INBOUND is Hubspot’s largest annual conference, attracting more than 24,000 global marketers to discuss the biggest trends, successes, and failures in—you guessed it—inbound marketing. The four-day show, which takes place at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, attracts exciting keynote speakers, from celebrities to big-name CEOs and marketing directors from some of the most familiar brands in the world. 

This year’s conference was no different, with a roster of speakers that included Deepak Chopra, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Beth Comstock, Shonda Rhimes, Alex Rodriguez, Anjali Sud, Lena Waithe, Joanna Coles, and many more. 

The conference was saturated with trends, predictions, collaborations and fresh ideas from both speakers and attendees. Below, we summarize some of the biggest takeaways from the event that marketers can use to inject some energy into the last quarter of 2018, and onward.

1. The 70 / 20 / 10 Concept

Beth Comstock, former vice chair of GE, emphasized the importance of dedicating time to thinking about the future—and not just talking about it, but really, physically making the effort to plan and act on future innovation. 

Focus 70 percent of your time to what matters now, 20 percent on what matters next, and 10 percent on what is new.

“Change is part of your job; you have to make room for discovery” - Beth Comstock, former vice chair, GE #INBOUND18 #DigitalTransformation

— (@simplilearn) September 5, 2018

2. Ignoring User-Generated Content Opportunity Is Leaving Money on the Table

And those opportunities might be staring you in the face. Director of Content and Community for ClassPass, Cara Meiselman shared the many ways content teams should be leveraging user-generated content, and the many forms UGC comes in today. Her most impactful message: your UGC content should highlight your key differentiators.

Read “Never Run Dry on User-Generated Content” for more details. 

How does your content differentiate your brand from your competitors? @classpass director of content Cara Meiselman talks standout #UGC at #INBOUND18 @INBOUND

— (@simplilearn) September 5, 2018

3. Kiss the Buyer’s Journey Funnel Goodbye

Hubspot CEO Brian Halligan just about knocked attendees off their chairs when he presented the new buyer’s journey model: the flywheel. As he explained it, the funnel model loses energy as customers reach the bottom. In the flywheel model, energy is stored and released. This model also helps you better identify friction points in the sales process. 

As Hubspot Marketing Vice President Jon Dick puts it, “Funnels produce customers, but don’t consider how those customers can help you grow. And all the momentum you built acquiring that customer? Gone. Each day, each month, and each quarter, we have to start new.”

Move over sales funnel, meet #flywheel #INBOUND18 @HubSpot

— Watermark (@WatermarkAgency) September 6, 2018

4. Now Is the Time to Start Thinking About Your AI Ethics Policy

CEO and founder of PR 20/20 and Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute, Paul Roetzer urged marketers to make ethics a priority regardless of what stage their AI integration is. Another key message that spawned a few sighs of relief: AI will enhance—not replace—digital marketing roles. 

“You’re not losing your jobs. The future is very much marketer plus machine working together. It will enhance what we are able to do.” – Paul Roetzer

Read A Practical Look at AI’s Role in Digital Marketing for more on Roetzer’s presentation. 

5. A New “Permission” Model of Marketing Is Coming

On the heels of companies like Facebook coming under fire for their use of data, permission marketing is on the rise. At least that’s the message from multiple INBOUND speakers. 

Charles Silver, CEO of Algebraix, a decentralized blockchain permission advertising platform, preached to a room of marketers that users are getting control back when it comes to advertising, and permission marketing will soon trump the interruption-heavy advertising we see today. 

“If you start with transparency and permission, and you build trust, you’ll ultimately create ROI...The timing is right for permission to come first.” – Charles Silver

Some of the staggering data he read to drive his message home included the following figures:

  • 30% of users have ad-blockers. (A show of hands live in the room showed even that number to be modest)
  • 50% of millennials have deleted Facebook, which he concluded had to do with a loss of trust around the brand for misuse of data.

Silver emphasized that merely asking for attention and for customers’ time will lead to better engagement.

6. Turning a Cheek to GDPR Isn’t Going to Help Anyone

Apparently “What are they going to do, sue me?” is a legitimate attitude some businesses have toward GDPR compliance. Mike Piddock, CEO of the U.K.-based event management tool Glisser, had some reassuring advice for marketers: cover your a$% and don’t complicate lead forms.

Fear around GDPR compliance has lead to some exhaustive lead forms, when in fact, it should do the opposite. The idea is to deliver a seamless-as-possible user experience, asking only the information you truly need. 

Others have chosen to write off their EU customers entirely, to avoid the regulations entirely. Searching domains including the Boston Globe and L.A. Times in the EU brings up a disappointing page that the content is no longer available in the region.  

Piddock advises that complying really isn’t that difficult and that businesses should keep the following things in mind:

  • Document who your customers are, what data of theirs you have and why you hold that data. The key here is to illustrate that you’ve gone through the process of considering why, and determined this is data you require for business. 
  • Use this as an opportunity for housekeeping around your database, and continue to clean it periodically. (Holding data from a lead that went cold six years ago is a red flag)
  • Create workflows around customers exiting your lead pool. If they unsubscribe, provide the opportunity to win them back with one last piece of content, for example. 
  • Think outside the box. You can use LinkedIn groups to talk to potential leads and share assets without storing any of their data.
  • Last but not least, know the rules. Become well-versed in GDPR regulations.

7. Take the I, Me, Our, We Out of Your Sales Conversations

Revenue growth expert Charlene Decesare says it’s all about the mindset when talking with a potential or existing customer, whether it’s on the phone, in person, or in an email. 

Decesare suggests going as far as auditing your emails before hitting send, by circling every “me” reference in one color and every “you” in another to see how well you’re doing in positioning yourself as a solution to a customer problem without inserting you and your business. 

“When they are talking, you are winning. The biggest mistake salespeople make is they talk too much.” - Charlene Decesare

This method of communication makes persistent follow-up more comfortable for sales too, because the urgency to follow up and to continue the conversation is for the purpose of solving the customer issue.

8. Your Best Lead Source is Happy Customers

While this wasn’t the premise of Christina Gritmon’s presentation, it was an intriguing point that every marketer, salesperson and customer success rep should take into consideration: the sale is not the final step in the buyer journey. A marketing consultant, Gritmon’s presentation focused on video marketing content at every stage of the buyer journey, but it was the final step that perked up a lot of ears.

Once the purchase has been made, it’s what happens after that that turns a satisfied customer into an advocate. Extra exclusive content (in the form of video or otherwise) is often the difference-maker and can build a community of loyal followers that may either purchase again or bring in new leads.

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