There have been times when I’ve been accused of being a “HubSpot Homer,” but the truth is, if anyone actually reads this site, they know such a statement is one derived from ignorance—read here and here if you’d like to see what honesty means when discussing the pros and cons of this company and its marketing platform.

That being said, HubSpot’s Inbound 2013 conference blew me away.

Really, it did, and here are 3 reasons why:

1. I didn’t expect over 5,000 people. I’ve been to every Inbound conference since its creation, but good grief, it felt like every HubSpotter in the world hopped on a plane and went to Boston for a few days—clearly an impressive showing of HubSpot customer loyalty.

2. Although I knew HS was coming out with some new tools, they’ve exceeded my expectations. So much so, that I’m going to need to do a review post on it to give it a fair shake and help the readers here that are interested to get my typical honest take on things.

3. HubSpot is changing as a company, a move most don’t yet realize (because they haven’t come out and stated what they’re doing) but it may be their biggest move to date, which is why I decided to discuss the subject in today’s post.

A “Small” Change that Could be a Really, Really BIG Deal

There was one part of the “Inbound” conference that many attendees likely didn’t even pick up on, and it was this:

HubSpot is changing their tune (brand messaging) to one that focuses on “Inbound Marketing” to simply “Inbound.”

This change has been shown in some of their verbage and marketing copy, but it was extremely prevalent in the conference itself. In fact, many of the presentations at Inbound were not about “marketing” at all.

Other than Halligan and Shah, the only other keynote that really spoke much about marketing was Godin. Furthermore, the "Bold" talks, which were a huge part of the conference, were dominated by non-marketing speak.

Other than Halligan and Shah, the only other keynote that really spoke much about marketing was Godin. Furthermore, the “Bold” talks, which were a huge part of the conference, were dominated by non-marketing speak.

You may be saying to yourself, “Well that means nothing Marcus,” but I’d beg to differ.

In fact, I feel it marks a monumental change in the future direction of HubSpot.

The Apple Comparison

But before we dive into this further, take Apple as an example. What is Apple? What is the mission of the company? Are they a music company? A computer company?  Maybe a digital company?

My guess is your answer to each of this is a resounding “NO.”

Apple, although they “do” certain things, that’s not what they “are.”

See the difference?

The late Steve Jobs made a powerful statement about Apple in the 1980s that I feel puts it perfectly into perspective:

“To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind.”

And that mentality is exactly why so many people are fanatical about Apple and it’s also the core to their success in truly changing the world as we know it over the last 20 years.

“Inbound”—A Way of Doing Business

Getting back to the Inbound discussion, think about this for a second though—what makes more sense, tying your brand to a single verb (Inbound Marketing) or tying it to a philosophical way of doing business (Inbound)?

For the past year, I’ve kept thinking more and more about how all this marketing “stuff” we talk about is really just a few core principles of success (repackaged with modern names) that have been around since the beginning of time:

  • Listen
  • Teach
  • Communicate
  • Be Honest
  • Be Transparent

Those things, for me, are the core of everything we all read about online, and certainly representative of the “Inbound” way of thinking, at least according to HubSpot’s founders, Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, both of which I know are huge Steve Jobs fans and have always seen HubSpot as more than just a “set of tools.”

This also likely explains why the two have not bitten on offers to sell HubSpot up to this point, allowing it to be swallowed up in another company that likely doesn’t share their same vision of truly changing the way business is done in all of its forms—be it marketing, sales, company culture, etc.

I Might Be An Idiot

Keep in mind, the things I’m saying here are purely my thoughts and speculations, as Halligan and Shah have not come out and addressed this shift head on. Heck, they may even be mad at me for discussing it prematurely ;-)

But if this change does come to pass, I think it’s potentially huge. Sure, it won’t happen overnight, but it has to start somewhere. Furthermore, such “missions” can’t be defined from the beginning, as time generally teaches each one of us in business where we truly want to take our companies and where our core passions lie.

In the future, I see HubSpot moving from a company that simply develops marketing software to one that has their roots in education, teaching the world how to embrace an “Inbound” mentality in all facets of their business—sales, marketing, customer service, etc.

Sure, the tools will always be there, just as the iPod and iPad are to Apple, but those will not mark who they truly are and represent.

Then again, I could be dead wrong about everything I just said. ;-)

Time will tell my friends, time will tell.


Update*** I sent Dharmesh Shah an email giving him the thoughts of this post and within his response, he described HubSpot’s vision/mission as follows:

“HubSpot’s mission is to transform how organizations attract, engage and delight…”

Your Turn

For those of you interested, I’d love to hear your take on this. Am I way off with my assumptions and thoughts or do you see a HubSpot shift as well? Is it a good or bad move? Jump in, your opinions matter.


53 thoughts on “HubSpot’s Huge Shift and What It Means for the Future of Inbound “Marketing”

  1. Marcus,

    I’m not a Hubspotter, but I obviously believe in Inbound so this hits home for me for sure… I think it only makes sense that a company like Hubspot would begin to add structured education (beyond their already robust blog) to what commonly believed to be a best in class product.

    Everyone I’ve talked to that went to Inbound13 is raving about it…

    …the concept does work though, there is so much more to Inbound than just marketing.


  2. Hey Marcus,

    YES, YES, YES!! I am working on a near similar post based on my experiences at the conference as well, and really thinking about how this forces the comparison between inbound and SEO and where these two fields are heading.

    Inbound is a mind-set, a philosophy, and a way of behaving. At its roots, inbound means a business must think about how to improve the customer experience throughout the decision making process (from need recognition to post-purchase consumption). Every department within an organization has the capacity to improve the customer experience, and dong so through an inbound perspective means that the customer will feel valued, and as though the business truly understands their needs.

    HubSpot started the inbound approach with marketing- a department that often got in the way of consumers; now, they’re changing sales- a department that wasn’t always on-par even if the leads were qualified. I too am contemplating how inbound will impact customer service, and think that a more active (rather than reactive) approach may come into play, as contact with customer service is often initiated by the customer (an inbound approach), and HubSpot’s success has been in flipping what was once an outbound approach into an inbound approach, so we’ll see. Will have more to say soon :)

    Whereas inbound is bring its philosophy into new departments, consequently creating BRANDS that people love, the articles being pushed out from the SEO industry seem to be focused on taking over other departments responsibilities (e.g. design, copywriting, and social media). Sure, these have all been tactics in the SEO toolbox, but it feels as though *some* SEOs need to expand their value by expanding their responsibilities (i.e. taking over the responsibilities of other departments). In comparison, inbound is expanding its value by expanding its philosophy into other departments.

    Inbound is a movement. Pure and simple.

    Love your thought process, Marcus! So thrilled to be a part of this industry and movement. It was a pleasure meeting you in person at Inbound 2013, and having the opportunity to see you present in-person… that was a legendary experience.

    Keep Changing Lives,


  3. I think you are SPOT on Marcus….and I do mean Hubspot on!
    The energy of change was certainly in the air at inbound and there were lights shining on the fork in the road. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around all the new product announcements and how to put them into practice.

    The way I see, “inbound” is the circle of sales life
    Attract -sales – revenue analysis – nurture.
    Hubspot is phenomenal on the front and back end but to truly delight customers and to let them feel the love, the entire experience needs to be united. Right now I’m working on making sure ALL our systems are a go.

    I must admit, the highlight of inbound for me was a high five and hug from you! Your advice. ideas and ideals have been invaluable to our little company. I still owe you lunch and I hope the next time you decide to take a breather and a vacation you will please allow me to return the kindness back to you!

  4. hey Marcus

    You might be a visionary businessman :)

    I believe in your predictions, and genuine ways of marketing with “sticky” content…

    I guess within a few years we’ll look at “inbound” as we look at “SEO” or “PPC” nowadays — as the standard in how we run businesses online, is it?

    • Thank for saying that John….time will tell. :-)


  5. I think you’re right on as well.

    Every time someone interacts with every aspect of a business, not just with the marketing, is an opportunity to delight, amaze, bring joy, impress, etc. If Hubspot can provide the tools and help to spread the message, business and society will be better off for it!

    Thanks for your great work!

    • You’re welcome Anthony, and again, so GREAT meeting you at Inbound my friend!!


  6. Mark Reutzel

    I think there is (and has been really) a growing need for Inbound principles. The honest teachings that we derive from those who have come before set a precedent for where Inbound is going to go irregardless of what company (or companies) or individuals that pick up the torch and go forward to share that message. Inbound is the good news that we in Sales, Marketing, Customer Service and any other Customer Facing position have been waiting for.

    A restoring of principles that we may have forgotten. A new generation needs to rise up, take those principles, learn them and then share them with those who need them.

    The naysayers may be strong, may not receptive, and may even shun us. But if we stick with it and teach with honesty. They will want to embrace our message. In a way that will make those who came before proud.

    • LOVE this Mark, well said!!!

      Keep spreading the good word,


  7. Excellent post as usual Marcus. It’s going to be really interesting to see the direction Hubspot take with their product & marketing. You can’t help but wonder what challenges they will tackle next. CRM, especially, is looking like an increasingly obvious choice from my perspective. Such a move could bring a challenge for companies like InfusionSoft, who have been selling a marketing automation/crm package successfully for a good number of years now.

    • Absolutely bud, I’ll definitely be watching! :-)



  8. Based on your comments (since I wasn’t at the conference) it does indeed sound like a brand identity shift for Hubspot.

    That said, the difference between ‘inbound marketing’ and ‘inbound’ is ultimately spin. “Inbound” is catchier, but in a word, it doesn’t reference the mission that Dharmesh defined.

    Definitely keen to watch how Hubspot branding evolves in the coming year.

    • True, it does not Ruth….at least *yet.*

      But yes, we’ll see. ;-)


  9. Marcus,

    First, it was a pleasure finally getting a chance to meet you live and in person at Inbound 13. Expectations were meet and exceeded.

    Second, it was a pretty intense four days, none like I’ve ever experienced before. I attended more sessions on “Inbound Selling” and “Culture” than pure “Marketing.”

    In a world where we are finally connecting all the dots and truly valuing those connections more than the dots themselves, the idea of “Inbound Business” is a blatantly obvious next step.

    You will not be able to transcend “your work” without being able to identify and amplify those connections, which ultimately creates something radically unique.

    • Joey, what a pleasure it was finally “meeting” you bud!! Keep doing great things my friend,


  10. Thanks for the thoughts Marcus. Didn’t make Inbound but got to review some of the released videos and it shows it was some event. I first found Hubspot by using the website grader, now marketing grader. This was their first free tool which helped people see how they were doing. I see the move to expand the exposure and get more people involved with the New Signals tool released at Inbound (and simultaneously to all us on their list who were not there). It is already helping me keep track of interactions.

    That early web grader experience has led me to being a happy user of the software and a long time marketer who has tried valiantly to change my thinking about how to grow our business.

    Your insight into the event and the thinking process is really helpful. Thanks once again and a high five from Canada.

    • Lee, great to hear from you sir and appreciate the kind words. Hope we’ll be able to catch up at next year’s Inbound. :-)


  11. Your are very observant, Marcus.

    • Indeed, some astute observations here, Marcus.

      Thanks for helping more and more businesses go inbound.

      Glad to hear so many had a great time at #inbound13. Already starting to think about #inbound14.

      • Much obliged Dharmesh, thanks for all you do. :-)


    • Actually, I just watched too many episodes of the Mentalist Brian ;-)

      Keep it up my friend,


  12. Hey Marcus…your blog posts are always “must-see” TV. I wish I could have made it to Inbound, but we were getting ready for #cmworld. We did sent a representative and heard good things. I was surprised by the numbers as well…quite an accomplishment indeed.

    The one thing I would just like to add is that the entire concept, whether you call it inbound or content marketing or an art or a science, is just beyond the early adoption phase. That’s what amazes me the most I think. Being “inside” like you and I are, sometimes we forget that the majority of enterprises aren’t there from an integration or political point yet. Just think where we will be in just a few years.

    Thanks as always for your insight my friend. See you in a few weeks.

    • No doubt about it brother, we have a long, long way to go….Guess that means our jobs are far from being over. ;-)

      Looking forward to seeing you in Cleveland very soon. :-)


  13. Hey Marcus! Nice seeing you at Inbound again this year and I enjoyed hearing you talk. You can also tell your daughter her video was awesome…

    Regarding Inbound, this is just my second year attending but I thought there was a distinct difference between last year and this year, both in terms of the content AND the audience, which seems to have doubled in size.

    On the content, the major difference between last year and this year was the focus on inspiration. The bold talks, the keynotes – all of them were designed to inspire (dare I use the word “delightion”?) and most seemed to emphasize innovation.

    This year was our first year bringing an employee to the conference and I’m so glad I did. Whereas John (my husband and business partner) and I attended lots of the VAR sessions, Jessie-Lee, my designer, attended several of the bold talks. To say that she came away charged up is a HUGE understatement.

    The thing about HubSpot that has always struck me is that the possibilities are limitless. If I had all the time in the world, I could build thousands of landing pages, pump out a ton of fantastic content, and segment and analyze to my heart’s content. But the reality is that there are only so many hours in the day, so to get the most out of HubSpot, you need a really energized team that is 110% on board with what inbound is all about. We definitely came away from the conference with that! Now the challenge is to keep the energy level up as we move forward.

    This was also the first year that we had clients at Inbound. That made it a pretty different experience for us, but again, I’m so glad we did that. Our clients now really “get it” and are as excited as we are. As Joe Pulizzi said in his comment, inbound is still really new for lots of folks, so I love that the growing numbers of attendees and the inspirational messages at the conference are producing an army of inbound evangelists who can go out into the world and speak about this with passion! Kind of reminds you of how passionate those Apple customers are….

    Regarding HubSpot being bought, you and I touched on this for a moment when we spoke at the show and it is something I think about all the time. As a VAR, I have hitched my wagon to the HubSpot horse and I love the product, the company, and the directions its going BUT – and its a big BUT – I am so scared that they will get acquired and things will change (by “things” I mean the culture, the product, the VAR program, etc.). I for one hope that Darmesh and Brian keep it private and stay at the reigns, but only time will tell on that front.

    Thanks for a great post. Until next year….

    Kathleen Booth
    Quintain Marketing

    • Don’t worry…if we were going to sell it, we would have probably done it by now. #ItsNotJustAboutTheMoney

      • Ha! Another reason I love HubSpot – responses directly from Brian Halligan. Thanks Brian for taking the time to engage with us as a community AND for addressing my concern head-on. You and Dharmesh have really built a great company and we are thrilled to be a part of the Inbound movement!

    • TREMENDOUS comment Kathleen. LOVE what you did by bringing others w you to Inbound and sounds like you made it an experience to remember.

      I certainly hope you and I have a chance to chat some more on this subject soon.



  14. Edwin Vlems

    Strange, I lately have the impression that Hubspot is moving back towards ‘outbound’, if you look at some recent blogs:
    – How to do outbound sales calls well (inbounders don’t do outbound sales calls at all!):
    – How to do mobile banners well (inbounders don’t do banners at all!):

    Also, the part that I never understood in the Hubspot philosophy is the need to call or mail someone immediately after downloading a whitepaper, it’s just postponed Outbound marketing. David Meerman Scott thinks the same on this subject…

    …he even calculated that ‘ungated’ content (for which you don’t need to fill in a form) is downloaded 20-50 times as often as ‘gated’ content.

    Don’t get me wrong: I am a big fan (and a user) of Hubspot and am thankful for their ‘missionary’ work. I am just afraid that they are loosing their religion in stead of strengthening it.

    • I get what you’re saying Edwin. Follow up sales are a funny thing, especially when you’re under pressure to make them. Indeed, it is a catch22.

      Stay well,


  15. Tiffany Cavegn

    Before attending Inbound13, I heard it could be a life altering experience. I took that with a grain of salt and went to Boston with no work distractions and an open mind. Now that I’m back home, I have been asked many times how I enjoyed the conference. I’ve had a hard time answering because good or great or fantastic just didn’t cut it. It wasnt just a software conference or just marketing. So many different sessions hit me right between the eyes on so many different levels… As a professional of course, but also as a human, a wife, mother, philanthropist and a friend. I can’t quit wrap my head around it yet other than to agree, Hubspot as a company and Halligan/Shah as owners were able to create something special. I haven’t felt that alive in quite some time. It truly was a life altering experience and I look forward to the future with such genuine colleagues. That includes you Marcus and your hope for an honest economy.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Tiffany. Warmed my heart.

      Glad you were inspired at #inbound13. It’s precisely what the HubSpot team has been working super-hard to do.

      As Marcus remarked — HubSpot aspires to more than just giving people tools. We want to help power their transformation.

    • Tiffany, easily one of the best comments of this strand…awesome, awesome stuff :-)

      So very great meeting you,


  16. Love the post Marcus and I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with the concept of the “inbound mentality.”

    To me, it’s not about inbound vs. outbound per se; it’s making the shift from interrupting people with poorly targeted garbage to creating and sharing content that creates genuine value (which leads to trust and authority) for your clients and prospects.

    HubSpot and others have created some very helpful tools to facilitate the process. They have (along with you, Joe Pulizzi, and countless others) done an incredible job educating business owners about how to use their tools for good.

    Now, it’s up to business owners to decide…

    Are you going to keep on taking the easy road by sending generic marketing crap to the masses or are you going to go “all in” with the inbound mentality?

    Do you have the passion to be _truly relentless_ in creating content (all forms) that helps your prospects and clients make better decisions (even if that means, on occasion, NOT hiring you)?

    Are you committed to learning everything you absolutely can about your craft and translating what you’ve learned to the world?

    Buying a license to HubSpot or Infusionsoft or Marketo, or Salesforce or whatever is the EASY part. It’s not about the toolset…

    • VERY well said Ben, appears you should write a post on this as well sir!! :-)


  17. Art


    You really hit the Inbound 13 experience on the head. I had the chance to attend many of the bold talks and it was to say the least inspiring. Thanks for your insights. and thanks to Brian and Dharmesh for their inspiration to do this.


    • Art, it was great having you in the audience for my talk brother, I only wish I had more time to chat w you while there.

      Catch up soon my friend,


  18. It was nice to see you at the Inbound…keep it going.
    When and where can we hear You again? :)

  19. The one thing I would just like to add is that the entire concept, whether you call it inbound or content marketing or an art or a science, is just beyond the early adoption phase. That’s what amazes me the most I think. Being “inside” like you and I are, sometimes we forget that the majority of enterprises aren’t there from an integration or political point yet. Just think where we will be in just a few years.

    • You’re very correct with that Mike. There is still a very low awareness/acceptance level with all of this. When the shift is made,it’s going to be very cool. :-)


  20. Marcus, YES. It’s been on my mind for awhile now. It only makes sense, and this move makes me completely happy. Go for the gold. Growing a business is a multifaceted affair. I’m so damn happy to be a part of it!

    • Love your passion Terra! Thanks for stopping by :-)


  21. Marcus,

    I’m sorry we didn’t get a chance to cross paths at Inbound13, but we’ve run into each other in the halls of HubSpot before and you’ve always been a good friend to HubSpot Academy.

    I agree with Brian and Dharmesh that you are indeed observant. Those core values you describe inbound boiling down into just blew my mind, though. What I might also add to the list is “test & measure” or “analyze & iterate”? Data, metrics pertaining to the content we publish and context we capture about those who interact with it are now at the heart of HubSpot and inbound as well, I believe.

    We employees “market” programs and ideas inside HubSpot almost as intensely as we do for our external audience. Content is published via our internal wiki, context and engagement of employees with programs, initiatives, ideas is measured often through a variety of tools and platforms.

    Is it only natural to me that as more and more of the employees/stakeholders of an organization become empowered to harness those core values that you shared – and use the tools and mediums that their target audience (be it internal or external) prefers, analyzes the results and improves upon the findings, the more the company as itself “goes inbound” beyond simply those who market as a profession.

    As you said, these are universal human principles. This is B2H (business-to-human).

    This whole thread is an amazing example of something that definitely goes beyond marketing. It’s….something else. :) See you around soon I hope! Cheers.

    • Wow, Nick, what a great comment and thank you for adding further thoughts on the company culture that continues to develop there at HS.

      I’m sure we’ll catch up soon my friend. Continued success,


  22. The way I see, “inbound” is the circle of sales life
    Attract -sales – revenue analysis – nurture.
    Hubspot is phenomenal on the front and back end but to truly delight customers and to let them feel the love, the entire experience needs to be united. Right now I’m working on making sure ALL our systems are a go.

  23. That said, the difference between ‘inbound marketing’ and ‘inbound’ is ultimately spin. “Inbound” is catchier, but in a word, it doesn’t reference the mission that Dharmesh defined.Thanks for helping more and more businesses go inbound.

    Glad to hear so many had a great time at #inbound13. Already starting to think about #inbound14.

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