Inbound 2013 Conference: Day One

Brad is attending the Inbound Conference in Boston this week. (If you are there send him a message @blfarris and connect.) He’s giving us his immediate reactions on twitter, but also filing a daily update with the Big Ideas as well as some juicy nuggets.


Courtesy of Marty Vernon.

Seth Godin: We are all Inbound now – The Epic shift in posture

The inimitable Seth Godin took the keynote stage to kick off the conference. His message inspired and informed, painting a stunning picture of the changes in the world that have led us to this epic shift in the marketing landscape.

Beginning with a brief history of mass media, Seth showed how the trend for the last several hundreds of years is to develop products to please the mass market. It was efficient, one product could serve many people, and it was easy: advertise to the mass market and they will buy it.

seth godin

Seth Godin, courtesy of Marty Vernon.

But then two things changed: the mass market disappeared (Note: that article is from 2004!), and the Internet happened. The “mass market” is, of course, the fat part of a normal distribution, a bell curve. The “mass market” occurs when the bell curve is very tall and narrow, reflecting that the majority of people’s tastes or needs fall close to the centerline. But in the 21st century tastes aren’t converging, they are diverging. 40 years ago there were 4 TV stations and “Top 40” radio ruled the music world. Now there are millions of TV stations (one could argue Billions) and the musical world is supporting punk-rock marching bandspunk-rock cabaret singers, and Kiwi comedy singer/songwriters (just to name a few). The bell curve is flattening – there are more and more choices in every market. (Remember when you could just buy “coffee”?) The expansion of choice flattens the bell curve favoring niche marketers over mass marketers.

gaping Void cartoon

Cartoons via @GapingVoid.

At the same time, the Internet has given us new superpowers. Instead of relying on interruptions to get our message to our customer – we can now broadcast narrowly, to just the niche that’s looking for our product or service. When you see two friends shopping in a mall, it’s no longer just two people acting on their own wants and desires. Humans are now hyper-connected; so their behavior is shaped by 27 Yelp reviews, 1800 social media “friends”, and a whole Internet’s worth of pricing and product research. Their experience is not shared just by them, but also by 300 Instagram friends, everyone they are texting with, and the world (through a blog, Facebook, Vine, etc.) By putting your message into the marketplace, those connections will help your message to find those shoppers when they need to find it (if your message is what they are looking for).

In this world of flattened bell curves and hyper-connectivity it’s way too expensive to go wide and try to capture a mass market. (Though that hasn’t stopped some people from trying.) It’s impossible to capture that connected consumer with interruption alone. We need to coordinate the efforts of our tribe – the group of people who find value in who we are and what we do. We need to earn their trust, and let them deliver our message.


Boston skyline

I felt like I was on a balloon ride, seeing familiar places from a whole new vantage point, and I was not alone. But Seth didn’t leave us there. He brought this message back down to earth by asking us to look at our own marketing. If your next email campaign didn’t go out, would people miss it? Would you get calls or emails saying, “Hey, I usually get a newsletter from you and I haven’t seen it in a while. Where is it?” If your marketing isn’t providing that kind of utility; if it isn’t valuable and important to those receiving it, then you’re not doing it right! If you stopped posting any content to Twitter, or LinkedIn, would your followers go looking for you? Is what you are posting really valuable to them?

gaping void

via @GapingVoid

Seth has been talking a lot lately about being an Artist instead of being a craftsman. The craftsman takes direction from the client, ultimately asking the client, “What do you need me to do?” The Artist has a vision and a point-of-view that they bring to every engagement. That point-of-view is part of what makes them distinctive (and in a world of choice, it’s much safer to be distinctive than to be middle-of-the-road). Seth urged each of use to find our voice, and put our art out into the world, with clarity and courage. That’s the only way to find your tribe and earn their trust and business.

Quick Hits

Seth wasn’t the only thing happening at Inbound on Tuesday. There were more than 20 other presentations including some big names (Mitch Joel, Nancy Duarte, John Jantsch, David Meerman Scott, Marcus Sheridan, and many more) and lots of panels by inbound marketers who are out there “doing the stuff”. Here’s some quick hits from the sessions I was able to attend.

  • Jason Keath did a terrific talk about creativity. One of my takeaways from his talk was the need for scale. He told us that in the typical SNL Weekend Update segment (the only consistently funny segment on SNL, right?) there are 15 – 20 jokes. The writers create 800 jokes each week that get boiled down to those 15 – 20. To find a really good idea you need to create about 50. Takeaway: How many headlines did you try for your last blog post, or subject lines for your last email? (Answer: not enough!)
  • Dharmesh Shah

    Dharmesh Shah, courtesy of Marty Vernon.

    Dharmesh Shah, Co-Founder of HubSpot threw out the idea of a “SPAM protected” phone. What if your phone could look at the caller ID and then access a crowdsourced database that accumulates feedback on the quality of phone calls that come from that number? If you were making 100 cold calls a day your “phone reputation” would drop and this SPAM protected phone wouldn’t even ring! Talk about an idea who’s time has come! Takeaway: Every action you take, on the Internet or in person is building your “reputation”. Are you treating others the way you want to be treated?

  • In a panel led by the Hubspot NFP team I heard about how charities were using inbound marketing to tell their story and activate and engage their constituencies. They talked a lot about carefully crafting your calls-to-action so that you don’t scare off “visitors” who haven’t heard your story. So instead of an invitation to “Make a Donation” on the homepage invite visitors to “See how we make a difference” then on that page ask them to share your story, volunteer (or make a donation). Takeaway: Think about all the audiences for your website and craft messages for every stage of the marketing funnel.
  • Todd Hockenberry, who owns a HubSpot partner agency, talked about how to get engineers and technical people to blog. He gives them a text-to-speech application for their phone or computer and just asks them to speak about something that they find interesting. Then he has editors tighten up the language a bit – but the immediacy of someone talking works great (especially for folks who don’t think they can write). Takeaway: Writing is hard, but everyone likes to talk. Get folks talking and you can find some great content!

It was an action packed first day and I’ll be back with more highlights from the conference tomorrow. If you want to follow live, check out the conference hashtag on Twitter #Inbound13.

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