9 things we learned at #INBOUND19

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The content team at the Lorem Ipsum Co. recently attended Inbound, the 26,000-attendee-strong digital marketing confab hosted by Hubspot, and we want to tell you about the things we learned at #INBOUND19.

Covering everything inbound marketing related, from video to chatbots and social media to web design, the conference brings digital marketing professionals from all over the globe to Boston for a week of immersive, hands-on learning.

But before we get into the 9 things we learned at #INBOUND19, let’s take a look at what Inbound marketing is.

What is Inbound Marketing?

Hubspot CEO and co-founder Brian Halligan coined the term “inbound marketing,” in 2006. According to Hubspot, Inbound Marketing is:

“… a business methodology that attracts customers by creating valuable content and experiences tailored to them. While outbound marketing interrupts your audience with content they don’t want, inbound marketing forms connections they’re looking for and solves problems they already have.”

Content marketing, social media marketing and other forms of digital marketing all fall under the umbrella of inbound marketing.

With an inbound marketing model, businesses create valuable, compelling content intended to help solve a customer problem or pain point. These content pieces are intended to build trust and credibility between the business and its customers by positioning the business and its employees as industry experts who want to solve customer problems.

The basic principle behind inbound marketing is to use quality content via the web, email and social media to

  • Attract customers to your website,
  • Engage them on your website,
  • And delight them all the way through the sales cycle and beyond

Using technology to ensure your customers are able to understand their problem and see how your products or services can solve said problem is a key pillar of inbound marketing.

Now, on to INBOUND (the conference).

9 Things We Learned at #INBOUND19

#9 The best ways to advertise on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is to B2B businesses what Facebook is to B2C businesses. Thanks to the incredibly powerful targeting abilities of LinkedIn, the social network is the place to be for any business in the B2B space.

AJ Wilcox, a LinkedIn advertising expert (and a redhead), says “running LinkedIn ads is a little like a Ginger’s day at the beach.”

He explains:

During his Inbound session, titled Advanced LinkedIn Ads for the B2B Marketer, Wilcox broke down the best ways to advertise on LinkedIn. For starters, LinkedIn isn’t ideal for every business.

According to Wilcox, you should definitely be advertising on LinkedIn if your business:

  • Offers products or services with high lifetime value ($15k+)
  • Recruits for white-collar positions
  • Is an institute of higher education
  • Operate in the financial services industry

But what’s the best way to advertise on LinkedIn? Here are the different types of ads on LinkedIn and the best strategy to use them:

  1. Single Image Sponsored Post: This is the most versatile LinkedIn ad. It was the highest click-through rate (CTR) of any of LinkedIn ad spot and get the majority of mobile clicks (80%, says Wilcox).
  2. Text Ads: These ads are the cheapest way to advertise on LinkedIn and therefore offer the lowest risk. However, they also average very low CTRs. If ad impressions, and not clicks, is your goal, text ads are your best bet.
  3. Sponsored InMail: This is the most expensive and therefore riskiest ad form on the platform. If you’re going to use InMail, make sure it’s a personal invitation and not just a generic ask, such as, “please download our new ebook.”
  4. Dynamic Ads: Wilcox says avoid these ads, which are only visible on desktop computers, at all costs. Unless you like paying a lot of money for followers, he says.
  5. Lead Form Ads: This popular ad form works through a marketing automation platform, such as Hubspot, and is by far the most successful ad form, in Wilcox’ mind. This ad type asks user to fill out a form on the LinkedIn platform, without needing to leave the site. One of the biggest cons is that these people can’t be retargeted because they never visit your website.
  6. Video Ads: Another of LinkedIn’s more expensive ad forms is video. Video offers high conversion, but it comes at a cost. Even though LinkedIn video ads can’t be retargeted (yet) Wilcox highly recommends them to his clients. Note: Subtitles are a must since more than 90 percent of video is watched on mute.
  7. Carousel Ads: These ads offer multiple images and multiple calls to action (CTA), but don’t perform as well as single-image ads.  Unless you’re trying to tell a story with your ads, stick to single-image.

The one thing that sets LinkedIn apart is its targeting ability. For B2B, LinkedIn offers ad targeting that’s far superior to any other social network. Here’s a look at LinkedIn targeting options:

  1. Profession: Perhaps the most powerful targeting method, LinkedIn allows advertisers to target professions, including job title, job function, job seniority, and job skills.
  2. Education: Not only can you target certain degrees, such as bachelors, masters, etc., you can also target specific schools.
  3. Company: Here’s where the power of LinkedIn really plays well with customer marketing. You can target ads at a certain job title in a specific company.

But perhaps more important than these targeting options is the ability to exclude them. Often times, salespeople will add the skills or join the groups of the people to whom they wish to sell. LinkedIn gives you the ability to exclude specific job titles, companies and industries as well, such marketers, sales reps and business development.

Consider using this tactic to block competitors as well.

He concluded his session with a few LinkedIn pro tips:

  • Avoid targeting age or experience, use seniority instead.
  • Always uncheck LinkedIn’s default “Audience Expansion.” The targeting is so powerful there’s no need to let LinkedIn muddy the waters.
  • Don’t target smaller companies; instead, exclude larger ones. This will help ensure smaller, undefined companies without a LinkedIn company page will still see your ads.

#8. Don’t create content for content’s sake

It’s no secret that quality content trumps quantity. But many businesses still produce blind content for content’s sake without digging into the “why.”

Content without a “why” is like macaroni without the cheese.

Content without a “why” is like macaroni without the cheese, via @theloremipsumco Click To Tweet

Every high-value content piece should go through the following process:

  • Concept: A theoretical and philosophical look at the what, why and how of your content.
  • Strategic: Focus on the process tools and key knowledge components that must be included to make your concept a reality.
  • Tactical: Prescriptive, step-by-step instruction and specific exercises to help implement the conceptual and strategic ideas.

Then, move on to the distribution framework

  • Asset Type: Written, visual, audio, interactive, long-form, short-form, live vs. recorded. Think broadly here, not everything needs to be a blog post.
  • Channel/Platform: A mix of paid, owned and earned distribution platforms. Think about where you will both host and share your content. Note: social media sites like to keep users on their site and therefore prioritize content that’s hosted on their platform.
  • Metrics: Reach vs. engagement vs. click-through rates. Remember, all assets and channels should have individual goals and metrics.

The bottom line: Don’t fall into the trap of, “we have to publish two blog posts a month, so that’s what I am doing.”

#7. Republish, repurpose and reuse old content

Content, especially high-value content, is not a one-and-done asset. You should constantly be thinking of new places to republish, repurpose and reuse old content.

Thanks to our good friend the canonical, we can reuse our own content over and over without the fear of running into the duplicate content dilemma.

Here are a few places to consider republishing and repurposes old content:

  1. LinkedIn Pulse: The built-in blogging featured on LinkedIn has long been a preferred method of content distribution. But it’s also a great place to repurpose content. For example, you can frame up a problem on Pulse and link back to a high-value asset with the solution on your website. This method resolves two big issues. It keeps people on LinkedIn, which LinkedIn loves, and it offers a link your website, which you love. Win-win.
  2. Guest Posts: Guest posts are a powerful took for link building and search engine optimization. And old ebook or white paper that’s no longer producing results could be repurposed into a guest blog post with a backlink from a high-authority website.

#6 A Pivot to privacy

Change is the only constant in life …

Change isn’t always welcome, but it’s often needed. At Facebook, for example, the News Feed didn’t exist 10 years ago. In fact, when the social network first introduced the News Feed, users were furious.

But that didn’t stop Facebook from innovating. Now, 10 years later that News Feed might be going away, but that’s another story.

This section is about privacy. And the future is private.

Big change is coming to Facebook and other social media platforms in the form of privacy.

Facebook has long been at the center of privacy debates, but the 2016 presidential election flung Facebook privacy concerns into the national spotlight.

It was nearly impossible to miss the media firestorm surrounding Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s data privacy testimony before Congress.

With headlines like “Mark Zuckerberg has lost all credibility with Congress—and the Rest of Us,” “Mark Zuckerberg Answers to Congress for Facebook’s Troubles,” and  “Lawmakers Fed Up with Zuckerberg,” the general consensus was that the company was less-than-forthcoming about its practices and prioritized other things over its users’ privacy.

A new data privacy tool introduced earlier this year by Facebook, “aims to give users greater control over how their data is used by third-party advertisers on the social networking company’s global platforms,” according to Mark Scott at Politico.

Facebook had this to say about the new tool:  “We expect this could have some impact on our business, but we believe giving people control over their data is more important.” 

Then, Zuckerberg took things a step further with this privacy manifesto. This was shocking because the vast majority of Facebook revenue is dependent upon a user’s personal data.

So what’s the deal? Is Facebook trying to:

  • Dissuade government regulations?
  • Prevent anti-trust lawsuits?
  • Prepare for blockchain?

No!

It’s likely none of this privacy talk is about privacy at all.

Believe it or not, it’s all about messaging: WeChat, WhatsApp and iMessage.

China-based WeChat is a threat to Facebook on the global stage.

Messaging is the single greatest threat to Facebook and other social media platform’s and China’s WeChat is leading the charge.

Facebook, not wanting to miss the boat, is really outlaying it’s product roadmap via chat, not fighting a battle for online privacy.

This article from Wired, titled “Zuckerberg’s Privacy Manifesto is Actually About Messaging,’ goes into much more detail.

The bottom line with social media is that it’s time to rethink everything … and this can be a real opportunity for smart marketers looking to be on the forefront of the next big thing in marketing.

#5 Measuring content ROI is easier than you think

Marketers are spending billions creating content every year, yet many companies struggle to see a return. This can likely be attributed to a failure to measure. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 33 percent of B2C marketers and a staggering 47 percent of B2B marketers admit to not measuring their content performance.

This apparent lack of accountability is in direct contrast to the data-driven methods marketers use in lower-funnel activities, such as social media and paid search.

When asked, marketers gave these two top reasons to not measuring content:

  1. It’s too hard
  2. My boss doesn’t care

Both of which are terrible excuses. Measuring content ROI doesn’t have to be difficult, and even if your boss doesn’t care at the moment, trust me, a time will come when she does.

Social media platforms are selfish

Click-through rates (CTR) are a common measurement of success. But CTR is a bad metric. People are lazy and social media platforms are selfish.

Marketing is no longer about grabbing attention, it’s all about holding it. Today’s best marketing understand: Marketing isn’t about who arrives. It’s about who stays.” ~ Jay Acunzo.

If you’re more likely to click a link and leave their platform, rather than simply interact with the post on site, Facebook will show you fewer linked posts.

Did you know that Facebook Live videos get six times more engagement than video links? This is not by accident.

“Facebook wants more Facebook,” says Ashley Faus, Sr. Manager Integrated Marketing at Atlassian.

Facebook wants more facebook, says @ashleyfaus Click To Tweet

There’s a good chance you’re not seeing direct revenue from a specific piece of content, especially in the B2B world. But content can impact many other business functions to drive ROI.

Here are four content ROI metrics to which we should pay attention:

  • Search engine visibility: Search engine optimization helps your website rank higher for specific keywords on search engines such as Google or Bing. Content is still king when it comes to SEO and being on page one of Google can make or break your business.
  • Lead quality: Great content attracts a great audience and that audience generates great leads. You can track a buyer’s journey through your content and see if they’re visiting important pages, such as your pricing page.
  • Brand exposure: Content is a great way to position your company and brand as authorities in your industry. Building trust with your customers is the quickest path to brand loyalty. This metric can happen online and offline, making it slightly more difficult to track.
  • Traffic: Of course, website traffic will always be an important metric. This is a pillar of content success. Without content, there’s no traffic and without traffic, there’s no revenue.

#4 We’re doing Facebook all wrong

If your Facebook strategy consists of mostly posting links back to your website, you’re doing Facebook all wrong.

Facebook is selfish. Google is selfish. YouTube is selfish.

All social media platforms are selfish in the sense that they do not want their users to leave. The longer they can keep you on their platform, the better — for them.

That means not happily sending those users to your website.

Mari Smith, CEO Mari Smith International, and the self-proclaimed Queen of Facebook, has developed a method she thinks is a happy medium between giving Facebook what it wants and pleasing marketers.

The Mari Method, as she calls it, goes something like this:

  • Start with a piece of high-value content (ideally video content)
  • Let the piece of content get organic reach for a day or so before promoting it (this helps you avoid the tell-tell “sponsored” insignia).
  • After 24 hours have passed, promote the content with your ad budget and make sure to add a CTA, which is an option with every boosted post.
  • Check out the analytics to see who’s viewing your content and create a custom audience.
  • Then create lookalike audiences from your custom audience and boost the piece further.

Smith says Facebook is the most targeted traffic you can buy.

“Facebook is not pay to play, it’s invest for success,” she says.

Facebook is not pay to play, it's invest for success, say @marismith Click To Tweet

The bottom line is that it’s time to post fewer links – they just don’t get the engagement they used to – and give Facebook what it craves: original, unique content – especially video content.

And, build a community, not just an audience.

#3 The sales funnel is broken

We’ve probably all seen this standard funnel.

sales funnel

However, for a few years now, a newer sales funnel has been “circulating.” It looks more like this:

flywheel sales funnel

Both of these are wrong.

The problem with the sales funnel

These linear sales cycles assume all buyers shop and ultimately buy the same way. This, of course, is absurd. No one goes on a linear or cyclical buyer’s journey.

Recently, a new model was introduced: The jungle gym model. It looks something like this:

jungle gym

But, you guessed it, this model is flawed, too.

When humans interact with a jungle gym there are two main goals:

  1. Get to the top as fast as you can
  2. Maneuver all the way around the center without touching the hat lava below.

That’s still not how people act inside the buyer’s journey.

The solution is to zoom out. Ashley Faus, Sr Manager Integrated Mkt, Atlassian says look at the entire playground, not just the jungle gym.

Take a minute to think about your favorite piece of playground equipment.

What is it?

  • Swings?
  • Slide?
  • See-saw?
  • Merry-go-round?

The list goes on.

Now think about the correct way to interact with a playground.

Do you have to hit the swings first before the jungle gym? Or do you spend all your time on the see-saw?

One child may like to go down the slide, while another prefers to go up.

Are these children interacting with the park incorrectly? What about their parents, who just sit and watch? I mean there are benches after all.

The point is that we need to look at the buyer’s journey like a park that people can enter and exit at any time from any direction.

They can go through the journey in any order they desire. There’s no wrong way in a park, and there should be no wrong way in the buyer’s journey.

For example, most companies, especially Software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies, don’t like to discuss pricing until the prospect is in the consideration phase (see first funnel). But often, the person doing the initial shopping isn’t the sole decision-maker. They are forced to go all the way through the sales funnel just to go back and fight for budget back at the top.

#2 Chatbots

Chat is the future. At least for now.

Going back to our privacy learnings in #6, it’s clear that Mark Zuckerberg believes the future of communication will increasingly shift to private, encrypted services in which people can be confident what they say to each other stays secure.

It’s predicted 70 percent of white-collar workers will interact with a conversational marketing platform by next year.

Nearly 60 percent of consumers say emerging technologies, such as chatbots and voice assistants, have changed their expectation of customer service.

There are four main types of chatbots:

  • Web
  • Messenger
  • SMS (Texting)
  • Voice (Siri, Alexa)

The next big step is changing chatbot experiences for the better.

Artificial intelligence vs avatar intelligence

There’s a lot of confusion around how best to build a chatbot.

One thing we know for sure is chatbots can’t do everything. Even the best bots have limitations. That’s where live chat comes in. Which one is best for your business? It’s not an either, or. It’s both.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a bad experience with a bot.

You need to build your bot for a better experience. And that means not getting caught up in artificial intelligence (AI).

You can succeed by focusing on specific areas in which your bot can be truly successful. To develop a successful bot strategy, follow these steps:

  • Identify your customer services and sales problem areas
  • Determine your bot goals (Lead capture, lead nurture, inform, etc).
  • Determine the best channels (Web, social media, text, etc.)
  • Make sure your bot is a team player

Did you know the difference between a 5 min response time and a 10 minute response time is 400 percent? Speed is huge and an effective bot strategy can ensure you’re not missing out on business.

There are three main areas in which a bot can help speed users along your sales funnel:

  1. Awareness: Get the customer’s attention instantly by sparking a conversation. Offer recommendations for pages they might find useful and start to determine the problem they have.
  2. Consideration: When visitors return to your website, your bot should be able to recognize them and help them pick up right where they left off. This is a great opportunity to add in some qualifying questions and offer up valuable content, such as case studies and webinars. Through this, your bot can help determine how quickly a prospect should be moved to live chat or a sales call.
  3. Decision: When a user is making multiple visits to key pages, such as your pricing page, your bot can help them engage with a sales rep, without seeming too pushy. They can also reroute the prospect to your sales team more easily.

Chatbot nuture campaigns work just like email nurture campaign, just with far more success.

#1 A new disruptor: Experience marketers

A new species of disrupter is hitting the business world: the experience disruptor. Disruptors in the consumer world are at their peak (think Netflix, Uber, Airbnb, Chewy, SoulCycle, and Dollar Shave Club), everything is changing in the consumer world. But what’s happening in the B2B world?

Well, it’s the same story.

Companies like WeWork, Zoom, AWS, ezCater, and Slack are doing to business what Netflix, Uber and other others did to consumers.

Business is not slowing down, it’s speeding up.

What is experience marketing

Now, the term “disruptor” is heavily overused and misunderstood. The term was coined in the business sense by Clay Christianson in the mid-1990s in his book “The Innovator’s Dilemma.”

Why is it misunderstood?

Well, most when most of us think of disruptors, we think of technology companies, such as Google, Apple or, perhaps, Tesla. Big deep technology companies.

But what about all companies mentioned at the start of this section? Are they technology disruptors?

No.

They’re a new species of disruptor. A species Hubspot CEO Brian Halligan has dubbed experience disruptors.

Experience disruptors have five key differentiators build into their genetic code, according to Halligan. Those are:

  1. Experience market fit: The incumbent disruptors (Google, Apple, etc.) look at the product-market fit. Experience disruptors see the product market as necessary but insufficient to get the job done.
  2. Frictionless flywheel: Experience disruptors spend less time trying to sell their products or services and more time trying to get customers to buy. That may seem confusing, but what is essentially happening is B2B companies are taking a B2C sales approach. Most of these companies do not have sales teams and they’re focused more on building trust, not destroying it. Their flywheels spin seemingly without effort.
  3. Personalized process: Ditch the persona. The days of grouping your entire customer base into a handful of predefined personas is over. Personalization is key. Use the data at your disposal to create personalized experiences. But remember, with great data comes great power and from great power comes great responsibility.
  4. Sell through customers: The whole point of inbound marketing is to stop selling to your customers and start selling through them. Encourage your customers to become brand ambassadors and to create and share content. How they sell is why they win.
  5. Business model busters: The incumbents have strong business models. They know they work and they stick with them. The experience disruptors know those business models can work better. A return to a customer-first mentality. These experience disruptors don’t spend energy extracting value from customers, they spend energy adding value to customers.

Sure, this all sounds great. But how does it work in real life? Let’s take a look at some of these experience disruptors in practice.

  • Karvana (experience market fit): Karvana is a start-up that’s revolutionizing the auto dealer industry. Karvana’s goal is to take the pain out of car buyer – something the auto industry has struggled with for years. How do they do it? Most auto dealers have hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars worth of inventory. Not Karvana. Karvana has built giant car vending machines in strategic locations. Car buyers can pick out a car and drive it around for a week, risk-free. If you don’t like the car, Karvana will pick it up at no charge. Not only has Karvana eliminated the stress of making a $50,000-decision after a 10-minute test drive, but it also handles all the paperwork with the DMV.
  • Atlassian (frictionless flywheel): Atlassian makes B2B collaboration software. Atlassian is not a startup. It’s a large company growing very fast. Its market cap is $32 billion. Most companies that size are loaded with friction. Atlassian focuses less on generating leads and more on generating active users. Atlassian removed friction from its flywheel in a number of areas, including eliminating its commission-based sales team and discontinuing discounts. What this company realized was it spent so much time, energy and money building trust only to have it utterly destroyed once the decision to purchase was made.
  • Netflix (personalized process): Netflix is a granddaddy of personalization. With Netflix, you’re not a persona, you’re an individual user with individual tastes and preferences. Netflix doesn’t say, “here are a bunch of shows people like you like.” Instead, it’s, “here are shows picked for you.” Netflix uses data, lots and lots of data, to highly personalize your experience. But you can over personalize, so be cautious.
  • Warby Parker (selling through customers): Warby Parker is taking the glasses industry by storm and one way it has done this successfully is by selling through its customers. Buying glasses used to be a daunting process. You had to schedule an appointment and bring your most judgy friend with you. Warby Parker changed that process and instead send you multiple pairs of glasses to try on, wear around and, of course, post pics on social media so all your judgy friends can comment.
  • Chewy.com (business model buster): Returns and exchanges are so 2016. With incumbent businesses, even though they are leaps and bounds better with returns and exchanges than they were two decades ago, it’s still a hassle for consumers – and therefore a barrier success. Chewy.com, an online pet supply retailer, shocked the industry when it eliminated returns and exchanges. If you order a product through the website that you’re not 100 percent satisfied with, Chewy will send a replacement absolutely free. No need to return the incorrect item. Instead, Chewy says, give it to a friend or donate it to a cause. Now that’s disruption.

Conclusion

Inbound 2019 was chock-full of quality learnings revolving around all things digital marketing. We learned how to better target ads on LinkedIn, how to generate ROI from our content marketing, the future of social media is privacy, how chatbots are taking over the world and what it means to be an experience disruptor.

It was an incredible week, full of so many insights, that it’s literally taken just as much time to write this piece as it did to attend the show.

We hope you enjoyed these 9 things we learned at #INBOUND19. If you liked something that we didn’t mention, let us know in the comments below.

    Jeramy Gordon is the founder and Chief Content Officer at the Lorem Ipsum Company. He has been creating successful content strategies for almost two decades and believes in the power of high-quality content. He lives in Orange County, California, with his wife and two children.

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