A Recap of HubSpot’s INBOUND and an Introduction to the Flywheel

Two weeks ago the TFD team and a few of our closest friends (23,998 of them) gathered at what felt like the biggest marketing conference in the world, INBOUND. Presented by Hubspot, the event featured big names like A-Rod, Deepak Chopra, Lena Waithe, and representatives from companies such as MAC, WeWork, Airstream, SoulCycle and more. Below are a few major takeaways and themes from the event that we thought worth sharing.

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Successful Products are Selling Experience

If you’ve worked with us before, you may have heard us reference a statistic that says that “by 2020 customer experience will outweigh price and product” as the key differentiator for the consumer. Meaning, consumers are more likely to do business with brands and companies that foster a positive experience, not just a great product or price. Forget 2020, that time is now. Today’s most successful companies (Casper, Warby Parker, Amazon, Apple) are all built on consumer experience and everything else comes second. Casper isn’t in the mattress business, they are in the mattress delivery business. A small, but significant distinction in how consumers select the products and companies they choose from today. Starbucks is successful not for it’s commodity of coffee, but that you can go just about anywhere in the world, order a venti soy latte and it tastes exactly the same. The expectation and experience is consistent for the discerning consumer.

Adopt a Consumer First Strategy Now

In the ecosystem of years past, businesses could get away with treating consumers as byproducts of what the company initiatives were, instead of the center. In an independent study, researchers found that when asked the question, “How does your opinion of a company change when you get unwanted outreach?” Dharmesh Shah, co-founder and CTO of HubSpot shared that 85% said it lowered their opinion. It seems pretty obvious, right? But here we are, likely with an inbox of emails we didn’t ask for, and a cold call for a survey we certainly won’t take. Clearly it’s not sinking in for everyone.

Also worth noting is how integral your technology solutions are to a consumer-first strategy. As one presenter put it, “when your marketing depends on a pile of tools that don’t talk to each other, your customers notice … and not for the right reasons.” Why are you asking the consumer for something they already have? Why are you sending information to my old company name? These questions are all code for, why are you not better at your job?

A Consumer-Centric Business has a Different Type of Culture.

It’s not something we typically discuss, but it’s something we can’t ignore, a consumer-centric business has a consumer-centric culture. They foster workplaces focused on discovery rather than perfection, transparency, and authenticity--and shift their focus from delivering services to delivering outcomes. The acronym we heard repeated was, S.F.T.C., Solve For The Customer. It’s simple, but it’s a mantra that can keep your team focused on your north star.

The Funnel is Dead.

If you’re a digital marketer you know the “F” word. That one too, but the one I’m referring to is the “funnel.” For the past umpteen years, we’ve all adapted the same buzzword lingo, visual, and strategies, all structured around the consumer funnel.  We have our top of funnel, middle of funnel efforts, and bottom of funnel that has helped all marketers put a visual understanding to the consumer experience. Yet, at INBOUND, Hubspot President Brian Halligan introduced a new concept of how the consumer process should work, and that we’ve perhaps been thinking about it all wrong.

Enter the flywheel. “Whereas funnels lose their momentum at the bottom, flywheels leverage momentum to keep spinning.” In a nutshell, the consumer’s journey doesn’t stop at the purchase, that’s where it begins. Existing customers need to be continually surprised and delighted in order to become loyal consumers and brand advocates. According to Halligan, the funnel is lazy. It suggests our job is done when the job is really just beginning. A circular model is more focused on customer retention, rather than just the transactional process of acquisition. HubSpot calls it a flywheel, you may have heard us call it an ecosystem. The bottom line is, there is no bottom to the consumer experience. Every point of engagement with your brand feeds the broader consumer experience and consumer journey.

Were you at INBOUND? What’d you think? Educational? Culty? Fantastic? We would love to hear your thoughts, as always. Email us at ashley@twentyfirstdigital.com or melissa@twentyfirstdigital.com.