HubSpot’s INBOUND 2019 conference has come and gone, and the event has grown in size with over 26,000 marketers, salespeople, and customer success professionals flocking to the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center for a week of learning and inspiration. This year’s INBOUND featured spotlight sessions from industry leaders Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Redditt, Sal Khan, founder and CEO of Khan Academy, and of course HubSpot co-founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah among several others.
After sitting through hours of inspiring sessions, here are three of my most important takeaways from INBOUND 2019. 1. Embrace diversity. 2. Create a frictionless customer experience. 3. Be human.
Diversity is an important topic of conversation across almost every industry, which was evident at this year’s INBOUND.
In Dharmesh Shah’s presentation, he showed an image that displayed the lack of educational diversity at HubSpot in the early stage of the company, and further commented on how he was the only non-white team member.
With so many similar people, he reflected that outsiders interested in joining HubSpot would have had a hard time fitting in. He expressed that one of HubSpot’s biggest early mistakes was how little they focused on diversity. When you lack diversity, you’re missing out on varying perspectives that can help lead your company to greater success and growth.
To prove this, Shah told the story about when YouTube first launched their global app, they came across a peculiar phenomenon. They noticed that a notable amount of people were uploading videos upside down. Around 10% of videos were being uploaded upside down, and they couldn't figure out why. The answer, however, was very simple. Ten percent of the population is left-handed, and hold their phones differently than right-handed individuals, making the videos appear upside down. You may ask, why didn’t the YouTube team catch this? Again a simple answer: nobody on the team was left-handed, therefore they lacked that perspective.
Shah went on to explain that companies hiring for diversity over “personality fit” are at an advantage. Hiring for personality fit breeds a sea of sameness. Instead, when differing yet complementary people intersect, we build better relationships and therefore better companies. We’re able to gain insight into perspectives different from our own and create something great from our differences.
Create a Frictionless Customer Experience
In such a crowded modern market place, it’s harder than ever before to stand out from your competition. This has led to a growing number of companies emerging as disruptors in their industry, including Doordash, Netflix, and Lyft. Unlike in the past, these companies aren’t your normal tech disruptors like Google, Apple, and Tesla. HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan refers to them instead as “Experience Disruptors”. What makes a company an experience disruptor you may ask?
According to Halligan, the new breed of disruptors focus on experience-market fit rather than product-market fit. What that means is that these disruptors all have great products but an even better customer experience.
Five year old Carvana set out to create a whole new way to buy a car and have already become one of the largest car dealers in the United States. What do they do differently from their competition? They take the hassle out of car shopping. Customers are able to go online, shop for the car they’re looking for and order it online. Carvana will even take care of the boring paperwork, registration, and taxes, while you wait at home for your new car that will arrive at the time and place of your choosing. Sounds risky buying a car online right? Not with Carvana. You have seven days of driving to see if the car is a fit for you and if not, you can simply return the car no questions asked.
So to Halligan’s point, Carvana and other experience disruptors don’t always have the best product, but what they do have is a frictionless customer experience that makes the customer’s life easier and encourages them to come back for more. How they sell to the consumer is why they win and is why they’ll continue to grow until the competition catches up.
There was one prominent theme throughout INBOUND that many of the spotlight speakers touched upon in one way or another. That theme is that being a humane person can go a long way. That should come as no surprise, but in the business world that isn’t always the case. Keep reading to find out what some of the industry leading speakers had to say about the topic.
Fighting for Paid Family Leave
Ohanian spent most of his spotlight session discussing paid family leave. He has made it his goal to fight for equal parental leave for both men and women in an effort to erase the negative stigma of taking time off after having a child. That is why Reddit offers four months of paid family leave for all of their employees including Ohanian himself who took four months of family leave when his wife, tennis legend Serena Williams, gave birth to their first child. Reddit’s policy allows all employees, no matter their position, to spend time with their family without having to choose between returning to work early or losing their job.
Shifting Perspectives Through Advocacy
Bryan Stevenson, a public interest lawyer and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama, has dedicated his career to helping the poor, the incarcerated, and the condemned. His story that stuck with me the most was about a prison guard who harassed Stevenson due to the color of his skin when he tried to visit a client he was representing at the prison. He made Stevenson’s typically friction-less lawyer check-in process intentionally long and degrading, including an unusual request for Stevenson’s bar card and a strip search. The next time he saw the guard was from across the courtroom, while he represented his client suffering from mental illness who had lived in 29 foster homes by the time he was nine years old. . When Stevenson returned to the prison to visit his client, the same guard was working, but this time something was different about him. To Stevenson’s surprise, the guard allowed Stevenson to enter the prison with no issues. With his hands shaking and face flushed, the guard told Stevenson that he had also been in a number of foster homes growing up. He said, “At the courthouse, I was listening to you. I think what you’re doing is a good thing. I hope you keep fighting for justice.” Stevenson’s message was clear. Although we have our differences, Stevenson urged the audience not to give up on the hope that people have the ability to change for the better and connect on a human level.
Founder and CEO of Khan Academy, Sal Khan shared some remarkable background about his company and how it has come to provide free online learning tools to more than 62 million users in 190 countries across the world. In what started as a fun project to help tutor his cousins, Khan quickly realized the full potential of Khan Academy, which led to him quitting his job at a hedge fund to work on building his nonprofit full time. His mission is to provide a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere. He shared stories from across the world of how his platform is helping people of all ages and backgrounds.From a young girl in an orphanage in Mongolia to the children of Bill Gates --they all have the same tools to learn with Khan Academy.
INBOUND 2019 already has us looking forward to INBOUND 2020. We’ll see you there.