SOBCon 2012 Preview: Laura Fitton, Hubspot

This week we’re previewing SOBCon 2012: Chicago. The event runs May 4-6, and if you’ll be in Chicago, there’s still time to register. We contacted some of the presenters and asked them to share their insights about their individual industries. The answers were so interesting to review and reveal that Liz Strauss and Terry St. Marie have put together an amazing group for this year’s event.

Today’s Q&A is with Laura Fitton, the Inbound Marketing Evangelist for Hubspot. Called by some Twitter’s original Cinderella story and the Queen of Twitter, Laura “@Pistachio” Fitton is credited with explaining Twitter’s value to Guy Kawasaki and dozens of other tech leaders. She has been speaking professionally about the business use of Twitter since October 2007, and by popular demand launched Pistachio Consulting, the first Twitter for Business consultancy, in September 2008. In 2009, Laura founded oneforty.com to help people understand Twitter and the exploding ecosystem of applications and services built on it. In 2011, oneforty.com was acquired by Hubspot, an all-in-one marketing software firm, where Laura has taken on the role of Inbound Marketing Evangelist. She is also the co-author of Twitter for Dummies.

1. You’ve made big transitions in your professional life “look” effortless from the outside. But what do you see as the most misunderstood part of what’s required to become successful?

Thanks kindly. I’ve been extremely lucky in that I was carried through a lot of it by a phenomenally generous and supportive network. So I’d love to touch on two common misunderstandings I’ve seen about how to network effectively.

It’s tempting when networking to ask first, and give later. That’s fine and there will be some cases where that’s really the only option. People shouldn’t be afraid to ask for what they need. That said, you might find your asks become hugely more effective after you’ve established a reputation for being helpful. Whenever you can, invest genuine time and effort contributing value into whatever system you are working within, prior to making a serious effort to extract value.

The other temptation is to go straight for an introduction to someone “distant” in your network who is among the most qualified or visible person in the space. Instead, start with someone who already knows, trusts and likes you, and ask them for ideas, introductions and resources. I can’t count the number of times a startup entrepreneur I don’t know at all has asked me to introduce them to my busiest, most in-demand investors. I gently suggest that an introduction from me, given that I don’t know them and can’t vouch for them, isn’t going to help. It may even hurt.

Start building your network amongst those closest to you, even if they don’t have the specific expertise or contacts you need. Ask them whom they know who might know more about what you’re looking for, and slowly work your way towards your goal. As you earn trust you can work your way outward from your inner circle towards the destination you’re trying to reach. Though I’ve used startup investor introductions as my example, this actually applies to any kind of networking, from job hunting to dating.

2. In 2010, Fast Company named you as one of the Most Influential Women in Technology. What kind of influence do you hope you’ve had and hope to have in the future?

I’m humbled and sometimes a little overwhelmed by the generous hype that has been lobbed my way. I think the reality is that if I can come up with something of value to offer, share or say, then that spreads. Which is one form of influence. I know for sure I can’t force ideas down people’s throats, so I sometimes think people overestimate “influence” as a concept.

The one thing I try to own and be really grateful about, is that I do get to hear from a lot of people—men and women—who saw something in my story that helped them at some point in theirs. That’s hugely inspiring to me to hear that something which was happening to me anyhow had this side effect of inspiring someone else.

3. You’ve often talked about balancing founding a business with being a parent. How do you think being a parent has made you a better entrepreneur?

It’s a huge gift that has made me way tougher and given me helpful perspective at really important times. I have no doubt where my center and my compass are—my daughters. We’ve been through some challenges that really built both my ability to cope and my sense of what’s worth worrying about. Situations I probably should have been very afraid of were less scary because they paled in comparison.

There are actually a LOT of young moms amongst the few women who run VC-funded startups. I don’t think that’s a coincidence or an aberration. I think motherhood (like many of life’s big interesting experiences by the way, parenthood certainly isn’t the only one) toughens you in some ways that are really valuable.

A special thank you to Laura for helping us out. We’re looking forward to her panel discussion with Rick Calvert, Lisa Horner, and Gory Goldstein on Saturday.

About Britt Raybould

Britt Raybould has a passion for telling stories and she specializes in helping companies figure out how to tell their own stories. Through her firm, Write Bold, she shows companies how storytelling can define them, both to their customers and within their industry. When she remembers to, Britt blogs on her personal sites at bold-words.com and brittraybould.com. You can find Britt on Twitter @britter.

Twitter: britter

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