HubSpot's Mike Volpe: Former Investment Banker. Hands-on People Person. Fan of Naps.Thanks to adaptability, HubSpot's CMO Mike Volpe used to be the entire marketing team. Now he's the head of 70.
June 27, 2014
by Erin Carson
If the day ever comes when HubSpot's CMO Mike Volpe is forcibly removed from the office via stretcher or straitjacket, he said he's not worried. The marketing machine will continue to function.
In his seven years at the Boston-based inbound marketing company, that's one of the things he's most proud of -- having helped build a marketing system that he said will keep running even if he's not there.
Volpe didn't begin in marketing. He actually got his start in investment banking, a biographical detail he said people tend to follow up with "What the heck does investment banking have to do with marketing?" For Volpe, the answer was in the data.
Several deals put him in contact with tech companies, and he decided he wanted to jump into the industry. Because that first job gave him a background in customer acquisition, which was very data driven, and he learned about things like optimization, when an opportunity in marketing at a startup arose from a networking acquaintance, Volpe took it.
From there, he made a few moves to various companies, and eventually moved back home to Boston after having lived in California, to pursue an MBA from MIT. Around the mid 2000s, he met with HubSpot founders Dharmesh Shah and Brian Halligan, and liked what he heard.
"I think the real big thing was the connection with the folks at HubSpot was I had experienced the pain that they were trying to solve," he said. And by that, Volpe explains efforts to shift marketing away from lead generation through advertising, over to content like videos, podcasts, and blog posts, and then finding that the tools he was looking for were nonexistent or not what he wanted.
He liked the idea of HubSpot enough to work for a startup that had five employees and no funding.
Since then, HubSpot is a fairly different place -- the marketing team alone is 70 people, and there's even an office in Dublin, Ireland. This kind of growth has been a challenge for Volpe who, at one point, was the marketing team.
"At each stage of going from 0 to a team of 5 or 10 and then 20 and then 50 and then 70, the things that you need to do as a manager and as a leader, are very, very different," he said.
As he's adjusted, he's settled on a management style that can be summed up as hands-on with people, hands-off with their tactics. So for example, Volpe is very active in recruiting and hiring. Anyone who interviews for a full-time job at HubSpot will interview with him. If someone is looking to fill a spot, he says he'll help find candidates, but then step away from the hiring manager's final decision.
Easily two or three times a week, Volpe meets or interviews with a potential hire, as he feels that a good manager is always recruiting.
Generally, his other daily duties include the direct management of his team, meetings about about higher level projects, and strategy meetings for things like product packaging and naming -- something that's boiling up right now as the company's annual conference INBOUND is coming up and will include several product announcements.
For Volpe, the conference reflects both themes of rapid growth and the hope for building something that lasts. This year they're expecting 8,000 attendees. Culturally, Volpe said he thinks they've created a community of marketers that can exist long-term.
And long-term is a tricky word in tech. Volpe admits his job seems to shift every year or so as the company shifts.
One of the major trends he's seen is the increased accountability on the part of the CMO. "The marketing leader is very much in the hot seat," he said. As there are more metrics available these days, CEOs and boards of directors are looking to the CMO as the responsible party for explaining performance.
But back to that exit. "Everything that you touch in the world, you want to leave it better than when you arrived," he said of what he sees as his company's growth in the marketing space. Plus, "we've got hardcore numbers that really show it."
In his own words...
How do you unplug?
I play with my kids. If you have your phone with you while you're playing with them, the one-year-old grabs it and tries to bite and drool all over it. If you try to use your phone while you're playing, the three-year-old gets very upset and will be like, "Dada, put down your phone, we're playing Matchbox Cars." The great thing about playing with them is they're super fun, and they're very regulating. They prevent you from using the phone.
Is there a Twitter account you enjoy following the most?
As a former investment banker, until the account got outed, I thought it was really funny -- the Goldman Sachs Elevator account. Super hilarious and funny. Then Aaron Levie at Box -- definitely best CEO on Twitter, both because he's funny and insightful.
What's your guilty pleasure?
My guilty pleasure is actually naps, which is terrible because my wife is going to read this. We have an awesome nap room in the office, and as the dad of two young kids, and working at a fast-growing startup, sleep is often a very scarce commodity, and I will say that a couple times a month I take advantage of the nap room.