With the global reach of this blog, readers from a few dozen different nations consume its content every day. So it’s pretty unusual that I write about regional issues, let alone local issues. But today, I’m making an exception because I think the lessons about the Boca Raton HubSpot User Group (HUG) are pretty universal.
Social Media May Not Be Social Enough for Your Professional Needs
Social media sometimes lulls us into a false sense of intimacy. We go around collecting Followers, Connections, Likes, and even “Friends.” But how many of those that you meet on social media are truly friends or colleagues that would willingly help you with some of your most difficult business challenges?
How SP Home Run Engages with HubSpot
Many of our readers know that I’m a big fan of inbound marketing and HubSpot. So it probably didn’t come as a big surprise earlier this year when we started pivoting our business away from being a training provider, toward being an inbound marketing agency for the same IT channel and IT services niches. This includes investing the time and resources to:
Get individually certified
Join the HubSpot Partner program
Create unique high-value educational content for our vertical
Attend the annual Inbound conference
Enroll in HubSpot’s continuing education webinars just about every week
Build relationships with other HubSpot Partner agencies
Nurture relationships with various HubSpotters in Cambridge, Massachusetts
Participate in just about every available co-marketing/co-selling program that HubSpot offers partners
Step in to fill a gap locally that we saw right here in Palm Beach County, Florida
Look Outside of Your Own Industry to Learn More
Now as an inbound marketing agency that only works with technology companies, generally with some ties to the IT channel or IT services, does it really make sense for SP Home Run and its co-founders to immerse ourselves in a more horizontally-focused organization?
Yes, absolutely! Here’s why.
If you strictly look around at what others are doing in your own industry, eventually everyone starts to sound the same and it becomes extremely difficult to differentiate. When you fail to differentiate, you become a commodity broker. Bye bye margins.
I’ve also personally found that there is a tremendous amount of really bad, outdated misinformation floating around at the upper echelons of IT channel influencers on things as basic as best practices for SEO, social media, email marketing, and lead generation. It’s actually kind of shocking to find such technical professionals so 100% confident in information that’s no longer factually accurate.
But even aside from searching for inbound marketing best practices outside of your own industry, there is much to learn from:
other local agencies
SMB and enterprise marketing professionals that use HubSpot
SMB owners that use HubSpot
those with a curiosity about inbound marketing and content marketing
Teach Others to Learn Better Yourself
I’m also a huge believer in the value of teaching, not just as a way to give back -- but because teaching forces you to learn something better. In the course of transferring knowledge to other people, you wouldn’t believe what an eye-opening experience it can be.
But aside from wanting to learn about HubSpot and inbound marketing from others in the local area, I’m really looking forward to helping build a community around this shared interest and passion.
Optimize for Proximity and Steer Around Rush Hour Traffic Patterns
When I learned this summer that earlier efforts to build this kind of HubSpot User Group community in South Florida had faced challenges, I was very curious why.
I asked a lot of questions. And I looked at traffic patterns, time of day travel issues, and concentrations of HubSpot customers in various South Florida communities.
What I kept coming back to was my own personal experiences in deciding whether to attend various business events in South Florida. Usually the decision making process involved:
Topic relevancy/perceived value – Is the topic and speaker only mildly or tangentially relevant? Or highly relevant?
Time of day – Do I have to battle rush-hour traffic to get there?
Estimated driving time – How long will the drive likely be at the time of day of the meeting?
Length of event compared to estimated driving time – For an event that’s 2 hours long, how much round-trip driving time makes sense?
So my thought process was that meeting location proximity was key.
Although some HubSpot User Group meetings around the globe are scheduled for breakfast or lunchtime, most are scheduled during weekday evenings. So time of day driving conditions had to be factored into the plans too.
Segment by County to Reduce Excess Travel Time
But the more I spoke with others and looked at the data, it seemed like the answer was to launch a separate group for each of the 3 South Florida counties. Now, where exactly within Palm Beach, Broward, and Dade counties would largely come down to who steps up to lead each group and the best available facilities to accommodate planned group size, event formats, scheduling needs, and most of all regularly scheduled meetings.
Don’t Underestimate the Challenge of Finding a Good Location
It seems early on that finding a good facility is a key issue. Sure a handful of people can meet anywhere. Coffee shops. Bars. Restaurants. But if you’re looking to grow the group to 25+ members and you want to have a projector and a private room, it’s a challenge to find that on a minimal budget.
For in-house marketers, their employers may not see value in volunteering their facility for a meeting. Many potential HUG leaders own micro-agencies with 1-2 principals that work from home.
While the HUG leader doesn’t necessarily need to be the one with the ideal, consistently-available meeting facility, to a certain degree offline events are like real estate: it’s all about location, location, location. So if the HUG leader doesn’t work at or own a business with the ideal meeting facility, the HUG leader still needs to find someone who does or find another suitable location.
Build a Vibrant South Florida HubSpot User Group Community
So, I’ve volunteered to get a Boca Raton HubSpot User Group (HUG) launched. I’ve been speaking with another HubSpot enthusiast in Western Broward who’d most likely schedule meetings in the Sunrise or Weston area. And I’m keeping my eyes open for yet another enthusiastic inbound marketer in the 305 Miami Dade area, somewhere between Aventura and Coral Gables perhaps.
With these three groups working together, coordinating calendars, sharing a LinkedIn Group and some virtual events, my hope is that within 12-18 months, there’s demand for an annual full day HubSpot User Group regional conference in South Florida.
Why User Groups Matter and Fill a Vital Need
Finally, why did I care this much about seeing this happen?
Because in one of the earlier “chapters” (or innings) of my IT career, from 1998-2000, I participated in a very successful user group in Central New Jersey for Windows NT enthusiasts. I don’t remember whether I was in a formal role as a board/committee member, or we just kept it very loose. But what I do remember was a few key things:
There were two distinct groups of members: PC support/network admins and software developers. Both wanted to hear largely very different content. We didn’t call it personas or segmentation at the time, but one speaker/topic was selected to satisfy each interest group at each meeting. Each group got to hear exactly what it wanted for 45 minutes to an hour, with a 1/2 hour dinner/networking break sandwiched in between. With a captive audience of 25-50 IT pros at each meeting, the group’s leader never had a problem finding sponsors eager to bring in dinner and offer up some door prizes.
Location continuity was key. We met at the Microsoft regional office in Edison, New Jersey – which was extremely centrally located near the Garden State Parkway, New Jersey Turnpike, Route 1, and the Metropark train station (about 1/2 hour south of Manhattan). While the group was on a meeting hiatus, Microsoft moved its office about a 1/2 hour away and the group’s member base dissolved: combination of two vastly different kinds of members and relocation fallout. (Remember, this was before social media and webinars.)
Most who got involved learned and built valuable relationships. I wouldn’t consider myself overly extraverted or a born leader. But simply by attending and talking with people about their interests and aspirations, you really never know where the conversation can lead. In less than two years, there were at least a dozen different people I’d met where it led to referrals, friendships, partnerships, and collaborations that happened simply by showing up and participating.
So My Call to Action (CTA) for You:
If you’re located with a reasonable drive of Boca Raton, Florida, and you’re involved with or curious about HubSpot and inbound marketing, definitely come check us out. Here are some key URLs:
Follow the Boca HubSpot User Group (HUG) on Twitter
Like the Facebook Page for the Boca HubSpot User Group (HUG)
Join the LinkedIn Group Boca HubSpot User Group (HUG)
Register on Eventbrite for the First Meeting (If the first meeting has already passed, be sure to Follow/Like/Join the group so you can keep abreast of upcoming meetings. And within the next few months, the Boca HubSpot User Group (HUG) will get its own website, managed and hosted on what else? HubSpot!)
If you’re located outside of the area, you can learn about other HubSpot User Groups (HUGs) from this page. If there’s no HubSpot User Group (HUG) where you’re located, you can even apply to become a leader from that same page.
Look, if you’re looking to learn and build meaningful professional relationships in the local area that can help you become a better marketer, definitely attend an upcoming meeting. Get involved. Volunteer to help. And be prepared to be amazed at how you can grow from this experience.