GROWTH GRAPHIC

The business world is obsessed with growth.

We chase it, chart it, and celebrate the moment we’ve captured it — even temporarily.

I’m no outlier to this global past-time.

Over the last 12 years my cofounder and I have grown HubSpot from a curious idea to an enduring company serving more than 48,000 customers worldwide. I love growth so much that a couple of years ago, when I hand-coded a lovable chatbot I named it GrowthBot.

I say all of that so you’ll know I’m not a charlatan when I say this:

Growth alone doesn’t interest me anymore.

Somewhere along the line growth shifted in our global discourse from an enabler to an end-goal. And when you make growth the end-all-be-all, you lose perspective.

You start to solve for your bottom line above all else, even, at times, at the expense of your customers.

We’ve seen this behavior spike recently as companies — even those we’ve previously loved — have sacrificed long-term relationships for short term gains. And we have the apology tours to prove it.

Apology tours certainly make it easy to draw a line in the sand, point at the spate of behemoths currently taking heat for self-serving decisions, and say, “We would never do that to our customers.” But the truth is — businesses are built on an immense number of decisions — from the incredibly small and seemingly mundane to the very large and lastingly impactful — and any one of those could become the time that you solve for your own growth over your customers’.

No one goes to work intending to shortchange the customer, but when you obsess over short term growth, it happens.

And this is where the obsession with growth breaks down for me.

It’s not just principle, it’s practical

When we started HubSpot, we got a number of things wrong, but we got one thing very, very right. And that was the realization that customers are in control. We noticed that after years of interruptive marketing tactics, people were leveraging technology (search, ad blockers, spam filters) to usurp marketing they didn’t want, and taking a more proactive approach to finding content that they did.

At the time we focused on the direction of this new landscape — pull versus push, inbound versus outbound. But the lesson was bigger than that. Customers determine their own purchase decisions. You can’t just steal their attention, you have to earn it.

That observation ended up being a massive opportunity. Marketing on buyers’ terms was less expensive and more effective than the traditional push-marketing playbook. That remains true today.

Today — there’s something even better than content at attracting customers — and that is another customer. Word of mouth is now the biggest driver of all new business.

So, do this math with me: If customers are your most effective marketers and you shortchange them to eek out a few extra growth points at the end of the quarter, doesn’t that become devastating to your long term trajectory?

Doesn’t that hollow out the very source of your growth to begin with?

Of course it does. And that has to stop.

Manically chasing growth at the expense of customer goodwill mortgages the future.

Growth that sacrifices the customer experience in any way, isn’t growth at all. It’s debt.

It’s Not Enough to Grow. We Have to Grow Better.

There’s got to be a better way to grow — a growth attained without compromising the customer experience.

Growth that is willing to sacrifice short term gains for long term loyalty.

We’re committed to chasing and celebrating that kind of growth.

Technology can fix some of this.

We started down this path with the philosophy of inbound marketing — trying to attract people instead of interrupt them. And earlier this year we launched a customer service offering because we want to be the growth platform that makes it easy for companies to deliver an amazing experience through marketing, sales, and service.

But the hardest parts of growing better are rarely tech-related. The hard part is changing how we run our businesses.

At HubSpot, we’ve undertaken something we call the sharp edges initiative. An examination of all the places where we unintentionally make things harder for customers. One by one, we’re working to file all of them down.

We’ve reduced our cancellation notice window from 45 days to 10 days, with the goal of getting it to 0. This policy made sense for us (helped us forecast renewals), but it made no sense to our customers and was one of out top escalation issues. That’s a sharp edge that has to go.

We’re also rolling out functionality that will allow more customers (eventually all of them) to cancel “in portal.” We want to be more like Spotify and Netflix, companies that make no attempt to block the exit, and are as easy to end an agreement with as they are to start one.

In marketing, we’re making simple but important changes — cutting our email sends by 50% (while increasing engagement by 28%), automatically un-enrolling people if they haven’t engaged in awhile, and making sure people have options for how to engage with us — not just a rigid form.

These are the choices about how to do business, the sort of which are made every day in millions of businesses across the world, that ultimately build a better experience for customers. And these are the choices that turn a slogan like “grow better” into real change.

We’re committed to growing better

HubSpot hasn’t perfected growing better…I haven’t perfected growing better, but I am committed to the idea.

We want to see HubSpot’s network of customers and partners grow big, and grow fast. But more importantly, we want them to grow in a way that builds loyal customers and a sustainable business.

There’s a way to grow that doesn’t compromise the customer experience. That’s the kind of growth I’m excited about. That’s growing better.

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Growth Alone Doesn’t Interest Me Anymore was originally published in ThinkGrowth.org on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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