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The Rise of Social Business and Lovable Cultures


A note about this post: This is a companion article to two podcast interviews I conducted. One with Amber Naslund of SideraWorks on the topic of social business, the other with Katie Burke of HubSpot on lovable marketing and culture. Thanks to both Amber and Katie for the thoughts shared and actions taken to move these important concepts forward in practical ways!

I am experimenting with expanding and cross-pollinating coverage of topics between the mediums of podcasting and blogging. If you've been reading this blog, thank you! You may also find the B2B Inbound Expert Interviews Podcast of value (and convenience). Either way, thank you for listening and reading!

In this connected, competitive and converged era, businesses are having to re engineer processes and communications to compete, stay alive and thrive. Not just to delight, acquire and retain customers, but team members, too. And the investments they are making in flattening the organization, to open up and gain a more collaborative, participative, connected and honest culture is paying off, big time.

engineering tools

Take Cemex for example, the global building supply company. Amber Naslund of SideraWorks shared, on a recent podcast about social business, how Cemex created an internal social network that enabled over 17,000 of its employees in the first year to collaborate more effectively with each other resulting in improving product design and speed to market.

From this we may get the idea that conducting social business is just a fancy new term for doing social media. It's not. It's something entirely different. Amber pointed out on the show that social media is about tools and technologies, social business is about a way of being, it's more of a mindset and may or may not involve social media technologies.

Becoming a social business

While there may be many definitions and ideas of social business, here's one from a SideraWorks white paper, What is Social Business, I find most helpful:

"Social Business is the creation of an organization that is optimized to benefit its entire ecosystem (customers, employees, owners, partners) by embedding collaboration, information sharing, and active engagement into its operations and culture. The result is a more responsive, adaptable, effective, and ultimately more successful company."

Is this concept of social business relatively new to you? If so, I invite you to check out the show notes page and listen to my Expert Interviews Podcast with Amber Naslund on Social Business for a good primer.

Let me point out a few key elements from the above definition of what a social business is:

  • First, it is about who you are and can become. It's about the creation (or recreation) of an organization from the inside out. It has to do with its culture and operations. It's about every member of an organization being a valued contributer. It's not about senior management proclaiming, "We are a World Class Organization" (WCO) in memos and company-speak. It's about being honest, transparent and open.
  • Secondly, it involves the organization's entire ecosystem, and all of it's departments or functional areas. It's not just about what marketing, sales and customer service does; finance, R&D, IT, HR all get involved and are integral to becoming a true social business.
  • Thirdly, it involves collaborating with active and authentic engagement with all parties.
  • And finally, it results in progress and achievement of core business objectives.

As was pointed out in our podcast on social business:

  • 84% of those engaging in social business improve their sales and partnerships
  • 57% of companies who embed social business in their processes outperform their competition

In addition, a Mckiinsey report found that companies who have inserted social business into their processes found:

  • 18% Increased customer satisfaction via customer service initiatives
  • R&D experienced a 20% increase in time to market
  • HR and talent management saw a 15% cost reduction and increased speed to knowledge among experts

Creating a lovable culture through social business

hubspot culture codeThis holistic approach to becoming a social business in all facets of the business is fast becoming mandatory, not optional for most existing and new businesses. The focus of my Expert Interviews Podcast with Katie Burke of HubSpot was, among other topics, about HubSpot's Culture Code. This relatively new and fast growing software company is building itself on a culture of social business. It serves as a beacon to other companies seeking to succeed in this new connected economy.

If social business is more about the culture of a company, and creating a culture insiders truly love, then it's not so much about tools, technologies and snappy sayings. It's about activating a set of shared beliefs, values and practices that will not only serve to move the organization forward, but its members, as well.

For HubSpot, that means everyone is empowered and responsible for not only delighting customers (cooking up lovable marketing), but for creating an organization one would love to be part of in the process: lovable Culture.

Recently, Seth Godin called attention to HubSpot's emerging (lovable) culture in the post, Your manifesto, your culture. In it, he noted how they've chosen a difficult but totally worth it type of compass for moving beyond hollow mission statements. And instead, towards a path that better depicts what you stand for, who you will serve, and how you will fundamentally enhance the lives of all those you may touch.

It's The HubSpot Culture Code: Creating a Company We Love. You can view it embedded here. But you can't download or save it, as they are updating it as they go - item #10 states, "We are a perpetual work in progress."

Part manifesto and part company handbook, HubSpot's Culture Code is 155 pages - but it's not heavy reading - it's inspiring, entertaining, instructional, and aspirational. And, if you think of it within the context of becoming a social business with a lovable culture to benefit an entire ecosystem, you may just want to transform your business, too.

Take for example the social business trait of openness (transparency). The third tenet of their culture code states, "We are radically and uncomfortably transparent." And, "Power is gained by sharing knowledge not hoarding it." In practice, HubSpot makes company and industry knowledge openly available to employees on what they call, "The most interesting wiki on the planet." Examples of information shared include company financials, board meeting decks, management meeting decks, strategy topics and the wildly popular, lore and mythology section. Talk about being open, no one has an office at HubSpot headquarters. You don't need to knock or wait outside a managers office for permission to enter. Just walk right up or scoot your chair on over. 

Empowerment, another key social business trait is evidenced in the HubSpot Culture Code. Empowerment, in practice, flows from openness: "The intent behind all this transparency is to support smarter behavior and better decisions." lovable cultures like this are built on trust. And trust comes from empowering team members to make good decisions without a lot of rules. HubSpot simplifies its decision making policy with just 3 words: Use Good judgment. And that means:

use good judgement

There are many more gems in this deck. Ones like a belief that organizations should be frequently refactored - a process of adapting, pruning and improving. The sum of these, and whatever else may be pulled out or pulled in can be argued to indeed make HubSpot a leader, not just in all-in-one marketing software and lovable marketing, but a leader in a business that's universally more social in nature with a lovable culture to boot.

Do you see signs of the need for creating a lovable culture through a social business stategy?

Learn more about social business & HubSpot's culture:



Considerations for Choosing a WordPress Setup or a HubSpot Setup


considerations wordpress hubspot setup

Lately, I've been talking with business owners who are wanting to understand the difference between a WordPress Content Management System (CMS) and the HubSpot software solution. Both can be categorized as a CMS. But there are differences in set up, features and usability to consder. This post will address the set up characteristics between the platforms.

From a user perspective, I run both types. is built on a self-hosted WordPress application utilizing the Headway Theme (more about themes later), and (this blog and website) runs on the HubSpot Small Business solution. So, I have experience with both platforms and would like to share some key differences that may help you decide which is best for you.

WordPress Setup Considerations

If you have the time and technical ability you can set up a self-hosted WordPress application yourself. Or, for a fee, you could hire someone to do it for you. Find a hosting company that offers the auto-installation wizard such as Fantastico that makes it relatively a snap to install the application to get you up and running. I prefer HostGator for my WordPress sites. They also have terrific support, so if you get stuck they can help you out.

Once you have the application up and running you'll need to apply a design skin or "Theme" to it. Make sure to choose an SEO-friendly theme such as Thesis or Headway. These themes also make it easier for the novice to customize the look and feel of the site with little to no knowledge of coding or customization needed. runs on the Headway theme.

WordPress is open source software and there's no cost to install and utilize it for your website. Most plug-ins are free, and there are many free Themes, but I recommend spending some money to purchase a quality, premium theme.

For DIY'ers, to get started, up and running with WordPress you could expect to spend around a minimum $200 in hard costs for the first year. That includes hosting and a premium theme. You should also consider the cost of your time. A professional could do the initial set up in a couple of hours. Configuring the design, setting up plug-ins and optimizing the configurations could take another 6 to 10 hours (or more). Creating a more custom design could take considerably longer, and then it needs to be integrated or implemented with your chosen theme. A novice DIY'er should expect to double or triple these estimates.

I also highly recommend investing in the copywriting optimization and SEO plug-in called, "Scribe SEO." It's a subscription based software service that helps you optimize your blog posts and content pages for keywords and SEO best practices. It will run you between $17 to $97 per month. This type of optimization service is included in all HubSpot products (in the form of Keyword Grader, Page Grader and Blog Optimizer) at no addtional charge.

HubSpot Setup Considerations

There's a couple of ways to get started with HubSpot. One way is to start a trial without having to make any changes to your current website. A proof of concept trial will help you understand how the integrated tools of HubSpot work. You'll also be able to quickly run some "trial experiments" to see what the HubSpot solution can do for you. A Certified HubSpot Partner (such as this one) can help you get started with a trial.

The second way, of course, is to sign up directly or choose a Certified HubSpot Partner to get you up and running. The advantage of using a HubSpot Official Partner is they know the software and how to effectivley set everything up in the shortest amount of time. You can check out B2B Inbound's HubSpot set up and migration services to get an idea of what's involved.

With regards to pricing, the Small Business solution for example is $750 the first month and $250 thereafter. $500 of the first month's investment goes towards on-boarding and your quick-start program. Partners also offer this service.

With HubSpot there's no need to install a theme. You can easily upload a logo or banner image and customize the fonts and colors to suit your tastes. HubSpot is a Software as a Services (SaaS) platform so everything you need for SEO, analytics, features and functionality is self-contained within the application. There's no need to find and install modules, widgets or plug-ins as there is with WordPress to customize it to your requirements.

One of the key differences you'll find between the two applications is in the area of support. HubSpot as a service is vested in your successful setup and use of their software and inbound marketing methodology. HubSpot's Success portal has numerous self-help articles, a guided tour, customer forums, customer webinars (live and recorded) and both telephone and email based support. With WordPress, you may find some help through the site where you'll find Docs a news Blog and user Forum. But you're pretty much on your own to figure things out. There's no phone or email support as there is with HubSpot.

Furthermore, when WordPress issues a software revision you'll be notified of it, but you are required to perform the upgrade yourself, or have your webmaster do it. Same is true with the themes. With HubSpot, automatic upgrades and enhancements to the application is provided without any additional cost. HubSpot is continually enhancing the functionality and adding features and marketing tools to the software as can be seen by their product updates.

So, those are some differences and things to think about when deciding between a WordPress or HubSpot website. You'll also want to consider what features and functionality you need and what you want out of your software in terms of marketing and lead generation. I'll cover these aspects in future posts.

What questions or comments about the set up of WordPress or HubSpot do you have?


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