Weidert Group has been a HubSpot partner for almost 3 years, and we've attended the last two Inbound Marketing Conferences in Boston. Those conferences are incredible events that act to inspire, educate, motivate and activate attendees in so many different ways that it's hard to get your arms around them all.
At Inbound 2013 last August, my colleague Frank Isca and I committed ourselves to learning as much as we could from the overwhelming abundance of breakouts offered by other HubSpot partner firms. I promised Frank I wouldn't get defensive about what we heard, and he promised me he wouldn't shoot presenters his résumé!
Our Big Takeaway From Inbound 2013
While I know I took something away from each partner presentation I attended, I had my favorites: David Carpenter and Will McNae of Connection Model in Seattle, Mike Lieberman of Square 2 Marketing of Philadelphia, and Bob Ruffolo of Impact Branding in Connecticut. What made each of these so valuable to me as an agency owner was the affirmation that kept ringing in my head saying "Yes! That makes perfect sense. We could/should do what they did!" Each shared remarkably candid and open stories of trial, error, learning and success, and each challenged all of us in attendance to figure out how to apply their lessons to our situations. From the processes they invented to the technologies they experimented with, to the roles and responsibilities they decided were critical, each freely shared their pearls of wisdom with no expectations of reward beyond picking up a few new connections and follows.
I have to be honest and admit that Frank and I were completely overwhelmed, kind of like first-time attendees at a home show who think everything they see is so cool that their next house has to have it all, but first you have to hit the lottery...! But ultimately the message we brought back to our team in Appleton, WI was that we saw countless different ways we could improve as an inbound agency and HubSpot partner, but if we were going to make substantial progress we needed to concentrate (Pareto Optimality style!) on the area of focus that would bring us the most benefit.
We decided, based on the presentation by Bob Ruffolo, that our best opportunity for improvement was in how we market ourselves. Don't get me wrong, we're very proud of our bootstrapped marketing success so far. HubSpot even recognized us earlier this year with a partner agency case study that celebrated the progress we've made. But sitting in the audience in Boston listening to Bob talk about their decision to commit dedicated resources to focus solely on the marketing of Impact Branding was exactly what we needed to hear and see. Subsequent conversations and correspondence with John Bonini, Impact's director of marketing, confirmed in our minds that we needed to follow their example and make the commitment to invest in a marketing manager position charged with taking our marketing strategies to another level, with no direct client responsibility.
The Meaning Behind 'Searching for Our Bonini'
I'm sure you're still not clear on the meaning behind our search theme (Searching for Our Bonini), so let me explain a little more. We posted the position, along with a marketing assistant position, back in late September and promoted them aggressively via social media.
We've had a great response to the assistant position, with lots of recent or soon-to-be grads of area universities applying. We've actually found a great candidate, and after too much vetting are planning to make an offer today! But it hasn't gone as well with the marketing manager position, which led me to a discussion with a business professor friend at one of our area universities. I asked him if he would look at our posting and let me know if he saw any problems that would cause the tepid response we've gotten so far.
He called me back in a few minutes.
"It's pretty simple, Greg. You've said you know it's unlikely that there's a candidate in the area who already has the combination of skills and experience this job ultimately requires; you've actually told me you expect the right candidate to define the position through their experience of learning on the job. Yet the posting says you're looking for someone who's done all this already. Since this kind of person is incredibly rare outside of Boston (HubSpot backyard) only people who don't pay attention to the position requirements are applying."
It was at that moment that it hit me. I had a flashback to August in Boston, listening to Bob Ruffolo talk about the decision to hire John in early 2012, knowing it was a gamble and a bet on their future. How John went in 18 months from being a former substitute teacher who enjoyed writing to an inbound marketing superstar managing one of the hottest brands in the inbound world. That's when the epiphiany hit: we need to find our Bonini!
What We've Learned in The Process
Instead of focusing on specific skills and experiences, we need to look for attitude and intellect. Instead of a narrow range of degree requirements, we need to find a critical thinker who's capable of solving problems and addressing challenges that haven't even been completely framed yet. Instead of hiring someone who fits a job description, we need to find a person who's motivated at the prospect of defining their position while they strive to better define and promote our brand. And someone who looks at Weidert Group and our industry and sees the opportunity to build something really exciting.
In the end, thinking about our search this way opened our eyes, as well as the eyes of the right candidate. We'll let you know if we get him to say yes.