Logo - Full (Color)
Skip to content

Episode 9: Inside a HubSpot Smarketing Meeting

Smarketing combines sales and marketing. Great. Easy etymology. But what exactly does it mean? Smarketing is a team meeting, where your sales and marketing teams come together to collaborate on a shared project and solve problems.

We go inside HubSpot headquarters with Alex Girard as he sets out to put on HubSpot’s next Smarketing. Not only have we never pulled the curtain back on this type of meeting, it’s also our first attempt at a live, remote Smarketing. As such, things don’t always go as planned.

Listen Now

Episode Transcription

Today, we’re doing something a bit different. 

Over the course of this past season, we’ve covered everything you need to know about sales enablement. From setting vision and goals, to lead prospecting, to content strategy.

And to put a button on our sales enablement season, I spent a few days following Alex Girard around the office.

GIRARD: Are you recording right now?

OK, so I forgot to tell Alex.

GIRARD: My name is Alex Girard, I am a product marketing manager here at HubSpot.

Maybe against Alex’s better judgement, and for the first time ever, we’re tagging along to go behind the scenes to see how exactly HubSpot puts on a Smarketing meeting. Through the good times, and the tough ones…

GIRARD: Like I don’t know what to do. I’m sort of freaking out right now. You’re loving this aren’t you?

And, through it all, we’ll teach you how to host a Smarketing meeting at your company.

So let’s get into it.

Hi. I’m Jorie from HubSpot and this is Skill Up, the show where you’ll learn how to take your sales, marketing, and service skills to the next level.

OK, I’m gonna leave Alex in the meeting room for just a bit. Don’t worry, I cracked a window. 

Before we get into the mechanics of an effective Smarketing meeting, let's put a couple working definitions in place. Segment music, please!

We start with portmanteau. Ooo, French, how Parisian. A portmanteau is the combination of words. You know, like brunch (breakfast and lunch) or KimYe, of the Kardashian-West nobility. 

As a portmanteau, Smarketing combines sales and marketing. Great. Easy etymology. But what exactly is Smarketing?

Smarketing is a team meeting, where your sales and marketing teams come together to collaborate on a shared project and solve problems. 

Think of it like your own personal Ar-jes-tees. A real meeting of the minds. 

And at the end of a Smarketing meeting, everyone should come away feeling that the time was spent productively, and that each person actively contributed.

Sounds pretty straight-forward. Bring the teams together, look at a problem, collaborate on a solution. We wrapping this one up early?

Well, let’s pump the brakes. 

Remember how we left Alex — alone, in a slight panic, in that conference room? Well to teach you how to run an effective Smarketing meeting, we need to rewind a bit.

GIRARD: There are three days until Smarketing.

I first met up with Alex three days out from Smarketing. And no, it’d be easy enough to say his panic starts here. But not true. At this point, he’d already been planning for the upcoming Smarketing for some time.

GIRARD: Planning starts the day after the previous Smarketing ends. I have a co-host, we meet weekly to make sure everything is on-track. Email chains with presenters, VPs, contributors.

Alex has been running these meetings for the last year. And he’s learned, to pull it all off, takes two things.

GIRARD: I think it’s a matter of properly planning and implementation to pull it all off.

And this next Smarketing, takes planning and implementation to whole nother level. Because HubSpot, in it’s decade-plus of business, has never hosted a Smarketing quite like this one. 

And if we can pull it off? It means any type of business can host a Smarketing meeting. 

GIRARD: We’ve done them pre-recorded, film in our big meeting room Malala, and people can watch at their desks. This is the first time we’re doing it live and remote.

That’s right. A live, remote workforce-friendly Smarketing. Intricate stuff, sure. But whether your employees are in-office or remote, the same planning and implementation applies. 

Which takes us to the day of the meeting.

There’s an unforeseen issue. Even with proper planning, something fell through the cracks. Just so happens to be the one thing you’d like to have for a live remote meeting: Someone there to run all the tech that makes it happen.

This is, well, a unique problem. But it addresses the first of three lessons in how to run a Smarketing meeting. And whether you’re in-person or online, all these lessons apply. This first one, happens to also be the most important.

GIRARD: In smarketing meetings, the top priority is identifying and addressing problems. That’s number one. Don’t get me wrong -- It's good to report results, celebrate wins, and congratulate high performers, but really you should try and save that for another time. Smarketing should be a time when the appropriate stakeholders come together to tackle specific problems.]

Smarketing meetings need to be a place where people and teams can talk about things that aren't working, and brainstorm ideas for fixing them. It’s a creative space that’s productive and open.

With that in mind, the agenda for a Smarketing meeting can be fairly short.  Maybe first identify problems with current goals and initiatives. Second, brainstorm solutions. And third, make assignments to be completed before the next meeting. 

That’s it. Cycle through those steps for as many problems as you can get through in the time you have and you'll accomplish all kinds of things. That's what the heart of every Smarketing meeting should be. Solve problems. Don’t overthink it.

However, maybe, un-luckily for Alex, this live remote Smarketing meeting is a bit more complicated than most.

Oh right, we’ve heard this one before. We’re all caught up! Look at that.

That’s Marcus Andrews. He works on the product marketing team. He’ll be one of the team members presenting at the meeting.

Alex and Marcus have been hosting and attending Smarketing meetings for years at this point. Old hat. Where some crumble under pressure, they tend to thrive. And it all has to do with our second of three lessons. Finding the right cadence.

Here’s Alex again.

GIRARD: At HubSpot, we meet once every month for Sm arketing meetings. But we’ve played with this cadence over the years. Sometimes, we needed to meet twice-a-week. But as a general rule of thumb, we’ll never let it go longer than a month. If it’s any longer than that, you lose the rythm of it and you’re likely letting issues between sales and marketing slide for far too long.

Every company’s different, and the challenges can vary widely, so over time you’ll find what cadence works best for you. Maybe start bi-weekly. And with success and a good rhythm, move to monthly.

Phew. Video conference call with the save! It’s a bit more DIY than the multi-cam studio operation they initially were planning on. But it’s that culture of experimentation, in this case with format, that matters most when solving problems.

GIRARD: When I’m putting together a Smarketing meeting, the most important thing is to ensure Smarketing is a good place for experimentation. In order to do that, you have to make sure the atmosphere in these meetings is one of trust and encouragement.

We’re heading down the back staircase. New room, new location. 

HubSpot’s VP of Marketing, and third presenter, Jon Dick meets up with us and things are firmly back on track. 

Looking around the room, and at the guest list, there’s noticeably a few names missing. There’s no executives within ear or eye shot! No Brian Halligan. No Dharmesh Shah. But don’t be confused, it’s not because they don’t value what Smarketing brings.

This brings us to the third and final lesson. Be picky about who you invite to the meeting. And keep your execs away at a safe distance.

GIRARD: It’s a rare time at a company, but for Smarketing meetings, I do not want the whole executive suite showing up. I’ll tell you why. It can be stifling. We’re there to talk through problems and how to fix them, right? What ends up happening if our CEO, our CFO and any other executives join the meeting, is people start to put on performances. It’s ok, it’s a natural thing to happen. But it really takes away from the reason we’re there: to solve problems.

I’m not saying you need to don a big black cape and join the Night’s Watch, but you need to remember, the purpose of Smarketing is to discuss problems. 

That can be a scary thing to do with your CEO in the room. Limiting the overall guest list is always a good idea. It helps keep meetings focused and active. But limiting the appearance of executives is equally as important.

We’re back in the room, minutes before Smarketing kicks off. I’m sort of fascinated by how Alex, Marcus, and Jon communicate. 

They’re more direct? Like, any sort of seniority in the room, means nothing. Communicating, fast, efficiently, is all that matters right now. Honestly, I’m impressed. Baffled, but impressed. Alex has some sage words of advice for me. 

GIRARD: One of the biggest responsibilities of leading a Smarketing meeting is making sure everyone’s voice is heard. I need to create psychological safety in the room.

In order for marketers to feel safe making recommendations to sales reps, your Smarketing meetings need to foster something called psychological safety.

Amy Edmondson, a behavioral scientist at Harvard, coined the term and defines it as “a shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking.” 

To put it another way, a high level of psychological safety allows team members to be comfortable taking risks around each other. They won't be afraid of getting in trouble for admitting mistakes or asking questions or suggesting new ideas.

GIRARD: You, as the leader of these meetings, need to ensure that Smarketing meetings are a safe place for problems and solutions to be shared no matter what the culture is like in the rest of your company.

First of all, before any of these meetings even occur, you need to set the expectation that the two teams are equally important. Even though sales enablement is all about helping the sales team be more effective, that doesn't mean the marketing team is in any way subservient to the sales team. The two teams should make no mistakes that they’re equal partners pursuing the same goal. And each department needs to do the work.

Look, sales doesn’t want marketing chasing after them and badgering them about what they need. If Marketing starts asking “What can I make for you?” Sales will, rightfully, be like, “What are you doing!? You’re marketing! You should know what we need!” 

Now, that’s not to say sales won’t have some requests, but it’s marketing’s job to recommend what content should be created and for what purpose.

So set expectations and lead by example. Look at people as they're talking. Repeat the things they say to verify that you've understood correctly. Value and appreciate every effort anyone makes to participate.

Doing that takes only a little effort from the leader, but it can go a long way in bolstering everyone's sense of psychological safety. 

Once that psychological safety is in place, you'll be able to have conversations in your Smarketing meetings that really get down to the hard parts of getting sales and marketing to work together.

GIRARD: There have been times where I’ve had to call out sales for letting leads sit there for too many hours, a couple days, even a week sometimes. Which is crazy! That’s our next best pipeline, and you’ve just left it sitting there!

So that’s my job sometimes. And I have no problem calling someone out like, “Hey, what are you doing for days on end that’s keeping you from following up on these leads? We need to know, because this is a serious problem.”

So sometimes it’s marketing that needs to hold sales accountable too. It works both ways. But that level of openness and accountability, it takes a solid psychological safety foundation. 

Otherwise, that person in the hot seat will come away feeling angry or depressed. And that’s not right. So with psychological safety in place, people on both sides of the problem can discuss the challenges they're facing and collaborate on a solution.

And with that, we cue Smarketing. But before we go, let’s recap real quick.

GIRARD: Can I do the recap?

Go for it!

GIRARD: OK, I got this. So remember -- Stay focused on solving problems. Find the cadence that’s most conducive to problem solving. Keep the invite list exclusive to sales and marketing team members. 

And look to create a space with psychological safety — so you can be free to experiment with solutions and hold folks accountable when they’re dropping the ball. 

And that, my friends, is an effective Smarketing meeting.

Thanks Alex. 

That wraps our season on sales enablement! Ya did great. We did great. Ugh, look at us. Sales enablement pros. It might go unsaid, but I’ll say it. You’re ready to start implementing sales enablement at your company. 

We’ll be back soon with another all new season of Skill Up. So until then, go ahead and share these episodes with your marketing and sales teams. And remember, you can always find more resources and certifications at HubSpot dot com.Don’t tell the others but [whispers] You’re my favorite. Thanks for listening.