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Written by Caroline Cox on Sep 19

The best marketing tools, tips, and trends we took away from this year’s Inbound marketing conference.

Here, you’ll find:

  • How to make your brand stand out
  • Ways to leverage your team’s ideas
  • Tips for aligning your sales and marketing teams
  • Keys to successful email marketing

Over four days each September, Hubspot gathers more than 20,000 marketers together in Boston for their Inbound conference, giving attendees an opportunity to learn, laugh, and connect, all in the name of marketing. Between the live comedy and entertainment events, more than 250 speakers, and interactive experiences galore, it’s not your average industry event.

At this year’s Inbound conference, the HawkSEM marketing team heard from dozens of speakers from around the country (and beyond!) talking about all the latest and greatest tools, tips, and trends, from LinkedIn ads and email newsletters to native advertising and everything in between.

Below, we’ve highlighted a few of our top takeaways from this year’s sessions.

1. Speak to your customers, not your colleagues

There are some things that you know implicitly, but they don’t really click until you hear them said out loud — this was one of those things. The idea of writing for your customers instead of your colleagues sounds like a simple idea. In a session led by copywriter and marketing strategist Margo Aaron about creating effective newsletters, this takeaway stood out.

Margo said your content — whether it’s a newsletter, website copy, or a blog — should feel like an inside joke with your audience. You don’t need everyone to get it, you just need the right people to get it. She added that it’s also important to speak their language, know their pain points, and address their needs accordingly.

Pro tip: FOMO is the key to email marketing — according to Jay Schwedelson of Worldata, who led a session on this topic, B2B emails with an offer that expires see an approximately 55% higher response rate overall.

2. Stand out with your unique brand story

When you’re working within a saturated market, you’ve got to get creative when it comes to finding ways to stand out. Luckily, you’ve got something unique just by virtue of existing: your brand story. No two brand journeys are alike — whether it’s the road that led to the creation of your business, the need you’re addressing, or how you position yourself in the market, no one is doing exactly what you do, exactly how you do it.

Led by Gabriela Pereira of DIY MFA, this session on brand story highlighted the fact that talking about your brand story makes you stand out and humanizes your company, reminding customers and prospects that your team is made up of people, not robots. Adding a human element to your business allows people to feel more connected to it, and even trust it more because of its authenticity.

3. Document your strategies

Sure, you have your processes down pat — but having clearly documented strategies for your processes, whether for marketing or elsewhere, has a multitude of biz benefits. Influence & Co.’s Kelsey Raymond emphasized this in her session on generating revenue from content marketing.

By defining clear processes for things like content creation and social media promotion, you can make sure your mission and values are clear while keeping other team members in the loop. Not only does this add transparency, but it helps add a “method to the madness” and allows you to easily iterate once you examine what’s working (i.e. what’s bringing you the most business) and what’s not.

4. Align your sales and marketing teams

Kelsey and others also mentioned the importance of aligning your sales and marketing teams. But what exactly does that mean? Both teams can play a crucial role in helping the other succeed and reach their goals (and no, it’s not enough for them to simply sit near each other in an open office).

To keep the conversation flowing, it’s a good idea to set up a Slack channel or a recurring meeting to discuss ideas, do check-ins, conduct brainstorms, and talk about new ways to collaborate. Creating content that speaks to what prospects want will help the sales team thrive, and knowing what themes are coming up during calls will help the marketing team know what potential content types or topics to tackle in the future.

Pro tip: According to multiple Inbound speakers, link-building is still a valid marketing strategy — if deployed properly. Instead of sending mass cold emails to an “info@” email address, take time to find the right point of contact, send out a personalized message, and make sure the content you want them to link to is a high-quality resource.

5. Prioritize relationships, not just sales

It’s a common trap to fall into: the sale closes, you high five your colleagues, then move on to the next one. But those who more-or-less cease communication after they land the sale are missing a huge opportunity. As Ashley Faus of software development company Atlassian pointed out during her session on content strategy, when a prospect becomes a customer, it’s time to shift your mindset from driving a purchase to driving a relationship.

A happy customer will stick around. Not only that, but they’re more likely to spread the word about your business, leave a positive review, and even be open to cross-sell or feature opportunities. Telling people how great your company is will only get you so far — having happy customers doing it for you is worth its weight in gold.

6. Leverage your team’s ideas

Unless your company is you and you alone, let go of the belief that you have to ideate in a vacuum. In her session on brand publishing, marketing pro Kathleen Booth suggested getting more than just your marketing team involved in content creation.

Not only does this allow you to create more content overall, but it lets your team members shine in a way they otherwise wouldn’t in their role, and it shows prospects and customers that you’ve got a team of experts across multiple departments. We get it, people are busy, but even a short article, published Q&A, or a bi-monthly cross-team brainstorm session can yield serious results.

Pro tip: Not convinced that optimizing your historical marketing content is necessary? Consider this: a whopping 89% of the content Hubspot ranks for is more than 6 months old.

7. Don’t be afraid to innovate

The lightning speed at which trends come and go — in marketing and across industries in general — can make it hard to keep up while also working to check off your day-to-day tasks. But that also leaves you open to being left in the dust when your competition jumps on board.

While it’s unreasonable (and inadvisable) to explore several new things at once, you can start with one or two, track results, and go from there. Consider newer avenues like podcasts, native content, social videos, and chatbots. These channels were created to meet people where they are, and adopting them can keep your brand cutting edge. And even if your experiment fails, it’s not a mistake — it’s simply a learning experience.

8. Tracking is a must

Without proper tracking, you’re basically flying blind. Whether you use a CRM, work with an agency, or employ a different tracking tool, you should always know the status of your efforts, so you can analyze the data to pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses of your strategies.

Not only does tracking increase transparency, but it can also help you lobby for more of a budget from higher-ups and illustrate how a new process is performing. The more you pay attention to how your campaigns are tracking, the better you can make them in the future.

We learned a ton about today’s marketing landscape at the 2019 Inbound conference. Let us put that knowledge to good use through helping your marketing ROI soar by requesting a consultation.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her nearly 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

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