If your friends in marketing were absent at happy hour last week or they were slow to reply to your tweet, it’s because more than 21,000 of our kind descended upon Boston for HubSpot’s annual Inbound conference.
Interestingly, my big takeaway from the four-day blitz of all things inbound marketing was not all about, well, inbound marketing. Instead, the conference felt like a big shift in focus toward HubSpot’s CRM.
It’s no secret that sales enablement is the next frontier of marketing automation. Seamlessly blending the information your marketing team gathers with what your sales team learns in their process is nirvana for small and medium-sized business owners everywhere.
Unfortunately, that process has always been clunky. The opportunity has long existed for the just-right, Goldilocks toolset – not too expensive and complex (I’m looking at you Salesforce), but not without the influence and information of marketing automation.
When I arrived at HubSpot Partner Day, I realized that the HubSpot CRM was no longer going to be an afterthought. Instead, the product focus is going to be to put it front and center, as the near-term roadmap is built on the CRM’s foundation. This will make it an almost entirely new and far more effective tool.
Brief history: I’ve mucked my way through roughly half of the top G2 Crowd CRMs that have flooded the SMB market the last 10 years. I’ve been a heavy user of Salesforce (twice, sadly), Highrise and Pipedrive. I even survived an organization that managed contacts with an Excel file shared via Dropbox. Even before the updates HubSpot publicized I always said it was tied with Pipedrive as my favorite CRM to use, but it was rigid and always felt like a secondary product.
But the next iteration of HubSpot’s CRM is something far more complete. They explain where they are going far better than I do in their product overview video, so watch it if you have 45 minutes.
If you don’t have that kind of time, the Cliffs Notes start with the new HubSpot Sales Professional coming in November of 2018. While the basic HubSpot CRM has always been free, the sales pro tool has been an add-on with a confusing value prop until now. The first big difference starting in November is that the full CRM will now cost $400 per month for up to five users, and it will come with the sales pro tooling for each user. This tooling will be updated with better priority notifications for sales reps, send time optimization for email and a host of bonus bits like email templates, email analytics, document tracking, etc.
That’s all a bit of clarification on the offering and CRM table stakes, but behind that is the Conversations inbox, which is a shared inbox for all your conversation feeds with prospects and customers coming from all places (take a look and notice how this has a nice Slack/Intercom UI blend). Coming in 2018 on that famous tech product launch date “TO BE DETERMINED” this tool offers additional context to all conversations in sales and marketing you have with a contact to make sure you never miss that a prospect talked with a customer support rep or filed a complaint online.
Built on top of the Conversations inbox will be the Customer Hub. Also coming in 2018, the Customer Hub will be advanced customer service tooling for the delight stage with your customer, adding even more context to your conversation threads and feeding your overall contact record.
Take a break here for a second. See how that was a CRM update, followed by a CRM update, with a follow-on update built into the previous CRM update? This thing is coming with a vengeance in 2018!
Need help setting up or optimizing your HubSpot CRM? Let’s talk.
Building a Bigger HubSpot Ecosystem
I’m sure HubSpot wouldn’t appreciate me telling you that an event that had keynote speakers like Michelle Obama and John Cena was all about their CRM.
To be honest, I could argue the most memorable part of of the whole trip was Tiffany Haddish’s stand up the night of Inbound Rocks (check her out, but be warned: if there was an educational poster for baby boomers defining the term NSFW, clips from her special would be the example content they’d be told not to watch on their office computers).
To be fair to HubSpot, the message that they were likely trying to convey is that they have improved their entire ecosystem. If you are currently a HubSpot user or considering it, it’d be worth their full tour of what’s new and what’s coming.
Perhaps the most interesting thing to watch in early 2018 will be what happens with their purchase of Motion AI, which will double down on their investment in chat bots. Perhaps that will be what steals the show at Inbound in 2018. But my guess is it will actually be Tiffany Haddish if she comes back (seriously, put the kids to bed before you watch her special).
Inbound Content to Keep You Up-to-Date
One of the reasons I gush about Inbound the 361 days every year leading up to the event is because they jam pack it with thought leaders and important industry content. Beyond the HubSpot product-focused updates, there was also great session content on the industry as a whole. It’s impossible to attend all 1,000,000,000 sessions they have, but from what I attended, here are some things I don’t want you to miss:
The SERP isn’t Just 10 Blue Links Anymore
Look: We all know that Rand Fishkin is tied with Jason Fried on my business crush list, so it’s no wonder that when he has a session at any conference I attend and basically look like this:
But, he’s earned my attention over the years, and this year he did not disappoint. Check out the founder and former CEO of Moz’s session on everything from flying squirrels to the future of search engine results pages.
Topic Clusters FTW
If you’re doing a lot of content marketing, be ready to get pillar pages and topic clusters forced on you over the next 12-18 months. Catch-up on what that means with a session from Leslie Ye.
It would also be worth reading HubSpot’s recent blog on pillar pages.
Find Him on Twitter or Something
For the second time in my conference attendee life I had the chance to watch Marcus Sheridan (@thesaleslion) do his thing. Nobody brings more energy or passion to the stage. His session on aligning your culture around inbound was a knock-out, but I can’t find it anywhere online. My recommendation: Tweet him until he sends it to you. He likely will. Even if he doesn’t, he’s a great follow.
A Little Bit of Inside Baseball
Inbound features a specific session track for agency owners and employees, which is really just a way for them to focus where to deliver all of their free coffee throughout the day. One such session was co-led by the wonderful Drew McLellan (@drewmclellan) and was focused on what agency clients want from their account managers.
It’s a bit industry-specific, but the research done by Drew’s team at Agency Management Institute, along with Audience Audit and Research Now, shows how agencies and clients miss the mark in communicating expectations with each other. The full report is worth the download.