Why #INBOUND13 Rocked

August 26, 2013 Randy Frisch

Let me start by clarifying that I’m not referring the the ‘Inbound Rocks’ concert featuring One Republic that was part of this year’s Hubspot conference: Inbound 2013. Yeah that’s right, they had me and 5300 entertained by our own concert, singing ‘Feel Again’ on Wednesday night — but that’s not what I’ll remember or take back to our team.

Hubspot created an experience that embodied the culture I’ve learned to admire while exciting me even more to adopt the Inbound approach. From the keynotes to breakout sessions, all the way to the incorporated charitable cause, everything was about inbound marketing – or as CTO and Co-founder of Hubspot, Dharmesh Shah, now refers to the entire Inbound Experience as including marketing, sales and service.

Before I tell you why I bought in, I’ll give context to why I have developed an ‘inbound mindset’. For those unfamiliar with the inbound movement, it revolves around the goal of reducing your spend on traditional paid marketing practices like TV ads, print and (even what may seem non traditional) PPC. Rather than throwing big dollars to these ‘outbound strategies’ the goal is to generate inbound traffic to your site and brand through creating content.  Be it a blog post, video, ebook, or many other popular mediums, your brand creates interest and conversation with your audience through viral social channels. This content footprint establishes your brand as the leader down the line when a purchase or other desired action is contemplated. Another popular term for this today is ‘content marketing’. Our company, Uberflip, is a big believer in inbound and content marketing, both in how we attract customers and what our platform is designed to enable.

But I did not always subscribe to the inbound movement. Let me take you back to the mid 90s when I decided I wanted to go to university to get a Bachelor of Commerce and major in Marketing. Back then my idea of marketing was not blogging or creating thought-provoking videos – unless you consider a Superbowl commercial as video. Nope, I admit I’m guilty of being among the many who wanted to be in charge of billboards, TV ads and sexy Sports Illustrated Swim Suit ads – oh to be a male teenager.

I won’t take you through the evolution that has brought me from those big budget minded obsessions to where I am today. But I will point out one thing many people (including my wife) who know me will attest: I’m stingy with money. If I can’t see value or return on my spend, you won’t get a dollar from me. I think that’s why I ultimately wanted to discover a better way to spend less and still acquire customers. During the conference, Hubspot did a great job painting a picture of the transformation of people like me through a satirical look at how the conference host, Dan Sally, overcame his outbound obsession. Intended to entertain, the videos played for all Inbounders got laughs but definitely made me look back and question my own earlier outbound obsessions.

So what made Inbound Rock?

One person who has been an inbound believer way longer than me and others is Seth Godin, who was by far the highlight of the event as the first keynote. I’ve read some of the content on Seth’s blog in the past, but seeing him in person is a must. He helps shape not just why inbound is important, but how we need to go about connecting with our audiences by figuring out the ‘tribe’ they subscribe to. Seth challenged us to figure out the group that our brand’s audience connects with and then to become the leader of that tribe.  This really made me think about taking time to identify the persona of Uberflip’s audience so we can best be their leader in a meaningful manner as we create content to connect. Seth definitely made Inbound Rock. 

Arianna Huffington was another highlight. I can’t remember the last time someone spoke for an hour with no slides and kept my attention every minute. Arianna, who founded the Huffington Post, demonstrated inbound at its core. She did not get up and talk about the Huffington Post, or ask me to download the app. She found a way to connect with her audience by telling a story which provoked conversation and thought. She urged a crowd of marketing-minded attendees to find effective ways to balance work and life, but also technology and whatever the opposite of technology might be – escape as she described it. I’m already breaking one of her rules as I compose this post on my iPad in bed – a place she says should be technology free. Sorry Arianna I’ll work on this. There was a similar message to Seth’s keynote urging us to be the leaders in adopting these transformative ways of running companies. Arianna made Inbound Rock. 

Hubspot’s Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah were also amazing and came across as inspirational as some of the other keynotes, even though they were ultimately introducing new products. They told stories of why they built their new products. Brian helped us understand the need for the evolution in their products through comparable advancements in technology, and a cheesy but effective connection he has with his dog Romeo. I also saw Dharmesh share the Hubspot ‘culture code’ – a presentation which has received almost a million views since it was published as inbound content creation earlier this year. Brian and Dharmesh kept up with the caliber by staying true (and cheesy) to the very essence of inbound; sharing opinions, stories and personal experiences. They understand that attendees crave a glimpse of what makes Hubspot tick – allowing them to grab our attention. The Hubspot Founders made Inbound Rock.

There were many moments that made this worth the time out of the office and helped me better understand how to be less outbound and more inbound. But none were more effective than the story of charity:water. At the start of the conference I thought Hubspot was just trying to highlight a cause it believed in – bringing drinking water to those in need – a very worthy cause, don’t get me wrong. But as we heard more and more about charity:water throughout the conference, it became clear that they are not only one of the great leaders in leading a vital cause, but also demonstrate inbound at its very best. I urge you to check out their site and give to the cause. Take the time to watch their videos, engage with their stories and you’ll see how they have connected with people like me. CEO and Founder Scott Harrison has succeeded in doing exactly what Hubspot and Inbound preaches, which is to treat customers as people. In doing so he has raised over $100 million, providing 3.2 million people clean, safe drinking water. This was not done with TV commercials or print ads. It’s been accomplished through innovative online fundraising programs so that every dollar raised goes to the cause not the campaign. Charity:water is now a company I admire, both for what it’s doing and how it’s doing it. Charity:water made Inbound Rock.

So yes One Republic was cool but I’m walking away from #INBOUND13 with excitement about being an Inbound leader like Seth, Arianna, Brian, Dharmesh, Scott and many of the others I saw present or met throughout the halls in Boston this week. With just one day back in the office this past week, I likely made a dozen of inbound references. Yes, I’m drinking the kool-aid and looking forward to #INBOUND14.

About the Author

As COO, Randy runs around daily between strategy, operations, sales and execution of Uberflip's awesomeness.

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