Insights from INBOUND15

Tuesday night saw renowned author Seth Godin kick off this year’s edition of HubSpot’s INBOUND conference. Seth touched upon a wide range of topics from the StayPuft marshmallow man to golf claps.

But his key message was about changing culture. Using corn growers as an example, he explained how many people won’t do what is in their best interest because of their culture. Too often we do what we do because that is how we’ve always done it. But to be successful, we have to keep two distinct thoughts in our heads. We must remember that some ideas will work, and others won’t. That, along with the willingness to change, betters your odds for success. 

Day Two

Day two started with a glorious picture of host Dan Sally’s high school mullet and a presentation from HubSpot CMO Kipp Brodner where he introduced the #HumansOfINBOUND hashtag. Kipp also detailed the ever-growing number of attendees for the event each year (this year has over 13,000 attendees!)   Before Brené Brown’s keynote, we were treated to a presentation by Meighan Stone president of the Malala Fund. She spoke of the importance of not just making a decision, but true action comes when you are inspired. She finished by showing the trailer for the new film “He Named Me Malala.” 

When Brené Brown took the stage, she started with a warm story of her family taking a two-week vacation. This story was used to illustrate how people view and respond to vulnerabilities. She spoke of how her husband and she both responded to the same situation completely differently due to how they arrived at the situation. Brown continued to explain why and how people deal with vulnerabilities being exposed. Through her training and experience, she has learned to recognize when she is reacting from a place of emotion.

(by the way, for those of you who were at this talk, this is my SFD)

“Everybody want more love, responsibility, success, etc. The only way to that is through vulnerability.”

– Brené Brown

The next session I attended was R “Ray” Wang’s wonderful presentation about Disrupting Digital Business. I’ve seen Ray speak a few times, and he never fails to impress. He said we are living in a post-sale, on-demand, attention economy. Using the iPhone as an example (a device that has destroyed 27 industries), Wang walked through 10 principles of digital disruption. He finished by explaining why and how companies need to adapt or be left behind. Companies need to automate many of the ‘backroom” details and focus on branding. Wang also illustrated how Amazon is infiltrating many new industries. We are seeing the breakdown between technology and content. 

After lunch on day two, the HubSpot founders Dharmesh Shah and Brian (or Brain) Halligan took the stage to announce major new initiatives that HubSpot will soon be launching. But before that happened, we were all treated to a little bit of an 8-bit video game adventure featuring the two visionaries. 
When Dharmesh took the stage, he took us through the history of the INBOUND event, and lead us into the community (and if you haven’t checked it out yet, you should do so now. Stop reading this and go register now!) He talked about the site being the home for the world’s best marketing content. The “best” content is determined by a vote each week by some of the brightest minds in marketing. There are three main areas where can benefit each of us:

  • Find the world’s best marketing content (700 pieces added every week)
  • Develop your career (or develop your team)
  • Create life-long connections

In the past year, the community has grown from 35,000 members to 100,000! An impressive increase for any site. 
Dharmesh then focused on some of the new innovations that HubSpot will be rolling out. He started this off by promoting that a company’s website should be one of its star marketers. 

“A google search is Inbound. You ask a question, and your answer is there.” 

– Dharmesh Shah

Dharmesh continued with the details of the new HubSpot offerings. I’ll leave that description to those that are better off explaining how these enhancements will better your particular business or industry. 

HubSpot co-founder and CEO Brian Halligan was next to take the stage. Brian continued on the message of “inbound for everyone” that Dharmesh had introduced. 

“We need to un-suck sales.”

 – Brian Halligan

Brian’s focus was on the Sales side of the house. The new innovations that he announced help to better the process and productivity of sales. We’ve all seen the SeriousDecisions stat that a majority of the sales cycle takes place before the prospect contacts the company. The customer is now in control. They don’t answer the phones. They don’t answer emails. Salespeople have to find a new way to engage the prospect. 

Brian continued to walk through the new Sales tools that are now available to HubSpot customers. As with Dharmesh’s presentation, I’ll leave the deep dive to others. 

As is a common occurrence, we did get to see Brian dance on stage. Congratulations to him for being able to dance for as long as he did without being more winded. I couldn’t have pulled it off. 

Brian finished with the announcement of HubSpot Connect. Through a couple of testimonials, he was able to demonstrate how this new feature will tie in with many other vendors. Many of them (Wistia, Eventbrite, Infer, Unbounce, and many more)  appeared on stage after the video testimonial. 

The final session of the day that I attended was led by Jeffrey Hayslett, a serial entrepreneur who has experience on The Apprentice as well as his own show. He just recently released a book about thinking big.

A majority of his presentation was about his time as CMO of Kodak. We’re all familiar with the fall of this once-powerful juggernaut. Jeffery told the story of how Kodak invented the digital camera in 1975. And when the executives said to kill the project, they issued the death knell for the company.

Kodak didn’t know what they did. They thought they were in the film business (and digital would destroy the film industry). But really they were in the memories industry. To illustrate this point, Jeffery pointed out that pictures are the only inanimate object a human would run into a fire to retrieve. 

Kodak didn’t know what its value proposition was, and because of this, they’re no longer a viable company. This lead to Jeffery’s next point of taking chances. He talked about how great leaders have to constantly be making choices. And they have to fulfill promises. Without that, it’s all just marketing fluff.

Day 3

Day 3 started off with the ever-excitable Aziz Ansari. Aziz sat down with the co-author of his book, sociologist Eric Klinenberg, to discuss how technology has changed how people interact.  

Online dating is now responsible for 1 in 3 new relationships (and 70% of same-sex relationships). In this regard, technology has opened up the dating pool in ways that weren’t available for past generations.

The downside to technology and relationships is that we have been desensitized when it comes to being a bad person. Aziz gave an example detailing that in the past if you had to cancel plans, you’d have to call the person up, explain yourself, and hear how it impacted that other person. Now you can just send a text message and not worry about it.

This all sounds clinical, but Aziz was very funny throughout the talk, often making fun of the tiny water cup that he was given. It was great to hear so many off-color jokes that early in the morning. A great way to open this day of the conference.

Next up I went to one of the Bold Talks sessions. This session featured Runa Magnus, Chris Brogan, and Alexandra Jamieson.

Runa Magnus is the author of Branding Your X-Factor. She discussed the fall of the Icelandic economy in 2008. And from that crisis, Iceland was able to rediscover its true essence. Her talk focused on authenticity and the power of being you.

Next up was a speaker I had wanted to see for a long time: Chris Brogan, CEO of Owner Media. He started by talking about how he wears Batman underwear for all of his presentations. Chris talked about how Marketing is still working from a 100-year-old playbook.

Though he was rushed, Chris told a story that illustrated the key takeaway to his presentation: Marketing can’t save a bad user experience. He told the story of a birthday cake being ruined for his 11-year-old soon-to-be stepdaughter. No amount of marketing is going to fix an 11-year-old’s messed up birthday party. Chris had a similarly bad situation with Southwest Airlines in 2007 and he has brought up that incident in his many talks since then. 

(If you’re not signed up for Chris’ weekly email, sign up now. It’s great.) 

The third and final presenter in this session was Alexandra Jamieson. She talked about how being a woman influences how you are as a leader.  The best part of Alexandra’s presentation was when she had the entire room stand up and hold the “Wonder Woman” pose. She explained how this raises your testosterone level (and libido). She recommended doing this before any meeting or potentially hard situation.

After a short break, we were treated to the stories of Marc Maron. Marc has been redefining the perception of podcasting. He sat down with Kara Miller and answered some questions. As someone who listens to most episodes of Marc’s podcast, WTF, it was a little strange to see him on the receiving end of a Q&A discussion.

They finished the conversation with one of the more newsworthy events in Marc’s recent life: interviewing President Barak Obama. I had heard this story a few times before, but each time Marc comes with more insights. And it’s always funny.

As is common with his interviews, Marc immediately does a self-evaluation asking his guest about the experience (Are we good?). This time he asked the crowd the same question. Feeling that he didn’t really address the crowd at hand, Marc jumped into self-help-guru mode. He jumped up and told the crowd, “You can be the best. You know that little voice that tells you you can’t do something? Don’t let that little F*ck win!”

Later in the day, I was able to attend Peg Fitzpatrick’s encore session on Visual Marketing (something very near and dear to me, just look at the top of my LinkedIn profile). Peg talked about how she first caught the attention of Guy Kawasaki. Long story short, it was her bright, eye-catching avatar.

Peg shared a bunch of stats to demonstrate the importance of visuals. 93% of communication is visual (HubSpot). She also shared some research from the New York Times Psychology of Sharing study. Most people aren’t creators, most are sharing. For example, 80% of the pins on Pinterest are repins.

“Strive for two things in design: simplicity and clarity. Great design is born of these two things”

– Lindon Leader

Victor Milligan is the CMO of Forrester, one of the most influential analyst firms. He focused a lot of his session on the need to transform the culture to get the best results. Loyalty structures are changing, and marketing needs to be the internal catalyst for companies to change.

To picture the CMO’s agenda over the next 12 months, think of a duck. Above the surface of the water, it’s calm and peaceful. But under the water, it’s working like a machine. Marketing must stay focused on those items that are visible to the outside world (strategic positioning, brand promise, customer experience, loyalty programs, participation programs) as well as what is happening internally (people, processes, culture, analytics, technologies, investment management, operating model). 

If you can change the culture, you can change the beliefs, norms, priorities, and instincts. If you make changes but don’t change the culture, the original issues will resurface.

I had the privilege of attending Jill Rowley’s social selling session. Though I’m not (officially) in sales, I’ve been a fan of Jill’s vision for a few years. She presented so many great points that I couldn’t believe how often the entire room would raise up their smartphones or iPads and take pictures of the slides. To me, that’s a sign of valuable content. 

As has been a common theme throughout the conference, Jill addressed how sales is still selling from the same 100-year-old playbook. But she noted that consumers have changed more in the past 10 years than in the previous 100.

“The best sales people aren’t on your payroll, they’re your customers.”

– Jill Rowley

Jill talked about how many salespeople don’t like social media because it’s noisy and chaotic. But what they should be looking at is social networking. Social networks provide three sales necessities: identity, relationships, and what the prospect cares about. If you can go into a question with these three questions already answered, you’ll be far ahead of your competition. 

After a packed happy hour, we were all treated to a performance by Amy Schumer (and I was happy to see her opener, Rachel Feinstein, too). One of the people I was sitting with had never heard of her, so it was great to see his reaction to her unique brand of humor. I won’t recap it here, but she has a new special coming out on HBO soon. Go watch it.

As someone who spends a lot of time watching stand-up comedy and listening to comedy podcasts, seeing Aziz Ansari, Marc Maron, and Amy Schumer in one day was pretty incredible.

Day 4

Is anyone still reading at this point? This is a really long post.

Anyway, Chelsea Clinton kicked off the fourth and final day of INBOUND. The former (and future?) first daughter talked about women’s rights. We spend a lot of time working on gender equality here in America, but there is a lot of work to do around the world. From lack of education to forced marriages, to lack of technology, we need to do more to help women’s rights.

In entertainment, women are rarely the hero. They speak about 20% of the lines that men speak, and they tend to wear less clothing. In terms of the pay gap, Chelsea prefers to look at the absolute numbers as opposed to the relative progress.

Mike Stelzner, founder of Social Media Examiner lead a packed session on monitoring social media marketing through Google Analytics. This session was wildly informative. The main goal is to determine how much of your web traffic is organic versus your social media efforts. There was a lot of “how to” training to get down in the dirt with Google Analytics. I’ve been a long-time user of GA, but there seems to be no end to the amount of information you can mine from there. This session was one that will make me jump into action the fastest.

HubSpot’s own Mike Griffin held an encore presentation featuring the importance of Twitter marketing. Some amazing stats that came from this session

  • Active users: 302 million
  • Mobile users: 80%
  • Tweets per day: 500 million
  • Accounts outside the US: 77%
  • Usage per month: 170 minutes
  • Largest user group: 18-29 (37%)
  • Most tweeted events (2014-2015): Super Bowl XLIX, 25.1 million tweets
  • Most tweeted series: The Walking Dead
  • Tweets containing a photo: 25%
  • Tweets that are replies: 68%
  • 7% of all public brand mentions on social media happen on Twitter
  • 31% of those mentions don’t use the brand handle

Finally, author Dan Pink wrapped up the conference with his session on sales transformation. He stated that with today’s technology, the old adage of “ABC: Always Be Closing” no longer works. The new ABCs of sales needs to be Attunement, Buoyancy, and Clarity. Sales people need to be empathetic towards their customers/prospects, they have to be buoyant to deal with “an ocean of rejection” every day, and they have to realize that the customer now has all of the information. In the past, only the experts (doctors, mechanics, etc.) had access to the information. Now we walk into their offices and tell them exactly what needs to be fixed, and how to fix it. 

Dan also talked about what type of person makes a good salesperson. Common sense dictates that extroverts would be the best salespeople. But that’s not the case. Ambiverts, or people in the middle of the introvert/extrovert spectrum, tend to succeed the most. People are turned off by extremes when it comes to personality. 

One thing I heard over and over again at this conference was to stop being a pushy salesperson. Dan added that a pitch is an invitation to a conversation. This ties in perfectly with his earlier message about sales shifting from “problem-solving” to “problem-finding.” As a salesperson, your job is to discover and illuminate your prospect’s problem, and then convince them to buy. 

All in all, it was an amazing conference. For my first INBOUND, I took away a lot of information that I’m looking to implement when I get back into the office (if not earlier).

And there was even an engagement. Now that’s dedication to INBOUND.

Below is a SlideShare compilation of the images I created to share and promote some of the great content that I heard. 

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