The 3 Most Important Takeaways From #INBOUND19

My visit to the INBOUND19 conference in Boston in early September offered a cornucopia of insight. 26,000 participants and more than 300 talks over four days – that's what you might call a powerful cocktail of knowledge and experience.

INBOUND is an annual conference that brings together tens of thousands of marketers, salespeople and customer success pros passionate about inbound marketing and sales.

It would be impossible to summarise the 16 different talks I visited into one manageable chunk of knowledge. Therefore, I will instead summarise the three most important takeaways from the conference in this post.

Fortunately, you can soon read the blog post ‘Facebook hacks you need to know in 2020’ and ‘CEO is dead – say hello to Chief Experience Officers instead’ to learn more about the event.

But let's get to it – here are my three main takeaways from INBOUND19.


#1 Rethink personalisation – get personal instead!

Several of the talks I attended were about personalisation. Most marketers in 2019 gradually work with personalisation of, for example, emails, website content, ads, etc. We can do this because our database is constantly getting better and better and because we are learning more about our target groups through the use of pixels, insight tags and cookies. That's why personalisation is no longer enough – we need to get personal.

What's the difference, you ask?

Personalisation happens when we use data to tailor some content to different segments and audiences. Some people call this the ‘cookie-cutter’ method, because we have different shapes that we can push down on our known users. However, several of our ‘cookies’ (editorial messages for audiences) will be the same, since we only have a specific number of ‘moulds’ (predefined parameters). Because personalisation requires no deeper knowledge of the customer, only the data we have in the system – such as demographic variables or behaviour on the website – are used.


‘Personal is unique and custom. Personalised doesn’t require any knowledge of the customer. Personal reflects an understanding of a human being. Personalised doesn’t elicit an emotion.’

And how do you get so personal? Contrary to trends in automation, it requires a personal approach and more manual work. Here, the company, the customer service assistant or the vendor must know deeply about who they are talking to and what his or her pain points are.

A great example from Dan Gingiss' presentation at INBOUND19 is (an American pet equipment retailer). Here, customer service receives a request from a customer who is not completely satisfied with the cat litter she has purchased.



With this highly personalised email, Chewy not only helps a potentially dissatisfied customer, but also gives them the opportunity to try a new product and ultimately get a good experience. And, of course, like many others, this email is built up from a reusable template, but the team at Chewy enriches it with specially-selected products, a custom refund and even using the name of the customer's cat – see, it's personal!

For which the main theme of this year's INBOUND conference was marked, the focal point of marketing in 2019 – and in the future – is authenticity and honesty. These are the cornerstones of being able to communicate personally, and not just personalised, to your target audience.

So consider whether some of the most valuable touchpoints in your customer journey could use an extra ‘personal touch’ to create strong relationships and (even more) loyal customers.

#2 A bot is hot – but wasn't that the case in 2018 as well?

Messaging is the future. Full stop. Therefore, I am not surprised that this once again was one of the very big issues at INBOUND19. For it can hardly come as a surprise to anyone that chatbots and Messenger marketing are predicting a great future. Like in 2018. So why haven't all companies got a chatbot implemented and come full swing with marketing on Messenger?

My best guess is that it is often not as easy as it sounds. In particular, chatbots can be a resource-heavy task to get started, as the project will often involve several different departments of the company, such as sales, marketing and customer service.

But there is no doubt – if you want to get closer to your customers, this is the way forward. Still not convinced? (Source: Bot tactics to jumpstart conversational strategies)

  • 79% of users would like to use messaging for customer service enquiries
  • 82% of users rate fast response as one of the most important factors for good customer service

Surprisingly, only about 30% of companies surveyed are either actively working with chatbots or are investigating the potential. So we have a huge gap between what companies can provide and what users want.

You can thus gain a competitive advantage by jumping on the bot wave. But you probably already knew that – so why not get started?

If you don't quite have the courage for a full-blown chat reply to your website, start using Messenger for your marketing activities. Here you get most of the stuff in the Messenger platform, and can start with either having a staff member sit and answer enquiries in the chat, or encode simple sequences, which can for example respond to opening hours, address etc. And at the same time, you can get permission from those who turn to Messenger and use these for segments of your marketing – win, win.

#3 Get Smarketing into your organisation

Smarketing – a little kitsch and over-used word. But across the many talks at INBOUND, Smarketing was not to be avoided. The official definition describes it as:

‘The process of integrating the sales and marketing processes of a business. The objective is for the sales and marketing functions to have a common integrated approach.’ (Source: Wikipedia)

Smarketing is about ‘getting sales and marketing closer together’. And anyone who works in either of these fields knows the friction that can occur between the two departments. Try to see if you can recognise yourself in any of the following statements:

Marketing: ‘Sales don't use the content I've created! They don’t grab the leads I create! I never get feedback on my campaigns!’

Sales: ‘Leads from marketing don’t have high enough quality! We don't work for the same goals! The content marketing that they are doing does not fit into the dialogue I have with the customer!’

Sound familiar? At least I sat down and nodded along with these statements. In some organisations, these statements are not even shared between departments. But whether these attitudes are explicit or implicit, it is important to do something about them.

For you to win the customer's favour, sales and marketing must work together to create a streamlined and efficient user experience – and ultimately a loyal customer.