Podcast: The Inbound 2021 recap

By Alexander Evjenth

Podcast: The Inbound 2021 recap

Last week, some of the Zoomers attended Inbound 2021 - the latest installment of HubSpot's yearly conference about online marketing, digitalisation, and more. In this episode, I spoke to Doug and Martin about their main takeaways from Inbound 2021 and the newly-launched tools they're looking forward to trying out.

This was the second fully digital Inbound conference. With the sudden arrival of the pandemic in 2020, HubSpot had to quickly abandon the typical in-person conference in Boston and find a new solution. Inbound was still online this year, which worked out well for us - we were able to have a lot more Zoomers than usual attending, and we'll be able to go back and watch all the sessions and presentations on-demand over the next few weeks and months.

As usual, there was a lot to talk about after this year's conference. We learned a lot about topics like video, podcasting, content creation, ABM, and more in the individual sessions, and got an insight into the new tools and features that HubSpot will be rolling out.

If you didn't have the chance to attend the conference yourself, this episode is the next best thing. We spoke about our main takeaways from the sessions and discussed the benefits and implications of the new product releases we'll see from HubSpot in the near future. 

Enjoy, and don't forget to subscribe! Either here, or on the podcast platform of your choice - you'll find the links below. You can also watch the video version of this episode below and on our YouTube channel. If you're in a rush, you can read the full transcription of this episode further down.

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AE: [00:00:00] How are you guys?

MR: [00:00:02] Yeah, pretty good. How are you?

AE: [00:00:04] I'm good, and you Doug?

DB: [00:00:06] Yeah, I'm not bad as well, thank you. It's nice to have a guest on the pod. We've it's just been you and me for the past few weeks, Alex.

AE: [00:00:12] Yeah. And the guest is Martin, and you've been in this pod two times before.

MR: [00:00:18] That's correct.

AE: [00:00:19] And today you're both here to talk a bit about Inbound 2021, which you both participated in last week.

MR: [00:00:28] Yes, indeed, it was the, I guess, second fully virtual inbound experience. So we are still kind of living through the pandemic. So there were no people attending physically in HubSpot other than HubSpotters themselves. So it was all a digital conference or event this time as well.

AE: [00:00:50] And Martin, you Participated last year as well?

MR: [00:00:53] I did, yes. And it was a bit more developed this year. I think naturally, I mean, they built their own platform and so on. So it was a bit more structured. It was good last year as well. I mean, HubSpot, the Inbound event, we've been going, I guess, since 2013 or something. And normally we've flown a few guys over to Boston to attend. And it's always been a very good event and very well organized and so on. But it's been interesting to see now how you or how they have been taking that event fully digital, as it were, with all kinds of different, you know, abilities and things you can do digitally that you can't necessarily do when you're there physically. So one of the biggest things for the physical event is, you know, you physically have to move from place to place to see or attend a session, right? And that's always been like the schedule and running over there and, you know, standing in line and getting seated and so on. And obviously that you don't have to do digitally, you know, look at things live or you can look at most of the content on-demand, you can get access and you can download the presentation and so on. So a lot of that helps, obviously, to be able to kind of fit it into your schedule.

AE: [00:02:06] Yeah, I was in the virtual platform for the first time last year. I was not participating this year, but it was very easy to access the sessions and they were pre-recorded for half an hour and then was discussion half an hour. Most of them were structured like that. Were there any new improvements in the platform this year Martin?

MR: [00:02:30] Yeah, I think it was a little bit in terms of how you kind of put your own agenda together. It's actually based on the topics you choose in the beginning, you could get a pre-organized agenda, you could follow that track based on what you said. I mean, if you were interested more in sales than in marketing, for example, you can get a sales agenda and so on, and it helped by suggesting things like that. I ended up cherry-picking a lot anyway because my interest is kind of across everything, but I heard from another colleague of ours that he found it really helpful to get that like pre-suggested agenda, and he kind of followed that. So I think that was a neat feature.

There's also kind of all these ways of networking, and as you say, the ease of attending the session. There were some issues, I think with the platform, there were some people complaining that it wasn't that stable when it comes to video and so on. I think they had a little bit of a challenge, certainly the first day, but it seemed to be getting better over time. And I love the fact that you can get easy access to the presentations as well, which was always a difficult thing in the past, they had to kind of wait for it and they delivered it, maybe in a week or two weeks later and so on. Now you can get easy access to do all of it straightaway.

AE: [00:03:48] And Doug, this was your first Inbound experience, right?

DB: [00:03:52] My second, actually, I went in, I think it was 2019, which was then the last one that was in person. So I was in Boston then, which was very nice, a little trip to Boston, there's nothing wrong with that. But I didn't attend the last year. That was the first digital one. And yeah, now back This time. But I think it's a big benefit, and something they maybe did last year as well, but now for everyone who is registered, all of these recordings of all the sessions are going to be available to watch on-demand for the next year, which is really good, you know, because obviously with the time difference, there's a lot of sessions that were beginning at midnight Swedish time, so I'm not dedicated enough to stay up late for them, unfortunately.

And you know, maybe you don't have time the day after, but perhaps in a few weeks or something, you look back at the agenda and you want to catch up and you can do that, which is nice. And I mean, that's even a benefit over having the physical event, because when I was there in 2019, I think some of the sessions were recorded, like they had a camera at the back of the room. And they made them available afterwards, but not all of them, so then you really kind of have to be there and be taking notes, and you have to like fly to the other side of the world, you know, to go to Boston to get all these tips, which maybe isn't sustainable or feasible for everyone. Yeah, so no, I was impressed.

AE: [00:05:19] So what sessions did you choose to attend Doug? Were there any specific topics that you looked for?

DB: [00:05:29] Yeah. Like Martin said, I kind of followed the recommended ones, and there are a few I need to catch up on, but I've mostly been attending ones about video. I've got some good tips there about how a lot of these leading companies that do social video really well create them and how they think. I mean, we've certainly since I've started, we've tried to make more video things like the podcast, for example. But you know, we're not producing, you know, tens of videos every day, and I doubt we'll get there. But just kind of interesting tips on how to kind of think about how users on Instagram, for example, have a different expectation to TikTok and how the constraints of those different platforms, and how you can use them to your advantage. And even things like, you know, the size of the video, like on Instagram, you have a little square video in the middle of the screen, but on TikTok, you have the entire screen and you just scroll, and that opens up more possibilities for, you know, how you use different visual elements and stuff like that. So I don't know if Zooma is going to get a TikTok account in the near future. Maybe, maybe not, but it's good to know about anyway.

AE: [00:06:34] That's good. And Martin, any session you would like to talk about?

MR: [00:06:40] I mean, I mean, I was a bit more eclectic. As I said at the beginning, I kind of tend to dip in and watch a lot of different things, everything from kind of the revenue operations to ABM to sales to content to the spotlights, obviously, and so on. I always find it, I mean, one of the big events is obviously the main HubSpot spotlight in terms of where, historically, Dharmesh and Brian Halligan have done the big presentation and they reveal some of the big ticket items or new releases. This year, because Brian Halligan has now stepped down as CEO and become chairman instead, he had a discussion at the end with the new CEO and Dharmesh, the kind of future thinking part which is always interesting. I think, as always, it's interesting to hear those thoughts, and talking about how we are kind of getting into the next wave of of digital now and the importance of focusing on the full kind of customer journey and getting everything together and so on.

I think there are some interesting announcements from Hubspot, one of the big things, obviously, is they are moving into HubSpot payments, which they announced. So they are, it remains to be seen how that will actually work and play out. But I think it's, if you think about that kind of tremendous increase in, let's call it, digitalization that many B2B companies have entered into the acceleration phase of that because of the pandemic. Now, obviously, some of these other pieces that historically haven't been within the HubSpot scope, such as payments or more the e-commerce part of things, I think that's a good play of them to be able to kind of bring that into their overall platform. They also kind of talk more about the customer portal side of things. So it's one of the things that we at Zooma have worked with several times over the years, in terms of, I mean, you have your customers that you want to reach, or a new prospective you want to become a customer, but what happens once you become a customer? How do you handle those and how can you create that kind of community or extranet or whatever you want to call it, where a customer can actually go to and find their information and their way of working together with you a company. So I think that's interesting as well. Then obviously the continuation of Operations Hub. So they're launching now first of November, I think they're launching their Operations Hub Enterprise, it's only been a Professional hub until now. So that means the Operations Hub is really meant to be the glue between all of the different platforms and kind of sort the data between the HubSpot platform itself and other connecting platforms. So that's an important piece of the puzzle as you try to get more of a full picture and connect to a wider system and keep your data as clean as possible. The problem with any kind of CRM or digital platform or any kind is clogging up of data over time. So if you don't cleanse your data, you will eventually end up with a lot of wasteful data. So that part becomes quite important as well. So it's interesting to hear them discuss that, and also how they think about the future, really.

AE: [00:10:07] And were these things that you had anticipated before, or?

MR: [00:10:15] I mean, some of them, obviously like the Operations Hub, were already there, and it's just expected to be the Enterprise version of it. HubSpot Payments wasn't really talked about at all. It was kind of just revealed. So it was interesting. I didn't think that they would go that way because they historically have been more kind of focusing on, you know, Shopify integrations or other payment platform integrations, and now they're taking a step into that. So I think that was surprising most, I know it was certainly surprising the financial analysts because they were, they saw that as one of the biggest ticket items of the day, as were. And I think the HubSpot stock price increased like 20 percent after that announcement or something like that. So it was received well, let's put it like that.

AE: [00:11:03] Yeah. And Doug, you mentioned video, the video tips, any other content-related sessions you attended?

DB: [00:11:12] Yeah, I mean, in terms of the stuff that will be relevant for me, there's always quite a few good announcements, and it's often like that with HubSpot, that if you use HubSpot for any amount of time, you eventually find things that HubSpot can't do. And you think like, "Oh, it would be nice if they could do that." And usually you manage to solve it in some other way, or perhaps by using an integration. But that's what I often think comes up at Inbound is, is these kinds of smaller updates that they've solved that make your life, as you know, someone in my kind of role, which a lot of other companies have, you know, a kind of all-purpose content person who's working on HubSpot, it would make our lives a lot easier.

So there's one announcement that came out and I'd have to see how it works in practice, but they made a big thing about business units. So now you can create different business units in HubSpot and basically kind of separate a bunch of different stuff in your portal according to those different business units. And when they give examples, they mostly talk about brands. So like a large company that has several brands. But I can see a use, certainly for a lot of the kind of companies that we work with, that are large international companies that have like European head office, but they have a subsidiary in France and one in Germany and one in the UK and so on. And then they'll be able to use this, I think, to split up all these different types of assets, you know, like landing pages and emails and forms and stuff, and kind of fence them off from the different teams that are using the same portal, which is a much-needed change because, you know, in the past, you've had to solve that by, you know, making sure that you name everything very well. So, you know, all of your forms are tagged as this belongs to France, this belongs to Germany. Whereas now it seems like you'll just be able to do that in a more logical way, and your users will only be able to see the things that they need to see.

DB: [00:13:10] So it's that kind of thing, you know, it's quite significant usability changes that have been in the pipeline for a long time and finally get slowly released year on year. So I think that's definitely a positive change for people who work a lot with content. You know, it'll just make the task of navigating and managing your portal a lot easier, I think,

MR: [00:13:29] Yeah, I agree with that. And it's often the case I find with Inbound over the years, that you get kind of those, some very dedicated kind of sessions. I attended one which was about the new and improved custom report builder. And then you get some tips and tricks and oh, that's how they do that, you know, that's the kind of thing that has eluded me for some time and I find out, OK, so you do it like that. So those are very kind of practical and useful for me, and you can get a few nuggets in a few tips and tricks that you don't necessarily get by watching the videos or taking the certification courses or whatever it is, you get all those hands-on and they have cases and so on. So I find that really helpful as well.

And then there's always like I attended, which I always try to do, Marcus Sheridan's presentation, he's a very animated guy that's kind of become an icon within the HubSpot world or the inbound world or whatever you want to call it. And he talked a lot about creating trust and trusted content and the fact that most, most companies kind of miss that if you want to become trusted, you need to talk about the negatives. So he showed a few examples where companies kind of say reasons why you shouldn't be using us or, you know, by doing that, you kind of create a level of trust, but you also create that kind of search traffic if people are searching for reasons why not to do something, chances are they are considering doing it, so therefore you can create that content. And the also the other things that we've been discussing for many years, that you need to be transparent, you need to show prices and you need to kind of not hide away that kind of basic things in terms of costs or rates and things like that, right?

MR: [00:15:21] So a lot of that is good to think about in terms, I mean, if you like, the main difference of an online and digital world is people can I can always find out the truth. If you go back to the pre-internet, old kind of Mad Men version of advertising, it was all about creating the crisp, perfect image of your company. And that was the only store you were selling and that was what you were advertising. Whereas now you need to be more transparent and say, this is us. Here are pros and cons. And here's you know, not so much, only focusing on why we are a good fit for you, it's just as important to say when are we not a good fit for you? When shouldn't you be working with us? Because that creates a completely new level of trustability and that's something to build on. And in a digital world becomes much more powerful and easy to succeed by just being transparent and open.

DB: [00:16:21] Yeah, that's a very good takeaway. And Doug, did you attend any sessions that were, yeah, like related to content or anything other that you want to share?

DB: [00:16:37] The content-related ones mostly focused on video and podcasting. But I mean, that trust element that Martin mentioned is, you know, HubSpot has spoken about that for a long time and always likes to reinforce it at these kind of events. And I think they did a kind of similar thing with talking about customers, and they kind of started a bit with that when I was at the physical event two years ago when they introduced this flywheel, you know, like the new version of the funnel, where the customers are in the middle. And that was a big part of the main kind of spotlight session with Dharmesh Shah that, you know, kind of reinforced what they've spoken about for the past two years that, you know, it's not the case that you have your leads, and then when they become customers, they've done that job and you can kind of forget about them. It's, you know, you need to continue nurturing these customers and that's what enables everything else to go around. And I guess that's important for them now that they're focusing more and more on CRM and kind of making the CRM system the core of the whole platform.

But that certainly has implications for the content as well, for the kind of content you produce, that, you know, you have attractive content for search purposes. But, you know, customer-focused content also has a very important place. And I think, you know, still, even after these two years, that's not such a high priority for a lot of marketers. So, yeah, I suppose a lot of things about, you know, more video, more personalization, they introduced a load of new personalization tools that you can use across everything, just kind of a general upgrade on everything, and then customer-focused webinars I think will continue to be an important tool. And I mean, which is kind of like what Inbound is really, you know, like the whole conference is just a load of content that at least partly is based on keeping all their all the HubSpot customers happy and, you know, on the same page as HubSpot. So I guess we just need to carry on following their example, really.

AE: [00:18:36] Yeah. Yeah, Martin. Are there any takeaways that you are eager to start and experiment with in the coming year?

MR: [00:18:48] Yeah, I mean, certainly there's things that are tactical in how you can do things in the platform and so on. But I think one of the other big sessions that I attended was more about virtual selling trends that was kind of using some of the data coming from McKinsey and LinkedIn and others in terms of how things are progressing, that one of the things that I mean, if we go back a few years by having discussions with customers, will people really be willing to buy something of substantial value digitally online? Don't they need to meet in person? It's not that many years ago, you know, there was still a big debate where people would buy a car online without having seen it, for example. Now we know, obviously, that lots of car manufacturers are selling lots of cars online without ever being, you know, meeting the person until they deliver the car. And there were some statistics from, I think it was from McKinsey saying that now people within B2B, the vast majority of people are happy to do remote buying or even self-service buying, for like fifty thousand dollars or more.

So that's the vast majority, and even like a third are willing to buy for half a million or more. So half a million dollars or more, so we are getting to the point where people are just, I mean, I can just as well buy things remotely or do it self service specifically when it comes to kind of repeat orders and so on, people are now almost kind of preferring that instead. So you get, you know, you hear these kinds of stats where the majority of sales interactions now are digital, they had some numbers from McKinsey saying that's already about 70 percent, if you take into account repurchase orders and so on. Gartner has some predictions that by 2025, it will be 80 percent of all sales interactions. And other data, I think it was from LinkedIn saying that almost half of all B2B sales reps have been selling for remotely for like five hundred thousand dollars or more. So we're at the place now where you can really, the type of business that you really, really need the in-person meeting for, is one, for specific customers, possibly, or two, it's so complex that you really need to have those things. But even then, a lot of the interactions that are leading up to that are happening digitally. So it's just for all companies to realize that if we don't follow this trend, chances are that your total piece of the pie or your market share will shrink. If you kind of rely too heavily that we have this position in the physical world. But the world is slowly but surely, and in some cases quite rapidly, moving to digital and online transaction-based economy, basically. So you need to really be able to be part of that, otherwise it's going to be difficult to grow or even protect your market share, almost regardless of industry.

AE: [00:21:51] Great. And Doug, any takeaways that you want to start with right now?

DB: [00:21:58] Yeah, I'm more interested in more just testing the more practical new products and features that they rolled out. So we mentioned like the customer portal thing, that they've introduced a new tool for making customer portals, which we've kind of done by ourselves already. We've just used password-protected pages to create a kind of customer portal, but now what's coming is a kind of ready-built tool that's mostly for customers to be able to send in service requests, create tickets, and then they can also go back into the customer portal once they've submitted those tickets and look at the status of those tickets, which is an improvement on what it is now, because even on our customer portal, we have a service, we have a support form. But once you fill that in, we get the ticket and there's no kind of passive feedback to the person who actually sent it in, whereas now those people will actually be able to go in and see all of their ongoing issues that are being worked on. So that would be good to try out. I mean, lots of other things, all of these small changes that you know, will start popping up. It'll be good to see how they work and if they solve any problems that we haven't been able to figure out just with HubSpot before.

MR: [00:23:07] Yeah. And on that note, we probably should mention that they also kind of now are rolling out a sandbox environment for enterprise customers, which is one of the kind of missing features historically from HubSpot. So you will be able to test certain things in a sandbox environment before going live, as it were. So that will likely continue to evolve as well. But you have that ability to, as you say, test and try things.

DB: [00:23:32] I think they've had a kind of testing environment for developers in HubSpot before. But this one is basically you just can make a copy of your portal and it just works at normal. The difference is, it doesn't send any emails or anything like that. So you can go in and try stuff without worrying about screwing up all of your CRM data or something like that in the real portal, which is quite nice.

AE: [00:23:52] That's great. Thank you both for participating today.

MR: [00:23:57] Thank you very much, it's a pleasure

DB: [00:23:58] Thank you, see you soon.

Alexander Evjenth
Alexander is a content creator who has a great interest in learning new things. What he enjoys even more is creating knowledge content.
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