It’s The Customer, Stupid & Other Takeaways from INBOUND 2018

We were among the 24,000+ descending on Boston last week for HubSpot's annual marketing conference. Over four days, we joined participants from 100+ countries to deepen our knowledge in marketing, selling and delighting customers in an INBOUND way.

This year’s event focused on the customer, as did most sessions, which were led by a diverse lineup of over 250 speakers. Gender parity is 50-50 across all content and women of color comprised 67% of women keynoters, half of Spotlight speakers and 35% of women speakers overall. 

Roughly 65% of those attending INBOUND are female and HubSpot led by example, delighting their customers – us attendees. Here are some of our major takeaways from the event: 

Flywheel killed the marketing funnel 

HubSpot unveiled their new flywheel framework for better attracting, engaging and delighting buyers. In a keynote address, Co-Founder and CEO Brian Halligan talked about the big era shifts going on in the marketplace; “We’ve moved from an era where the best product always wins, to where the best customer experience usually always wins.” The flywheel framework aims to better address the customer experience by breaking their journey into four parts: 

  • Attract – Prospects first interaction with a company wherein they should be educated with content and there shouldn’t be any barriers that hinder their ability to gather the information they need
  • Engage – Engage with consumers on their terms and make decision making and purchasing as easy as possible
  • Delight – Customer success = business success. Customers promote your company
  • Customers – The center of it all. Businesses should remove any friction impeding customer success, which ultimately fuels growth for both themselves and their customers 

The customer code 

Customers are our greatest source of growth, but they’re more independent, impatient and less trusting of business than ever before. In another keynote, Co-Founder and CTO Dharmesh Shah shared HubSpot’s Customer Code, their rules to help companies better focus on their customers, so as to ensure they’re meeting their needs. The code scores companies on the following:

  1. Earn their attention, don’t steal it
  2. Treat them like a person, not a persona
  3. Solve for their success, not your company’s systems
  4. Use their data, but don’t abuse it
  5. Ask for customer feedback and act on it
  6. Own your screw ups
  7. Help customers help you by letting them help themselves
  8. Customers don’t mind paying, but do mind being played
  9. Don’t block the exit
  10. Do the right thing, even when it’s hard

Rallying around what they call “growth with a conscience”, HubSpot says that by focusing on your customers, your business will grow more.  

Connecting with your customer

There were more than 300 sessions, but the ones we attended largely remained focused on some variation of the customer and why it’s important to connect with them, which then moves the sales and marketing needle. Some speakers emphasized the magnitude of remembering that customers are humans. They’re people first and buyers second. Thus, focusing on what needs your product meets is more advantageous than focusing on its features.

You have an interesting story to tell, regardless of your business type said Lisa Gerber, Founder of Big Leap Creative. In one session, she explained brands can trigger oxytocin – the “love drug” – with a good story. Good stories have the power to get attention, create anticipation, establish empathy and develop feelings of familiarity and trust. And in another session, Marcus Sheridan explained that it all comes down to trust. When you produce content that addresses people’s fears and concerns, content people care about, consumption explodes. This is partially to do with visuals and Prezi’s David Hooker said the way images are portrayed impacts the amount of content we consume. For example, men like to see heroes in their images, while women like to see faces. What’s important is that you speak your customers language.

This year’s INBOUND reflected the shifts we’re experiencing in culture and business. And at a time when advances in AI, machine learning and other technologies are extremely exciting, it reminded us to not lose sight of what’s really most important – our customers.

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