This year’s Inbound, an annual conference hosted by HubSpot, was jam-packed with content, inspiring speakers and Instagram-worthy moments. Not only did I get to hear from the likes of Michelle Obama, Issa Rae, Billie Jean King and Andy Cohen, but I also learned from talented digital marketers and HubSpot users from all over the country.
Everything from email marketing strategies to growing your business ethically was covered at Inbound, but a few lessons stood out to me. Perhaps most importantly, I’ve realized that I not only mulled over these lessons for a couple weeks months after the conference, but in fact have been applying and thinking about them since then. These evergreen lessons are important reminders for busy marketers (so busy, in fact, that an event recap comes later than intended) to stay focused with intentional and thoughtful digital strategies.
Lesson #1: Lots of Content is Not King
Content marketing is decidedly here to stay. Creating an intelligent strategy with content designed for specific audiences at all stages of the buying cycle allows a softer touch and enables users to get to know your firm organically.
It seems everyone understands that having a content strategy is important, but it becomes more difficult to know how much content we as marketers should be curating. Balancing all of our other projects becomes increasingly difficult when we also have to manage a growing editorial calendar. Luckily, I was comforted by the concept of Pareto’s Law of Copywriting: that roughly 80 percent of output comes from 20 percent of input. In laymen’s terms, only about one-fifth of your content will earn you the majority of engagement and, therefore, value.
When it comes down to it, this really just means that quality is more important than quantity, despite the clickbait culture that’s recently emerged.
Think strategically about what each piece of content you’re putting out accomplishes. Which messaging goals is it aligned with? Which key personas are you touching? By being more thoughtful, you’ll take unnecessary content off your plate and be able to cultivate better, more impactful pieces.
Lesson #2: Don’t Discount Creativity
As a B2B marketer, I can sometimes feel boxed in when it comes to applying creativity and bold design to my work. Proving ROI and showing off analytics is constantly asked of marketers, making it more difficult to focus on making things “look pretty.”
But being creatively-driven isn’t just about aesthetics. Creativity is involved in (hopefully) everything marketers do, and so it’s important for us to continuously remember to bring creative thinking to how we solve problems, and create solutions for our clients and our stakeholders.
Figuring out how to best access your creativity is the real trick. Whether it’s creating a stimulating work space (like Piera Gelardi), reading up on the latest/most inspiring thought leadership, getting your team together to brainstorm concepts and solutions or some combination of exercises and inspiration, we need not forget the value in exploring new ways to solve problems. This is often where the real magic in marketing happens, where we can make the biggest splash and offer up unexpected ways to earn that ROI we’re constantly after.
Lesson #3: Balance the Old & New
Inbound is a conference designed by and for digital marketers. These days, anyone with the title “marketer” lives and breathes technology in their day-to-day activities, so I’d be remiss to leave out all the exciting technological innovations coming our way (and sooner than we think).
Here are a few trends I noticed:
- Bots are hot. And they aren’t just for huge B2C businesses anymore. Recently, Hubspot bought a chatbot technology company, and is planning on rolling out its version (completely free to Hubspot users) in 2018. This means it’s time for marketers, regardless of industry, to start thinking seriously and strategically about how bots can function on their websites.
- It’s video, stupid. Video has been a hot topic among strategic marketers for years, but with better camera technology on our phones, and with the way social platforms are evolving, marketers need to double down on how they’re applying video to their content strategies.
- AI is on the up and up. Machine learning is growing in nearly every aspect of marketing. From competitive intelligence, curated analytics dashboards, web traffic and path analyzers to machine-written email subject lines and machine assisted narratives, I’d guess that AI will find its way into every marketer’s toolbox in the coming years … if it hasn’t already. This can feel a bit overwhelming (or like machines are taking our copywriting gigs), but the truth is, these machines, applied intelligently, could take time-consuming, simple tactics off our plates, so we can spend more time solving larger problems at our organizations.
So yes, new technology is exciting, and even a little scary. But it’s also important to point out that traditional means of marketing are still essential to your marketing mix. In fact, email remains one of the main means to reach audiences, with 61 percent of consumers preferring to be contacted by brands via email over other channels (according to a survey conducted by Hubspot).
Segmentation is a big contributor to success of your email messages, so make sure you’re cross referencing your personas with your content strategy. And, always remember: if you’re not sure, test!
Applying a/b testing to your emails is one of the easiest ways to iterate on messaging successes. This can be as simple as changing the color of a CTA or re-wording a subject line to increase your click rate.
The future of marketing is growing closer, but that doesn’t mean we should throw away our more traditional modes of communication, like email. It just means we can be smarter - and therefore more impactful - about how we apply those strategies.
As we move closer to 2018, I’m hoping to challenge myself to apply these Inbound lessons to become a better marketer. When it comes to content, more isn’t always better, but when it comes to creativity, I need to continuously challenge myself to stay inspired. Technology is here to help, so thinking of ways to ingrain it strategically into my current endeavors will, in the long run, leave me with more free time to work towards solving greater challenges.
I can’t express how much I enjoyed Inbound this year, and I can only hope to learn as much (if not more!) at next year’s event.