Create Grow Blog

INBOUND 2017: Boston's Most Epic Conference For Inbound Sales & Marketing

By Soumya Indurti • October 30, 2017

Learning is forever. As we put greater impetus to grow everyday, we put a lot of time into reading about things that matter that would make us better at work and life. This year like every other one in the last 5 years, the INBOUND movement came alive in Boston with over 21,400 attendees and the promise of growth in-person over 4 days of epic learning. 

(Really long blog alert, cause all of Connect Labs contributed**)

There are some days in your life that you tend to learn ten times more than you would by sitting at your desk. There's something ultra rewarding about travel, putting yourself in uncomfortable networking groups and talking to a random stranger about things that matter. In our time in Boston, we did it all. Some of the key talks have left us with a lot of new ideas and paved a way to potential growth.

We're highlighting some of the best talks that we think could help you learn and grow too!

The Importance of Being Original - Keynotes Roundup

One of the many highlights of attending INBOUND 2017, was the chance to hear from a number of inspiring keynote and spotlight speakers on the main stage. A common thread for speakers this year was the importance of being original and the power of the individual. 

Brene Brown

Brene Brown is a highly acclaimed American scholar, author, and public speaker, who is currently a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. Her INBOUND17 keynote focused on finding a sense of belonging, embracing your vulnerability, and believing in your self-worth. 

One of the powerful quotes for the evening, by Maya Angelou, that stood out for the audience was: 

'You only are free when you realize you belong no place - you belong every place - no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great'


I think we can all recall a time, especially in our professional lives, when we have not asked for help for fear of being viewed weak or vulnerable. Brown calls this behaviour out, highlighting that 'the most trust-earning behaviour people do at work is asking for help. Number two is showing up at a funeral'. She asserts that vulnerability should not be shunned, but accepted. And asking for help should definitely not be seen as a weakness. 

Embracing our vulnerabilities is only possible when we accept who we are, with pride.

'If you set out in the world looking for evidence that you’re not enough, you’re always going to find it.'

Adam Grant

Adam Grant is an Author and Professor at Wharton. Based on his best selling and highly acclaimed book The Originals, Grant shared four behaviours of "originals" who are more successful at getting their ideas heard and taken up

  • Put your worst foot forward

People who are up front about their flaws, or the potential flaws in their ideas, are more likely to build trust. If you're willing to be honest about what you can't do, your audience is likely to think you are telling the truth about what you can do - they will believe you. Another advantage to putting your worst foot forward is that it makes it harder for your audience to pick holes. If you have already pointed them out, they will spend less time searching for problems, and more time listening to the good stuff! 

  • Make unfamiliar ideas familiar


If you have a new idea, make it easier for your audience to see potential success by framing it in familiar terms. When first pitched, Disney's now iconic The Lion King was dismissed as being too different, until somebody was able to point out its similarities with Shakespeare's Hamlet - a dead King, a young Prince dispossessed, a usurping brother, a father's apparition, a son's return. Not so unfamiliar anymore, and arguably Disney's most successful film.  

  • Pitch to the right audience

Who should you go to when first pitching ideas? Go to somebody who doesn't know the rules, somebody who is a bit outside your domain, they have familiarity but not expertise. And be prepared to set your ego aside, you want some creative peers to challenge your ideas. 


  • Give yourself a second score

People who are open to feedback will always go further. Make sure you're not just asking for feedback, but implementing it as well. If you show that you are committed to improve based on feedback, people will give you more constructive feedback, and you will continue to improve.


Piera Gelardi

Piera Gelardi is the Executive Creative Director and co-founder of the digital media company, Refinery29. Piera has been recognised as one of the most creative people in the world of media and content, so it was no surprise that her keynote address focused on how individuals can tap into courageous creativity to bring authenticity front and center. 


Encouraging us all to be the 'most you', she highlighted the importance of creating optimal conditions for creativity:

  • Surround yourself with items that spark enthusiasm
  • Recreate conditions where you have had success in the past
  • Embrace and explore the uncomfortable because it can lead to opportunity  
  • Friction creates sparks

Here are more actionable ways to be creative:

  1. Stay true to yourself.  Being the most you that you possibly can be is about knowing who you are, staying true to yourself and exercise self awareness. Who you are is always changing however, so define what it is that you most value and stay true to these values.
  2. Recognise your unique strengths. Take these strengths, the things that make you most comfortable, into new, unfamiliar territory. Leverage strength in unfamiliar territory.   Don't be afraid to ask questions of amongst peers. Don't fear being judged!
  3. Understand what makes you thrive. Wrong conditions have the potential to make us fall short of our own expectations and doubt our own abilities.  So, work to create optimum working conditions.   Know what makes you feel most comfortable, have fun, allow laughter to unlock brilliance. Be creative for someone else.
  4. Channel emotion into creative.  Emotions such as ‘friction’ can form a great basis to generate inspirational sparks, which support development of ideas, ideas and more ideas - right ot wrong! So, don’t hide from injustice or situations that make you feel uncomfortable, use these types of situations to create emotional friction, create and rise-up.
  5. Combat frustration with imagination. Re frame problems to unlock the solution - embrace the uncomfortable.  If it doesn’t fit, tailor it to fit better. Don’t fight systems that exist, create new ones.
  6. Allow play to create trust. “Come forth and thrive”. Get out of your body and into your head.  Shake it out - level the playing field and recreate. Don’t deteriorate leadership, grow it.


Brilliant Takeaways From Experts

The Invisible Giant That Mucks Up Our Marketing

Rand Fishkin, Founder of Moz, is undoubtedly a favourite. He adds value to marketing in his own unique way, spinning marketing boring to awesome takeaways. His talk explored the cognitive biases and cultural pressure that create logical fallacies in our marketing brains. 

3 brilliant takeaways:
  • Invest X% in hard-to-measure marketing channels
  • Non-technical marketers are a myth
  • Only 54% of search results are organic and paid, the rest are knowledge panels, related questions, local packs, images etc.


Using Survival Psychology To Build a Resilient Brand

Jonathan David-Lewis uses proprietary research to provide a guide on how-to navigate uncertain times by correlating survival psychology  with modern business, teaching us how to adapt and change. We're identifying the wild as:

  • Economy
  • Industry disruption
  • Competition

There are other factors that might affect you, categories as the wild inside are:

  • Loss of nerve
  • Loss of focus
  • Inconsistency
  • Loss of Alignment


The wild inside as listed above exists in all of us but it is crucial that we look at things positively. ambiguity is not something that we should fear but something that is a given. We need to think like those who survived a crash landing but inherently know that the wild exists around and inside us in out day-to-day lives.


3 brilliant takeaways:

  • Winners embrace uncertainity
  • Flexibility beats efficiency
  • Connection defuses decay

What We Learnt About Email and Chatbots

Well, email is not dead. Old school email marketing is. Information people are consuming hasn’t actually changed all that much. However, the way people consume information and interact with a brand has.

At INBOUND this year, marketing experts from Microsoft, TopBots, HubSpot, Dtspeaks shared actionable email marketing tips and chatbot strategies and educational resources to improve brand engagement. 

What to do about a failing email marketing strategy?

Email isn't like it was decades ago where 90% open rates was a norm. Getting your message past Promotions or Junk is no doubt a tough job, what more high open rates.

Amongst the many reasons why emails fail today, some of the biggest killers are writing boring email content, sending out unsegmented emails, not evolving with technology and poorly managing the database. 

Arvell Craig, one of the breakout session speakers at INBOUND17 shared 3 of his favourite strategies that have helped him achieve tremendous success in his business that he's built around cold and warm email marketing and now, chatbots too.

Minimum Viable Email Sequence Framework 

Arvell Craig created the Minimum Viable Email Sequence framework, which defines the 4 minimum factors for email engagement for today's users.

  • Quantity
  • Content
  • Engagement
  • Your marketing super-power 

He believes that there's a minimum quantity of emails that needs to be sent out to get readers' attention, the email content needs to be intelligent and of high quality, marketers should disclose more and be more open to encourage engagement and marketers should leverage on their "super-power" and publish email content the way that best suits them. 

Watch the video below to learn why and how this framework can help you improve email engagements. 


Apply social media best practices

It might sound strange to use social media best practices in email marketing because they have different purposes, but let me explain why it works. 

Consumers today are hooked on social media because it's personal, raw and visually appealing. They spend hours scrolling through their Facebook Newsfeed, exchanging conversations through messenging platforms like Whatsapp, Kik and Snapchat and sharing their images and videos on Instagram Stories. If we use the principles of social media in email marketing, we can bet that open and click-through rates can increase.  Read Neil Patel's blog on how to make your audience fall in love with you through email marketing. 

Try these social media best practices in your email content:

  • Write concise and high quality content
  • Share other people's content
  • Format the content for the medium
  • Be a storyteller - stories are memorable and engaging
  • Be personal via humour
  • Engage with your leads
  • Listen
  • Use emojis and GIFs
  • Be visually appealing
  • Use more video! 

Forced engagement on email

Forced engagement is about incentivising them to open your emails and regularly engage with you and maybe even, anticipate for your email.

A point system and other gamification ideas that could be used to encourage your readers to engage with you and show your readers the benefits for doing so. For example, if your email recipient opens an email, they get 1 point and if they click on a link, they get 10 points. Once they reach 60 points, they get a reward of some sort.

Always remember, they're always tuning into the WII.FM radio channel (What's In It For Me!). So remind them about the benefit that they will otherwise lose if they do not engage with your emails.

Chatbots are Email 2.0

As technology available to consumers and brands evolve, we as marketers have to evolve too. We've moved from cold email marketing to warm email marketing and now, email's beginning to evolve into chatbots.




With the growing importance of customer experience and reliable and round the clock customer support, chatbots can help assist in creating an omnichannel customer support system. Think of chatbots as your virtual, 24/7 support system that brings marketing, sales and customer service together as one single service. Chatbots can help attract prospective customers, manage customer retention and exceed customer expectations - which can impact a business' competitive advantage. 

Chatbots are powerful because it's about getting into the consumers mindset and sending a personalised message that drives the user to interact with the brand. It changes the whole customer relationship from "Buy now" to "What do you need right now".




Take Sephora for example, instead of constantly sending out product information and promotions, Sephora uses a chatbot to improve their customer service both, at home and in-store.

Sephora has two new chatbot features – Sephora Reservation Assistant and Sephora Color Match. Consumers can now book appointments with their own personal beauty specialist with the chatbot itself and use the chatbot to find suitable make up products and re-create certain looks. Read more about Sephora's chatbot features by Retail Dive.

As mobile-driven users, especially millennials, consumers are less likely to download individual apps for every service they need. That's where Facebook messenger-based chatbots are beginning to fill that space and has become one of the most important marketing channels today.  

Watch this year's INBOUND session by HubSpot to learn why businesses are leveraging on this platform that has over 1 billion daily active users and how you too can create a Facebook Messenger chatbot to improve customer experience and brand engagement.



Use these educational resources to kickstart your chatbot journey:

At INBOUND, HubSpot also announced that with their acquisition of Motion AI, HubSpot CRM users (which is free) will be able to build bots within HubSpot without technical knowledge in 2018 - also Free! Create your Free HubSpot CRM account here.

Businesses need to stop looking at marketing, sales and customer service as functions with three separate goals but rather work towards a unified goal. With the help of chatbots, creating a seamless customer experience and providing consistent customer support has never been easier.  Whilst email marketing is still a vital channel, we have to evolve with technology and our consumers and start chatbotting.

Highlight of INBOUND 2017: Michelle Obama


Here's a summary of what we thought was really well put by the Ex-First Lady of the USA:

  • Life Teaches You Grace.  Don’t run from difficulty - it. Each of Michelle’s failures, crushing blows and the negative comments that she’s encountered across her journey have made her stronger and given her the ability to deal with things better; 
  • The darkest times in Michelle’s life, may have been the most important periods she’s ever had. It was during these times, that she learned and grew most as a person;
  • Being authentic is mostly about temperament. And secondly about loving yourself. It’d be hard to stand up for yourself, if you didn’t love yourself.
  • Lead with grace. Be humble. Be diplomatic.
  • Know yourself. Don’t let other people define you or allow what they say to affect you. Don’t feel a need to prove yourself to other people. If you are doing good, all that “other” stuff will sort itself out.
  • Speak up. If you’ve been suppressed to speak up as a child, or made feel you’re your opinion is less than another’s opinion, it’s time to think through why you feel this way.  Speak up, fight for what you believe in for yourself and your children.

To summarise our time at INBOUND here's something poignant that Piera said:

orange-quotation-marks-hi.pngWe all have the opportunity to recreate ourselves everyday -  the more effort we make, the more magic we can create!" 

Keep learning, keep growing and share the love for INBOUND. 


Level 3, 257 Collins Street, Melbourne, VIC
03 8375 9654