I’m not going to lie friends, I’m absolutely shattered.
A 4-day long marketing conference really takes it out of a girl, but Inbound 2015 was totally worth it.
I’m sitting at the airport reflecting over the past four days, but before I wrap up with my big takeaways, let me recap the final day of the conference.
Chelsea & Malala
For reasons completely unknown to me, it took our shuttle bus an hour to get from our hotel to the conference centre (a grand total of 1.6 miles). As a result, I was late to see Chelsea Clinton, so I didn’t catch her whole session.
However, from the part of her talk I did see, she spoke quite passionately about the continued plight of women around the world, due to forced marriage, lack of education, sexual abuse, the list goes on. Her talk was in support of a new initiative from The Clinton Foundation called No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project, which aims to inspire and advance the full participation of girls and women around the world.
She also talked a lot about The Malala Fund, which was the sponsored charity of Inbound 2015. Malala’s story is an extraordinary one and she is doing great things for women around the world in the name of feminism. A film based on her life, entitled He Named Me Malala, opens this October and I highly recommend going to see it.
An inconvenient truth
After Chelsea’s talk, I headed over to see content marketing messiah Doug Kessler from B2B marketing agency Velocity do his talk on Insane Honesty in Content Marketing. Kessler is more refreshing than a cold pint on a hot day: everything he says about marketing our business honestly seems so logical, in a world of messaging that is often full of half-truths.
His key message is that in marketing, we should lead with our weaknesses. If you cost more than your competitors, be open about it and explain it’s because you never cut corners. If you take twice the time to get a job done, say that it’s because you take the time to get to know your customers and their business. So much of what he says is basically the opposite of what most of us do – ignoring, hiding or glossing over the part of our business we think will scare away business.
Unfortunately, the talk by Jonah Peretti, Buzzfeed’s CEO was on at the same time as Kessler’s – so I didn’t get to see it but I will download the slides and report back with my findings.
The last keynote of the event was from New York Times best-selling author Daniel Pink. Pink uses sociological research to back up what are often counterintuitive claims. In his talk, he focused on the new sales landscape, and took the mantra of beloved sales greaseball Alec Baldwin’s character from Glengarry Glen Ross and turned it on its head.
He purported that instead of ABC standing for Always Be Closing, in a world where the power of balance has been tipped in the buyer’s favour, it now stands for Attunement, Buoyancy and Clarity (doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, but stay with me here).
Attunement means you need to stop being pushy and start seeing the world through your prospect’s eyes.
Buoyancy means you need to bounce back from a ‘sea of rejection’: get over it quickly and move on.
Clarity means you need to be able to see your goal clearly. For example, rather than telling yourself ‘You can do it!’ do what he calls ‘self-interrogation’. Ask yourself ‘Can I do it? And if so, how?’ Explaining how you’ll achieve your goal is more effective and powerful than a simple self-inflicted psychological fist bump.
His latest book entitled To Sell is Human offers a new take on changing behaviour and the art and science of selling.
Wrap it up
For a quasi-tech conference based on a sophisticated piece of marketing software, the majority of the sessions focused on fairly emotional topics. I would say the top three biggest takeaways were as follows:
Honesty is desperately needed in marketing
It’s no surprise that the average person doesn’t equate marketing with ‘truthfulness’. But being forthright in how we communicate with our audience is exactly what we need to do if we want to create real connections with our audience. If we want to get above the ‘we’re the best’ marketing messaging, we need to honest about our weaknesses. Which leads us onto our next point.
Vulnerability is a strength
Brene Brown’s talk really resonated with me – we’re so focused on being confident, assertive and powerful in business that we sometimes forget to be human. Being vulnerable and powerful are not mutually exclusive: in fact, it takes a lot of confidence to be vulnerable. Whether it’s how we interact with our coworkers, make suggestions for changes within our organisation or how we showcase our offering, leaving ourselves exposed can be very liberating – and rewarding. But it comes with great risk, which is why so many of us shy away from it.
Connections are imperative
The concept of inbound marketing is to bring visitors in by earning their attention. As Daniel Pink said, a sales pitch is not about closing a deal, it’s about starting a conversation. The goal is to get your audience to ask ‘Yes, but what about…?’. This conversation is the connection we need to make with our prospects: the opening of dialogue, a focus on understanding their needs and the desire first and foremost to build a relationship.
I’ve learned a lot at this conference, most of which can be applied to both my personal and professional life. I’ve also learned the way in which we engage in both these areas of our life are not so different after all.
If you’re keen to attend next year, tickets are already on sale for Inbound 2016 (taking place in 8- 11 November in Boston).
Vanessa is the Global Content Director at Because.