Marketing for Small Business: 6 Things I Learned from Attending Inbound 2017

It’s been a week since Inbound 2017 in Boston, and I’ve got to say, my mind is still buzzing from the entire week’s festivities.

On September 25th, I touched down in Boston with some fellow FreshBooks colleagues to attend Inbound 2017. Hosted by Hubspot, Inbound was a huge conference, which brought together thousands of marketing and sales professionals from all over the globe. (When I say thousands, I mean 21,400 to be exact.)

We flocked to the site of Inbound 2017, the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in the city’s Seaport district, and got ready to participate in 4 days of knowledge, networking and fun.

As a content marketer, attending conferences isn’t out of my nature—but none of them quite lived up to the experience I had last week. Inbound wasn’t just a conference; it was a production. And it involved some of the biggest names from Ed Catmull to Piera Gelardi to Andy Cohen to former First Lady Michelle Obama. (Yes, I sat in the same room as Mrs. Obama!)

But Inbound was more than just an A-list lineup of speakers—it was a real opportunity to learn new things and network with like-minded people.

The 4 days were jam-packed with insights and takeaways for each marketer and small business owner in attendance. If you weren’t amongst the thousands who attended, don’t worry. I took home a notebook full of learnings that I’m excited to share with you!

Here are some of my key takeaways from Inbound 2017.

1. There’s a Science to Storytelling

Stories are not always memorable, according to Inbound speaker Carmen Simon, a Cognitive Neuroscientist at Memzy. In fact, she ran a study on storytelling that revealed only 53% of people remember stories.

Carmen’s session on creating memorable stories was key for any business owner. To be successful at marketing your business, you not only have to succeed in selling your story, you have to make people remember it.

The key to sum it all up: “If you want a place in someone’s memory, which is a luxury today—you have to tell the story right.” To do so, she broke down the scientific framework into 3 categories: Perceptive (sensory impressions and context), cognitive (facts, commands and meaning) and affective (emotions, values and motivations).

2. Persuasive Words Will Get You More Leads

As marketers, there are thousands of words out there that you can string together to create a nice sentence or call-to-action. But do they have the impact they need to convert?

Nancy Harhut, Chief Creative Officer at HBT Marketing hosted a rapid-fire session where she outlined 26 words and copy constructs to help you be more persuasive. Why 26? Well each represented a letter of the alphabet for easy memorization!

Some included B for “Because”: give people a reason why to buy, H for “Herd mentality”: the power to follow others, and Y for “You”: identify what’s in it for the buyer.

See her complete session below or on the Inbound Youtube page:

3. Be Present on Social Media (Don’t Just Exist)

Sherron Washington of P3 Solution led the session with this catchy phrase: “PR gets you seen, marketing gets you leads and sales gets you paid.”

In other words, you’re doing social media wrong if you aren’t turning your followers into viable leads. According to Sherron, content isn’t the only way to get leads—people purchase from who they know, like and trust. And a good place to start is through social media!

So her 3 takeaways for the ultimate social media presence:

  1. Be a resource, not a retailer: Be human and introduce yourself
  2. Be authentic: Do something to get in front of prospects
  3. Map out a plan: Find ways you can engage with them as a lead, before you transfer them to your sales team

Marketing Isn’t All About the Tactics—Don’t Forget the Value of Soft Skills!

4. Aspire for True Belonging

Brené Brown, researcher and best-selling author, kicked off Inbound 2017 last Monday evening on a high note (and was one of my absolute favorites of the whole trip!)

Though she spoke little about marketing, she shared inspirational thoughts on a subject that any marketer, business owner or human can relate to: Finding true belonging.

She explained how the top barrier to belonging is “fitting in”, so in order to overcome this:

  • People must move in—people are hard to hate close up
  • People must speak the truth and be civil
  • People must hold hands with strangers—most times, this only comes to light in the darkest hour
  • People must have a ministry of presence

5. Have the Courage to Be Creative

Piera Gelardi, Co-Founder of digital media company Refinery29, hosted a keynote that struck a chord with all creative entrepreneurs out there—empowering people to be both fearless and authentic.

“Create the conditions for creativity,” she explained. “Bring someone into the room with you who you trust and bring yourself back to the moments where you really thrive.”

Later, Piera engaged the thousands of people in attendance in a quick exercise. We drew 3 separate columns for “just like me”, “kind of like me” and “not like me”, and were asked to bucket words like curiosity, persistence, honesty, perspective and courage under the most appropriate column. In the end, each individual’s results exposed the answer to the question, “How can you be the most you?”

6. Lead with Grace

A true representation of “leading with grace” was in former First Lady Michelle Obama. By far, she was the most anticipated keynote speaker of the entire event—and she didn’t disappoint. Thousands of people lined up as early as 7 a.m. on Wednesday morning to witness her hour-long keynote, where she was interviewed by feminist author Roxane Gay.

Mrs. Obama discussed everything from the transition in and out of office, leading with grace instead of anger and empowering women to find their voice.

What Can We Expect in the World of Content Marketing in 2018?

We hit the streets to find out from the Inbound 2017 attendees themselves. Here’s what people said:

about the author

Content Marketing Manager, FreshBooks Megan Santos is the Content Marketing Manager at FreshBooks. Before joining the team, she was the Editor of a national trade publication and has over 6 years of experience in writing and editing. Connect with Megan on LinkedIn and say hello!