INBOUND 2023, HubSpot’s annual inbound marketing conference, was just as electrifying and exciting as anticipated. Seven “Lifters” traveled to Boston, where they attended sessions, mixed and mingled, set personal-best step count records, and came away with lots of new ideas and insights.
The sessions weren’t just about learning, they were about connecting—with colleagues, conference-goers, top-level thinkers, and customers.
You never knew when and where you’d hear some groundbreaking new concept, so Lifters followed the sage words of that great modern-day philosopher, Vanilla Ice: “Stop, collaborate, and listen!”
While INBOUND 2023 touched on a wide range of subjects, there was no doubt about the two hottest topics: HubSpot’s evolution and AI.
Everyone felt like HubSpot was growing up and moving to the next level. They also felt like AI was going to help, not hurt, humans—but that, collectively, no one had quite gotten a handle on how to best use it. Yet, anyway.
Overall, Lifters came away feeling optimistic, energized, and with tons of takeaways. We broke them down according to topic, so enjoy!
The consensus seemed to be that HubSpot isn’t in the minor leagues anymore as it shifts away from its go-go, startup days. Brian Halligan used to say that HubSpot was still in the early innings of the inbound transformation—but this INBOUND made it clear that HubSpot has transitioned to the middle innings as it pushes for bigger, more complex opportunities and customers.
HubSpot is returning to its roots as a platform—but this time, with free CRM, Marketing, Sales, and Services layered on top. I think it’s an approach that will pay off. - Jess Cardenas, Chief of Staff
The sales and martech market is entering the next phase of its lifecycle, and success drivers will be different. The next 12 to 18 months will be tense, dynamic, dangerous, and filled with opportunities. Lots will change—and HubSpot is in an outstanding place to strengthen its growing community. - Doug Davidoff, Founder & CEO
The former emphasis on the Inbound approach as the HubSpot differentiator doesn’t seem to hold true anymore. Now, it’s “We’re doing it better.” Throughout the week, I heard stories of selling head-to-head with Salesforce, in traditionally Salesforce-favored situations, and winning. There was a new measure of ego/pride in the product and its place in the market—or the ego of the partner/app ecosystem could be seeping its way into the mainstream. - Brad Marshall, Revenue Operations Manager and Analyst
HubSpot must now manage multiple stakeholders who often have conflicting priorities. This takeaway was less upfront and “on the stage” than other things like A.I. and was gleaned from conversations I had with customers, HubSpot executives, product managers, and people in the investment community. - Doug Davidoff, Founder & CEO
I was struck by the emphasis on moving upmarket and the involvement of the partner ecosystem. I think it indicates the intention to thin the partner herd, with a focus on building relationships with the remaining partners and distributing work among them. After doing away with lifetime commissions last year and expecting a significant increase in partner involvement in the customer journey this upcoming year, the partner/HubSpot relationship has changed. One way I could see this manifest is a reduction of the HubSpot services team, instead, outsourcing it to highly competent and trusted partners. In short: current partners must evolve (improve) or die. - Brad Marshall, Revenue Operations Manager and Analyst
No one was surprised that this was one of the hottest topics. Lifters generally came away feeling optimistic about some concrete applications—but at the same time, it felt as though everyone was still feeling their way.
I’ve seen so many people talk about using AI to replace or do the work, but Dharmesh talked about how it can help us brainstorm better ideas and get a quicker start. Things like ChatSpot can also help us move from “big data” into “meaningful or actionable data.” And HubSpot's new AI content assistants can help us generate content ideas and quickly move to create. - Sammi Gallagher, Senior Manager of Marketing, Demand Gen Services, & Training
In terms of practical AI applications, the prospecting capability and features allowing access to new data from inside HubSpot were honestly fantastic. This could potentially replace (or reinforce) many third-party apps in the enrichment space—and AI-generated images, the ethical debate on them aside, will certainly make marketers’ jobs quicker and easier. However, in regards to reporting, setting up websites, and ops-level stuff like data clean-up and correction, there’s still lots of room for improvement. - Brad Marshall, Revenue Operations Manager and Analyst
I still don’t believe AI will ever replace humans, but it will absolutely change the way we do business as we see more integrations. We’re going to see bigger gaps between the companies that use AI to replace humans, the companies that use AI to support their humans, and the companies that resist adopting AI into their processes. - Victoria Evans, Director, Go-to-Market Advisory & Services
All the AI talk got me thinking about a virtual lab where my fellow Lifters and I could experiment with AI in the hope of understanding its capabilities; we could define practical use cases in sales, marketing, etc., and define guardrails. - Noelfry Veras, Director of Revenue Operations
Buyers are engaging later in the journey with much more information, so it’s important to meet buyers where they are.
To make customer journeys flexible and frictionless, don’t hoard information or make customers wait for information; the sales process should be guided, educational, and personalized. A common mistake is fixing the buyer’s journey into your sales process when you should organize your sales process around the buyer’s journey. - Noelfry Veras, Director of Revenue Operations
Sales is leading the way. It won’t be long before HubSpot is thought of in a sales context first. Sales Hub is clearly the growth driver for the future. - Doug Davidoff, Founder & CEO
The B2B buyer’s journey is adopting similar characteristics as the B2C buyer’s journey due to how frictionless it’s becoming for executives to purchase software for their organization. - Noelfry Veras, Director of Revenue Operations
We must reframe how we think of SEO. Optimizing for revenue, rather than for rank, is the way to go.
- As an industry, we’ve spent a lot of time pursuing rank and increased traffic, but not nearly enough time focusing on optimizing for the intent behind that traffic. It’s important to think through how we optimize our content for the user experience on the page, specific to their intent, rather than just hitting the keywords needed for rank and discoverability. - Victoria Evans, Director, Go-to-Market Advisory & Services
A significant audience is looking to improve the way they use HubSpot reporting.
- Many of the same inconveniences that we at Lift face, others face, as well. It occurred to me that there’s an opportunity to share Lift’s workarounds, hacks, and tips beyond our client base. In fact, I’ve been inspired to create a shortlist of topics and plan to start creating regular content around this later this year. - Brad Marshall, Revenue Operations Manager and Analyst
From a service-provided perspective, the theme was that all accounts should be treated as key accounts.
- The emphasis should be more on the relationships you nurture and less on the services you offer. On the nurturing front, it’s time to step up our game and move from personalizing to contextualizing. - Sammi Gallagher, Senior Manager of Marketing, Demand Gen Services, & Training
I heard a lot of talk about ecosystems, and how growth isn’t a zero sum game. Growth for one is growth for all of us. - Sammi Gallagher, Senior Manager of Marketing, Demand Gen Services, & Training
GTM should be the umbrella for Sales, Marketing, and Customer Success. To succeed, these divisions must be aligned with the organization’s GTM strategy. - Noelfry Veras, Director of Revenue Operations
Radical Candor does not mean being an unbridled jerk. It’s at the intersection of seriously caring and directly challenging someone. - Noelfry Veras, Director of Revenue Operations
And that’s a wrap on INBOUND 2023! We’re already looking forward to next year.