16 Key Lessons from HubSpot’s Massive 2016 Inbound Marketing Conference

Quick Recap of the Most Important Points from this Event


Inbound 16 — this year’s HubSpot sales and marketing conference — was jam-packed with powerful people and lessons, with a fair share of politics and tech added to the mix. The huge event — which was set in Boston — featured more than 300 breakout sessions, attended by over 19,000 marketing and sales enthusiasts.

Speakers ranged from marketing and IT influencers to award-winning Hollywood actors, best-selling authors, entrepreneurs and athletes. The speakers’ diverse backgrounds offered a multifaceted look into the “inbound way of doing business.”

All said and done, the event covered a ton of ground. Here are the 16 most important takeaways that we picked up from HubSpot’s Inbound 16 conference.

1. No One Can Possibly Keep Up With The Full Range of Marketing Tactics!

Marketing is evolving at a supersonic pace. There are so many different tactics and channels available in this vast and ever-changing industry that there’s just no feasible way to keep up with all of them. Initially, this might sound depressing … but in reality, it’s such an enormous relief. We can all breathe a collective sigh, freed from the pressure to chase an impossible dream — thereby spreading ourselves too thin. Instead of trying to master all available channels, the key to success comes down to maintaining level-headed clarity of focus about exactly who you’re trying to reach and then evolving the right power plays to reach those particular audiences.

2. The Key Is Self-Awareness.

Legendary entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk advised participants in his keynote session to “figure out who you actually are. What are you good at? Then bet on yourself, no matter what anyone else says.” Self-awareness infuses you with the courage to take risks, do something original and express your creativity — thus differentiating your brand.

3. Own Your Niche.

Focus is essential to breaking out and achieving success. In marketing, this means owning your niche. As Scott Meyers — “brofounder” of 9 Clouds — said in his talk, “We all own a little piece of the universe, where we can become a master.” Choose an industry or service. Apply laser focus to your niche segment. Invest enough time to create a recognizable process in your chosen field, which will enable you to stand out as an expert.

4. Longevity Depends on Customer Success.

HubSpot cofounder Brian Halligan refers to this as the “customer success” benchmark, the rightful cornerstone of sales and marketing for long-term results. Use this as a gauge when developing commission structures, recurring revenue and pricing plans.

5. Cold Calling Is Dead.

If you’re still using cold calling, it’s time to hang up the phone, Halligan announced during his keynote speech. Instead, use microtargeted social and digital tactics, which provide far more cost-effective ways to reach your target audiences.

6. Email Marketing Is “Alive and Well.”

Unlike cold calling, Halligan pronounced email marketing to be alive and kicking. Email marketing automation remains an effective method of delivering targeted messaging to your audience, by picking up on specific user behaviors and other contextual cues.

7. Optimize Human Enjoyment.

It’s easy for marketing professionals to focus on closing sales, just as Alec Baldwin once did when he played the role of Glenngary Glen Ross, with the classic line: “Always Be Closing.” Today, Halligan recommends a new mantra for marketers: “Always Be Helping.” Focus all your efforts on optimizing the enjoyment of your audience. This should come first and foremost, particularly as sites such as Google become exponentially better-equipped to evaluate the nuances of user experience.

8. Design Should Center on the User.

One way to optimize human enjoyment is through the effective use of design, as HubSpot Senior UX Designer Austin Knight explained in his talk. In striking contrast to art — which is all about the creator — design is ultimately focused on satisfying the user. Art tends to defy conventional norms, as a form of personal expression. Design — on the other hand — very often leverages predictable standards, to maximize ease of use.

9.Venture Into the Marketing “Frontiers.”

Halligan also encouraged marketers to expand their customer-centric approach by shifting greater attention toward these four marketing “frontiers”:

· Converting text to video

· Living in social platforms

· Accelerating content

· Automating buying

10. Social Messaging Is an Essential Sales Tool.

HubSpot cofounder Dharmesh Shah shared how social messaging can help your audience to develop deeper trust in your company or brand. It now serves as a powerful means of connecting with prospects, with real-time response rates and a distinctly human touch.

11. Chatbots Are a Staple for the Future.

On the tech side of things, Shah denounced the idea that chatbots are far more than just a passing fad. Shah believes chatbots will be a “staple for the future” of marketing, enabling us to process massive amounts of data in far more efficient ways.

12. Only a Few of Your Blog Posts Will Be True Winners.

This is the harsh reality that Pamela Vaughn, HubSpot’s principal marketing manager of optimization, highlighted in her talk. At one point, 77% of HubSpot’s monthly leads came from only 100 posts, which represented just 1.4% of all posts in the company’s marketing blog. Nevertheless, historical optimization — the process of going back to old blog posts to improve their search rankings — can help boost results.

13. Learn to Separate “Unicorns” and “Donkeys.”

WordStream founder Larry Kim echoed Vaughn’s point, stressing just how crucial it is to learn to separate “unicorn posts” (i.e., your most popular social posts) from “donkey posts” (i.e., those that fail to get very far off the ground, in terms of relative social engagement). Kim’s multimillion-dollar secret: Concentrate social-advertising dollars exclusively on your best posts to maximize your ROI.

14. Success Starts with Creative Thinking, Combined with Effective Ad Spend.

Social success entails the right mix of creative thinking and effective ad spending, Halligan said. While creativity provides the initial spark, advertising dollars serve as gasoline, spreading the fire a whole lot farther and wider than organic efforts could ever accomplish on their own.

15. Get the Most Bang for Your Buck with Facebook Lead Ads.

Speaking of advertising, Halligan shared how there has been a shift in online ad “unit buys.” In 1994, the most attractive unit buy was Pay Per Impression; in 2002, it was Pay Per Click. As of 2016, however, this has shifted to Pay Per Lead. He thus encourages marketers to jump heavily into Facebook Lead Ads to make the most of their dollars today.

16. The Best Marketer Wins!

Despite this being a marketing event, the U.S. presidential election — which took place during the same week — provided an interesting backdrop for the audience, reinforcing the sheer power of marketing and branding. “All politics aside, it’s very simple: For better or worse, the ‘best marketer’ won the election,” said David Meerman Scott in his breakout session titled “Trump, Bush, Clinton & Sanders: How Inbound Marketing and Inbound Sales Decided the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election” — reflecting upon Trump’s obsessive focus in building a “personal brand” empire throughout his life.

Which of these conference takeaways resonate most with your own experience? How do you plan to apply them to your business? Sound off with your thoughts below!


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