HubSpot’s Annual Conference for all-things Inbound Marketing was held September 25-28, 2017 this year in Boston, Massachusetts. We attended with 20,000 other adoring marketers from over 60 countries who converged en mass in MA to learn all things MA (marketing automation that is).

It would be easy to focus on keynote speeches from people such as Former First Lady Michelle Obama, Billie Jean King, Brene Brown, Bozoma Saint John, or the stand up comedy of Judd Apatow or Tiffany Haddish. No doubt, they were mind blowing. But here are the really cool things we learned:

1. The times they are a changing

The only thing that could have made this more obvious is if Bob Dylan had come and sang the song himself. We all know the importance of the buyer journey and mapping it to your digital presence. We all know the stat that customers are 70% of the way through their buying process before you hear from the. We know that search and a website is part of the sales process. But people are now actually doing something about it. They aren’t just talking any more about tools and “awesome storytelling.” People are actually executing. And those companies that choose to ignore this likely won’t be here five years from now.

2. The real definition of inbound marketing

This term has been bounced around for awhile now. Most small business owners are struggling with the most cost effective and efficient way to generate leads now that cold calling and sheer sales person brute force are gaining poorer and poorer results. Any sales team today knows that their efforts need to be augmented by inbound marketing which by definition is “creating a helpful environment for a prospect when they check you out online.”

But for those agencies doing this work properly, and not just convincing customers to build a “prettier website” or throw more money at SEO, the real definition of inbound is this…

Performance-based marketing

Performance-based marketing is not some new lingo that should be tossed around lightly. It is what business owners are demanding but they don’t know how to get there because this is not easy and nor for the faint of heart. If you only want to spend $5,000 making your website prettier, this concept is not for you. But make no mistake, performance-based marketing will transform your business and your sales process. Having the right front-end digital solution for prospective customers means investing time, money and resources to do it properly.

Here is what a really good performance-based marketing program should be:

  1. A strong story that can be applied across all digital mediums about what makes you different and why people should choose you.
  2. A documented buyer persona and buyer journey map about what people do when they go through the process of solving a business problem directly.
  3. A strong conversion path mapped to a website and digital tools that reflects buyer person content and the buyer journey
  4. Marketing technology tools such as a content management system, marketing automation platform and email marketing tracking that can generate the right data for you to see if it’s performing.
  5. Heavy involvement from a sales team with respect to customer feedback, sales process and sales tracking to ensure that the leads you are driving and nurturing online are turning into the right sales for the company.

In order to deliver on this, you need a process, people and money to do this correctly. It is a 12 month exercise if you are just getting started and you will invest in this in the same way you invest in a sales person over a 12 month period, both in terms of money, coaching and time you spend. But the outcome is that it will pay off in ways that random marketing tactics or a prettier website, NEVER WILL.

3. HubSpot wants to own the desktop of marketing and sales professionals

The coolest thing, in my opinion, that HubSpot has done, has built a tool that starts with the front end of the process, not the back end. If 98% of the buyer journey starts online with a search engine and people immediately engage on your website, why don’t most companies start their sales process here? Why do they start the sales process with a CRM by adding contact details to a tool? Why aren’t they actively tracking to see who has been on their website, if they match a prospect profile and if they are giving off buying signals via content consumed and interest expressed through the conversion strategy?

Why?

Because until now, a real integrated tool that starts at the front end and works inwards, has not existed. Tools either solve an isolated marketing problem for a company or they are a contact management system to track people who have been contacted.

I have implemented a lot of technology over the years both for myself, for my business and for clients. This is the first time in a long time, I can remember being truly excited about a technology platform. I think the main reason for this is that HubSpot is not selling technology. They are educating and helping customer understand the opportunity of performance-based marketing, what it means to businesses today and how to implement it for a business. This is exciting. We didn’t sign on to sell software. We signed on to make a difference in the lives of business owners who are struggling with lead generation and lead management for their business in the face of changed buyer behaviour.

This is cool and likely the coolest things we have learned in a long time.

Oh ya, and also that Former First Lady Michelle Obama is a pretty awesome woman. Thanks HubSpot for letting us Canadians in on that secret.

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