For two days this week, I enjoyed Hubspot’s Inbound 2015 conference. Hubspot is an inbound marketing platform targeting small to medium-size businesses and each year the company holds a conference bringing together thought-leaders, customers, and partners. This 3.5-day event has over 250 sessions spanning a myriad of topics. Conferences provide different perspectives on the marketing landscape, customer success stories, product updates, philanthropic awareness, networking opportunities, and — my favorite — kernels that can be developed into themes with broader implications. I was happy to experience all those elements and walked away with more than a few kernels with broader implications. I’d like to share a few resulting from comments by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, Chris Brogan, and Mitch Joel. Let me forewarn you, these ideas may seem provocative, but they make for a good debate and even better research. 

Do Marketing And Sales Become One?

On Wednesday afternoon, Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, Hubspot's co-founders, gave a keynote address highlighting significant product updates. Brian spent his portion of the address focusing on the inbound movement for sales. He stated: "Today's selling is about a partnership, not a power struggle. Building trust, not about tenacity. Helpful not hostile… Sell unto others as you would have them sell unto you." One of the product updates targeted salespeople specifically.  Essentially, Hubspot is doubling down on sales, making a concerted effort to provide salespeople with the equivalent of marketing tools. The goal is to provide salespeople with tools to increase their efficiency, creating more time for them to focus on the customer relationship building component that remains critical to their overall success. 

Customers Want “Real.” Companies Often Forget.

Thursday morning, Chris Brogan took Halligan’s thought a step further, stating that he considers himself a marketing sales professional. Marketers are learning to sell and salespeople are learning to market. Why? Consumers are moved by stories, real elements that speak to their challenges, not simply discounts or superfluous information. Chris says at the end of the day consumers want to be treated well, like insiders. Companies forget this and for the most part we don’t have standard KPIs that measure the impact of this to the business.

Efficiency, Consumers Love It And Brands Need To Better Understand It.

On Thursday afternoon, Mitch Joel took some time to discuss our incredibly intelligent and ever-“changing the game” customers. When it comes to them, it isn't about digital, social, or automation. They have launched an efficiency movement and brands don’t understand the full impact of this. Joel shared examples of companies using Instagram as their eCommerce platform because of the traffic that the platform provides. One of these examples was of a Kuwaiti company netting over $2 million of revenue from its initiative.  These companies then leverage PayPal, Square, What's App, and We Chat to round out their customer experiences. Customers want efficiency and appreciate when they experience it. Joel stated, "The only thing you have as a business is your ability to grab attention." We need to balance how we do things along with what we provide customers to make sure we truly understand the experience that comes with our products.

Embrace An Inside-Out Perspective.

The era of convergence is far from over. As technologies converge, we should expect a level of convergence in function. The sibling rivalry between marketing and sales has to end. These two functions must come together and solve for an empowered customer. This truly is the age of the customer. Customers view brands as one entity, not several silos within an entity. Embrace an inside-out mindset by bringing marketing and sales together. Remember, the goal is to grab the attention of prospects and customers to first build a relationship and second guide them to the elements they need to determine the best product for their need. Whether the two functions are integrated into one or intertwined is entirely up to each company. However, brands owe it to their customers to present “one face.” I’ll soon be sharing some research specific to helping organizations provide tighter alignment and “one face” to customers through proactive outreach to customers within social media. Stay tuned and let me know what you think.