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5 Important Takeaways From Inbound15

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Sep 14, 2015 1:00:00 PM

Just getting back into the swing of things after spending last week at the Inbound 2015 conference. Kudos for HubSpot for putting on another great show, party and educational conference. As I told several people on the last day, you know it’s been good when you’re a zombie on the last day, and that was definitely the case this year.

So, what do you do when you get back from a gathering of 14,000 kindred spirits? Why you review your key takeaways and share them in a blog post, of course.

Over the last several years, “inbound marketing” as a concept has gone from the vanguard to a relatively common idea. As such, it’s no surprise to see the nature of the conference to head that movement change a bit as well. With a couple of days to ponder, here are my five key takeaways.

Inbound is about more than marketing

It was a small statement, but for me it came with a big punch. In his keynote, Dharmesh Shah, co-founder and CTO, said “Inbound is a philosophy.” For the last year, I’ve been saying the same thing. I caution clients (and other practitioners) that inbound is a philosophy, not a methodology.

Inbound is a way of conducting business. It’s about valuing – truly valuing – your customer (and your employees) and putting them at the center. It’s about creating value before you make any attempt to extract value. It puts “doing good” and “doing well” in alignment.

All you needed to do was look at the keynoters to realize that the inbound movement has moved beyond just marketing.

  • Brené Brown leading off the conference with her approach on dealing with failure and vulnerability.
  • Aziz Ansari talking about how technology has changed how relationships form (and making us laugh a great deal in the process).
  • Chelsea Clinton sharing the progress and barriers to women’s rights around the world.
  • Even the Inbound Rocks entertainment brought the message of social change with Amy Schumer.
  • Even Seth Godin’s keynote was more about change than marketing.

Additionally, the agenda was ripe with topics that extended inbound beyond just marketing. Whether you’re looking at recruiting, customer service, finance or any other business discipline, the inbound philosophy is taking root.

Inbound marketing is getting increasingly complex

Ah, the good old days when inbound marketing meant blogging, putting up some landing pages, writing an ebook and letting the rest take care of itself.

Of course it was never quite that simple, but today a successful inbound methodology requires all of that, plus:

  • Developing a clear strategy for ads, PPC and other traffic techniques.
  • Managing a multitude of tools to support online and offline tactics to form an integrated, holistic demand generation process.
  • Integrating lead generation and lead management tools with sales tools and platforms.

I could go on. A quick look at the enhancements that HubSpot announced at the conference will give you an understanding into the growing complexity associated with success today.

The bottom line is that big data, technological enhancements and the evolution of how buyers buy means that if you haven’t built out a clear demand generation process, your ability to sustain growth is becoming increasingly limited. The days of just being opportunistic are no longer enough to drive long-term success.

If you’re not using technology, you’re falling far, far behind

At first I wasn’t going to write this down as a takeaway. After all, who isn’t using technology today?

The sad truth is that a lot of companies aren’t. Later this year, we will be releasing a guide for mid-market companies to outline the sales/marketing technology stack. If you’re not familiar with the term “the stack,” you’d better familiarize yourself quickly.

Consider this, less than 10% of companies are using marketing automation software. Everyday I’m shocked by how many salespeople I meet that aren’t utilizing a CRM consistently. And I’m regularly depressed when I begin conversations with executives only to learn they have little to no data needed to assess and improve the go-to-market efforts. And don’t get me started on the antiquated platforms most mid-market companies have their websites built on. And that’s the core stuff!!

Don’t get me wrong, technology without process and strategy is a complete waste of money. But – and it’s a BIG but – you simply cannot do everything that needs to be done without a modern approach to technology utilization.

Familiarize yourself with the technology that’s out there and develop a plan to utilize it effectively…if you want to grow profitably.

Marketing is embracing sales more

I was excited to see the number of sessions that related to sales and sales development at the conference. Even more exciting was to see many of those sessions filled with engaged audiences.

A couple of years ago I think there would have been complaints about the sessions and today there’s excitement.

In my session on integrating sales development with inbound marketing, I was pleased with the quality of the questions and comments I got. I can see that marketers are working hard to take what they’re doing with inbound marketing and push it through to the sales team. All good stuff.

There’s still a lot to learn and a lot of plumbing and process to be addressed, but the motivation is greater than I have ever seen.

The sales world has a lot of catching up to do

I’ve make no secret that I come from a sales background and consider myself a salesperson above any other role. For years, I felt good that the sales side of the house was leading the effort and driving innovation. I often felt that marketing was behind the curve, and while it provided important capabilities, it needed sales to keep it grounded in reality.

I no longer feel that way. Marketing leaders and departments have leapfrogged most sales organizations when it comes to understanding what has to happen to drive real revenue growth.

Sales has a lot of catching up to do. While marketers have made tremendous strides in understanding what’s happening in a “day in the life” of their sales teams; far, far too many sales leaders still do not understand the role or importance of modern marketing.

If you’re leading a sales team or a company, you simply must understand how the world of marketing has changed. You must embrace the fact that the customer controls the process, and an established, modern marketing process gives your sales team greater leverage than any other strategy you have available. Stop hiring salespeople to focus on the bottom of the funnel when what you really need to do is add more resources to address the top and the middle of the funnel, and then change the way your salespeople handle opportunities.

With Inbound15 in the books, I look forward to how these trends take hold and what new ones emerge.  Were you at Inbound?  Share your takeaways in the comments.

Executives-Guide-To-Winning-Sales