Wow, what happened? Where have those 3 weeks gone? I can’t believe this time a few weeks ago, Inbound 2019 was coming to a close. After a loooong flight back to the sandpit coupled with an intense couple of weeks catching up with work and regular life with a splash of jetlag, it feels like only a few hours ago I was watching HubSpot Co-Founders, Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah on the big stage.
Inbound 2019 (in comparison to previous years)
It's fair to say that Inbound 2019 felt different to previous years. In the past, much of the conference focused on HubSpot's shiny new toys in the form of new products and features in addition to HubSpot's core offering. Of course, the big reveal last year was the strategic move away from the traditional funnel approach to sales and marketing to the new flywheel (you may have seen Nexa's interactive version of the flywheel on our home page).
Our inbound started a day earlier than most as we attended the partner day. This is an opportunity for us as Platinum partners to get an exclusive sneak peak of what might be next from HubSpot, plus the chance to meet other agency owners and share horror client stories (joke) and major wins! The other sessions I attended were a mixture of how we could improve our own agency and apply our learnings to our clients.
During Partner Day, the product development and innovation focus was on minor but substantial tweaks to the platform. It was almost as though HubSpot was practicing what it preaches, the customer should be your focus and in this case everyone there was a customer of theirs. Even the ‘celeb’ speakers seemed more aligned to business and less namesake and I personally liked this approach as it ultimately felt as though I learned more.
My key takeaways from the partner day were:
Chatbots need to be looked at differently. Traditionally, I have thought of using a couple of chatbots on a site for lead enquiries and customer feedback, using workflows to somewhat personalise the conversation and drive the user journey. Remington Begg from Impulse Creative and Lisa Edwards from HubSpot blew that out of the water. They spoke about using chatbots at scale, running 15 to 20 chatbots across a site to have multiple, highly personalised conversations, for me this was certainly a ‘ah ah’ moment!
We don’t leverage LinkedIn at all as a company - yes we have a presence but its minimal. LinkedIn's Ty Heath opened my eyes to the opportunities on offer. By opportunities, I don’t mean from an advertising perspective but more as a means to connect to the business community. I sometimes fall into the trap here that LinkedIn is dominated by jobseekers - yes it is, but it can also be an incredibly powerful tool to converse with companies and individuals. I feel LinkedIn needs to be taken more seriously and have begun to practise this personally. This included a new profile shot taken of me, which will shortly be updated (the old pic was roughly 5 years out and if you’d have swiped right, you would have been disappointed with who turned up!)
The phrase ‘Experience Disruptors’ was batted around by a few of the speakers on Partner Day and was again mentioned by Brian Halligan during his keynote. Think Dollar Shave Club vs Gillette or Taxis vs Uber, Hotels vs AirBnB. Essentially anyone that upsets the applecart but in a good way. This got me thinking, I wondered if there were any here in our home region (the GCC)? Are there any companies breaking the traditional mould here, a place where things move at such a rapid pace. Is Mr Draper (an app that chooses clothes for you) an experience disruptor? Is Washmen (a laundry app) one? Can shoe ambulance be classed as one? (mobile sneaker cleaning dudes) or Ekar (car rental by the minute) for that matter. Having considered each of their business models and value propositions, I don't think any of these successful and interesting businesses qualify as experience disruptors in the same way that the likes of Uber or AirBnb shook their industries. If I have missed any genuine, local experience disruptors, feel free to share these with me - I'd love to know who these are.
Anyway, back to Inbound and with partner day coming to an end, my focus shifted to the main event - Inbound 2019. Having already registered for my sessions through their app I was excited to see what the next few days had in store for me.
For those of you have have been to the event, you'll understand what I mean when I say that there's a real energy at Inbound - it might be the kiddy anticipation of learning new things, catching up with people you haven’t seen for a year or the amount of beer and bourbon the night before (did someone say coffee and bagels) but overall the feeling is one of movement, everyone moving together to discover new ideas.
My Key takeaways from Inbound 2019:
Video is something that pops up every year and I feel like I say to myself, this year we will start to leverage the power of video more for ourselves as an agency. Don’t get me wrong I/we recommend creating video content continually for our prospects and clients but very rarely do I sit in front of the lens and talk. However, this year I will! Why? Simple, the first session I attended (not the keynote by Alexis Ohanian, co founder of reddit) but 14 Personalized Sales & Marketing Video Tips & Tricks that drive relationships, results & revenue by George B Thomas. I like George, I’ve seen him speak a few times, I listen to his podcast and I watch his videos but something clicked with me in his session this time and strangely enough, it was his blooper reel. Right at the beginning of his session he had a funny blooper reel of where he’d messed up during some of his video recordings, very honest, very open. I’m not sure why this resonated with me in particular as his session developed into a blow by blow playbook of how to craft the perfect video (which I’ll be practicing). It felt like a ‘hey man it doesn’t always look this polished and it’s cool to f up. I guess this sounds odd coming from me as I enjoy public speaking, have spoken at countless events, had a live radio show and now co host a podcast but a video recording has never really sat comfortably with me, the idea its locked in for good, warts on all. This blooper reel just released whatever chains there were, so I will start recording video! I trust my business partners will remind me continuously of this if I fail to produce any videos.
I often hear buzzwords during conferences and see how I can place them in my everyday life. Last year, it was the word ‘friction-less’ to be successful or to become an industry disruptor you have to remove as much friction as you can. This year my buzz phrase was ‘edge crafting’, which seemed to originate from a speaker named Eric Keilis (who is a partner in a highly successful Inbound Agency). But what did it mean? Essentially it's the task of differentiating your company, brand, product, service from all the others by being remarkable.
As businesses we all offer a lot of the same, the same thing, service or product. The most successful ones have been able to differentiate themselves by being remarkable. How did Casper (the mattress people) differentiate themselves from any other mattress store? Offer the customer a 120 night sleep, risk free trial, don’t like it after that time just return it! This got me thinking, how are we different from everyone else? What is remarkable about us (besides my epic beard)? The first step in becoming remarkable I guess is asking how are we remarkable? This is the question Nexa will be asking in the coming months : )
Brian and Dharmesh's keynote is something I look forward to every year, however as I mentioned earlier without any major product announcements I wondered what they would speak about. I spoke about experience disruptors earlier and Brian went in hard on this, taking a deep dive on a few players in the market and interestingly mentioned a few businesses that I wasn’t aware of, such as chewy.com (online pet store with incredible customer service) or carvana.com (a place to buy cars with a 7 day no questions asked return policy). All the companies he spoke about had key areas in common. Their metrics were driven by experience not product or service, they make it easy to leave them or cancel the relationship you have with them, they embrace customer feedback and support, they experience their own product or service anonymously and most of all, they are all customer centric.
With the turn of Dharmesh to take the stage I almost felt it was going to be harder for him to speak, mainly because he usually takes the lead on new product and this year they didn’t have any! He approached his keynote focusing on 5 fears. The fear of commitment, the fear of differences, fear of change, the fear of disappointing, fear of inferiority and how all of these can impact your business environment. At first it felt almost disjointed and irrelevant to Inbound, however as he went on under the backdrop of ‘grow better’ it became apparent these fears have crossed our paths many a time in business and the best way to approach them is to embrace them and work with them.
In all honesty I would encourage everyone who has taken the time to read this blog to watch the co-founders of HubSpot's keynote as my small takeaway will not do it justice.
I am already looking forward to Inbound 2020 where instead of a blog there will be a video in this space ;)