What is the fuel that powers a great conference? Passion. This year’s INBOUND 2014 marketing conference was full of passion. More 10,000 marketers, agencies, and business owners converged in Boston to share in Dharmesh Shah and Brian Halligan’s vision: a world of remarkable marketing.
TED Talk favorites like Simon Sinek and Guy Kawasaki instilled inspiration and motivation among conference goers as they gave keynotes about trust, leadership, and innovation. Inbound professionals, like those in attendance, understand that we thrive on not what our businesses do, but on the benefits we provide to our customers and clients.
There was a lot of content and even more lessons, but here are my top takeaways from INBOUND:
1. Build Trust and Cooperation in Your Staff
Simon Sinek gave us poignant examples from his book “Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t,” and I walked away with three main takeaways:
- Leadership is a responsibility: “Leaders must make sacrifices for their followers to earn their trust and have their followers make sacrifices in return,” he said. The path between leaders and followers is a two-way street, which requires trust in both and all directions.
- Failure is acceptable: If and when we fail at something it is okay, as long as we try again. This is how we learn and grow, and it's how leaders build relationships with their followers.
- Employees need safety: Sinek told us that great leaders create a “circle of safety.” Inside this circle is the inspiration for people to be their best and do their best work.
2. Defy Convention
Who better to speak to marketing agencies and business owners about defying convention than Guy Kawasaki? As the former chief evangelist at Apple and the current evangelist for Canva, Kawasaki discussed the main lessons he learned when working for Steve Jobs. Two of those are:
Don’t’ Listen to Experts. Experts are great at knowing what to do now, but they are not so great at predicting the future.
Guy showed us a quote from Thomas Watson, Chairman of IBM. In 1943, Watson said, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." I‘m sure Thomas Watson was an expert in his field, but as Guy pointed out, in 2014, many folks have more than five computers in one house. So, listen to the experts for your accounting and taxes, but when it comes to your business, be creative and innovative.
Don’t Be Afraid Of Competition. Steve Jobs was not afraid of competition. He welcomed it.
Agencies face so much competition these days, but competition creates innovation. Now, more than ever, agencies have to find a way to stand out and position themselves to offer unique and creative ways to help their clients succeed.
3. Tell a Story Only You Can Tell
Ann Handley, author of “Content Rules” and the soon to be released “Everyone Writes,” is one of my favorite marketing authors. She is like your kindergarten crush — smart and funny. As an added plus, she is the master of content marketing. She emphasized a few main points:
- Turn TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read) into GR;LI (Great Read; Loved It).
- Write to one person.
- Make customers the hero of your story.
- Use empathy and experiences.
- Ask why this post matters for your customer.
- Innovative content is the sweet spot of useful content.
4. Invest in Content Promotion
As inbound and content marketing have increased in stature among marketers and business owners, so has the noise, and it is beginning to hurt our ears. Chad Pollitt of Relevance described how we once had a content deficit, but now, we are heading into content overload. So, what is an inbound marketer to do? Content promotion is the answer. The lines between marketing, PR, and sales have decreased. Content promotion is the distribution of content a mix of earned, paid, and owned media.
5. Define Your Agency's Positioning
Similar to a mother who thinks she has the most brilliant child on earth, every agency likes to think they have the best creative or the most innovative strategies. This brings about a recurring theme for agencies: differentiation and targeting. A few years ago, an agency could differentiate their position by declaring themselves as an inbound marketing agency. But with inbound marketing’s giant growth spurt and the 2,000-plus HubSpot partner agencies that attended the conference, inbound marketing is no longer a unique agency position. Here’s a few hints on how to position your agency to "win through differentiation.”
- Verticals: healthcare, tech, education, etc.
- Services: design, inbound, content, etc
- Technology: Hubspot, Marketo, Pardot, etc.
- Profitability: What is the likely profitability of your chosen niche?
- Proficiency: Where have you had success?
- Passion: Where does your passion lie?
The conference also featured speakers like Malcolm Gladwell, Martha Stewart, and a host of other marketing professionals, all who have inspired me to reconsider my marketing plans for 2014 and beyond.