Aug 13

Day 3 at Inbound13: Data is complex, we need more women, and water is transformative


Day 3 at Inbound13 started with hardcore data, included amazing advice about making marketing great, inspirational #boldtalks — one of which highlighted the need for more women to jump into building businesses and startups, important hiring tips from a very tough interviewer, and an emotional story of a life turned around that has resulted in saving countless other lives in the process. So many great things happened on Thursday that it’s taken me this long to put it all together in this post, between coming back home, prepping classes, a full day of new student orientation and student meetings. So lets get right to it shall we?

Lesson 1: Champlain College Students are AWESOME. Alright. I know. I did this for each post! Today’s post is dedicated to Brittany Leaning a 2012 grad who started interning for Hubspot last summer. Flash forward one year and Brittany was responsible for the Hubspot Social Media Command Center at Inbound 13. They trended on Twitter for all three days with #inbound13, had over 70k mentions, and pretty much rocked the social conversation. She managed a team, kept them motivated and clearly had a great time. I might also mention she was responsible for inspiring the amount of orange Toms that all the Hubspotters were wearing. You can follow Brittany on Twitter at @bleaning. You really want to. Trust me.

Lesson 2: Big Data is Complex, somewhat overwhelming, and fraught with challenges. Do you know Nate Silver? If you do, you know Nate is a statistician (pretty famous for polling and transparency). From Deadlinedetroit.comWe listened to him first thing in the morning right after a late night listening to One Republic.  Ordinarily math is hard. After a late night, and early in the morning it is even harder. But even with that Nate’s points were quite interesting. Some of the big takeaways from his conversation that I will remember include the importance of understanding that overreliance on technologies — especially things that are programmed, like GPS software, or competitive chess, or political forecasting — can get us into trouble. We need to remember that after all people programmed that software. So it could be that the information we are getting is actually a bug in the software. That is the challenge of so-called “big data” which Nate said is better termed “rich data”.

There is a widening gap between what you really know and what you think you really know

There are three different dimensions to rich data:

  1. Big Data Bias:  We can’t possibly process all the data that is available so we get filtered data. Just look at media as an example. They report on a very small slice of information, and it is often skewed to a narrow view.
  2. The Signal to Noise Ratio: As the amount of information increases, the complexity of relationships in the world increases. Relationships, interrelationships, cause, effect…yikes!
  3. Feature or Bug?: Even artificial intelligence has its limits!

Silver suggests that we cope with this by:

  1. Thinking probabilistically. Much like the weather service in forecasting hurricanes. They need to be able to convey uncertainty.
  2. Know where you are coming from. Know your biases and what your gaps might be. He showed two great examples, one of the path of the fleet from Japan that attacked Pearl Harbor. They sailed through the gap created where we had no observation points. The other example was of those people who are more aware of their gender bias and more willing to admit it are less likely to actually discriminate. Those who believe they have no bias are more likely to discriminate.
  3. Survey the data landscape. Make sure that you have a quantity of data, high quality of data, and you have a variety of data. If you are missing one, you won’t have the full picture.
  4. Try and err. You get your competitive edge when you try something, and experiment and make this an ongoing “life long” process.

Finally, have you ever thought what it took to get our economy really growing during human history? Clearly Nate has. There were three things that made the industrial revolution happen:

  1. Accumulation of knowledge (Context)
  2. European enlightenment (Culture)
  3. Marketing economy (Competition)

Consider these the three Cs of the economy!  Oh, and a great shout out to Nate for him calling out the academic community for taking too long to publish in academic journals. Because it takes 1-2 years to publish something, there is little help provided to society — so we should replace them with blogs! Now there’s an interesting thought.

Lesson 3: We need more Women. This was a theme that was prevalent in several talks at Inbound. But perhaps most startling for me was from a short, but sweet #Boldtalk from Katie Rae the managing director of Techstars in Boston.

No slides. Just 15 minutes of awesome.

Her main points were simple. 1) Start up ecosystems are fundamental to the health of any economy, and 2) We need more women entrepreneurs.

We talk about being an entrepreneur by creating a very scary image: 24/7, bad ass, boy culture. You can’t be an entrepreneur unless you are a 19 year old college drop out. Almost everyone fails at it. In truth, about 20% of startups are successful. And not all startups create such a culture.

It was perhaps this point which was an “aha” moment for me:

Women calculate risk in a fundamentally different way than men do. Guys will go for the big risk big reward. Women will calculate their chances of winning, and if they don’t think they have at least a 20% chance of winning, they’ll go do something else. The marketing of this gets women to opt out before they get started.

So what does this mean for a start up culture? Rae recommends we:

  1. Change the way we talk about start ups.
    • We have to get real about the chances of winning. It is much higher than 1%!
    • We have to get real about what it really looks like inside a start up.
    • We need to expand the circle of people who want to play in this game.
  2. Set up a structure that allows people within startups who are similar to each other cooperate and learn together. People get better at what they do when they compete with and learn from others who are closer to their skill level.
  3. Change the funding gap. Only 4% of venture capital is going to teams that include women. We MUST do better!


Lesson 4: It isn’t really that hard to be a GREAT Marketer. Really. Just ask Rand Fishkin. CEO and Founder of Moz (formerly SEOMoz) had a great presentation about being a great marketer.  You can look at the whole thing right here: http://www.slideshare.net/randfish/secret-ingredients-of-better-marketing. Here’s the cliff note version:

Great Marketing is:

  1. Transparent
  2. Authentic
  3. Fun
  4. Empathetic
  5. The Exception

Now…go over to his presentation and look at his examples. They are super cool.

Lesson 5: To work at Hubspot you might need to get past this guy…and he is no pushover. Marketing students in colleges all over the country take note! Mike Volpe, the CMO at Hubspot gave a great presentation on “How to Build and Manage an Inbound Marketing Team”.  And wow I certainly got some great insight that I will add into my Marketing Capstone Curriculum for sure.

His process is definitely not traditional. He screens fast and has some deal breakers right at the top. He uses the internet to find out information about potential applicants and asks a set of tough situational questions. No “where do you see yourself in 5 years” questions for Mike. No. He goes straight to either a Funnel, Lead Scoring or Website Homepage scenario question.

So how does he start his hiring process? This is what Volpe outlined for us.  It starts with a simple scan of the digital application resume:

  • No AOL or Hotmail or paper resumes. Yep, that’s right. If he sees you have an AOL or Hotmail email account you automatically go in the no bucket.
  • Demonstrated track record of success and growth. That means putting results down in your resume/LinkedIn profile.
  • Demonstrated domain expertise and Inbound Marketing experience

Then, he opens up a browser and proceeds to look up a candidate online to see what content they have. He is specifically looking for:

  • A strong LinkedIn presence. He will especially look for mutual connections (so if you want to work at Hubspot you should make friends with Hubspotters!)
  • Decent sized digital footprint
  • Decent quality digital footprint

If he likes what he sees, then you’ll get an in-person conversation where he’ll provide you with a set of questions so he can really gauge your fit. Questions that start something like this: “Pretend you are the CMO for this company, and you have to decide what your marketing team should focus on. What do you do?” He said that the best people ask a lot of questions to learn more about the situation, then based on their experience they dive in and start providing their answer.

I really like this approach actually. It tells the candidate a lot about the company culture and what the expectations are, and it helps the hiring manager to really gauge where a person might fit. If they are great on strategy but not so much on number crunching, they’ll have a better handle on the overall fit of the individual.

So marketing students, take note. Build your digital footprint, gain experience through internships, and be prepared for scenario-based questions!

Lesson 6: Water is Transformational.  I can’t possibly do justice to Scott Harrison’s presentation about his life story and building Charity Water. Honestly I tried to take notes, but I wasn’t very successful. While Hubspot hasn’t posted it yet, Scott spoke at LeWeb back in 2012, and this is pretty similar to what we watched on Thursday. It’s about 50 minutes long. And it is so worth it. Grab a tissue. At the end of the presentation Scott asked all of us who attended HubSpot if we would do our own campaign. Many of us stood up, myself included. I’ll be starting mine shortly. Will you? Watch this and then click here to go to my.charitwater.org. They are a great charity, and I love their structure — they offer a 100% model: Always use 100% of public donations to fund clean water projects. Overhead comes from a completely different pool of donations from foundations, private donors, and sponsors.

So go ahead now. Get comfy. Grab your tissues. Watch this presentation. I’ll be back another day with more blog stuff.


Aug 13

Day 2 at #Inbound13 Words of Wisdom, Proud Moments, and One Republic


Day 2 has ended here at Inbound with an amazing finish…but I’ll get back to that finish a little later in my post. Like yesterday there were some amazing experiences and surprising lessons, so let’s get right to it.

Lesson One: Arianna Huffington is AMAZING. Let me just state that again, clearly just in case you didn’t quite get it. This woman is AMAZING. Strong, powerful, funny, candid, direct. She nailed today’s keynote. As in the HIGHPOINT of this conference for me. Why?



Her speech was about leadership. She had notes. No slides to be shown. It was just her. Just her talking and connecting with the audience.

I feel like what she had to say was all about advice. How to stay connected — not to technology — but to the other individuals in our lives and most importantly to ourselves. To take and savor moments and to recharge, rest, regroup, and unplug. Don’t get caught up in the random stuff of the day but rather connect to yourself so you can be a better person, partner, employee, parent, leader.

It was this focus on connecting with yourself that really resonated. Moving away from a 24/7 ideal of who has the least sleep wins. Who has the most money wins. Who has the highest level job wins.  She called it a culture of burnout. She called out men for creating this culture (and apologized but was clear in saying that they really had created it…and guys, you have.) and called out to women to change it.

Burnout is the disease of our civilization. Women we have to lead the way out of it. Men you have designed the world we are living in. It’s not working for men, women or polar bears.


Perhaps most importantly she emphasized that in order to be creative in a constantly changing environment where we must evolve continuously, leaders must make space to allow for not just their own creativity, but the creativity of their employees as well.  This space includes letting go of projects that don’t really matter, taking naps (YES!),  stop holding grudges against others (it just takes too much precious energy), and redefine what success really means.

Money and power is a two-legged stool. We need to have a third metric of success that emphasizes our well-being, wisdom, capacity to wonder, and ability to give back.


Lesson 2: Brian Solis is AWESOME. Yes I know, I said that yesterday. Today he spoke about key themes from his book, What’s the Future of Business? or #WTF for short. Brian spoke about a wide range of things, but his focus really was on this concept of Generation C. His definition was actually one I really like, as I am very skeptical about this whole generational cohort thing. He said,

Generation C is the generation that is connected by the way we live our life. It’s a lifestyle, not an age group.


So we know that we can’t do business the “old fashioned way”. That’s been the theme of the conference. But Brian always has a great way of just cutting through the hype and making it real. He told a story of conducting a keyword analysis on consumer generated content for an “unnamed airline”.  He said, “The experiences of others becomes your brand.”  Ok. I get it. But then he showed this:


Now I REALLY get it. Don’t you?  He said a bunch more awesome stuff, but this post is only for the big highlights. Watch the Inbound13 hashtag for videos of the different speakers.

Lesson 3: My students are AWESOME. Wait…I said that yesterday too didn’t I? Well, technically I said they were AMAZING. Today I had the pleasure of getting a personalized tour of Arnold WorldWide offices in Boston from Champlain Alumna McKenna Tatro who is their HR/Recruiting Coordinator. Great office space. Really cool awards and vibe all over the place. But I have to admit I was really impressed with their beer and their beer vending machine.



But seriously, what was I really impressed with? I bet you can’t guess!

McKenna is a Vermonter. Through and through. She took advantage of every opportunity at Champlain, worked hard…and I mean held down a demanding manger position at a local hotel, and went to school full time to get her Marketing degree in 2011. I remember a time when she never saw herself leaving Vermont. And here she is, just TWO years after graduating giving her old marketing professor a grand tour of one of the top advertising agencies in the world.  Sweet!

Lesson 4: Marketing and Sales still don’t work well together. I attended an encore presentation of a session I missed out on yesterday entitled, “SH$% Your Marketing Professor Never Told You: How to Build a Rock Star Team that Drives Revenue and Aligns with Sales” presented by Liz McClellan, Vice President of Field Marketing for PGi. Her whole presentation was about how Marketing and Sales don’t get along, and what the marketing team has to do to get along with the sales people, how to hire the right people to fit, and how to create a strong team environment.

I have to admit that I haven’t really emphasized the challenges between marketing and sales in my classes because…well I thought that was in the past. I hadn’t really heard it was still an issue. But I can tell you based on the people in the room, their interest, and their questions, it is clear there is still a problem. So I’ll be sure to talk more with my students about the challenges of working in organizations that are still operated as silos and what they might expect between departments, as well as what it might be like to work on a cross-functional team.  Yep I should be able to squeeze that somewhere in Week 8.

Honestly though, the best way to teach these kind of issues is outside of the classroom in internship experiences. So hey Liz — we have dynamite students at Champlain and you seem like a firecracker of a manager where they could learn a lot. Do you have an internship program by any chance?


Lesson 5: Earplugs at #inboundrocks are a really smart thing. Hubspot hosted One Republic and Wildside in a private concert tonight. I didn’t make it to Wildside (sad…but much fun was had at the alternative I chose, which while epic is certainly not something to post on a blog!) but I did make it to One Republic. It was loud.

And well, I admit it, I’m old. Older than a lot of the people (not all of them) who were there. But it did seem that I was the only one with ear plugs. Hmmm…I’m so surprised that @hubspot did not give out orange ear plugs. I think that would be brilliant of them to do. Fun branding that is super functional and saves hearing!

Perhaps this little Vine will give you a small taste.

Of course some pictures would be cool too don’t you think?

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And with that, my friends I’m going to end this post and go to bed. Much more shenanigans to be had tomorrow, plus the long drive home, so my recap of day 3 probably won’t happen until Friday.

I can tell you that this conference is a very good conference, and I’m not seeing half of the things I could be seeing. Jam packed and full of good information — look out students because I’m going to come to classes next week with so many new examples and inspiration!


Aug 13

What I learned at my first day at #inbound13


Inbound 13 is like SxSWi, only a little smaller, more intimate, and more focused on a specific company, Hubspot.  It’s a four day conference with jam-packed sessions of awesome.  Here are my highlights from last night and today.


Lesson 1: My students are AMAZING.  Well ok, I knew that already, but I had a fabulous dinner with a group of amazing women who graduated in ’08, ’10, ’11, and ’12 — and they are all doing amazing things here in Boston.  It is an amazing gift to have been a small part of their lives during college and be able to get together with them, and help them all connect now. The networking around the table was super cool.

Champlain College Alumni in #BOS

Lesson 2: Talking the talk means walking the walk. This conference is big. Over 5k people have descended here at the Hynes Center in Boston and the place is a zoo. As much as Hubspot wanted the wifi to work and the sessions to go smoothly they’ve had to contend with overloaded wifi, a dearth of plugs, and standing room only sessions. By the Keynote today at 2 p.m. they were already modifying things. Agendas are changing on the fly,  they are expanding sessions, and shifting things behind the scenes to accommodate the crowd. An event planners nightmare…an attendees convenience. Kudos to the whole Hubspot team. I’ve never seen such a responsively designed conference. (see what I did there?)

Lesson 3: Seth Godin. Is. Amazing. There is nothing more I have to say here. Really. You already knew this. Seeing him live was a highlight (but sorry Seth, not THE highlight for me). Words of wisdom just fly from that man. The tweet stream tells much of the story but some gems for me included:

  • Mass Marketing = Average
  • The internet was the first medium invented without marketers in mind.
  • You can not buy your way to share of voice.
  • And probably most importantly for future students of mine: “If you ask ‘what do you want me to do’, you are part of pack.”  This is a race to the bottom.”

Lesson 4: Hubspot is pretty cool. I knew they were doing some good things. I learned that from @pistaschio and @bleaning. But as I watched the keynote unfold this afternoon I was super impressed with their platform. I am now on a campaign to see if I can get it in my classroom. (Hint Hint @mvolpe@dharmesh and @bhalligan).

Lesson 5: Laura Fitton is a genius. Alright, I’m not sure if the BoldTalks are totally her brainchild, but I know she organized them and they. are. awesome. So inspiring. Short 20 minute talks covering all areas. Today I learned from @jasonkeath on how to brainstorm, @mitchjoel on the “one screen world” and “remote control of our lives,” @cspenn on comic book heroes and using social media to make a difference, @JarrettBarrios of the Boston Red Cross and his story of the Boston Marathon Bombing (let’s just say WOW!), @ducttape on Marketing Confluence (I’ve used his books in my classes!), and @brian_wong of a new startup called Kiip who is revolutionizing mobile advertising, focusing on “achievement moments.” Did I mention all of these are inspiring?

Lesson 6: There is actually someone who talks faster than me. That would be Hubspots “Social Media Scientist” @danzarella. Whirlwind fun times with stats galore today. Learned some fast facts…so fast that I had a hard time capturing them. But it was a fun time!

Lesson 7: Brian Solis ROCKS! Ok, I know, another one that is no surprise. But this evening I met him with a gazillion other people at an after party, had a great chat about my classes — and he actually remembered me. We’ve been tweeting at him and with him in my classes for several years, and I met him once at SxSW. He gave me an extra book for my students too! If you haven’t heard of his new book What’s the Future of Business, read this post from Hubspot: http://blog.hubspot.com/brian-solis-wtf-future-of-business-im-hspr. But first here’s a pic of me with Brian. Yeah. Totally awesome!

Elaine and Brian Solis

Lesson 8: Conferences make me sleepy. Non-stop fun all day, plus meeting at night and a whole round to do again tomorrow means a lot of energy expended. Most important to pace myself. There are still TWO DAYS to go!

Bonus Lesson: Check out Charity Water. You’ll be glad you did. More on this tomorrow after the One Republic Concert (oh, did I forget to mention that one?)

happy lolcat