Doubling Down on the Customer Experience: INBOUND 2019 Recap
I had the fortunate opportunity to attend HubSpots’ annual INBOUND marketing conference in Boston. For 3+ days marketers, copywriters and agency owners packed the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center to gather, learn and experience cutting-edge trends within the marketing industry. Attendance rose to over 26,000 as attendees flocked to headline speakers including: Elizabeth Gilbert, Janelle Monáe, Katie Couric, Daymond John and the ultra-popular married dynamic duo of Chip and Joanna Gaines from Fixer Upper on HGTV. This three-day mega marketing conference included more than 250 speakers with various breakout learning presentations designed to assist marketers and agencies as they try to exceed customer expectations and drive customer experience. The exchange of thought leadership that takes place at this event is like nothing you will experience at any other marketing conference. If you missed the event, well, unfortunately, you really missed out. Mark your calendar for next year.
This blog is not designed to give you a session-by-session breakdown. Instead I am going to cover a large overarching theme I uncovered while attending 20+ sessions at #INBOUND19.
Changing the way we approach marketing
At #INBOUND18, HubSpot Co-Founder Brian Halligan threw a retirement party for the sales and marketing funnel, which was a staple in organizations for the last 20+ years. Historically the marketing funnel has been the tool used by organizations to convert leads into customers. Instead, Halligan introduced the marketing flywheel as the new way HubSpot and inbound marketing agencies should think about marketing.
Think about it: What happens to customers in the funnel? They’re the outcome – nothing more, nothing less. All of the energy you spent acquiring that customer is wasted, leaving you at square one.
Flywheels are used in buses, cars and trains and create continuous power in engines. While the flywheel incorporates the same principles of the marketing funnel, the flywheel incorporates the customer base at the center. In a flywheel, growth and customers are at the center of every process. The last 12 months, HubSpot has revolutionized the inbound marketing landscape, and HubSpot partner agencies have started to instill flywheel tactics into their own customer acquisition strategies.
Setting the stage for a great customer experience
The theme at #INBOUND19 was grow better. After a year of implementing the flywheel, what should we as marketers or agencies do to build upon our newfound marketing strategy? Before we can truly engage customers in the flywheel approach, we need to reflect on our own agencies. HubSpot Co-Founder Dharmesh Shah gave a compelling feature presentation on facing fears. He talked about the early days at HubSpot when initially six male MBAs from MIT started the company. Looking back, he realizes now that one of the biggest mistakes they made in the early years was a lack of diversity. “There’s a fine line between this person is a culture fit and this person is a clone of me,” says Shah. You need a diverse group of people who reflect who your customers are. How do you know if you’re hiring for culture or convenience? Shah says your people should add to your culture.
My initial thought to diversifying marketing teams jumps to ethnicity. While that is an accurate measurement of diversity, we really need to take a more holistic approach to diversity. In the early days of YouTube, managers couldn’t understand why approximately 10% of user uploaded videos were uploaded upside down. Nobody in their right mind would purposely shoot a video they want to share upside down. It wasn’t until they did some digging that they realized approximately 10% of the population is left-handed. When someone left-handed shoots video on their phone they hold their phone in a way which YouTube never considered when originally creating the platform. The simple idea of having someone on the team that is left-handed would have allowed the original YouTube programmers a smaller learning curve to get to the solution of their problem. Businesses can’t build teams for every diverse factor, but if you intentionally build your team to have unique experiences, skill sets and training you are taking a step in the right direction.
Multiple speakers both on the main stage and in individual breakout sessions spoke to the idea of nurturing high-quality talent in an effort to create a better culture. This doesn’t mean giving away the farm for the sake of trying to make everyone happy. Simply put, creating a work environment where employees feel empowered, valued and compensated can go a long way to retaining high-quality talent. As a leader in your organization it is important for you to understand your team and what motivates them. While one member of the team may be motivated by more vacation time or compensation incentives someone else may be motivated by schedule flexibility or working remotely. Shah developed a new principle that guides his success that he calls the Pajama Principle: Success is proportional to the degree to which you let people stay in their pajamas. While Shah did not give his keynote presentation in pajamas, he made several jokes relating to continually giving presentations at #INBOUND19 in his logo branded T-shirt because he is, in fact, a Co-Founder of HubSpot.
If you are going to cater to your customers, it starts at home within your organization. I was on a recent business trip traveling on American Airlines and I witnessed a very unsettling exchange between the gate agent and a passenger trying to board the flight. The passenger tried boarding before his boarding group had been called and the gate attendant did not handle the situation professionally, or, frankly, very humanely. The gate attendant could have politely asked the passenger to step to the side until his number was called. Instead, she loudly asked the passenger to step aside because his boarding group had not been called yet. It was uncomfortable for everyone. When I made my way up to the gate agent I bluntly asked her why she had to make such a huge scene. She looked me dead in the face and said that if she didn’t follow the rules she could get in trouble and lose her job. What she revealed to me is that she does not feel safe in her own organization and her leaders do not empower her to make good judgment decisions. The result is a poor customer experience for anyone waiting to board the flight. There is a reason consumers LOVE flying Southwest Airlines over other larger, even cheaper, alternatives. The individuals who work at Southwest are empowered by their organization to do great work, and people truly love working there. The end result is a more customer-centric experience. When employees feel empowered to do great work, customers can’t help but notice. If you are a leader of a team or an organization you should be asking yourself how you can create an environment which empowers your team to work at its absolute best.
The flywheel gives us a framework as marketers to have a customized conversation with potential customers so we can attract, engage and delight them through their entire customer journey. It’s time to do some self-reflection and ask if your team is in the best possible position to create delightful customer experiences. What are some baby steps you can take to get your team pulling in the same direction? You have your blueprint for success – marketing flywheel. The other part of this success equation is creating a team that feels empowered to obsess over the customer experience.