Hear from experts who spoke at Inbound 2019
This Fall, over 25,000 marketing minds flocked to Boston for the annual HubSpot Inbound 2019 Conference. This year’s jam-packed, four-day event featured more than 100 fantastic speakers and presenters. Attendees learned from both industry experts and big names outside the marketing world.
Superstars like Jennifer Garner, Katie Couric, Chelsea Handler and Janelle Monáe graced the stage to share personal stories of struggle and success. Our marketing team was there to soak it all up, one truth bomb at a time. Here are our key Inbound 2019 takeaways to ponder as you create your marketing plan for 2020, including deep dives into three topics: link building, email marketing and LinkedIn advertising.
Link Building isn’t Dead, it’s Evolving
One of the most valuable sessions at Inbound 2019 was presented by Fire&Spark founder Dale Bertrand, who explored the concept of link building, and how it’s NOT DEAD YET, (his words, not ours!).
Brands are still investing in their link building strategies, but the types of tactics being deployed have changed. Bertrand emphasized a multi-tactic approach with short- and long-term strategies working in tandem. Our team took away a handful of excellent notes, including the following:
Every SEO campaign should be mirrored with a link-building campaign.
Why create an awesome page with great keywords and not leverage it? Link building goes hand-in-hand with your SEO keyword choices. When searching for the perfect keyword, you should be finding the sources that could link back to your content. If most of the pages that are currently ranking are competitive ones, consider a different keyword or tactic. If the top pages are more credible, consider reaching out to those pages to include a backlink to your own content. After Inbound 2019, we caught up with Bertrand, and he re-iterated this point.
“In the B2B space, a lot of people are not doing SEO correctly,” Bertrand said. “They have no idea how valuable links are. They’re just not optimizing their marketing for links, and they’re missing out on tons of opportunities in the B2B space for syndications, especially industry publications or blogs.”
Bertrand wants you to realize that all links are helpful, but some are more valuable than others. ‘Reciprocal linking’ is an okay option, but not as powerful as one-way links from credible sources.
What is reciprocal linking?
A reciprocal link scenario involves two organizations linking to each other’s content. I’m company A, and in my blog, I link to company B’s blog post. In that blog post, Company B links to my blog. For Bertrand, this type of reciprocal link doesn’t carry the same weight as a one-way link.
“If I was quoting people and asking for links, I’d avoid the reciprocal link problem,” Bertrand said. “A reciprocal link is better than nothing, but I always prefer a one-way link.”
The one-way link connects your desired source’s website to your own content. This is the ultimate goal of a link-building campaign: generating one-way links back to your cornerstone content or pillar pages from relevant and credible external sites.
Research your competitors to steal their current backlinks.
This is an aggressive tactic, and it takes time to execute. However, you’ll kill two birds with one stone by improving your own rankings and reducing your competitor’s presence at the same time. In practice, it’s a simple process: find places on the web that are linking to your competitors, find contact information for those outlets, and pitch an update to their current content with new links to your articles.
Similarly, if you find broken links on good research pages, offer to replace those links with similar content. This doesn’t have to be a competitor’s link, rather any broken link on a good piece of content. No webmaster wants broken links on their site, so they’re often appreciative if you bring the issue to their attention. If successful, you earn a backlink from a page with authority, with minimal effort.
Wherever your company or founder is mentioned, there should be a link to your page.
Missing links are a great place to start. If your CEO spoke at a conference, and there isn’t a link to your site, get on it! Reach out to the conference’s webmaster, and ask if they can link your boss’ name to your homepage, a cornerstone piece of content where they are the byline, or to a pillar page on your site.
As mentioned, broken links, like competitive links, are an opportunity. You never want a potential backlink to breakdown. Check the speaker pages for your CEO’s next event and make sure the site is linking back to your homepage, and after the event, make sure those links remain live. People often search for events to recall details and learn more information, so you need live links to capitalize on that traffic.
10x Content deserves 10x link building efforts.
When you create a piece of content that is better than most of your other assets, (maybe it’s a piece of original research), it deserves 10 times the efforts when looking for backlinks. The best long-term strategies involve sharing and re-pitching this asset to as many credible sources as you can. Dig through to the 10th page of Google, and find every outlet talking about your topic, then send them all messages. You’re trying to procure as many links to this piece of content as possible, and this requires time and effort, a point that Bertrand made in our post-conference discussion.
“Link building can cure a lot of issues. We always want to do link building and get the best links we can,” Bertrand said. “The reason why search campaigns don’t always start with, or even include link building is because it’s hard. But that doesn’t mean it’s not valuable. If you can get a link from an authoritative site in your space, that’s going to help you.”
Ultimately, your content creation plan must include link building tactics. If you’re not taking the time to pitch your content out to reputable sources to drive backlinks, you’re not fully leveraging your content.
One other way you should be sharing your content is via targeted email marketing campaigns. We dove into another session at Inbound 2019 to learn the ins and outs of email marketing in 2020.
Email Marketing Tactics are Changing
Nothing remains constant in the marketing world, not even something as tried-and-true as email marketing. Yes, you’re still keying in on the same major metrics: open rate, click rate, bounce rate and click-through rates. However, the word choices you use in subject lines, the call-to-action (CTA) in your emails and even send times/volumes are shifting as we head into 2020.
In the session “Do This, Not That! 20 Best Practices for Email Marketing Campaigns that Drive Customer Engagement,” Worldata President and CEO Jay Schwedelson touched on a bevy of email marketing strategies, both good and bad.
Email statistics to blow your mind
According to Worldata’s annual survey, the main reason people unsubscribe from emails is because they receive emails too frequently. Some may take this statistic and interpret it as “we’re sending too many emails,” but Schwedelson takes a different approach to this data.
Rather than focusing on those people who are unsubscribing, look at the inverse. 28% say that they receive too many emails, meaning 72% are okay with your current volume. And he backs that up with another fact: 92% of people who unsubscribe from an email list have not opened or clicked on an email from that sender in over 12 months. Who needs that person taking up a precious spot on their contact list?
Another relevant stat from the Worldata team: emails with offers that expire have a 62% higher overall response rate for B2C, and 55% higher for B2B. In short, if there isn’t an expiration on your offer, it’s a service. Customers can get it anytime, so why click now? Similarly, there are certain words that have an impact on email open rates. Check out Worldata’s graphic below:
As you can see, the first nine words (after Free) associated with better open rates include a sense of urgency. Limited time, expiration dates and specific days remaining are all valuable in that they create a feeling of “if I don’t open this now, I’ll miss out on something special.” FOMO is real, and it works in email marketing subject lines.
If it worked for the Sopranos, then it can …
For your next business development or opt-in email campaign, try the half-sentence tactic. For example, “Announcing the most valuable …” can do a lot to improve an open-rate. What is on the other end of that sentence? I need to know, and so do your targets. Compared to an average email, half-sentences lead to 37% higher open rates for B2C and 31% higher rates for B2B. One final tactic: try leveraging a number in your subject line. According to Worldata, subject lines that start with a number have a 21% higher open rate.
Schwedelson’s advice can be applied to your business today. Start A/B testing your subject lines using a few of our tips. Keep track of the results, and iterate upon your successes. Like all marketing campaigns, practice and repetition are key to success.
LinkedIn Advertising & Branding – How they’re both evolving.
After Inbound 2019, we were lucky to connect with AJ Wilcox to talk LinkedIn Advertising best practices. Wilcox is the Founder of B2Linked, a firm that specializes in LinkedIn advertising. After the conference, he discussed when to select LinkedIn ads over other social channels, when to avoid LinkedIn v. when it’s worth the cost, and for education marketers, which audiences are best reached on LinkedIn compared to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
When to run a LinkedIn advertising campaign
If your target audience includes professional decision-makers, it’s the opportune time to run a LinkedIn campaign. A LinkedIn target audience can be reached by job title, company size, industry and seniority, among other criteria, making your campaign-specific and scalable. According to Wilcox, “You can essentially reach 100% of your target audience if they’re white-collar professionals.”
Although costs on LinkedIn are higher than Twitter and Facebook, Wilcox thinks the targeting capabilities are worth it. The specificity in audiences is especially valuable when targeting in B2B, as user data is more up-to-date on LinkedIn compared to other channels. However, that same specificity is what drives higher cost-per-click rates.
Is LinkedIn advertising worth the cost?
The biggest reason to avoid using LinkedIn is the cost associated with the campaigns. They almost always start out as a more expensive option, with an average cost-per-click (CPC) of $7-$10 in 2019. This number is industry-dependent, but for less expensive products, you may be paying more for clicks than users will return in lifetime value.
For Wilcox, there is a clear candidate for LinkedIn ads. Depending on your business, LinkedIn ads won’t always fit into your strategy.
“There are certain businesses that the economics of LinkedIn just won’t work,” said Wilcox. “For example, app installs or low-cost software updates where the user closes for $100 or less, it will be difficult to get ROI out of LinkedIn ads.”
If the lifetime value of a customer isn’t high enough, the number of clicks, impressions and conversions returned on LinkedIn ads won’t outpace the money you put into the advertising. However, if you have an offer that really is valuable (think free webinar, checklist, white paper or event), end-users will be more willing to engage in your funnel and provide their contact info.
Wilcox reiterated this point, putting a dollar amount on the lifetime account that is best targeted, “If you know that you’re going to make $15,000 over the lifetime of a customer, then you will be able to overcome the higher entry costs with LinkedIn.”
There are a handful of reasons why a LinkedIn advertising campaign might fail, but for Wilcox, the primary reason is simple: CTA’s aren’t good enough.
“The biggest failure for advertisers, is not having the right call to action in their ads,” said Wilcox. “If you send someone to an ad that says ‘click here to schedule a time to talk to our salesperson,’ no one has any sort of inventive to convert on your ad.”
Wilcox asks, “Why pay $10 for a click if you’re not collecting valuable data on the back-end?” We agree wholeheartedly.
LinkedIn Ads for targeting School Administrators
If your customer base is at the school or district level, you are working with a more narrow population than teachers or other targeted groups. Because there are fewer administrators than teachers, you need to identify the ideal targeting criteria, because paying for the wrong clicks is equally bad. When it comes to finding that perfect mix, Wilcox mentioned leveraging the job title targeting option.
“The biggest insight I’d share is if you’re going after a school administrator, the only way we’ve been able to reach that person is by job title,” said Wilcox. “We’ve found that job function is too broad.”
Wilcox also mentioned that costs for this audience will be high, but if you have an asset or CTA that resonates, you can win the auctions associated with this audience with bids in the $6-9 range for CPC. Start at the low end, and slowly work your way up in bids until you find the right amount of traffic/clicks for your budget. He highlighted the click-through-rate (CTR) that matters, and it’s attainable: just 1%.
“The audience size I like to see for continuity through an account is 20,000 to 80,000 people,” said Wilcox. “If you were smart about your targeting, you’re hitting the exact right people, so if you’re willing to be patient and wait for that traffic to come in, you know it’s going to be good. You’ll probably pay a lot for a smaller audience, but I would never recommend inflating your audience so your ad shows more.”
Basically, find your audience, identify the CTA and copy that resonates with that audience, and then low-ball your bid. From there, work up to the right bid amount, and then practice patience. That’s Wilcox’s strategy, and the strategy at CB&A as well.
Thoughts from other inspirational Inbound 2019 speakers
Finally, since we couldn’t fit all our ideas into one piece, here are some insights from other presentations we enjoyed:
- From Urban Misfit Ventures CEO, Quentin Allums – Be your true self, invest the time in your story, and good things will happen.
- From MobileMonkey’s Director of Marketing, Virginia Nussey – Early adapters in the chat-bot space will have access to hundreds of millions of daily active users.
- From HubSpot Co-Founder & CEO, Brian Halligan – How you sell, is why you win.
- From HubSpot Co-Founder & CTO, Dharmesh Shah – If you can get past the fear of commitment, fear of differences, fear of change, fear of disappointment and fear of inferiority, you can do amazing things.
- From actress and activist Jennifer Garner – You will find success if you work on something you truly can speak to.
- From Perspectivity Founder, Brian Williams – Clients want ROI, not your excuses. Step your game up.
- From Khan Academy‘s Founder Salman Khan – There is power in being excited about education, locally, nationally and globally.
- From Equal Justice Initiative Founder, Bryan Stevenson – Stevenson’s discussion of inclusion and racial inequalities was powerful and timely.
- And, from the illustrious and acclaimed journalist, Katie Couric – We live in an age where people no longer consume news as facts, but instead, to validate their current beliefs.
That’s all we have today, folks. HubSpot Inbound 2019 is officially a wrap.
Enjoy reading about the CB&A experience at Inbound 2019? Try another from one of our four pillars:
- Marketing – Six Ways to Stay Relevant with Brand Marketing
- Public Relations – Journalism Advocacy: 5 Ways to Support Journalists
- Social Media – Best Practices for Collaborating with Social Media Influencers
- Content Marketing – The 2019 Marketing Planning Series: Content Tools & Trends