Hubspot's Inbound 2015: My 1.5 Day Review and Recap

One and a half days into Hubspot’s Inbound, and my initial reaction is:

Holy shit. How much information can you cram in your brain in a day and a half?

So, this is my first trip to Inbound and I was told up front that this is a movement, not a conference. So far, I can see why it's explained that way. The last time I saw 14,000 people act as collaboratively as this and be accepting of different messages and personalities, they were talking about PLUR and sporting candy on their wrists. The place has an incredibly welcoming feel to it and everyone, including the venue staff, are exceptionally friendly. Club Inbound, where you go to get massages, free coffee from Dunkin Donuts, swag form sponsors, and demos of Hubspot's products, looks like it was designed by Virgin America. Not too shabby. And there's beer and wine to cap the day off. 

A day and a half in, my wife asked if there was anything I didn't like. I thought about it. And, no. Granted, things Hubspot can't control are working in favor here. The weather is perfect, Boston is an incredible city, and the food is fantastic. The things Hubspot can control, though, are going perfectly, too. They are on schedule, the content is relevant (irony not lost), and the app works rather well. (For me. I received an email about troubleshooting the app, but I've had no issues.)  

As for cramming as much information as I can into my brain, the sessions have been relevant and inspiring. Below I've offered up compact versions of my notes to the sessions I've been able to attend. Every session was different. Every one of them was relevant. 

Some of the notes may require context if you weren’t in attendance. I will delve deeper when I have time to let the information digest. Until then, I’m publishing notes to help me retain the information and share bits and pieces of what I’ve picked up. Pardon any typos or mistakes. Getting 2,500 words up and formatted in couple hours is compressing the schedule I usually have quite a bit. 

Seth Godin

Author of: The Icarus Deception: how High Will You Fly?


Be your authentic self. Stop looking for reassurance from everyone.

Success follows standing out, which, by definition, can’t be pleasing to everyone.

In the Wizard of Oz, the wizard didn’t need a broomstick. He sent Dorothy on a mission he didn’t expert her to return from. This happens all the time in business with requests for more data, more research, and more approval.

Giving credit away and taking responsibility works a lot better than the other way around.

You don’t need authority to take responsibility.

No one will give you the authority to be you, except you

There’s no such thing as writer’s block because there’s no such thing as talker’s block.

The fear of not being accepted or standing out is paralyzing and, ultimately, limits the amount of success you can have. Nothing exceptional was designed to be universal.


Brene Brown

Author of: Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead


Shame is what happens when we try to be vulnerable and we are denied.

Vulnerability is what happens when we show up and have no control of the outcome.

Women experience the shame of body image. Men experience the shame of having weakness.

As men, our status and how we feel about ourselves does not need to come from the feeling of being Oz, capable of fixing all.

Vulnerability is not weakness, it is the greatest form of courage.

The only people that don’t know shame are people incapable of empathy and compassion. So, you’ve either experienced shame or you’re a sociopath.

Fear of vulnerability led Brown to engineer her career at one point to be just small enough to fly under the radar.

Teddy Roosevelt: It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

If you have courage and lead or innovate, you will fail. Not might, but will. It doesn’t feel good, but it’s going to happen. The lack of courage, though, is comfort. Are you choosing courage or are you choosing comfort?

We are not thinking people that occasionally feel. We are feeling people that occasionally think.

If you are brave enough, often enough, you will fail.

Be curious about your emotions. Don’t ignore them or discard them. Accept them and explore them.

Conspiracies and confabulations are what happen when people use fear to fill in limited data points.

We are better at inflicting pain than we are feeling it.

There’s always a shitty first draft. Not just in writing. In ideas, business, and how we address conflict in relationships. 75% of people that experienced being knocked down and getting back up were aware of their shitty first draft, acknowledged it, and took actions to improve it.  When you write down your shitty first draft, everything you need to be brave is in there if you are honest with yourself.


Darren Rowse

Founder of:

Serendipitous Success: 7 Habits of Lucky People

  1. Avid learners: Not limited to formal education. Lucky entrepreneurs are avid consumers of information and knowledge. They question things and gather information. That knowledge allows them to connect dots other people wouldn’t and make “lucky” decisions.

  2. Fascinated with problems: Optimistic about problems and see problems as opportunities.

  3. Practice curiosity: Succeed by playing with the problem, or teasing it. Then hypothesize on it.

  4. Experiment prolifically: Getting ideas to tests and look for answers.

  5. Watch for sparks: Identify areas that present sparks for further exploration. Don’t get too busy to see opportunities and make time to think, or meditate. Specifically, at the end of the day ask, “What gave me energy today?”

  6. Create, initiate, and construct: Most people spend their days responding to the agendas, demands, and expectations of other people. Most successful entrepreneurs spend time building and being proactive.

  7. Quick to pivot: Success is not a straight line.


Brian Clark

Serial Entrepreneur, found and CEO of Rainmaker Digital

What motivates us? 

-Sense of purpose in multiple aspects of life

-Level up until attaining mastery

-Autonomy and control in our pursuits

3 things to think about

  1. Personal projects: What you choose to do is who you become. Choose wisely.

  2. Process over results: Chasing goals without focusing on the process creates the environment for cheating, lying, etc.

  3. Who is writing your script? What we really are is a narrative that our brain creates. We can write our own story.

In life we follow an actor, agent, author process. As actors we are children and simply playing. As we mature we become the agent and responsive to others. As adults, we are the author and write our own story.

Who is writing your story? If you find yourself saying, “I should,” change the script to, “I want.” You won’t be happy with the ending if you let someone else write your story.

Don’t compare your inside to someone else’s outside. 

Happiness is a way of travel. Not a destination. 


Larry Kim

Founder and CTO, Wordstream

The Top Ten Social Media Advertising Hacks of All Time

Marketing is a suicide mission with its 1, 2, and 3% response rates.

“I want you to be a unicorn among a sea of donkeys.”

It’s a myth that you write a blog that organically leads to visitors which naturally leads to sales (or action).

The advantage of paid social advertising is that it’s scalable in turning visitors into leads and customers

10: Focus on the quality score in Facebook and Twitter ads: This is called the “relevancy score” on Facebook and “quality adjusted bid" on Twitter. The higher your score, the more views you’ll get and the cheaper it’ll be. To do this, tweet more often and promote only your best posts (unicorns!).

9. Turn low engagement to high engagement by targeting with hashtags.

8. Increase commercial intent (chance of people buying your stuff) using behavioral and interest indicators. Don’t track web-marketing success with H.I.T.S. (How Idiots Track Success). Target people that may be interested in your products or have purchased products that pair well with yours, which you can get from Facebook and Twitter.   

7. Further increase commercial intent using demographic targeting.

6. Incorporate social media remarketing by incorporating “custom website audience” on Facebook or “tailored website” on Twitter. This can lead to three times the engagement rate and two times the conversion rate. In these, push “hard” offers because of the relevance to the audience.

5. Incorporate “super remarketing” combining remarketing and demographic behavior and high engagement content tailored to the audience.

4. Address material to custom audiences with people based marketing, which is like email marketing but better because you don’t have unsubscribes, laws, regulations, etc. One tip is to use custom built lists of categories like “influencers,” which allow you to target a small and relevant group at low cost.

3. Leverage insanely powerful new ad formats, which make the marketing funnel – a concept in which you push visitors to landing pages to capture them – a ridiculously dated concept. These efforts push people to obstacles and using the “call now” or “subscribe” buttons in social media skip entire steps. This also takes into account the fact that five hundred million Facebook users are mobile and 80% of Twitter users are mobile.

2. Incorporate the snowball effect of social media marketing, meaning the more you do social advertising the better it gets. It also results in paid social ads generating fans.

1. Get free clicks when paid engagements create organic engagement. You can buy one retweet and get three for free.


Julian Aldridge

VP, Brand Evangelism and Activation at Charles Schwab

Leaving Fear Behind: How Corporation of All Sizes Build the Courage Necessary to Win in Today’s Marketplace

The thing separating land of action from land of theory is fear

Book recommendation: A Beautiful Constraint

Develop a sense of venture marketing, which allows you to treat marketing the way venture capitalists treat investing in startups. Recognize that most will fail. The objective is to put a lot of tests out there, identify those with purpose, and invest more in winners.

70% of behaviors are focused on not losing things.

30% of behaviors are focused on gaining things.

Two great videos shared:

Ship My Pants:


Ideas are ugly: 

Dharmesh Shah

Author of: Inbound Marketing: Attract, Engage, and Delight Customers Online


Inbound marketing is about reversing the old mentality of sales and providing value first.

The difference between direct mail and junk mail is that direct mail is what it is called in the design phase; junk mail is what it is called when it is received. Developing a direct mail campaign is no different than developing a junk mail campaign. 

Market unto others as you would have others market unto you

This change in sales and marketing is a movement, as indicated by an attendance at Inbound of 10,000 last year and 14,000 this year. is the place inbounders connect the other 51 weeks of the year and find the world’s best marketing content and create life-long connections.

Your website should be your star employee and your start marketer.  

A great resource is

Brian Halligan

Author of: Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs


Inbound marketing is about “unsucking” the sales industry, which has not had best practices change in 20 years.

People avoid calls because, well, they don’t want to talk to salespeople.

People are changing the way they buy products; we need to change the way we sell them.  The old sales book is dead.

Today, selling is about a partnership, not a power struggle.

Today, selling is about being helpful, not hostile.

Today, selling is inbound, not outbound.

Sell unto others as you would have them sell unto you.

Hubspot aims to be a sales transformation software, not just sales automation.

Jeffrey Hayzlett

Author of: Think Big, Act Bigger

Think Big, Act Bigger: The Rewards of Being Relentless

Kodak didn’t go bankrupt a few years ago. Kodak went bankrupt decades ago when it shunned digital technology.

At one point, Kodak had the only product people would run into a burning fire to save

Adapt, change or die: Be relentless

Change is not bad. Changing for change’s sake is bad.  

To test employees, Hayzlett changed the clock in the office twenty minutes ahead. The objective was to see how the team reacted. The team discussed the change, complained about the change, and started to set up a task force to determine who was responsible for the change. Eventually Hayzlett said one person stood up on a desk and changed the clock herself. She was promoted to Chief of Staff immediately.

When you’re in a high growth company, you need leaders. Leaders are Big Dogs. Big Dogs move fast and they’re loud.

Employees can ask twenty-one questions. The questions can be whatever they want, but there are only twenty-one. The reasoning is that if a leader has to answer small questions on a regular basis, what does he need the person asking them for?

Leaders need to be irrational. While leaders are bringing organizations from point A to point B, they need to tell everyone they are moving to point C in order to get everyone on board. And the road in between is not linear.

Characteristics of successful people on a team:

Be valuable. No one needs a TYCO (Thank You Captain Obvious).

Be a problem solver, not a problem seeker.

Be a change agent for the process.

Be a cheerleader who reinforces goals.

Companies fail because of fear. Don’t fear the unknown. It’s ok to be a beginner.

We are marketers. What’s the worst thing that can happen, a paper cut?

Companies fail with a lack of tension.

Companies fail with a lack of radical transparency. Dominos cared more at one point about delivering the box than what was in the box. With transparency, they told the public their pizza tasted like shit and they were going to focus on what was in the box.

Companies fail with a lack of risk taking. No one is going to die. Take some risks. And take responsibility with you mess up.

People talk about the price of oil. They should be talking about the price of ink. It would cost $462,000 to fill your gas tank with “ink"

What it comes down to is asking:

Why are you in this game?

Who are you?

What is your 118? 118 is an elevator pitch that allows you eight seconds to get attention and 110 seconds to close.

Be the biggest, baddest, boldest version of yourself

Sales performance doesn't trump culture

When the culture of a sales team is properly aligned, sales managers are free to invest their time in productive behaviors like identifying and integrating best practices, improving team dynamics, and designing growth strategies. All it takes, though, is a single prima donna to destroy a team’s culture and distract both a team and its leaders from what they should be focused on: maximizing both sales performance for the organization and value for the customer.

Core values and culture

After a few years in sales management, I deliberately set out to develop the culture I envisioned would be the most productive one for my organization. After reading Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness, which articulates the importance of core values at Zappos, I determined that core values would serve as the cornerstone of that culture. This has been one of the most influential and liberating decisions in my sales career. Every team may have different core values, but the ones we have chosen to serve as the foundation for our team’s culture are: 

  1. Foster an extraordinarily fun and extremely productive environment

  2. Attract and retain individuals that improve team dynamics

  3. Meet our potential, not our minimum expectations

  4. Constantly pursue improvement

  5. Be candid

  6. Be humble

  7. Build open and honest relationships through communication

  8. Develop and maintain a positive team environment through respect, open-mindedness, and a caring attitude

  9. Use a win/win approach to ideas, proposals, and decision-making

  10. Be honest, especially to yourself

  11. Admit to, and learn from mistakes

The core values we developed are a leading consideration in determining whom we choose to hire and serve as the basis for what is expected to remain part of our team. When we are carefully looking to find someone to join the team, we look for individuals that are capable of meeting both the tangible (sales performance) and intangible (core values) expectations. Sales production is merely a prerequisite. 

The values don’t bend to people simply because they put up big sales numbers. The culture is bigger than any one person regardless of how much money they bring through the door. This is clearly communicated on a regular basis, starting in the first interview and continues on a day-to-day basis through management’s messaging and actions. Sales do not trump values. There are no exceptions.

This concept has been integral in developing the most fun, talented, and successful sales teams I’ve had the opportunity to work with. The unique nature of our culture is an observation that’s been shared by nearly everyone that has interacted with the team. The values have played a critical role in creating an environment of teamwork, camaraderie, and a commitment to collectively achieving goals. The value of that environment can be quantified in a few ways, notably doubling revenue per sale, the elimination of undesired turnover, and a track record of exceeding sales objectives every year since the transition. 

As Shawn Parr (The Guvner & CEO of Bulldog Drummond) wrote in Fast Company, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

The prima donna dilemma

Every leader working to develop or implement core values in order to redesign or improve a corporate culture will invariably face what I refer to as the prima donna dilemma. This happens especially in sales environments.

In a sales environment, the prima donna dilemma is the challenge a sales manager faces when a sales superstar starts to believe their sales performance offers them immunity from being held accountable to the core values. And because sales managers want to hit their numbers, they often shortsightedly tolerate behaviors that are destructive to the culture, like disrespecting teammates, gossip, even cheating, for the sake of sales. 

Compromising values for the sake of sales destroys the credibility of the core values and diminishes any opportunity to develop a truly unique and highly performing sales culture in the long run. 

Capital investments in culture

If you own a real estate company, you’ll likely need to part with some cash to buy property and grow. You sacrifice short-term capital in exchange for long-term growth.

If you own a commercial construction company, you’ll likely need to buy some new equipment to grow. You sacrifice short-term capital in exchange for long-term growth.

If you develop a new product that has been offered more distribution, you’ll likely need to invest in production to grow. You sacrifice short-term capital in exchange for long-term growth.

If you manage a sales team, you may be required to do the same thing: sacrifice short-term revenue for long-term growth. 

The first step in dealing with destructive behavior from a prima donna is candid and direct communication. If the actions of a prima donna conflict with the core values, it is leadership’s responsibility to act decisively, address it, and reaffirm expectations. If that doesn’t work, it’s simply time to part ways. You may miss the numbers of a sales superstar, but temporarily sacrificing sales production is a capital investment like any other business. 

Prima donnas and producers

The primary difference between prima donnas you can’t afford to keep and producers you can’t afford to lose is that producers never compromise your culture.

A producer may feel they’ve earned some privileges, and most likely, they have. Give them all the privileges they want, so long as it doesn’t compromise your culture. We’ve offered a variety of privileges for producers. We’ve had a full size basketball hoop in the office, brought in putting greens, and have had satellite music installed for producers. Producers, however, are never in conflict with the culture we have developed. They help us meet our sales objectives and simultaneously improve the culture. 

Core values and culture don’t conform to individual team members. Standing by this principle, even if it costs sales in the short-term, will go a long way in maintaining the environment you want to develop in the long-run. As a sales manager, it will also make your life a hell of a lot easier and more productive as you focus on what really matters.

Cultivate employee engagement by caring

A common theme among those in the organizational culture crowds is employee engagement. Employee engagement, we’re told, is the key to productivity and a happy workplace. 

Just what is “employee engagement” though? And how do you influence it? 

Engage for Success, a movement to promote employee engagement, offers this definition

Employee engagement is a workplace approach designed to ensure that employees are committed to their organization’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to organizational success, and are able at the same time to enhance their own sense of well-being.

Well said. 

My experience has taught me that doing one thing promotes employee engagement most: caring

When management cares about their employees, their happiness, and their perspective, employees tend to care about their organization in return. It's not a novel concept, but if we have to talk about employee engagement as much as we do, it's probably not practiced often enough. 

Every decision management makes is an opportunity to reveal whether or not they care about their employees. If employees and their perspectives are considered in decisions such as, how the workplace is designed, how schedules are developed, how compensation plans are created and executed, and how messages are communicated, employees infer that management cares. When employees and their perspectives aren’t taken into account in decision-making, employees infer that management doesn't care. Simple enough.  

The degree to which employees feel like they, and their perspectives, are cared about undoubtedly correlates to how much they care in return. It's hard to care about people that don't care about you. It's true in business and it's true in life. 

With that, you have employee engagement, or the lack thereof.  If management wants to create an environment where employees care enough to help them achieve their objectives, then it makes a whole lot of sense for managers to care about their employees first. 

Engagement goes far beyond how to treat employees though. Brands can cultivate cult-like loyalty from customers through engagement. The brands that listen, interact, and engage most effectively are the brands that convert customers into their most ardent advocates, the most convincing type of marketing a brand can have. 

The real key to caring is sincerity. Managers and brands can't pretend to care for very long because people inevitably see through bullshit initiatives to trick them. When employees or customers experience a sincere effort to care, though, they will consistently reciprocate and everyone wins. 

Caring is a characteristic worthy of mastering to develop worthwhile relationships, and it's not exclusive to business. It's worth trying with everyone you want to care about you.   

Strategy isn't enough. The importance of values and culture.

At a recent training event with industry executives, I learned what a seasoned executive consultant thought were the most important components of developing a five-year plan for each executive’s business: strategy, goals, and values. 

Only, he said values were optional. They real key, he said, was strategy. And he proceeded to spend the next four hours focused exclusively on that. 

This view, which is held by many, paints an incomplete picture. 

Strategy defines where your destination is and the route you want to take to get there.  It’s critical.  

Values define how you will behave. How you behave defines your culture. Values, like cultures, exist whether you define them or not. They are not optional. They just are, by design or by default. And they determine the effectiveness of the tactics you implement to meet strategic objectives. 

Allowing values to develop by default is no less careless than allowing a strategy to develop after you've started to implement it. 

When you develop a strategy, you are laying the track to your destination. When you define your values and culture, you define how quickly, efficiently, and safely you will reach that destination.  Strategy and culture, then, go hand in hand. 

An intelligent strategy without clearly defined values and a well-designed culture is like constructing a railroad track for a Lamborghini. Your strategy is the destination and route. Your values and culture are a matter of putting the best vehicle on that route. One without the other is incredibly ineffective.