3 Takeaways from Inbound 2014

Last week many of us took the long trek into the city of Boston for HubSpot’s fourth annual Inbound Marketing Conference. In addition to exhibiting at the conference, we attended a few sessions. As an Inbound newbie, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. Within a few minutes of waiting for Guy Kawasaki’s opening night keynote to begin, I was floored: 10,000 people? At a marketing conference in Boston? Featuring keynotes from Simon Sinek, Malcolm Gladwell, Martha Stewart, and Guy Kawasaki? And this all began just three years ago? Wicked impressive.

As you might expect, the session line-up was strong – 10 tracks and 180 sessions, adding up to seven hours of educational programming every day for three full days. So amidst eager crowds, I charged up and got ready to do some serious note taking (as well as not-so-serious tweeting).

Even before returning to the office, I saw clear themes beginning to emerge from my notes.

“Relevant Content” is the New “Content”

As a marketer, you’re probably sick of hearing, “Content is King” – the speakers and attendees at Inbound 2014 sure were. Yes, content is important but only if it’s relevant to your audience. This point was hammered home in a presentation called “Content: Not More, but More Relevant,” given by LinkedIn Content Marketing Manager Jason Miller. It’s hard to describe Jason’s energetic style without experiencing it in person, but luckily he’s made his full, face-melting presentation available on SlideShare. (Content-about-content for all, hooray!)

Resident Moz SEO expert, and proponent of the handlebar moustache, Rand Fishkin gave my other favorite presentation, which included a great list of content criteria for today’s world. If you guessed “relevancy” was near the top of the list, you’re correct. Rand has also graciously made his presentation available and trust me when I say, this is one you won’t want to pass up.

slide from rand fishkin's inbound14 seo presentation

Personalization is King

There’s a new King in the house. To validate this point, look no further than HubSpot’s own software platform, which allows marketers to create personalized emails and websites, along with campaigns customized right down to the “persona” level. Even Hubspot’s newest product, SideKick, promises to provide sales people with “powerful information about your contacts right in your inbox.” Why? So they can have more personalized – and therefore more effective – interactions.

At Inbound, I also sat in on a panel called “Data-Driven Personalization,” which featured marketing folks from several e-retailers. They talked about geo-targeting and reminded the audience to test, test, test. But the overwhelming message was: There’s no magic wand for providing or obtaining personal information from your users. In fact, the panel speakers talked a lot about staying agile and continuously looking at your data and customer experiences with fresh eyes. Which brings me to my next Inbound 2014 theme….

Be Open to Discovery

I saw this point reiterated a thousand different ways over the course of the three days of Inbound.

“Don’t be above anything,” we heard from New Balance’s Patrick Cassidy and Almighty’s Ian Fitzpatrick in their session on “The Content-Powered Organization.”

Camille Rickets (“How to Tell a Brand Story People Will Love”) urged the crowd to listen to their users and “Let [them] tell your brand’s value proposition,” giving the example of Dropbox’s 1 Million Thanks microsite.

HubSpot HQ, a cluster of Hubspot-sponsored booths on the Inbound Expo floor, allowed customers to tour the product and submit their own ideas – demonstrating HubSpot’s openness to customer feedback.

Perhaps the keynote speaker Malcolm Gladwell gave the best example of how being open can lead to extraordinary results. He told the story of Malcolm McLean, the man who created the modern shipping container despite knowing not one single thing about the shipping industry. McLean just happened to be in the right place at the right time with the right attitude. He was “massively open” – and transformed the world in the process.

There are plenty of other Inbound 2014 themes circulating the internet right now, but what I love about these is that there’s an easy way to address all three in one fell swoop. By localizing your website – or expanding to new international markets – you’ll be able to produce more relevant, personalized content for your users while opening yourself up to insights from fresh audiences. What better spawning ground for innovation is there?

Did you attend Inbound? Which themes stood out to you? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter or Facebook, or by leaving a comment below.

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