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5 Takeaways From Inbound 2017 to Improve Our Agency in 2018


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Digital Marketing, and more specifically, Inbound Marketing, is a difficult industry. Technology is constantly evolving, and with it, the role of the buyer and seller.

As an Inbound Marketing agency, investing in continuing education and developing skills is arguably the lifeblood of your agency. Clients pay for our expertise and (quite fairly) expect us to be privy to the industry trends that will bring them more leads, and ultimately more revenue.

One of the main investments that Huify makes for continuing education is attending the yearly INBOUND marketing conference hosted by HubSpot. We were involved with HubSpot since the inception of the partner program, and are currently the number two highest rated HubSpot partner agency.

INBOUND is a conference that has helped shape our company throughout the years, and 2017 was no different. It presents the opportunity to hear from some of the top minds in the industry and deep-dive into specific topics to sharpen our expertise or learn about new concepts.

Every year after the conference, each member of our team discusses their unique takeaway and we work to figure out how to make that takeaway actionable to improve Huify and our work for our clients.

SEE ALSO: Gaining Attention From the Informed Buyer in 2017

Takeaway One: The Biggest Advancement in HubSpot’s Software Yet

Every year, HubSpot holds a product announcement to unveil the updates and improvements they’ve been making to the software since the previous INBOUND conference. To be frank –– the updates some years have been, well, pretty underwhelming to say it nicely.

This year did not fall under that category. Our team was pretty blown away by what HubSpot has been able to accomplish this year. Some of the best product updates included:

  • HubSpot Conversations - a shared inbox between you, your leads, and your customers. It’s like intercom for HubSpot, if you will.
  • HubSpot Customer Hub - Putting aside the redundancy of the name, this is a whole new branch of the platform specifically designed to help you improve the relationship with your customer, decrease churn, and increase revenue as a result. This is huge for us as an agency and we imagine it will be big for other HS customers, as well.
  • Shopify integration - a dream for HubSpot’s eCommerce customers. This will allow our customers to seamlessly sync product and sales data to HubSpot. This allows customers to benefit from analytics, workflows, sequences, and more when combining it with their shopping cart.
  • HubSpot Collect - allows your team to collaborate in google docs and then turn those docs into a blog post with the simple push of a button. For an agency that lives in google docs, we have two words: FREAKING AWESOME.

So this year, HubSpot, we tip our hats to you for your product innovations. You listened and implemented, and these products are not only good for the short term, but they help strategize for the long term.

Takeaway Two: Focus On The Bigger Picture

This year at INBOUND, our team learned a lot of actionable things that we are looking to implement in the short term. However, another thing we were reminded of is how important it is to always act off of the long term vision for your company.

At Huify, we talk about our 3 year plan every quarter, as well as our long term (10 year) vision, which allows us to have this mindset when making strategic company decisions and doing day-to-day work.

This concept was expanded even further during John Bostock’s, the COO of Big Ass Fans, talk when he presented the idea about creating a 200 year plan for your company. Sounds crazy, but can be great in practice because it helps ensure that, when you’re making big decisions, you’re not just focusing on the quarter or the year, but the BIGGER picture.

Takeaway Three: As An Agency, We Aren’t Alone

In the day-to-day at an agency, it can often feel like the obstacles you encounter are massive, and that you are alone trying to figure out how to get past them.

HubSpot does not do a great job of providing an outlet for partners to talk through problems they are experiencing, present solutions to a problem other agencies haven’t encountered yet, and so on. Except, there’s INBOUND.

So many HubSpot Partner Agency employees and owners are ready to open engaging conversations about how their agency is doing, and problems they are facing. Listen in on any conversation in the hallways, and you’d notice it.

We had dinner with an agency from Canada after Partner Day, and it was one of the more valuable experiences of the day. They were relatively new, but crushing it, and we were able to provide some perspective on issues they were facing. Not only that, we formed a good friendship with the individuals in their agency, which is what it’s all about. Not only on a personal level, but modern business is relationship building. Who knows what could come out of this relationship for either agency in the future.

Point being, INBOUND helps like-minds come together as a community and share ideas, but it shouldn’t be the only time agencies can do that. Perhaps in the future, HubSpot, you could focus the product updates more for your community of agency partners.

In this sea of activity, however, there was some truly actionable advice on the micro and macro scale. Ashley, another Inbound Consultant on our team, found the new direction of content creation the most noteworthy.

Takeaway Four: With content, less is more

For a while, the content trend in the industry was to crank out as much content as possible. It made sense for a lot of reasons, but like a lot of other aspects of the industry, times are a-changin’. Now, it makes more sense to invest time in creating less but more valuable content, as well as optimizing, repurposing, and promoting the content you already have.

Pillar pages were a huge focus of the conference, as they can be used as a hub for this content that is practical and innovative. Moving forward, Huify is shifting its emphasis to less, higher quality content, more creative promotion, and an interest in creating more video content.

There are a lot of new paradigms entering the conversation in Inbound Marketing. Agencies like ours are constantly working to strike the balance of trusting successful processes and innovating to stay on the leading edge of the industry––which brings us to our final takeaway.

Takeaway Five: It Takes More Than Just One Type Of Strategy

We can all agree the inbound strategy is great.

As consumers, we appreciate the helpful approach, and as marketers, we can live with clean consciences knowing that we provide genuine value.

However, the theme I took away from INBOUND this year is that just focusing on an inbound strategy won’t be effective for major growth. It takes a combination of marketing methods that meet in the middle. It’s valuable blog content paired with a Google paid search campaign. It’s an account based marketing mindset paired with a “we’re here to help” tone. It’s a targeted customer referral program with a thoughtful, useful piece of content. We no longer can rely solely on inbound, outbound, or paid advertising, but rather a unique blend of all of them that makes sense, is tested, and then proven to work in your specific industry.

SEE ALSO: An Inbound Growth Story: A Third of the Budget, Quarter of the Team, Triple the Results

So, what does this all mean?

Ideas are easy, execution is hard. However, execution is the key differentiator between successful and unsuccessful agencies.

For each of these 5 takeways, our team created action plans to turn concepts into deliverables to either implement internally or for our clients, depending on which avenue made the most sense for the deliverable.

For example, internally we have implemented a 1 on 1 mentor meeting structure to encourage employee engagement and continuing education.

Externally, we strategically picked a few clients that it made the most sense to implement a pillar page for in order to test out the concept. We wireframed a template that we will be moving forward with for clients we plan to use this for in the future (of course, with the proper iterations based on what the initial data is telling us.)

The bottom line is that INBOUND will not provide you with a secret formula or magic recipe that instantly yields results; what it does provide are the ingredients, ideas, and data to start making strategic changes.

It’s up to your team to take those ingredients and make something great with them. We’re starting with 5.

Any questions about our takeaways, or about what we can do to help your business grow in 2018? Let's talk.

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