Marketers don’t always have it so easy (wait ... do we ever?). Summer months are notoriously slow, holidays are difficult to work around, and even weekends take away from the steady flow of leads you want to generate.
So how do you push past these obstacles and keep your marketing going strong through the rough patches on your calendar? Here at HubSpot, we’ve found that one of the best (and most fun!) ways to prepare for a slow week, month, or season is to host a marketing hack night.
What exactly is a 'marketing hack night'?
Great question. A “hack night” (or “hack day” or “hackathon”) is a specific amount of time set aside for a bunch of your team members, coworkers, or employees to get together and work toward some sort of productive goal, typically with the aim of completing a project from start to finish within that timeframe.
For example, HubSpot’s first ever marketing hack night, which we held at the end of June, was organized so multiple teams each created a marketing campaign that we could launch in July. We kicked off the event at 5 p.m. and had until midnight to get everything done, beginning with brainstorming initial campaign ideas, all the way through to finalizing our promotional materials, scheduling our email sends, and testing our landing page forms. And the good news is -– it was a huge success! We had nearly 40 HubSpotters volunteer to participate (marketing team members and contributors from other departments alike), and collectively, we cranked out over a couple hundred hours of work in one night.
Ready to give your marketing a boost, and incorporate some major company bonding while doing it? Follow these 7 simple steps to make your own marketing hack night a huge success!
7 Steps to Planning a Successful Marketing Hack Night
Step 1: Determine Your Goals
As with any project, it’s important to start by deciding on the specific goals you want to accomplish. What do you want the outcome of your hack night to be: a completed, integrated marketing campaign, a batch of blog articles to fill your backlog, a comprehensive content analysis? What metrics will you use to measure your results: traffic, leads, customers, increased social reach, more blog subscribers? And over what timeframe(s)? Put together a list or an outline of your goals, and reference it going forward so you can plan your hack night in accordance with them.
Step 2: Organize in a Meaningful Way
Now that you’ve decided on your goals, figure out the best way to structure your hack night so your participants can accomplish those goals in the most effective and efficient way possible.
For example, if your goal is strictly to get the most and the best possible work done in the least amount of time, you should build teams based on each individual’s strengths. If your goal is to expose people to different areas of marketing that they don’t typically have experience with, build teams of employees from various departments within your company. (We chose the latter, and found that the variety of backgrounds contributed new perspectives to the projects and helped us learn from each other as we worked together.) However you choose to set up your teams, make sure it aligns with your goals.
Step 3: Decide on Incentives
Don’t forget -- your coworkers are dedicating their personal time to put in some extra work, so you’ll want to decide on a way to reward them for all that extra credit. Why not try some gamification?
Choose a selection of prizes and a set of criteria for determining a winner. Framing your hack night as a competition will encourage your participants to produce high-quality work, and since you’ll actually be implementing the results of their work, you want it to be top-notch. If you aren’t sure what would best motivate your participants, ask them! They’ll give you some good ideas and you can choose the ones that are reasonable given your budget. If you’d rather not spend money on prizes, announcing a winner and providing company-wide recognition can still serve as good incentive for participants to give it their all.
Step 4: Choose/Create a Supportive Environment
When planning your hack night, you’ll want to decide on an optimal environment for your participants. Again, this goes back to your goals. Do you want this to be strictly productive with little social focus? Give each team their own conference room so they can concentrate with minimal distraction. Want hack night to be more fun, social, and engaging? Put everyone in one big room!
At HubSpot, we found that having everyone work in the same space made our marketing hack night feel more event-like, allowed us to take breaks and socialize with members of other teams, and helped us avoid an atmosphere of biting competition (too much of that is never a good thing). Put on some quiet music in the background. Order dinner. The more inviting you make the environment, the more involved your participants will be. And if certain individuals find that this environment isn't condusive to working, they can always find a quiet space of their own to hole up for a while (like some of our bloggers did, for example).
Step 5: Establish Clear Guidelines, and Communicate Them Effectively
Before you kick off your hack night, make sure you have a list of rules and guidelines for the event. What should their main goals be? Will the teams be allowed to help each other? Are there any materials they must use, or must not use? At the start of your hack night, communicate the answers to these questions clearly, so your participants go in with a solid understanding of what they should aim to accomplish and how to go about it.
Step 6: Stand Back and Watch Them Shine
While step 5 is still fresh on your minds, that being said, you don’t want to give them too many rules. Hack nights are a great opportunity to give your company’s employees a chance to work with new people, think outside the box, and step outside of their comfort zones. Let them figure out how to approach their projects. Give them the freedom to make some of the big decisions on their own. Guidelines are good, but don’t restrict their creativity. You’d be surprised what a group of smart people can come up with when they’re motivated, working together, and have the chance to choose their own project, tools, and approach.
Step 7: Implement Your Work
You just organized a whole event. Don’t let the results of your hack night go to waste! One of the most important – arguably, the most important – part of your hack night is actually implementing the work your teams produced. Use those blog posts, landing pages, email sends, social media promotions, graphic designs, pieces of code. Launch your campaigns, update your product. Even if your event was highly social, remember that your ultimate goal was to produce a certain output. So go ahead and take advantage of all the awesome materials you now have, and use the metrics you outlined in step 1 to gauge the success of your results!
Congratulations on planning your first hack night! I hope you and your participants find the experience rewarding, take the opportunity to really come together as a team, and most of all, crank out some killer marketing content and results. Happy hacking!
Originally published Jul 9, 2012 4:30:00 PM, updated June 10 2021