Most heard at Inbound 2017: Growth, Chatbots & Messaging, and Michelle Obama

Inbound 2017


For the typical attendee, an event of the scale of Hubspot’s Inbound takes weeks – if not months – to digest, even for veterans like me who had carefully selected all sessions in advance and knew exactly what information she hoped to walk away with.  Four days, 21,000 attendees, 100 countries, 285 sessions, 273 speakers – as much as you try to make the most of all the education, entertainment and networking opportunities you are offered (not to mention the food trucks available at lunch!), you will always leave with that haunting FOMO feeling.

There are, however, three phrases that still echo in my head louder than the rest – Growth; Chatbots & Messaging; and Michelle Obama. These were recurring themes in the sessions I attended (I admit I may have been biased in choosing exactly those) and the most talked about during the breaks. Let’s take each in turn.


How to grow a company – the pipeline, the team, the revenue – was definitely the unifying theme of the marketing and sales talks, regardless of the specific tactics that were discussed. The supporting theme that permeated most growth conversations was alignment as the key factor to business success – alignment of goals, alignment of values and course of action, alignment of sales and marketing teams around revenue targets.

Ryan Deiss, the CEO of, decoded his magic formula of making marketing and sales work harmoniously by aligning them around the same goal – the growth of the business. The growth team in Ryan’s company comprises sales, marketing, and customer support – all jointly in charge of driving more revenue and creating value for the customer across the entire journey. Ryan admitted that making these three distinct teams work as one was a painful process, but proved to be the key strategy that led to growing the company.

Growth was the most prominent word in the keynote of Hubspot’s cofounders Brian Hulligan and Dharmesh Shah. Brian told us his recipe for scaling a startup – which is not an easy thing in the martech industry with over 5000 vendors competing for the marketing dollars. He shared the core ingredients of Hubspot’s growth model: scaling the management + scaling the hiring + scaling the product. Scaling the management required focus – learning to do less, but better, and prioritize the needs of the customer over the company or their department. Hiring, also, works differently in a growing company than in a startup – company culture becomes the magnet of quality hires, where the critical ingredient is faith in the mission of the organization. Or as Simon Sinek said:

“If people are working hard on a mission they believe in, they call it passion; if they are working hard on a mission they don’t believe in, they call it stress.”

And last, the magic ingredient of scaling a product is customer delight. In 2017, word of mouth weights more than the word of the seller – ensuring the optimal customer experience is not an option, it’s a must. In essence, “It’s more about how you sell than what you sell”.

Company Culture and Customer experience

Source: Brian Hulligan’s spotlight presentation at Inbound 2017 

Dharmesh built up on Brain’s presentation and talked about how to grow better. He shared about his inspiring meeting with Elon Musk when he learned one of the business success principles that later on became part of Hubspot’s ethos:

“Every person on the team is a vector and a company’s progress is determined by the sum of those vectors.”

In other words – for a company to accomplish its goals, it needs to have its entire team aligned and moving in the same direction – fiercely striving to delight the customer. Creating a delightful customer experience is the core ingredient in the success formula – and Dharmesh backed up this statement with data showing that the customer drives the purchasing decisions in 2017:

Sources of Information for Purchasing Decisions

Source: Dharmesh Shah’s spotlight presentation at Inbound 2017 

Chat bots and messaging – how they are changing the buyer’s behavior

Various speakers highlighted the major shift in the buyer’s behavior from using traditional channels – email, phone and landing pages – to messaging and conversational tools that allow them to communicate with the brands in real time. Hubspot’s CMO Kipp Bodnar made the case that messaging and bots need to be part of the modern company’s go-to-market strategy. In fact, artificial intelligence has become a strategic priority for Hubspot, testified by three acquisitions of AI startups made only in 2017.  According to Purna Virji, Senior Manager Global Engagement at Microsoft, we are moving to a world of non-intrusive communications where chatbots will replace forms, leading to a significantly higher engagement and conversion rates. In fact, bots will become so popular that they will dominate people’s conversations only in few years!  …Or, as Gartner predicts:

Popularity of conversation bots

Source: Purna Virji’s breakout session at Inbound 2017 

For those who want to be ready for the future and get ahead of their competitors, Purna offered a clear path to building a chatbot – and also pointed to free ways to do it, including using Microsoft’s tool

Michelle Obama and the importance of having authentic voice

Inbound had a lot to offer to attendees who needed a break from the marketing talk – there were a number of sessions by inspirational speakers from all walks of life and business backgrounds. Just mentioning a few names will give you an idea of what I am talking about: Uber’s Chief Brand Officer Bozoma Saint John, Slack’s co-founder Steward Buttlerfield, best-selling authors Adam Grant and Brene Brown, actor and WWE star John Cena… But there was one speaker that was definitely the most anticipated and the most talked about: Michelle Obama. She was interviewed on stage about the human side of the Obama family and transitioning from the political scene to a private life – and as always, she was just the Michelle Obama we all know: wise, graceful and real. One thought seemed to stick the most with the audience and kept echoing in the media after Inbound – she gave a powerful message to the female audience about the importance of having their own, authentic voice and not letting social conditioning convince them that they can’t speak up. A great tip that also applies to brands – if you want to break through the media noise today, speak with a unique, authentic voice. Easier said than done – right, fellow marketers?

Hungry for more Inbound? Check out the event’s content library  – some of the spotlight videos are already available for you to indulge in.

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