Marketing is a changing landscape. It’s been taken by technology and blasted into space as automation and creativity drive its progression. However, many still fail to understand the evolution. I attended Inbound 2017 in Boston last week, HubSpot’s stellar marketing and sales event (check out my blog’s from day one, two and three). The event focused on how businesses can scale and succeed against the competition and highlighted some of the mistakes businesses still make.
A host of speakers (including former First Lady, Michelle Obama; sports entertainment superstar, John Cena; the founders of HubSpot, Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah; and CEO of Moz, Rand Fishkin) covered a broad range of topics. Yet all had recurring themes: businesses will only grow if they connect with their audience, have an original and authentic voice, and become truly customer-centric.
Here are my three key lessons to help take your marketing to the next level:
“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.”
Us humans have been telling stories for thousands of years. From the original writings to hieroglyphics. From the great Greek poets to printed novels. From digital eBooks to videos. It’s in our DNA to tell and listen to stories.
Why? Because storytelling is a powerful tool. As a business, it’s arguably the most powerful tool you have at your disposal. It can drive the emotional connection between your business and your customers. And emotions are what drive decision-making.
Market leaders in every industry create an emotional connection with their audience. If they are a cyber-security company, they don’t sell a piece of software; they sell the dream of empowering a business or person to operate online without risk. If they are a technology device company, they don’t sell a device; they sell the possibilities the device brings to the table.
Every piece of content, whether video or written, needs to have ‘human connection’ in mind. Statistics and product features are great, but they must be dotted in around the customer story.
Customers are hit by an avalanche of corporate advertising and content. They don’t pay attention to the vast majority of it anymore.
The worst thing for a business to do is to be like the competition. The key to successful marketing is to be original, creative and bold. Let’s face it, churning out generic blog content and emails just because the competition does isn’t going to resonate with your audience. It might look like you are active, but to drive engagement, you need to be pushing the boundaries.
It’s important for businesses to have a unique voice and mission. Doing so will drive more honest, transparent communications and cut through the noise to improve customer trust and, more importantly, customer acquisition/retention. I’m not talking about re-inventing the wheel. I’m talking about knowing exactly what you do, what your business can do differently, and how your customers can benefit.
Industry disruptors have raised the customer experience bar, meaning today’s customers demand excellent service, every time. That means communicating with them in a timely way, with messaging that is relevant, on a channel of their choice. Whether via email, social media, telephone or chat, it should be a seamless experience.
Additionally, customers should be at the heart of marketing. In fact, they should be at the core of the business. Being authentic and emotive is all about operating with the customer in mind. Know who your audience is. Know what their pains are. Help them solve it.
One of my favourite quotes from Inbound was from the HubSpot founders: ‘Delighted customers not only pay you, by market for you’. Food for thought? Then: ‘Your customers are a better marketing tool than anything else you own’. Keep that in mind.
Too many businesses focus on churning out blog posts and email campaigns, but not enough about creating lasting relationships with their audience. When I first got to Inbound, I was a little sceptical at first. But, think about it. What do the likes of Uber, Apple, Airbnb and Netflix all have in common? They focus on how they sell, rather than what they sell.
The Boston-based event was both inspirational and educational. It’s easy to see why. The speakers were a mix of market-leading experts and rousing keynotes, while Boston Massachusetts itself has served as the home of some of the biggest businesses in the world. Facebook was founded there. TripAdvisor, Gillette, New Balance, Dunkin’ Donuts and Converse too. And HubSpot, of course, was founded and still has its HQ in Boston.
Remember, the future of marketing in bold. The future of marketing is beautiful.