Get Close, Get Familiar, Build Trust - Top Takeaways from INBOUND17

INBOUND17 was by far the largest marketing conference I’ve ever attended. With over 300 educational sessions, keynotes and spotlight discussions, navigating the learning path at Inbound was a job in and of itself. It was often very difficult to whittle down the many choices to the session that would be most valuable, and yet there wasn’t a bad choice to be made. Every session held value, every speaker was well-qualified and an expert in their own right. It was hard to be disappointed, and in fact, I have yet to meet anyone who was.

This year, I chose to focus on finding the best practices that my team and clients could easily apply in their day-to-day business.

With that in mind, here are my top takeaways from a few of my favorite sessions:

Brené Brown’s opening keynote explored the idea of “belonging” and, in today’s very divisive political environment, it was an important message that had resonance. As she shared her best practices for belonging, Brené recounted her experiences during the recent hurricane disaster in her hometown of Houston and the sense of community that developed during rescue efforts. No one asked “who did you vote for” before pulling them into a raft or canoe, people just helped people. People provided help because someone was in need, not because they shared the same beliefs. People helped each other because they recognized on a very instinctual level that it was the ‘human’ thing to do. In that vein, she encouraged us to move in and get close with those who have differing views because, in the end, we are all human and that is a very strong, visceral connection. When we remember that, we can begin to humanize the perspectives that are alternative to our own, better understand each other’s needs, and learn to communicate better. While we may never completely agree, we can still respond with generosity, curiosity and civility to counter arguments and build a sense of belonging for ourselves and for those around us.

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Like Scrabble, some words are worth more than others! @nharhut #INBOUND2017

In an increasingly visually-stimulated world, it sometimes seems like copy is less important than it used to be, but that is far from the truth. There were several sessions dedicated to the importance of quality copywriting and message delivery, all of which focused on the ideas that words really do matter! 

Nancy Harhut provided insights to the most persuasive copy constructs to help provide decision-making shortcuts to your audience. Using concepts from psychology and neuroscience as well as traditional sales selling, she brought together the ideas that help to motivate and inspire your audience to take action based on your words. Persuasive writing is still at the heart of successful marketing and it is worth the time to do it right.
 
People will fall in love with your brand if what your're saying and what you're communicating are in alignment @naptownpint #inbound17
Building further on the importance of quality copy and messaging, Liz Murphy reminded us of the importance of using a consistent language and style to build credibility with our audience across all communications. She emphasized that words are very powerful and that ideas delivered with clarity move people to action. “You can’t pretty font your way through a mission statement” is a lesson to which every business owner can relate. When everyone on your team is using the same tone and language, you create an alignment in philosophies, ideas and goals that will resonate with your audience, making every communication a valuable reinforcement of your brand.
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74% of B2B buyers choose the company that was first to earn their trust. @Jeffrey_Coon #inbound17
While Inbound is mainly known as a marketing conference, there are many sessions that are also related to the sales process and improving the lower end of the funnel. Jeff Coon’s session tied the two together by demonstrating how science-based emails can be used with sales pages to build necessary credibility and trust with your prospect to form a relationship. 
 
He reminded us that emotions and empathy are an important part of the “personalization” that is considered the holy grail of email marketing. By communicating with prospects in the familiar and comfortable, yet professional, manner we that would use with friends and family, we keep our readers engaged and build their trust.
 
Remove the blocks to candor, make it OK to make mistakes. #Creativity will blossom. @edcatmull   #INBOUND17
Ed Catmull, President of Pixar, took the keynote podium at the start of the final day of Inbound to deliver an important message relevant to every business owner. As he told the stories of the early days of Pixar and his work with Steve Jobs, he noted that failure was an important part of their culture. Steve had failed at Apple and Next before he was able to lead the wildly successful version of Apple we know today. At Pixar, he told us that all of their movies “suck” when they are in early stages. He says this not out of modesty, but because they are really awful until they go through a process of failing that inspires true creativity.
 
Ed went on to say that, as business leaders and creative professionals, our jobs are not to prevent mistakes but to respond when they arise. It is in this response that true creativity blossoms. Failure is hard, but it also makes you open to new ideas and processes that allow you to test, learn and respond with less hesitation. If you are open to candor, if you encourage true and honest feedback, you will find that your mistakes are not failures but instead, the true sparks of greatness. 
 
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#Braintrust
 
Both Brené Brown and Ed Catmull discussed the concept and need for a Braintrust to help hone in on your success. Whether it is a true collection of trusted advisors who consult (such as Walt Disney Animation and Pixar Animation provide for each other) or a theoretical version (like Brené’s posters of Maya Angelou and other great thinkers on her wall in her office), a Braintrust requires you to step outside your own head, find the mistakes in your work and hold that work up to a higher standard. It allows for mistakes and encourages the candor to correct them. Creating a Braintrust can be as simple as you need it to be, but it should be something every leader and creative professional does to ensure that they are performing to their potential. 
 
INBOUND17 was both humbling and awe-inspiring in both its sheer size and the quality of sessions. As a marketer, and someone who has dabbled in event planning, I can truly appreciate the amount of work that goes into the sheer logistics of pulling together such an outstanding cast of quality presenters. As I return to my office and overflowing inbox, I’m excited and energized to share these ideas with my colleagues and clients and put them into practice.