Boston, Massachusetts — home to Fenway Park, Freedom Trail, and some of the best seafood in the country!
It’s also home to INBOUND, presented by HubSpot — “the industry’s premier conference that brings business, marketing, and sales leaders to network, learn, and grow,” according to its website.
Four team members (Kristin McCauley, Derek Baker, Crystal Steinbach, and I) attended. We listened to thought-provoking presentations, connected with a variety of marketing industry professionals, and had some fun along the way. (Yes, we got to peek into Fenway Park!)
We’re excited to share some of the things we learned, so here are 5 key takeaways:1. Want potential customers to discover your brand? Consider jumping on the social train.
Social media has emerged as a potent tool for customer discovery. If you haven’t ventured into social media advertising, consider whether now is a good time to start.
According to one presentation, 44% of buyers use social media to discover a product or service. Another source found that 56% of shoppers prioritize social brand conversations over online reviews when making purchasing decisions. Additionally, 92% of shoppers actively seek out comments about brands, products, or services on social platforms.
People are increasingly shopping, talking, and doing their research on social channels.
Another critical point from a presentation is that 95% of people buy based on emotion. Simply put, the best brands sell feelings, not products. Buyers want to feel connected with your brand.
Social media can help with that, too.
The thing to remember is that people aren’t craving content — they’re craving connection (prioritize quality over quantity).
Here’s how to foster meaningful connections with your customers:
- Embrace self-disclosure: Open up and reveal the authentic and significant aspects of your brand that others may not know. This vulnerability creates genuine connections.
- Amplify the Voice of the Customer (VOC): Make your customers the stars of your content. Showcase their stories, experiences, and opinions. It resonates deeply with your audience.
- Inject emotion and humor: Write content that stirs feelings, sparks laughter, and even indulges a well-placed “dad joke.” Emotion and humor humanize your brand.
Kristin McCauley added this takeaway regarding the importance of humor and likeability:
“According to a speaker at INBOUND, Forbes revealed that 78% of consumers believe that humor makes brand more relatable and likeable,” McCauley said. “LinkedIn says 61% of B2B decision-makers prefer companies that deliver content with a touch of humor.
“Get people’s attention by knowing your audience and creating content they can relate to. Consider adding a touch of humor as well.”
- Dare to be different: Be bold, be unique, and own your identity. Authenticity is magnetic.
- Engage in conversations: Initiate and engage in meaningful dialogues with your consumers through your social media posts.
Think of it as marketing B2H (business-to-human), rather than B2B or B2C.2. High-quality, original content is still top dog in the marketing-sphere.
Much of the focus in this year’s event centered on generative AI, which is the use of AI tools to produce audio, text (e.g., ChatGPT), images, video, code, and more.
Generative AI can be used to increase efficiencies in the content creation process and help perform tasks such as:
- Improving existing content
- Generating new ideas
- Building content outlines
- Optimizing your content for SEO
- And more
However, with the increased volume of content that can be churned out thanks to generative AI, there’s a greater emphasis on developing high-quality, original content. In fact, it’s paramount to your holistic marketing efforts, particularly your digital strategies.
Here was Crystal Steinbach’s takeaway from INBOUND:
“High-quality content is becoming more highly sought after as the internet is becoming increasingly filled with duplicative, simplistic, and ambiguous content,” Steinbach said. “High-quality content can take the form of original perspectives, expert analysis and insight, data and analytics-driven ideas, and detailed solutions to problems. As long as users continue to seek out better content and Google continues to rank more informative content higher in rankings, high-quality content must be a part of your organic search and website engagement strategies.”
Simply put, “canned” content isn’t going to cut it anymore. High-quality, original content must be a part of your organic search and website engagement strategies.
3. In a world of AI and algorithms, humans still hold the crown.
The potential benefits of using AI in business are very real.
AI programs and tools exist to help your institution perform tasks more efficiently, such as:
- AI chatbot (a platform for live customer service)
- Chatting with spreadsheets to generate correlation metrics and advanced data analytics
- Creating A/B test tools
- Diagnosing traffic drops in your website
- Financial forecasting
- Social media management
- SMS outreach
- Reporting assistance
- And more
Here’s the kicker: AI is most useful when humans oversee it. Businesses that are using AI most effectively emphasize human ownership.
For example, one presentation found that companies using AI collaboratively with humans see 2-7x Return on Investment (ROI) over using AI alone.
Of course, a common misconception is that using AI will take away the human touch in business. However, when used optimally, it has the opposite effect.
Here’s Derek Baker’s takeaway on the subject:
“In one of the presentations about brand and the human connection, the presenter talked about something he heard a business owner say over the summer — he uses AI to help increase his opportunities for human touch, not take them away,” Baker said. “It helps with simplistic tasks so he can be a human when it matters the most. That was a pretty powerful takeaway for me.”4. Everyone likes free! Consider strategic giveaways.
In today’s competitive landscape, where many businesses are using AI, how can your brand get an edge?
One presentation advised businesses to give away something of value for free that consumers are used to paying for, to initiate engagement.
The hope: To foster brand loyalty, and eventually sell something bigger.
If the free product or service doesn’t exist, create or buy it. Then, keep adding more free features and collect leads (emails) while promoting your products and services.
As a financial institution, you may have to be creative about what this means to you.
Since your product is money, you don’t have the luxury of just giving it away like companies that produce tangible goods (e.g., a company that sells shaving products gives away a free razor handle and blade in hopes customers purchase more of their blades to match the handle).
An example in the banking world could be giving away a free safe deposit box at your institution. Or perhaps you give away a free one-hour wealth management consultation and catered lunch with one of your friendly financial planning pros. Maybe it’s a credit card with a no-fee checking account.
You know your products and services, so get creative!5. Millennials are doing the buying — and they’re needy (hey, I’m a millennial, too).
Today, consumer-based interactions are digitally dominated. According to one presentation, millennials are the ones doing much of the buying right now — and they’re making purchasing decisions based on their customer service experience. They seek a smooth ride on their Digital Customer Journey (DCJ).
One presentation provided the following figures:
- 90% of Americans consider customer service when choosing to do business with a company.
- For 60% of individuals seeking support, “immediate” means a response within 10 minutes or less.
- 71% of customers expect companies to communicate with them in real time.
Don’t neglect your social media presence, either. Responsiveness on social platforms is pivotal for maintaining a positive brand image. Sluggish responses or silence can hurt your brand’s reputation.
How can you improve your customer experience?
- Consider incorporating chatbots; when deployed effectively, they can deliver frontline customer experience at scale.
- Prioritize “social care” of your consumers. Respond in a timely manner to social inquiries.
Another issue: Many buyers don’t trust brands.
To remedy this, one presentation suggested:
- Knowing and using consumer emotion in your messaging, product, and experience.
- Strengthening the bonds within your community of consumers, creating (or strengthening) a sense of belonging and loyalty.
- Delivering on your brand promise more convincingly and swiftly than ever before.
The ultimate goal: Create human experiences on your digital channels.
Finally, here’s a bonus takeaway for you (because we’re friends):
BONUS TAKEAWAY: Remember the “Rule of 7” — when someone sees your brand seven times, they’re more likely to interact with it.