5 Key Takeaways from Hypergrowth 2017

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When I landed a free ticket to Hypergrowth, I was pumped. A whole day of marketing nerdiness, brought together by the cool kids at Drift? Sign me up. I loved the focus on brand-building, storytelling, and creating the best possible customer experience, which is what great marketing is all about.

Here's my top takeaways from the conference (and why you should definitely go next year):

Brand isn’t a stimulus, it’s a collective emotional response of the people you’re trying to reach.
— Mike Troiano, Former CMO, Actifio & Investor

This turns a lot of conventional wisdom on its head. When most people think about branding, they think about the logo, or the website, or maybe a key spokesperson a la Steve Jobs. But what matters about branding isn't what you produce; it's how people perceive what you produce. Brand is the emotional envelope around your product. Because people mainly make decisions based on their emotions, brand is a critical piece of the puzzle for any business. It's what tips people into purchasing, not the rational, logical argument about what they need. If you want to change what someone does, you need to change what they feel, not what they think. And marketing is all about driving someone to take action and make that change.

Story impacts every growth lever.
— Andy Raskin, Strategic Messaging & Positioning

I love a good story. I describe myself as a storyteller more often than I describe myself as a marketer. But I often struggle to connect that storytelling ability to key growth metrics. Having Andy lay out what makes a good story and why it will impact not just the brand but the sales and recruiting cycle helped put a lot of things in place for me. Great company stories showcase a change that creates winners and losers—it creates stakes for the audience—which is then resolved by your product. Your story's first job is getting to the, "That's exactly right" moment, which is when the audience starts to buy in to your message.

Not a bad view of Boston's Seaport from 60 State Street!

Not a bad view of Boston's Seaport from 60 State Street!

Employees and customers should define the brand. It’s my job [as a marketer] to articulate what they’ve already defined.
— Lauren Vaccarello, VP of Marketing at Box

I beat this drum over and over again but it's always worth a reminder. Are you listening to your customers? I mean really listening. It's not enough to have a persona. You need to market to a real person, who's just as busy as you are, who cares about their kids and loves to go sailing on the weekends. Or whatever it is. The point is that you're marketing to humans, not personas.

Second, every action that your company takes—every employee, every message, every customer—that is what defines your brand. Marketers do a whole lot of talking, which is why we get such a bad rap. But it's only a bad rap if we ignore the humanity and ignore the brand that's already there. Basically, when marketers try to make a company into something they're not.

What drives success isn’t your product. It‘s your people that care about the problem.
— Sangram Vajre, Co-Founder, Terminus

When you work at a startup, the odds are stacked against you. The two things you can control? Why you're there (your mission) and what you represent (your values).

Culture matters. We know this, but we always seem to skimp on it, hoping culture will happen organically. At Terminus, Sangram makes sure every single employee knows the mission statement backwards and forwards, and that everyone has the "keys to the Ferrari," meaning that they're empowered to do what needs to be done.

Wake up every day with an intention.
— Nastia Lukin, 5-Time Gold Medalist

Nastia Lukin is an incredible athlete and an Olympian who has inspired me from since I started watching the games. She shared a lot of lessons about grit and determination that come from dedicating yourself to training every day. My favorite? Even though she wanted to quit nearly every day, her mother (an Olympian herself) said, "You can quit after a good day." That's a great piece of advice—it's easy to want to quit after a bad day, or even a normal day. But if you still want to quit after a good day? Then go ahead and quit, because you're not following your passion. Have a goal for every day, no matter what, and wake up with an intention to achieve that goal.

For Hypergrowth's first time out, I was seriously impressed. Talk after talk had me furiously typing notes! Plus, Drift made a pretty cool announcement for this #emailgeek...

If you're interested in seeing recaps of previous conferences, see the full series.