Well, that’s the end of Inbound 2020 (an annual conference discussing the latest trends in marketing, sales and customer service). Was it the same as jetting off to Boston to hang out with many of our best industry friends and colleagues? Certainly not. But it was probably the best online conference many of us have attended so far, thanks to a combination of robust technology (that worked most of the time), and a strong balance between “traditional presentations” and a variety of other session formats.
Our key takeaway was that B2B is still about humans having conversations to help each other, so building trust, using empathy, trying to understand your customer and delivering genuine value are all still key! But we also learned a lot more besides this, so if you were unable to join the conference this year, check out the top tips, tricks and trends from our favourite sessions below.
- Scientific secrets that will make your life science copy even more persuasive
- Misalignment between your sales and marketing team is costing you money (and losing you deals)
- Rely less on assumptions and more on data to better tailor your content strategy to your audience
- Inbound versus outbound: a showdown!
- Adapting to sudden changes in user preference and behaviour in order to stay top-of-mind during changing times
1. Scientific secrets that will make your life science copy even more persuasive
See what I did there? I promised to tell you a secret...and you duly obliged by reading this far. Of course, now I need to deliver on my promise. This idea encapsulates a key tenet from Nancy Harhut’s talk at Inbound 2020, that behavioural studies suggest that promising to share a secret invokes a cognitive bias known as the “scarcity principle”. This leads most people to pay more attention, as they think the thing you’re sharing is of limited availability.
Even better, Nancy was kind enough to share a whole host of tips like this, backed up by data from social science studies. Here are our three favourite principles from her talk:
- You can use a negative suggestion to deliver positive business results. According to Nancy, a range of studies have suggested that most of us are twice as motivated to avoid the pain of loss as we are to achieve the benefit of gain, something known as “loss aversion”. So, if you highlight pains and mistakes you can help your customer avoid, you’ll tap into their natural loss aversion bias and nudge them to investigate your solution.
- Convince sceptics by telling stories that encourage the audience to come to their own conclusion. This makes them feel more empowered, less “sold to” and more invested (after all, this is their own idea, so they will also be less likely to be swayed once they’ve made their mind up). I want to highlight that I came up with this particular principle on my own, at least, I think I did...
- Create a ripple effect by making the first action easy to take. Creating sustained engagement with a prospect builds trust and increases customer lifetime value. But how can you do this? Well, Nancy suggests tapping into the “social consistency principle”. In effect, someone is more likely to say yes a second and third time, so the key is getting to say yes the first time. Start small, with a micro conversion first (usually offering value for free), before layering on additional offers over time (of increasing value/cost).
2. Misalignment between your sales and marketing team is costing you money (and losing you deals)
According to Jeff Davis of JD2 Consulting, poor alignment between sales and marketing costs firms trillions of dollars in wasted productivity, effort and marketing spend. As Jeff puts it, “we need togetherness and we need it now".
So how can you know if your business has this problem? Well, key indicators often include: a high volume of leads coming in from marketing but low sales conversion rates; the sales and marketing team using different measures of success; and a lack of shared business/customer insights between teams (often manifested as a missed opportunity to gather real-time, frequent market feedback from customers via their interaction with your sales team).
Jeff’s solution? A seven-step process, as outlined in more detail in his book “Create Togetherness”:
- Assess the depth of misalignment between your teams and the areas you’ll need to work on
- Try to quantify the impact of the misalignment (both so you can assess how bad the issue is, and so you can use this info to motivate people to change)
- Model the ideal process (i.e. what your aligned marketing and sales process should look like)
- Get senior-level buy-in (often the CEO) as you need a champion for implementing a new process like this that includes two core business functions
- Start sharing more data to create a single view of the buyer with shared metrics (including setting up the right technology stack to help with this)
- Develop and implement your new, cohesive revenue engine/process
- Put feedback processes in place and collaborate more freely to ensure learnings are captured and shared (and the process is improved over time).
3. Rely less on assumptions and more on data to better tailor your content strategy to your audience
For life science marketers, understanding how your buyer personas consume and engage with the content you generate can provide you with a wealth of information not only about what interests them, but also which of your services will be more suitable for them.
This means that marketers should always look for ways in which their marketing activities can not only get great content in front of their prospects, but also inform them in real-time of which content formats or topics are resonating with which personas. This can help you tailor content more effectively to your target audiences in the future – in order to create more successful campaigns.
Here’s one way of doing this: Many marketers nowadays are using sponsored content on LinkedIn as a way of targeting content to different audiences based on their assumptions of the relevancy of that content to that audience. But if you set up your campaigns in LinkedIn so that the targeting is split by persona, you can use real-time data like conversion rates and clicks to support or adjust your assumptions about which content is right for which customer type.
For example, it might be that you are promoting an eBook that delves deep into a particular challenge that a number of your audience segments are facing, but you recognise that while people in middle-management like to get into the weeds of this topic, people in the C-Suite don’t have the time to digest longform content. Perhaps you could break up that content into a shorter form, presenting them with the key takeaways only (or perhaps another content form altogether, such as video or an infographic) and see if that resonates better. It could also be that promoting content to these audiences that speaks to a different challenge can provide you with a heads up of what kinds of challenges are being felt by each persona.
This way, you can use real-time data to be agile and evolve your content promotion strategy accordingly.
4. Inbound versus outbound: a showdown!
Inbound? Outbound? Both? Neither? This was the topic of a heated (and jovial) showdown debate between George B Thomas and Doug Davidoff, with Remington Begg doing a great job as the referee!
George kicked off proceedings representing Inbound (although he spent a large amount of time talking about bacon – I’m finding it hard to explain why, I think you’ll need to watch the recording to understand!). George’s main argument was that outbound is all about disruption to get attention, which causes frustration as this is not what modern buyer’s want. Instead, be the person who delivers what the people want by being a helpful, humble human being. Ultimately it has to be about them and not about you.
Next up was Doug, who laid out a very compelling case for outbound. He begins by reflecting upon the fact that outbound done poorly is annoying, frustrating and “should be illegal!”. But he also makes a good series of points about the quality of inbound leads (just because someone downloads an eBook doesn’t mean they will ever buy from you, you’ve got yourself a “bulging funnel!”), as well as the fact that most businesses cannot sit around waiting for high-quality leads to come to them.
After a very entertaining series of rebuttals (seriously, we laughed out loud, go watch the recording), our two esteemed gladiators came to agree that both inbound and outbound marketing and sales approaches are required for success. Perhaps with even more passion, they pleaded with everyone at the talk to make both bad inbound and outbound a thing of the past (i.e. interruptive, company-centric, poorly thought out campaigns, with no value delivered to the prospect).
5. Adapting to sudden changes in user preference and behaviour in order to stay top-of-mind during changing times
Thanks to COVID-19, the world has moved online – and it looks as if this is a trend that is not likely to slow down any time soon. This means we have to look at whether these changes are going to affect how we get our life science marketing content in front of our prospects.
Take email marketing as an example. This is a tried and tested marketing tactic that can be incredibly effective for delivering helpful content to an engaged database of leads that are ripe for nurturing. But has the ‘work from home’ reality we are living in led to changes in the way we need to reach people even via email?
It looks as if it has. As Jay Schwedelson, CEO of B2B marketing firm Worlddata, explained during his talk titled ‘Critical email marketing techniques to crush the competition’, sadly people’s attention spans for marketing emails seem to have shortened. Highlighting the point, when they compared data taken at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to that from the last 30 days, marketing emails sent at the start of the week performed better than those sent towards the end (something of a reversal of the trends that they saw pre-pandemic). They attributed this to a behaviour they had noticed across a number of outreach activities – namely that people’s openness to consuming this kind of content dwindles as the week goes by.
Sudden changes in the way our audiences are living their digital lives are leading to other interesting side effects that marketers need to be aware of and adapt to. In his talk ‘The end of technical SEO?’, Dale Bertrand (President of Fire&Spark and a true SEO thought leader), made the case that during these changing times, digital marketers should lean away from making small technical SEO updates to their websites (which while important, lead to small, incremental improvements in SERP ranking) and instead focus on the on-page content of their website, making it relevant to the new and unique challenges that their customers are facing (many as a result of the pandemic).
Google responds to user behaviour in a flash, which means those companies who are putting in place solutions to help address new challenges faced by their customers as a result of COVID-19 (and talking about those solutions online) are seeing steep improvements in their findability.
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