App Marketplace Strategy

Sell the way platform customers like to buy

Hugh Durkin
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In early 2019, during my first few months at HubSpot, we held a “Connect Partner Day” at our HQ in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was our last “Connect Partner” event - we redesigned and relaunched the App Partner Program (and launched the HubSpot App Marketplace) at INBOUND later that year.

So this event was super important. It was an early opportunity for us to get feedback from partners on the redesigned program and marketplace. And, as it turned out, some of our partners were not very happy.

Feedback is a gift

I gave a glorious (in my mind) run-through of where the program was headed, and how we were reshaping it based on partner feedback. But after my talk a partner approached me and gave me - putting it mildly here - a piece of his mind.

”Your directory is useless! Your program is useless! We joined the Connect Program last year and have got next to nothing out of it! I shouldn’t even be here! This is a waste of my time!” Or words to that effect.

He had a right to be frustrated. His company had gained zero traction in the HubSpot Connect Partner ecosystem. And not for the want of effort - time and money had been invested into their integration with HubSpot. Clearly something had to change.

Later that evening, at a wonderful after party, I ended up chatting with two other Connect Partners. One, like the partner earlier in the day, was both angry and frustrated. His feedback was almost the same. “We get nothing from this! Your directory does nothing for us, so your new App Marketplace will do nothing for us, too! This is a waste of time!”

The Eureka Effect

The other partner, however, had another point of view. He was rooting for us. His integration with HubSpot was a core part of his go-to-market. Our simple directory was sending him lots and lots of high quality leads. He was insanely happy, and happy to be at our event that day.

Then, right on cue, something magical happened (this is a true story, I swear). His phone beeped, he reached into his pocket to see what the notification was, and - voila - it was a Slack notification telling him a new customer had signed up for his product just moments before. The referral came from, you guessed it, the HubSpot Connect Partner directory. It was not his first such notification that day.

He had just proved the point I had tried to make earlier to the frustrated and angry partners. Their products, and the way they priced and sold them, simply weren’t a good fit for HubSpot customers. Let me explain.

Sell the way our customers like to buy

HubSpot at the time had (and still has) a range of go-to-market motions, starting with a suite of free tools, graduating up to a set of priced plans - starting from tens of dollars for small businesses, to tens of thousands of dollars for more “enterprise” features. When I say enterprise, HubSpot’s “enterprise” sweet spot was 200 - 2000 seats. Siebel we were not.

But the products the angry and frustrated partners were offering through the Connect Partner Directory were incredibly misaligned with this reality. Their pricing started from tens of thousands of dollars. Neither of them included transparent pricing information on their listings - potential customers had to extract it from them through a series of emails and demo calls. It was a bad use of everyone’s time.

And the happy partner? He sold his products the way HubSpot customers liked to buy them. He offered free tools, and a free tier. Priced plans started from $25 a month - similar to HubSpot at the time. His products and integrations earned thousands of installs through the HubSpot Connect Partner directory. Those installs generated hundreds of paying customers. He was primed and ready to build on that through the new HubSpot App Marketplace.

A happy(ish) ending

After the event, the first angry and frustrated partner of the day digested what he’d learned. He took onboard our advice - sell the way our customers like to buy - and redesigned his pricing and packaging to align more closely with what HubSpot customers expected. After a while, the customers started to come. They may have paid less initially, but there were more of them. Over time many of those grew to become fully fledged Enterprise customers. A good outcome.

Unfortunately, things didn’t work out for the second angry and frustrated partner - their business no longer exists.

The happy partner, however, is still thriving. Making the most of the HubSpot App Marketplace, acquiring new customers, hiring new teammates to look after them. They’re still selling the way HubSpot customers like to buy - and customers are buying what they’re building.

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