INBOUND 2017 Recap: Food Trucks, Celebrities, and Marketing (Oh My)

This week, we welcome a guest post from our Technical Marketer, Katie Hake.

Katie is responsible for conducing digital product work for e-commerce clients across multiple channels, including using HTML/CSS to build emails. She is also responsible for the creation and management of web content and ensuring quality control in execution.

In this post she shares about her experience and lessons learned at Inbound 2017.

At the end of September, I had the opportunity to attend INBOUND in Boston: HubSpot’s marketing conference that’s known for having incredible speakers . This year’s speakers included Michelle Obama, Brené Brown, Billie Jean King, and many more. It’s also known for having a party-like atmosphere; I can confirm there were food trucks, free massages, and hammock swings. What’s more, many of the larger sessions felt more like concerts for marketing nerds than typical conference presentations.

I learned a lot, but here are some key notes: (get it? Keynotes.)

1. Twitter is Your Friend

I cannot stress this enough. If you don’t currently have a Twitter account, I encourage you to make one in advance of a large industry conference, like INBOUND. Get in on the online conversation attendees and sponsors. Tweet during sessions you like, connect with others, and win a few social contests!

Getting distracted by Twitter and posting stalker-esque photos of session presenters paid off. I came away with a Ruggie alarm clock, and a photo op with Insecure producer and star, Issa Rae:














Look! We’re basically old friends.

2. Think Outside the Box

Of your industry, that is.

Past INBOUND attendees have reportedly complained that the conference’s speakers – keynotes, in particular – aren’t geared enough towards marketers and salespeople. This is a fair criticism.

Though it was great to hear about what it was like to be First Lady, nothing in Michelle Obama’s speech was directly related to the jobs of the thousands of marketers and salespeople in the audience.

However, John Cena, Brené Brown, and others spoke about authenticity, being true to yourself, and figuring out where you belong, all of which are ideals that could (and should) be applied to marketing and business practices. Forced interactions will do nothing for you, and if you don’t believe in what you are doing, then your customers won’t either.

3. Embrace Change

A key focus of INBOUND 2017 was evolving technology. HubSpot announced its own chatbot at INBOUND 2016 and in the past year alone the company acquired three AI-based startups. Not only is social media becoming increasingly important (even for B2B), but people are communicating more and more through bots.

For email marketers, change is always imminent (Gmail updates, anyone?) and interactive email continues to shine as the top buzzword of 2017. As anyone at INBOUND would tell you, email is sticking around, but attention spans are rapidly decreasing. The only way to counteract that phenomenon is to innovate.

In the words of HubSpot’s Postmaster and Director of Email Engineering Tom Monaghan, “be weird.”

And, of course, test, test, test.

4. Email Best Practices

These days, email is just as much about building an online brand as it is about clickthrough rates and opens. Besides “be weird”, I learned a few other things from Tom Monaghan:

  • Setting up your DNS is not about deliverability, it’s about your reputation.
  • If people aren’t engaging with your content, don’t just keep sending emails and crossing your fingers that someday they’ll magically change their minds. Segment your audience into two lists: one of super engaged people who came in from a trusted source, and the remainder.

Be purposeful in everything you do with your email, from the subject line to the send time of day.

5. Personalize, But Don’t Get Creepy

Ah, personalization. An easy to abuse trend marketers love.

News flash: including a recipient’s first name in your email is no longer enough to count as personalization in 2017. In fact, HubSpot’s Senior Demand Generation Manager Emma Knox devised a “Personalization Creepy Scale” for all the ways marketers target their audiences and how those methods are perceived in both value and creepiness:

With the rise of privacy concerns, marketers must be careful with how they compete for consumers’ attention and time. Personalization is great for sending relevant messages to the right people, but it can also cross a line when your customer feels like you know too much about them – “we saw that you wore a blue shirt yesterday and so here’s another blue shirt we think you’ll like” is probably going too far. As Knox cautioned, keep an eye on your “Digital Body Language” and make sure you’re not crossing the line.

The key lesson here is that if personalization goes wrong, a customer can go from a brand promoter to a detractor (not good). Get to know your prospects  as 360-degree individuals, and understand them based on their website clicks, email engagement, and who they are.

And as always – test!

INBOUND is a once-in-a-lifetime experience I am grateful to have been able to experience.  More so, I am happy I could bring all my lessons back to Whereoware and share them with you. I hope you can use these lessons and apply them to your own marketing and business practices.