Considerations When Scaling A Business Post-Pandemic

Crevan O’Malley, UK Country Manager at HubSpot, lists some important factors to take into consideration when scaling a business post-pandemic.

Despite a very challenging two years, and a similarly complex environment still on the horizon, organisations remain focused on growth. In fact, Deloitte suggested that UK companies are entering the new year with greater optimism than usual, expecting strong consumer demand to provide a robust year ahead. As we emerge from the recent Omicron variant disruption, it is important to look at the strategies businesses can adopt to accelerate growth.

Consider HubSpot’s rapid growth over a relatively short space of time; we have gone from helping small start-ups accelerate their growth through our software and educational resources, to supporting iconic UK brands like Skyscanner. Now, we have over 6,000 employees worldwide and recently hit two significant milestones: surpassing 135,000 paying customers and hitting $1.3 billion in annual recurring revenue (ARR). 

We’re very proud of this level of success, but what can other businesses learn from the decisions we’ve made, in order to help them grow, compete and win, even against the backdrop of a recovering economy?

Always put customers first

Customers should always sit at the heart of any organisation. 

Forming strong, long-term customer relationships should be the top priority for businesses. The pandemic has triggered huge changes in consumer behaviour; it’s brought a decrease in spending, coupled with a surge in online shopping, as physical stores closed. Consequently, customers expect seamless digital experiences that cater to their specific needs across all channels. 

It’s no longer a case of having a database that logs customer details and interactions. Integration matters. The pandemic saw more businesses rely on digital tools to operate, with research from AppDynamic showing that the acceleration to cloud computing has increased tech complexity. 

This growing complexity can make internal operations difficult, and therefore impact customers. But with a well-integrated, fully utilised CRM platform that focuses on delivering on the needs of the customer, not just the narrow needs of sales or marketing, businesses can run more efficiently and deliver a customer journey that is manageable and enjoyable.

For instance, at HubSpot, it became clear our existing CRM systems weren’t up to scratch. Our underpinning ethos has always been ‘customer-first’, but to make this a reality we realised all our teams needed to work more closely together. Existing CRM systems wouldn’t let them do this. To address this, we built our own CRM platform to fulfil the needs of a modern scaling business. 

Now our CX platform allows us to store highly personalised customer information in the CRM, track leads, customer journeys and build reports to analyse overall company performance. Most importantly, it keeps all this data in one place, so regardless of whether a marketeer, sales rep or customer service rep is dealing with the customer, they are all drawing from the same single data source. In 2022, this kind of customer experience is no longer just a nice-to-have – it’s an absolute necessity. 

Don’t be afraid to go against the grain

Research shows that acquiring new clients is five times more expensive than keeping existing customers. Today, customers are much more aware and sceptical of traditional marketing tactics,  making lead generation an even greater challenge. B2B procurement teams need to understand clearly what the long-term value they’re receiving is, before making a purchase commitment. This is where thinking ‘out of the box’ and going against the grain might serve your customers, thus the bottom-line much better than traditional tactics.

One example is a freemium model. It’s one we started using at HubSpot over five years ago. It aligns well with the concept of inbound marketing: this is when you must add value before you extract value. The main benefit of freemium for the user is that it’s a natural process that allows them to discover the company’s product or service on their own. 

For the business, leveraging this concept helps growth as customers optimise the upgrade paths, resulting in paying customers. The likes of Zoom and Spotify are great examples of companies that have succeeded in scaling their businesses this way. The general perception of freemium, however, is that the model isn’t suited to B2B companies targeting long-term, large-scale growth. 

Typically, freemium has been designed to target consumers, since you need to have a lot of people signing up for your free products to make any freemium funnel work. But this shouldn’t be an impediment to companies in the B2B space. As we’ve seen at HubSpot, a freemium model is, in some ways, better suited to detect and identify the changing ways decisions are made in businesses. 

As opposed to a top-down approach to technology decision-making, there is increasingly a bottom-up approach. Companies are now looking at which products are being used and lobbied for by junior team members. A freemium model ties neatly into this paradigm. This has proved successful for us, with nearly 60% of our current customers starting out with our free offerings upgrading to access our more powerful, paid-for tools. 

The success speaks for itself and is why we advocate that companies of all sizes shouldn’t be afraid to go against the grain. Far too often, the advice to not try something comes either from fear or a lack of experience. Taking risks in business can lead to truly amazing products and services. Some of the world’s most successful organisations including Microsoft, Apple and Google took risks in their earlier stages. Who knows what the next great innovation will be?

Use your own innovation to grow 

Many businesses will be looking to offer new features to supercharge growth in 2022. A common way to add these offerings is through acquisition, quickly allowing new capabilities to be brought online, but in doing so has its negatives. Not only does it add to the complexity of the tech stack, but it also takes a lot of time and effort to entirely remove barriers for data to flow freely from acquired capabilities to the core proposition.  

Organisations should look to avoid this problem by innovating within. This is the route we chose at HubSpot. We are extremely proud that we have created the majority of our platform tools in-house. While it may take longer initially, it means we can create capabilities that are true to our ‘customer first’ ethos. Integration from the start makes it much easier to solve pain points based on customer feedback. By carefully crafting in-house, customers can benefit from a product that’s cohesive, customisable and empowering. 

With so much uncharted territory ahead, businesses should be looking at how they can steal a march on the competition and try a new approach to grow, always with the customer front of mind. Although business may see the light at the end of the tunnel in terms of the pandemic, the customer landscape we emerge into is not the same one pre-pandemic. Now is the time for businesses to rethink their growth strategies because with huge change, comes the opportunity for rapid growth.

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