5 Takeaways from Inbound 2015

When BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peratti took the stage at Inbound 2015, touting that lists had been a major growth strategy for his website’s “most shareable breaking news”, I knew that there was no other way to frame this blog post. 

After spending a week in beautiful Boston, here are my top 5 takeaways from HubSpot’s annual Inbound conference. 


1. Frustration is the F word of the internet


We all know how to Google. We’ve known for a while.

So, when customers don’t find what they are looking for on your website, they get frustrated, think you are hiding something, lose trust, and probably won’t come back. 

Responding to customer’s questions and concerns in a timely manner is now an expectation. But better still is letting customers “Choose their own adventure” and allowing them to discover for themselves what they want to know. Letting go of the details, concentrating on building the path and empowering your customers use their skills to find the information they need was a topic of discussion at many Inbound sessions.

As a marketer, I find this letting go of the discovery process no easy task. I want to tell people what they need. I want to ask how I can help. I want to guide. I want to hold the key to their solution. 

From Inbound on, I will remind myself to breathe and continue to lay the path, brick by proverbial brick. I will let my potential customers come and discover for themselves that my service is great. I will not allow them to throw the F bomb at my brand.  


2. Media is used, not consumed.


We spend more than 8 hours of our day looking at some form of media: watching TV, perusing the internet, reading a newspaper, etc. But the relative passivity of this activity is changing.

As the media itself becomes more “democratized” our connection to it grows deeper and more meaningful. 

Take the example of Basset Hounds running. Is it really about those floppy faces? Or is it about the smile they put on your face in the middle of a hard work day. Or how it connects you to those around you in laughter. 

We now use the media available to us for our own means, because at any given moment, we have access to the all the content our little hearts could ever desire. It’s a powerful thing.

As am inbound marketer, tapping into this stream of media users by creating relevant content is more challenging than ever. Creating the actual thing people desire to use, while finding a way to include communication about your brand is no easy task.

 From Inbound on, I will think about what people NEED when creating content.


3. There is still a long way to go in diversity. Also, data viz.


Chelsea Clinton took the stage at Inbound to talk about the all important role of women in the workplace and the world. But her talk also pulled at my data-loving heart strings.

My favorite insights from her talk were how far we’ve come, how far there is left to go, and how much data influences decision making.

Data visualization is both an art and a science. By using plots, tables and charts, we can make complex data more digestible to broader audiences. But, we also run the risk of removing audiences from additional insights by putting a bias layer between them and the raw data. 

Take this example: Female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies is at an all time high, and has grown by over 15 times in the last 20 years. That could be something to celebrate! But that high is just 5% (24 women) and made no change between 2014 and 2015. Women make up 45% of the workforce of those same companies. 

From Inbound on, I will think about the way data is presented and how it drives decision making. I’ll look under the hood. I will ask for the raw data before making decisions that will effect others. 


4. As a marketer, you must be technical.


I’ll admit that I studied Communications in college because I had convinced myself I was bad at math and would never have technical chops. I made my way into Marketing because I loved the numbers game behind the art of communicating with audiences, but still, no way I would ever consider myself tech savvy.  

Then the world changed.

Marketers marketing to marketers want you to believe that technical expertise is not a requirement. Wakeup call: It is. 

Many times, marketers are at the mercy of software developers to get projects implemented, costing time and money by not being able to strike while the iron is hottest. 

So, to learn to code or not to learn to code? That might not be the question. I don’t want to do the job of a developer. The solution is not necessarily learning to code, but it is about understanding the possibilities and being able to communicate your needs clearly to a technical team. 

From Inbound on, I will set aside time to study weekly. I will start with learning technologies that help me to better understand my data (SQL, Google Analytics, WebMaster Tools) and move on to technologies that help me communicate my message to my audiences (like CSS, HTML or other modern JavaScript libraries).


5. CRM’s should die


Ironic that I heard this at a conference where the most important product announcements were improvement’s to Hubspot’s CRM? Well, that’s just that way the cookie crumbles.  

Don’t manage your customers, be all about them. 

Clients want to feel like they are being taken care of in a special way, not being pushed through standardized workflows. CRMs silo marketing, sales and service teams into separate entities. They distract from what is most important: your customer’s experience with your brand at all touch points. 

Understand your customers and build a process that works for them.* 

From Inbound on, I will think about what potential customers actually want out of their buyers journey, and not what the CRM permits. 

*Easier said than done, especially at scale.