Shhh....Can you hear that?
It's the distant stampede of more than 24,000 marketing masters sprinting back to their offices after four days of straight up #inspiration—with Hudson Fusion in the lead.
Yes, we returned from INBOUND 2018 roughly two weeks ago, the annual HubSpot conference that brings together the best and the brightest inbound marketing masters to share their insights and show their stuff.
We're still reeling from the four-day extravaganza of new product announcements, inspirational speeches, celebrity appearances, and general celebration of all things #INBOUND. We walked away with not one, not two, but DOZENS of tote bags full of industry insight, marketing motivation, and, lest we forget, plenty of branded swag.
We're bringing you the ultimate INBOUND 2018 wrap-up with day-by-day takeaways that matter for marketers, sales leads, business owners...pretty much anyone interested in the latest and greatest inbound tactics. Interested in getting to the good stuff without the commentary? You can jump around as much as you want.
When you added up the four days of sessions, we attended five keynotes, 65 breakout sessions, and experienced over 150 hours of invaluable, insightful marketing mastery.
That being said, we're not going to break down each and every individual session for you (you're welcome). Instead, we're going to give you an overview of each keynote and our takeaways from the day—for now. We'll be putting out more of our findings from INBOUND going forward, so be sure to keep up with the latest from Level Up so you don't miss out!
We arrived at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center ready to get down to business. Every team member we brought had a set of specific goals in mind for the four days.
Nicole: Nicole also wanted to network with other agencies in the space (she joined Cindy at Partner Day), but she was mostly focused on amping up her leadership and empowerment skills. As the Director of Marketing, she's focused on building out the best team from the ground up so that our agency can deliver the best results to our clients. The best way to upskill and onboard is through effective leadership—and INBOUND is rife with opportunities to learn how from the best of the best.
Kelly: My goal was to dive into all things automation—chatbots, workflows, sequences, you name it. I've been working on learning the latest and greatest automation tactics to create comprehensive, low-maintenance marketing methods for both Hudson Fusion and our clients to maximize efficiency and minimize man-hours.
Sonja: Sonja had a few highly specific goals: to uncover the secrets of viral video, master multimedia content, and perfect her already considerable social savvy to maximize our platform performance. She wanted to find out new ways to keep audiences engaged to make sure they remember both our own and our clients' content—and in turn, their brand. She wanted to find out what makes video so effective and how to start using it more to create meaningful connections with prospects and customers in every stage of the sales cycle.
Raquel: Raquel came for the party (and the Keynotes Presenters). As our Office Manager/Ship Captain, she focused on soaking up as much leadership, management, and motivation inspiration as humanly possible—and boy, did she succeed.
Matt: Matt is our newest team member (so exciting to add onto our growing marketing team), and he came along for the ride to not only amp up his already considerable sales, marketing, and HubSpot software skills, but to hang with the team before his first day on the job. He focused on learning from the wealth of industry thought leaders featured as keynotes and breakout session speakers. He wanted to hone in on some exclusive insights, bring them into the office, and apply them to his future client strategies to drive home success.
Cindy: Cindy's goal was to get insight and inspiration from other agency owners that have successfully grown their agencies over the past few years—hence why she was so excited for Partner Day, where agency partners gathered to share experiences and perspectives, and discuss upcoming trends and new developments in the marketing world.
With those goals in mind, we were ready to take INBOUND 2018 by storm. We scheduled our breakout sessions, packed our bags, high-tailed it to Boston, and dove right in.
For those of you who have never been to INBOUND, let me tell you as a first-time attendee: It's so much bigger than you can possibly imagine. I don't mean just in terms of fabulous big-name speakers and larger-than-life ideas...the main stage is really, really, really big.
I wish this picture did the sheer size of the stage justice, but know that each letter in INBOUND is roughly twice the size of a normal human being.
Keynote Speaker: Deepak Chopra—Best-Selling Author
Fun Fact About Deepak Chopra
At first, Deepak Chopra didn't believe his patients when they told him that a change in diet caused their cancers to go into remission. That's when he began researching the microbiome.
Our Favorite Quotes from Deepak Chopra
"DNA is the alphabet of life."
"It took the whole universe to conspire so you could be here tonight."
"Your body is a verb, not a noun."
"God's language is silence. Everything else is poor translation."
"I'm not saying this to show off, but I'm going to be 72 in a few weeks."
There weren't any breakout sessions on Day 1, so we were only there to see arguably the biggest name in alternative medicine and personal transformation: Deepak Chopra. The best-selling author, public speaker, alternative medicine master, and general wellness guru.
"Let me show you how you really got here," he began before launching into a shot-by-shot fetal development video, tracing the origins of humans from embryo to birth. We were wondering how he'd turn it back to marketing and business, but he didn't disappoint.
He went on to talk about the connection between physical, career, social, community, and financial wellbeing. It turns out that the most successful businesses are those where people are fully engaged and passionate in their work—and roughly 80% of people go to work either disengaged, or actively disengaged, the latter of which means they're not only actively unhappy at work, but do what they can to make others unhappy.
What does that cost the American workforce? Roughly $300 billion a year in lost revenue.
Another shocking statistic? More people die on Monday mornings at 9am of heart attacks than at any other time because they hate their jobs, which Deepak called "an extraordinary accomplishment for which only the human species can take credit. Presumably, there's no other animal that knows the difference between Monday and Tuesday."
He went on to talk about healthy bodies, healthy workers, and healthy businesses, and wrapped it up in a beautiful, silent bow with a walkthrough of a self-meditation practice. I don't think a group of people has ever walked out of a meditation session so incredibly full of energy.
This was the first full day of INBOUND—and we were beyond excited to get moving. We all had our personal schedules set and ready to go, but as every day at INBOUND does, we started off with approximately 4 gallons of coffee and an inspirational keynote presentation.
We also started the day with these strange, decorative spheres that were dangling from the ceiling in the main space,
Keynote Speaker: Beth Comstock—Former Vice Chair, GE
Fun Fact About Beth Comstock
Beth Comstock journals every single day and writes down almost all of her dreams. She also has an entire closet full of notebooks because they're "too nice" to use.
Our Favorite Quotes from Beth Comstock
"What I really believe I am is a change maker."
"When I hear 'no,' I hear an invitation."
"Discovery is about making the world your classroom."
"Agitate, sometimes rebelliously, to create something great."
"If failure is not an option, then neither is success."
"All strategy is, is a story well-told."
Okay, this may not seem relevant, but Beth Comstock was wearing what may be the most flattering, iconic pair of pants to ever grace the INBOUND Main Stage—and someone needs to say it.
I dare you to find a better pair of pants. I DARE YOU.
When it comes to #empoweringwomen, Beth Comstock is an absolute powerhouse. Her resume literally gleams with accolades, and she's been responsible for undertaking some of the most iconic marketing campaigns at one of the world's largest conglomerate corporations.
She gave us insight after insight into her life and career path, showing us how she climbed the ranks in a male-dominated industry, how she accepted and learned from failure, and how to "Go on 3," as she calls it.
When she was operating GE Business Innovations, she kept a stack of permission slips on her desk. If an employee came in to discuss an idea but seemed hesitant to make it happen, she'd hand them a blank slip and ask them to sign it.
"Give yourself permission," she emphasized over and over again. (Throughout this insistence, our last quarterly brainstorming session kept sneaking into the back of my mind. Maybe it's time we put some of those ambitious ideas to work!)
Fun Fact About Brian Halligan
Brian may have excelled at the University of Vermont and the MIT Sloan School of Management, but he was held back in kindergarten and had to take it twice.
Our Favorite Quotes from Brian Halligan
"Trust in sales and marketing is at an all-time low."
"Our sales reps now are focused not on closing customers, but on delighting customers. THIS is the key, by the way, to growing your business."
"What do you think of my new skinny jeans? I love 'em."
"What the heck is happening on the internet in the world that friction's all of a sudden the secret handshake? I blame the iPhone...Before I had an iPhone, I had the patience of a saint. Now I have the patience of a squirrel on its second espresso."
I really wish that we'd gotten a shot of Brian with his dog, Romeo, but unfortunately, he wasn't in attendance. This slide will suffice.
Fun Fact About Dharmesh Shah
Dharmesh's 7-year-old son wrote more code than him this summer. (He attended coding camp...like father, like son!)
Our Favorite Quotes from Dharmesh Shah
"I lived in the South for 10 years—I'm allowed to say y'all."
"I'm an introverted technologist...also known as a technologist."
"Vision doesn't matter unless you act on it."
"To grow better, you need a culture that puts the customer first."
If this slide doesn't act as a testament to how awesome Brian and Dharmesh are, then nothing will.
We'd break down the entirety of the epic presentation HubSpot's Co-Founders put on, but trust us—if you're at all invested in marketing or sales, the entire video is worth watching.
To sum up the entirety of their presentation, let's put it this way: Forget the funnel. Read more in our takeaways from the day below.
- The sales funnel is officially out—and the flywheel is in. We actually wrote about this back in November 2017 (we're obviously on top of things), and it's officially been written into HubSpot's official inbound methodology. Why lose out on the momentum of a delighted customer when you can redirect that power to generate new leads?
- If your marketing and sales teams aren't aligned, then both parties fail. To add to Nicole's favorite analogy: When it comes to problem-centric selling, it's not that you can't sell—it's that you can't diagnose. If you don't know what issue your client faces, you can't possibly sell them on your service as a solution.
- The implications of automation are BOUNDLESS—as is our excitement to use them. Thanks to some of HubSpot's new automation tools (Company Automation, Deal Automation, and Ticket Automation), we're about to make our lives—and our clients' lives—so much easier. (Want to get in on an easy, breezy automated marketing strategy? Let's chat.)
- HubSpot announced some major game-changers to their product offerings. They introduced us to a huge lineup of new features and products, allowing our marketing team to run more advanced campaigns with Facebook Messenger tools, continuous A/B testing, email throttling, and more. For sales, they introduced automatic call transcription, integrated sales playbooks, quote approvals, and more. Finally, for customer service, they're offering health scoring, goals, workflow extensions, and more. Learn more about their latest products here.
- We definitely want to grab a beer with Dharmesh Shah and Brian Halligan. They're brilliant innovators with incredible senses of humor—and we're seriously trying to hang out with them. (Feel free to Tweet this at them: @bhalligan & @dharmesh.)
Day 3: Shonda Rhimes is Exactly as Cool as You Think She is—and You Should Watch Iliza Shlesinger's Stand-Up Special on Netflix
It's a shame that there are only technically two full days of INBOUND....we had enough energy for at least three weeks worth of speakers. (Okay, maybe not three weeks—that's a lot.)
Either way, we went into Day 3 with gusto, beyond excited to see Shonda Rhimes in the morning, a day full of expert-led breakout sessions, and wrap up the longest day of the conference with the stars of one of my favorite podcasts: 2 Dope Queens.
The goddess herself. Shonda Rhimes was the definition of down-to-earth, and made me really want to try saying "Yes" to everything for a year.
Fun Fact About Shonda Rhimes
She identifies as a "healthy, healed" Olivia Pope, and when she was walking into Netflix to negotiate her contract, she definitely had a number in mind (but wouldn't share it).
Our Favorite Quotes from Shonda Rhimes
"It's not who you know, it's who knows you."
"You push through fear by doing, so I just did."
"No one should be a token for anyone else."
"Never walk into a negotiation without knowing at what point you'll walk away."
"What's the point of being a woman in power if you can't make sure that other women get to be in power?
We were beyond excited to see the Shonda Rhimes in person. As an admitted group of binge-watchers and women passionate about empowering women, it was an aspiring storyteller's dream to see the creator of Grey's Anatomy and Scandal, and executive producer of How to Get Away With Murder.
Shonda Rhimes, interviewed by Joanna Coles, author of Love Rules and former Chief Content Officer of Hearst Magazines, was absolutely captivating. As one of the world's most powerful women (let alone women of color) in media, she speaks about empowering female leadership, encouraging pay parity, and ensuring to hire both on-screen and off-screen a diverse group of people with a broad range of skillsets.
Despite being one of the most highly regarded show-runners in the industry, she's incredibly humble. She describes the character development process as "half stuff you make up, half talented actors," crediting her casts with bringing the talent it takes to bring storylines to life.
She actively avoids using what she calls "a terrible word and a terrifying word"—"famous." She delved into fame as "the price you pay" when your work is celebrated. Regardless, we'd be lying if we said we weren't at least a little starstruck.
As a copywriter, my job is to weave engaging, compelling content relevant to a specific audience. The reason why Shonda Rhimes has been—and continues to be—such an incredible figure in creative storytelling is her ability to captivate any audience. If that isn't enough to take your breath away a little bit, then the short anecdotes she shared about her management and leadership experience will.
"We're in the process of making sure our house is clean," she explained. Her team is working on ensuring that every single show is run the right way. "At the Shondaland offices, we're all aligned. With the shows, you want to make sure that from your directors to your line producers on down, it's running the way you would want it to run, and that everyone feels as respected as they need to, and that there are enough women on the crews, and that it has enough diversity, and that it feels safe and right, and like a workplace where you want to be in."
[Insert mic drop here.]
2 Dope Queens—Phoebe Robinson & Jessica Williams
Natasha Lyonne—Actress (Best Known for "Orange is the New Black")
Fun Fact About Phoebe Robinson & Jessica Williams
Phoebe used to spam Jessica with droves of Bono-related content.
Fun Fact About Natasha Lyonne
Natasha Lyonne lived in Israel for two years, and pretended to be Al Pacino in an entire matinee performance of an off-Broadway play (in which she was definitely not playing Al Pacino).
There was good news and bad news when we arrived at the INBOUND Rocks performance. The good news: We were witnessing an actual live recording of the 2 Dope Queens podcast. The bad news: Because it was a live recording, we couldn't actually take any video or record any audio. Either way, if you subscribe to their podcast, you can listen to all of the action yourself as soon as it's published.
The 2 Dope Queens themselves debating whether or not to strut their stuff on the stage runway (spoiler alert: they did).
I honestly don't think I've ever laughed so hard at a stand-up show. Iliza Shlesinger is hands down one of the best comedians out there right now.
Regardless of what few details we can share with you prior to their podcast being posted, this GIF pretty much sums up how we left that night after laughing hysterically for two and a half hours.
This is an actual GIF of me making it rain business cards on Nicole, our Director of Marketing. Props to #CouchGirl for pretending this was normal.
- Chatbots are officially here to stay. Did you know that 57% of people are interested in getting information from chatbots? If you're launching a website in 2018 without some level of automated direct chat, you're going to sacrifice major points on low-quality user experience.
- HubSpot is introducing drag & drop editors, theme options, continuous testing, and A/B test reporting to beta very, very soon. In all likelihood, they'll be available to users as soon as you read this. The way you edit your web pages is about to become a lot more intuitive, and even the most basic accounts will have access to broad-range themes to give your website a sense of uniformity. Plus, the one major downfall of HubSpot's A/B testing is the inability to auto-generate reports—and they've finally resolved it.
- There's been a huge uptick in personal Google searches. There has been a significant rise in query streams containing the phrases "for me," "should I," and other first-person phrases. Basically, by switching your content to a first-person perspective through case studies and testimonials, or specifically optimizing your content for Google Snippets (here are some tricks from Moz), you can amp up your SEO considerably.
- Producing a podcast or video series is much more easier than you think. By allocating your time carefully and multitasking—namely, either writing the blog first then filming your podcast recording simultaneously or vice versa—you can produce a wealth of additional content in a considerably short amount of time.
- You definitely want to see Iliza Shlesinger's Netflix special. We've said it before and we'll say it again: WATCH IT.
Day 4: Scott Harrison's charity:water Presentation Should've Been Called charity:waterworks (Alternate Title: Watching 24,000 People Cry in Unison)
Have you ever wondered what four full days of notes looks like after INBOUND? Feast your eyes on this beautiful chaos. (I'm actually known for my meticulous, microscopic, exhaustively detailed handwritten notes both in and beyond the office):
Insane? Maybe. Invaluable? Definitely.
On our final day of INBOUND, we were looking forward to getting in our final few break-out sessions then embarking on the 4-hour drive back to New York. We packed our bags, checked out of our hotel, and pulled up the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center one last time.
We highly recommend that you visit this URL and donate to charity:water to help bring clean, safe drinking water to developing countries.
Keynote Speaker: Scott Harrison—Founder & CEO, charity:water
Fun Fact About Scott Harrison
The day he presented—September 7, 2018—was a day for celebration. It was his 43rd birthday, his daughter's 2nd birthday, and charity:water's 12th birthday.
Our Favorite Quotes from Scott Harrison
"I needed to walk so far in the opposite direction that hopefully, something new would unfold—a new path."
"People don't trust charities."
"Success would be charity:water gives $100 million, we show up, and no one's ever heard of us."
"We believed social media was the way...how it would spread."
On the final day of INBOUND, we were presented with one of the most emotionally devastating and philanthropically motivating presentations we've ever seen—at 9am, no less. Scott Harrison of charity:water is known for being a compelling public speaker, and with good reason. You can watch his full keynote presentation below to see what I'm talking about:
To donate to charity:water as part of the INBOUND community, visit charitywater.org/inbound. We'll leave it at that.
I know it sounds cheesy, but INBOUND 2018 was an unforgettable experience, and we all left Boston brimming with inspiration. We babbled about new ideas to bring back to our clients and our own marketing efforts the entire way home, and we still haven't stopped starting sentences with "Oh, I've got it! At INBOUND, I heard...."
We'll leave you with our overall takeaways:
- Nicole: This was my fifth year attending INBOUND, and our team has never felt so re-energized getting back to the office. Surrounding myself with more than 24,000 of the industry's best reinvigorated my creativity and got me hyped to get things in motion and empower the team to feel the same. I come back every year with the goal of kicking ass for the next 12 months, and I'm already looking forward to getting back with other agency heads and reflecting on growth, wins, and lessons learned at INBOUND 2019.
- Sonja: The overarching themes of my week/the top of mind takeaways I left inbound clutching close to my heart: Customers want to be a part of your process and see how it's made whether it's a product or a service, how you say something matters as much if not more than what you say, and don't EVER use the green heart emoji. 💚
- Kelly: The future of marketing automation is bright—and growing exponentially. By implementing intuitive, strategic automation initiatives, we're going to be able to give our clients a set of tricks, tips, and tools that will generate and nurture leads with minimal time and effort. I'm so excited to get creative with chatbots, workflows, and smart content to make our lives—and our clients' lives—easier. Who doesn't want more leads for less work?
- Raquel: Honestly? My favorite keynote speaker was Scott, with his back-story and his motivation to dive into philanthropy. I left so excited to get more into our pro-bono projects, finding deserving non-profits that need the high-value marketing services we provide—and using our expertise to help them make the world better. Beyond that, I learned that it's okay to fail—and it made me want to continue exploring new and exciting initiatives.
- Matt: I saw so many agencies and companies actively bringing an innovative approach to their marketing strategy. I think one of the biggest trends we're seeing right now is innovation in general—finding creative ways to approach a relationship, a situation, or a branding strategy—and after INBOUND, I was more excited than ever to bring that feeling of trying something new back to the office. I learned so many new strategic initiatives and deployment tactics: new software technology, how to build out brands using viral trends, experiential marketing practices. I'm excited to see how we can leverage events to amp up our brand and our clients' brands—basically, to sum it up in one word: WOW.
- Cindy: Partner Day, for me, had the biggest impact. Being able to talk strategy with other agency owners is an invaluable opportunity—especially when you have all of the best in the business in one room. INBOUND allowed me to introduce my newer team members to an annual tradition, one that keeps our agency on top of the latest and ahead of our competitors. INBOUND allows Hudson Fusion to focus on sharpening an incredible wide range of skills with an impressive lineup of experts—and I can't wait to see what great things we build to help our clients and our agency grow better.
That's another INBOUND in the books, folks. All in all, it was an unforgettable event that gave us new ideas, new perspectives, and new skills to bring back to the table. We've already been at work incorporating them into our existing and forthcoming strategies and initiatives, so stay tuned.
By the way, we have our own unforgettable event coming up! Join us on October 29, 2018 for our upcoming Lower Hudson Valley HubSpot User Group event, "Everything You Know About Blogging is a Lie." We're letting you in on some not-so-little secrets and breaking down common misconceptions around blogging.