youamactheworldIn this week’s post called “Marketing in 2014”, HubSpot comments that “A lot’s happened in the marketing world in the last few years.” That’s the understatement of the century, and a lot has happened in the last few decades. This week I attended HubSpot’s Inbound14 conference, and it reminded me of the MacWorld Boston 1985 conference in more ways than one. “With more than 500,000 Macs in circulation and the resignation of Steve Jobs fresh on their minds, attendees had more than enough to talk about at that first event, held Aug. 21-23, 1985, at the Bayside Exposition Center, and touted as a chance to see “all of the elements of the Macintosh Office. … The 512K Macintosh, the LaserWriter, and AppleTalk, as well as Jazz from Lotus, are just a few of the products you’ll get to see.””

As a member of the Lotus Jazz marketing team and fresh out of grad school, the MacWorld show was intriguing to me. There was a sense that there was something new, something big, something that would change business forever, happening right before our eyes. That was the Macintosh introduction, 30 years ago.

Fast forward to 2014. The energy level of the attendees at this week’s conference was similar to Macworld 1985. The old slogan “You, a Mac, the World” might be updated to “You, some content, a prospect”. At Inbound14, there was the sense that we are looking at a new way of doing business – the notion that in order for your business to get found, you have to attract people to you and pull them in. This impacts the entire organization – things break (like processes) or need to be created (like content). People need to understand new concepts, like “social selling”, “social listening”, “content marketing”, “modern buyers” and “reach”, with lots of education and evangelizing of these concepts still required.

Not Breaking the Law of Attraction

Keep in mind that in 1985, there was nothing called the internet, so information travelled relatively slowly. At this week’s conference, interaction and information were real time – sessions were tweeted, photos were uploaded, and conference sessions were downloaded from Slideshare while the conference was still underway. The glow of devices among the audience during Malcolm Gladwell’s keynote session was captured in a neat aerial photo (that was tweeted, of course). And true to form, HubSpot did a solid job of applying inbound marketing in order to market their conference. The conference agenda was jam packed with interesting sessions, and tracks for different audiences in consumable 45-minute chunks. A mobile app helped attendees to navigate the conference, set their personal conference agenda and engage in the event completely with the inbound activity feed.

A Place to Meet

Macworld was a place for fans and professionals to share ideas free from the prying eyes of PC users, where product announcements were welcome but not necessary, and the keynote was the least interesting part of the show.” Inbound14 had a similiar tone: although HubSpot (and other vendors) introduced additions to their marketing software platform, the conference was really a place to meet and learn about this thing called inbound marketing and to digest what that actually means in the grand scheme of things. How does one build an inbound business? Digital agencies, vendors, in house marketing teams and HubSpot partners – the new ecosystem – were all represented, as well as Guy Kawasaki  (our Apple evangelist in the ‘80’s).

Implementing the New Stuff

In an interview  with Hubspot’s Brian Halligan, David Meerman Scott asks what it takes to be successful with inbound marketing.  Are companies unsuccessful with inbound marketing because they’re just dabbling in it, and not fully committed? Halligan’s response: “Successful inbound marketing is more about the width of your brain than the width of your wallet. It’s harder and harder to turn dollars into interest. It’s easier and easier to turn brain power into interest.”  The notion that interest can be generated through sheer brain power isn’t a new concept – witness the lasting impact that a product first developed in 1984 still has today. What’s different today is that the power to generate this interest can come from different parts of the organization (and not just from product developers). The new ecosystem is trying to get their arms around these changes in the marketing world.

What are some of the most remarkable changes that you’ve seen in the marketing world over the last few years (or decades)?