It’s day one of Inbound 2017, the marketing and sales event designed to inspire, educate, connect and transform businesses today. Held in Boston, it’s visited by over 20,000 professionals from all corners of the world, from all industries, and this year I am lucky enough to be attending.

Today has been a whirlwind of information and inspiration. I’ve seen and heard a ton of great tips and tricks from the industries leading professionals, but some particularly stood out. Here’s my roundup of the best bits:

‘Play creates trust’ – Piera Gelardi, Refinery29.

The opening keynote was from the inspirational co-founder of Refinery29, Piera Gelardi. She’s a woman who fights the status quo. Who champions creativity and empowerment. Who doesn’t ‘fight the systems that exist, but creates new ones’.

And she believes that creativity, the lifeblood of our profession, stems from courage – the courage to know our strengths and weaknesses and never stop growing.

There were some key themes running throughout her keynote. Firstly, the power of knowing who you are and staying true to your values. Secondly, the importance of knowing what works for you, and how laughter brings out brilliance. And thirdly, why we should embrace the uncomfortable and combat frustration with imagination. Reframing problems to unlock solutions.

She also came out with my quote of the day: ‘courageous creativity is contagious’.

‘Emotive stories drive action’ – Lisa Gerber, Big Leap Creative

‘Aren’t we all trying to figure out how to get people who have never heard of us to go through the buyer journey?’

Story, when done effectively, does exactly this. As a content marketer, you can probably understand why this was my favourite session of the day. Having worked with numerous clients to produce a vast range of content, I truly believe that effective storytelling is one of the most powerful allies a business can have in the marketing journey. Unfortunately, I think too few appreciate its real value.

Too many focus on churning out blog posts and making sure an email campaign goes live, but not enough on the people behind it. As Lisa Gerber puts it, a story should be the ‘connective tissue’.

‘Start with facts and figures, but end with an emotive connection. Put yourself in the mind of the buyer and match the story to the buyer journey.’

As a content conjurer, this point stood out. ‘Stories carry more information than facts and data’. While facts and data are important and needed to back things up, a story that influences action mixes them with emotion. Unfortunately, and regularly in the B2B industry, businesses so frequently leave out the human connection piece.

‘Starting is easier than ever. Scaling is harder than ever’ – Brian Halligan, HubSpot

Finishing off my roundup is the keynote from HubSpot founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah – two guys who coined the term ‘Inbound Marketing’. Brian quickly highlighted a key point: When it comes to (buzzword alert!) customer experience, ‘delighted customers not only pay you, but market for you’. Food for thought. ‘Your customers are a better marketing tool than anything else you own’. Pretty punchy, right?

He went on to look at customer experience industry disrupters: Uber, Apple and Netflix. They have three things in common:

1) They are more about how they sell than what they sell.
2) A light touch and automation beats a heavy touch and humans.
3) Word of mouth is 10x more valuable than the word of a seller.

Given the importance of customer experience on growth, I think many businesses can learn from these points.

‘Whenever a billion people do anything, it’s time to pay attention’ – Dharmesh Shah, HubSpot

Dharmesh then began to discuss the stages of HubSpot’s marketing funnel: attract, engage, delight. He believes these must be thought of as a continuous cycle, rather than linear stages. And, at the very heart of that cycle is a marketing automation platform.

Additionally, he examined content creation. Many businesses have become obsessed with content creation, but forget to add value. Given the abundance of corporate content filling the internet, I totally agree. His tip? Double down on content and focus on quality rather than quantity.

Lastly, he wants businesses to engage with customers ‘however they want, whenever they want, with whatever they want’. If they tweet you, tweet back. If they Facebook you, Facebook back. If they email you, email back. It is the age of omnichannel customer experience, after all.

Talking of Facebook, these statistics are staggering: There are now 1.2 billion Facebook Messenger users (300 million more than last year). And, astonishingly, 1 billion messages a month are sent to businesses. Dharmesh believes its essential for businesses to have a presence on messenger applications. It’s hard to argue against the stats…

To finish, I’ve pulled out a few quotes that resonated from the numerous sessions today:

‘A tale well told is nature’s way of seducing us into paying attention to it’ – Lisa Cron, Wired for Story.

‘Almost 70% of customers are influenced by reviews, and they are 12x more trusted than branded content’ – Lisa Gerber, Big Leap Creative.

‘There are two types of campaign objectives – direct response and branding. The goal of direct response is to drive action. The goal of branding is to drive awareness’ – Rex Gelb, HubSpot.

Day two beckons and it begins with the keynote – former First Lady, Michelle Obama. Excited much? Yes, I am.

See our video recap here




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