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INBOUND insights: CommCreative’s top takeaways from HubSpot’s 2021 conference

The marketplace is becoming more crowded. Customers and users are smarter and more selective than they have ever been. Marketing channels and ways of working seem to proliferate by the day. How can your brand stand out from the noise, and how can you win and retain customers? 

To answer these critical and urgent questions, the CommCreative team went to HubSpot’s INBOUND conference in October 2021. We took down our highest-impact learnings for brands seeking to win the future and grow in the human-centered economy.  

Do you want your brand to win the future? Read our blog to find out how it will be done. 

Want to get our takeaways straight from the source? Let’s connect. 

1. Strategic learnings 


  • Unity of brand awareness, user need and an end-to-end digital experience are critical. A strategy of “if you build it, they will come” is a losing strategy for brands seeking to build their customer base and grow revenue. When a user has a need, if your brand is not already a known entity in the market, then it is already too late. Your go-to-market and end-to-end digital experience, therefore, must serve the customer even when customers are not ready to buy or enter a sales conversation. 

  • Content creation can and must be diverse, distributed across multiple mediums and user-generated when possible. The plethora of channels and formats means that brands must relentlessly experiment, engage users through effective methods other than only content consumption, and measure outcomes across channels to find a winning formula. There is no “one size fits all” for an effective content experience with your brand. 

  • Brands still must focus on the fundamentals of digital execution and measurement. Sound UX, effortless wayfinding and navigation, unified media and web/app experiences and data-driven execution across channels are still fundamental to developing and refining the ever-evolving human experience. Winning brands will keep the customer at the center of everything they do and execute accordingly. 

Strategy Awareness/Branding  

  • 95% of business clients are not in the market for a given product. Clients often believe that branding is focused on making sure that those in the market for a product are aware of a company while they are doing their research. However, most buyers don’t do much in regard to research – they come to the table with a list of companies that are “mentally available,” i.e., companies they already know about before ever looking into a product. Branding, in reality, is making sure the 95% of people who are not in the market for your product become acutely aware of your product beforehand and that you take up some of their mental availability. If buyers don’t know you when they come in-market, it’s already too late. 

  • B2B brand rejection. 71% of marketers believe brand perception is more important than brand awareness. However, that’s not really the case – rejection is fairly rare, and most people (9 out of 10) who don’t use a product aren’t rejecting it; they are just unaware of it. 

  • Utilize the “RMB” approach to ensure your brand is being remembered. 

    • R – Reach the whole category: target all potential audiences, from key stakeholders to decision influencers 
    • M – Message around several category entry points: message around different types of uses for different types of audiences 
    • B – Brand everything 


How B2B Brands Grow: Great Marketing Drives Sustainable Growth For Companies 

Ty Heath 

Director of Market Engagement, B2B Institute, LinkedIn 

Jon Lombardo 

Head of Research, B2B Institute, LinkedIn 

2. Executional learnings 


  • “Audio is an eyes-up medium.” Audio is enjoying a renaissance right now because it’s the medium that best fits into today’s busy multitasking lifestyle. It’s not a new format, but it’s new to younger generations who might not remember AM talk radio. This is why podcasts are really taking off on a variety of different topics.   
  • Content does better on different mediums. It won’t be a “one size fits all” experience in terms of how users prefer to engage with content specific to where it is served to them. The future is quick, user-generated content tailored to user interests. Audio on demand is a young person’s trend, and older generations followed suit.  
  • There’s a big shift to a creator economy. Everyone can be a creator. It’s not about being professional. It’s about interesting and entertaining content.  
  • ABM doesn’t replace content marketing; it elevates it. People expect a personalized experience, and having ABM marketing ensures that you are speaking directly to their needs and you have found your audience who is receptive to that messaging. 
  • Content marketing doesn’t leave anyone out. You don’t limit yourself from the get-go by trying to target for only “one specific fish in the ocean” out of a sea of qualified fish. Marketing with evergreen content gives an always-on approach that you can scale and automate. CommCreative note: A campaign sequencing approach to reach different stages of a buyer’s journey can make content marketing as competitive as ABM. 


The Benefits of Curating Content to Your Audience 

Dawn Ostroff 

Chief Content & Advertising Business Officer, Spotify 

Alexis Gay   

Moderator, Co-Host, The Shake Up Podcast 


Debate: It’s Up for Debate – Which Is More Effective: ABM or Content Marketing? 

Hannah Shain  

Director of Marketing, SmartBug Media 


Stephen Lackey  

Director of Marketing Strategy, SmartBug Media 

Molly Rigatti  
Marketing Strategist, SmartBug Media 



  • SEO is now increasingly user-centered and decreasingly keyword-driven. In this shift, users’needs and pain points are at the center, not keywords. Content must focus on user needs and pain points, answer and solve them and be presented in a fast and intuitive experience to help users accomplish their goals. 

  • The “EAT” approach is, therefore, more important than ever in this user-driven environment. Does the creator of the content have “Expertise” and “Authority” on the topic, and do they generate “Trust” in the information they provide? 

  • Product design thinking can help make your SEO activities more user-centric. As in product design, SEO should take a human-centered approach that integrates the need of people, technological possibilities and business requirements to define user problems, develop a solution and validate that solution with real users. 


Killer SEO Strategies Through Product Design Methodology 

Tony Verre 

Sr. SEO Consultant, Perficient 



  • Testing strategy. Testing out different types of characters and subject lines can help improve open rate significantly: 

    • Different types of characters – {}[]()** – 22–25% increase in open rate 
    • “Fake” mistakes – “Oops” “Yikes” “Uh Oh” – 29%–37% increase in open rate (will most likely work for only a few months) 

    • “vs.” – comparing products/items within the headline – 21–22% increase in open rate 

    • Ellipses – Amazon does this constantly because it works so well – 28%–31% increase in open rate 
    • Bookend emojis – 31% increase in open rate 

    • Lists (i.e., 4 reasons to choose Company X) – 34–39% increase in open rate 

  • Sender info. The sender information is also incredibly important: 

    • Specific names (i.e., Bill Smith) don’t work – while it may lead to an increase in open rate, as soon as the person realizes it’s a marketing email, they are more likely to unsubscribe (52%–68% increase in open rate) 
    • Change up the sender to reflect the subject line (i.e., “Back to School” for an email around back-to-school shopping) – 34%–37% increase in open rate 

  • iOS 15. The newest Apple iOS update will make email testing more difficult as it now allows Apple Mail users (about 46% of the market) to opt-out of email tracking. There is a way to get around this for now – create an email list of non-Apple Mail users and send tests to them. You’ll be able to properly track them and use any test learnings to the entire email audience. 


Email Myths Busted! What’s Really Working Now! 

Jay Schwedelson 

Founder,; CEO, Worldata  


Data & Analytics 

  • Continuously evolving data usage. The use of data tools in organizations can be described as continuously evolving – you move from crawling to walking to running with marketing analytics. It is key to understand the need for data within a situation, whether it be simple reach or engagement metrics in the crawl phase or complex marketing automation in the run phase. 

  • The importance of process. It is important to level-set your expectations about where you are within the analytical process based on the foundation of your goals, core KPIs and what you want to do with the data at hand. 

  • Science and emotion. The future of data and analytics is one that we at CommCreative can relate to – the perfect intersection between using data to support decisions and give direction and the art of positioning and marketing to the ideal customer. 


How To Drive Impact with Marketing Data and Analytics  

Caitlin Clark-Zigmond 

Director, Global Demand Center and Mid-Market Marketing, Intuit 


Want to hear more about where we think the industry is headed? Let’s talk.