Well, the moment has again arrived. HubSpot’s Inbound Conference has come to a close and currently I find myself boarding a plane for a quick stop at home before hitting the road (or skies) again next week.
But while it’s percolating so actively in my mind, I’d like to discuss some thoughts on the conference, much of which stem from the mountain of conversations I’ve had with fellow attendees and HubSpotters this week. I think you’ll find these sentiments and observations similar to everything I’ve stated regarding HubSpot in the past: Honest and Sincere.
A Review of Inbound 2015: 7 Frank Observations
1. Inbound is No Longer a Marketing Conference
Look at the keynote speakers on this year’s lineup: Aziz Ansari, Chelsea Clinton, Brene Browne, Seth Godin, and Daniel Pink.
If you look at the keynote breakdown of the Conference, three were about social change and human issues. One (Pink) was sales oriented (at least, this was the theme of his last book). And only Seth Godin was focused on marketing.
So what does this mean? Honestly, I’m not totally sure. I’d love to ask the HubSpot brass themselves what the #1 goal of the conference is. Social change? Higher awareness? Empowerment? Business? Marketing? HubSpot Growth? Granted, I’m sure they’d say, “All of the above” but I’d still like to know their core focus.
My gut tells me it would sound something like this: Social Awareness for the sake of Thinking and Acting Bigger in Business and Life
Is this good? For many folks, yes. For others, not so much.
Case in point, I had multiple folks tell me statements like this one this week: “I’m here to make my business better, not see comedy shows or learn about political activism.”
I get that.
I also get HubSpot is trying to create a movement in “Inbound” that goes way, way beyond marketing.
And one could easily argue the merits of both sides.
This, to me, is the biggest question and issue for this conference going forward.
2. We have a Serious Sales Problem in this Industry and Certainly at Inbound
Once again, Inbound 2015 failed to attract anywhere near the amount of “Sales Professionals” needed to get this industry where it needs to be.
Fact is, Inbound Marketing never becomes a culture within an organization until Marketing, Management, AND Sales have gone all-in. Sure, some organizations already get this and many did send at least a few of their sales team members to the conference. But, so far as I could tell (I polled my audiences and asked this question to everyone I came in contact with), less than 5% of the attendees at Inbound would primarily consider themselves as part of their company’s Sales Department. Ouch.
On a personal level, as one who teaches Inbound and Content Marketing workshops all over the globe to Sales Teams, I’d like to see this change. I know HubSpot shares my sentiments, but the fact is they just don’t have enough content and focus at the conference for Sales Pros. More is needed. Much more in fact.
— E Group Engage (@EGroupEngage) September 10, 2015
3. The HubSpot Community is in a Class by Itself
The orange that is HubSpot, and the movement that is Inbound, has created a community unlike any other I’ve seen at any large conference in the world. This connection with attendees is almost palpable, which makes the Inbound Conference one of the greatest networking events for business folks and marketers around the globe.
4. The HubSpot Partner Program is a Movement unto Itself
The number of HubSpot Partners these days is astounding. In fact, HubSpot could have a separate conference just for its partner agencies and that event, too, would be massive (Note* The partners have a separate track at the Inbound Conference). What started off as a night and weekend project by the visionary Pete Caputa (head of the HS partner program) has become the catalyst to HubSpot’s exceptional growth strategy, and doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
5. HubSpot’s New Tools Bring Equal Excitement and Frustration to Users and Partners Alike
As is always the case at Inbound, HubSpot founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah introduced quite a few new tools and features to the HubSpot product this year. But unlike last year’s event, for the most part, these updates aren’t free. In fact, the best ones come with a monthly add-on cost to your existing HubSpot Package.
In my discussions with attendees (partners and users alike), everyone seemed excited about these new features, with the biggest applause coming for the new Reporting Tool—one of HubSpot weaker areas in the past. But along with this excitement came equal frustration because of the fact that this new tool is a $200 monthly add-on expense to the product.
Personally, I absolutely feel HubSpot should be charging extra for certain features. But, frankly, advanced reporting is not one of them. (At least, that’s my opinion today, we’ll see where it evolves to over time.)
6. The Inbound Conference is Not Immune to Growing Pains
Over these past couple of days I’ve talked to hundreds of attendees of Inbound. With almost every single one of them I asked what they were most happy and frustrated with regarding the conference. Without question, their number one frustration was the amount of people that were turned away from sessions this year due to overcrowding. I’ve seen this happen before at Inbound (and other conferences) but I’ve never seen it as bad as it was this year.
I’m not sure how HubSpot can fix this, but it pains me talking to attendees (many of which are clients) who have been excited for weeks to attend certain sessions and see certain speakers only be turned away in the final minute.
— The Hired Pens (@thehiredpens) September 10, 2015
7. Good Grief Inbound is a Fun Event
Seriously, despite the fact I was a little over-traveled and under- rested upon arrival at Inbound this week, I had an absolute blast. On a personal level, it’s an incredible gathering place for my team and my online community. Boston is an amazing city. The conference center is world class (flawed, but world-class). HubSpot creates an electric vibe in every corner of the event. Their employees give Disney-like service to attendees. And, like I said, it truly is a fun, enjoyable experience to be a part of. This, alone, will keep me coming back again and again.
I’d love to know your thoughts on my observations, as well as anything else you’d add to the list. Do you enjoy #Inbound15? What would you do differently? Where do you feel like the event needs to go next?