I was having lunch with my CEO on Friday and after he had shared his experience of the last couple of years attending HubSpot's annual conference INBOUND with me, he asked me "so what do you want to get out of going this year?" Now the truth is I had barely had the opportunity to give it much thought so, I gave the same stock answer most sales guys would give in a similar situation "I would like for me and my sales team to close more deals and sell more effectively".
Now it's Monday afternoon, I'm somewhere over the Atlantic on my way to Boston and I've finally had the opportunity to ask myself "What do you want to get out of INBOUND 2017?". The thought process started as I sat in Heathrow Terminal 5, downloaded the app and began scrolling through the agenda to decide what I was going to attend over the next 4 days. Once I had ticked off the obvious like the opening keynote, welcome party, Michelle Obama, John Cena and of course Brian Halligan & Dharmesh Shah, I got down to business.
I thought what followed would be quick and easy as VP of Sales, I would attend all the sales workshops, ignore the fluffy marketing ones and job done. The penny slowly started to drop as I realised there were 4 or 5 sales related workshops happening at any given time, not to mention specific workshops on growing and scaling your agency....#dilemma. Time I gave this some thought.
Let's back up a few years, INCo is a growing and successful outbound lead generation agency supporting the who's who in the technology space. Over time the market and our customers began to evolve, and in order to keep up, my CEO announces...we're going Inbound!!!! Alarm bells start ringing in my brain...'we're doing what exactly, going to sit around and wait for the phone to ring???? Well, that's going to work well'. What he actually said was a very well presented and thoroughly thought through strategy about enhancing our service offering and adding more value to our customers by engaging prospects earlier in the buyer's journey. Nonetheless, the alien concept of inbound marketing had been introduced and one thing was clear, INCo was never going to be the same again.
Since the initial shock announcement, INCo's journey to Inbound (or more accurately Direct & Digital) has been a road, full of learning, discovery, excitement, disappointment, challenge and victory. As a salesperson, I have loved the challenge of evolving my entire pitch, vocabulary, methodology and process to include inbound. As a concept it is a no-brainer, however in reality (as we soon discovered) making inbound marketing work, is tough. On top of that there are so many conflicting messages out there, how do you know what really works? Well at INCo we threw out the idealistic rulebook, rolled up our sleeves and worked it out for ourselves. What we discovered is that most people's preference is to go 100% inbound with their marketing, so much so that they forget the whole point...it's not about achieving a conversion goal, it's about achieving a sale!!!
The missing link in most companies I speak to is their link between marketing and sales. Marketing are ploughing in time, energy, resource and spend into making their digital marketing all that it can be, whilst sales are working their accounts, managing their pipeline and bringing in deals with little thought or regard to what their marketing colleagues are up to. At times an enquiry form is completed and sales gladly pick it up, however, most of the other downloads, click-throughs, conversions and form submissions are quickly disregarded as not being a fit or are too far out to do anything with to influence this quarter's number.
So does that mean Inbound is a waste of time? Not at all, I would say Inbound is transforming INCo's ethos, culture, proposition....and most importantly, the value that we offer to our clients; not as a direction, but as a methodology. The Inbound methodology flows through our entire marketing, inside sales and sales process to create a culture of integrated sales and marketing awesomeness. It's taken us a long time to get there and we are a long way from being the finished article, however, Inbound has set us on a new path of 'Direct & Digital' and 'Sales Enablement' that is transforming our business and that of our clients every day.
So....back to the question, 'What do I want to get out of Inbound 2017?'
I guess I'm looking for lots things. Sure I want to improve as a salesperson and come back full of zeal and vigour to enthuse my sales team to be 'Inbound Sales Rock Stars'...but it's more than that, the answer goes much deeper. As I join thousands of marketers, salespeople, owners and executives from around the world as they complete their pilgrimage to Marketing Mecca, I want to avoid the irresistible temptation to follow the herd and instead ask a new question "Who are We?" Yea, deep I know and I've not even started on the cabin bar yet!
"Who is INCo? What is our destiny? How do we get there? How do we take our customers with us? How do we inspire our teams to fulfil their potential? How do we continue to turn Inbound into a mindset and not a direction? How do we get the best ROI and experience for our customers? How can we collaborate with other partners? How can we work closer with HubSpot to accelerate growth?"
So what do I want to get out of INBOUND 2017? A hell of a lot it would seem. I'm looking for answers, confirmations, discoveries, challenges, partnerships, development and growth. Quite a lot to cram into 3 days of sessions but I'm game...INBOUND 2017, here comes INCo!!!!
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