Picture of the keynote stage at INBOUND when HubSpot CTO Dharmesh Shah spoke.
PHOTO: Dom Nicastro

BOSTON — HubSpot in its latest annual report says it focuses on selling its software to midmarket B2B companies, or those that have between two and 2,000 employees. Marketers and customer experience professionals in those companies — some of whom represented the 26,000 who attended HubSpot’s INBOUND conference at the Boston Exhibition and Convention Center last week — share significant challenges: budgetary issues, the conundrum of organic vs. paid marketing efforts, where to focus digital experience efforts and, of course, struggling to find talent with a small budget.

“The challenge is they start into it, and they can’t maintain it,” Victoria Nessen, president and founder of NK&A, a marketing consultancy, told CMSWire at INBOUND last week. Nessen finds marketers at small companies struggle with maintaining their programs on a consistent basis and have difficulty choosing their digital marketing strategy. “Do I choose a new website? Do I do email campaigns? Do I venture into social media campaigns?” Nessen asked.

We caught up with some marketing, sales and customer experience professionals at INBOUND last week to learn more about their challenges and what their focus areas will be in 2020: 

Quest for Personalization, Deep Insights

Angela Sanchez, CEO of Artyfactos, a jewelry retailer, said one of her biggest challenges is finding the right people within a tight budget who are going to help her brand spread its message. Ultimately, that messaging program includes improving personalization and data analytics, Sanchez said. “We have the capabilities to personalize our product,” Sanchez said. “So how can we bring that kind of technology into our website so our customers can come and customize their products?”

Sanchez also wants to beef up her company’s voice of the customer program. That can be infused with better data analytics technology, she said. Those efforts can help serve insights that inform her teams on what their customers like about their products and what they wish could be better. 

Related Article: 6 Takeaways from HubSpot INBOUND 2019

Thinking More About the Now in Sales

Julian Jones, sales development representative at Crossbeam, which helps companies work better with partners, said sometimes it’s hard to think about anything else other than the “long-term.” “And so you necessarily can't see what's in front of you, or how things can change,” Jones said. “Sometimes just taking a little, small step backward, seeing and recognizing that whole picture instead of just that long-term vision can make a world of difference. Seeing what steps you can make in the short-term.”

Challenge of Remaining Innovative

Caroline Axford, client success manager at QCash Financial, which provides a Software-as-a-Service lending platform, said her company doubled its client size in the past year or so. Great as that is, she’s focused, she said, on “still being innovative and pushing forward in the industry.” One big problem with innovation is a lot of its tech stack is old. “Everything needs to be refreshed and upgraded,” she said. “We need our technology to be innovative and up-to-date.” But it’s a balance determining what it wants to do vs. what’s in the actual budget. 

Related Article: Beware the Inbound Marketing Trap

What Practitioners Face in Martech

Scott Brinker is the vice president of platform ecosystem at HubSpot and is also the author of the Chief Marketing Technologist blog and founder of the MarTech Conference, which holds its East version in Boston later this month. Although he’s not at a midsize company — HubSpot reported as of June 30, it's up to 2,924 full-time employees — Brinker at INBOUND painted a picture of the marketing technology landscape in which practitioners like Axford, Jones and Sanchez play.

Brinker said he’s starting to see more mature, martech-enabled companies. With the explosion in martech tools and the accelerating speed of development and need for integrations, marketing operations leaders are empowering the rest of the marketing team to do more self-service leveraging of the martech stack and marketing operations. 

What does this all mean for the vendors practitioners are seeing in demos and at trade shows? Brinker said the leaders in the martech industry have now “converged upon the tune of, ‘OK, it is an open platform ecosystem that is the future of the industry.’ And now I think it's more of a race who's going to do the best job.”