Thousands of marketers are learning from the stories and techniques provided by a host of experts at the combined FutureM/Inbound ’14 conference, underway from Tuesday, September 16th through Thursday the 18th. AMA Boston has partnered with FutureM to provide social media support, live tweeting, communicating through Storify, and covering the key sessions. Three exciting programs from Tuesday are described below.

Keynote: HubSpot

Co-founders Dharmesh Shah and Brian Halligan gave the keynote at Inbound 2014, which has teamed up with FutureM this year. These two dynamos spoke passionately about the power of inbound marketing and the need for GROWTH and LEVERAGE. Surprisingly, for a company that so strongly advocates for “pull” vs. “push” marketing, these inbound evangelists also gave a strong sales pitch for many new features the company is introducing.

Shah started with the tale of how he and Halligan met at MIT, the epiphany that led them toward inbound marketing, the development of their landmark book on Inbound Marketing, and the early days of growth. He also focused on three Ps with the focus of getting the customer to love you.

  • Perspective: need a plan, breakthrough goals, look beyond old-school methods, focus on attracting and not interrupting.
  • People: the culture is key (they created a culture code), people who are willing to try new things, make HR a key part of senior management’s role.
  • Platform: go for complete and broad integration of content management, marketing automation, SEO, blogging, analytics, email – but even that’s not enough. You need an Eco-System with total interaction with the user community. Dharmesh then discussed how growth is a team sport, and several new parts of the platform they have been developing: campaign tools, calendar, inbound community, social integration, content optimization, cross-platform management and anonymous personalization.

Brian Halligan then described the major changes in the sales and people perspective: the shift away from “information asymmetry” and ability for the customer to achieve parity with the supplier. It’s now “seller beware” as the market can put an unreliable merchant out of business through reviews, ratings and social commentary. The seller needs to change – to have sales reps who aren’t hard sellers but are smart and helpful,and don’t try to take advantage of the customer, Despite the changes, a rep still needs to be highly motivated.

Halligan also blazed through a series of new platform initiatives, a couple of which are very significant for HubSpot. These address what he calls key gaps in today’s CRM market as it relates to salespeople:

  • Too time-intensive for sales reps
  • Missing context on the buyer
  • Doesn’t actually help in prospecting, the key role of most sales reps

What is HubSpot doing about these gaps? First, Brian discussed a new offering called Sidekick, which connects the CRM to email and offers other key features, at a freemium price similar to their Signals product. Then the big news: a new CRM! The extensive demo showed the new CRM and Sidekick together, and how they integrate the social behavior of the person, add context, automate research and activity so the rep doesn’t have to, shows close connections between people who email each other, tracks deal progress and even schedule meetings and integrate the phone system. Probably grinds your coffee too…

Real-time Strategies: Do’s and Don’ts

Ekaterina Walter, leading author and technology evangelist, gave a scintillating presentation on the nature of real-time marketing, its increased conversion ROI, and the need to be in the right place at the right time with the right message to offer utility and entertainment to the customer. She showed several powerful and funny videos to make her points about this hot topic, which eschews long-term planning in favor of using social media, events and trends understand a customer’s immediate needs and deliver what he or she needs then. Highlights included:

  • RTM is a way of thinking, not just a series of tactics.
  • Use it for holidays, events, TV shows, celebrities and in other cases where there’s a chance to deliver fun and value.
  • Scalable? No! But using it do good and make people happy will enhance your reputation, which you can broaden over time.
  • Have fun! Entertain and celebrate, as Starbucks did fo the royal couple’s first baby; but do it for your own company or cusotmers.
  • Go beyond superficial social interaction, as Charmin did by delivering products to fire departments.
  • Have a sense of urgency
  • RTM takes incredible preparation and coordination across media and teams, though not necessarily planning.
  • Brand people must practice RTM, as an athlete does.
  • Key: “build a tribe!”

DOs of Real-Time Marketing:

  • Ensure your message connects with your audience; integrate your messages, build into your strategy; “engaged listening; know when your brand fits and when it’s time to quit; be witty and human; invite customers in; admit errors; break silos.

DON’Ts of Real-Time Marketing:

  • Mistake innovation for impulse; force the message; be first instead of right; self-promotional; promote tragedy ignore feedback; react to everything; assume real-time marketing is right for you.

Data-Driven Personalization

Personalization is driving consumers to engage more deeply and purchase more often from leading retailers. With Rob Schmults of Talbots,  Igor becker of Alex and Ani, Catherine Bassett of Rue La La and able moderator Cesar Brea of ForceFive Partners, there were many practical and strategic ideas to help the attendees create the perfect shopping experience, promote customer loyalty, and boost revenue. Takeaways:

Programs and techniques to drive results through personalization:

  • Web: present different information based on initial visit
  • Combine online and offline experience using social data, on-site search and email
  • Path history from an email response to the web activity
  • Use programs like EverGauge to assess where the customer is on the site and their credit history to enhance the customer’s ease of use
  • In-session personalization
  • A/B testing
  • Re-targeting
  • Recently-viewed web pages
  • Geo-targeting that combines where the customer is with buying and browsing data to allow very relevant ad serving, eg local ads for sales of targeted products

In addition to these valuable, revenue-generating tips, these leading retailers also discussed the importance of key processes and management, such as knowing your strengths and when to outsource or partner, focusing on your key metrics to improve, using tools such as “Product Hunt” or Beacon, talking with experts in your field who aren’t direct competitors and learning from Customer Advisory panels.