So I just saw my fourth keynote from Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, founders of HubSpot, at this year’s Inbound conference. Listening to Brian and Dharmesh is always a bit like looking into a crystal ball on the History Channel. You get a tremendous viewpoint of what’s going to happen, all within the context of what has happened.
It’s also an opportunity to hear about the big product updates that HubSpot is rolling out. While I’ve never been to an Apple product launch event, I like to think of Inbound as a slightly less popular version.
This year two things were different. Where it’s typically Brian and Dharmesh that share the product announcements as a part of the keynote, their Inbound 2016 keynote did not have any product announcements. Instead they made the product announcements a breakout session where their Products VP, Chris O’Donell, announced the news. And the big news is...well there wasn’t any really. And, while I like the excitement of major product announcements, I think the lack of them is good news and an important lesson for marketers, demand generators and sales executives.
What’s New with HubSpot
I usually use this post to highlight the new products and features that were announced. While several new features were announced, in this post I’m going to focus on the three key areas the they impact.
A while back, I had a coach who liked to use a theatre analogy to describe business processes. He talked of the “front stage” and the “back stage.” The front stage is everything that happens in front of the customer - it’s the focus of what your business does. The back stage focuses on all of the things outside of the view of the customer. The focus of these processes is to ensure that the front stage experience is delightful.
For years, Inbound product announcements focused primarily on front stage components. The problem was that as magnificent as the HubSpot platform has become (and it is truly magnificent), the back stage components weren’t keeping up.
HubSpot has made major investments into the stability of their products. They’ve gone through tremendous growth of the user base, and frankly users were beginning to be able to tell. The growth of HubSpot on both the marketing and sales products is good for users, as the ability to achieve a leadership position in this fast growing market is crucial to sustainability.
However, the user base growth was creating meaningful disruption for users of the product. The investments and improvements into the backbone of the product are far less sexy and exciting, but are crucial to the successful adoption of demand generation strategies.
2. User Interface and Intuitiveness
While I’ve always found the HubSpot platform to be very easy to use, its user interface was more function that form. As new features got added and as users did more with the platform this caused the product to feel clunky (even though it wasn’t) and to feel complicated.
Most aspects of the platform got a complete makeover, and the result is marvelous (where’s Billy Crystal when you need him). The interface is now not only beautiful to look at, it’s once again easy to use. While there are still some older areas that are in need of an interface refresh, the improvements make the platform much more of a joy to work with.
3. Continuing to Integrate Marketing and Sales
Companies that use the marketing and sales products are going to be very happy with some of the new features. From instant chat with an appropriate salesperson, a prospect being able to schedule a meeting from a web page or the ability to have the CRM capture more activity, information and insights without having to actually be in the CRM the product continues to put more power in the hands of users.
They’ve also announced better integrations between marketing automation and sales cadences that gives companies the ability to leverage efforts and salespeople to be more productive.
The Big Lesson From This Year’s Announcements
I’ve been thinking about this next point for quite some time. Simply put, the “big” technology advancements are, for all practical purposes, a thing of the past. When marketing automation first came to the forefront, it was a transformational home run. CRM, auto dialers and much of the sales force automation products introduced over the last two decades were equally transformational.
These technologies allowed business of all shapes and sizes to gain the benefits of scale and to do things that literally could not be done before. While the term “game-changer” is overused, these technologies lived up to the term.
Now the game has been changed. The focus today (for those that have already adopted the base growth stack) is optimization. The technology that is being rolled out is just as amazing (from a technologist's perspective) as earlier products were, but they're not as big.
Today you need to stop looking for “home runs” with technologies and processes, and instead focus on valuable singles and doubles (or even walks). Today I will be speaking at the Inbound conference on the subject of sales enablement. A core part of sales enablement is optimizing your technology stack, with key outcomes and processes to drive greater productivity at lower costs.
The actions aren’t as exciting upon first glance as when I first got to tell prospects about the promise of website personalizations, the ability to gain data on individual behavior and to drive lead generation at a velocity you couldn’t have even dreamed about before, but they’re just valuable if not more so.
There are two takeaways you should grab from this lesson:
- For those that have adopted the base growth stack (CRM, Sales Acceleration and Marketing Automation), your job is to focus on optimizing your demand generation process.
- For those that aren’t doing the basics, you had better jump on the bandwagon now. While the product announcements aren’t as exciting, your competitors that are focusing on demand generation are going to start optimizing, and pretty soon they’ll have a head start that you won’t be able to catch up to.