Inbound 2020: Inspirational Takeaways & Recap

Inbound 2020 was much like it is every year, PACKED with information. It’s been two years since I attended Inbound last. As always, there are still many things the same, and so much has also changed.

We’re not just doing our work differently; we’re interacting with people differently; many thanks, or not, to COVID-19. Our customers are behaving differently, too, when we explore their interactions online with our brands.

Photo credit: HubSpot

Similar themes transpired throughout the two-days, many of them we are familiar with like content is STILL king as well as paramount and relevant, SEO is changing due to AI technology, email marketing is a must, and of course, the basics:

  • Know your buyer
  • Link your content to your buyer and various stages of the buyer’s journey
  • How does your story connect with your mission
  • Be authentic, be human, nurture your leads.

Oh, and I cannot forget podcasts! Yes! There was talk around podcasts and how you can be successful and generate leads using podcasts. With everyone at home, brands are turning to this method as another way to reach their audience.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, and in no way can I uncover everything with you in this one blog post. Thanks to the many presenters, I’ll provide you with an overview of some of these topics and a few tactics you can implement right away.

The theme this year? Inspire What’s Next.

So, what inspired me? What’s next? Given our current situation today, the folks at HubSpot managed to pull off another successful event virtually! I must admit, I was a bit skeptical of how they would pull this off for the many inbound marketers, sales, and businesses, but as always, it was a tremendously successful event.

Building Your Network at Inbound 2020

Truth bomb: I did miss the in-person experience of attending the sessions, but not the networking. When it comes to networking, I’m considerably better at connecting virtually – I’m a bit of an introvert in that way and often feel nervous networking and imbibing in small talk at in-person networking events.

However, I met several people via the Facebook group and LinkedIn groups, and those conversations are going well. There seems to be some genuine interest in having real conversations and sharing knowledge as a marketer. So ask me! Here, on social media, or my podcast – whichever is the best place for you. What about you? Do you like networking?

Anyway… Where were we? Ahhh, inspiration…

Data. Inspirational?

I’m a data geek. I love the data, how many views a post receives, which landing pages have been seen, how many people filled out a form, on and on. But it’s also the why? What made them download this content vs. another? Why was the CTR higher on this social media post over another? Did the story connect better to the mission? Why, why, why?

What about you? If you attended inbound 2020, what were your takeaways, and what inspired you?

Let’s look at the common themes throughout Inbound 2020 and see how data links to our marketing strategy.

Content is Still King

Content is still king or queen, whatever your preference. If you’re still producing content simply to create because you heard that writing a lot was critical at some point in your inbound education, I’m willing to bet it’s not getting much traffic or conversions. Today’s technology has made it so that we absolutely have to produce quality content. Content that is rich and valuable when you get into the meat of it and provides your readers with highly relevant information designed for them.

And, you have to establish your goal. Is it revenue generation? Well, that means it needs to get more visitors in order to generate leads but to do that, your content must still:

  • Directly connect to your SMART goals
  • Target the buyer persona at the right stage of the buyer’s journey
  • Technical SEO optimization AND AI Optimization
  • Conversational
  • Evoke emotions
  • Help your audience

It’s achievable for any industry. Go back to the drawing board, conduct a content audit, and note changes you need to make, so it does these things. Act immediately by making sure you have Calls-To-Action (CTAs) throughout your website, and optimize your pages.

Align Your Content With Your Buyer Persona’s

Let’s say you’re a SAAS provider; what is your company mission, who is your buyer, how do you solve their pain points? If your software mission – for the sake of simplicity is to ‘make IT professionals jobs easier’ then speak to that, answer how you do that, and use words an IT professional is going to connect with, like “Free Up Your Time by Giving System Users the Power.”

IT pros are like, yes! Give users the power to make their fixes and free up my schedule. You see where I’m going with this, and always A/B Test your pages, content, and CTAs. Then, stick with the content that performs best. What that means is up to you and your business goals, and then keep testing.

Writing for Technical SEO for AI

During Inbound this year, attendees heard from Dale Bertrand, President at FireandSpark, that focuses heavily on SEO optimization. He shared how AI is transforming how we optimize for search in our content.

In the past, we’ve been optimizing for technical SEO, or crawl ability, so that our website and blogs rank, but have you noticed a decrease in your reach, rankings, and visitors? That may be because Google search is now using AI technology to index your website and determine the relevancy to a searcher based on how a human would interact with your site. 

It’s no secret that we should be writing for humans; hopefully, you’ve been doing that all along. However, it’s more imperative now than ever that your content on your website is ready for AI.

Optimize Your Content for AI

Here’s a few things you can do to optimize your content for AI search algorithms:

  • Avoid keyword stuffing
  • Make it scannable with headings and bullets
  • Use storytelling – write like you speak
  • Be empathetic – try to understand where your audience is coming from

Neil Patel reminds us to make sure you understand the intention behind your keywords. This is what AI is doing; it’s learning the intention behind the searcher’s words they enter into Google.

Dale Bertrand tells us that if we connect our mission to our marketing, businesses that are empathetic in their messaging, and write for humans, we’ll experience better rankings and increased visitors to our website. Now, we still have to do the basics like:

  • Keyword research
  • Use long tail keywords and synonyms in our writing
  • Write good meta descriptions

Which brings us to email lead nurturing. How so? Great question! Well, if we’re writing for our audience using empathy in our message, then connecting our message to our mission, and creating content that nurtures our leads, we require a tactic that helps us do that.

Email Lead Nurturing Gets a Bump in Recent Months

Email. It’s in. It’s out. It’s in again… This year has caused so many changes with the way individuals are doing their work. 

Attendees had the privilege of listening to Jay Schwedelson, CEO at Worldata, tell us all about some cool findings! This guy and his team are experts in email marketing research.

And, boy, do they have some very cool information about changes since the pandemic – and you are going to want to pay attention to this.

Email marketing helps us (marketers) to nurture our leads through the buyer’s journey; no surprise there. We know it’s an opportunity to provide helpful and relevant information, and these stats from Worldata are incredibly telling.

Email Marketing Data Since COVID-19

Just check this out: inbox activity is up 22% in August compared to January, B2B open rates, newsletter, and sign-ups are all up – considerably. 16%, 19%, 40% relatively speaking.

So what does that mean for you, a marketer or business owner? It means it’s time to double down on your email marketing efforts.

The day of the week when email offers are most frequently opened, whether B2B or B2C have changed! Would you believe that Friday’s are one of the worst days now to open emails? Yeah, that’s right! Folks are now opening their emails at the beginning of the week, Sundays for B2C, and Mondays for B2B, AND we should be sending them even more frequently, and response rates are increasing through the roof! Give it a try. I want to hear how it works for you.

Source: Jay Schwedleson, Worldata - Critical Email Marketing Techniques to Crush the Competition (Inbound 2020)
Source: Jay Schwedleson, Worldata – Critical Email Marketing Techniques to Crush the Competition (Inbound 2020)

Subject Lines continue to Be Key

What about your subject lines? Start testing them – A/B testing is how you will discover which subject lines are getting you higher open rates. Since my inspiration is data, it’s all about test, test, test. Discover what your audience responds to and stick with it.

And, we’ve all heard to stay away from using FREE! Well, according to Jay, this is quite literally one of the best increases at 38%, and if there is an expiration, it gets even better.

Now, we know that writing good subject lines is vital to open rates, right? BUT, are you keeping your subject lines short. It can certainly be super tricky, but the shorter they are, the more they stand out. On the contrary, long subject lines, MORE than 65 characters, are also seeing an increase. So, the point, go either below or above what we’ve learned as a standard subject line approach.

Did you know that words like meeting, chatting, remembering, learning, and quick all receive a negative response to your email marketing data? Interesting stuff, right?

What do you think? Anything that surprised you here? Have you noticed these differences in your email stats?

Untrackable Conversations Online

Relationship Marketer Jessika Phillips of NOW Marketing Group presented Leveraging Dark Social and shared how our conversations shape our connections to our buyers.

She tells us that 86% of our traffic is coming from “Dark” social. Okay, first thought: HUGE number, and second, what is dark social anyway?

Jessika defined dark social as traffic that appears it’s visiting our site organically and directly. It’s really when our brand is spoken about on some other form of technology like text messaging, email between friends or family, shared links on Zoom, places we cannot track.

Getting Involved in Untrackable Conversations

Well, that presents a bit of a challenge now, doesn’t it? Jessika tells us that our message HAS to be bigger than the product or service we offer and to have real people engage with our visitors. This is similar to what Dale Bertrand says about connecting our mission to our message.

So, how do we do that? If we’re making a conscious effort to connect with our customers in a holistic and empathetic way, we can lead the conversation and actively participate, which means… we can track what is said about us online, in those untrackable places.

And that (our message) has to be our basis for having conversations with our customers. In my mind, if we’re connecting our mission and being authentic in doing so, we are creating meaningful conversations, making our message bigger than our product or service.

Leading the Conversation

How else can we do this? Have you heard of Gary Vaynerchuk? Or Gary Vee as he’s also known. He spoke on the Inbound stage a few years back. What a great presence! Not all that long ago, he gave out his cell phone number on LinkedIn. You can text him! Yes! This CEO of multiple companies made it so people can send him a text. And what’s better? He answers! Talk about getting personal and leading the conversation on dark social.

What ideas do you have to learn more about what your customers are saying about you in places we cannot track? How are you finding ways to get involved with those conversations? While I’m thinking of it, make sure you are set up to listen on social media and get engaged.

Conversational Marketing

Inbound 2020 had countless sessions on conversational marketing, another strategy in the inbound methodology. I feel like a lot of what we’ve been talking about here are some ways to make your message more conversational. 

We’re not here to talk AT people; we’re here to invite you into the conversation, to build better relationships with your customers through:

  • Humanizing your brand, using empathy to truly understand your customers
  • You’re not just a product, how is your messaging bigger than the brand?
  • How are your emails nurturing leads? Are they targeting your buyer persona’s at the right time?
  • Search engines are taking a more human approach to give rank and authority to brands

Because our flywheel attracts, engages, and delights, our current customers will be our brand champions. Customer retention reduces the costs of churn, BUT when our customers are happy, they will often help us tell our stories through:

  • Case studies
  • Co-writing/Guest-writing a blog
  • Testimonials
  • Guest on your Podcast
  • Word-of-mouth

Oh, the ideas are endless. What gives you inspiration? 

Podcasts

Speaking of podcasts and conversations, what about your brand? Does it have a podcast? Why are folks turning to podcasts? Shameless plug here, if you haven’t yet listened to my podcast, Think! An Inbound Marketing Podcast, check it out. I’d appreciate it, and you’ll certainly find something valuable because I provide all sorts of tips and tactics you can implement today.

Anyhoo…

Conversations are had on podcasts. When you have guests who are industry experts inside and outside your company, you get to show your thought leadership within your brand and partnerships with those outside of your company. It gives you and them a lot more clout, especially when you provide relevant and valuable information to your listeners.

Bernie Borges, Co-Founder and Chief Customer Officer at Vengreso, AND he is the host of Modern Marketing Engine, focused his presentation on Account-Based Podcasting. You bet I listened super closely to this one! It was a VERY informative session.

Make Your Podcast a Lead generator

Here’s what I learned:

  • Plan your podcasts for lead generation
    • Valuable
    • Timely
    • Relevant
    • Conversational
  • Collaborate with internal stakeholders
    • Ask to interview and explain the editorial mission
    • Build the questions and outline together
    • Have a video call to discuss the interview questions
    • Warm-up at the start of the podcast
    • Highlight your interviewee
    • Showcase in your promotion their thought-leadership 
  • Collaborate with external stakeholders
    • Repeat the steps above

Make sure you promote your podcast through email marketing and social media to the appropriate audience segment.

These tips alone are an outline for success!

I want to hear your ideas and have conversations with you about what you are doing. What are your trouble spots? Where have you seen great success? Could you share it with me? You can do that on social media or here in the comments of this blog post.

All Signs Point to Inbound Marketing

You read it here! Content continues to reign, email marketing never really left, SEO optimization adds AI and intent to the list of “need to knows,” your brand is being talked about in untrackable ways, conversational marketing is more imperative than ever, and jump on the podcast bandwagon because you can generate leads.

Finally, I’ll leave you with this, if you want to listen to any of these presentations or any of the many, many others, then head on over to inbound.com and sign-up for the Content Pass 2020 to receive all that Inbound 2020 had to offer! This is not a paid promotion for HubSpot, purely me sharing information with you.

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