7 B2B Marketing Lessons from #Inbound17

Nearly 22,000 marketing and sales professionals from more than 100 countries joined Inbound 2017 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center this week. It seems nearly impossible that such a large amount of people would have so much in common; however, each and every attendee had three goals in mind – innovation, education, and connections.

inbound 2017

The line up of speakers this year was truly impressive with some big names including Michelle Obama, Brené Brown, John Cena, Mario Batali, Andy Cohen and many more. Of course, not every speaker was strictly marketing or sales focused, but each brought their unique perspectives on being successful in the crowded and competitive business world we live and work in today.

In this post, I’ll be highlighting some key takeaways from Inbound 2017 and how we can apply them to B2B marketing.

Be your authentic self.

Michelle Obama (Former First Lady)

This was a common theme throughout the conference, and probably one of the most important lessons for marketers to follow through with. When thinking about the progression of her career and success today, she traces it back to one thing – she’s always been her authentic self and never tried to be anything other than that.

If you aren’t being genuine, it’s really difficult to do anything successfully, whether you’re a marketer, a brand or leading the country. Listen to your authentic voice and let your work speak for what you believe in.

The delta between design and brand is emotion.

Jen Rubio (Cofounder of Away)

What makes a brand is the emotional connection that customers feel with it. No amount of branding and storytelling can fix a product or service that is lacking; however, branding can make all the difference in standing out from the competition.

The bottom line is if you aren’t connecting emotionally with your customers, you aren’t building a brand. If you’re not telling the story about what your products or services can enable the customer to do, then you’re just selling things. You’re not a brand.

But, what does this mean for B2B online marketers? While tactics like keyword targeting, link building, content development, etc. play an important roles in our online marketing strategies, we can’t lose sight of the overall experience we are creating.

Websites offer us an essential outlet to create emotional connections with our audience. Design is certainly a good baseline, but the language, copy, and overall experience on the website should line up to create an emotional connection with users.

Jen Rubio uses Away, a travel lifestyle company, as an example of this. With a mission to make travel more seamless, enjoyable, and exciting – everything from their product pages to in-store experience aims to create the same emotional connection with consumers.

Product pages provide more than just luggage – they provide helpful content, tips and recommendations to help make the process of packing easier. While stores incorporate cafés and encourage visitors to stay and explore, giving them a taste of their upcoming travels.

We should all be double downing on content.

Dharmesh Shah (Founder/CTO HubSpot)

Marketers should focus on the quality of content, not the quantity. Your goal should not be to produce a lot of content; it should be to become a content brand.

It’s time that we think about the traditional sales funnel a bit differently, especially when it comes to our B2B marketing efforts. In Dharmesh’s keynote, he refers to this as the virtuous cycle of growth.

Rather than passing potential customers or prospects through a funnel, B2B marketers should aim to continuously move customers through the cycle of growth by attracting, engaging, and delighting them to establish long-term relationships and returning customers.

Content marketing is certainly one of the most effective tactics in doing this, as B2B marketers can provide customers and potential customers with extremely valuable and engaging content to keep them coming back.

People are hard to hate close up.

Brené Brown (Researcher and Storyteller)

Brené makes the point that we are the most sorted U.S. Americans to ever exist. We find ourselves associating with the people that think like us, act like us, and believe in the same things that we do.

Reasoning for this? On a psychological level, people tend to create a separation that we think will keep us safe, but in reality it just keeps us disconnected.

While this is helpful to acknowledge when thinking about consumer purchasing behaviors, it’s also something that marketers should incorporate into their marketing strategies.

B2B marketers should move in on customers. It’s easy to hate (or ignore) people from far away. But, when we aim to make one-to-one connections with customers, it humanizes the brand and makes it harder to ignore.

Because of this, we’ve seen the use of Chatbots, Facebook messaging and direct messaging on Twitter become a more important aspect of our everyday tactics.

Stop interrupting.

Jeff Rosenblum (Founding Partner of Questus)

People want brands to solve their problems and improve their lives. They do not want brands to disrupt them in the process of finding what they are looking for.

We live in a world where we can stream our favorite television shows with no commercials on Netflix, Hulu, HBO GO, etc. We are so used to this that, when we watch regular TV, commercials are annoying. We often find ourselves leaving the room or playing on our phones until the show returns.

Welcome to the revolution. Loud interruptive sounds in the form of ads no longer work. In Jeff’s session, he explains that 89 percent of TV ads are completely ignored by millennials. Statistics show that people actually have a better chance of surviving a plane crash than clicking on a banner ad.

As marketers, it’s our job to make people’s lives easier. In order to do this, we need to keep in mind that pop-up ads and advertisements can be extremely bothersome to a generation that has an increasingly shorter attention span.

Brands create friction by nature. And, in order to fight this friction, marketers must aim to improve lives one small step at a time.

Aim to solve your audiences’ problems. While every company has access to data that will help identify these problems, not every company has creativity on their side. Creativity is the true competitive advantage.

Tell a story and listen very carefully.

Mario Batali (Chef and Restaurant Owner)

How do you get people to want your food without having them taste it? Mario explains that storytelling is a critical part of every successful company. It’s certainly challenging to make any product or service more tangible, and he uses the restaurant business as an example of this.

Just telling potential customers the technical component of a dish won’t get you far. Instead, people want to hear the story behind what they are about to eat. When people hear about where the ingredients are from and how the dish first came about, it makes them more interested – beyond just tasting it. They become curious.

It’s equally as important to listen to your customer’s story and feedback. When someone has a very specific problem that they want to be heard, and you truly want to hear them, you can fix it. A strategic B2B marketer can take almost any loss and turn it into an even bigger win.

Getting negative feedback is arguably better than having a customer think your product or service is so mediocre that it’s not even worth complaining about or addressing the problem. Listen to customers’ criticism with a valid point of view, get inside their heads and figure out what they really want. Then, fix it.

Inspiration without application is nothing.

John Cena (Professional Wrestler)

Take action. The marketing industry is constantly changing based on new strategies, best practices, platforms, etc. And, sometimes it’s difficult to tell if something is just a passing trend or could be an integral part of your ongoing strategy.

While it’s certainly important to take precaution and know when an unsuccessful strategy should be abandoned, be actionable and pursue new opportunities as it could make or break your marketing strategy.

Final Thoughts

There was endless knowledge exchanged at Inbound 2017, and these are just of few key takeaways that I believe are important to consider in our B2B marketing strategies moving forward.

Did you attend #Inbound17 this year? Feel free to comment below with any marketing lessons that caught your attention at the event. Or, connect with me on Twitter @Kristen_Vaughn.

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