Strategy Before Tactics: 3 Takeaways from #INBOUND16

Last week, a cool 19,000 marketers hung out in Boston at HubSpot’s 2016 inbound marketing conference. And I was one of them. My time was divided, mostly spent bouncing between Club Inbound (where my sales team was headquartered), and geeking out in the breakout sessions where I was left ferociously jotting down notes and listening to dozens of the marketing masterminds.

Some sessions were tactical – figuring out the how-to’s and why-to’s. Others were aspirational, evoking an excitement I thought had lost in a sea of mundane Mondays. A healthy dose of both left the marketers at the inbound marketing conference walking away with renewed urgency and motivation for greatness. Through the week, I was reminded to take time to structure and build a quality strategy. It’s just as important (if not more so) than the everyday execution and grind. You must have both to power an inbound and content marketing machine. But one comes before the other.

Here are three takeaways from last week’s inbound marketing conference:

1. Goals and Benchmarks

Yes, your marketing team is scrambling everyday to pump out content and build your brand. But, what’s the ultimate goal they’re working toward to help the bottom line of the company? Yearly, quarterly, monthly and even weekly goals are important for marketing teams to determine before the work starts. These incremental goals help your team to stay on task and stay focused. And they serve as a framework to answer the questions of how and where to spend time.

With the million-and-a-half requests, ideas and projects that pile up on a marketing team’s plate, goals can also help you say no to some tasks. Or at least, “Not right now…I’ll add it to our backlog of requests.” And, they can be used to explain why other priorities (like generating qualified leads with content) are more important.

2. Content and Keywords

Content is important, yet it’s up to you and your team to make sure it’s effective. Remember, no one has to read what you write. What you create must resonate. You’ve got to respect your audience’s time so you really must to understand what your readers what to know. And you know you’ve got to use the right keywords to help your content get found, but what are they?

Be picky with your keyword selection and eliminate irrelevant search queries using negative keywords. Figure out which keywords are too hard, too broad or just irrelevant to your audience before you spend 20+ hours writing and designing your next ebook or white paper.

Producing quality content takes time and resources. For a small marketing team supporting ambitious company goals, that time and those resources need to be allocated to the right priorities (because you can’t afford to waste either with sub-par content).

3. Understanding Your Buyer and Targeting Personas

Sure, casting a wide net may generate a few hundred leads for your sales team and gives your marketing team a warm and fuzzy feeling. But, those leads may never convert to qualified opportunities or closed/won business. Why? Because none of those prospects were your ideal buyer.

A sales and marketing team can start to understand their ideal prospect by analyzing their current customers (or past qualified prospects) and forming personas. Is “Mary the Digital Marketer” the type of prospect who will see value in your product or service and helps influence the decision making process? Yeah? Great! She should be one of your targeted personas for your next marketing campaign.

#INBOUND16 was incredibly valuable, entertaining and exhausting for my whole team (did someone say coffee?). These three keys I’ve brought will bring a renewed focus for this quarter (and then some). Want to know the best part of #INBOUND16? With hundreds of breakout sessions ranging across barrage subjects, someone else has brought home three entirely different takeaways.

On behalf of the entire Sigstr team, a sincere thanks to everyone (both familiar faces and new friends) who stopped by the Sigstr booth and spent time with us. Not only was I saturated with the valuable knowledge from the breakout sessions, but I also gained so much just by talking to marketing leaders on the Club Inbound floor and listening to their strategies, goals and challenges.

inbound marketing conference takeaways

Let us know what your main takeaways from this inbound marketing conference by tweeting @SigstrApp! Until next year, Inbound!

Meet the Sigstr team at Inbound 2016