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Last week, a couple members of our marketing team attended INBOUND, an annual conference put together by marketing automation software company Hubspot. More than 14,000 marketers from around the world were in Boston for this year’s conference. They discovered and shared fresh inbound marketing practices, networked and partied.

Here are the 10 top marketing lessons we took away from the conference:

  1. Get to know your customers.

Forrester Research CMO Victor Milligan gave a compelling presentation about the importance of becoming a customer-obsessed marketer. He revealed that companies that prioritize customer-centricity enjoy higher revenue growth.

And indeed, the empowered customer was a hot topic among many speakers. Talking about the new reality of the sales profession, best-selling author Daniel Pink said buyers today are firmly in control now that they have access to more information than ever. Respected marketer Lee Odden also said that customer insight is required in creating better content. Marketers should learn about their customers’ pain points and what they care about, said Odden, emphasizing that a deep understanding of the customer is the key to creating  stellar content.

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The first step to repurposing content is customer insight. What are their pain points? - @leeodden #INBOUND15 (CLICK TO TWEET)

  1. Craft better stories.

“Data is telling stories," said Robert Michael Murray, chief innovation officer of the wearable software company Matchfire Co. and a former member of the National Geographic social media team. He said that marketers should pay attention to the action, activities and behaviors of their community of customers and look for data that could inspire their content marketing strategy.

(Want to learn more about content marketing? Watch this webinar with Michael Brenner, head of strategy at NewsCred and Nick Stein, senior vice president of marketing at Vision Critical.)

Jeremy Goldman, founder and CEO of the marketing consultancy Firebrand Group, recommended using analytics to determine relevant, timely stories to write about. Google Trends, YouTube Trends and Radurls are some examples of tools that Goldman uses to get newsjacking inspiration.

In his keynote, Pink said sales and marketing pros should evaluate the way they tell their company’s story. He suggested using the PIXAR framework of telling the story.

Pixar's story framework - #INBOUND15

  1. Maximize the use of the content you already have.

While marketers are so focused on creating new content, they should look into optimizing the content they already have. In her presentation, Pamela Vaughan, manager of optimization and growth at Hubspot, shared some great tips on how to refresh old, evergreen blog posts in order to increase traffic and get more leads. Vaughan said a majority of Hubspot blog’s traffic goes to a minority of older blog posts, so marketers should aim to optimize these posts. She recommended enhancing the keywords in your call-to-actions and to update old blog posts with new content to keep them relevant for search.

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Optimizing your old blog posts can help you increase traffic and generate more leads - @pamelump #INBOUND15 (CLICK TO TWEET)

  1. Use remarketing.

Larry Kim, founder of the search marketing software company Wordstream, gave an informative presentation on social media advertising hacks. One of his key tips was to use retargeting on both Twitter and Facebook—features that let you target people who have already visited your site. Retargeting results in higher engagement, more conversions and (ultimately) higher ROI, according to Kim.

Another interesting tip from Kim was to use Twitter customer audiences, which allows marketers to upload a list of emails, phone numbers or Twitter IDs, enabling them to serve ads to a highly targeted audience.

  1. Leverage behavioral and demographic targeting in your social media ads.

Another great tip from Kim was to do “super remarketing” by applying demographic and behavioral filters when remarketing in your social media ads. This helps ensure that your ads are more relevant to your audience, which increases their likelihood of engaging with your content.

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Do “super remarketing” by applying demographic and behavioral filters in your Twitter and Facebook ads. - @larrykim #INBOUND15 (CLICK TO TWEET)

  1. Think topics, not keywords.

When it comes to search engine optimization (SEO), marketers need to think beyond keywords. That’s according to Will Critchlow, founder and CEO of the digital marketing agency Distilled, who spoke about the future of search. Google and other search engines want to understand the intent of the search and understand natural language. To succeed in SEO, marketers need to consider conversations around topics instead of just focusing on optimizing for certain keywords. That said….

  1. Rethink your use of keywords.

Keywords can still help marketers optimize their efforts, but not in the same way as before. Vaughan recommended checking out the Google Webmaster Tool and seeing what keywords people use to find your best blog posts. Use those exact same keywords in your call-to-actions (both in texts and in images). If you don’t have applicable CTAs for those keywords, Vaughan recommended creating new type of content (ebooks, white papers, etc.) that you can use.

  1. Get more leads with your Slideshares.

Slideshare, which recently rebranded as LinkedIn Slideshare, remains one of the most underutilized social networks for both B2B and B2C. Arpit Dhariwal, senior product manager of Slideshare, and Taylor Greason, senior manager, shared some great tips on how to better use this platform, which now boasts over 70 million users. Some of their tips include creating a great cover slide, using descriptive titles and creating visual content that the audience could understand without additional explanations. Slideshare has a slew of lead-gen features that marketers should consider taking advantage of, according to the speakers.

  1. Work with influencers.

Several speakers spoke about the need to work with influencers when creating and distributing new content. Odden recommended doing Q&As with influencers and curating insights from thought leaders through ebooks, blog posts and other types of content. To maximize your efforts in influencer marketing, Odden suggested sending influencers suggested tweets and asking them to share your content at the same time.

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When working with influencers, send them suggested tweets and ask them to share at the same time - @leeodden #INBOUND15 (CLICK TO TWEET)

  1. Use analytics wisely.

Many marketers shared how they’re using analytics to optimize their processes and measure the success of their efforts. Anum Hussain, senior growth marketer at Sidekick, said marketers should use analytics to determine whether widely accepted “best practices” will work for your company. She also said that marketers should dig in into their analytics and look beyond pageviews. For instance, by taking the time to analyze their data, Sidekick realized that “the more links to related content we had across our site, the better we ranked.” This type of SEO insight can only come from looking beyond superficial numbers and really taking the time to analyze your numbers.


Overall, INBOUND was a reminder that, while leveraging technology is important in the marketing practice today, one fact remains: to be successful, companies need to focus on the customer. Marketers need to create useful content that help customers solve problems. At its core, inbound marketing is about creating a relationship with potential customers and delivering value for them in the long term.

Other #INBOUND15 resources

For more takeaways from #INBOUND15, we recommend the following resources:

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Kelvin Claveria

Kelvin Claveria was the former Content Marketing Manager and was responsible for Vision Critical's blog and social media marketing program. Before joining Vision Critical's global marketing team, Kelvin worked at Dunn PR, a Vancouver-based public relations firm. His experience includes working with lifestyle, real estate, and non-profit clients to develop social media marketing and PR strategies. Kelvin has a Bachelor of Business Administration from SFU's Beedie School of Business.
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