Learning Hub | Digital Marketing Basics

Five Things I Learned From Inbound That I’ll Never Forget

September 25, 2015 | Jon Teodoro

Inbound, an annual digital marketing conference hosted by HubSpot, is one of the largest of its kind with this year’s event drawing over 14,000 people from all over the world. It has commanded the attention of influential personalities from not only the marketing world but also from the business, entertainment, and political arenas. Key appearances from this year’s Inbound conference included Seth Godin, Amy Schumer, Aziz Ansari, and Chelsea Clinton, just to name a few.

After four days of inspirational talks, networking, workshops, and battling Boston’s horrendous traffic, I returned home with a handful of recurring themes that stood out through the dozens of informational sessions I attended. I broke these themes down into five key lessons I learned from spending over a week surrounded by digital marketing professionals from all around the world. These five key lessons, if implemented wisely, could help you make some huge strides towards success in 2016.

Lesson #1: If You Don’t Know Who Your Ideal Customer Is, You’re Screwed

“Whoever can afford my product” isn’t an acceptable definition of who your ideal customers are. Neither is “single white female that lives in the suburbs”. These are common answers I hear all the time from business owners but there is still a lot to be accounted for in terms of attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs with these half-assed definitions.

As entrepreneurs, we need to start thinking beyond the surface level. We need to dive deep past the demographics and into the psychographics of our customers. What triggers them to start their searching for what we have to offer? Are there any other people that influence their buying decisions? What are their expectations of what we have to offer, and how can we exceed them?

Answering these questions, the questions that keep our customers’ minds running while they are trying to get a good night’s sleep is the real goal here, folks. Know what makes your customers tick and you won’t be so confused as to how to approach them.

Lesson #2: Content Marketing Isn’t Just About Blogs, eBooks, and Whitepapers

Don’t get me wrong; Having a blog, some eBooks, and a few whitepapers is great, but many business owners are still failing to think outside of the box. Some of us still view content as a requirement on a to-do list rather than a leveragable tool.

I have a personal theory for what makes content “good” or “bad”. Your users are expecting at least two of the following three things: engagement, entertainment, or information. Traditional content marketing tells us that we need to “be an authority” and educate our users, but you should also let them have a little fun while you have their attention.

For starters, try building an online calculator, interactive quiz, or virtual product customizer. If you have a development team in-house, you could build a microsite like Wipro did. Either way, its time for us as entrepreneurs to starting thinking outside of the box when it comes to our brand’s content marketing.

Lesson #3: The Lines Between Inbound and Outbound Are Becoming Very Blurry

During Dharmesh Shah’s presentation, I heard the word “inbound-y” for the first time. What was even more bizarre to me is that it was used to describe a paid advertisement.

Traditionally, HubSpot has been an advocate for only organic online marketing, meaning they took a “just say no” attitude towards PPC ads, banner ads, and display ads. Interestingly enough, in the latest iteration of HubSpot’s software there is now an add-on that allows you to promote your content through LinkedIn paid advertisements.

If a publicly-traded company that built its entire business’s brand on “organic” marketing is now an advocating the use for paid ads in your inbound marketing strategy, it’s time for all of us to start paying real close attention.

We should stop trying to decide whether if campaigns are “inbound” or “outbound” and instead start to think about how we can combine the two creatively distribute the right kind of content to the right kind of people at the right moment.

Lesson #4: A Lot of Today’s Marketing Processes Are Broken and Outdated

One of the most memorable workshops I attended was a website redesign session led by Gabe Wahhab (Twitter: @gabewahhab), the Interactive Director over at Square2Marketing. To kickoff his session he took a ceramic plate written with the words “existing web design process” on it, put it in a pillowcase, then voraciously smashed it with a hammer then poured out the shards of plate onto the table in front of him.

What Gabe was demonstrating to us was how broken the existing website redesign process is. Gabe eluded to the fact that today’s marketing processes move us toward the direction of creating things that “look good” or could “go viral”, instead of thinking strategy first, then tactics. What I took away from this statement is that we should be investing more time and energy into what will satisfy the needs of our customers instead of jumping straight to the creative process.

Therefore, we should pay more attention to how our website’s message speaks to our target audience, not what color that “Read More” button should be. We should care more about fulfilling a specific need of our customers while they are in a specific stage of their buying journey, and less about our catchy clickbait headlines and wacky post images.

Lesson #5: Don’t Underestimate The Power of Story Telling

Think back to when you were still a kid. Remember the Cat in the Hat? Clifford The Big Red Dog? or The Bernstein Bears? Depending on your age, you may have even read these books to your children.

The point is, since childhood we have been trained to associate pleasurable reading with a nicely written story. Content that is written in story format invokes a little bit of imagination and thought from the reader making it much more engaging than dry and verbose sales copy.

Need some hints on how to tell your business story? First, make your customer the main character. Tell your story in the context of their situation, thus establishing the setting. Walk them through a journey of their problems and how your business’ products or services can help solve their problems, which could them sleep better at night. By doing this, you’ve set the plot and conflict, then presented a resolution.

Too often, businesses are OK at framing the setting, plot, conflict, and resolution, but go wrong by making themselves the main character instead of their customers. Always remember to put your customers first!

If you need more help telling your business story, I’d recommend the Business Story Generator as a starting point.

Hopefully you can take these valuable lessons that I learned from Inbound 2015 and turn them into action items that will help your business grow from 2016 and beyond!