Inbound marketing is evolving. Even for those of us who practice it day in and day out, we need ongoing training on the latest trends to continue to stay ahead of the pack and deliver the best value to our clients. That’s why we love HubSpot’s annual INBOUND conference, which delivers the latest strategies and insight from top industry experts on all things inbound (and outbound!) marketing. This year, INBOUND 2020 was an immersive, interactive, online experience uniting professionals live over two jam-packed days – and the learning continues.
We’ve rounded up six of the standout B2B takeaways from INBOUND 2020 below. This was a tough task. So many mind-blowing tips didn’t make it past the cutting-room floor for this blog, but the sessions live on at inbound.com!
1. Companies need to lean in to change – including inbound marketing that matches the evolved buyer’s journey.
“What’s truly unique about what’s going on right now is there are three major crises at the same time, and all three crises are impacting business in a major way. There’s certainly a health crisis going on, there’s an economic crisis and there’s a crisis of conscience happening right now,” Brian Halligan, CEO of Hubspot, pointed out in this year’s HubSpot Spotlight session. Among all that change lies incredible opportunity for forward-looking companies that lean into it, he said.
“I think there’s going to be two types of companies that come out of this,” Brian continued. “There will be companies that are leaning into the changes that are happening now – leaning into online marketing, inside selling – and there’s companies that are just trying to get back to 2019. I think the future – 2022 – looks a lot more like today than it does like 2019.”
The buyer’s journey and the importance of brand trust have been shifting dramatically for years, and the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated those changes. “Chances are, [buyers] have zero patience for someone else’s sales process,” Dharmesh Shah, co-founder and CTO of HubSpot, pointed out. The average B2B deal involves 6.8 stakeholders – it’s not just sales bringing in new customers anymore. In order to thrive despite the circumstances, companies need to “deliver a purchasing experience that matches the customer’s new normal,” Dharmesh says.
Learn more in the session: “HubSpot Spotlight”, featuring Brian Halligan – Co-Founder & CEO, HubSpot; Dharmesh Shah – Co-Founder & CTO, HubSpot; Christopher O’Donnell – Chief Product Officer – HubSpot
2. LinkedIn is an underutilized goldmine for many companies.
Whether we’re talking LinkedIn ads, Sales Navigator or simply optimizing company and executive pages, many B2B organizations aren’t leveraging LinkedIn to the fullest extent. And considering that LinkedIn is a platform of nearly 700 million users and “the world’s largest networking event,” according to Michaela Alexis, LinkedIn Learning Author, that’s a massive missed opportunity.
The goal is to turn your company page into a service hub, while encouraging engagement from your target audience and your employees alike. Just like with most other inbound content marketing efforts, your posts should be focused on educating your audience, addressing pain points and providing value overall. Does that describe your company’s LinkedIn posts? To turn LinkedIn into even more of a lead generation machine for your business, LinkedIn ads can be hugely beneficial – or a costly waste, if executed poorly.
Learn more in the session: “Ask Me Anything Live: Optimizing LinkedIn Pages for Your Business”, featuring Michaela Alexis – LinkedIn Learning Author; and “Advanced LinkedIn Ads”, featuring AJ Wilcox – Founder, B2Linked.com
3. It’s a great time for email marketing!
In general, marketers and sales teams have grown more conscious of avoiding email marketing overload in recent years – and certainly, they’re focused more on sticking to inbound best practices when it comes to lists (yay!) – but email marketing is still an incredibly powerful tool when done right. In fact, even more so in recent months; inbox activity is up 22% since January and B2B open rates are up 16%. That’s one message from the “Critical Email Marketing Techniques to Crush the Competition” session – an easy JSA favorite this year!
As for tactics, the session is full of them: send on Monday, add emojis to subject lines (yep, even for B2B), stop with the diversions and promote your offer! Overall, exclusivity + urgency is the secret sauce for email – and test, test, test to find what works best for your unique audience.
Learn more in the session: “Critical Email Marketing Techniques to Crush the Competition”, featuringJay Schwedelson – President & CEO, Worldata
4. Google’s AI is forcing search engine optimization (SEO) to be more human.
AI is making search engines smarter than ever. Developing content purely to match key phrases that folks are Googling is increasingly missing the point, and technical SEO should be less and less of a focus as Google becomes better at deciphering the real message. It follows, then, that non-technical strategies – such as optimizing content for search intent and building authority signals through public relations (PR), media and branding efforts – is more important than ever. There’s still a place for technical SEO, but brand authority and content that provides real value to real humans are more important than ever when it comes to performing well in rankings.
Learn more in the session:: “The End of Technical SEO: How Google’s AI Forces SEO Strategies to Be More Human”, featuring Dale Bertrand – President, Fire&Spark
5. Account-based marketing (ABM) isn’t just for big marketing teams.
ABM is all the rage right now, and with 97% of marketers achieving higher ROI through ABM than other marketing tactics – rightly so! More good news: you don’t have to write it off just because you have a small marketing team. In fact, SMBs are often better-suited for the task because they bring the right “do more with less” mentality and they probably need ABM more than enterprises. After all, ABM is about efficiency and focus, Robin Bordoli, CEO, NextRoll & President, RollWorks, says. Other misconceptions of ABM programs are that they’re in-person, slow and expensive – when in reality, they can be digital, fast and affordable, Robin argues.
Learn more in the session: “Why Marketing Teams of 2-10 Run Some of the Best ABM Programs on the Planet”, featuring Robin Bordoli – CEO, NextRoll & President, RollWorks
6. Content is still king!
Last but certainly not least, a main thesis of the entire event is that content is still king. (A debate for the comments: Who is queen? Marketing? Context?) And in fact, the “online education” part of the sales cycle continues to lengthen.
Many of INBOUND’s sessions were directly about content, but Marcus Sheridan’s presentation – a regular HubSpot favorite and President & Partner of Marcus Sheridan International / IMPACT – definitely made the top of our list this year. It’s full of actionable insights such as: obsess over customer questions and ROI measurement, answer the questions when no one else will and lean into the conversation around the pain points with your product or service. Honest, transparent content is the greatest trust-building and sales tool in the world, Marcus says.
Learn more in the session: “The Definitive Guide to Content That Sells: 7 Essential Steps to Massive Results and ROI”, featuring Marcus Sheridan – President & Partner, Marcus Sheridan International / IMPACT
Thanks to HubSpot and all the conference speakers! Wondering how to integrate some of these best practices into your company’s marketing? Reach out to us here. As the premier PR, marketing and event firm in the world for the telecom, data center and tech industries, JSA uses these approaches and more to drive results for data center operators, fiber providers, carriers, subsea teams, tech consultants and more.
The key to success when using HubSpot? Marketing, sales and customer service need to be on the same page – and have leadership buy-in.