Conference Recaps: Marketing takeaways from Inbound and CMW

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As September draws to a close, it’s time to reflect on the two of the month’s biggest events–HubSpot’s Inbound, perhaps the most influential marketing conference around, and Content Marketing World, the largest content marketing-focused event on the planet. 

Whether you got to experience the conferences for yourself–in-person or at-home–or missed this year’s ticket, here are the four biggest takeaways.

Networking is still vital to success

Sorry, introverts! While both Inbound and CMW had hybrid models that allowed people who couldn’t make it to watch speeches and workshops from the comfort of their own home, 2022 was a firm reminder that maybe the most crucial draw of attending conferences is networking.

With two years of socializing and business events canceled or altered by COVID, people have been trying to make up for lost time so far this year, which is why having events in-person again is so valuable.

Beyond what you can draw from being in the room for events, the immeasurable benefits of seeing all the booths, meeting lots of different people, and opening up both sales and co-marketing opportunities makes travel and hotel costs well worth it. 

Just like building and maintaining backlinks takes great communication and outreach skills, so does marketing, and building your network with the right people starts at conferences like these.

Struggling to connect in today’s world

Yamini Rangan, HubSpot’s CEO, gave the keynote session of Inbound day 1. Her speech focused on the staggering amount of disconnections in today’s world–marketing and in general.

Rangan noted that companies are struggling with three main disconnected areas:

  • Disconnected systems and data
  • Disconnected people
  • Disconnected customers

These areas compound and act on one another to create a marketing ecosphere where it is challenging to break through the noise. 

After COVID and now with a generation of smartphones and social media under our belts’, the sacred person-to-person connection is as strenuous as ever. 

As for marketing, the proliferation of applications and platforms, many of which do not stack well, have one hand eased workflows while simultaneously complicating the logistics of key areas like data and privacy. This lack of oversight, in addition to bad marketing practices by corporate giants around customer data, has fed people’s disconnect.

When accounting for traditional outreach channels and strategies losing their effectiveness–email open rates have steadily declined over the years, per Rangan–you get companies full of disconnected people trying to reach tuned out customers. 

State of Marketing Report 2024

Rangan’s solution? Don’t try to sell; try to connect and engage. 

This means playing the long game, and sticking to company brand and principles to more organically attract a devoted customer base.

Focus on direct revenue and grow with purpose

Joe Pulizzi, the founder of Content Marketing Institute, CMW’s host organization, delivered the event’s keynote. In it, the content marketing pioneer spoke passionately about how content marketers need to take more control over their initiatives.

He highlighted three key areas: time, growth, and revenue channels.

Time, as in the time people spend at a company, Pulizzi noted, was problematic. He said that most marketers aren’t in positions or companies long enough to plan out proper long-term content, citing the stat that the average CMO only stays at a company for two years. This echoes Rangan’s point about patience and proper planning.

While many might view the organic growth avenue as ideal, after witnessing many high-profile companies go through that same journey, Pulizzi believes otherwise. To him, the best way to grow is to build and buy. 

Why is that? Because the biggest companies today have set the precedent, and with a keen acquisition strategy, companies can gain more institutional knowledge faster and with less trial and error than a standard growth timeline.

These points brought Pulizzi to his thesis, which is that companies need to focus more on direct revenue. That means depending less on social media and big tech and more on email and content creation. The “lease space” of Google and social media will never be as dependable as a proper audience you build naturally.

He suggested these strategies for spurring audience growth:

  • Events
  • Sponsor a podcast 
  • Partner with a creator
  • Collaborate with those who have your ideal audience 

Creativity is king

Inbound made waves this year specifically by bringing in uber famous speakers like actress Viola Davis and former president Barack Obama. Both of their speeches centered on creativity and community, a touchpoint the professional marketers who spoke also came back to again and again.

It may be trite to point out, but spending time at these events and hearing the most successful marketers speak only reinforces that creativity is everything in marketing–especially content marketing. 

If you’re copying competitors or doing what you think is a safe baseline, you’re never going to win and stand out. 

Marketing is a sphere that draws innumerable creative people, and more companies need to take advantage of that fact by letting their talent loose on a world that has tried to disengage with all but the most useful and authentic marketing tactics and campaigns.


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