Easy Come, Easy Go: More Lessons from HubSpot’s Email Purge

Copyright: Bigstock.com/lianella. Used with permission.

Copyright: Bigstock.com/lianella. Used with permission.

Easy Come, Easy Go: More Lessons from HubSpot’s Email Purge

Last week, I wrote about HubSpot’s surprising decision to cut 250,000 email addresses from its marketing roles and what we could learn about increasing our email open and click rates. To be clear, I haven’t spoken to anyone at HubSpot, I’ve only read about the company decision to make this move in some of their blog posts like this one by Pamela Vaughan

HubSpot's move was a big step, the kind of marketing decision that, down the road, people will hail as genius or will condemn as idiotic. 

Here’s why I believe it will have a happily-ever-after ending, why HubSpot was able to do this, and one of the things that we—in the nonprofit sector—should learn from them.

Simply: HubSpot can ditch 250,000 email addresses because they are so good at accumulating them.

HubSpot is a great content marketer. I know, I personally have willingly given them my email address more times than I can count on two hands. If I’m not mistaken, I’ve also filled out forms on their website, telling them how much money I earn, what my title is, where I live, how I use email, and a few other details about my business.

Why would I do this? Because HubSpot provides great content that I wanted. From my perspective, as someone who has been working day and night over the last year to build a new business, I’ve been trying to learn everything I possibly could to figure out what more I could be doing to grow my business. HubSpot has been a valuable source of information. I’ve exchanged pieces of my privacy with them in order to take their webinars, download their ebooks, have their PowerPoint template with free infographics, and more. And each time I’ve done that, each time I've given them information about me, it’s seemed like a good exchange. That's good content marketing.

Nonprofit organizations have been slow to embrace content marketing techniques. Perhaps because the people nonprofits are marketing to—primarily donors—are not their clients. Nonprofits produce a lot of content for their clients. They tend to produce less content for their donors OR they tend to produce content for donors that is not useful, not relevant to their mission in the same way that content for their clients is. Far too many nonprofits are still generating “push” type content for their donors. This type of content is much slower to generate email addresses than the “pull” type of content marketing.

I hesitate to write that nonprofits have been slow to adopt pull content marketing practices, though, for fear that once again, readers with backgrounds in the for-profit world will leap to the conclusion that “the untalented, unmotivated, unskilled, inferior nonprofit workforce” is once again behind. Yes, we’re bringing up the tail-end of a business trend again. We’re not as adept at collecting email addresses (and most of us have barely even begun to collect SMS phone data, the next wave of contact information), but it’s not because we lack the talent or motivation. We just lack the resources. While most nonprofit organizations have an email marketing service that allows them to send a mass email newsletter, few have subscriptions to services that allow for sophisticated tracking of web visits and leads or the creation of landing pages and forms. Most don’t have the labor force to create ebooks or other content pieces to post on their websites to offer as opportunities to capture leads.

In the nearly 25 years I have worked with nonprofit organizations, I have yet to work with one that has an email bank of more than 250,000 email addresses. The question of dumping 250,000 email addresses and still having a sizable email roll to re-build would be out of the question to all but a very small number of organizations with which I’m familiar.

We need to get better at making friends and capturing their addresses, to invest in the creation of content not just for our clients, but also for our donors, even if what our donors need and want from us is somewhat different from what our clients need from us. 

Those of us who work in the nonprofit sector know that it is not that we're not as good as the for-profit sector. It's that we have to be better. We serve many "customers," the clients who consume our products and the donors who fund them, for examples. With some organizations that is one and the same, but for many, it's not. We need to make sure that we're creating content that attracts all of our "customers" and collecting addresses as we go.

For ideas on how to "friendraise" see my free ebook 101 Friendraising Ideas.


Our newsletter contains not only great articles like this one, but also more tips and strategies for strengthening your board and nonprofit, raising more funds, and growing your organization's impact. We respect your privacy and do not rent or sell our list and you're welcome to unsubscribe at any time if you find it's not helpful to you.