Our online worlds are becoming increasingly filtered for our convenience.


I spent the previous week at Hubspot's Inbound conference, now billed as the "world's largest gathering of inbound marketers." As a participant in many of the lines that snaked through the third floor of the Hynes Convention Center, I believe it. Like many big conferences, Inbound is adorned with high-wattage flourishes--Arianna Huffington, oodles of parties, a performance by One Republic--but its real value is in its sessions. If you're looking to reboot or rev up your marketing, Inbound provides methodical, empirical approaches for doing so.

That being said, my biggest takeaway from Inbound had nothing to do with A/B testing or workflows. Rather, it was:

Bespoke is the new one-size-fits-all.  

Before I dig into that, a little background: Hubspot's core philosophy is "if you build it, they will come--and convert." This philosophy is manifested in

  • forms that capture and store visitor information and
  • in lots and lots of pay-with-your-data resources on the art of creating content that will drive high-quality visitors to your site, and keep them coming back. 

Presently, the "keep them coming back" part of the formula relies heavily upon email: once you've filled out a Hubspot form, you'll start getting emails with offers tailored to the reason you filled out that form. The frequency of these emails, and the variety of interests they cover depends upon how you interact with them. Done right, they are highly personalized, and they work.

But, email is only one part of the inbound marketing pie, and it has to trigger the recipient's interest to be successful. Visitors to company's site, on the other hand, are already actively interested.

Hubspot has a new product coming out in September that they're calling the Content Optimization System, or COS. The COS adds the technology Hubspot already uses to personalize emails and its Call-to-Action buttons to a content management system; essentially, it’s a CMS with a bunch of cookie-based content customization functionality.

What this means, in practice, is that after I've filled out a form--eg a form to download the "Inbox Zero for Everyone Ebook" on knowyourinbox.com, some of the content I see when I return to knowyourinbox.com will hinge on the information I've entered in the form. If I'm a development manager at a small software company, I might see an offer for a free demo of KnowYourInbox's API. If I'm a PR rep at a large fashion house, I might see a webinar on tips and tools for managing email overload.

There are a number of tools that optimize blog or website content based on viewing trends in aggregate, but this is the first non-social-networking site I've seen to do so on an individual level. And the fact that it is part of Hubspot, a company whose primary customer is the small, harried, not-very-tech-savvy business owner, means filtered content is not a flash in the pan.

Which is good news for us here at Skimbox, because our product assumes people want their email filtered: one box for the relevant stuff, and one box for the rest. It differs from the COS in that users still get everything, but it shares the goal of making it easy for users to find what they want. As Hubspot CEO Darmesh Shah put it in his announcement post,

"...having context isn’t enough. You have to use it for the good of the customer."

Like Hubspot, we’re in the early stages yet (you can read Chris Fuentes’ posts to learn more about the technology behind our classification), but I’m eager to see the responses to the seeds as well as the eventual trees.