Didn’t attend INBOUND 2022? Here’s what you need to know!
By: Claire Byrnes, Chase Carpenter, Hannah DeRoche, Courtney Durgin & Jon Mackin
Inbound. It’s a critical marketing methodology. It’s a key way we inspire prospects and customers to follow brands and companies. And it is a core component of how businesses grow in today’s digitized, always-on world.
HubSpot’s annual INBOUND 2022 conference gives us the opportunity every year to take a step back for a few days, take a look around, and seek answers to questions to keep us ahead of the marketing curve. What’s new? What are some of the biggest marketing challenges facing brands, and how can we solve them? What are leaders and peers in marketing seeing? What works? What doesn’t?
Last week, the CommCreative team went in person to the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center and spoke with other fellow HubSpot partners, industry leaders, prospects, current clients, and Barack Obama (okay, maybe we didn’t speak with him directly) on a wide range of subjects. We were thoughtful in our approach – we split up and went to as many diverse sessions as possible so that we could cover the most ground and bring breadth and depth to our learnings.
We’re excited to share those learnings with you and have included anchor links for easy navigation. If you have any questions about our learnings or how we can help your brand grow, please do not hesitate to reach out to Ashley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Table of Contents:
- Key themes from INBOUND
- Learnings by subject area
1. Key themes from INBOUND
We are overcoming a crisis of disconnection
As Yamini Rangan pointed out during the conference kickoff, we are all in a crisis of disconnection, and this spans individual relationships, group relationships, customer relationships, systems, and platforms. So when we think about marketing strategy, there are a few central tenets to keep in mind:
- People crave community. People want a sense of belonging. This feeling was only exacerbated by the pandemic.
- Customers are in digital overload. About 65% of Google searches result in no click, blog traffic growth rate has declined on average by -1.6%, and there have been 40% fewer responses to sales this year.
- Systems are the biggest pain point. The average company has 242 SaaS applications, and teams are more focused on cleaning and connecting data than connecting with customers.
B2B marketers are still humans talking to humans
Buyers are not rational; they’re emotional, and a B2B purchase is a really emotional purchase because there is a lot on the line (what your boss/team/colleagues think based on your decision, your productivity, bonus, etc.).
Even Google’s algorithm is rewarding brands that make things feel human, are considered trustworthy, and deliver content that is meaningful to humans. To take advantage of this, you need to invest in your brand and ensure your website experience is good because engagement metrics matter! The humans you’re trying to influence can see through your bullshit. You need to tell good stories.
Go-to-market strategies must therefore focus on customer connection
To connect to all of these currently disconnected customers, there are several key ways to position ourselves for success:
- Attract prospects by bolstering your first-party data.
- Engage customers by bringing context to the conversation.
- Delight customers by making buying a breeze and offering up multiple channel options for their needs.
2. Learnings by subject area
Go-to-market strategies still feature many of the time-proven channels and tactics. Marketers can excel in meeting their goals by adopting multiple models of the sales funnel. The flywheel and the new bow-tie funnel are helpful for thinking through this and understanding how different capabilities influence the buyer journey.
The marketer’s job is not complete once a purchase has taken place. Marketing needs to work alongside sales to ensure prospects and customer journeys are optimized.
- Source: House of Revenue
- By planning for both sides of the bow-tie funnel (or all three phases of the flywheel), marketing can help define the best user experiences from awareness through adoption and work with sales to further move them to advocacy.
- Marketers must help sales create great plays to win new business and keep customers happy. Create a marriage between marketing analytics and sales plays by leveraging CRM features that allow workflows/plays to alert sales about specific prospect behavior or user action on your side.
- Create plays based on your tech stack, the types of content users view and interact with, when ex-champs of your brand leave one company and start at another one, chat intent, and data from company makeup, for example. These data points help marketers create amazing plays that help streamline sales teams’ day-to-day and supercharge your funnel.
- When you are in a mature market, you can be similar to your competition but do it better than them. They offer the same or similar pricing, making your pricing and purchasing experience clear and simple. Doing it the same way when you do not have a disruptive model will leave you behind. If possible, uncover your disruptive differentiator to win over the market and be better than the competition.
- Branding matters. We heard multiple speakers talk about brain modeling and how both B2C and B2B prospects make purchasing decisions using specific parts of their brains. While B2B has more stakeholders (up to 7 or 8), they still use emotional parts of their brains. Make sure to use your branding to create emotional connections with your prospects and customers alike.
- When looking for trend data to make informed decisions, use skeptical optimism to comb over data, but try to prove the data right and wrong before making a decision. Lasting value will always trump the next best thing. Do not predict the future, but test what could be while putting all of your eggs in that basket. Continue to vet your theories as you go and refine them to be successful when it comes to new GTM channels, spends, and emerging MarTech.
Content & SEO
Brand is critical. Period. How a prospect, a customer, or an employee perceives the set of attributes that define your product or company can make or break that relationship. Companies that invest in their brand are poised to win in 2023 as we see a shift from brand to demand.
- B2B marketing still has a human at the center. To stand out, you need to provide experiences that are optimized for a human.
- In a world where everyone is doing the same thing, stand out in underutilized areas and use humor and good storytelling to get the point across. (There is no excuse as B2B marketers not to create compelling content.)
- Remember, do not over-index on rational rather than emotional attributes, especially if you are in B2B. B2B decision-makers – all 8.3 needed to make a purchase decision – are human, so forge an emotional connection with them.
- The 95/5 rule: only 5% of your market is in market at any given time, making your brand investment all the more important for that 95% “out of market” period.
- Remarkable brand marketing is clear, persuasive, engaging, and actionable. Is your brand living up to these core qualities?
Although the podcast format has been around for quite some time, these are growing in popularity with more established brands. The core challenge of these is the key question for brands: “How do I develop authentic content?” (Especially when “authentic” is the most overused word in marketing today.) The best-branded podcasts do three things:
- They tell a story.
- They do not self-promote or come across at all like a commercial.
- They are strong in creativity and bravery, willing to say things in their field that others won’t.
Organic reach is becoming more and more limited as platforms roll out more ad formats. Algorithms are constantly changing and shifting, most recently from a true algorithm to an AI. This means more and more that Google is no longer “rules-based” and has a smarter way of deciding what content is relevant to the user. Google is now recommending on a more human level and trying to predict what people are searching for.
So how can brands succeed in SEO?
- Continue to write for humans and optimize content for AI (code-based keyword optimization without black hat SEO).
- Understand how your customer uses search terms (instead of just downloading a list of top-ranking keywords or top traffic-driving keywords).
- Understand what the primary goal of your optimization is (e.g., sell something, have someone visit your site or store, have your news article appear).
- Google has many tools now – regular search, image search, maps, business center, etc. The way you phrase keywords can help you rank in each of these places.
- Branding is also becoming a ranking factor. Google loves brands because if you have a trustworthy brand that makes sense to you as a human, you won’t create fake views and spread misinformation, so you are trustworthy.
- The digital/website experience you provide to your users is increasingly becoming your biggest ranking factor. Google is prioritizing sites with good engagement (good time on site, low bounce rates, high pages per session) and promoting them more.
Analytics is always changing. With Google advancing to a new version of their analytics platform, Facebook implementing a new tracking methodology, and the removal of third-party cookies, it is essential to stay ahead of all these changes and new trends. The future of reporting, analytics, and even audience creation is tied closely to how quickly and efficiently we can make changes to address the ever-moving state of tracking and tagging.
A few key items to keep top of mind:
- First-party data is the key to the future of data and analytics:
- Google will be removing third-party cookies by 2024, and as the browser with 90% of the market share, this will have a large impact on the information we can obtain from site visitors.
- Taking the steps now to set up data collection will help prepare your website for the eventual switch in cookies.
- There are a few key things that one can do to optimize cookie data today:
- Implement consent banners early to build trust and let visitors know what data you are collecting and how you are going to use it.
- Set a data core with server-side data for retargeting and audience building.
- Plan, plan, plan! Be transparent to your visitors, develop a model for data collection, and build your database.
Algorithms change, and new platforms rise, but social media is here to stay. Social media has become entrenched in the marketing stack of most successful consumers and B2B brands. However, the audience is changing as the next generation enters the market. Gen Z is highly technical and expects a sophisticated, unified brand experience across social channels, the website, and the product itself. They also look for consistency between a brand’s mission and its policies, especially when it comes to environmental issues and diversity and inclusion. Here are some learnings to keep in mind when marketing to these future buyers, as well as some specific tips for boosting engagement on social today:
- Community-led growth is the next social frontier. Where brands sometimes struggle to find their authentic voice on social media, tapping into and creating social media communities around your product can help fuel growth through the voices in your community. Popular community-led platforms include Reddit, Discord, and Clubhouse but can also include blog communities, LinkedIn and Facebook groups, and forums of your own creation. The key to success is finding those who are already passionate about your brand or industry and giving them the floor to share thoughts and ideas with like-minded peers.
- Brands are venturing into the land of TikTok – but they need a guide. The B2B and consumer brands that are winning on TikTok are bringing talent in-house, either by partnering with micro-influencers who already love their product or by hiring a dedicated TikTok marketer (or team!) whose only job is TikTok strategy. With Gen Z making up 27% of the workforce by 2025, it is time for brands to embrace TikTok and start building relationships with future buyers now. There is an opportunity for brands to create salient, memorable moments so that when these future buyers enter the market, they see your product as the go-to.
- Timing and engagement are everything on social media. Prioritize the following actions to increase the rank of your organic posts.
- LinkedIn: Encourage engaging comments within the first 4h of posting.
- YouTube: Send video links out to your social networks and email lists within the first 24h of posting. This influx of early views increases rank.
- TikTok: Encourage commenting, and engage with comments on your post as soon as possible.
- Instagram: Create live content at least 2x per week. Live content is currently ranking highest on Instagram.
- Facebook: Create long-form content for Facebook, as the algorithm encourages content that keeps users on-platform for longer periods of time.
Email is alive and well! And a critical part of virtually every company’s go-to-market strategy in 2022. The pandemic pushed many of us to engage more directly and more frequently with our databases than ever before.
But has email changed? And if so, how? Key elements of user-generated content (UGC), social media, and in-depth segmentation are leading the charge for new methods of increasing database engagement. But one core tenet of all marketing holds true: always, always, ALWAYS treat humans like humans.
- User-generated content has been shown to improve click-through rates by +32% for B2B and +28% for consumers.
- Superlative language – e.g., “This is our most downloaded content, this is voted most popular” – works and creates a FOMO feeling in users.
- Animated GIFs in emails generate a 31–34% increase in CTR and have little impact on deliverability if done right!
- Segmenting your database as humans based on behaviors and interests – NOT on products and features – is the way to go.
There are still several “aha’s” to keep in mind, which were generously shared by Jay Schwedelson during his very well-attended talk at the Founders Stage:
- “Tomorrow” in headlines translates to a +28% higher open rate
- Single-offer landing pages generate a +240%+ higher conversion rate
- Follow-up offers on thank you pages generate a 13% CTR
- Use the word “free,” and you will double your open rate
- Redirects longer than 3 seconds generate a +37% abandonment rate
- Black Friday generates a +31% higher open rate than Cyber Monday
- 70% of email traffic occurs within the first 10 minutes of deliveries
- Client testimonials on destination pages increase conversion rates by +27% for B2B and +22% for B2C
- 70% of users who do not open after 30 days will never open another email from you again
- “Watch now” in the subject line increases the conversion rate by +34%
Go-to-market & growing your business
Fundamentally, go-to-market is a collaborative process. Sangram Vajre arrived at this seeming platitude by asking a simple question at the beginning of his session, “How Modern CEOs, Founders, and Revenue Leaders Go-to-Market and Become Leaders in Their Category”: “Who owns go-to-market?”
Across the Founders Stage at INBOUND, multiple audience members chimed in: “The CEO, because they own the company.” “The CMO, because that’s who leads my team.” “RevOps, because they actually speak to the customers.”
Vajre then highlighted that everyone has a stake in and must be an active participant in go-to-market to be successful. One does not have a “marketing problem” or a “sales problem” or a “CX problem” – everyone has a go-to-market problem. To fix your go-to-market, you must actively avoid and overcome the Five Valleys of Death by orchestrating collaboration across all your capabilities: product, marketing, sales, RevOps, and strategy.
- Valley 1: You have a product you love and enhance but no market for it.
- Valley 2: You have a product you can market, but you can’t sell it.
- Valley 3: You have a product you can market and sell, but sales is promising things your product can’t deliver.
- Valley 4: You have a product you can market and sell, but you can’t get renewals.
- Valley 5: You have a product you can market and sell, but you can’t expand contracts in the renewal process.
How can CommCreative help you and your brand delight customers and bridge the customer connection gap? Start the conversation by reaching out to Ashley at email@example.com.