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It was no surprise that HubSpot’s 2016 INBOUND marketing & sales conference was a blast – as well as a great opportunity to spend time with our peers, partners and even some clients who attended this year (thanks again for coming to the PMG Cocktails!) But we always look forward to the series of excellent speakers who enlighten us with new data, tactics and techniques to improve our clients’ marketing strategies, as well as our own.

To cover as much ground as we could, members of our team divided and conquered the conference breakout sessions, feverishly taking notes on the new things we learned. Then the following week, we regrouped and settled on 10 important themes that we would address in our annual follow-up post. And here we are! Read on for our Top 10 Takeaways from INBOUND 2016.

1. Leverage Local SEO Techniques

Did you know that 76% of people who search their smartphone for something nearby end up visiting that same business within a day? Or that searches with “near me” are skyrocketing? As Google recently announced that it will be treating / prioritizing mobile searches differently, local SEO becomes that much more important. To start, always be sure to update your business listing on Google if your phone number or address changes. NAP consistency (name, address, phone) is one of Google’s primary tools for serving up businesses in the SERPs. In fact, Google reviews and ratings can make or break your business! So when customers are visiting your business location, it may be a good idea to ask them to search for your business name on Google maps and leave a rating while there. This type of local SEO work is sure to make a difference in your website traffic!

2. Master the 5-Minute Response Time

If you missed The Art of the 5 Minute Response Time – a sales session delivered by our friend and colleague Josh Harcus from Huify – well, you’ll want to get the scoop here. Josh has spent a lot of time perfecting his own sales process and we certainly appreciate his willing to share his insights! So let’s get right to the good stuff…

An HBR study revealed that the average response time to a converted lead is 42 hours… which is WAY too long! Especially considering that the ability to qualify a lead and get it into your pipeline decreases 6x if follow-up does not occur in the first hour of contact. On the flip side, if you can respond to a lead within 5 minutes, you have a 21x higher likelihood of converting that lead into your sales pipeline than if you wait 30 minutes.

So how do you implement this 5-minute response time in your own sales organization? It starts with a very clear (and documented) process that should be communicated to everyone in sales, as well as systems to streamline manual tasks and processes. Harcus recommends to:

  • Avoid assigning sales owners. To really get people engaged in a 5-minute response time, a lead notification should be delivered to all reps (through every conceivable channel so it isn’t missed!). Whoever claims it first and can make contact within 5 minutes owns it.
  • Act casual. When your sales reps make the call, they’ll likely turn OFF the lead if they sound over eager (as if they’re just sitting there waiting for leads to come in). Try something like “I happened to be between meetings and saw your inquiry come in and thought I would reach out to see if we could chat briefly or set a time to speak.”
  • Set up automated follow-up. Make sure each lead receives an automated (yet friendly and inviting) thank you email. Moreover, include a link to your calendar so they can conveniently book a meeting.

3. Accelerate Advertising on Social with Your “Unicorns”

The key to your ads appearing more frequently on social media is driving high engagement and increasing your quality score. To do this, promote your very best stuff, not garbage! This may be the top 1% - 2% of your content, which according to Larry Kim (founder of WordStream), are “your unicorns.” The worst thing you can do? Dividing your social ad budgets equally between every post (and promoting them equally). Test your content through Twitter, post your top performers from Twitter to Facebook and LinkedIn, identify the unicorns, and then pay to further promote them on Facebook and Twitter.

4. Update Older Successful Blog Posts

It’s no secret that Google rewards sites that are continually churning out fresh high-quality content. That being said, it’s important to revisit older posts that are still receiving decent amounts of traffic but aren’t necessarily driving conversions. This process was referred to at INBOUND as historical optimization. To do this, keep older posts relevant by reviewing the keywords it’s ranking for and then make sure that the current Call-to-Action on the post is aligned with these keywords. However, you will also benefit from updating the content in the post (even if much of it is relatively evergreen) and then republish it as a new post. You’ll still be able to build on the existing search authority the page has already accumulated.

5. Organize Your Contact Database Utilizing the 3 R’s

As inbound marketers, we know that just about every contact has value. We’ve worked hard to get those contacts. But for some of us, our contacts database feels like the messy junk drawer—we know it needs to get cleaned up, but there never seems to be time to do it. This may seem like basic common sense, but sometimes it takes hearing it again (or reading it in this post) to find the motivation to make things happen. Think in terms of the 3 R's: Re-engage. Requalify. Reduce. Remember that cleaning up your contacts database doesn’t need to be done all at once. Here are a few ways you can break down this process task by task.

  • Clean up contact properties. De-duplicate the fields you have, and delete any unused fields that are going stale. Most importantly, replace open-text fields like “Job Title” and “Industry” – or whatever you are using to qualify buyer personas – and make them Dropdown Select fields. That way, you can create Lists that can be easily segmented, as opposed to sorting through a variety of answers that could possibly fall under the umbrella of one position.
  • Organize lists. Again, delete any unused lists that are no longer relevant (and that are clogging up your view), and use a consistent naming convention. If applicable, move your lists into folders that make sense (aka. Buyer Persona Lists, Industry Lists, Form Submissions, etc.)
  • Score contacts. If you haven’t tried lead scoring yet, particularly if you’re using HubSpot software, it’s a great way to prioritize whom your sales team should contact. Just be sure you meet with Sales to go over what constitutes a sales qualified lead, and what measurable criteria should be met before the contact reaches that threshold.
  • Launch a re-engagement campaign. Try creating a series of emails specifically targeting disengaged subscribers and leads (those who haven’t been to your website or opened an email within 6 months or so). If they remain disengaged after going through the workflow, then delete ‘em! It’s also a good idea to review all of your contacts twice per year and purge if needed.

6. Avoid Sending Graymail

“You are what you eat… and so is your marketing.” Compelling words from HubSpot Director of Email Engineering, Tom Monaghan from his session 13 Things to Start, Stop, or Keep Doing (Only Better) with Your Email. Building on #5 above, Tom had an important message for all the inbound marketers out there – stop sending graymail! If you’re unfamiliar with the term graymail, it refers to the middle ground that lives between active readers and those who unsubscribe. Or messages to people who at one point subscribed to your content but are now no longer reading or opening your emails.

Continuing to send these graymail emails to inactive readers skews your data and increases your chances of being labeled as spam. In fact, after reviewing the data across all HubSpot accounts, Tom found that only 3% of inactive users ever open your content. Is 3% worth your online reputation? Probably not. Again, you can use inactive readers as an opportunity to create a re-engagement campaign. If they’re still not interested, then remove them from your database and focus on readers who are.

7. Include Text CTAs within Blog Posts

This year’s conference certainly wasn’t short of any thought-provoking statistics. For example, 81% of HubSpot’s posts don’t generate any leads! Yes, you read that right. HubSpot has written well over 1,000 posts and only 1.4% of their posts generate the bulk of the leads. Additionally, 76% of their website traffic comes from old posts. But what was most surprising about their blog’s performance? Pamela Vaughan, former manager of the HubSpot blog, discovered that between 83% and 93% of leads were actually clicking on in-line text CTAs – not heavily-designed Call-to-Action buttons and images at the end of posts. So if you’re not optimizing your blog with hyperlinked text CTAs above the fold, you may be missing out on new contacts!

8. Develop a Retention Funnel

It’s true. We marketers concentrate much of our energy on lead generation campaigns. But it can be very productive to build out client retention campaigns that focus on a specific goal, like upselling a specific service, retaining them for another year, or simply delighting them with customer-specific content. These campaigns focus on identifying PQLs (product- or project-qualified leads) – or those customers who are prime for adding to the work they do with our companies. It’s a good idea to talk to your customers who have already purchased additional products or services and find out exactly what incented them to make that decision. Then look at the data and see which marketing or sales emails they received and clicked on, and perhaps blog posts or site pages they visited before making the decision to purchase. Then identify clients that are currently following similar patterns, and find ways to nurture them with content that resonates with their latest needs.

9. (Try Your Best to) Keep Up with Google

Okay, so this particular topic, presented by the Wizard of Moz – Rand Fishkin, definitely deserves its own entire blog post (coming soon!) For now, know that Google AdWords has redacted a lot of its data, Google has actually made its ads more subtle, and we are seeing the end of the 10 “blue links” per page. So what does this mean for marketers?

Well, for starters, Google is getting better and better at matching searcher intent with relevant content. Therefore, keyword matching is no longer going to be a big competitive advantage – and on-page SEO will no longer be satisfied by raw keyword usage alone. Of course, this has been discussed over the past year or so. Along these lines, Rand has affirmed that searcher engagement, user experience and your ability to present unique value will be the new silver bullets to rising in the rankings. Plus, developing thorough answers to common prospect questions, as well as creating visual charts and graphs, will also help you make some SEO headway.

Finally, don’t ignore the wide variety of search channels available! Find out where your competition gets their traffic, and consider creating content for multiple search engines (YouTube, Amazon, Medium, DuckDuckGo, etc.). And when publishing videos, do as Moz does: launch them on your website first – and three months later, once they’ve accumulated links and authority, THEN put them on YouTube. You don’t want to be driving traffic to YouTube instead of your website, right?

10. AI Is the Future

Paul Roetzer’s session on artificial intelligence (AI), including natural language generation, was rather eye-opening and inspiring! So many amazing technologies are becoming available—not to mention integrated with HubSpot—that will help marketers tell the story of their data in an efficient way. AI is here to stay, and it’s here to support and streamline our efforts, not entirely replace them. So we’ll be sure to keep you posted on the AI tech we try out in 2017!

We couldn’t possibly fit everything we learned at INBOUND ’16 into this post, so if you have questions about any of these items – or you’d simply like to talk about your 2017 marketing strategy, our team is happy to help. Enjoy your Thanksgiving, marketers!

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About the Author

Oren Smith | Marketing Manager
Oren Smith, Marketing Manager

Oren Smith—our resident Marketing Manager and data geek... *ahem* expert—has been heading up PMG's marketing for 5+ years. Between stretches of content writing and inbound strategy, you might find him planning his next adventure abroad or enjoying a good, old-fashioned lobster roll.

 Tags: HubSpot Inbound Marketing

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