What We Took Away From INBOUND 2023 Marketing Conference
Looking for a fun take (and some takeaways) from HubSpot’s annual conference? It’s our first co-written blog (the Jen’s aka Jen squared aka Jen & Jen), and we’re hoping to give a peek into the fun-filled, information-overload that was INBOUND 2023. Take a trip with us as we offer two sides to this blog: Jen M and Jen W. Try to keep up!
Jen W: It’s fair to say I went to INBOUND excited and overwhelmed. I have been using the platform (every day) for 2 years and am constantly learning something new. At INBOUND, I had the chance to meet and talk with experts about what we are looking to do with the platform and learn even more things I did not think were possible.
The overwhelming part? The INBOUND App. My goal was to make the most of my three-day conference in Boston and the app was so feature-rich. I was able to see all sessions, register a week in advance for limited space sessions, and save it all to my calendar so that my day was scheduled before I arrived. There were over 100 sessions over three days -even John Mulaney, entertainment for night two of the conference, said it was the most over scheduled conference he has ever seen. Many sessions overlapped or were back-to-back, so I really had to choose and research which sessions I was most interested in. With all the planning ahead, I didn’t account for the sheer size of the Boston Convention Center. I left sessions early to allow time to walk three flights of stairs and across the convention center to get to the next session – that already had a line with people waiting to get in. My Apple watch hadn’t been this proud of my movement in a long time. With all that walking, I was able to reflect on the new information that I could not wait to put into action.
Jen M: I went into this year’s conference with wide eyes and excitement. It was (almost) like Christmas morning. I had a lot of trouble selecting the sessions I wanted to attend – each one was relevant to me in one way or another and as Jen W. said, many overlapped. With clients on both the B2B and B2C sides, I needed to cover a lot of ground. I had not been to a conference in a few years (thanks pandemic), so walking into INBOUND was very, very impressive.
By the time I found Jen W., she had made it through the partner booths, sharing the locations of the best swag (shout out to Hubspot for the most amazing 40oz tumbler; my hydration levels have been top-notch since leaving the conference). But more than the swag, the conference was a star-studded event. I was excited for Reese Witherspoon, but the highlight was a meet and greet with one of my favorite podcast’s co-hosts, Neil Patel and Eric Siu from Marketing School Podcast. While famous people were a highlight, the real meat and potatoes were in the sessions. So, let’s dive in…
HubSpot’s new features promise more productivity
The biggest platform announcements happened during the opening session of INBOUND 2023, where they unveiled HubSpot AI — a multitude of AI-powered features within the HubSpot platform including:
- AI Assistants – Comprehensive tools that aid in content drafting, image creation, blog brainstorming, website building, and instant report generation across the HubSpot platform.
- AI Agents – Automated live chat and email features to help small and medium-sized businesses elevate customer service assistance via live chat and email. (Coming early 2024)
- AI Insights – Predictive AI features to better analyze and provide recommendations and forecasting.
- ChatSpot – Use the power of ChatGPT, and dozens of data sources (like your HubSpot CRM) to provide powerful generative AI capabilities. Connect with your HubSpot CRM to get summaries of your data, company performance, and directly add notes and to-dos in contacts
They also announced a revamp of Sales Hub features, including:
- Prospecting Workspace: A unified platform dedicated to helping sales reps streamline daily sales activities. It also provides an overview of tasks, sequences, meetings and more to help reps enhance efficiency and customer connections.
- Advanced Lead Management and Reporting: Enhanced organization, tracking, and visibility into leads to benefit both sales and marketing teams. New features include lead source and contact rate reports for better insights, and prospecting activities reports for an overview of sales outreach metrics to better understand sales effectiveness.
- Intelligent Deal Management: Predictive AI for future sales opportunities, deal insights to better understand pipeline health, and deal tags to help categorize and prioritize deals efficiently.
- Seamless Scheduling and Handoffs: The option to book meetings on behalf of others, and automated lead form routing.
- Expansion of LinkedIn Integration: Now HubSpot will synchronize with LinkedIn Sales Navigator for smarter prospecting and relationship building.
Jen M: I don’t use HubSpot every day but know clients and coworkers who do. The more I use HubSpot, the more I understand the benefit of adding ALL marketing, sales, and customer data into it, and this latest feature release is no exception. The more information HubSpot customers add, the better predictions and analysis they will get. I am most excited to try out ChatSpot and AI Assistants to quickly create campaigns from start to finish, and see if the reporting analysis is valuable and actionable. My concern is that the recommendations from the AI reporting features will be like recommendations seen in Google and Meta ads platforms, which I do not always find helpful.
Jen W: Let me put it this way…20 minutes after the kick-off presentation where they talked all about AI (AI actually felt like the theme for almost every presentation at INBOUND), I had an email from a sales rep telling me about this cool new tool, ChatSpot, and why we should explore how the sales team can use it. While the addition of generative AI tools did not surprise me, the way that it is being integrated into the platform is great. They are easy to find and provide good suggestions. I am looking forward to ChatSpot getting better with reporting. The concept of telling the bot what you are looking for and then it quickly creates a report for you, with the analysis you need to start adjusting, is a game changer for strategic marketers. I am also looking forward to using the campaign builder they teased for 2024 that would be able to create an entire multi-touch campaign with landing pages, emails, and ads with a few prompts. Think of the support and time this will save so that campaigns can go from concept to execution faster!
While AI isn’t a threat to your position, it is a tool to boost your productivity. Those who do not leverage this opportunity may eventually be replaced by someone who does.
Jen M: The evolution of ChatGPT changed the content game. We see Google actively making changes to their algorithm based on this evolution, and warning content production teams that content should still be focused on quality over quantity. At least from the content perspective, AI can help boost your ability to create a great piece but it still needs to be proofed and given a final edit by a human. I would venture to guess there is an 80/20 rule in effect when it comes to AI…it can get you most of the way, but you still need to take the time to review it to be effective.
Jen W: I agree with Jen M on the 80/20 point. These generative AI platforms are not the answer – they are the tool. Learning these tools and leveraging them is key. I also look at this with another lens, and the power in understanding and using AI is not just for writing words and creating cool pictures, but also for reporting, development, and forecasting. Building marketing reports can be a long, and sometimes manual process. Having AI as a tool will enable marketers to understand more about clients and prospects, so teams can be more strategic with timing and messaging.
Focus on customer adoption
It is not just about getting users onboard; it is about ensuring they are actively engaged, successful, and find benefits using your product. Base your KPIs on clear indicators of success. These metrics act as beacons, highlighting where customers might face challenges. With this information, companies can seamlessly introduce timely tutorials, touch points, insights, or make necessary product adjustments. The goal is to provide the right support at the best moment, before it is too late. It’s not about just gaining users; it’s about nurturing and retaining a community of loyal customers.
Jen M: In B2B, most of my work is done in pre-onboarding phases, so this was interesting. We outline what customer success looks like with many B2B clients, but it is usually up to the client to create and implement the process (unless they opt to have our team be included). This is a little different in B2C, since we engage customers on an ongoing basis to create higher CLVs (customer lifetime value) and repeat orders.
Jen W: Most of my focus is on net new customer acquisition, but we rely heavily on testimonials and feedback from customers in our marketing efforts. There is a lot to be said for companies that can build brand loyalty with customers. Even in a B2B world, we speak with the account managers about what we can do to keep our clients informed, engaged, and delighted.
Get everyone on the same page for operational success
Reporting can be painful and confusing, but it is necessary to understand the success of a company. Often teams are leveraging KPIs that are important to their department, but not to the overall company. This can result in departmental silos and goals.
To help bring everyone together in operational bliss:
- Agree on consistent sources of truth when it comes to data: what platforms should be used to report metrics? Pick one and use it on an ongoing basis to create a consistent reporting structure.
- KPIs should flow upward to create company-wide progress reports. Departmental KPIs should plug into a bigger equation to determine the success of the overall company.
- Use common language and methodologies: Create companywide definitions for common terms so everyone is on the same page.
Jen W: I love Microsoft Excel for reporting – I may be in the minority here. Reporting always feels like a moving target for me. There are so many reports that I create with variations or different graphical representations. I started to do a lot more with HubSpot reports and am really enjoying it. As I said above, I would love to understand ChatSpot more to see how we can all use the same data to create reports that resonate with separate groups.
Jen M: Reporting looks different depending on what department you speak to – so the “painful and confusing” point is completely accurate. For our digital marketing retainer clients, we discuss which KPIs are important to their teams, and how we can create goals based on these KPIs. Since we often work with marketing teams or specific departments within a company, we may not be able to see these KPIs flow upward, but make recommendations to help the company determine success. As a team (Hammer Marketing), we create standard reporting sources. We love Looker Studio, formerly Data Studio, because it allows for seamless integration with all Google-based products and provides plugins for many popular marketing platforms. Additionally, teams can use our reports and dashboards as a starting point, as they can be exported into raw data, or sources can be pulled into other popular reporting platforms like Power BI and Tableau if needed.
Companies need to be human
Companies are trying too hard to be perfect. Consumers and businesses want to be spoken to like humans. Whether it’s website or marketing content, customers are interacting more with businesses that have a human feel. Marketing is shifting from writing sterile copy written in third person professional speak to a first person narrative that is not afraid to use conjunctions and local slang or colorful content to show human emotion.
For many years there has been a push for businesses to really tell their story. It isn’t about the services offered or products sold, but how those offerings can impact buyers. It is about invoking a feeling when customers think about the brand. Who hasn’t bought something they really didn’t need but was persuaded by the story?
Jen M: This is a fitting example when considering short form content, like TikTok. It can be for any company – and it does not have to be perfect. I’ve spent hours (sometimes days) on a Reel or TikTok that often ends up being another tile on the grid, quickly forgotten about, because it had to be perfectly curated. INBOUND sessions amplified the idea that sometimes, especially in short form video marketing, companies need to drop the video shoot and focus on reality.
Jen W: In a B2B world this has always been a struggle for me. The messaging is always buttoned up and formal. Speaking in the first person is reserved for blogs, but I am feeling a change. We have been working on storytelling for years (I have Cisco presentations about this topic from 2010) but we still viewed it with an extremely professional lens. I think allowing our brand to be a real person’s voice is an exciting step.
Let’s Wrap It up
Jen W: It has been a month, and I am still digesting all the information. It was a great conference and there were so many amazing presenters that I learned from. I have more than 30 presentations I am still referencing, and applying some lessons to my ongoing marketing. My biggest takeaway was there are so many people out there who have the same struggles as I do, and so many I can continually learn from. Building a community is a powerful thing. Thank you HubSpot for unintentionally (probably fully intentionally) facilitating such a smart and vibrant one.
Jen M: It’s been a month? It seems like just yesterday we were at INBOUND! When I first returned, I was sifting through presentations and notes, excited to put ideas into action. I find myself pulling information from the sessions I attended at INBOUND frequently, specifically information on “companies need to be human” and using AI to help you do your job better. I have explored a few of the new HubSpot features, but look forward to digging in more, in time for the next INBOUND!
Do you want to know more about the HubSpot platform, or how Jen2 is using all of the knowledge they’ve learned? Reach out to us at Hammer Marketing and we’ll keep you updated!