Disclaimer: There are many posts like this one out there, but sharing this experience is important to us – it’s also important to the Inbound Movement because sharing ideas and experiences is truly what keeps us moving forward. Enjoy!
Along with 14,000 other marketing professionals, Kim, Craig, and I were privileged enough to journey to Boston on September 8th through the 11th for the INBOUND conference hosted by HubSpot. To better understand INBOUND and what we experienced that week, please take a moment to watch the following video.
Feeling inspired? I thought you might be. And believe me – so are we. This goosebump-inducing intro video was played for us before each major keynote speaker’s presentation. You could literally feel the electricity in the room as it boomed through the speakers. The INBOUND conference, while also a destination for knowledge and networking, was fueled by passion and inspiration coming from and shared by people who are fueled by inbound.
One thing that came as a surprise to me was the amount of inspiration that radiated from the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center all day, every day. Don’t get me wrong, we learned a ton of new and exciting marketing methods and insider tips from some of the best and brightest in our industry – things that will most certainly change the way we operate, and hopefully change our clients’ businesses for the better (some awesome souvenirs, if you ask me). However, I believe one of if not the major takeaway from this conference was inspiration; inspiration to be better and to do better. We left INBOUND inspired to be the best versions of ourselves and to make our team and our agency the best it can be for our clients. Worth the expense? I think so.
I have to admit, this was my first conference, and I was fully aware that I had no idea what I was about to experience. Coworkers and friends who had experienced big, widely anticipated conferences before warned me that I would come back inspired, ready for change, and full of new ideas. How very right they were.
Since our brains all operate in unique ways, my colleagues and I decided it would be meaningful to share three takeaways from the conference that truly moved and inspired each of us individually. Out of the half of a notebook’s worth of notes I took (yes, a notebook with pen and paper; I’m old-school), here are three major takeaways that I wanted to share with you:
1) “Vulnerability is the only path to success.”
Brené Brown is a Researcher and Storyteller whose primary focus of study has been shame and vulnerability. Seeing her speak on Wednesday morning at INBOUND was captivating – for many reasons. For one, it made me think back to a simple, yet powerful card my mother gave me that sits on my desk at work and says, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” I always felt very close to this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, but I wasn’t sure that I’d ever truly understand why. It turns out that mothers sometimes know us better than we know ourselves (shocking). Brené’s speech spoke to me and would likely speak to everyone reading this that has let shame or vulnerability hinder their growth – whether it’s not taking a risk and trying something new and unfamiliar for your business, or taking the plunge and trying to learn a new skill even though you think that you’re “too old” to do so. Being vulnerable, as Brené will tell you, should not be seen as weakness. Being brave and taking risks may cause you to feel shame, sure – but you’ll never know what kind of success lies beyond that fear if you don’t “show up and be seen.” To add to this ideology, Bryan Eisenberg of IdealSpot and Buyer Legends discussed in his session about creating legendary brands that doing something different can hurt and feel awkward – but you’re going to see better results from it.
My challenge for you: Do one thing today that scares you or makes you feel vulnerable, but you’ve always wanted to do. Sign up for a class, tell someone you love them, cook for your family, or make an investment for your business.
2) You must embrace technology in your marketing.
Mike King of iPullRank was, for the most part, speaking directly to us marketers in his talk about technical marketing, but the point he made speaks to business owners, as well. If you’re not embracing technology – and staying curious about your technology – you will be left behind. It is imperative that you understand technology being used to market and run your business to some degree. You may have heard of the Internet of Things (IoT), which refers to the growing abundance of devices connected to the internet, essentially changing the way we operate. It’s widely agreed that the IoT is the next “big thing,” but it’s already happening. Mitch Joel, President of Mirum, added to this idea, speaking about the “Next Digital Consumer.” No longer are consumers just wearing technology (i.e. Fitbit, Apple Watch, etc.), the technology is actually a part of them. Simply put, in order to remain successful in business and marketing, we must evolve with our consumers – embracing technology is the best way to do this.
3) Stop selling your products and services – help your customers buy them.
One of the most powerful takeaways from INBOUND seems so simple, but I guarantee will greatly improve your business and marketing: You must change your perspective from trying to sell products and services, to helping consumers buy. Bryan Eisenberg focused heavily on this idea as well as perfecting the customer experience through the Buyer Legends Process in his session. No longer is it effective to solely tell your brand’s story – you have to learn to tell stories about your customers from their perspective. Help consumers visualize themselves bettering their lives with your products and services. In addition, take a look at a customer’s journey from a successful purchase back to the beginning. What does that journey look like? Are you providing a pleasant experience for them from beginning to end and actually helping them buy? Because if you’re not helping your customers buy, they’ll find a competitor that will.
Craig Kilgore, Mainstreethost’s Inbound Marketing Manager
Since the inception of my digital marketing career, I’ve had the opportunity to attend a handful of industry conferences. I attended Distilled’s SearchLove conference in Boston, SES New York on two separate occasions, and a couple of locally held events. Each experience had something unique to offer, and all were worth their weight in gold in terms of educational value. After joining HubSpot’s Parter Program a couple years back, I was naturally exposed to their INBOUND conference. In our first year as a partner, I sent one employee to the conference and in our second, I sent two. Personally giving up the opportunity to attend INBOUND meant that I could expose more of my marketing team to what I felt was an invaluable experience. Believe me, it was tough passing up what seemed to be an incredibly exciting conference.
When HubSpot began promoting INBOUND15, I asked for the funds to send another two of my team members to the conference, again, planning on personally passing it up. Along with the approval to send Kim and Jess, I was offered the opportunity to join them (I said yes, obviously). It had been three or so years since my last conference and I was beyond excited to attend. I was looking forward to connecting with some of Mainstreethost’s HubSpot reps, eager to absorb as much information as humanly possible, and excited to experience how INBOUND set itself apart from the other conferences I’ve attended.
INBOUND15 far exceeded my expectations and raised the bar drastically for future conference decisions. There was a level of energy present throughout the entire conference, and not once did it dissipate. I credit this to the amazing job HubSpot does building the hype around the event, and to the 14,000 attendees and speakers that made it possible in the first place. This level of energy and excitement existed at other conferences, but not as much and as consistent. It is truly a movement.
Here are my top 3 takeaways:
1) Customer experience leaders outperform the market. (Bryan Eisenberg)
Value and customer experience are core components of inbound marketing. In a study referenced in Bryan’s presentation, 43% of “customer experience leaders” saw greater stock performance compared to S&P 500 and “customer experience laggards.” Similar to Mitch Joel’s presentation, Bryan made it a point to shine light on the little things brands can do to create a better overall experience for customers.
2) Little things make a big difference. (Mitch Joel)
As Mitch explained, most brands are overwhelmed by the massive shifts they have to make to their business models in order to stay competitive. In my personal experience as a marketing manager, feeling overwhelmed is common and something you learn how to deal with. I tend to stay too focused on the big picture and often times overlook the little things that may not only make my life easier, but have real impact on the big picture.
3) Lean rapid prototyping can help increase marketing ROI. (Nichole Kelly)
Two of the biggest challenges I face as a marketing manager are time and resources. There never seems to be enough time, and rarely are there enough resources / budget for unproven ideas. Nichole’s lean rapid prototyping concept was built to help marketing teams do more with less, faster, and with better results.
Kim Speier, Inbound Marketing Specialist
Prior to INBOUND, I had never been to a marketing conference before, let alone one that hosted 14,000 people from all over the world. So it’s safe to say I was a little overwhelmed in the weeks leading up to the conference. I felt emotions I didn’t even know you could feel concurrently: excitement, anxiety, eagerness, and uneasiness, with a side of fangirling over the esteemed speakers and performers we were about to be in the presence of.
But once Seth Godin took the stage to kick off the first night of INBOUND, all of my nerves quickly went away. I realized that I wasn’t surrounded by thousands of industry peers to feel intimidated or inferior, but I was there to learn from the best and brightest in the game. Our team went to Boston to discover more ways to incorporate inbound marketing into our company’s business strategy. And probably most importantly, we were there to further our passion for what we do each and every day.
Needless to say, I came away from INBOUND with more ideas and takeaways than I could possibly fit into this post, but here are my top 3:
1) Consumers forget 90% of the content that is shared with them.
As a content writer and social media marketer, that statistic from Dr. Carmen Simon of Rexi Media terrified me. It’s not about creating content just for the sake of having content to share, but rather creating content that adds value to the customer journey. Since most of what you say will almost immediately be forgotten, make sure that the 10% readers take away is the right 10%.
2) “Distraction is the enemy of conversion.”
Oli Gardner of Unbounce focused his session on creating content that converts. He shed an important light on the fact that web designers and content creators often bombard visitors with so much information, that they often don’t know what to do next. Whether it’s multiple CTAs on a web page, an abundance of visual content, or a disorganized layout, it can be difficult for a visitor to know what the main focal point is supposed to be. Take the time to hone in on what the ultimate goal of a page or post is, and create the rest of your content in support of that goal so consumers stay focused and ultimately convert.
3) Inbound marketing is a movement.
This theme of inbound as a movement rang true throughout the entire conference, from short videos before each morning’s keynote speaker to the individual sessions themselves. Inbound marketing isn’t just a job title; it’s a culture and a passion. In Marcus Sheridan’s session about getting inbound marketing buy-in from your entire organization, he emphasized the fact that both sales and marketing play a role in adopting the inbound methodology. What we do extends far beyond our department, and it’s essential that every employee in an organization understands how they can embody inbound in their work.
Did you attend INBOUND this year? We would love to hear some of your top takeaways in our comments section below!