Mike Volpe on What Would Happen if You Shut Off Your Marketing

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The problem with most marketing is that we do it just to do it. The bigger problem is that we constantly have to feed the beast. We’re always sinking money into it, and when we shut off the money faucet, the leads dry up.

I had a chance to speak with Mike Volpe, former CMO of HubSpot and current angel investor, at a panel discussion for OpenView Partner portfolio companies last month. We talked about, among other things, how to find top-notch talent and the importance of defining your own market.

I also asked him about the “best” kind of marketing, and what the new marketing landscape looked like. Mike said there’s really nothing new in marketing. Rather, we should just figure out how to use what we’ve got more effectively, and not waste money on things like advertising or “paying rent.” (More on that in a minute.)

He told us about a company he’s currently advising, and the changes they’ve made to their marketing program — like cutting marketing spend by 80%.

“They were spending a lot of money on all these advertising-related things,” said Mike. “The problem is that every single time you get traffic or a lead, you’re paying a toll for every single one of those.”

As you would expect, Mike is instead a big proponent of inbound marketing — free tools, a freemium pricing model, SEO, content marketing, and social media. “You do a bunch of work today and it pays dividends in the future,” he said. “It’s like building your own home. You don’t have to pay rent anymore, and you still have this awesome place where you can live.”

When Mike goes into any new company the first thing he asks is, “What would happen to your pipeline over the next three months if you cut your marketing spend by 100%?”

“If the answer is, ‘Holy shit, it would go into the toilet,’ then you’re not doing your marketing right.”

“All the stats that we showed at HubSpot said that if we cut all of our marketing, our new lead generation would only drop by about 30% over the next three to six months because in many cases content that was months and years old was still generating leads.”

As entrepreneurs, this is precisely what we need to figure out. How can we build something that will bring in business over the long haul, rather than a one time campaign like a billboard or TV commercial Because once the commercial stops or the billboard comes down, those leads disappear.

Instead, we must focus on building a framework that will bring in leads long after we stop. White papers, blog posts, how-to videos, and podcasts — most of your time, energy, and money should go toward building this evergreen content that lives on well after you’ve created it.

Advertising may bring in short term leads, but once you shut off the pipeline, everything will dry up immediately, which means you have to keep spending money to keep the pipeline full. Instead, put that same amount of money into content marketing and you’ll not only have a bigger pipeline after a few years, but you can scale back or try new tactics from time to time, without having a disastrous effect.

At the end of the day, good marketing is good marketing, and it’s going to be the same, regardless of the platform you choose, tactic you embrace, or buzzwords you throw around. Focus on the future, without spending a lot of money on things that won’t live on after the money stops.

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