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HubSpot CEO, UVM Alumnus to Keynote April 3 Invention2Venture Conference

HalliganUVM will hold its annual Invention2Venture conference Thursday, April 3. The event, to take place from 1 to 5 p.m. in the Davis Center, brings students, researchers and business leaders together to talk entrepreneurship — from venture capital funding, to intellectual property to marketing strategies for start-ups.

Register online for the free conference, which is hosted by UVM's Office of Technology Commercialization, the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies and the Vermont Technology Council.

This year, the keynote address will be delivered by UVM alumnus Brian Halligan, CEO and co-founder of HubSpot, a leading internet marketing company based in Cambridge, Mass. Halligan is also a senior lecturer at MIT where he teaches the course, “Entrepreneurial Product Development and Marketing.” UVM Today spoke with Halligan in advance of his return to campus about his work and his advice for entrepreneurs.

HubSpot is best known as a pioneer of "inbound marketing." Can you explain what that is and how it helps business and organizations promote themselves?

Halligan: Absolutely: the conventional marketing and sales playbook includes lots of trade shows, paid ads and cold calling. In other words, you interrupt your way into the lives of your prospects and customers. The idea behind inbound marketing is that the way people live, work, shop and buy has changed fundamentally: consumers have more power than ever to block out marketing efforts that don't appeal to them, and it's high time marketers adapted to that shift. Inbound marketing leverages remarkable content, social media, blogging, email, and more personalized Web experiences to attract, engage and delight customers rather than interrupting them. We believe this approach is more effective, and our software helps more than 10,000 companies worldwide implement the inbound marketing playbook.

Inbound marketing helps businesses in two core ways: first and foremost, it provides a much more optimal customer experience. Second, inbound marketing is significantly more effective, efficient and measurable than the traditional marketing playbook: you don't have to guess how many people saw your billboard walking down the street; you can measure your conversion rates, website traffic, and social shares on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to identify what's working. Marketing is no longer about arts and crafts: it's about enabling transformative customer experiences. The businesses that will win over the long haul will leverage an inbound approach to engaging their customers.

The Invention2Venture conference is focused around inspiring entrepreneurship. What are your top two pieces of advice for fledgling businesses and their creators?

1) Be different: That status quo is easy. Disruption is not. Have the courage and the determination to create a company that truly thinks about the world differently. Companies like Apple didn't get where they were by following the traditional playbook; they replaced conventional wisdom with the ability to see around corners. Entrepreneurs should follow suit.

2) Tell your story: Far too many companies wait for other people to share their story with the world. If you're an entrepreneur, you should be blogging about your business, answering common sales questions, participating in Twitter chats with customers and generally using exceptional content to share your story with the world. I'm always amazed by the number of startups who wait for a big media story to share their news; craft your own narrative and invest in promoting it.

Can you give us a preview of what you'll be talking about at the conference?

I plan to build out my talk this weekend (I better get on that!) but I hope it will help people think differently about their business and their marketing and sales efforts.

You'll be traveling back to Burlington and your alma mater to attend. Do you get back often? Any people or places you want to be sure to see?

Not as often as I'd like, but I always really enjoy coming back. I'm staying at a new hotel called Hotel Vermont and looking forward to that, and I plan to grab a bite at Leunigs -- I could never afford it when I went to school up there. If schedules work, I'd love to check out a jam band at Higher Ground.

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