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The Truth About Being Boring, with HubSpot CEO, Brian Halligan

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What does your daily routine look like? If you’re anything like HubSpot co-founder and CEO, Brian Halligan, it’s probably pretty boring.

It likely starts with getting up early to feed your dog – she really likes that new stuff from Chewy – followed by a quick Peloton workout and breakfast before heading into your WeWork space. Once you’re fueled up, you crush that pitch meeting you had over Zoom and work through a few projects with your colleagues on Slack. Just not blockchain. Anything but blockchain.

Anyway, a late lunch from Sweetgreen keeps you feeling good and before you know it you’re headed home in a Lyft, reading up on industry trends shared by connections on LinkedIn.

At home, your Hello Fresh meal kit makes dinner prep a breeze, giving you more than enough time to hit the couch and FINALLY stream that last season of Game of Thrones (where have you been?) through the HBO Go app on your Roku. With a full day in the books, you kick off your Allbirds, flop down on your Casper mattress, and it’s lights out.

Like I said, boring.

Except, as Halligan noted throughout the duration of his keynote address at INBOUND Day 2, this routine is anything but. In fact, he finds it absolutely fascinating.  Not a single one of those brands were around 20 years ago. Each has used a different type of technology to dramatically upset the status quo, changing the way we live our lives forever. They’re the “technology disruptors.” Yet, Halligan disagrees with this identification as well. Instead, he affectionately (and accurately) refers to them as “experience disruptors” – a new species of company that’s taking the world by storm.

Experience disruptors are different in the way they think, engage with customers and organize themselves. But most importantly, they aren’t just about the technology. According to Halligan, experience disruptors are:

  • Focused on experience market fit, instead of product market fit
  • Frictionless, as opposed to friction-centric
  • Transparent and personalized, as opposed to anonymous and unresponsive
  • Business model busters, not business model followers
  • Brands that sell through their customers, instead of to their customers
How is this relevant to us as marketers?

Experience disruptors like Spotify, Stitch Fix, Warby Parker and DoorDash prioritize what their customers have to say, and aim to add as much value to them as possible. Legacy brands, meanwhile, often work to extract that value instead. They’ve ditched the funnel in favor of much more agile Marketing and PR Eventmarketing and sales, and are consistently reevaluating their approach to deliver more of what their customers are asking for. That is, instead of forcing them to follow an unrealistic and linear path to purchase. To borrow Halligan’s favorite phrase from the afternoon, “how they sell is why they win.”

As marketers, we’re often told that to be successful, you have to have to be unrelenting to a fault. But, in today’s world that’s a notion worth questioning. What is the point of diminishing return? When have you crossed that threshold to where you’re no longer providing any value to the people you’re marketing to? Should you really need to shove a product down someone’s throat and to convince them of its value?

Strip back all the messaging, all the revenue goals, all the things that make us marketers and what you’re left with is people. Customers are individuals looking for a way to make their daily routine easier, and our job is to provide creative solutions to help solve those challenges. So, why complicate it any more than that?

Halligan almost had it right when describing the characteristics of experience disruptors. He just forgot the most important one they all share: they’re human. No matter what the data says about a certain persona or how relevant retargeting ads get, marketing is still most effective when it’s human. But, it’s shockingly easy to let that slip through a marketing plan.

Tonight when you get home from work – wherever that may be – think about your own daily routine, and how much easier it is now to do the things you want. Think about your favorite brands, and how they engage with you. Do they listen to your suggestions and adapt regularly? Do they make your life easier or introduce friction? Are they marketing to you, or through you?

And when you get back to the office tomorrow, follow Halligan’s top 5 steps to becoming an experience disruptor, plus one of my own. Are you up to it?

Halligan and Mike’s Steps to Becoming an Experience Disruptor
  • Don’t obsess about product marketing fit
  • Dollars flow where friction is low. Minimize it and you’ll grow fast
  • Automation without personalization is called spam. Personalize everything you do
  • Don’t sell to your customers, sell through your customers
  • Attack your business model
  • Be human

Data-Driven PR and Marketing

An image of PAN's Brand Experience Report on the Potentials and pitfalls of AI for marketers

In our annual Brand Experience Report, we asked marketers and customers how they are using and experiencing AI to better understand how the technology is changing that relationship.