Another year has passed, another Inbound conference has been and gone. It didn’t quite reach the heights of Michelle Obama and John Cena, last year’s keynote speakers, but it still packed a punch. This year the event was a little more personable, with the highlight being Dharmesh Shah’s unintended shot at being a comedian in the HubSpot co-founder’s latest keynote speech.

Still, there were 21,000+ marketers showing up in Boston to learn, network and drink all the free booze they could get their hands on. The added bonus this year was that on the Monday, marketing platform Drift was hosting its own event in Boston, which was hosted by YouTube megastar Casey Neistat and included one of the most inspiring speeches I’ve ever seen from Jocko Willink. In this article/recap I am going to dive into some of my key takeaways, stories and favourite sessions from the flagship HubSpot event.

Dharmesh Keynote

I think we should start with the highlight of the event; Dharmesh lighting up the main stage at the Boston Convention Centre. His endearing, nervous and slightly awkward demeanor we have come to know and love set the tone for what was to be an insightful and hilarious keynote speech. Better still, his talk directly followed his co-founder, Brian Halligan, who is a much more natural and energetic speaker. Dharmesh had to be on top form to follow up.

During a talk full of gags about coffee shops being a national network of free toilets where you can also get a muffin, Shah also released the HubSpot Customer Code which evolved from the HubSpot culture code. The Customer Code is a blueprint for how companies can ‘grow better’ which was a theme from throughout the event.

In Dharmesh’s words:

“The biggest lesson I’ve learned in my career about growing better, came from an idea in the culture code deck. Solve for the Customer. To grow better, you need a culture that puts the customer first."

The code outlines what customers want from brands. Dharmesh broke it down into five main points:

  • Earn my attention, don’t steal it

Give me something of value before you take something I value (like my time).

  • Solve for my success not your systems

Don’t make your process my problem.

  • Own your screw-ups

We all make mistakes. Just say sorry, be sorry and make it better.

  • I don’t mind paying, but I do mind being played

Make your pricing open, clear and fair.

  • Don’t block the exit

Here is the full talk from Dharmesh:


 Video, video, video

Video has been one of the main themes over the past few years with more and more businesses and agencies making video a key part of their marketing strategy. Just a few years ago video for marketing was in its infancy. Now, we are seeing more developed video production strategies and new tools that make it easier than ever to film, edit and produce video for your brand. However, what we have also seen in the last few years is that the way people consume video has changed a lot - with the likes of IGTV, LinkedIn video, Instagram stories shaking things up, it is now a far more competitive market and your content needs to be good if people are going to see it.

Video hosting platforms such as Wistia and Vidyard have been hugely influential for video marketers, providing us with the tools to be able to share, track and generate leads natively on our websites or landing pages with brilliant integrations to HubSpot. Wista’s Soapbox has been a game changer for us when sharing quick tutorials or short video content with clients - as a free tool, it’s a must have for anyone.

Arguably the biggest product announcement this year at Inbound 18 is HubSpot Video which is available in all professional and enterprise HubSpot accounts. This is HubSpot’s first venture into a native video platform, so they have partnered with Vidyard to make it happen. They have ambitious plans to make video a huge part of how we market to our prospects, not just posting a video, plonking it on a landing page and waiting for those leads to roll in. You can now add CTAs directly into your videos, and use it in everything from email and social media through to nurturing prospects and servicing your current customers in the sales and service hubs.

Throughout the event I went to quite a few different video sessions, but two stood out to me in particular. On the morning of Day 2, CEO of Vimeo, Anjali Sud gave a fascinating talk on using video to drive emotion instead of using it for promotion. His key takeaway: Take a step back and think about the content you are creating - Are you using it to try and promote your products and services? Or are you genuinely just trying to build an emotional connection with your audience?

Anjali also brought up a point which I think we often overlook and get caught up in creating pretty looking videos:

"The reality is we are in a constant battle for attention. On average, a person checks their phone 80 times a day, and the average human loses attention within 8 seconds. If you don’t capture your audience quickly, you’ve just lost your potential customer." - Anjali Sud #INBOUND18

Think about that when you are next creating a video, how are you going to capture your audience’s attention? Think of the purpose of the video. It’s the same thing when you are taking a funnel based approach to content marketing; you have your TOFU & MOFU content but you need to create that hook to get people to click. Your title copy, your image. It’s the same thing with video - have you created your thumbnail? Have you thought about your introduction? How exactly you are going to capture your audience in those first 8 seconds?

If you’re interested you can watch Anjali’s full keynote here: 


The second session that really stood out to me was George B Thomas of Impulse Creative. George is an Inbound evangelist and video expert. He’s passionate about using video in as many parts of the pipeline as he can. Not only this, he was an incredibly enthusiastic and engaging speaker - one of the best I have seen.

His talk was very inspiring and made me want to start creating video as soon as I left and for good reason. The main theme was ‘how video can humanise your brand’, again touching on how you can develop an emotional connection with video, like Anjali mentioned in the earlier session.

George covered quite a lot in his session so I am going to try and dive into as much of it as possible. He spoke about using video to simplify the complex, by taking difficult things and breaking them down into analogies or explaining them with a visual aid. Think about how often you search for a topic you don’t fully understand on YouTube, then you find a good video that explains it and now you have a clearer understanding of it - this is exactly what he means. If your industry is particularly complex, especially prevalent in the tech industry, then you can make a video to help your customers understand what you do.

He also talked about using video to educate your prospects and evoking emotion, the latter of which can be very powerful for your brand. If you do it right and you can capture the attention of your audience, it is very likely that your video will be able to evoke emotion. The example used in the session was this clip from a card store creating a fake job advert. You’ll see what I mean when you watch it: 

As you can see, a video can definitely evoke emotion.

Being human & building trust

People are now immune to sales-driven content and trust levels from prospects are incredibly low. This theme resounded throughout the whole of conference. I think the speakers were trying to make a point about the amount of salesy & old fashioned marketing methods that are leading to consumers losing trust in brands. They see an email come through from a brand, most people will just delete it because they are bored of getting sent the same email from different companies, 10 times a day.

Just think for a second about the emails and content you are putting out into the world. Does every bit of content have your logo on it & is every post on your social media a link back to your own blog? Do your emails always have links to your content, but aren’t actually providing any real value to your audience? Step back and think about how you interact with content yourself, how you use social media then start making changes to make your brand appear more natural and, well, human.

Marcus Sheridan, founder of Impact, gave a very inspiring talk and provided six points about building trust in your brand, two of which really resonated with me. 1. Openly talking about the negative. I think this is often overlooked by brands but in reality, there are things that make your product or service not perfect. You’re always working to make it better so be open about that, or suggest possible solutions. The nature of selling means that you will do anything to try and close that deal but in doing so you take away that degree of trust. If you talk openly about the negative aspects then your prospects will trust you more. 2. Share your ‘secret sauce’. Have you ever been concerned about sharing the specifics of what makes your business more unique? Marcus explained that describing exactly what you do and how you do it can have the reverse effects to what you might expect. For example, if you build a software platform and don’t want to share the specifics of how the software works you are missing out on a huge chunk of your audience who are interested to learn more.

Brian’s Flywheel

I wouldn’t be doing the conference justice if I didn’t talk about Brian Halligan announcing his new flywheel, which is HubSpot’s evolution of the funnel. Yes, they have killed the funnel, but hear me out. Brian noted that they have noticed another shift in how customers are buying. Until recently, the loudest voice when it came to making a purchase, was sales and marketing, which was fantastic for us sales and marketing types, because it meant that inbound marketing as we know it was working. However, the landscape has changed so that word of mouth is now a more powerful channel than sales and marketing. So how can we embrace it?

The flywheel.

Screen Shot 2018-09-24 at 11.37.36 

So what does the new growth model ‘flywheel’ actually mean? Well, you can break it down like this:

  • Embrace the flywheel

Put your customers at the centre of what you do.

  • Focus on delight

Keep investing in sales and marketing, but invest heavily in delighting your customers. Shift your sales and marketing resources slightly such that they are not only focused on closing customers, but delighting them.

  • Get the friction out

The lower the friction in your model, the faster you’re going to grow. It used to be, if you wanted to be successful, your product has to be 10x better than the competition. Today, to be successful, your customer experience needs to be 10x lighter than the competition.

I love this article about the shift to the flywheel:

And if you want to watch Brian’s full talk about the flywheel and how to ‘grow better’, then you can see the whole thing here:


Drift’s offering to the September-Boston-Tech-Marketing-Event-Week drew 4,000+ people to a tent like structure with a big stage. It was very different to Inbound, which hired out the whole exhibition centre for three days and was packed full of breakout sessions. Drift just had the one stage and a selection of high-profile speakers including Casey Neistat, Aly Raisman & Jocko Willink. I only managed to get the tail end of the conference so unfortunately missed both Casey & Aly.

However, two of the speakers I did manage to see, and whose thoughts stuck in my head, were those of Barney Walters, President of K-Swiss and Jocko Willink, ex-US Navy Seal and speaker. Barney’s talk was interesting as when he came on board with K-Swiss he had to find a way to differentiate them from every other trainer brand out there and told the story of how they eventually landed with entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk as one of their key brand ambassadors. The key takeaway being you have to find a way to be the ‘only’ brand or company in your field to do something specifically and uniquely. Jocko’s talk was just outright inspiring. His stories of being out in the field in Afghanistan, working as a team, having perspective and working hard were all things that I feel a lot of people can start embracing and baking into their daily lives. My hat goes off to Drift, an excellent event with free pizza & beer.

What’s next

I hope after reading these highlights we’re all now going to (a) produce a lot of video, (b) stop trying to sell to everyone and (c) start building some trust by being honest and human. Oh, and you should all have chatbots on your site, whether it is Drift (which is free for the first 100 leads) or the in-built HubSpot conversations which is included in basic, pro and enterprise plans. You have no excuse.

As always, Inbound this year was an incredible experience with so many like-minded marketers all trying to build their companies or agencies. All of the speakers were wonderful and inspiring, I haven’t mentioned Scott Harrison of Charity: Water who gave a brilliant keynote on the final day. I am looking forward to seeing how people embrace the flywheel and start to put the customers at the centre of their sales and marketing.


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