers those goals dictate always get harder year after year. It’s always an uphill climb to make better happen again and again. By this point in HubSpot’s growth, they’ve tried all the channels and the challenge has become twofold:

    • Getting more invested in, and adept at, the channels that have been working
    • Setting forward-thinking goals that set you up for long-term success—for when the current channels inevitably stop growing at a sizable clip

    As Kieran noted, if all you’re focused on is hitting your current goals month after month, you’re eventually going to find yourself at the end of the rope with nothing to take you higher.

    So as your company grows and the untapped channels grow fewer, it’s about balancing the focus required to hit your current goals with the need to continue evolving and setting yourself up to hit next year’s goals.

    Wrapping Up

    In addition to the takeaways above, Kieran talks about:

    • The early days of freemium at HubSpot
    • Instilling a culture of growth far beyond the marketing team
    • Managing cross-functional and remote teams
    • And more

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    Article by
    Kiera Abbamonte

    Kiera's a content writer who works with B2B SaaS companies. Catch up with her on Twitter @Kieraabbamonte or

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