Throughout my marketing career, I have been to Inbound four times. I was at Inbound the day after the last Presidential election. I saw Ally Wong rant about motherhood. I was there when Sarah Silverman canceled and at the last minute, they brought in Trevor Noah. From my years of attendance, I've racked up endless Inbound hacks and insider info.
For starters, never go to the Starbucks inside of the Westin if you're trying to make your next session on time. Without fail, you will completely forget where the Westin actually is year after year. You should always bring a sweater to the convention center, even if it's 80 degrees outside. If you want to make through the day without your phone dying, bring a charging brick.
Finally, never eat from the food truck that doesn't have a line on the lawn. You'll end up with a really bad slice of pizza or mushy tacos.
When it comes to Inbound, some years have been better than others. In my opinion, 2019 was one of the best years, with a ton of great takeaways.
And not only because I got a new stunning profile picture for LinkedIn:
My Favorite Marketing Tips From Inbound This Year
The other day, I joked with Kevin (our CEO) that the problem with conferences is that usually, the shine of the event wears off within a few short weeks. When you leave Inbound, you're jazzed about everything you've learned and can't wait to implement it. Then, you get back to the office, back to your usual grind, and it's business as usual.
Personally, I think that can happen when the insights you bring home just aren't impactful enough. In previous years, a lot of sessions were too introductory, making it difficult to learn anything new. I've also encountered a poor speaker here and there. Thankfully, at this year's Inbound, there were a ton of great marketing tips that I felt could really help me level up my efforts.
Also, one random John Mayer reference. We'll get to that.
1. Pick A Format, Any Format
Podcasts are more than just a few people having a conversation. Marketers are learning that. Podcasts, similar to blog content, don't need to have the same framework each time. And at Inbound, there were a ton of ideas about different podcast episode formats.
In The Future of Branded Content is Podcasting, Sam Balter of HubSpot* described all of the formats, drawing examples from popular podcast series.
The list includes:
- A one-on-one interview, such as on Fresh Air
- A solo commentary, like Lore
- A panel discussion, by the way of Pod Save America
- A piece of nonfiction narrative storytelling, like The Dream
- A series of fictional storytelling, (podcast theater) such as Welcome to Nightvale
- A hybrid piece, like WTF with Marc Maron
- An episode that’s repurposed content, like the Gary V. Audience Experience
So which podcast style should you choose for your episodes?
In my opinion, it depends on what kind of TOFU content you need. What will best support the customer you’re hoping to attract? Personally, I use a buyer journey template to brainstorm TOFU topics. From there, you can choose topics that align best with these podcast episode formats.
*Also, a huge thanks to Sam for personally sending me his slides after I complimented his session on Twitter.
2. Creating Live Video? Take Your Ego Out Of It
One of my favorite sessions at Inbound was with Monique O. Johnson, who talked about creating live videos on Instagram and Facebook. I've done video in the past, typically for companies who have never done it before, so I understand how challenging it is to start.
Johnson not only talked about the challenges around video, she also shared great types of high-converting offers to share during live videos. She shared examples from her own content, such as offers to jump on a call, tutorials, and webinars. There were also great tips on promotion and SEO.
But by far, the strongest advice that Monique gave was to take your ego out of video. No one nails video right away. It takes time to build engagement, perfect your process, not feel awkward on camera, and get meaningful results. In other words, it takes a lot of work and patience.
3. Back To Basics
Another exceptional point that Monique brought up was about audience engagement. Her point was that anyone creating content, regardless of status, should engage with their followers. I actually encountered a real-life example this at Inbound, when I left a comment on a photo on best-selling author Elizabeth Gilbert’s Instagram.
(I totally recommend following her if you already don't.)
I had missed Gilbert's session on Tuesday, but my co-workers (all guys) were there and complimented it. I told her that, not expecting Gilbert, who gets thousands of comments per post, to respond.
But to my shock, she replied. And it felt really good to be recognized by someone I admire so much.
For contrast, when I was at Inbound, I also ran into a well-known person in the marketing world (will go nameless) on my way to a session. They were alone and when we made eye contact. I excitedly smiled and opened my mouth to say something.... and they gave me a tight smile and please don't talk to me eyes.
It was a little disappointing. I think a lot of influencers, even in the marketing world, forget what it's like to be small. While that one little comment from Liz will keep me going back to Gilbert's account, there's a little stain on my respect for this other person, who I've personally respected for years, and would have loved to at least say hello to.
4. Throw Your Employees In The Pan
Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of great mentors. These were leaders like my old boss Jake and my supervisor John at Method Savvy, as well as my current boss, Kevin. Each of them used the same, consistent tactic to get me to excel and challenge myself.
Which of course, is to throw me in right into the pan. Instead of taking control of my projects, they let me run them and ask questions when I needed to. It wasn't always easy to do new things on my own, but I always figured it out.
(Me, the first time I had to manage a project by myself ^)
It’s an approach that Brad Smith from Intuit, who spoke on the #FlipMyFunnel Podcast LIVE at The Podcast Lounge, uses as well.
“The best way to prepare leaders is to bake them on high,” says Smith.
Translation? Give your employees the time, space, and permission to thrive on their own.
5. We’re Not Content Marketers, We’re Publishers
At this point, everyone knows that content is a necessary investment. But a lot of companies and agencies still operate in a “we write because we have to” style, generating a lot of content that frankly, isn’t very useful or good. And then there are companies like IMPACT, who fully embrace content.
Kathleen Booth, VP of Marketing at IMPACT
Rather than operating like traditional content marketers, IMPACT is more like a newsroom. They define themselves like journalists, rather than marketers. They focus on stories and topics that are actually engaging, not just click-baity titles.
But the journey from content marketing to brand publishing, says Kathleen Booth, the VP of Marketing at IMPACT, doesn’t happen overnight.
Brand publishing is an “evolution,” says Kathleen. “It’s about taking a step in the direction you want to go.”
Kathleen shared a nifty graphic in her talk, Rocket Fuel: Double Traffic and Revenue by Shifting from Content Marketing to Brand Publishing, that explains how brands can intentionally make the shift. The slide above (IMPACT's intellectual property) describes the stages of making the intentional shift to brand publishing.
6. Brian Halligan Loves John Mayer
I don't know who needs to know this, but apparently, Brian Halligan loves John Mayer. He shared a picture of him and Mayer during his keynote, and upon writing this article, I actually found a few reasons why Halligan may love Mayer so much (besides his music, of course.)
One of them is that Mayer had a personal relationship with Steve Jobs, something that he explains more in this video from Oxford Union. While you may be thinking, "who cares if Brian Halligan loves John Mayer, Melissa?" here's the point: this little random fact about Brian is why he (and Dharmesh) are such great speakers.
They sprinkle little facts and stories about their lives, which makes whatever they're talking about even more interesting to listen to. Whether you're writing a blog post or creating a podcast episode, adding some personal flavor is a way to better engage your reader or listener.
Overall, I'd say Inbound 2019 was a big success for me. I may not have gotten to every session I wanted to, but I didn't feel any of the ones I attended were a waste of my time. From stronger topics to more diverse speakers, I'd say that the Inbound team has really upped their game. I can't wait to see what comes next.
If you're in the same post-conference boat, where you learned a lot, but not sure how to put it into practice, I have a suggestion. Every client I work with starts with setting revenue-focused business goals and objectives. It seems like an obvious step, but you'd be surprised how many people jump into inbound marketing without any meaningful, concrete goals in place.