Key Takeaways From INBOUND 2021 About the Future of Marketing

Screenshot from the INBOUND event platform showing a rendering of a grass sculpture that says INBOUND with people surrounding it.

Each year, inbound marketing and sales enablement platform HubSpot hosts a massive event called INBOUND featuring major product and service rollouts, the latest tools and updates, surprise announcements, dozens of moderators and presenters, seminars, workshops, training and break-out sessions, an all-star lineup of speakers, and much, much more.

Traditionally, thousands of attendees ranging from marketing and sales to finance, management, and beyond converge at HubSpot’s mega-headquarters in Boston to learn, network, and share throughout three days. This year, as with last, the event moved online due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the entire Hypha HubSpot Development family joined virtually.

We’ll never truly be able to fully convey or represent all the extraordinary wisdom and insights—or incredible moments—gleaned and experienced during INBOUND 2021, but we thought we’d share a handful here to provide but a glimpse into all the exciting things swirling around the HubSpot universe.

As a HubSpot Diamond Partner, our team looks forward to this annual conference to hear the amazing news, connect with longtime users, and meet new members of this ever-growing HubSpot family. And we don’t use that last word lightly. It’s a special event, packed with countless opportunities to grow and strengthen relationships with some truly outstanding people, from HubSpot veterans to newcomers.

This year’s gathering was no exception, replete with professionals across a diverse spectrum of specializations including sales, marketing, customer success, HubSpot Academy, and more! Educational sessions covered a wide variety of topics, spanning virtual sales trends and artificial intelligence, best practices for adopting a new CRM and generating revenue, how to build brand credibility and improve customer engagement, purpose-driven SEO and content creation—the list goes on and on.

From new sandbox functionality for developers to best practices on email, ABM and more, here are some of the key takeaways we gleaned from INBOUND 2021:

Product Announcements

by Jon Sasala, President

Every year, one of the most exciting aspects of INBOUND is the new product announcements—and this year did not disappoint. HubSpot always has a pulse on where the market is going and how business is evolving, and they introduce the tools necessary to keep their customers at the front of that evolution.


This year, we learned of a few new features that either build on existing tools or launch entirely new initiatives, such as Payments, available with Sales Starter and above. HubSpot customers can now accept payment transactions directly out of HubSpot either as a component of the existing quoting tools, or as standalone “Buy Now” buttons. This is a huge step into digital commerce that will undoubtedly continue to evolve, and further enable HubSpot users to shorten their tech stack.

Customer Portals

Customer Portals, available in Service Hub Professional and above, is another feature announced that builds on the existing Service Hub ticketing system, but also opens up a world of possibilities for other uses. These portals enable any customer that has an open ticket to log in and view the status of that ticket. While this has been a highly requested feature of support tickets, the functionality can be adapted for other scenarios. Maybe we want to let members log in to view the status of their subscriptions, or customers view their purchase history, or partners view the status of their referrals. We can now grant people access to data managed in HubSpot without them having to log into HubSpot.


Ever want to introduce a new integration, API sync, or substantial workflow but you are concerned it may have huge data implications and would like to do some testing first? With any Enterprise account, Sandboxes now allows you to make an identical replica of your entire portal, test changes, and push them live when ready.


There were a few announcements related to reporting worth celebrating. The new Marketing Hub Pro Behavioral Events enables users to track almost any activity and report on it in the always improving Report Builders. And with the new Data Sets introduced for Ops Hub Enterprise, not only can we get even more granular on the way data is reported, but also set reporting tools up to be easier for users to build reports.

These features, along with all the content presented around RevOps (Revenue Operations), demonstrate how INBOUND continues to push us all forward and Grow Better. What is Rev Ops? Conceptually, RevOps is a newer business function or department aimed at maximizing collaboration between departments to optimize revenue opportunities—something we will all be talking about in the months and years ahead.

Email Dos & Don’ts for Success

by Regina Jankowski, Senior Inbound Content Developer

How can we successfully produce emails with measurable results for our clients? More importantly, how can we drive actionable prospects and leads?

The INBOUND 2021 session “Email Myths Busted! What’s REALLY Working Now!” addressed these and many other questions regarding successful email marketing strategies and tactics. Hosted by Jay Schwedelson, founder and CEO of and Worldata, this session was both informative and entertaining.

Schwedelson conveyed actionable percentage data and real-life statistics regarding best practices on tactics, such as A/B testing, emoji usage, and personalizations. Using special characters such as asterisks in subject lines, for example, increased open rates by as much as 25 percent.

He also advised on what not to do, such as the “Fake Forward” and “Fake Reply.” These “trickster” tactics, as Schwedelson calls them, will not only alienate your subscribers. They're also more likely to unsubscribe from your emails—sometimes as much as 135 percent! Schwedelson warned this tactic would “destroy your ability to stay in the inbox.”

A Timely Reminder on ABM

by Phil Stott, Director of Strategy

Looking back, the best takeaways I have from INBOUND 2021 are related to Account Based Marketing (ABM). I saw a couple of excellent presentations on how to tie ABM into the Inbound process, and heard perhaps the best definition of the approach I’ve come across to date:

“ABM is about establishing a relationship with one specific person at an ideal client. Everything after that is sales.”

What I like so much about that explanation is the clarity it offers: There’s a temptation when thinking about ABM to design campaigns that ask for too much from your target audience—usually in the form of a call or a meeting.

But as the definition implies, that ask needs to happen much further down the line the goal of a true ABM campaign should simply be about creating awareness for your company, product or service, and establishing a baseline relationship.

That tied into one of the overarching themes of the whole conference, and the inbound approach in general: the importance of knowing your customer and delivering the right message at the right time.

With so many ways to reach prospects and/or current clients/customers, it’s vital to put their needs first, and to approach every interaction with warmth, humility, and a clear idea of how it will help to build and strengthen your relationship. While that may not be a new concept, it’s important to be reminded of it every once in a while. In a world where marketing is becoming increasingly personalized, and blurring the lines with traditional sales outreach, it’s also critical for future success.

Creating Trusted Content

by Steve Mosco, Managing Inbound Content Developer

Content is an essential building block of all businesses, and popular Inbound speaker Marcus Sheridan solidified that fact when he delivered “7 Steps to Becoming the Most Trusted Voice in Your Space” during day two. The session was an enthusiastic reminder we can be a trusted voice, not just a content machine churning out keyword-stuffed ads disguised as blogs.

Sheridan believes that in order to gain trust and become a thought leader, marketers must be willing to leave their clients’ comfort zone and discuss some potentially uncomfortable topics. This tends to go against the established content process of never deviating from the norm, never discussing what hasn’t already been discussed, and never ruffling anyone’s feathers.

But, as Sheridan suggests, playing it safe isn’t always a good business model. We must be willing to create content that touches on a variety of unexpected topics. This includes discussing taboos such as pricing, who the client is not a good fit for, the competition, and even the so-called “secrets” behind a client’s process. These steps and more all build a relationship of trust between client and customer.

The Future of Sales

by Bryan Koegel, Chief Growth Officer

There was a lot of sales-specific content that I found useful.

  • I learned a lot from Chris Barnett, founder and principal of Barnett Strategies, LLC about taking care of the customer first and foremost, and firming up some numbers on the sales side that I am often asked from prospects and clients alike.
  • The Sandler training reminded me that time allocation is so very critical to prospect effectively.
  • Amit Kulkami, CEO of business text platform Heymarket, gave me much better insight into the usage of text messaging and how high open rates are in some verticals.
  • Global speaker and consultant Marcus Sheridan was incredible when explaining his “Content Trust Keys,” and why they are simple, yet so important to the process.

Putting all of that together, it’s clearer than ever how important it is to closely link sales and marketing, and to make sure there’s an efficient handoff between the two. As Kelly Watkins, CEO of file-based sharing platform Abstract, noted: “People know when you are BSing them, and buying has changed.”

Sales leaders, including myself, need to keep up with that change or we’ll be left behind.

Staying on that theme of change, I was inspired by Cynt Marshall, CEO of the Dallas Mavericks, describing her journey from humble beginnings to where she is now.

And it’s always great to hear from HubSpot leadership: This year, founder and CTO Dharmesh Shah gave a great roundup of the history of Web 1.0 and 2.0, and broke down what to expect with Web 3.0, which is already underway.

“The future is awesome!” he declared.

His enthusiasm and confidence fueled my battery throughout the conference, and ever since.