The 12 Best HubSpot Partners of 2014: A Massive Review

Marcus’s Blog

Best HubSpot Partner Award

The 2014 “Top HubSpot Partners” awards logo

***Note from Marcus: Many of you already know my feelings on HubSpot. In 2009, when my swimming pool company was on the brink, it was their website, teachings, and tool-set that significantly motivated me to embrace the internet and a very different way of doing business– something that would ultimately have a dramatic impact not just on saving River Pools at the time, but catapulting my career path to where it is today with The Sales Lion.

As I’ve watched HubSpot and the Inbound Marketing movement grow over the past 5 years, I’ve been greatly inspired by the individuals and companies in this space that have done exceptional things with their clients and helped make this industry what is currently is. As HubSpot partners ourselves here at TSL, we are constantly impressed as we watch these companies find new and better ways not only to leverage HubSpot with their clients, but also take Inbound Marketing itself to new levels.

It is for this reason I asked Rich McElaney (VP of Business Development here at The Sales Lion) to take on a massive project, with the charge of identifying the best HubSpot partners and Inbound Marketing Agencies in the world today. After 30+ hours of research, interviews, and writing, what you find below is the resulting work. And although this list (like any other) is surely not perfect or inclusive of other agencies that merit praise, we do hope those that read this article will be benefited. Also, you’ll see this article is very long, as well it should be. When companies are choosing an Inbound Marketing Agency to work with, the impact can literally make or break the organization and should not be taken lightly.

And with that, here goes…

Inbound Marketing and HubSpot

For most of us working in and around marketing, the term inbound marketing is synonymous with HubSpot. For those not familiar with the term or the company, HubSpot is a leading marketing automation platform provider that gives its users the ability to create content, publish it and measure its effectiveness in generating incremental traffic, leads and sales for their websites.

HubSpot Inbound Methodology

HubSpot sells its automation platform directly to end users and through a network of certified resellers – officially known as Partners. (Note: The Sales Lion is a Gold Level HubSpot Partner– we’ll chat more about partner levels later in this post.)

One of the most frequent questions that both potential buyers and new users of HubSpot ask is: Who are the best Partners? This is an extremely important question to ask and have answered correctly as selecting the right Partner for your company often means the difference between success and failure in getting inbound marketing to produce a healthy return on investment.

The bottom line is this decision is HUGE for businesses.  At The Sales Lion, we feel there is room on top for every Inbound Marketing agency in this space wanting to do exceptional things with their clients. Furthermore, when agencies are doing great things and moving the industry forward, their work should be noted.

How the HubSpot Partner Tier Structure Works

We’re going to outline a little background on how the Partner Tier system works because a basic understanding of this structure will get you off on the right foot in selecting the best Partner for your needs.

HubSpot Partner Badges

The current Partner structure is comprised of three tiers:  Silver, Gold and Platinum.  (Side note: A new tier – Diamond (the highest level available) will be introduced soon.)

HUbSpot Partner DiamondThese Partner classifications are based on a number of factors, including monthly recurring revenue (MRR) acquired and managed, client retention, software engagement, and actual inbound marketing success.

Monthly recurring revenue looks at the dollar value of the number of clients a Partner has placed on the HubSpot platform.  HubSpot is offered in three versions: Basic – which starts at $200 per month; Professional – which starts at $800 per month and Enterprise – which starts at $2,400 per month. (We’ll review how the particular version you choose can impact your choice of a Partner later in this post.)

As an example, if a Partner has 3 clients on Basic, 3 on Professional and 2 on Enterprise, their MRR would be $7,600 (2 x $200 + 3 x $800 = 2 x $2,400). The software engagement and client success portion of the Tier ranking is based on what HubSpot has termed “CHI” (pronounced chee) and is the Customer Happiness Index. A CHI score is based on a number of factors related to the successful  setup and usage of HubSpot – factors including, but not limited to, landing pages built, blog articles written, number of contacts in the database, email campaigns delivered and monthly user log-in activity.

The length of time a Partner has worked with their client base also impacts the Tier rating – longer relationships typically indicate that the Partner is creating success for its clients.  To sum it up, the bigger the Partner’s client base, the longer those clients have been with the Partner and the greater the success those clients have had, the higher the Partner will be in the Tier structure.

Certifications are an Important Factor in Partner Selection

inbound_certification

Prior to attaining a tier classification, VARs have to achieve at least 2 levels of certification, a process which includes testing and practical execution showing mastery of the functional components of the HubSpot platform. HubSpot has recently added another level of certification which signifies proficiency with their Content Operating System (COS). This certification is becoming more prevalent in the Partner ranks as an increasing number of clients are having their websites built on the HubSpot COS. The current certification levels are:

  1. Inbound Certified – this certification is open to the public and designates an understanding of the foundational aspects of inbound methodology.
  2. HubSpot Certified – you have to be an existing HubSpot customer, pass a written test and complete a practicum designed to verify proficiency with HubSpot’s tools.
  3. Partner Certified – the is open to HubSpot Partners only and shows that a Partner is intimately familiar with HubSpot’s software and is capable of delivering results for clients.
  4. Design Certified – this certification is open to the public (if you aren’t a HubSpot customer you will need to create a free developer’s account) and is primarily aimed at developers wishing to use HubSpot’s  design tools to create intelligent and responsive websites.

The HubSpot platform (for users of the product)offers a Partner Directory in the Resources section in the top navigation bar (See below) where certified VARs are listed. As of today’s date, and this changes frequently, 12 VARs are at the Platinum level, 84 are at the Gold level and 104 are at the Silver level.

For HubSpot users, finding the resource center is just a click away.

For HubSpot users, finding the resource center is just a click away.

As mentioned earlier in the post, HubSpot is offered in three versions: Basic, Professional and Enterprise. As a client, which version you’re on or considering is an important factor in choosing the appropriate Partner. If you’re not yet using HubSpot, you want to get a firm understanding of which version will provide the right level of support for your business.  You may already be talking to a Partner and they’re assisting you in making the right version choice. Or, you could be talking directly to HubSpot and they’re making a recommendation based on assessing your needs.  (HubSpot frequently refers interested parties to a Partner based on a number of factors we’ll review later in this post – it’s called the Custom Match program)

Let’s take a high level look at the differences in versions. Basic is typically used by smaller companies or solopreneurs with small prospect databases. Professional straddles a wide range of industries and company sizes. Typically, Professional users have larger organizations, bigger prospect databases and are using CRM systems that benefit by an integration with HubSpot in order to track prospects from lead to sale. Enterprise meets the needs of larger organizations with large customer databases, bigger marketing departments and more sophisticated marketing strategies.  This chart compares the functionality in each version and is very helpful in focusing in on the right version for your business.

Choosing the Right Inbound Marketing Agency for Your Company

It’s very important to match the skill set and business focus of the VAR with the inbound marketing needs of the client. In general, a Basic user should not necessarily be looking for a Platinum VAR (and vice versa). Platinum VARs tend to be larger companies working with Professional and Enterprise users – they have the staff, structure and footprint to effectively service bigger companies with larger marketing budgets. Although this certainly isn’t the sole consideration, it’s something to make a note of when you start your selection process.

Going beyond the Partner Tiers and Certification structure, you’ll want to consider several other factors:

One last thing – not every HubSpot user works with, or is in need of, a Partner. There are numerous success stories from HubSpot users who trained staff on the platform and successfully manage it internally. River Pools is a classic example of this as Marcus and his gang of “pool guys” were literally self-taught on the tool and still managed to make a few waves in their industry as well as in the inbound marketing landscape.

HubSpot Partner Program

The key to remember is every company has different needs, which is why selecting the right partner for you is not a one-size-fits-all process.

Some HubSpot clients will utilize the services of a Partner to consult with, develop strategy, launch the platform and eventually develop self-sufficiency. Other clients may bring in a Partner when they grow to a level that requires expertise and support beyond their capability to effectively manage things internally. Each case is different and the good news is that with the growth of HubSpot and the Partner network, it’s easy to find the support that fits your specific needs.

Tips for Finding Certified HubSpot Partners

The Custom Match Program

In addition to browsing through the Partner Directory in the Resources section, HubSpot has recently initiated a new program where they recommend a Partner for you based on certain criteria you provide.

It’s called the Custom Match program and once you provide the required information (listed below) HubSpot will return a match based on best fit. HubSpot Partners, in order to be eligible for this program, must have a minimum of three HubSpot certifications : HubSpot, Partner and Design.

The information requested by HubSpot in order to start the Custom Match process is:

Once the form is completed HubSpot will contact the requestor within 3-5 business days and provide the website address of the Partner deemed the best match. HubSpot also notifies the Partner, who will contact the requestor typically well within 1-2 business days of receiving the notification.

Using The HubSpot Partner Directory

Navigating the Partner Directory is pretty straightforward but there are a few things to keep in mind as you review the information.

There are four ways to filter the Partner Directory listings down for easier navigation.

If you are researching a specific Partner, you can enter their company name in the search bar on the top right of the Partner Directory page.

HubSpot's Partner Search Feature

HubSpot’s Partner Search Feature

If you already know you need a Partner with a specific certification, you can select from each of four levels of certifications in this drop down section:

If you're looking for a particular certification with a partner, you can do it here.

If you’re looking for a particular certification with a partner, you can do it here.

If you have a specific service need, you can use the Service Categories on the left column to narrow your results:

If you're looking for a specific category of need, you can also do that within HubSpot.

If you’re looking for a specific category of need, you can also do that within HubSpot.

Just be forewarned – the filtration processes still leave you with many Partner listings to consider, which is why the Custom Match program has been added.

The Partner listings are arranged by the number of client reviews the Partner has obtained. (You can also filter this setting from highest number of reviews to lowest.)  Take the time to look at the reviews and get a feel for the composition of the reviews (are there multiple reviews from the same client) and look at the recency of the reviews (if they’re all from two years ago what does that mean?).  Keep in mind that a low review volume does not automatically equate with low client satisfaction.

Attend Inbound 2014

Every year, HubSpot hosts an annual gathering of Partners, end-users, top-notch marketing speakers and various and sundry Inbound die-hards in order to propel the Inbound movement ever forward. Last year’s gathering topped the 5,000 attendee count with hundreds of partners present and this year promises to be so much larger that they moved the venue to the cavernous Boston Convention Center.

This is the place to be if you are looking to improve your Inbound Marketing skills, network with fellow Inbounders and HubSpotters, listen to the luminaries talk about best practices and enjoy the Boston vibe.

To say that Inbound is a great networking, learning and business development conference would be an understatement.

To say that Inbound is a great networking, learning and business development conference would be an understatement.

Attend Local HUG Meetings

HubSpot User Groups (HUG) have sprouted up all over the place and provide an excellent resource to learn more about HubSpot, meet Partners and other end users and learn about real world uses of the tools.  There are 74 HUG groups worldwide as of the most recent count –the majority of those are in the US.   Meeting frequency varies among groups – but you can find a listing and links here. Most user groups have a LinkedIn page where you can join, connect with other members and keep track of the group’s activity.

Top 3 Questions to Ask a HubSpot Partner

Now that you’re armed with additional information and insight on how HubSpot Partner tiers work, it’s time to engage in a dialogue to determine who the best fit for your needs is. Here’s a suggested list of initial screening questions to ask a prospective Partner:

  1. Can you show me your process for helping me assess the right approach to inbound marketing?
  2. What would the support team structure for my account look like? What are the roles and responsibilities of each team member?
  3. How long have you been a HubSpot partner, how many clients have you put on the HubSpot platform, and what have been their results?

__________________________________________________________________________________

 12 of the Best HubSpot VARs and Inbound Marketing Agencies of 2014

(Note** There are many, many great HubSpot Partners. Just because someone is not on our list, does not mean they’re not exceptional at what they do, so please don’t allow this list to limit your desire to look beyond these top 12. Based on the expected feedback, we may increase the list size in subsequent reviews!)

Here’s our 2014 list of the Top Twelve HubSpot Partners. Our criteria for including them:

HubSpot Platinum Badge

1. Square 2 Marketing

HUbSpot Partner Square 2 Marketing

Location: Based in the Philadelphia Metro Area with an office in London
Year Founded: 2003
Initial HubSpot Partner Certification: 2010
Employees: 40
Client Mix – B2B/B2C: 80%/20%

Partner Services Include:

Insider’s Insight: Selected by HubSpot as the 2013 Domestic Agency of The Year.  Square 2 Marketing is known as a thought leader in the inbound marketing space. The author of two books on Inbound Marketing:  Reality Marketing Revolution and Fire Your Sales Team Today! Square 2 Marketing has created a proven process for building inbound marketing programs that generate results and is one of the only firms that provide a pay for performance model for clients. Industries served:  Software, Professional Services, Financial Services, Technology, Manufacturing, Distribution and Healthcare.

2. Kuno Creative

HubSpot partner Kuno Creative

Location:   Headquarters in Cleveland, OH with an office in Austin, TX
Year Founded: 2000
Initial HubSpot Partner Certification: 2009
Employees: 32
Client Mix – B2B/B2C: 90%/10%

Partner Services Include:

Insider’s Insight:  Kuno Creative was one of the early stage HubSpot Certified Partners. Winner of the HubSpot Happiest Customers Award – in 2012 and 2013. Widely known as leaders in creatively designed and professionally written content. Vertical areas of specialty: SAAS/Cloud, Specialty Manufacturing and Healthcare.

3. Impact Branding & Design

HubSpot Partner Impact Brand And Design

Location:  Wallingford, CT
Year Founded:  2009
Initial HubSpot Certification:  November 2011
Employees:  32
Client Mix – B2B/B2C: 75%/25%

Partner Services Include:

Insider’s Insight:  Impact won HubSpot’s Partner Rookie of the Year award in 2012. Impact was one of the first five Partners to achieve the Platinum Partner designation.  The company is well on its way to doubling revenues for the past three years in a row.  All team members are certified at three levels – Inbound, HubSpot and Partner and all designers and web developers are HubSpot Design certified. Impact just released a cool new tool on their site – the Blog Title Generator.

4. Element Three

HubSpot Partner Element Three

Location: Indianapolis, IN
Year Founded: 2006
Initial HubSpot Partner Certification: 2011
Employees: 31
Client Mix – B2B/B2C:  80%/20%

Partner Services Include:

Insider’s Insight:  Element Three won HubSpot’s Agency of the Year in 2012. Element Three is known for their strategic prowess in creating unique brands and the integration of traditional and inbound marketing strategies.

5. PCR Agency

HubSpot Partner PCR Agency

Location:  Jacksonville, FL
Year Founded:  2007
Initial HubSpot Partner Certification: 2012
Employees: 9
Client Mix – B2B/B2C: 90%/10%

Partner Services Include:

Insider’s Insight: PCR reached the HubSpot Platinum Partner designation faster than any other partner.  PCR is known for developing an Agile approach to consistently improving inbound performance for its clients in the Real Estate, Healthcare, Legal and Home Services industries.

HubSpot Gold Badge

6. PR 2020

HubSpot Partner PR 20/20

Location:  Cleveland, OH
Year Founded:  2005
Initial HubSpot Partner Certification: 2007
Employees: 13
Client Mix – B2B/B2C: 80%/20%

Partner Services Include:

Insider’s Insight:  PR 20/20 was the very first certified HubSpot partner. PR 2020’s founder authored The Marketing Agency Blueprint (and has a forthcoming book:  The Marketing Performance Blueprint) which led to the development of a collaborative agency hub – Marketing Agency Insider.  PR 2020 also developed Marketing Score – a free online assessment tool and marketing intelligence engine. PR 2020 is known for its thought leadership on the new role agencies play today – supported by deep experience creating success for their clients.

7. Precision Marketing Group

HubSpot Partner Precision Marketing Group

Location: Boston, MA
Year Founded: 200
Initial HubSpot Partner Certification: 2008
Employees: 15
Client Mix – B2B/B2C: 100% B2B

Partner Services Include:

Insider’s Insight:  Precision Marketing Group was one of the earliest HubSpot certified Partners. That early HubSpot adoption has allowed the agency to build a tight-knit, seasoned team of certified professionals. PMG has become known as the ideal outsourced marketing department for business clients and a trusted training resource on inbound marketing best practices for organizations that include Harvard University.

8. New Breed Marketing

HUbSpot Partner New Breed Marketing

Location: Winooski, VT
Year Founded: 2002
Initial HubSpot Partner Certification: 2012
Employees: 17
Client Mix – B2B/B2C: 100% B2B

Partner Services Include:

Insider’s Insight:  New Breed has built the highest number of websites on HubSpot’s Content Operating System and specializes in the development of sales-ready websites and integrating those websites into a full inbound marketing strategy.  New Breed has an exclusive focus on technology-based clients – helping them unify marketing and sales through strategies and technology.  Key targets are aspiring enterprise clients and emerging growth companies. New Breed is the winner of multiple Webby Awards from 2010-2013.

9. SmartBug Media

HUbSpot Partner SmartBug Media

Location: Orange County, CA
Year Founded: 2007
Initial HubSpot Partner Certification: 2010
Employees: 19
Client Mix – B2B/B2C: 80% / 20%

Partner Services Include:

Insider’s Insight:   SmartBug Media was selected by HubSpot as one of the top 1% of inbound marketers and owns one the highest client ROI case studies on record for a HubSpot Partner. SmartBug’s team consists of ex-HubSpotters (former HubSpot employees) and B2B marketing veterans that focus on outcomes. Recommended by executives at Mattel, Intel, Social Media Examiner and many other leading brands. SmartBug has a strong focus on technology and healthcare.

10. The Whole Brain Group

HUbSpot Partner Whol Brain Group

Location: Ann Arbor, MI
Year Founded: 2002
Initial HubSpot Partner Certification: 2012
Employees: 13
Client Mix – B2B/B2C: 100% B2B

Partner Services Include:

Insider’s Insight:  The Whole Brain Group takes a very technical approach to creating inbound sales and marketing alignment and is known for their strong strategic planning and execution process which extends beyond marketing.  The have a unique focus on website accessibility for people with disabilities. Key target is second stage growth companies –businesses emerging from the start-up phase.

11. Stream Creative

HUbSpot Partner Stream Creative

Location: Milwaukee, WI
Year Founded: 2006
Initial HubSpot Partner Certification: 2010
Employees: 7 ( plus 2 full-time consultants)
Client Mix – B2B/B2C: 85%/15%

Partner Services Include:

Insider’s Insight: Stream Creative is known for their strength in design, branding and developing websites on the HubSpot Content Operating System (COS). Stream Creative also provides design and development services to other HubSpot partners – confirming their expertise in this area. The also offer media buying and PR services in-house, bringing Inbound methodology to traditional marketing service provisioning.

HubSpot Partner Silver Badge

12. 98 to Go

HubSpot Partner 98 to Go

Location:  Atlanta, GA
Year Founded:  2011
Initial HubSpot Partner Certification: 2011
Employees: 8
Client Mix – B2B/B2C: 60%/40%

Partner Services:

Insider’s Insight:  The HubSpot Partner with the highest HubSpot Customer Happiness Index (CHI) score ever, 98toGo develops detailed 26-page content marketing game plans customized for each client’s specific needs. 98toGo is known for having a unique culture of health, fun and fitness that powers their clients’ marketing effectiveness.  They are the only HubSpot partner known to conduct their weekly business meetings during a 7 mile run.

Your Turn:

Well we hope this article has helped you get a feel for the “best of the best” in HubSpot country. If you have any questions about our process of selecting these companies, please contact us here.

Also, we’d love to get your feedback on this post. What Inbound Marketing Agencies would you add to the list? Why? What do you feel makes an exceptional HubSpot partner?


This article was found on http://thesaleslion.com

This entry was posted by Administrator on Monday, May 5th, 2014 at 7:50 am and is filed under Marcus's Blog. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Show/Hide Comments (0)

No Reader Comments (Be The First?)

Leave a Reply

(Required)
(Required)