What I Learned at Marketing Camp, AKA, Inbound2014

What I Learned at Marketing Camp, AKA, Inbound2014

It’s been over a month since HubSpot’s Inbound 2014 event and I’m still riding high on the energy and inspiration I experienced at what I’m calling “Marketing Camp”

There were hundreds of sessions, featuring incredible speakers from a variety of industries. While marketing was the focus, those who were invited to speak at the event were from a diverse range of backgrounds. This was more than just a marketing conference, it was an inspiring gathering of incredible people like Simon Sinek, Malcolm Gladwell, Ann Handley, Rand Fishkin, and tons of other professionals who are known for “killing it” at life and business.

Given the overwhelming number of topics and presenters, I decided to narrow my options by focusing on sessions covering email, content, and search.

Below is a collection of the primary takeaways from my favorite presenters.

Email Marketing Hacks by Matt Heinz

matt heinzMatt Heinz’s presentation was totally sold out. It was standing room and HubSpot ended up quickly scheduling an encore presentation. I’m assuming the interest in the presentation was a result of Matt’s expertise, and the word “hacks” — people love that word.

Matt is the president of Heinz Marketing, a sales accelerator agency out of Seattle. His presentation wasn’t so much about “hacks,” but instead was incredibly informative, providing detailed guidance on how Heinz Marketing approaches their client’s email marketing campaigns. I highly recommend taking a look through the presentation for more details. My primary takeaways from this session were:

  1. Maintain an understanding of the the customer’s point of view. As an email marketer, you have to constantly ask the question “Why would my customer want to receive this email and why would they want to take action?” Answering this question helps frame your messaging in a way that is more powerful for the recipient.
  2. Always use Creative Briefs. For me, the use of Creative Briefs has been determined by the size of my team. Right now, since I primarily work on my own, I don’t use them as often. I was reminded that no matter the size of the team, briefs are a powerful tool. They demand process and consistency that only makes your marketing initiatives more effective.
  3. There’s no dead-end in marketing. Use every opportunity you have in front of your audience to offer them helpful insight and/or resources. Consider what you’re doing in transactional emails, thank you pages, and email signatures — are you consistently including interesting links, CTA’s, and resources?
  4. Attribution is critical. Make sure that you have integrated systems tracking in place and that your team tracks and distributes value across all contributing channels. Using a CRM, examine the full-cycle sales process. I’ve been doing this recently with Google’s Multi-Channel Funnels and Attribution reports, but Matt’s point on this emphasized for me how critical it is to ensure that the tools I’m using are effectively integrated.
  5. Re-use content. I spend a lot of time creating brand new content. In his presentation, Matt made the point that you can absolutely re-use content, re-send emails to those who didn’t open the original, etc. This isn’t new obviously, but it made me realize how important it is to schedule re-publication into my editorial calendar.


The Future of Content – Ann Handley

ann handleyAnn Handley is the CCO of Marketing Profs and the author of “Content Rules” and soon-to-be-released “Everybody Writes” She is wonderful. She’s approachable, funny, and has incredible insight when it comes to writing. Her main focus during this presentation was on the move from TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) to GR;LI (great read; loved it). Here are the top five lesson I took away from this presentation:

  1. Always identify and refer to a defined goal. No matter what you’re writing, it’s important to define the goal of the piece by asking the question “so what?” Once you answer that question, ask it again, over and over again, until you get to the real meat of why you’re writing what you’re writing and what you want the reader to gain. Anytime that I’m writing, I now write down the goal of my piece on a post-it and stick it next to me, so I can keep it front-of-mind.
  2. Use a distinct voice – don’t sound like a marketer. I see this, I fear this, I am a victim of this at times — all marketers sound the same. It’s true. There’s a sales-y, kind of cheesy voice that comes from the marketing side of the brain. Fight it. Don’t be a Buzzworthy. Blech.
  3. Work your reader into the story. By both considering your reader’s perspective in your writing and creating a story using empathy and experiences you will delight and connect with your audience.
  4. Be a little reckless. Ann advocates for writing with a strong, unforgettable voice. She acknowledged that sometimes this is risky, but it means that you don’t get lumped in with everyone else creating content online, and it means that you create a defined personality for your brand. To do this, ask yourself this question, “if my customer came to my website, would they recognize the content as mine, without a brand name or logo?”
  5. Give customers gifts, through content. This is similar to the point Matt Heinz made about there being no dead-ends in marketing. What Ann suggested here is that you use every opportunity you have in front of your prospects and customers to delight them. Anytime your audience is reading something from you, you have the chance to connect with them — this includes error messages, transactional emails, administrative prompts, etc. Create content for these experiences, just as you would for your most prized email campaign.


 SEO Tactics to Love and Leave – Rand Fishkin

rand fishkinAs a huge fan and user of SEOMoz, now just MOZ, I was thrilled for the opportunity to see Rand Fishkin speak. He is one of the primary experts in the world of SEO and is incredibly insightful, not just when it comes to SEO/SEM, but in business and in the general rules of being awesome. He is the founder of MOZ and contributes tremendously to the world of digital marketing.

The weekend that I returned from the conference, after seeing Rand charismatically present, he published an impressive blog post about depression and the realities of business that blew me away. I highly recommend reading it. It is one of the most honest and authentic posts I’ve read from an internet celebrity-type.

  1. Marketers must serve intent with their content. There are significant advancements being made in user-data signals. Google is working hard to provide personalization. As a result, search results are becoming much better, which is great. However, it’s important to recognize what this means for marketers — there are no more “tricks of the trade” in SEO. If you’re trying to get in front of your audience using Organic, you must serve the intent of your customer with your online content. It must be unique, relevant, and provide information your customers can’t find elsewhere.
  2. Go bigger for keyword research. Gone are the days when you could simply use Google’s Keyword Tool. In order to uncover the real needs and keyword queries of your customers, you must go bigger for keyword research. Search social channels and forums where your customers are talking. Also, incorporate other keyword research tools into your research mix, such as keywordtool.io.
  3. The only links that matter are earned. Google is putting less and less emphasis on external linking and they are getting better and better at identifying if links are genuinely earned. The only links that matter are those that are editorially earned.
  4. Target amplifiers. Develop your strategy by focusing on creating seriously incredible content for very specific people. If you do this well, the result will be targeted messages that are helpful and interesting to your audience.
  5. Attribute value across all assisting channels. Don’t only attribute value to first-click conversion sources. Be sure to track and measure the full-cycle impact all channels have on conversions and attribute value accordingly.


For me, the primary messages I took away from Inbound2014 were a focus on creating thoughtful, interesting content for your unique target market and to be intentional and process-driven in my marketing. If you have the opportunity, I highly suggest attending this incredible event in 2015. I found it to be inspiring and educational.