When most think of Martha Stewart, they likely think of her iconic status as a TV personality educating tens of millions of Americans on all things having to do with home decorating and cooking. But in playing word association, in what scenario would you pair up Martha Stewart with HubSpot, the Cambridge-Massachusetts-based late stage SaaS startup changing how the world markets goods and services?
As it turns out, there actually are some commonalities between Martha Stewart, founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, and HubSpot co-founders Dharmesh Shah and Brian Halligan. So when it came to setting up their keynote speaker lineup for HubSpot’s flagship event of the year – the INBOUND 2014 conference, HubSpot signed up Martha Stewart to be one of the conference’s main draws – alongside more traditional marketing- and business-focused keynoters like Guy Kawasaki, Simon Sinek, and Malcolm Gladwell.
So what exactly did Stewart cover in her keynote speech for the 10,000+ HubSpot customers, HubSpot partners, sand Inbound marketing enthusiasts at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC)?
Big Picture: Why Martha Stewart at a Marketing Software Conference?
Quite simply: Because success with Inbound marketing requires you to rethink and transform your company into the role of a publisher – specifically a publisher of remarkable content; content that’s so awesome that readers can’t help but remark about it to their friends.
At the prior year’s INBOUND 2013 conference, HubSpot also made what at first appeared to be a head-scratching keynote selection: Arianna Huffington.
But when you look at the big picture, both Martha Stewart and Arianna Huffington have built extremely successful publishing empires.
Juicing with Conference Host Dan Sally
Martha Stewart’s keynote actually began quite differently than those of the prior four keynotes at the conference. Stewart did what she’s best known for: a cooking demonstration, making vegetable juice with INBOUND 2014 conference host Dan Sally – who prior to his current role in sales for HubSpot, was a stand-up comedian, including an appearance on Comedy Central.
So picture a little before 9am and Stewart and Sally are on stage. Stewart is very seriously at work, teaching attendees how to combine the ingredients to make juice. And Sally is standing to her left, with his own juicer, predictably acting like a total spaz and drawing laughs from the audience. A few moments later, servers appear in the aisles with trays of tiny sample size cups of the juice for all to try.
My take: It tasted better than it looked, in a very dimly lit room, but wow did I think it tasted “healthy!”
The Art of Building a Brand
The theme of Martha Stewart’s talk was on the Art of Building a Brand – something that HubSpot has done a masterful job with over the past eight years.
Stewart began by talking about how her retail licensing deals – in particular the one with Kmart and the inherent risk of tying your brand to another brand – that subsequently fell on very hard times financially.
The original intention with Kmart, as Stewart explained, was to bring luxury goods down to affordable prices for all.
To set the tone with the audience for how long ago this was and why affordable luxury goods had so much appeal at the time, Stewart explained that the original Kmart licensing agreement happened in the era when the American public was in love with the cultural elegance surrounding the primetime TV show Dynasty, what ran from 1981 through 1989.
Although Stewart didn’t drag out her post-mortem of the Kmart brand licensing deal gone bad, to this day Kmart’s Wikipedia article cites that in the 1990s, “many business analysts faulted (Kmart) for failing to create a coherent brand image.”
While Martha Stewart did, for a TV personality, seem somewhat attached to the podium on stage, she actually did have a slideshow that displayed some of her well-known magazine covers and book covers.
She also explained how much of her magazine’s editorial and future directions were shaped by her disagreements with TIME magazine over her content vision.
While persona research may seem like a relatively novel idea for HubSpot customers and Inbound marketing enthusiasts, whether you call it that or not, Martha Stewart knew her core readership’s goals, challenges, and desires. As a result, editorial coverage of holidays, babies, family, and cooking all factored largely into her plans for her magazine and publishing empire.
Stewart also drilled home the important of focusing on evergreen DIY (do it yourself) content – an editorial recipe that HubSpot itself, through HubSpot Academy, and other avenues encourages its own customers to aggressively pursue.
Surviving Traditional Media Disruption
And she must be doing something right. Because over the past 10 years, you hear about platforms like Google AdWords and Craigslist severely disrupting traditional publishing, and yet Martha Stewart is able to boast that her publishing company’s advertising and subscription sales are as strong as ever.
Unlike Arianna Huffington, whose blogging empire was born on the web, Martha Stewart became an American household name in a different era. Stewart confided that, “The Internet has not simplified things. It has only complicated.”
That said, Stewart is very excited about the future and “finding ways to use technology to save time.” (an area that HubSpot knows a thing or two about!)
Much like how an Inbound marketer pursues highly-niched, personified content creation, anchored around long-tail keywords, Stewart showed an example of editorial coverage around Maine blueberry growers – and how they and antioxidant advocates became huge supporters of her content.
She also talked about how the Martha Stewart American Made campaign was helping to drive awareness of the need to support crafts, design, food, and styles that are…American made.
Brand Pivots Into Wellness as You Age
As Stewart is now 73 and lost her mother in 2007 (who lived to 93), she is now working on several projects to promote healthy living later on in life.
This ties back to how she opened her keynote with a juicing demonstration and passing out samples.
Stewart also shared how she recently published a book on caring for yourself, extending the Martha Stewart into an entirely new category.
On a more personal level, Stewart shared a picture of how her workout routine with her trainer includes inverting herself – basically standing on her head.
Today, a significant part of Stewart’s philanthropy is directed towards addressing the Silver Tsunami, where more than half of the U.S. population is over 65.
During the final segment of Martha Stewart’s keynote, she was asked about other thought leaders in her space and the future.
One of the more interesting themes that Stewart drove home is how her company is, just like HubSpot, focused on International growth.
She also talked about how now as a grandmother, a lot of her work focused on leaving a legacy for her grandchildren.
While many associate Martha Stewart with her cooking TV shows, Stewart is a very seasoned successful entrepreneur, with an estimated net worth north of $600 million (Source: Wikipedia).
Like many of the keynote speakers at the INBOUND 2014 conference, Stewart’s advice for entrepreneurs was simple and motivational: “Entrepreneurs with great ideas need to find a way to run with it…You need passion and brains to fuel your ideas.”
She also shared some time management tips, as well as tips for handling setbacks – one that she had to deal with personally with her stock trading case and conviction in the early 2000s.
“All businesses have setbacks. Be calm, honest, and forthright to people that work with you,” Stewart advised.
She also believes strongly that it’s the job of parents to instill a work ethic in their children.
When asked about what some might reasonably conclude to be her competition, Stewart offered some advice on differentiation – again a topic inextricably tied to HubSpot, Inbound marketing, and being remarkable -- but feels strongly that there is room for “lots of good stuff.”
Stewart also added that although “the World has become an extremely crowded and competitive landscape, the World needs more entrepreneurs focusing on lifestyle.”
At the end of the day, Martha Stewart at age 73 wants her legacy to be that she was a good teacher and successful entrepreneur focused on making everyday living better.
What did you find most striking about Martha Stewart’s remarks in her INBOUND 2014 keynote address? What do you see her most having in common with HubSpot co-founders Dharmesh Shah and Brian Halligan? Please share your take in the Comments section below.
And if you’re part of a B2B technology company that struggles with differentiation, definitely download our free IT Channel Inbound Marketing Planning Guide.