Members of the Weidert Group team recently attended INBOUND 2019 — the be-all, end-all event for those of us executing and/or specializing in inbound marketing. The event is held annually in Boston — the inbound practitioner’s mecca and the global headquarters of HubSpot. Throughout the week we attended presentations and get-togethers that exposed us (and the 26,000 other marketers) to new ideas, insights and information.
As always, we had plenty of fun. (Exhibit A.)
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And we also learned a ton. Here’s a breakdown of some of the week’s more impactful takeaways.
1. Become an Experience Disruptor
To some, the term “disruptors” can have a negative connotation. After all, who likes disruptions? But when something comes along that disrupts how you’ve done something for years and shows you a much better way, it’s a welcome sight. Or are you still standing on the corner trying to hail a cab while everyone else is getting a Lyft?
In his keynote, Hubspot co-founder Brian Halligan talked about how one type of today’s disruptors aren’t technology-focused; instead, they’re experience-focused. Spotify, Slack, Zoom, Zapier, AirBnB, Door Dash and others have changed the way we live our daily lives for the better by reinventing the buyer/user experience.
Halligan challenged us to ask the question:
How can we be experience disruptors, too?
First — GET EXPERIENCE MARKET FIT. Instead of focusing on your product’s market fit, focus on the experience market fit. For example, Carvana offers a whole new way to buy a used car by cutting out the middleman and even helping you get financing. They suggest that getting a car can be as simple as getting coffee from a vending machine. Unlike vending machines, however, you can “test-to-own” with a 7-day return policy. It’s an entirely new kind of car-buying experience.
Second — REMOVE FRICTION. First introduced at Inbound 2018, the funnel-to-flywheel concept focused on making the buying experience as frictionless as possible. For example, the president of Atlassian, a B2B software company says, “Software should be bought, not sold.” B2B companies shouldn’t just focus on building trust throughout the buyer’s journey, only to then go heavy in the negotiation and sales process with complex and impersonal contracts.
Third — PERSONALIZE. Move away from anonymous touchpoints to personalized communication. The same is true of buyer personas; maybe they shouldn’t be fictional after all! In fact, StitchFix is moving away from hand-crafted personas to persona clusters, and Spotify has moved from personas to use cases.
Fourth — SELL THROUGH YOUR CUSTOMERS. There needs to be a shift away from selling to customers and more emphasis on selling through customers. Perhaps we can all learn a lesson from Glossier’s CEO and encourage and enable customers to create content for us, too.
Fifth — ATTACK YOUR BUSINESS MODEL. What’s your business model today? Halligan suggested we need to be more bold by becoming business model busters. To illustrate he highlighted the company, Chewy, which delights its customers by not making them go through the hassle of returning clothing that didn’t meet expectations. “Give it to a friend instead,” they said, when Halligan contacted the company to return a shirt that was too small. Unconventional? Yes. Will Halligan be buying more shirts from Chewy? You bet he will.
The companies shared in Halligan’s examples add value throughout the customer experience. Your super power is no longer about what you sell or why you sell it. In today’s marketing landscape, how you sell is how you win.
2. Write for SERP, Not Just For Your Target Audience
A persistent theme of the event focused on taking an agile approach to creating content. Do we need to know who our audience is and provide content that offers value? Of course. But if our target audience can’t find all that great content, it won’t matter how amazing it is.
Analyzing and improving content will take more than just choosing a few keywords and sprinkling them in a blog. Everything needs to be considered, including layout, headlines, subheads, graphics, CTAs, Metas, word length, readability and more.
Adopt a continuous improvement mindset and never stop analyzing, reformatting, publishing and optimizing. Of note, 89% of Hubspot’s organic traffic comes from content created over six months ago, showing the importance of building upon what you’ve already started. This should be encouraging for those who struggle to constantly come up with new ideas; your best ideas may already be written and just need some SEO mojo. Leverage analytics and use SEO tools to take your content to a new level and capitalize on what’s performing well to improve your SERP.
3. New Hubspot Conversation Tools
Speaking of tools, Hubspot announced several new integrations and products. While not yet available to the general public, Conversations will soon offer Facebook Messenger in addition to its existing Live Chat and Chatbots! These features allow companies to participate in 1:1 conversations like we do in our personal lives, but at scale. If you’re just starting out with conversational tactics, find ways to begin small and scale from there. Some companies that leverage Conversations tools have doubled or tripled their conversion rates. As a side note, if you’re interested in the Facebook Messenger integration, you can request to be a part of the beta.
Other new features include the ability to have forms in your Conversations inbox. Plus you can now schedule defined business hours for Chatbots rather than needing to toggle it on and off manually. There’s also targeting for Chatbots which can filter by IP address, country, browser, number of visits, exit intent, time on page, etc.
Quick tip: If you’re struggling with conversions on your pillar pages, use Chatbots to improve your conversion rates. The key is to work with marketing and sales to make sure the handoff is smooth and timely. People want immediate answers when using Chatbots, so a follow-up call the next day won’t cut it. Chances are, your visitor will already have found an answer elsewhere (ahem, from your competition).
4. Evolution of SEO for B2B Companies
Another angle on the SEO topic was presented by Dominic Woodman, a Senior Consultant at Distilled. Let’s face it, a lot of marketing strategies are focused on B2C companies trying to sell a product or service quickly, but for B2B companies with painfully long sales cycles, it’s harder to get quick wins and attribute successes to inbound marketing.
But there’s an upside to longer sales cycles; you get more value from search. See, with short sales cycles, it’s more difficult to get found via organic search versus paid advertising. Your longer sales cycle can be an SEO asset, especially when it comes to keyword research.
Start by focusing in on viable long-tail keyword phrases rather than simply using industry jargon, and match the intent of the search/keyword phrase. And remember that keywords with low search volume are still valuable. Don’t get too hung up on whether all your content is performing equally; Dominic shared that B2B companies get most of their traffic from just 10% of their pages.
Don’t be tempted to start by improving your home page and product pages; obsess over your original content first. And that content doesn’t have to just live on your website! Leverage others who have visibility in your industry and look for opportunities to collaborate through guest posts and backlinks.
5. Turn Fans Into Customers and Customers Into Fans
A presentation by David Meerman Scott supported the flywheel concept in its own right. His new book, Fanocracy, coming out in 2020, will focus heavily on delighting customers to turn them into your biggest fans (and your biggest promoters).
He believes the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of superficial online communications at a time when we’re hungry for true human connection. Our marketing messages can’t just be about products and services; they need to focus on real relationships with real people who have shared emotions and experiences.
Fandom isn’t just reserved for celebrities anymore. He emphasized how important it is to let go of your creations by respecting what your community of fans or users do with your brand. The closer you get to someone, the more powerful the shared emotion and, as we all know, emotion is a powerful driver.
Find ways to get closer to your audience. When you can’t do that in person, use photos, videos and other methods to show personality and create a virtual proximity that builds community and trust.
These are just five of the takeaways from four jam-packed days of inbound ideas from some of the best marketing minds on the planet. While we can’t possibly share it all, we hope you caught a glimpse of the exciting trends and ways that inbound marketing is helping transform the way B2B businesses connect with customers.
It’s an exciting time to be a marketer! Learn more about SEO tactics and how to take a continuous improvement approach to your website content by checking out our Growth-Driven-Design resource page. And if you’re looking for a leading-edge B2B marketing agency to help implement an inbound program that builds rapport with your audience and gets results, reach out. We’d love to get to know you.
What were your favorite takeaways from INBOUND 2019? Let us know in the comments!