Unlock Marketing Success with 10 Research Tips from HubSpot‘s Expert Team

Research is the foundation of effective marketing. In fact, organizations that use data-driven marketing are six times more likely to be profitable year-over-year than those that don‘t source. But conducting research that uncovers actionable insights is easier said than done.

That‘s where we can learn a thing or two from the experts at HubSpot. As a pioneer of inbound marketing, HubSpot has grown into a $883 million company largely thanks to letting customer insights guide their strategies source. Their dedicated research team leads the way in understanding audience needs and behaviors to inform everything from content and product development to UI design.

So what‘s their secret sauce? We asked HubSpot‘s research pros to spill their top tips for conducting market research that drives real business results. Here‘s what they had to share:

1. Embrace diverse perspectives

hubspot-global-research-tips

High-quality research considers insights from multiple angles. "When conducting any type of research, it‘s important to take a variety of perspectives, whether that be industry or region," advises Meg Kartham, HubSpot‘s marketing research co-op.

This is especially crucial when doing international research, where cultural norms can vary widely. For example, in some European countries, satisfaction ratings trend lower as a perfect 10 is rarely given. In Germany, scales are flipped with 1 as the best score. HubSpot had to account for these nuances when interpreting their global NPS survey data.

Tip: Create buyer personas

  • Interview customers and prospects from different segments
  • Look at your audience by demographics, behavior, needs, and goals
  • Validate personas with feedback from sales and customer service

2. Put your audience at the center

customer-focus-research

The most impactful research starts and ends with your target audience. According to HubSpot campaign manager Kyle Denhoff, "research helps inform the campaign brief that becomes the most important document of your campaign."

Before launching any research project, his team makes sure they understand:

  • Who is the target audience?
  • What challenges are they trying to solve?
  • How can we best reach and engage them?

These questions guide the research process, from what data to collect to how to apply the findings in marketing.

Tip: Keep surveys relevant

  • Limit questions to only what‘s essential to your research goals
  • Put yourself in the respondent‘s shoes – what‘s in it for them?
  • Aim for surveys to take no longer than 5-7 minutes

3. Pursue original research

When HubSpot wanted to study how customers engage with email subscriptions, they found surprisingly little existing data on the topic. Rather than change course, "we decided to collect as much data as we could in an objective way and let the data bring forth a conclusion," explains Tyler Scionti, Associate Product Manager of Subscriptions.

By identifying knowledge gaps and doing their own primary research, his team gained valuable insights to improve the product. They focused analysis on key metrics like open rates and content preferences to understand what subscribers really want.

Some of their most interesting findings include:

  • 60% of subscribers prefer emails with discounts over other content types
  • Emails with clear offer headlines had 30% higher click-through rates
  • Open rates declined by 25% after 5 emails per week from the same brand

Tip: Analyze email engagement

  • Track open rates, click-through rates, and unsubscribes
  • A/B test subject lines, preview text, templates, etc.
  • Use engagement insights to segment and personalize emails

4. Mix art and science

Compelling research balances quantitative data with qualitative insights. HubSpot uses this powerful combination to put numbers in context.

For instance, their remote work survey found productivity didn‘t decrease when employees worked from home. Responses to open-ended questions added color. One participant shared:"I save time commuting and have fewer distractions, so I can focus solely on work. I take breaks when I need to recharge, not when mandated."

To guide content strategy, HubSpot also looks at hard data from sources like:

Data Source Metric
Web analytics Traffic, bounce rate, time on page
Marketing automation Email opens, lead conversions
SEO tools Keyword rankings, backlinks
Sales CRM Deal pipeline, revenue

Then they enrich quantitative insights with qualitative input from customers, sales reps, and subject matter experts to craft content that resonates.

5. Leverage research tech

The right tools can streamline time-consuming research tasks, from recruiting participants to analyzing results. Some of HubSpot‘s go-to platforms include:

When evaluating research tech, consider:

  • Does it integrate with your existing systems?
  • How easy is it to use and share insights?
  • What‘s the total cost vs. your research budget?
  • Is the data secure and GDPR compliant?

Tip: Use research repositories

  • Sites like Statista have useful secondary data
  • Think with Google offers consumer trend reports
  • Monitor competitors‘ websites, blogs, and social activity for intel

HubSpot also builds their own research databases for ongoing analysis. "We tag and store recordings of user interviews, usability tests, and other research sessions," notes UX researcher Rachel Decker. "So anyone can easily find relevant insights later."

6. Make insights accessible

Even the best data is useless if no one understands it. That‘s why HubSpot‘s research team prioritizes sharing insights in engaging, easy-to-digest formats.

"Presenting and sharing research in an easy to read and understand fashion is needed," says Kartham. Her tips for research storytelling:

  • Use plain language, not jargon
  • Visualize data with simple charts and infographics
  • Connect insights to real business outcomes
  • Provide an executive summary with key takeaways

data-visualization-examples
Examples of data visualization from HubSpot Research

HubSpot also enables employees to explore data themselves with interactive dashboards. "Instead of doing one-off analyses, we empower teams with self-serve data tools," explains product analytics manager Alex Birkett. "This scales insights and aligns everyone around the same metrics."

7. Test and validate insights

Research is an iterative process of forming and validating hypotheses. HubSpot is constantly testing marketing tactics and designs to optimize performance.

"One of our key principles is that you can‘t just rely on opinions, including your own, to make decisions. It has to be informed by data," says Decker. Her team runs weekly usability tests and A/B tests to evaluate changes to the HubSpot interface.

Some examples of marketing elements to test:

  • Web and ad copy
  • Email subject lines and content
  • CTA button text and placement
  • Landing page designs
  • Content topics and formats

Tip: Use significance testing

  • Statistical methods can determine if test results are meaningful
  • Options include chi-square test, t-test, and ANOVA
  • Only declare a "winner" if results are statistically significant

The goal is to constantly question assumptions, try new ideas, and let data guide the way. "It‘s about having a growth mindset," adds Birkett. "Be willing to be wrong and learn from experimentation."

8. Look for benchmarks

Comparing research data to industry benchmarks can yield valuable competitive insights. For example, HubSpot‘s annual State of Inbound report provides a useful pulse on marketing trends and tactics.

The 2020 report revealed some notable findings:

  • 70% of marketers are investing in content marketing
  • Top marketing priorities are generating leads (78%) and increasing web traffic (57%)
  • 40% of marketers say proving ROI is their #1 challenge

HubSpot uses benchmarks like these, along with their own past performance, to set research-backed goals and KPIs. "Benchmarks give context on what results are possible and where the biggest opportunities lie," explains Birkett.

Tip: Find benchmark data

9. Embrace an always-on approach

At HubSpot, research isn‘t a once-a-year focus group. It‘s an ongoing practice embedded into every team and project. "The companies that only invest in market research sporadically get, at best, sporadic insights," says Birkett.

To cultivate an insights-driven culture:

  • Make customer listening a daily habit
  • Democratize data access
  • Share research wins and learnings broadly
  • Tie research activities to business objectives

"The goal is to create a continuous feedback loop between your marketing activities and your customer insights," he adds. "Something you learn from research today should inform the actions you take tomorrow."

10. Let empathy lead the way

At the end of the day, to deliver a stellar customer experience, you have to understand your audience on a human level. As UX researcher Decker puts it, "the most important research skill is empathy."

Some ways HubSpot keeps a pulse on customer needs:

  • Social listening for candid feedback
  • 1:1 interviews for in-depth perspectives
  • On-site surveys for visitors‘ real-time reactions
  • User testing to find friction points and opportunities

The key is to actively listen and observe, not just wait for data to confirm your assumptions. "Approach research with genuine curiosity about the people you serve," advises Decker. "What motivates them? What frustrates them? How can you improve their lives? Leading with empathy will ensure your insights resonate."

By putting these tips from HubSpot‘s research rockstars into practice, you‘ll be well-equipped to uncover the insights you need to engage your audience and reach your marketing goals.

But remember, even the most compelling research is only as valuable as what you do with it. So once you‘ve got the data, take action and keep experimenting. As the HubSpot team exemplifies, an agile, iterative approach is what will keep you on the cutting edge.