This year was the first time since 2013 that we were able to get a crew pulled together and head up to chilly Boston to represent ProFromGo at Inbound 2016. Four of us made the trek, we caught some fabulous keynotes, workshops, and even some really good stand up comedy (my favorite by far was Ali Wong).

As part of an assignment to help us revisit what each of us learned, we decided to do a “takeaways” blog post. Just one to two paragraphs from each of us who attended, recapping what we thought was the most intriguing tip or bit of advice that we scooped up during the week. Yes, I know mine is more than a few paragraphs but damn it, I own the place so I do what I want.

We took some time to do a little bit of sightseeing and of course we tossed back a few IPA’s and other local brews. I had clam chowder at least 2x per day each day we were there. But, now it’s time to share. I love getting out of the office with the team and having some fun but the best thing about Inbound, is what you bring back.

So without further adieu, here’s what each of us “lurned” in our quest for perpetual improvement.

Chris Vendilli, Founder/CEO

My decision to focus my recap on a specific session and a single speaker was a quick one. I run a “HubSpot agency chasing growth.” So when I saw a session by a guy I hadn’t heard of before named David Baker titled “Unique Strengths + Challenges for HubSpot Agency Chasing Growth,” I was reeled in like a fish on the hook.

As I went back and reviewed all of the notes I typed into my iPad (via Evernote) for each session, I realized this particular one had 20x the notes of any other. Here’s what captivated me in a super-distilled bullet point list that if it were bottled up, it would be 100 proof moonshine to me 5 years ago, and a strong but more tasty 75 proof whiskey to me today:

  • Many entrepreneurs (and agency owners especially) have this delusion that someday they can “step away” from the business and just collect cash. Not gonna happen. If you have clients who don’t need and cherish “you” personally and your consulting and experience, you might be doing something wrong.
  • Biggest agency problem: finding good clients. Second biggest agency problem: finding good employees. Solve the first problem and the second one becomes an easier fix.
  • (This one hit home HARD): Most agencies see and experience far better results for their clients than for themselves.  Reason being, most of our clients are better positioned and more mature in terms of business and process than we are, and the agency leaders/principals are almost always heavily involved in doing or overseeing these types of client’s work or strategy. Also, that client emergency always take precedent. Another personal hunch on why clients see better results than we do: most of our clients are in niches or industries where the online competition is much less fierce.
  • Be extremely cautious with clients who don’t have their sh*t together. Startups, solopreneurs, and anyone writing a personal check should make the hair on your neck stand-up. Try to only work with clients who have hired professional “something of some kind” before! A few of the most common types of issues with these clients are 1. They don’t know how expensive it is and 2. They don’t realize or understand how many expensive months it takes to get consistent results. They look at you like an expense and expect you to jump thru every hoop. They need to have a profitable business and semi-coherent sales and marketing strategy BEFORE they engage you or if you are going to build all of that for them, you need to charge a whole helluva lot more because you are way beyond blogging and tweeting.
  • Stop doing contracts that aren’t 12 months when you KNOW DARN WELL (he didn’t actually say darn, he said something else it was a loud scary word that start with a “D” and ended with an “AMN”) you will lose money and time at the beginning. Too many firms are chasing clients who are NOT qualified and try to train them into being good clients. Stop making profitability the goal when the goal should be GROWTH.

David’s presentation made it very apparent that he’s “been there done that” and helped others get there too. In his opening he mentioned he was an agency owner himself for half a dozen years and to present day has consulted with over 900 firms, where 40 of them were HubSpot agencies.

His reputation alone made everything he said worth high considerations for indoctrinating into our business and processes. Now the real question is – where do I get started? Hopefully, Justin who is moving into an operations manager role at ProFromGo will be helping me with that!

Justin Babcock, Operations Manager

During my time at Inbound, there were two different presentations that stood out to me.  The first one was “Hacking the Conversation” by Jason Falls. There is a major shift happening in online reputation management. Industry leaders are moving away from monitoring their brand through reviews and applications such as google alerts, social message, clear.com, mention.com, and many other social listening tools. Instead, companies are listening and joining the conversation. They do this by pivoting from traditional market research to a conversational/qualitative research.

Traditional

  • Structured
  • Direct feedback loops
  • Subject Biased
  • Time intensive
  • Costly

Conversational

  • Open
  • Unstructured
  • Listening platform
  • Unsolicited

By joining the conversation instead of controlling the conversation, companies are gaining better insights into what their future customers’ ultimately value.

The second presentation that stood out to me was “The Five Legal Mistakes Your Agency is Making in New Business – And How to Fix Them!” presented by Sharon Toerek. In the fast-paced world of digital marketing, dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s is just an automation service away. However, when it comes to protecting your intellectual property, you should never take a short cut. The five biggest mistakes…

  1. You don’t protect your IP in a pitch or proposal
  2. You don’t get an NDA or worse you sign a client’s one sided NDA
  3. You accept a client’s contract and payment terms without review
  4. You don’t have a master service agreement
  5. You don’t protect the IP during development

By creating NDAs, master service agreements, and copywriting IP, you can better protect your business.

Jimmy Zackal, Digital Marketing Manager

A main responsibility of my position at ProFromGo is to manage the social media accounts for our clients. With that in mind, I was interested in learning content and social media tips.. One session that stood out to me was “The trick to improving content ROI: Make your content 3D” presented by Carrie Kerpen. Kerpen is the CEO of Likeable and a regular columnist for Inc. and Forbes.

As we all know, social media is an industry that is always changing. Kerpen explained that in order to create content that stands out, we need to do one thing – Listen. Listen to what’s trending, how different targets speak, what your competitors are doing, real list conversations, communities, and forums. If you listen to the following, you will see your content slowly change.

Two great take aways from this session were “don’t open a conversation without thinking it through” and “don’t comment on things that are irrelevant unless there is a clear connection.” Don’t open conversation if it does not apply to your business or your brand. For example, don’t create content around a recent news story if it has nothing to do with your industry. Don’t use holiday content if it does not relate back to your company, product, or brand.

Kerpen’s upbeat personality made this presentation fun and interesting. From the stories she told and the client examples she shared, it was obvious she experienced everything a social media marketer could face. Based on her simple and powerful presentation, it was obvious that she listened to what we wanted.

Mike Gogno, Graphic Designer

I had a great time this year at Inbound. I’m sure most people couldn’t imagine the thought of having a blast at a marketing conference, but for someone like me, I was looking forward to it for weeks. I love traveling to new cities and I’ve never been to Boston before, so that also made it more attractive when Chris asked the office who wanted to attend this year.

From the moment we got there, the designer in me noticed the level of detail HubSpot kept in mind when branding the convention center. Everything was orange. Even the urinal cakes in the bathroom. I’m actually still interested in knowing how much of that was already there and how much HubSpot was responsible for. I kept noticing perfectly placed branding like the little signs above the food stands that said “Café Inbound.”

It was an unexpected surprise for me to see some of the celebrities. Before arriving, I must have overlooked that portion of the weekend, but it was inspiring to hear them tell their stories. Also, the comedy was perfect. Ali Wong gained a new fan that night for sure.

Sitting through the Growth Driven Design talk really helped me when I came back to Pittsburgh and took the GDD test. I breezed through it and got the certification, thanks to the great information by Luke Summerfield.

Looking forward to next year!

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