B2B Marketing ProTips: Top 5 takeaways from INBOUND 2015

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I just got back from a whirlwind week in Boston, where I attended INBOUND 2015, Hubspot’s annual flagship conference. (Check out our INBOUND vs Dreamforce preview here.)

It was an amazing experience, full of new people, training sessions, and inspiring keynote speakers. I came away from it with so much – so here’s a quick list of five key insights I’m bringing back to Toronto.

But first, a little clarification. Inbound marketing, if you’re not familiar with it, is HubSpot’s approach to marketing and revenue generation. The thinking behind it is that buyers are buying very differently now than they did a decade ago. As a result, traditional marketing like advertising and cold calling has become a dinosaur. The better approach now is to attract customers with inbound marketing tactics like producing great content that attracts visitors to your website. I’ve written about this trend in my latest book, The Radical Sales Shift.

Now, back to my top 5 takeaways from the conference:

  1. Inbound is growing tremendously.

There were more than 14,000 people at INBOUND2015, up a staggering 40 percent from last year. More and more companies are getting onboard with the Inbound methodology – which means there are growing numbers of people attending the conference. I fully anticipate those numbers will increase towards 20K next year. The short story: if you’re not using an inbound marketing approach to attract customers, you’re falling behind.

  1. B2B success isn’t just about inbound tactics though.

Hubspot used to eschew advertising. Their approach was inbound or bust. But this year, they did an about-face. Darmesh Shaw, HubSpot’s co-founder and CTO, presented five new components of the Hubspot technology, one of which was an advertising module. HubSpot realized that customers were using ads – and that digital advertising (AdWords and LinkedIn in particular), are effective.

So they decided to give their users what they wanted with a mix of inbound and outbound. We’ve seen this with my company’s B2B clients too; a blend of inbound and outbound marketing offers the best route to success. So as much as we think inbound is the right direction, we also use outbound tactics when they make sense.

At an INBOUND 2015 session. Photo by Lisa Shepherd
At an INBOUND 2015 session. Photo by Lisa Shepherd
  1. For B2B companies, revenue generation isn’t just about marketing – it’s also about sales.

Companies are generating serious leads with inbound marketing, which is great. But if sales teams aren’t converting those leads into customers, they won’t translate into revenue increases. Without a process for managing and nurturing leads, all the best marketing in the world won’t lead to revenue success.

This is clearly a growing issue for Hubspot and the companies who practice the Hubspot methodology. It was discussed in a number of sessions and side-bar conversations. To address the potential disconnect between marketing and sales, HubSpot has launched a growing number of sales-oriented tools like CRM products, email productivity products and more. This is something I’ve talked about in The Radical Sales Shift as well – sales and marketing have to work hand in hand as a single entity in order to work at all.

  1. It’s not just about generating leads, it’s about optimizing conversion.

Hubspot helps companies generate more leads, which is encouraging. But a lot of companies talked about their greatest successes being not just bringing in new prospects, but focusing on how well they’re converting leads into customers and turning existing customers into repeat (or bigger) customers.  There are more tools (like Crazy Egg and Optimizely) that allow you to optimize the effectiveness of various pages and elements of your website.   Take advantage of them!

  1. It’s not all about business.

When you’re at a conference, you get so focused on learning and networking. But INBOUND 2015 left room for some other stuff too, which really emphasized how important it is to step away from that mindset every once in a while and open yourself up to new experiences.

Attendees were treated to comedian Amy Schumer (who was utterly hilarious) – it was pure entertainment that emphasized the importance of taking off our marketing hats and just having fun. Another session that took me away from my business focus, but in a very different way, was a presentation by Meighan Stone, president of The Malala Fund. Meighan did a short presentation on The Malala Fund and showed a clip of the upcoming documentary on Malala. It was incredibly poignant, and opened my eyes to something beyond my experience. Plus it showed me that HubSpot isn’t just about business and marketing, they’re also interested in curating about the charitable aspects of professionals working hard on valuable projects.

Three of us from Mezzanine attended – and we all came away with lots of great ideas that we’ll be using with our clients this coming year. We will definitely be sending a contingent next year, too. If you’re thinking about going, I highly recommend it – the early bird deals are great, and it’s definitely worth your time and money.

Our month of conference coverage continues tomorrow and Wednesday when we bring you the action from the floor of Dreamforce 2015

Photos via Lisa Shepherd

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Lisa Shepherd

Lisa Shepherd

Lisa Shepherd is the author of two books on B2B marketing (The Radical Sales Shift and Market Smart). She is founder of The Mezzanine Group , a B2B marketing company based in Toronto that has worked with over 200 B2B companies in the last decade. Lisa is a frequent public speaker on B2B marketing strategy and execution and was the youngest female CEO to appear on the Profit 100.