Hubspot's Inbound conference is a massive event for inbound and content marketers, and can lead to massive information overload. Learn the top 3 takeaways.

Top 3 Lessons for Content Marketers from Hubspot's Inbound 14

Thu Apr 5, 2018

A marketing conference that attracts over 10,000 attendees isn’t likely to suffer from a shortage of ideas. If anything, everyone is at some risk for information overload. For Inbound 14, Hubspot lined up a list of keynote speakers and presenters who will be tough to top next year, and every attendee walked away with more information than they could handle.

A few weeks later, the marketing dust has settled, and it’s easier to see the major themes that emerged across the sessions, keynotes, and exhibition hall conversations. Here’s what we came away with this year.

You want your content to grow sales? Make sure it’s helping customers.

Martha Stewart’s keynote got mixed reviews at best from everyone who attended and tweeted about it, but one anecdote perfectly captured what numerous speakers had been saying throughout the week: do right by your customer, and you will do well.

When first launching a line of home goods with Kmart, Stewart was asked to license her name to unattractive, dark-colored sheet sets based on Kmart’s assumption that their price-sensitive customers didn’t do their laundry as often as wealthier folks (insert indignant gasp here). Stewart firmly rejected this condescending view of the customer, and demanded high quality products in colors that would speak to a lifestyle she knew all customers aspired to. The line was a runaway hit.

Customers don’t like being spoken down to or treated as easy targets—especially when it’s clear you don’t understand what they want.

One of the core ideas behind inbound marketing is that if your customers don’t get something out of the conversation, neither will you. Your content should be helpful, inspiring, and empowering to a prospective customer. A customer who trusts your brand will be quicker to recognize the value of your offer, and will advocate for you long after conversion.

Don’t just measure more—measure smarter.

If the sheer size of Inbound is any indication, marketers are having a moment. Marketing is getting more respect as a discipline, visibility within organizations, and with that, increased expectations. Gathering useful data is critical to helping marketers secure the budgets they need to achieve their goals. It seems like a new marketing platform is launching every day, and each promises all kinds of customer intelligence and unique analytics. Big data is a requirement for getting the big budgets, but no one wants to wade through it all.

It turns out, more data doesn’t always lead to a better understanding of the customer. The new directive for marketers should be to measure smarter. You probably couldn’t line up a more different trio of presenters than Chris Brogan, Moz’s Rand Fishkin, and Paul Roetzer, and yet all three of them implored Inbound attendees to do the same thing: measure the right stuff.

The first step? Get over vanity metrics. Having a million Facebook likes is great, and getting the top result on the Google search results page is great for bragging rights, but is it making you any money? Vanity metrics are numbers that might look and feel good, but don’t tell a complete story of who is coming to your website, how they find you, whether they stay, and most importantly, whether they are likely to do business with you.

While some metrics like keyword data in Google Analytics are no longer easily available, it’s a little more tricky to sort out visitor intent

Understand which marketing metrics matter most to your business. It probably isn’t website visits or Twitter followers, but it could be. Focus on what’s driving interaction, inquiries, and actual revenue you can take to the bank.

Innovation is hard, but execution is harder, and that can be your advantage.

Whether you’re creating marketing content to help reach your audience or creating software to manage marketing content, you’re part of a very crowded, noisy landscape. Creating something truly unique is very challenging, but bringing it to market and making it successful is even harder.

In his Inbound keynote, journalist and author Malcolm Gladwell talked about one of his favorite subjects: predictors of success. As he pointed out, many successful entrepreneurs lacked the pedigree or other traditional indicators of future success, seemingly thriving against all odds and everyone else’s better judgment. According to Gladwell, the crucial qualities of successful entrepreneurs included the following:

  1. Open mind and creativity—the ability to develop or recognize something innovative and run with it instead of dismissing difficult or different as impossible

  2. Conscientiousness—the ability to execute on their ideas because there is no profit without follow-through

  3. Deafness to criticism—the ability to tune out doubters and naysayers when confident about one’s method and purpose

  4. Urgency to act—this is the final secret ingredient, the ability to recognize when being the first to market, or the first to execute something well enough to define the market

The good news for marketers is that these qualities can be cultivated by us mere mortals, even when they don’t come naturally.

What I personally took away from Inbound is that focusing on helping the customer, solid execution of good ideas, and measuring what matters are now table stakes for building a thriving business. As marketers, we have limited resources to reach audiences with limited attention spans. If we’re attentive, focused, and above all supportive of the customer journey, we’ll reach our intended audience and the business goals of our content.

What were your takeaways from Inbound 14? Let us know in the comments. 


Karo Kilfeather, content marketing manager at Percussion Software
Karo Kilfeather
Content Marketing Manager | Percussion Software

Karo was born in Poland, and learned to speak English by watching "Saved by the Bell" reruns during her first summer in the U.S., which has left her unable to go through life without occasionally breaking the fourth wall. As Percussion's content marketing manager, she oversees and creates content that drives website traffic, engages followers, and helps fill the marketing and sales funnel. She writes about content management, content marketing, SEO, social media and web design, and how to make it all less complicated.