9 Tips to make the most of INBOUND15

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For many digital marketers, this is the week they come to Boston to be a part of INBOUND15, Hubspot’s annual user conference. This year promises to be bigger in every way, so here are some basic survival tips for the show and Boston in general.

First and foremost: do not attempt, for any reason, to drive in Boston. The roads near the BCEC are a confusing mess normally. Boston is served by both Uber and Lyft (Lyft tends to be cheaper) so make liberal use of them. We also have the nation’s oldest public transit system, and its antiquated nature and frequent delays live up to this reputation.

Second: The BCEC is big. By big, I mean aircraft carrier big. It’s 2.1 million square feet, or roughly the same amount of square footage as the Empire State Building in New York City. It’s .22 miles long, whereas the USS Nimitz is .2 miles long. To walk around the BCEC once is approximately 3/4 of a mile. It’s also dry as a bone inside, which means dehydration. Comfortable walking shoes and a water bottle are an absolute must.

Third: Pro conference networking tip. Launch the Twitter app on your smartphone. Search the conference hashtag, #INBOUND15. See all those people using the hashtag? Follow them. Follow all of them. It’ll keep your thumb busy for an hour or two, but it will help set you up for success at the event. Yes, you’ll gain a few Twitter followers, but more important, you’ll be able to create opportunities to connect with people once you’re at the event.

Fourth: Avoid taking notes about what’s on slides. The slides are in all likelihood going to be posted online. Instead, take notes on the things you think of while you’re watching speakers present. You’ll have ideas going off in your head left and right, but if all your bandwidth is taken up trying to be a court stenographer, you’ll come away with mediocre notes and no good ideas.

Five: Don’t wear a NY Yankees shirt while in Boston. More of a public safety tip than a conference tip, but just fair warning. Conversely, wearing Boston Red Sox or New England Patriots gear slightly improves the likelihood that your bartender will give you a decent pour.

Six: Arrive with a burning question. If you want to make INBOUND15 as fruitful as possible, come with a question you MUST get the answer to, and ask it of as many people as you reasonably can to get multiple perspectives. Avoid coming to the event with only vague ideas of what you might want to accomplish.

Seven: If there’s a speaker you want to talk to, reach out to them BEFORE they speak. When a speaker gets offstage, they’re usually swamped by people asking for business cards, have one more question, etc. and the likelihood that you’ll get to ask your burning question is pretty slim. Reach out in advance, even day of, offer to buy them a drink, and let them know what your burning question is. Some speakers (myself included) even arrive in their session rooms early and then stand around for 15-20 minutes while AV gets set up – a great time to ask a burning question!

Eight: Be good to yourself. If your goal at INBOUND15 is to walk away with as much actionable knowledge as possible, you’ll need to eat right, get more sleep than you usually do, and party in moderation (if at all). Your brain cells need to be firing on all cylinders, so eating junk, drinking enough coffee to burn a second hole in your stomach lining, and being so drunk that you can’t remember your own name are all going to dampen your nerd skills. Treat your body and brain right.

Nine: The good stuff still happens in the halls. Sessions are important, unquestionably. However, the best conversations, the best trading of tips and tricks – all that happens in the halls, between sessions, and in casual moments. Understanding that many folks are introverts, still attempt to join conversations. Sit down at crowded tables during meals. Be the first to ask simple questions like, “how was your last session?” and gather as much knowledge as you can.

Good luck at INBOUND15! (and catch my session on Wednesday at 1:30 on measuring PR)


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How to measure live video impact on marketing

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One of the questions marketers have struggled with in recent days is how to make all these new video services work to drive business. How do you make Periscope, Blab, Meerkat, etc. generate some actual results? How can we measure the effectiveness of our online video efforts?

First, let’s establish what we want to accomplish in terms of goals. Do you have sales objectives? Lead generation objectives? Awareness and brand objectives? What your goal is determines how you’ll measure.

The simplest way to measure the effectiveness of any channel is through quarantine. Establish unique, distinct methods of contact for every channel in your marketing toolbox, including online video. For example, domain names are still cheap to buy. Considering Periscope? Buy a domain like YourNameOnPeriscope.com, and use it exclusively on that channel. Even if you just redirect it, there are ways to push data into services like Google Analytics to track visits to it. Got a call center? Set up dedicated phone numbers to track your video channels.

Next, consider your options for calls to action in video. Simple plugs by the video host with an easily spelled domain name and frequent repetition ensure that people know where to find you.

Consider on-screen advertising. Just because an app doesn’t offer lower third banners or interstitial full screen ads doesn’t mean you can’t have them. Students of theater and TV set design have an arsenal of different ways to put visuals on screen. There’s absolutely nothing stopping you from putting your calls to action on a sheet of paper and occasionally panning the camera to it.

Finally, consider all the tactics that made ads successful on television for so many years. Operators may no longer be standing by, but your website, social media channels, and email marketing systems are. Offer compelling content to an audience that’s on target, combined with offers that are relevant and creative content, and you can make any channel work for you.


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What airport breakfasts teach us about timing in marketing

All value is relative. I was traveling recently, from San Francisco back to Boston, and at San Francisco’s airport is a little coffee shop/breakfast stand. At the stand, I got an egg sandwich:

Breakfast sandwich

What’s funny is that 30 minutes prior to getting the sandwich, I was in Union Square, an area known for its magnificent selection of restaurants. The quality of sandwich I got at the airport pales in comparison to virtually anything in Union Square.

And yet… the quality of the sandwich is sublime compared to the food you get on an airplane these days. On some airlines, you’re lucky if you even get a tiny packet of pretzels. A hot sandwich would be an unthinkable luxury.

One food, one sandwich has three radically different values in three different contexts, even though the sandwich is unchanged. It’s still the same sandwich.

As marketers, it’s incumbent upon us to understand our products and services from a behavioral perspective. How are people using our product? Where and when do they use it? Most important, as seen above, what are their other choices in the context of our product’s purchase?

Union Square has wonderful restaurants, but at the time I was traveling – 4:30 AM – none of them were open. Thus, even though every restaurant in the area is technically competitive to the airport coffee shop, none of them were actual competitors. Fast forward 4 hours and everything in Union Square is a competitor to the airport because all the restaurants are open.

Think about how that changes something like SEO. SEO isn’t just location-sensitive, it’s time-sensitive. Google is even beginning to reflect this now in search details:

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Optimizing your website for searches should include some awareness of how people purchase. If I were the airport coffee shop, I’d add a page to my website about breakfast when nothing else is open, because that’s what people are searching for at that time of day, and that’s when the airport coffee shop will win. It won’t beat a regular restaurant, but compared to what travelers are about to get on the plane, it’s luxury food.

Think about when you send email marketing messages. “Best time to send” is a ridiculous concept in aggregate. When and where are people reading your emails? What are the other alternative options for entertainment and/or education at that time? If people are reading your emails during their commute (hopefully not while driving) then you might be better off with a podcast.

How do you go about understanding when people consume your marketing messaging? Ask them! Flat out ask and see what they say, and then adapt accordingly.


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