9 B2B Marketing (and Life) Lessons from #Inbound15

What happens when more than 14,000 marketing and sales professionals come together under one roof? Now, that’s an inbound movement! Pioneers of the inbound movement gathered from around the globe at Inbound15 to spread creative and prosperous methods for inbound marketing madness.


The Boston Convention and Exhibition Center was packed with intelligent and passionate marketers, anxious to discuss everything from marketing successes to major blunders, new technologies, industry trends, predictions of the future, innovative strategies and much more.

By the end of the week, I found myself filled with information and ideas, and excited to share some of the most valuable B2B marketing takeaways from Inbound15 with you. I hope these lessons inspire both your daily and ongoing inbound marketing strategy, as they did for me.

We like to get off the hook – the hook that says we are responsible.

Seth Godin (Best Selling Author)

After digging deep into today’s culture and our obsession with authority, Seth explains the false assumption that if we have more authority, we can do something that actually matters. In reality, if we want to start doing work that matters, we need to start taking responsibility.

He says that people always use the excuse “My boss won’t let me.” But, we should take a step back and think about why a boss or manager won’t let us do something. It may be because we pitch it like this:

“I have this really great idea.

I want to do this really great thing!

If it works – I’ll get the credit.

If it doesn’t – you’ll get blamed.”

Only a failure refuses to do something that isn’t guaranteed to work. Marketers have to go into something with the mindset that it might work, and it might not work. If and when it doesn’t work, take responsibility for it and learn from it. You can’t just take credit for the good without taking responsibility for the bad. This ties in to the next piece of insight…

If you are brave enough, often enough, you will fall.

Brené Brown (Researcher and Storyteller)

You might know Brené Brown from her Ted Talk, The Power of Vulnerability, which was viewed more than 21 million times. That’s pretty amazing!

Well, you may be asking yourself “Why is Brené Brown at Inbound15?” and “What can she teach us about B2B marketing?

In today’s digital world, creating emotional connection with your target audience is key and vulnerability is the only path to trust. The problem is that we are raised to believe that vulnerability is weakness, when in fact, vulnerability is about the willingness to show up and be seen when you have no control over the outcome. It’s putting yourself out there in the world; a world that is tough, critical and unforgiving.

She says that people have the option of playing it safe and keeping their head in the water, but it’s not exactly fully living (or fully marketing). If you want to change behaviors or make people take action – you better speak to their emotions.

So, what happens when you fall from vulnerability? Get back up on your feet and do so with even more tenacity. A marketer’s willingness to be uncomfortable is the best predictor of how wholehearted their brand will be.

Sometimes taking things to the next level requires pushing boundaries.

Jessica Gioglio (Head of Content Lab at Sprinklr)

Most marketers are faced with the challenge of finding inspiration to push boundaries. Too often we think of the United States as the thought leader, but Jessica highlighted ways we can find inspiration from other countries. Every company has great assets, and marketers need to figure out how to accent them in a major way.

She asked Inbounders, “What are your boundaries and how can you push through them?” I was intrigued by her question and her experience marketing for both iconic brands like Dunkin Donuts and at well-known agencies. So, I decided to get her perspective on the best ways to motivate clients or team members to push through their marketing boundaries.

Basically, motivation is in the metrics. She says that decision makers need to see the value behind doing something and have some sort of evidence that committing to your ideas will generate better business results.

She also recommends giving marketing decision makers a range of options to consider: the safer ones, the mid-risk ones and the really edgy (or pushy) ones. This will help get a feel of what they are comfortable with and expose them to some of the things they could be doing.

Market unto others as you would have them market unto you.

Dharmesh Shah (Founder / CTO of HubSpot)

Dharmesh describes successful inbound marketing as valuable, respectful and loveable. He highlights this by explaining the difference between direct mail vs. junk mail. When a marketer is at the office and sends out 100,000 pieces of mail to the masses – that is called direct mail.

When that same marketer gets home and gets a bunch of crappy mail – that is called junk mail. As a marketer, you shouldn’t market to others in a way that irritates you because it will likely create a negative association with your brand. Applying this thinking will help you stay out of your customers or prospects archives.

Write drunk and edit sober.

Jeremy Goldman (Founder of Firebrand Group)

The Internet is flooded with content, making it more important than ever for marketers to create stellar content. Creating ordinary content won’t generate stellar results, but stellar content will.

Jeremy provided creative ways and tools that marketers can use to dig into their own analytics and everyone else’s analytics with the goal of finding data that actually matters – actionable data. Some of these tools included Google Analytics, Google Trends, RADURLS, Feedly, Indeed Job Trends, Twitter Redirect Links and more.

The real challenge is not gathering data, as there is an abundance of tools that can help you do this. The challenge is taking this actionable data and using it in a way to inspire your overall content marketing strategy and generate measureable results. Marketers need to analyze actionable data to determine trends worth taking action on, and to realize content development opportunities.

Once these content opportunities are realized, marketers have two options. As Jeremy calls it, they can either “zig” or “zag.” Content that zigs copies or builds upon something that has proven success. It’s pretty easy to zig. Content that zags takes notice of popular topics, but intentionally goes in a different direction. So, don’t be afraid to zag and create something stellar!

Technology makes us horrible people.

Aziz Ansari (Actor and Comedian)

Along with being an actor and comedian, Aziz is now an author. His recently published book, in collaboration with Eric Klinenberg (Sociologist), ‘looks into the many challenges of looking for love in the digital age.’ I have to admit, I originally attended this keynote session for pure entertainment purposes, but there was actually some great insight that can be applied to B2B marketing.

Aziz and Eric talked about how people act when they are communicating through technology rather than in person. The way people act when they are on these devices isn’t how they would act in person. Whether aiming to establish romantic relationships or professional ones, the key is that we have to act human and how we would in person.

People trust people, not businesses. This makes it especially important for marketers to amplify their personalities though technology, rather than changing it completely.

We think that we know the market better than we do.

Nataly Kelly (VP of Marketing, Localization at HubSpot)

Whether competing in the global market or locally, there are lessons B2B marketers can learn from mistakes that have been made from major, global companies. Nataly highlighted this through a series of examples from extremely successful companies, like Ben & Jerry’s and Nike.

When launching a new ice cream for St. Patrick’s Day, Ben & Jerry’s decided to create a special edition “Black and Tan” ice cream. While American’s think of beer when they see or hear the term Black and Tan, consumers in Ireland associate this term with the Black and Tans who came to enforce laws quite violently and essentially kill people.

As you can imagine, this product was an epic fail in Ireland. Nike should have paid more attention to Ben and Jerry’s mistakes because they went on to make the same exact mistake shortly after, when creating the Black and Tan sneaker.

Nataly respectfully explains that research and evidence matters, and that marketers don’t necessarily know their target markets as good as they think they do. Save yourself from any mistakes like this and really get to know your audience through research, research and more research.

The buyer wears the pants in today’s age.

Jill Rowley (Social Selling Evangelist)

Overall, Jill’s presentation was the perfect balance of hilarious and insightful. She explains the importance of social selling by saying, “Social selling helps improve the pipeline and revenue, but the other reason we use it is because we (marketers and sales professionals) have no choice.” If the buyer is digital, social, and mobile empowered – then marketers and sales professionals have to be too.

Unfortunately, even with the robust amount of tools marketers have available for gathering data, automating communication and streamlining processes, we can’t transform an industry by leading with tools. A fool with a tool is still a fool. Jill articulates that the only way we can transform the industry is by changing the mindset from selling to helping the buyer. It’s not just who you know, it’s what you know about who you know.

Keep your audience’s audience in mind.

Mari Smith (Social Media Thought leader and Facebook Marketing Expert)

In today’s hypercompetitive and flooded market, the concept of shareability is becoming more and more important. To generate buzz about your business, whether through organic search or via social media channels, Mari Smith says that it is necessary to keep your audience’s audience in mind.

When you craft your content based on that, you’re audience will think “OMG, this is so good! I have to share it with my audience.” And, if your target audience is on point and truly aligned with your overall business objectives, it shouldn’t be that difficult to get to know their audience and content development goals as well.

Every marketer should aim to help their audience. So, when aiming to appeal to other marketers, we need to think about their audience as well.

Final Thoughts

After attending the #Inbound14 and #FutureM collaboration last year, I was convinced that it would be tough to top. However, this year’s event featured a unique lineup of speakers, even more attendees, and some truly golden inspiration. In summary, Inbound15 offered marketers lessons for taking responsibility and risk, understanding and reaching an audience, creating valuable content, and simply being human.

Did you attend #Inbound15 this year? Feel free to comment below with any valuable marketing lessons that you learned from the event.

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