Inbound 2017 & Hypergrowth: 25 Game-Changing Insights to Fuel Your Business
Have you ever tried to drink from a fire hydrant? I haven’t personally, but I think I caught a faint glimpse after attending — not one — but two back-to-back marketing conferences in Boston this year: Hypergrowth and Inbound.My head is still spinning from dozens of high-impact speakers and connections, but I’ve distilled the most actionable, valuable insights into 25 bite-sized nuggets you can start leveraging today to grow your business.
1) We’re generally moving from high-touch sales to frictionless, self-serve sales with a try-before-you-buy focus. Consumers continue to grow more comfortable with educating and selling themselves without ever speaking with a human directly. Modern buyers also expect to see value before they purchase so get used to offering free trials and proving your value through case studies.
2) Modern sales teams should consider removing any possible barriers to your sales process to allow self-service when possible. How many obstacles do your customers have to bypass before they can actually buy from you? Hiding your pricing, requiring multiple sales calls to qualify the prospect, and forcing future customers to wait for your sales team to "call them back" have become unpalatable to buyers. Don't just help your prospects self-educate themselves about your offerings through your website — take the process a step further into the purchasing process if possible!
3) Simplify your brand’s promise down to a true, relevant, motivating, distinct idea that can be explained in 15 seconds, then 1 minute, then 5 minutes, then 15 minutes. Emotions help us avoid decision paralysis! Your brand carries more substance and power than you'd think at first. In fact, it's the world's collective emotional response to YOU. Simplicity matters. Can you explain your brand's story in a handful of sentences that are attractive and emotionally compelling to convince them to pay attention to what you say next? Finally, remember your "buyer persona" is a person. Yes, a real, breathing, complaining, fickle, often-admirable person whose feet occasionally hurt. Never stop thinking of your "target" as a person — or else.
4) Anchor your brand's story around a big shift For telling an effective selling and positioning story: Start by communicating a “big shift” that’s happened in the world. In Andy Raskin's words, "Start by naming the undeniable, relevant change in the world." Next, prove that the change will create winners and losers. Make it painfully clear that there's a tangible cost to sitting on the sidelines and doing nothing. Finally, show the "promised land" of what’s possible by using your customers’ own words.
5) Challenge marketing “best practices” just because everyone else is doing them. Stop and ask, “How is cultural conditioning biasing me?” Marketing culture leads us to believe investments must be 100% measurable from day one. But... It often pays off to invest in "hard to measure" marketing channels. For example, Moz's most popular content series, "Whiteboard Fridays" started out as their worst-performing blog post type of all time. However, their vision, forward momentum, and constant learning transformed it into a highly successful content investment!
Most marketers only consider SEO and PPC when they're jockeying to attract visitors from search. But what about these relevant (but often overlooked) search factors everyone in 2017 can consider?
Social and Shopping Sites such as Amazon, Facebook, & Reddit
6) Successfully targeting high-intent SEO keywords is more impactful than lower rankings on high volume keywords. Want to boost sales and profit from search traffic? Stop focusing on just the volume of keywords — pay closer attention to the searchers' intent too. Here's a quick formula to evaluate keyword profitability: Search Volume x Click-through rate x Revenue Per Visit = Revenue.
7) Stop writing emails that sound like they're from a "business." People don't hate email; they hate stupid email. Before you hit send, make sure your company's emails provide direct value to the right people at the right time — just like a personal assistant. Chief Marketing Officers in hyper-competitive industries like SaaS are reporting that emails that look like they’re from a “business” (mostly meaning they're focused on the company's products and updates, rather than direct value for the audience) aren't working as well as they used to across the board for B2B marketing.
Content marketing and blogs? They're also struggling to find a firm footing in over-saturated verticals. They can absolutely still work, but it's tough when you're writing about the same things as your competitors in the same way and you're in a tech company.
8) Want arbitrage? Leverage these marketing channels in 2017 for competitive industries. In hyper-competitive industries, VPs and CMOs consistently recommended these B2B strategies that are working:
Account-based marketing (or even carefully coordinated sales + marketing)
Live chat using tools like Drift or Intercom
Unified online/offline experiences
Self-hosted events and promotions
9) Inbound marketing may not work well for a small target market — but Account-Based Marketing can close the gap. Enterprise and medium-size companies in particular have realized that focusing their marketing and sales effortless with laser-precision on only their ideal clients can pay off big-time! It requires careful coordination and communication to pull off successfully, but the results defy expectation when it's executed well.
10) Stop messaging people like a marketer and start helping like a personal assistant. Steer clear from self-promotional, low-value information blasts! If there's no clear value in every message you send your prospects and customers, re-evaluate your strategy. Blasting useless information to your contact list is a surefire way to plummet your engagement and sink your brand's credibility. Instead, start talking like your contact's intelligent personal assistant by sending the right content to reinforce your product’s value at the right time in the right amount.
11) Every time you change your product/service your definition of success and customer onboarding should change too. Why? Onboarding is the one thing every customer is guaranteed to do and it pays off in lifetime value and ROI. Establishing rock-solid alignment and preventing confusion down the road will directly boost your customer retention. Don't be afraid to reinvent your onboarding. The alternative will cost you!
12) Orchestrate account-based marketing plays as a carefully coordinated sales and marketing team. 5.4 people per account are involved in standard B2B buying decisions. That’s another reason Account-Based Marketing, which targets stakeholders at every relevant role, continue to gain traction. Want to land your biggest deal ever? Your sales and marketing teams can work together to reach out to multiple decision-makers across your targeted companies at the same time — but expect a significant learning curve to get it right.
13) Build your sales and marketing team from the top of the funnel first. Want to build a sustainable growth team? Cybereason's CMO, Mike Volpe, thinks most companies over-hire on their sales team too quickly. Instead, he recommends growing your marketing team first to attract, nurture, and convert a steady stream of leads. This allows companies to consistently attract more leads and avoid an overly narrow focus on sales.
14) Get serious about your “culture code.” Your company can scale decision-making faster and spread ownership when every individual on your team knows and acts on your mission statement and core values. Remember: Your product doesn’t drive success by itself. It's actually your people that care about the problem and make-or-break customer experiences.
15) Create a clear, healthy “balance of blame” between your customer success, sales, and marketing roles. Your growth team isn’t just in charge of growing revenue, they own the entire customer journey! Every member of your team across customer success, marketing, and sales needs to know their role and take radical ownership over it. This also means setting clear expectations and goals between teams. Set up checks and balances between teams to ensure your business grows with minimal stress. (Example: Customer success can help salespeople from "overpromising," which will keep happier, better-qualified customers around longer!)
16) Hire marketers who are analytical truth seekers, lifelong learners, and t-shaped generalized specialists. What traits should you keep top-of-mind when you're hiring marketers? For starters, look for people who are:
Motivated by metrics
Building T-shaped experience — meaning they have a broad understanding of the fundamentals, but specialize in a couple key skills
17) Reshape your sales process to let the automation take care of the things that people shouldn’t be doing. Humans are better than machines at nurturing authentic relationships. However, machines will always win when it comes to raw consistency and reliability. Why not benefit from both? Use automation tools and CRM workflows to follow-up consistently, provide general education about your offerings, and pre-qualify sales leads. This frees your best salespeople to truly shine by giving undivided attention and value in every interaction with the most qualified prospects.
18) You can increase your prices by about 20% when you’re seen as an expert. Just stop to think about this for a second. Adding an additional 20% to the ticket price of your product or service results in a MASSIVE difference to your profit margin. It's much more efficient to boost your profit than your revenue — so why wouldn't you? Carving out a niche in your space that you can dominate as the undisputed industry leader is critical, which is why you should....
19) Invest heavily in these two types of content to become a master of your community. Scott Meyer from 9Clouds reports remarkable success in two primary content types for establishing yourself as an industry expert: original research and video courses. To create original research, send out a survey to a key group in your industry asking about a relevant — but hard-to-measure — trend or behavior. You can compile your survey findings as a "State of the Union" report for your niche. Rinse and repeat this process to build your mastery over time and become a source of unique insights.
Video courses provide an excellent format for educational video that aligns with your best work too. Scott recommends creating a mini-course for every core offering your business provides. It's a win-win since your prospects educate and sell themselves on your product or service — and they benefit from your hard-won experience. Of course, the courses also position your team as domain experts yet again.
20) Strive to find “competition-free” content in your industry whenever possible. Don't make your content marketing unnecessarily difficult by rehashing the same topics as your competition in the same, tired ways. Instead, try to think, "What is no one else talking about in my industry?" Your readers (and organic search traffic) will thank you.
21) Fill your marketing calendar with 10x ideas, not 10% ideas. Coschedule's founder Garrett Moon advocates making two lists of ideas for your marketing:
Ideas to grow by 10%
Ideas to grow by 10X
Those are your only two options! Forcing yourself to intentionally distinguish between marginal improvements and massive moonshot ideas every 3-6 months will train you to identify an entirely different class of growth opportunities.
22) Create a “content standard” and hit it every time to publish the BEST content in your industry. Don't you want your blog posts to be the best your audience has ever seen on the subject? Coschedule settled on the following standards for every blog post:
Stick to a core topic
Define a powerful keyword
Back it up with research
Make it comprehensive and actionable
Always optimized with a single call to action
Also, write down your “content core.” Simply put, it’s the overlap between what your audience cares about and the unique value you provide as a business.
23) Leverage educational video throughout your marketing and sales funnel for a higher return-on-information. Why are videos so powerful? We process text in our short term memory, but visuals in our long-term. Vidyard's VP of Marketing, Tyler Lessard, argues this means video has a much higher return-on-information. So, start using video liberally across the buyer’s journey for storytelling, emotion, education, and building trust. A few types to get started include:
Top of the Funnel:
Middle of the Funnel:
Bottom of the Funnel:
Personal Sales Outreach
24) Need instant website results? Start by changing your value propositions and call-to-actions. One of the easiest ways to squeeze better results out of your current website is to re-evaluate your value proposition and call-to-action on every page. Derrick Weiss from Impact puts it this way, "Align your CTA copy with your value proposition! Your value proposition should be short and sweet, and offer your personas a strong way to fix their problems and combat their fears." It's a simple, but powerful fix. Ensure your messages on every page speak directly to your customer's fears and problems, then give them clear next steps to solve them!
25) Analyzing your website visitors passively using tools like heat maps produces higher quality insights.
Why? Justin Rondeau from DigitalMarketer argues there’s a big difference between what a user says and what they actually do. Often, user behavior in the real-world looks different than they'd expect if you asked them point-blank. Start using a tool like Hotjar or Fullstory to learn the following for constant website improvements:
What stands out to visitors (and what doesn't)
Where visitors are scrolling
How long it takes for visitors to click content
Granular data on how different source traffic behaves
Points of frustration on key pages
Your visitor's "journey" on each page
Why are visitors not completing your forms?
Whew — did you get all that? It's okay. I'm still digesting all this information too (and a ton more.) I hope these insights inspire and empower you to push into a new phase of hypergrowth for your company. Go get to it!