Dealing with the shifting sands: Interview with HubSpot’s Kevin Ackhurst
In a tumultuous economy, many marketers are faced with engaging a whole new consumer on a slashed budget. Tools that can help lead organisations through the uncertainty and ambiguity have become critically important for business leaders.
We recently caught up with HubSpot’s newly appointed enterprise director for ANZ, Kevin Ackhurst, about supporting businesses to become more successful during a pandemic and broader trends that he has observed.
Ackhurst has a long history of working with small and medium enterprises, from startups to the largest businesses, including working for iconic companies like Google Australia and Microsoft.
Due to the significant changes that are happening around the world as a result of COVID-19, a big concern for the brands that Ackhurst works with is “dealing with the shifting sands that we’re going through at the moment”.
“My role is to make sure that I’m helping the team to be led through that ambiguity and the complexity associated with that, and to look at where the opportunities lie to actually help people to be more successful. One example is one of the businesses I’ve been working with for the last 12 months. It heavily relied on its interactions with people within the hospitality and hotel type of industry – obviously that’s changed quite significantly in terms of the way in which it operates. It has had to pivot the business to actually be much more focused on some of its retail and online clients than they had in the past.”
Ackhurst says that people working from home highlights a significant change in how we will all continue to work into the future. While, for some managers, it has caused anxiety, he believes that in order to ride through the turmoil, businesses should focus on maintaining strong working relationships with employees and keeping teams productive and supported. Businesses should also proactively seek opportunities that they can take advantage of, like initiatives from within the industry and also from the government.
Ackhurst acknowledges how expenditure has changed in the current climate and the impacts that has on marketers. “Marketers in organisations have had to look at different ways in which they can think about the establishment of their presence and what it is that they actually do, particularly if their activities have been curtailed quite significantly. So for instance, looking at just the AFL and the NRL and Australian rugby union, their approach to marketing has had to change quite significantly because they weren’t able to continue with the seasons in the same way.”
Some of these changes reiterate the ways in which business has changed more broadly. Ackhurst has seen a general shift towards brands seeking out and adding value to customers, rather than just selling to them. “If nothing else, the way in which marketers, salespeople and service people actually go to market with the stuff that they do has become even more important.”
In some ways HubSpot itself hasn’t fundamentally changed its operations during this time, having always been a company that has enabled its teams to work remotely – it’s now just on a larger scale.
Ackhurst believes that there are some advantages to a remote workforce and being able to hire people that live in specific regions: “I think that you’re much closer to understanding the environment in Perth when you actually live in Perth. Then when you’re someone that grew up in eastern suburbs of Sydney.”
To support businesses with scalability HubSpot has found power in its own brand story.
“I think one of the advantages that we have is our own scaleability story,” says Ackhurst. It is true that since starting in 2005 HubSpot now has almost 80,000 clients across the world and a vast array of partnerships and more than 3000 employees across 10 global offices.
Looking to the future, Ackhurst is noticing a shift in how the marketers are coping with the current global climate. “I think it was interesting that initially, when the pandemic hit, marketers tended to fight, to continue to actually follow the same approach that they were marketing before, using the same advertising approach. It took a while before people started to integrate the story of what was happening within the social environment, into the way in which they are marketing today.”
While things are changing on an almost daily basis, ultimately Ackhurst is concerned with safety and making HubSpot’s clients and customers feel comfortable and prepared for the changes ahead.
“One of the things that’s very important to us, relative to how we think about HubSpot, being a place where we care deeply about our people and our customers, is making sure that we make people comfortable in terms of what transpires with respect to changes.”