Top Ten Takeaways from #Inbound23

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Jessika Parry
September 15, 2023

HubSpot’s annual INBOUND conference really delivered this year. More than 11,000attendees and nearly 200 sessions, workshops, networking opportunities, and more started from sunup to sundown. Whether you burned some energy in the fitness lounge, danced to some tunes, or enjoyed inspirational talks with celebrities like Reese Witherspoon, Derek Jeter, and a comedic performance by John Mulaney, there was something for everyone and learnings to be had!

Many of you followed along daily to Nikki Festa O’Brien and Jessika Parry’s daily recaps, but in case you missed it, here are our top 10 takeaways. Some put a finer point on topics we live, eat, and breathe; some are insightful, and some are just fun! We hope you enjoy it.

1.      If you want to change the story, change the storytellers. – Reese Witherspoon
Of course this is our first takeaway because storytelling is what we live and breathe day in and day out, but also... REESE! Reflecting on her own decision to start a media company, Reese recalled moments earlier in her career when she realized no one in the production world was looking to change the status quo. As one producer told her, “We already have one movie with a female lead this year, we can’t have two.” She sought to change the stories that were being told, which is a missive we take seriously with our clients! We always seek to uncover their unique perspective or value to the market and make sure that grounds our program.

2.      Performance Branding for Memory Generation vs. Lead Generation. What Ranks the Highest in The New CMO Scorecard. Performance Branding, which can be as quantifiable as Direct Response Marketing, relies on two key factors: Creative (47%) and Media (38%) to capture the elusive 95% of out-of-market buyers. And according to presenters Ty Heath, Director, Marketing Engagement, B2B Institute, LinkedIn and Derek Yueh, Partnership Lead, B2B Institute, LinkedIn, exceptional creative can be 10 to 20 times more effective in sales, measured by Attention, Branding, and Linkage. Media quality is gauged by Effectiveness, Evenness, and Efficiency in reaching category buyers. Excelling in these areas yields improved marketing, hiring, and sales outcomes, driven by the notion that "Brand creates value that activation cannot," which was easily one of the best quotes of the entire conference!

3.      Turn your Customer Journey into a Love Language. We all know ABM, while very targeted, is a long-term play (6months to two years), but did you also know you can liken it to dating? Kevin England, CEO/President, Vonazon, Inc. argues it unfolds in five phases:

·        Brand Awareness: Like online dating, you're vetting and honing your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) to attract potential engagements.
·        Build Pipeline: Moving beyond the initial stage, you're nurturing relationships and fostering needs, akin to moving from app to real life.
·        Pipeline Acceleration: Going steady requires continuous effort, with retargeting and relationship nurturing being critical.
·        Customer Retention: Put a ring on it by turning customers into lifelong fans through educational and competitive campaigns.
·        Customer Expansion: Foster advocacy and explore new ways to deepen the relationship, akin to expanding the family or living life to the fullest."

  4.      SEO is for Revenue, Not Just Your Rankings. Google’s AI knows the intent behind search better than anyone or anything. The rules have changed, making keyword tools and, in many ways, blogs outdated when it comes to SEO. What’s the solution to hacking SEO results? Dale Bertrand, CEO of Fire&Spark says we need to “reverse the process” and lead with conversion rather than on-site traffic. This was one of our favorite presentations at INBOUND, and turned traditional SEO best practices on its head! Instead of thinking about volume, we have to change our thinking to match the intent of the search term – this is ultimately what Google will be ranking for in the future.

 5.      Fire Your Video Producer. According to Wyzowl, 79% of people say they’ve been convinced to purchase an app or piece of software because of a video. But when Chris Lavigne, Head of Production at Wistia, told the audience to fire their video producers, he didn’t mean stop producing videos, but instead that there are tools to help you develop videos quicker and easier than ever. And, especially in B2B, we encourage our clients to do this more and more, as it is the best way to humanize your brand.

6.      Embrace Radical Candor in the Workplace. As it turns out, giving direct feedback is possible and necessary! But to be successful (and avoid sounding too gruff) you need to challenge directly, care personally, be ready for a two-way conversation, and constantly gauge how the feedback is landing. Net-net: pick up the phone, take a walk, don’t do it over email. Even a video call can distract you from what is being said. Also, according to Kim Scott, the woman behind the Radical Candor concept, a great way to respond to feedback you disagree with is to focus on the 5-10% you can relate to and then revisit the rest. Simple, right?!

7.      B2B is dead (well... kind of). In a talk from Andrew Warden, CMO at SEMRush, he discussed how even B2B brand decisionmakers are looking for a more personal message. With millennials making 73% of purchasing decisions today, the line between professional and personal interests will only continue to blur. Closing advice from Andrew Warden (and our clients have heard this constantly): always have your customers tell your company story. It’s more compelling and authentic.

8.      Acing personal productivity is as easy as 1,2, 3, 4! Or so we heard from Peter Coppinger of and Gray MacKenzie at ZenPilot. We’re all feeling the grind of meeting fatigue, but these touchpoints are essential to drive high value PR programs! Instead of completely losing hope and resigning yourself to back-to-back meeting madness, the two CEOs recommended assigning a numerical value to the importance of each meeting to decide where to cut. Level 10 meetings can’t be skipped, but a level2 might be avoidable. Our favorite advice? Organize your to-do list using Covey’s 4 quadrants:

1: Urgent +Important = Do
2: Nonurgent +Important = Plan
3: Urgent + Not Important = Delegate
4: Nonurgent + Not Important = Eliminate

9.      Brand like Beyoncé by unlocking authenticity. We can recognize a true branding icon when we see one, and Beyoncé’s publicist Dr. Yvette Noel-Schure is just that. She shared her tips for cultivating an authentic and memorable, and (you may have guessed it!), it all starts with knowing your audience. Echoing some of the messaging from our B2B to B2Csessions, Dr. Noel-Schure notes that companies need to take the time to know who their audience is and what they care about. Authenticity is the core of good storytelling, and she recommends brands “celebrate, elevate, and tell the world about it, but make sure you have a good story from the beginning.”

10.  Remote-first culture begins and ends with productivity and business success. SmartBug Media’s CEO dove into a topic we’re all thinking about: how to curate a vibrant remote-first culture. We all know free pizza and ping pong tables aren’t company culture. But Jen Spencer recommends eliminating all culture-building activities not tied to productivity and success. Building a strong culture is about building a strong business filled with solid relationships. It’s also essential to cultivate employee safety – both in the physical space you’re creating, but also in ensuring employees feel safe voices challenges or concerns without fear of retribution.

As you can see, this year’s Inbound certainly didn’t disappoint but what was missing is content focused on and/or acknowledging the power of earned awareness. Many sessions touch on the importance of building your brand briefly or refer to the results without discussing the how. Maybe we’re biased, but if a tree falls in the forest and you’re not there to see it, did it fall? Same thing here. You can have the best content and push ads without meaning, education, or validation, but if no one knows who you are and why it’s important, do you even exist?!

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