Elise was reading a brilliant book and recommended it me. Marcus Sheridan's "They Ask You Answer" is a really interesting approach and straightforward guide to fixing marketing strategy. It focuses on high quality online content which draws in, engages and convinces customers. But that's nothing new; everyone has been saying the same thing for the last few years. What's different, and really compelling, is Marcus' approach of total openness and honesty.

We must all realise that if that our customers are using online resources and expect to become well researched before any major purchase. They will seek opinions and reviews. "They Ask You Answer" recommends that you feed that desire and explain everything to customers. Tell them the upsides and downsides or your product. Where yours is best, and where its not. In short all of the questions that customers really want to know. 

And that got me thinking. What we need to do is to ditch FAQ's (Freqently Asked Questions) and replace them with FUQ (Frequently Unanswered Questions)

I immediately looked online at a few pieces of product marketing that I've been party to creating and I saw them in a whole new light. They are professional pieces of work, but they are brochure-ware and blogs. They have a defined point of view - they are selling rather than educating or informing. I realised that they ignore some really substantial FUQ's - the kind questions that every prospect will have rumbling in the back of their mind.  The list of FUQ's is massive, but lets start with the following examples;

  • Is this product better than any other and why? Under what conditions is it not the best and why is another better?
  • What is the process to gain the full benefit? How long and hard is it to get there? Do some customers fail to get there and why?   
    .... and of course the biggest FUQ of all; the one every customer wants, and needs, to know and yet is so often obscured
  • How much is it? How do I know its great value and that I won't be overcharged? Are there other costs? How does this compare with alternatives?

Imagine that your online prospect can research all of this on your website. Two things will happen. They will trust you more, and they will be better qualified as leads. Others will have gone elsewhere realising that you don't have what they want; not yet anyway! 

Creating a list of FUQ's will be challenging. The Questions will be easy to create, they will fall from your lips. But answering them will challenge your perception of what you should and shouldn't say to a customer. And that's interesting. We want Customers to trust us to deliver their dream, we want them to believe us. But earning that trust begins with honesty. So bring on the FUQ's!


This is the 4th post on this topic and hopefully you've read the previous posts Can you add Major Account Planning to HubSpot CRM? and To create Major Account Planning in Hubspot and A Major Account Planning tool linked to Hubspot. If you have read these you'll know that my objective is to create Major Account Planning, or Key Account Planning in Hubspot. It's not there and these are my various ideas that I tried until I was able to bring this to life.  

Is there an OpenSource solution Major Account Planning tool that can be linked to Hubspot?
Next I turned to opensource software. I have extensive knowledge of working with opensource software, its generally free but you have to rely on the community to help you if it goes wrong.  If you are unfamiliar with  opensource and are worried about using opensource please consider that this website is created on opensource software. In fact most websites are built on opensource. In fact most of the web runs on it, as do most mobile phones and tablets, and all of the worlds largest high performance computers run on open source software - who'd have thought it! 

I look at lots of opensource projects, and there are many that look like they might have an answer. But they were often little more than experiments, nothing close to a working and complete system; and the Hubspot integration was a problem again. Despite popularity of Hubspot CRM it really isn't supported by these kind of projects. This was another dead end.... or was it?

Is there an OpenSource solution which connects to Hubspot CRM?
I realised that what I needed was way to build a solution which could interrogate and interact with the Hubspot data. I did not want that data rekeyed, onto a separate system, it needed to be joined at the hip. So I began to look for an opensource project that could use the Hubspot API.

For those unfamiliar with the world of open API's and their power let me explain. As you use Hubspot its accessing the databases which drive it. But Hubspot also allows a different type of access to the same data, using their API. This allows any separate system to connect (there is rigourous authentication involved) to the data and read it and update it. It's entirely possible, though not sensible, to create a whole new CRM system with a totally new look which stores no data at all - because it stores it all in Hubspot in the background. There are limits and authentication (as I mentioned) but essentially as long as you connect in the right way and speak the right language to the API then you can instantly retrieve all the data you want. This is marvellous, because if I can find a way to connect to this data and get it into another system which is tackling Key Account Management I have solved my problem!

Sooooooo .... is there a way to access the API from an opensource content management project? Well, as you might have guessed the answer is no, not directly, not from a popular well supported opensource project (which includes popular Blogging platforms Wordpress, Joomla etc) that had any meaningful access the to the Hubspot data. There were plenty of simple form integrations which, in effect, send data into Hubspot - but bringing data the other way and doing things with it ... nothing! Well that's not quite true. There are some data charting Apps, and data Reporting Apps, but these aren't what I am looking for.

I needed to think again. And I did.


This is the 3rd post on this topic and hopefully you've read the previous posts Can you add Major Account Planning to HubSpot CRM? and To create Major Account Planning in Hubspot. If you have read these you'll know that my objective is to create Major Account Planning, or Key Account Planning in Hubspot. It's not there and these are my various ideas that I tried until I was able to bring this to life.  

Can I find a great Major Account Planning tool that can be linked to Hubspot?
This is were left off last time. I'd realised there were no fully integrated Add-ins that will work inside Hubspot (this seems to be a limitation or difference between how Hubspot works and how Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics work). But Hubspot CRM is free and for thousands of companies it offers unbelievable features at no cost. And so I thought, can I find a software tool for Major account Planning that was tightly integrated with Hubspot, and could share its data? I couldn't. I found a few fantastic tools for Major Account Planning (more on those later) but, if they worked with any CRM it was None seemed to work with Hubspot. Maybe its because they're software costs about as much as Salesforce, they may have decided no to bother connecting to Hubspot CRM which is free. Or maybe there are technical reasons. Either way there is no solution here.


Can I find any Major Account Planning tool that can be linked to Hubspot?
This was interesting, and became a rabbit hole which I fell down and didn't climb out of for a while. Because as soon as you start googling this you'll get lots of hits. And looking into each takes time (I know because I did the hard yards on this). But the reality is that what they really offer is an alternate CRM system with Key Account or major Account Management included. Now that's valid, and if I was looking for an all-encompassing solution I should start looking here. But that's not what this search is about. I want to find a solution that works with the free version Hubspot CRM and doesn't replace it. And in short, I still didn't find what I was looking for.

PS: I don't think that the research at this stage was a waste of time, though it took a lot of time. The fact is that many companies may start with the free version of Hubspot CRM until they reach a certain size, and at that point they'll need to turn to a grown up platform. So knowing what these options are is valuable - there's a lot more solutions than just the two market leaders. 

And so then I thought; Is there an OpenSource solution Major Account Planning tool that can be linked to Hubspot?

If you've read the previous post you'll know that my objective is to create Major Account Planning in Hubspot. I already know its not there. What follows is my progress as I thought it through and tried the various ideas to bring this to life.  


What's possible, and not possible, inside Hubspot CRM itself?
Hubspot is a very flexible tool, and an Admin user can add new fields and new field groups to their instance of Hubspot. New fields can be added to the three main viewpoints within Hubspot CRM, called 'Contacts', 'Customers' and 'Deals'. It's a relatively simple process and we've used this extensively in the past to fine tune Hubspot to meet the exact needs of sales team that'll use it. But, while we want some extra fields (places to store specific data) they are are not all that we'll need for this application. Because, when you think about it; Major Account Plans are a brand new viewpoint - one that combines 'Contacts' and 'Deals' with other data and then presents it through the lens of major 'Customers' (and Prospects). And so, after trying, I have had to admit that this won't work - we need more than extra fields.


Incidentally, it might to possible to build the richer set of data and content using the Content Management System in Hubspot. But then this costs circa $600 per month (and I think thats per editor) just for the potential to make it work. My objective is to deliver the potential and reality for much less than that figure. And, as I anticipate that ever member of the sales team (that could be a handful or dozens) will be editing and updating their customer records I want to find a solution which does not tie editing to a per user fee.  So Hubspot CMS was discounted. 


Can you create Major Account Planning using Hubspot Extensions?
I looked and looked. I was confident that someone would have made this, but they haven't, although  there are a few user requests for it. Maybe it's a limitation of the way Hubspot works, or its because Hubspot is really focusing upon B2C sales or low value transactions; these sort of sales models just don't need Major Account Planning.

When I looked closer I could see that most (if not all) of the Hubspot extensions are what I'll call bridges - they bridge from Hubspot to somewhere else. They pass data and ease integration, but fundamentally these Applications are not running inside Hubspot, they are connected to it. This is different to where many Addon Applications you can buy are actually embedded inside your Salesforce instance - they become part of it. Like I said,  it may be a difference in how Hubspot is created, but this is not what the Hubspot applications seem to do. But this got me thinking!

If Hubspot Applications are not embedded, but closely aligned and seamlessly linked - Can I find a Major Account Planning tool that can be linked to Hubspot?

Hubspot CRM is a fantastic tool, and it's free! If you're looking for an easy to use, yet powerful, CRM system you really can't ignore it. You can have unlimited customers, deals and users and loads of great features. But (and you knew there would be a but) there are some limitations. For me the reporting is limited and the upgrade expensive - but I can get around that. What I really miss, what I need, is to do Major Account Planning and this is simply not there in Hubspot. Now, this is not just a complaint about Hubspot, this functionality is not available on the the full cost alternatives ( and Microsoft Dynamics) either. It seems that this kind of functionality is always an add-on, and that's surprising to me; but there its is. As a Salesforce user I can add a simple version of Major Account Planning for free, or buy a sophisticated add-on that might cost the same as Salesforce itself. And for our larger clients that's perfect. But what about our smaller clients, is there any option that will add this functionality to the free version of Hubspot CRM? Well the simple answer is no, there wasn't, but I'm very close to making it.

Before I start to explain how, lets backtrack, what do I mean by Major Account Planning (sometimes called Sales Account Planning), and why am I looking for an online solution? 


Why a Major Account Plan?
I'm mostly involved with B2B sales. Usually the sales value is high, revenues are concentrated in small number of large customers and often the sales cycle is long. If you recognise any more than two of these conditions in your business, you'll know how important those large customers are to your overall business. You can't treat them as regular sales, they are not run of the mill and they need to planned as a campaign. Whether they are existing customers or prospects you'll want a coordinated plan to make sure that everything is done to win big! Hence a Major Account Plan.

PS: I didn't invent this. Account Planning is a old as the hills, because it works and its essential. There a dozens of different types, often touted by different training companies who promote their particular flavour. In my years in Sales I have been trained in a number of them, I can't recall which, they blur as are very similar.


What's in a Major Account Plan?
There is a certain amount of core information that's required.

  • What's the target revenue and profit for the Account (this year)
  • What needs to happen to hit that target - what products and services will the the Account buy and by when
  • Why will the Account do this? What will it do for them? 
  • What are the threats to our plan (including competitive) and what will do to counter them?
  • What's the decision making procedure, how well are well connected to it?
  • What resources do we need to win

But that's what the Account Manager is there for...

You may be thinking that this is all the things you expect your Account Manager to know and manage; and that's true. But you can't afford to leave the planning of large sales over long sales cycles to large customers to any individual. No matter how talented they'll need help, and that they'll need co-ordination and resources. And you certainly can't rely upon the memory any individual to be your only record of what you are doing with your major customers. 

Major Account Plans are essential to inform, collaborate and share the load; but mostly they help to focus resources for the greatest results. 


So why do I want this on online, and why in Hubspot?
First of all Major Account Plan comes to life when its shared, regularly reviewed and updated with the latest information. And the other important point is that the different Account Plans must be comparable to each other; so that the management can see, clearly, where all the best opportunities lie. Static documents written in Excel, Word or PowerPoint just don't cut it. Even shared versions of these aren't great - sure they can be shared, but they are too flexible - and the result will be that each plan will end up being to different to the rest. And static tools are no good when you want to incorporate the latest information from your CRM system (like Hubspot). What's needed is a shared online tool, where this Plan data will sit naturally and where the sales data is totally integrated. 

Hubspot CRM is the natural home for customer data and latest opportunities (Deals) for many of our customers, and for tens of thousands of businesses around the globe. And so I want Major Account Management on Hubspot, but it's not there. And there is no Add-in, or upgrade, that offers it either.

And so .... I have started thinking about how to add it ... see next post.



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