#Inbound14 Recap: The future of content marketing is here

I’ve been in Boston all week attending Hubspot’s annual Inbound conference. Here’s the highlights from Day One and Day Two.

When we look back at the history of the content marketing movement, we are going to mark 2014 as a watershed moment. During this year, “content marketing” proved its worth. This is the year we stopped having to convince people to do content marketing – instead, the discussion shifted to, “Now that we are all doing this, how do we make it work?”

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I came to this conclusion on my way home from Hubspot’s Inbound14 — a gathering of Hubspot users and content marketing experts. It was designed to inspire, educate, and connect content marketers so they can make more remarkable content. (We’ll come back to that phrase later.) In past years, I heard a lot of speakers inspiring and convincing the audience that content marketing was the way forward.

This year, there was less of that. Instead, I heard more about how to make your ongoing content marketing initiative more successful. The conversation has changed from, “Should I do content marketing?” to, “How can I make it more successful?” — and that’s a big deal! However, that change is also a big dilemma for content marketing practitioners. Where it used to be good enough to just put up a blog post that was helpful and answered important questions, that’s no longer remarkable.

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From the main floor area

The whole basis for content marketing isn’t really the fact that you are creating content — it’s that you are doing something remarkable. Something that stands out from your competitors. Something that people want and want to share. Two or three years ago, that meant you were educating more than you were advertising, that you listened to your customers and responded, and that you were acting like a human. But what happens when the revolution is over and the content marketers have won? What happens when everyone is educating, listening, and being more human? That original strategy is no longer remarkable! So now, marketers are faced with a tougher challenge. How do we produce remarkable content in a world saturated with content?

Selfie with the DTC and Educo team!

Selfie with the DTC and Educo team!

It reminds me of an artist friend of mine who was setting up his fine art paintings at an art fair when he noticed the person in the booth next to him unloading 5 gallon buckets and displaying them in that booth. My friend had 6 – 10 paintings, and his neighbor had buckets of art. When the world is full of content, how do you make yours stand out? Here are some other indicators that pointed me to this sea of change:

More perspiration, less inspiration

Hubspot isn’t the scrappy little upstart competitor anymore. Now they are the $75M growth company preparing for their IPO. This company has gone from a rebel group trying to incite a revolution to a big business trying to make sure they have happy customers who don’t just like their software, but are seeing real ROI from it. This was reflected in the speakers who were focused on helping folks make their content better, improve their distribution, etc. We’re beyond the basics now, and the bulk of the crowd was there to up their game.

More great software, less of a science-fair project.

IMG_0040I’m really excited about how Hubspot has re-thought the CRM system with their new Sidekick and Sales products. I know a lot of clients for whom SalesForce is just too heavy and complicated, and this looks perfect for them. Writing great software is hard, and these guys just keep hitting the mark with it.

Because Hubspot keeps adding pieces to their system, customers don’t have to piece lots of different systems together anymore. You used to need a CMS, a social platform, a CRM, an analytics package, some landing page/conversion software…now that’s all here for you. They have a pretty complete package (still with some rough edges that need refinement), but it’s a very solid product overall.

More implementers, fewer decision makers.

The crowd was about twice as large this year as it was last year. But size wasn’t the only difference I noticed. Last year I saw a lot of CEO’s and CMO’s who were evaluating content marketing as a tactic as well as Hubspot as a solution. This year, though, the crowd was dominated by people who were in the content marketing business looking for help to do it better.

More how to do, less what to do.

As a result of the shift in audience, there was far less discussion of, “What should we be doing? Should we be on social? Should we be advertising?” Those questions were done deals for this audience. The conversation was focused much more on, “How should we be doing social better? How can we make our content stronger?” In short: This is the year the “world changed”. Now that the content marketing bandwagon is full, how will you make your content remarkable?







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