Hubspot announced that it had acquired The Hustle this week, the daily business and tech newsletter targeted at entrepreneurs and small business owners that, since its launch in 2016, has acquired 1.5 million subscribers.
While the value of the deal has not been revealed – Sam Parr, founder of the publication, claimed on Twitter that he’ll “take it to the grave!” – it’s estimated to stand around the $27 million mark.
The deal also includes Trends, a membership research platform, and the podcast, ‘My First Million’.
In a statement from its website, Hubspot claimed that the move will give it “more ways to offer its community of scaling companies valuable content across a broader range of topics and a more diverse set of media.”
Or, in other words, a ready database of potential new leads that would be ideal customers of the company’s sales and marketing software.
This isn’t the first case of a media company being acquired by a non-media company to grow its customer acquisition and retention capabilities. Take Penn National, a casino operator that shelled out $163 million for a 36% equity stake in Barstool Sports to gain greater access to sports bettors.
But this is the first time in recent memory where a B2B company has acquired a media organisation at this level of deal value. And I believe it is a calling card of what will become a wider trend that will see a greater convergence of media and non-media companies.
Why? Because 60% of B2B buyers are only ready to talk to a salesperson once they’ve done their own research. They’re looking for reasons to trust that what you deliver will enable them to reach their goals. And regular, informative content can help build that trust.
What Should I Do About It?
No matter what you sell, be it software, services or hard goods, you need to shift your marketing mindset to that of a media company. That is, create content with professional editors, writers, podcasters, videographers and designers and publish it periodically.
To be clear, I am not suggesting going hiring a bunch of journalists that can pump out content 24/7 in an effort to compete with the trade magazines of your industry. That is reporting the news, a subset of media, and not a game you necessarily want to be in.
What I am suggesting is that educating and informing your customers with high-quality thought leadership regularly can become an unsurmountable strategic competitive moat for your business.
How? A couple of reasons.
- Your competitors cannot copy your view on your industry, nor the way in which you present that view to the world. And if they try – and they almost certainly will – they will always be playing catch-up.
- Most of the time, it’s far cheaper to produce than other conventional B2B marketing tactics. Consider the cost of taking an exhibition booth at a trade show versus publishing a report on the state of your industry.
“OK Jason, think like a media company. Sounds great – but where the hell do you suggest I start?” And I’m glad you asked.
If I were building a content production hub from scratch within a B2B organisation I would start with what I call the RUPERT model.
- Reusable. Create something that can be replicated with new data or information on a recurring basis. I think of Dave Gerhardt and his ‘B2B Marketing Leaders Podcast‘ – each episode follows the same general line of questions, but the guest always offers a fresh perspective.
- Unique. The best media companies have some sort of distinguishing feature. It may be their tone of voice – think Morning Brew and Barstool Sports – or that their point of view on a market is contrarian to everyone else. Publishing content that would feel at home on your competitor’s website is a good sign you need to push things further.
- Process. In my experience, creating the right process around content production is often harder than creating the content itself. Invest in the right tools to track your progress, develop a template project timeline (always give yourself at least a week between completing the piece and publishing) and have a clear idea from the start who needs to sign-off.
- Evergreen. The best content has a long shelf life. Particularly in small marketing teams, you want to spend your time creating collateral that will be as relevant next year as it is today. Bonus points if the content can be repurposed into multiple formats. And don’t forget to check-in and refresh the content at least once per year.
- Remarkable. I appreciate that not every company is in a position to hire writers or designers for the sole purpose of creating content. But where possible, hiring a professional is a worthwhile investment. Quality media companies produce quality content. It’s obvious when you read a blog post by a Technical Director that’s been forced to do it.
- Target. Picking 3 to 4 themes to underpin all my content. For instance, if I worked in logistics, I may decide all my content would be about either automation, warehouse operations or supply chain. Then I’d identify one channel, like email, to put 90% of my time and energy into growing to a set target before diversifying.
Hubspot acquiring The Hustle won’t be an isolated incident. More and more B2B brands are looking to content marketing and media as a strategic lever to find better positioning in their marketplace.
And while not everyone has tens of millions of dollars to splash on an acquisition, putting in place the foundations and processes around creating high-quality, regular content should be one of the top priorities of every B2B marketing leader in the land.