INBOUND 2016: Conference Recap

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When 19,000 industry peers come together to discuss innovative ideas and reflect on the past year in marketing while maintaining a keen eye on the future, the results tend to be pretty positive.  Such was the case at INBOUND 2016, the annual conference hosted by the fine folks at Hubspot in Boston, Massachusetts this November.  This was my first experience attending what has become an enormous gathering of global marketers, and from the moment I arrived in my former hometown of Boston it was obvious that the attendees were hyped to be there.  Virtually every overheard conversation included the phrase “how many times have YOU been to INBOUND?”

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The conference kicked off with a full day of unique opportunities for in-depth training on marketing strategy and a multitude of tactics, and was topped off by a keynote from Gary Vaynerchuk.  I’ve actually seen Gary give this same keynote previously – he seems to be making the conference rounds this year – so I opted to pass in favor of some good ol’ fashioned networking.  I’d be remiss not to note that the first full day of INBOUND also fell on Election Day this year, and so many folks were discussing the election as much as anything else before returning to their own hotel rooms to watch the results come in along with a good chunk of the American population.  Fast forward to the next morning, after the results had come in…. suffice it to say I was very much anticipating the INBOUND morning keynote from Ta-Nehisi Coates, the renowned educator and correspondent for The Atlantic.  I was curious to see if he would stick with what I assumed was a previously developed keynote speech, or instead address the elephant in the room.  He chose the latter, and I applauded him for it afterward, despite it appearing to have caused some level of friction among the crowd in attendance (at least a handful of attendees voiced displeasure in his approach on Twitter while only a few actually walked out). Rather than try to paraphrase his message, I’ll leave it here for you to watch for yourself:

I’ll admit – post-election Wednesday was a surreal day to be at a marketing conference, regardless of how one felt about the result, and it’s a day I know I’ll never forget.  Having said that, there was a great deal of quality sessions that featured key takeaways.  One of my favorite sessions that day involved multi-channel lead nurturing.  I say this because one of my key roles at Location3 is B2B lead generation and lead nurturing (which was essentially the umbrella theme of my session selection all week).  One tactic that seems to be getting less creepy and more useful for B2B organizations involves the use of reverse IP lookup technology to better inform how potential business prospects are engaging with your on-site content.  While I’m still not entirely sold on the practice or all of the companies offering the technology, I think the most important factor is ensuring you’re delivering a quality user experience when you seek to reconnect with previous site visitors – not simply a sales message.

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The best way to do this, from a content distribution standpoint, seems to be through social channels versus email.  It makes the re-engagement process a little less creepy and gives B2B folks more opportunities to customize content and messaging on a platform-by-platform basis.  Social media continues to become a stronger method of lead generation for B2B companies, and can be effective when managed properly.

Hubspot CEO Brian Halligan also delivered a fantastic keynote on the state of inbound marketing in 2016, in which he declared that “the cold call is officially dead”.  He went deeper into how inbound marketing has shifted from a “sales first” focus, to one that relies more heavily on both marketing teams themselves and your existing customer base. Imagine that! Halligan is a pretty interesting guy in general, and his passion for his own employees is visible when he speaks.

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I spent the rest of my week bouncing around sessions on higher-level topics that are essential to what we do in generating new business at Location3 (scaling our omni-channel efforts, continuing to bridge the gap between sales and marketing, leveraging PR to take on competitors with massive marketing budgets), and sessions that go into the weeds of our own digital marketing efforts (conversion rate optimization, conquering Google, content distribution, social selling).  Given it was a Hubspot conference, there was also no shortage of sessions that were focused on promoting their own products and partnerships.  Shout out to Amanda Sibley at Hubspot for her presentation on how her own marketing team approaches B2B lead gen.  It was definitely one of the more insightful sessions of the entire week, with some great takeaways I intend to test out at Location3.

All in all, I genuinely enjoyed my time at INBOUND 2016.  After attending Advertising Week NYC in 2015, I found INBOUND to have provided more insight and actionable takeaways that can be applied to the business I conduct every day.  Ad Week is an incredible conference, but sometimes it’s hard to connect with topics featuring NBC executives that possess an eight-figure marketing budget.  INBOUND also provided a lot of opportunities for validation that what we’re doing at Location3 is nothing short of forward-thinking when it comes to digital marketing.  There were a number of sessions I attended that could have easily had more depth and insight if they had been hosted by some of the thought leaders at this fine agency, and that only served to boost my enthusiasm for the future here as we begin to look toward 2017.  With that in mind, I decided to wrap my incredible conference experience and reflect on the future, while giving a nod to my own past, at an old neighborhood haunt that I highly recommend visiting if you find yourself in Charlestown one day.  Until next time, Boston…

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