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Key Takeaways from INBOUND18

By September 10, 2018June 3rd, 2019No Comments

Aubrey is Director of Digital Strategy at PMG. She is known for uncovering digital content strategies and distribution paths that generate demand. Aubrey works with tech companies and B2B organizations to identify a unique brand voice, uncover opportunities in the market, and develop digital strategies that drive demand.

Just back from HubSpot’s 2018 INBOUND conference in Boston and excited to share some of the top takeaways from this year’s keynotes and breakout sessions.

From HubSpot revealing its shift away from the sales funnel to the flywheel, and words of wisdom from Deepak Chopra and Beth Comstock, to all of the latest marketing must-knows from some of the country’s top marketing minds, this was another amazing year of learning and networking courtesy of the HubSpot and INBOUND teams.


Deepak Chopra

So glad the team at HubSpot decided to open INBOUND with words of wisdom from Deepak Chopra. Deepak spoke about harmony in systems and the three qualities that the most successful organizations and teams share:

    • Shared vision
    • Complementing strengths
  • Emotional connection

He went on to explain the nature of constant change and how our bodies and minds are not nouns, but rather verbs that are in a state of constant change. This translates directly to business teams, office cultures and organizations on the whole.

Kicking off INBOUND in a shared, guided meditation with some 15,000+ people attuning their minds and bodies to present moment awareness was powerful.

Biggest takeaway: The mind is an experience in our awareness. 


Beth Comstock

We’ve moved from linear to emergent change models and our machine-based systems have made it so that we’re not ready to handle the complexities of emergent change. There is an imagination gap that must be addressed.

So how can we overcome the imagination gap? We have to imagine things forward:

    • Give yourself permission to imagine a better future
    • Prioritize discovery
  • Take the steps to make it happen

We can’t spend all of time “imagining things forward” or nothing gets done to get us there. So Beth uses the 70/20/10 rule:

70% of time is focused on NOW

20% focused on what’s NEXT

10% of time discovering/uncovering the NEW

She also spoke about how visionaries prioritize agitated inquiry: “tell me something I don’t want to hear.” The goal is to learn something new, not prove your idea.

Biggest takeaway: If failure is not an option, then neither is success.


Michael Redbord

HubSpot’s Service Hub General Manager talked through the intricacies of scaling the customer service experience from the startup phase on up through IPO.

Founding 0-5 employees 

In the startup phase of a company, the founder and developers (everyone) should be involved in customer service in an “all hands on deck” approach because support in and of itself is not the end goal, but rather a learning opportunity and research tool to help you make a better product.

  • Customer feedback is key asset
  • DO set up simple workflow to manage customer requests. Michaels suggested a shared Gmail inbox
  • DO involve entire team in helping solve customer problems
  • DON’T optimize for efficiency at this point (no bots or hacked workarounds)

Early 5-20 employees

In this early phase, your team will want to add one specialized support person to assist the rest of the team. A big issue here can happen with a loss of information fidelity so you want to avoid processes that could inadvertently silo the information streaming in from customer requests.

  • DO get your communication channels under control by adding a touch of process
  • DO start thinking about basic self-service (FAQ, knowledge base, etc.)
  • DON’T lose a focus on the customer by creating unnecessary distance between customers and support (AKA this is not the time for sophisticated models or shiny new support tools)

Mid 20-100 employees 

In this mid-stage phase a mindset change is needed. Support is likely beginning to operate in survival mode (reactive) but needs to move into leadership mode (proactive.) This is why it’s important that the support team gets more air time at company meetings at this point. You want to pick your support channels deliberately based on how you deliver your best service. And then you want to communicate this clearly with your customers across your website and social channels.

  • DO be intentional about what you measure (“zeroing our queue” VS customer happiness)
  • DO start a knowledge base
  • DO watch for DIY ticketing fixes / frankensteining
  • DON’T allow your customer team to become a buffer between your company and the customer or you risk losing the voice of your customer

Growth 100- 250 employees

In the growth phase you need to begin investing in permanent systems, as well as hire customer success managers and a VP of Support & Success to support your service team.

  • DO give customer leader a revenue target (land & expand, cross-sell, retention, etc.)
  • DO establish models, not just metrics
  • DON’T ignore customer team culture. Cynicism, isolation (physical location & organization), and “process over people” can creep in very easily.

Scale 250+

In the scaling stage a primary tension creeps up in the “serving our customers costs us money” BUT it also generates revenue. This is something to be aware of as a leader of customer service in a scaling stage company.

  • DO create predictability around team growth, individual performance and management scale
  • DO cut costs by automating

Biggest takeaway: When you’re a startup, marketing is your voice, but when you’re a scale-up, customers are your voice.


Wesley ter Haar

Wow. Wesley is the founder and COO of MediaMonks (recipient of 122 Cannes Lions) and gave one of the most fascinating talks at INBOUND this year. He covered an impressive swath of topics into his trend-based presentation and somehow managed to cover everything from AI (artificial intelligence), CX (customer experience), AR (augmented reality), video targeting, the effects of voice search on SEO, machine learning, and Amazon as an ad platform.

He broke his presentation on trends into 3 categories: NOW, NEAR & NEXT

2000-2008 were all about microsites
2008-2012 were all about mobile apps
2012-2016 were all about social media
NOW we’re in the age of ecosystem and experience 

  • Social media is for video distribution.
  • Campaigns are for content.
  • Apps are for service.
  • .com is for brand

Brands are finding successes creating “one-to-one-to-many” experiences for influencers AND one-to-many experiences by way of LIVE videos.


  • Mixed reality, AR specifically is exploding.
  • More than 50% of search will be machine to machine search.
  • Language as the interface. Talk technology and assistants (Alexa, etc.) will prove to be an existential threat to Search. Amazon owns the ecosystem and has 12 brands (including #3 seller of diapers). Think about someone simply asking Alexa “buy me mouthwash” without indicating a brand. Amazon has the power to sell and ship that consumer its own in-house brand. SEO won’t play a part in that purchase decision.
  • Targeting is going the way of affinity (interests) NOT demographics.
  • Developing personalized paths to conversion and creating context through content.
  • Empathy + Engineering to meet consumer expectations in CX.


  • 5G is 100x faster than 4G, but digital’s next billion users will be from less economically advanced countries (slower phones)
  • Amazon as an ad platform
  • Chinese tech giants (Alibaba, Tencent) set to win the AI race
  • Blockchain

Biggest takeaway: The interface is now the brand. CX over UX. Brand experience now trumps brand love.


Janessa Lantz

Janessa is a Senior Manager of Communications at HubSpot with a specific focus on publishing content via Medium. She offered a ton of insight on getting started with publishing on the platform, best practices and a rundown on the pros and cons of using Medium.

  • Medium is one of the only outlets where long form content can go viral
  • Because Medium is a social network (not a CMS), the algorithm rules everything
  • Medium is optimized for discovery mode
  • Medium is a supplement to an existing search program.
  • On Medium “claps” are “likes” and the Medium formula is that 50 fans (not claps) in 24 hours offers the opportunity to go viral

On Medium, early promotion is the KEY

So you’ll want to:

  1. Tap into your social network
  2. Ask your biggest fans to “fan” and “clap” for content within first 24 hours


  • No google analytics tracking
  • Limited data visibility

But, you get to access Medium’s great SEO clout and earn one backlink per article you post.

Biggest takeaway: Medium is a great platform for starting to get ideas out there that have NO or LOW search volume.


Dharmesh Shah

Dharmesh is the founder and CTO of HubSpot. He discussed the concept of selling experiences over products. Companies need to develop a delightful, differentiated customer experience that people love. For example, Starbucks doesn’t sell coffee, it sells the experience of relaxing and recharging. Amazon sells the experience of buying things.

His big talking points were:

  1. Earn my attention, don’t steal it (85% of consumers say their opinion of a company lowers when they receive permission-free outreach.)
  2. Own your screw ups and make it better.
  3. Be open and transparent with your pricing. “I don’t mind paying but I don’t want to be played.” is the current state of consumer mindset. 75% of consumers will look for alternative provider when pricing is absent from a website.
  4. Don’t block the exit. Let people cancel your service or make a return if they choose. And make it easy!

Biggest takeaway: Solve for customer success, not your problem.


Alison Elworthy

Alison is VP of Customer Success at HubSpot talked about how to evolve your customer success strategy to fuel company growth. She discussed how customer success is evolving, and because companies are typically so focused on using sales and marketing to grow, one of the most overlooked growth levers you can pull in terms of ROI is your customers. You need to invest first in your customers to get the best return for the business and to achieve new growth.
    • The flywheel is the result of researching the way people buy things and it’s just not sustainable to run a funnel-based business anymore. Customers don’t trust businesses anymore, they are reaching out to friends and colleagues to make purchasing decisions. Landing new business depends on having delighted customers.
    • Customer acquisition costs are getting higher and the process is getting more complex.
    • Customer satisfaction is everyone’s job and every touchpoint in the experience counts.
    • Growing companies are more likely to prioritize customer success. There’s a difference between customer support and customer success, which focuses on customer value. Companies need to work proactively to enable customer success, using data to focus on customers that look unhappy or likely to churn.
    • The team should have OKRs related to customer success, and there should be a singular customer journey map. It includes all the points of the customer lifecycle, and provides guardrails for each team on when, why, and how they should be reaching out to the customer.
  • Hubspot reviews “Sharp Edges,” which are pain points in the customer journey. They review them and decide what to invest in changing.

Biggest takeaway: Companies need to start treating their customers as a go-to-market lever. They need to double-down on their customers, making their entire business customer-first. Delighting customers activates the flywheel, helping them help your business.


Frank Maguire


Frank is an expert in video advertising and ran through new statistics and best practices for using video in your digital marketing mix.

  • Most people ~80% are watching videos with the sound OFF
  • The first 7 seconds and the video headline are most vital to consumer engagement
  • Context words trigger action in viewers—“brain bait” vs clickbait. (see the photo above!)


  • Text overlay
  • Mention brand in first 5 seconds
  • Keep it short
  • Get straight to the point
  • Grab attention fast
  • Lead with headline
  • Captions improve completion rate by 28%

Biggest takeaway: To see examples of two publishers that are doing video right check out BuzzFeed Tasty and NowThis news. 


Victor Milligan

Victor is the CMO at Forrester and discussed how the demands of today’s empowered customers are raising the bar for CMOs, requiring them to step up as leaders of growth.

Change is happening at an exponential rate. The role of the CMO is changing and today’s CMOs need to understand shifting market forces or they’ll be replaced with growth officers.

Advertising has things backwards. It’s not about what human beings can do for us, it’s about what we can do for them. Especially in this time when human beings are inoculating themselves against companies. So it’s time to operationalize empathy.

The days of cheap scale are over, there’s no more blood in the stone. It’s about individualization and 64% of CMOs are not using AI yet for personalization.

Biggest takeaway: Disruption is the new normal and you can’t play defense in a market of this nature


Tony Chatman

Tony is a corporate relationship expert and discussed how to lead in the disruption of change and how to accelerate the mind shift an individual or organization must make to embrace change.
      • Organizations don’t go through disruption. People do.
    • During disruption, you lose your comfort zone. So how do you manage disruption?
        • Take a hit: Give and be patient, have the most grace when people deserve it the least.
        • Leverage opinion leaders: In every organization there are people with the title, and the people with the respect of their peers. Become allies with them. The person with the candy dish so to speak.
      • Overcommunicate: People under stress remember less. Communicate frequently.

Biggest takeaway: When 5% of people at an organization adopt a change it’s embedded. When 20% adopt it, it’s unstoppable.


Well, another amazing INBOUND conference is on the books and I’d like to thank the team at INBOUND and HubSpot, as well as all the speakers who took the time and made the effort to deliver an engaging, informative, and creativity-inspiring week.

What were your favorite sessions from this year’s INBOUND?
Connect with me on Twitter @avantvoice using #INBOUND18 or send a note to [email protected]