Graphic with lessons from inbound and hubspot logo

My first in-person experience with Inbound was eye-opening, amazing and a tiny bit overwhelming. After some time to reflect on my four education-packed days in Boston earlier this month, I have several takeaways from the event: 1) It’s time to get on board with Generative AI if you’re not already; 2) the customer journey is changing and we need to change along with it; and 3) if you’re not using HubSpot Sales Hub, you are seriously missing out on tons of opportunity for accelerating your sales efforts.

The Rise of Generative AI

I admit that I have a love-hate relationship with Generative AI. I love the concept of having help with writing countless social media posts or blogs about topics that are not necessarily my areas of expertise. But the whole concept makes me face two icky and uneasy feelings:

  1. If AI can write this for me, why am I needed at all?
  2. I’m somehow cheating but not coming up with every word myself.

In the ever-evolving landscape of digital marketing and content creation, staying ahead of the curve is essential. At Inbound, my stubborn stance on using AI was challenged – and defeated. It is abundantly clear that those choosing not to jump on the generative AI train will be left behind, and its integration with human editing and guidance is a game-changer. We’ve all witnessed the significant strides in AI over the last year, and they’re nothing short of amazing. It can generate text, images, and even code that is coherent and contextually relevant. It’s rightfully been hailed as a revolutionary force. However, what truly stands out is its compatibility with human expertise – it’s how AI is used and who uses it that matters.

It’s really about collaboration, not replacement. Nearly every Inbound presentation regarding AI (and there were many!) emphasized collaboration between AI and human creators. Whew!

While generative AI can be a powerful tool for content generation, it is not a substitute for human creativity and expertise. Instead, it complements these qualities, opening new avenues for innovation and efficiency. So, it’s not a matter of AI taking over the jobs of content creators everywhere, not at all. It’s a matter of AI enhancing those roles and it’s up to us to use it accordingly. Framing it as such assuages my “surely-I’ll-be-replaced” fears for the most part and lifts much of the ethical conundrum regarding who really wrote what from my conscience.

Enhancing Efficiency and Creativity: The beauty of generative AI lies in its ability to handle mundane, routine and time-consuming tasks. For instance, it can draft product descriptions, generate social media content or even create initial drafts of blog posts. This frees up valuable time for content creators and marketers to focus on more strategic and creative aspects of their work.

Moreover, generative AI can serve as a wellspring of inspiration. It can provide fresh ideas and perspectives, which can then be refined and expanded upon by human writers and editors. For example, I’ve found it incredibly helpful for blog outlines. Often, a subtopic suggested wasn’t on my radar, and the addition made the post more relevant and useful. This collaborative approach often leads to content that is not only informative but also creatively engaging.

Quality Control through Human Oversight: While generative AI can generate content quickly, it’s not infallible. There might be instances of inaccuracies, AI “hallucinations” or tone mismatches. Other times, it’s hard to capture a brand’s voice with AI. This is where human editors and experts come into play. For maximum efficacy, an actual human must review and refine the AI-generated content, ensuring it aligns perfectly with the brand’s voice, values and goals.

This blend of generative AI’s efficiency and human oversight’s quality control is a winning combination. It allows businesses to produce content at scale without compromising on quality or authenticity.

Adapting to Change: In the digital marketing world, adaptability is paramount. AI technologies are constantly evolving, so the way we use them must evolve, too. We have to keep up, or we’ll get left behind. The lessons from Inbound underscore the importance of staying informed about the latest developments in generative AI and incorporating them into our content strategies.

The key takeaway here is clear: embrace generative AI as a tool to improve efficiency, creativity and productivity in your content creation arsenal, but never forget the irreplaceable value of human creativity, judgment and editorial finesse. By striking the right balance, you can stay at the forefront of your industry and continue to deliver high-quality, engaging content to your audience that isn’t simply a regurgitation of facts found elsewhere online.

The Customer Journey is Changing

It’s true. The inbound methodology has always been about customer connection and meeting them where they are along their buying journey. When that journey shifts, so must our marketing approach. And once again, generative AI plays a huge role.

Discover: Customers are shifting from searching and clicking to more interactive and personalized experiences. They crave tailored content and information that suits their specific needs. Marketers need to refine their strategies to reflect this shift by using AI, showing up on social media channels their likely buyers frequent and re-assessing paid advertising so it balances demand and brand marketing.

Consider: Here’s where a tailored experience becomes even more crucial. It was mentioned multiple times during Inbound that “Customers don’t want to convert; they want to converse.” To make that happen, enter generative AI bots. That way customers can enjoy reduced friction with seamless conversations and interactions. Incorporating direct messaging and SMS can also help in this stage.

Buy: Today’s customers won’t suffer mediocrity, particularly when it comes to old-school sales discovery processes and sales reps who don’t know their specific needs and pain points. A sales rep armed with AI-powered analytics and insights will have personalized intel about their prospects and be able to offer effective guidance as they navigate the sales process. With such information, a rep can give more of a diagnosis of a client’s needs instead of the typical discovery we’re so used to (and tired of!) hearing.

To adjust to these buyer expectations, consider adding AI-driven customer information-gathering tools (more on those later!) and consultations with a problem-solving focus.

Use: Support after the sale is often reactive and time-consuming. According to HubSpot, 98% of customers find service interactions frustrating. That needs to stop, and AI can help. With AI, businesses can be more proactive, affording customers a better experience enhanced by automation and personalized support.

Use cases for AI here include smart onboarding practices, customer-facing bots to offer solutions to common concerns quickly and proactively and using a contextual knowledge base strengthened by AI insights for your support team.

Sound like a lot? I think so! (And tools and use cases will continue to multiply in this area, I’m certain.) But three tips for implementing AI into your processes are stuck in the forefront of my mind as well: 1) Start small – you don’t need to do everything at once; 2) Iterate quickly – set it up, test it, use it, assess it; and 3) Iterate responsibly – be thoughtful and transparent about your use of AI.

Enhanced Sales Hub

If you’re not already using HubSpot Sales or their recent Sales Hub enhancements, you should! It’s undergoing a complete refresh, and the new features foster customer connection. Instead of focusing on more tools, more calls and more meetings, this allows sales teams to be more efficient and more effective in their efforts. As I mentioned earlier, customers want to connect. Making those connections more personalized and tailored to their situations equals more effective relationship-building.

There are dozens of new features already available, in beta or on the horizon. Five that piqued my former-sales-rep-turned-marketer interest included:

  • The all-new Prospecting Workspace (Beta, Sales Professional & Enterprise) – It’s a dedicated dashboard designed to help reps focus on tasks and prioritize their to-do’s in a central location.

  • Leads (Beta) – There’s a new object (sort of) in HubSpot! Now we have Leads, which are embedded in the Prospecting Workspace. Users can create a lead from contacts, much like creating a deal. While they don’t function as a standalone object, you can configure several settings and stages to help you keep your leads organized.

  • Deal Inspection (All Tiers) – This new view gives you an at-a-glance look into the overall health of your sales processes and deal pipeline. It gives you a deal score, activity timeline (including the last or next activity), next steps, tasks and recommendations. Super handy for Sales Managers!

  • Deal Tags (Starter, Professional, Enterprise) –Now you can custom tag your deals by whatever parameters you choose – priority, size, owner, etc. – so you can easily see what deals need attention. (These are also available for tickets.)
  • Forecasting (Professional, Enterprise) – This is getting an upgrade with accuracy tracking and forecasting insights. They will tell reps and managers how forecasts and pipelines are trending across teams using metrics like goals, gaps, closed won deals and forecast submissions.

Those were just a handful of the enhancements debuted at Inbound. If you’d like to see more, check out this guide to all of Sales Hub’s new features. All designed to optimize sales teams, they’re worth a look.

My week at Inbound was incredibly informative and am eager to share insights, tips and strategies with the rest of the Simple Machines team and you. If you’re looking for HubSpot experts to help you get the most from your platform, let’s talk. Contact us today to get started!