Our team had yet another great experience at HubSpot's annual INBOUND conference. The event has truly become quite the spectacle as we've seen it grow over the years. But without question, the 2019 speakers and sessions were really insightful, and our team members in attendance divided, conquered and came up with a healthy list of key takeaways from the event to pass on to our clients, fellow PMGers, and YOU of course!
While we'll be publishing a number of more expansive articles over the coming weeks that dive deeper into the themes we're about to discuss, we successfully narrowed down what we felt were the 10 most important messages. Here's an overview of the top tips, trends and updates presented during INBOUND 2019...
1. Delight prospects and customers by reducing friction.
Your prospects and customers do not want to wait for anything. Therefore, helping these groups help themselves is a sure-fire way to delight them! From one perspective, frictionless customer service—through which you deploy a strategy, tools and processes that allow people to get what they need as quickly as possible—is going to bolster the strong relationships you've already built with your clients. The key is to consider every touch point you have with clients, as well as their needs at these touch points, and then develop ways to eliminate or avoid potential obstacles and make the experience (both personal and digital) as easy and seamless as possible.
But buyer enablement is another hot topic that is getting a lot more attention, and it's something we're focusing a lot on at PMG. What is buyer enablement, you ask? Just as sales enablement programs are designed to help salespeople sell and accelerate the pipeline, buyer enablement helps buyers buy! It's not just about providing advice and support; it's about making the process easier to navigate and complete. What are the critical activities involved in making a purchase? Who does this person have to convince in a business setting? How can make all of the steps in the buyer's journey painless for the prospect? Implement a sound buyer enablement strategy and start seeing your revenue go up, up, up!
2. While chat bots are helpful, do not solely rely on them.
Everything in our world is more immediate. When it comes to engaging with businesses, people today expect a personal, direct, intimate experience, and you cannot provide that if you rely on one single chat bot to automate interactions with your website visitors. As you think about your conversational marketing strategy, it is likely that, with a little planning, you can manage live chat during business hours using a rotation of your team members. This provides your visitors with not only a human being to talk to but a personal, one-to-one engagement. While it's true that most people understand a bot may start the conversation, they don't want to wait too long for it to be picked up by a real person on the other end.
3. Ensure your website is accessible for all.
Is your website and content ADA compliant? If not, it may be time to take a look at your site's user experience to ensure it's accessible to all people, especially those with disabilities. Digital accessibility can be categorized into a several core areas: content writing and structure, URL and link and text descriptions, text readability, accessible fonts, color contrast and images, building for keyboard-only navigation, accessibility of contact information, design of call-to-action buttons, and accessible event space and registration. Within each of these areas, there are best practices that allow your website—and everything it contains—to be more easily accessed and consumed by people who fall under the broad spectrum of disabilities. To learn more about accessibility, read the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1.
4. Lead your buyer to your conclusion.
You believe you are smart, capable and good, right? Or at least you WANT to be seen that way. So it's natural that you'll tense up and resist messages that conflict with this desire and belief. Ask yourself: what types of content and messages work better for you—and, more importantly, your buyers? Ensure you are producing and publishing content that validates your prospects' needs, receives nods of agreement along the way, and achieves the desired action.
5. Send more—not fewer—emails.
The worst current statistic with respect to email marketing is that people unsubscribe because they get too much email. This simply isn't true. Yes, 28 percent of people unsubscribe for that reason. But the other 72 percent do not believe they're receiving too many messages. Marketers have a huge opportunity to succeed at email marketing when they do it right.
One tip is to include offers with expiration dates in your emails—for B2B companies, these emails have a 47% higher overall response rate (and that increases for B2C). And open rates increase by 38% when the offer's expiration is mentioned in the subject line. Moreover, it's so important that you populate the preview text or "pre-header" of the email. Keep this copy related to the email content / offer and you'll likely see a 24% higher open rate.
6. Start producing video, or start losing prospects.
It's no secret that video has become a necessary component of any viable marketing strategy. But did you know that 68 percent of buyers prefer consuming video content over content in other formats? It's essential to build a comprehensive strategy for using video that engages your organization's audience across the duration of the sales process—as well as throughout their journey as a customer. Instead of thinking of video as a separate channel, focus on integrating it across all campaigns that cover the entire marketing funnel.
Moreover, when you are creating one-to-one videos to connect with prospects, make sure you start with a storyline that the prospect can lean into rather than a sales pitch (that they tend to lean away from). Find the emotional core—or the context of the conversation you are having. And deliver this in a natural authentic way that is focused on solving, not selling. People respond to videos, and it gives your prospects a chance to see you and start getting to know you.
7. Customer retention means more than preventing churn.
Customer retention is the holy grail for companies across nearly all B2B industries—but particularly for those in the SaaS space. Yet, much more time and money is typically spent on acquiring a new customer than on retaining an existing one. A solid customer retention strategy can change that—and has many benefits beyond preventing churn. Customer retention initiatives can help businesses identify prime referral opportunities, which ultimately contributes to the goal of generating more new business. But a well thought-out customer success program also supports your company's efforts to build and foster stronger relationships, pinpoint and fix flaws in policies and processes, enhance your brand's reputation, and identify future customer needs.
8. Refer to these fast facts before launching your next webinar.
Live and on-demand webinars are a great way to generate more visitor-to-lead conversions on your website without the heavy lifting of long-form content production. After years of planning and executing webinars, INBOUND speaker Daniel Waas (who also serves as GoToWebinar's Director of Marketing) has found that emails are the most successful promotional tactic, bringing in about 70 percent of all webinar registrations. Additionally, co-marketing with a partner or complementary brand or company can produce up to 25 percent of the total number of registrants.
However, if you do decide to promote your virtual event through paid advertising, Waas reports that utilizing Facebook lookalike campaigns results in the lowest cost per sign up (at an average of $9 per registrant). And finally, take note that 83 percent of webinar attendees find webcams engaging. If you happen to be camera shy, it may be time to start practicing on video calls!
9. Grow your brand with innovation—and influencers.
In the age of the overstimulated buyer, innovation is key to building brands that stand out. Yet only 1 in 7 companies are getting the desired results from their innovative activities. To be successful at branding with innovation, companies need an ongoing list of ideas from which to draw inspiration, some form of open source collaboration, and—perhaps most importantly—the willingness to change.
One way to cultivate innovation in your marketing is to get comfortable with artificial intelligence (AI). Forward thinking companies are already leveraging AI to make their emails more effective, content more targeted, and social media more personalized. Businesses can also use AI to quickly obtain insights from marketing data or intent data (ex: identifying which digital touch point(s) contributed to a sale) to provide better quality leads for sales teams.
On a related note, another key message that permeated INBOUND was about amplifying your brand with influencers. Influencer marketing is HUGE right now—and to be frank, the bigger your name, the faster you'll scale. It makes sense that your organization will grow more quickly with a wider reach. But how do you maximize your brand in a crowded, competitive marketplace? Devote one hour per week to working a Top 25 list of people, brands, clients, and/or media that can amplify your brand.
10. Marketing isn't about grabbing attention. It's about who stays.
We're all used to hearing about creating content for different buying stages in the funnel, but how about a content playground? When developing content, try envisioning a playground rather than a narrow path. It's so easy to get stuck thinking of content as a way to answer questions that fit within the defined stages of the buyer's journey. Not all content is created for the same purpose, or with the same set of performance metrics—and that's okay! We all want views and conversions, but in today's complex marketing world of algorithms and intent, likes, comments, and social shares can be just as valuable.
And finally, we end this post on a note about leadership. As leaders, we owe it to our people to provide feedback. They want it! And we also owe it to them to do it in a way that is constructive and allows them to think about their behavior and what they can do differently. To do this more effectively, re-frame your thoughts about difficult conversations to be courageous conversations focused on providing developmental feedback—not criticism.
Did you attend a session at INBOUND that was especially inspiring? Any other key takeaways you'd like to mention that weren't brought up here? Leave a comment below!