Lessons From the Best Marketers of the 2012 Inc. 5000

Rebecca Corliss
Rebecca Corliss



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This week, Inc.com announced the 2012 Inc. 5000, its list of fastest-growing businesses determined by their three year revenue growth percentage. HubSpot is honored to have been included for the past two years, and this year our CEO Brian Halligan will be highlighted as a speaker at the Inc. 500|5000 Conference on "How to Grow by Leaps and Inbound." Needless to say, we're pretty pumped.

To shed light on the impact inbound marketing has had on the growth of these companies overall, we took a look at the marketing effectiveness of all 5,000 companies via our free marketing evaluation tool, Marketing Grader, and the results were fascinating! This blog post will pull out some of the highlights (and yes, the lowlights, too) from these stellar companies' marketing presences.

The goal here is not only to learn how a company grows through excellent inbound marketing, but also learn how to examine a company's website -- whether it's your own, or an industry competitor's -- to see what opportunities exist for improvement. Let's dive in!

First, a Word on the Tools of the Trade

To perform this analysis, we used a tool called Marketing Grader. It's is a free tool -- that means you can use it, too! -- that measures your entire marketing funnel ... not just surface level stuff like how optimized your homepage is. It also gives you actionable advice on how to get more out of your marketing, so you come out of the analysis with some things to do to make your next grade higher. It has run over five million reports since it launched in December 2011 (and a million reports in September alone!) giving feedback on top of the funnel marketing like blogging and social media, middle of the funnel marketing like marketing automation and email, and finally, analytics to close the loop. In fact, you get a specific score for each marketing stage.

HubSpot wanted to find the marketing rock stars within the top ranking companies in the Inc. 5000, so we used this as our tool to evaluate them, and we'll highlight the key lessons of these successful companies below. Below are the top ten marketers on the Inc. 5000 based on their combined Marketing Grader Score and Inc. 5000 rank. 

Top 10 Marketers from the Inc. 5000 



Inc. Rank     

Marketing Grade  

Marketing Grader Report

  1. Acquia 8 92  view report →
  2. AdRoll 7 88  view report →
  3. Nasty Gal 11 91   view report →
  4. UTest 16 89  view report →
  5. WebiMax 37 91  view report →
   6. Gold & Silver Buyers       5 73  view report →
  7. Vitals 47 88  view report →
  8. Gemvara  48 88  view report →
  9. Red Frog Events 9 77  view report →
  10. Datto 38 85   view report →

Congrats, top 10! Now let's dive into some of the high points of the analyses.

Gold & Silver Buyers - Inc. Rank 5, Marketing Grader Score 73

Let's start with Gold & Silver Buyers, one of the highest ranked on the Inc. 5000 list. Their Marketing Grader Score is respectable at 73, but that means there's tons of room for improvement ... especially when you compare it to the scores of some of the other companies in our top 10 list. Let's dive in to what they're doing well, and what they could improve upon.

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When it comes to things like social media and SEO, this company is doing everything they should, just not at the volume or frequency they should be for maximum results. For example, they have a blog ... sweet! But they're not blogging that frequently, only every 19 days on average ... bummer. They have a Twitter account and Facebook page ... yay! But their content isn't getting shared on social media that often ... Hmmm. Know why that is? Because it's not that easy to share their content, as there are no social sharing buttons. That's a huge miss, because blog posts that are shared on Twitter have 113% more inbound links than those that aren't shared on social media. Upping the frequency of their blogging, and then making it really easy for people to share that content, would result in some serious TOFU wins for this company.

Let's move on to the opportunities they have in the middle of the funnel, too -- because there's one glaring missed opportunity that we love to talk about. And that's marketing automation. And for Gold & Silver Buyers, it doesn't appear they're making use of any marketing automation software. Now, we know not every company is ready for marketing automation software. But we also know how much easier our lives are when we use it -- it's fast, efficient, targeted -- it is, in a word, awesome. So without knowing everything about the state of the MOFU marketing, I'll just say ... consider it :-)

Nasty Gal - Inc. Rank 11, Marketing Grader Score 91

Let's take a look at someone who could value from some improvement with their Analytics. Nasty Gal (awesome name, no?) already has a fantastic Marketing Grade at 91, but just look at that 50% in their Analytics section! If they picked that score up, their marketing would totally skyrocket.

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So, what is it they can do, and why is it important they do it? Well, it doesn't look like they're using any software to measure the performance of their website. That doesn't mean they need to invest in closed-loop marketing software necessarily; not yet, at least. It just means something free, like Google Analytics, would help them get some insight into basic metrics that every marketer should know, like whether they're trending upward in site traffic month over month, what keywords they're getting visits for, and what pages on their site are most popular. Without knowing basic information like this, it's hard to know whether your marketing activities are having any impact at all -- negative or positive.

Red Frog Events - Inc. Rank 9, Marketing Grader Score 77

Red Frog Events is a spectacular company that can shine even brighter with a little TOFU -- or Top of the Funnel -- love. This refers to the kinds of marketing activities that will bring more traffic to your website that you can convert into leads, typically with a strong focus on things like SEO, content creation, and social media marketing. But we'd like to focus just on what Red Frog Events can do to improve their SEO, because we talked a bit about the other two items with Gold & Silver Buyers.

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First and foremost, there are some technical SEO issues present on their site -- specifically, there are some 301 redirects missing. If you're not familiar with the concept, 301 redirects are a way to set up permanent redirects from one page on your website to another. For instance, www.yoursite.com is read different to search engines than yoursite.com. Same thing to us, totally different to a crawler.

There are also some really easy on-page SEO things Red Frog Events can do to be found better in the SERPs. First of all, there are 80 images on their home page ... but none of them have alt tags! Without alt tags, search engines can't read the image content, and as such, Red Frog Events misses the chance to not only rank for images, but give crawlers more context on what their site is about.

Finally, there are also several pages on their site that are missing unique page descriptions -- great for conversions when readers find your page in the SERPS -- as well as a few page titles that start with their company name. We'd recommend changing those page title that contain their company name because, well, it's not that hard to rank for your brand name! Use that real estate for some keywords, instead.

Vitals - Inc. Rank 47, Marketing Grader Score 88

Now that you have an idea of what TOFU optimization opportunities some of these great companies have, let's take a look at a company that's doing some excellent marketing, but could improve a bit with their middle-of-the-funnel marketing.

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We already talked about marketing automation earlier in this post. So, what else can companies like Vitals do to improve their MOFU? Marketing Grader gives a few tips related to social media automation and nurturing, but I'd like to focus on one of the littlest, easiest things to do: add an email subscription to their blog. Think about it ... every time you publish a blog post, subscribers get pinged with an email. That's a huge opportunity for you to drive traffic to your blog, especially as your subscriber list gets bigger and bigger, without lifting a finger. Plus, you don't have to rely on people remembering to check back on your blog for new content, or look at their RSS to find your content. That's quite the big win.

Webimax - Inc. Rank 37, Marketing Grader Score 91

For our last Marketing Grader breakdown of seriously awesome companies, I thought it'd be nice to take a look at someone who is doing just awesome all around. Webimax, of course, has some action items to improve their marketing to get up to a full 100%. We all do! But what are they doing that's making them so successful?

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First of all, as a blogger, I get pretty pumped to see a company like this that is blogging a ton. Like, every day. Plus they make their blog content really easy to find and share with RSS feed and social sharing buttons front and center. And it's helping, too! Their Marketing Grader Report says their posts are being tweeted, on average, 35 times. That's awesome! And it's all paying off for their SEO, too, because they have nearly 1000 inbound links from extremely authoritative sites.

They've also done a really good job at something we haven't talked about yet in this post -- mobile optimization. They have a mobile version of their site, Apple icons, and a meta viewport tag that lets mobile devices know how to orient their site on the screen. Way to be ahead of the game, guys.

When it comes to their MOFU marketing, they're doing something that, befuddlingly, not a lot of businesses are doing enough of -- creating landing pages. I mean, how else are you going to convert visitors into leads? They're also linking to those landing pages in blog posts, tying together their TOFU and MOFU nicely. To top it all off, they're using marketing automation software to make nurturing those leads really simple. (Note: The fact that they're using HubSpot for their marketing automation software did not influence my inclusion of them in this post!)

And of course, they're using analytics software to track the success of all of these efforts. I mean ... how else could they bask in the glory of their marketing awesomeness?

Have you run a Marketing Grader report on your website? Or better yet, your competitor's?

Image credit: nostri-imago

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