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The very best learnings from INBOUND18 (and what we're going to do with them)

Posted by Ryan Nofal on October 4, 2018 at 12:19 PM
Ryan Nofal


Photo from Reload Media

One can learn so much from the INBOUND conference that it can be a bit overwhelming! I’ve rounded up my key takeaways from this year’s conference, and how I’d love to implement them at Penquin.

Boston, Massachusetts hosted a record of 24,000 digital marketers at this year’s INBOUND conference. With almost 300 sessions in just 4 days, and having been involved in the eventing industry for 9 years, it’s not surprising to say that I was blown by how well INBOUND 18 was organised. It’s certainly one of the best conferences in the world to learn about the latest developments on the ever-evolving digital sales and marketing world.

As a leader in my business and the person ultimately responsible for sales, the sessions I chose to attend focused predominantly on leadership skills and sales. I did, however, attend a number of other sessions, each with their own unique learnings. Here are some of the important learnings that I took from this year's conference.

It’s all about change

A theme that carried through multiple sessions I attended at INBOUND 18 focused on change, from the opening keynote address on day two where Beth Comstock spoke about giving yourself permission to change, to insights on how change is now as a result of all decisions we make and no longer just about the bad ones. Change evangelist and founder of iSocialFanz, Brian Fanzo, in his session Press The Damn Button, says that what this means for businesses is changing the way we communicate and ultimately sell. No longer can the age-old saying of, “Ïf we build it they will come” be applied. If we are not going to our customers, we are not progressing. He goes on to say that for the first time in history, there are four very different generations in the workspace all with influence in the decision-making process of their companies.

Each of these generations have varying requirements and expectations when it comes to communicating with them. This means that a tailored approach is required when marketing to each of these generations. This is where problem-centric selling comes in (we’ll go into this in more depth in a blog post later on this year.)

Don’t trade your authenticity for approval

Many companies strive for perfection (not just Penquin), but perfection is a fairytale according to Fanzo, and he is right. When your company tries to chase perfection, you dehumanise your brand because people aren’t perfect, so why should businesses be? Customers will be more drawn to authenticity and it’s easy to show this to your customers through ‘behind the scenes’ access into your company. This will also help show those who aren’t customers yet what happens once they become customers.  Erica Keswin, workplace strategists and founder of The Spaghetti Project, emphasised, in her session called Bring Your Human to Work: Smart Companies Honor Relationships, that businesses should let their values come off the walls and into the halls. Honouring relationships is what makes us human and companies can do this with their customers by living their business values and always adding value to their customers.

Grow better the customer-centric way

HubSpot co-founder and CTO, Dharmesh Shah, spoke about five insights from the HubSpot Customer Code to grow better,  focusing on how to help your company grow by focusing your business efforts on your customer. Although all the five insights could be seen in all the talks that I went to, three stood out for me.

Firstly owning your mistakes - this emphasised the importance of companies being human and being able to say “we’re sorry, we’re going to do better” when they make a mistake. Shah gave the great example of KFC in the UK apologising for running out of chicken. I hope that we won’t make too many mistakes as an integrated marketing agency, but if we do we’re going to hold ourselves accountable and learn from our mistakes.

Secondly was about earning the attention of your customers, and not stealing it. Giving your customers value before you take the most valued item there is - their time - is the most important thing you can do.  Permission-free outreaches can be inconvenient to your customer. Unsolicited communication is what most customers - a whopping 85% - think will negatively affect their opinion on a company. The worst-case scenario about unsolicited outreach is no longer just a case of, oh well, we tried and it didn’t work. The worst case is now that customers think less of your brand than they did before.  

Thirdly was solving for the success of your customer, not your company's systems. Allowing customers to purchase in the manner that they want to and not how your company does it. There are customers who may need some more convincing and help, while others are keen to give you their money for your product or service. Not following the processes of your company gives your customer freedom to do business their way, and it doesn’t take away from the value you’re providing them.

Into the Black Hole


One of the more interesting sessions at INBOUND 18 was Why Prospects Go Into a 'Black Hole' & What to Do About It by the creator of the Firewalk Sales System, Charlene Decesare. “Clarity is power” was one of the key takeaways from Decesare’s session. She emphasised connecting with prospective customers by being transparent and communicating clearly.

A great sales technique that Decesare spoke about and I am excited to implement is the WAIT technique: Why Am I Talking? This really speaks to how the sales industry needs to go back to being customer-centric, and that the only way to find out what your customer’s real business challenges are is to let them talk. If they’re doing all the talking, then the battle is almost won. It is only through listening that we are able to create a clear picture of a prospect’s desired transformation by presenting your proposed solution to them. Having clear next steps after every client meeting is essential to them not vanishing down the black hole.

Salespeople are guilty of sending quirky emails to prospects who have gone dark and are no longer active. This is no longer as effective as it used to be. Charlene says that the reason prospects go into a black hole is that we, as salespeople, allow them to. Ensure that you establish very clear expectations of next steps after every interaction with prospects and existing customers for that matter.








INBOUND always has great learning on the world of marketing, and this year was no different. We’re excited to continue to provide a customer-centric service with these learnings and are already looking forward to INBOUND 2019.


If you want to find out more on what I took away from INBOUND18 and what Penquin does, simply contact me. I’d love to chat.

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Topics: Marketing

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