Finally returning to in-person attendance, it’s fitting that the theme of HubSpot’s INBOUND 2022 conference in Boston was “Age of the Connected Customer.”
In addition to dozens of specific workshops and learning sessions, the event’s keynote speakers — President Barack Obama, Dr. Jane Goodall, and Viola Davis — all touched on connectedness in one way or another.
Both a celebration and a rallying cry, the conference united the world’s brightest inbound growth professionals to address the biggest challenge facing organizations today: the struggle to connect… with customers, prospects, internal teams, systems, data, and community.
The pandemic’s effects are ongoing and include a fundamental shift in buyer behavior. Without proper connections, organizations can’t communicate and grow. So, success is no longer about customer management; it’s all about customer connection.
HubSpot CEO Yamini Rangan set the tone early for the inbound conference, sharing high-priority challenges for today’s businesses that swingboard into four INBOUND 2022 conference takeaways:
- As businesses question the effectiveness of traditional marketing, they’re looking for new ways to reach customers
- With remote and hybrid teams being the norm, it’s harder for both employees and customers to build relationships the way they used to
- Fragmented systems, data, and the huge lift involved to integrate everything, is overwhelming
- Digital fatigue makes it harder than ever for customers to cut through the noise
1. Connecting with Customers in New Ways
Privacy changes. Marketing fatigue. Declining search and ad effectiveness. Ever-changing B2B marketing trends. These have all led to marketing efforts underperforming and not converting like they used to. The go-to-market strategies we’ve trusted and relied on aren’t working anymore. Why?
- Customers, who expect one-click solutions yet are met with underperforming channels, are disconnected
- Data, because of outdated platforms and cobbled together solutions, is disconnected (more on this in takeaway #3)
- People, due to hybrid work and isolation, are disconnected (see takeaway #2)
In a disconnected world, companies must refocus on the one thing that really matters: building deep connections with customers.
While President Obama shared thoughts primarily about today’s political environment during INBOUND 2022, his insights are certainly applicable to connecting with customers through inbound marketing: “What’s happened is our national conversation has broken apart,” Obama said. When it comes to having discussions with someone with whom you disagree, “you can’t wake people up if you turn your back on them.”
Making an effort to really listen to and understand someone’s point of view — and having diverse perspectives on your marketing and sales team — can bridge gaps to improve marketing campaigns and brand positioning.
2. Creating Real Relationships in a Hybrid World
B2B customers make it through 70% of the purchase process before they reach out, and they consume 10+ pieces of content along the way. That, according to Amanda Green of LinkedIn during her deep-dive session, may not be shocking but it should drive home the fact that after all that research, a personal touch may be required to close the sale.
Even on LinkedIn, THE social channel focused on professionals, creativity and personality make a brand stand out. Amanda’s key tips for marketing content:
- embrace emotional content — the human brain remembers emotions, not facts
- be distinctive, and do it consistently
- get personal — communicate the personal benefits of your brand
- Above all, make your audiences feel heard
In addition to building connections among other professionals, doing so in a specific community, such as with other HubSpot users, matters, too. “You belong. You matter.” What more important message can one hear, especially in today’s often disconnected world?
In this spirit, Dharmesh Shah of HubSpot announced the HubSpot Network, connect.com — a new way to help HubSpot customers and inbound practitioners feel supported by their teams and by HubSpot itself. It’s all part of a stronger, fully connected community:
HubSpot’s Connected Community — An “ecosystem of experts and education” is how HubSpot describes various initiatives to develop inbound skills, get insights, and interact with other professionals. HubSpot Academy helps developing professional skills; HubSpot Community offers forums, blogs, events, and growth groups; HubSpot Services provides an extra hand when working on HubSpot initiatives; and at HubSpot Network users can showcase skill sets, get access to career opportunities, and seek out expert advice.
3. Uniting Systems and Data Seems Overwhelming — But It Doesn’t Have to Be
We’ll be digging into the specifics about HubSpot’s newest products and features in an upcoming article, but know now that the announced updates promise to “offer more than just software; they offer a better way to grow.”
Changes to HubSpot's commerce-powered CRM platform enhance how users can connect to data, to customers, and to your community (audiences) all in one place and create flexible, customized experiences. Announcements like Customer Journey Analytics improve revenue operations’ ability to report on the entire buying and customer experience.
With customers at the core, HubSpot’s Connected Platforms and Applications offer a unified system (Sales, Marketing, Service, Operations and Website CMS) that are easy-to-use. Crafted data management solutions power clean, clear, connected data that’s organized and accessible to all of your revenue-driving teams.
“Connect your data and systems, so you can craft friction-less buying experiences for the modern day customer — while cutting your costs and complexity.” – HubSpot
Clean data is the foundation that Sales and Marketing can build upon, creating a scalable solution using improved automation, segmentation, conversations, and more. Instead of spending time identifying targets, the teams can be executing strategies that solve your customer’s problems.
4. Cutting Through Noise to Connect with Customers
Remember that 70% of the buyer's journey is over before a prospect reaches out — and some say it’s even as high as 80%. This means the content an organization shares during that time is critical in cutting through the noise and making a memorable impression. Next time you’re creating content, think of Dr. Jane Goodall.
Incredibly inspiring at INBOUND 2022, Goodall shared life lessons that translate well to communication, leadership, and even connecting with customers through inbound marketing.
- Be patient. The way to earn trust is to let your target come gradually to you. It took four months of observing chimpanzees (out of her six month initial program budget!) for them to feel safe enough to let Dr. Goodall approach them.
- Believe. Whatever you’re doing, whatever the task, believe in it. When you truly believe that you can succeed, it can be done. Otherwise you won’t have the impact you’re looking to have.
- Chase dreams. Doing innovative things is rarely easy. Goodall’s mother supported her but also warned, “If you want to do this, take advantage of every opportunity, work really, really hard, and don’t give up.”
While pushing to cut through the noise, marketers need to remember that it’s harder than ever to get audiences to click on a result or a call-to-action. In fact, people are changing how they’re researching. With Google continually updating the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), searchers don’t need to click on a result to get an answer; it’s right there. These valuable or engaging insights — zero-click content — are gaining authority.
In addition, when a problem requires solving, more and more often the search is to uncover what people are saying, not necessarily discovering an authority on that subject. Of course, they still use keywords, bringing up the topic of SEO personas: the integration of keyword intelligence (the standard keyword research we all know) with audience intelligence, which is how you discover the “who” behind keyword topic clusters and thus produce more relevant and engaging content.
Final inspirational thoughts from HubSpot’s inbound conference:
- Zag when they zig (a life-long strategy of HubSpot co-founder Brian Halligan)
- Always be iterating
- Be known for something (or else be known for nothing)
Ready to learn more, increase force, and decrease friction? Use our free, 21-page digital workbook to launch your 2023 marketing plans based on the inbound flywheel framework: Flywheel Overview & Workbook.