With today’s changing digital marketing landscape, it’s essential for marketers to devote time to learn and stay connected to trends and technology advancements that will help us evolve. That’s why DMA Solutions continually invests in sending a group of team members to Hubspot’s annual Inbound Marketing Conference to expose us to new ways of thinking, elevate our skills and absorb information from other leading marketers. This year, four DMA team members were delighted to fly to Boston and not only absorb learnings from more than 300 marketing and sales experts, but also have the opportunity to hear from Pixar’s CEO Ed Catmull, WWE super star John Cena and of course, former First Lady Michelle Obama.
With a lineup like this, we were sure to return home feeling creatively energized and full of takeaways. This is what blew us away at INBOUND 2017...
Modern Day Marketers Should Lead with Authenticity and Empathy
An overarching theme we noticed throughout the conference encouraged leaders and brands to showcase authenticity and empathy. This was echoed in Michelle Obama’s keynote, as she discussed how leaders and managers can be effective when leading with empathy first. John Cena’s keynote also fell in line with theme when he talked about “creating authenticity with creativity.”
How can brands find their authentic voice using creativity? We learned that it’s essential to get to know your audience and create content for them, not you. One way that brands are getting to know their audiences better and showcasing authenticity is by sharing user-generated content (content your consumers create) on social media.
The authenticity theme extended beyond marketing and was also included in the sales training sessions we attended. We learned that while what you sell is important, how you sell is even more critical. Sales professionals often fail to take a genuine interest in understanding their prospects’ problems. By asking more open-ended questions and truly trying to learn about a prospect before pitching a product or service, authenticity is presented in a solution that works best for them.
Artificial Intelligence and “Chat Bots” Are Our Future
If you’ve ever been on a website and seen a pop up for customer service assistance, you’ve probably experienced a chat bot. Hubspot recently acquired MotionAI, and now Chat Bots are a reality that any marketer and any company can add to their own marketing tool box. According to Hubspot, a bot is a program that automates certain tasks, typically by chatting with a user through a conversational interface. With advancements in artificial intelligence, bots can understand complex requests, personalize responses, and improve interactions over time. Can you imagine the opportunity for your own website and not only your sales team, but connections with consumers as well? We will continue to explore this topic on The Core in the coming months and hope to see fresh produce marketers begin to embrace the power of bots!
Millennials are a Purpose-Driven Generation
Ah, millennials. It seems that this travel team’s generation is still a tough nut to crack for many organizations, as we heard many marketers across multiple industries express struggles with motivating millennials in the workplace. One speaker said something that we found can help put things into perspective for leaders working with millennials: we are a purpose-driven generation. We need to understand why we’re doing the work that we’re doing and where we are going. We especially enjoyed hearing Brian Halligan, Hubspot co-founder, explain how they also wrestled with motivating and leading millennial employees. By helping the millennials in their organization understand “the why” and by giving them a clear purpose and path within the organization, they saw a positive shift in workplace happiness. Halligan expressed “people will work their guts out if they understand the company’s mission and their purpose within that mission.” We’d have to agree. At DMA, our purposeful work drives us to do better and support each other and our industry every day.
Selfie with Brian Halligan!
Quality Content Wins over Quantity
We couldn’t help but pick up on a shift that will have busy marketers jumping for joy: less pushing content out for the sake of having new content, and more of a focus on producing high quality content, even if it means publishing new content less frequently. Your customers and consumers don’t want to see more of something they are only “kind of” interested in. They want to see content that really resonates with them and makes them feel something special about a product or service. In fact, 90% of all engagement comes from 5% of all the content that marketers produce.
To create this kind of content, you must have the time, energy and passion for what you are creating to show off to your consumers. Whether that content is through emails, blogging, downloadable offers or even packaging, be the best in your fresh produce space and be the voice that consumers want to go to for their content consumption about your product.
Less CAN BE more. Publish content that you spend time with and get second opinions within your company. Not only will you create brand loyalty, but you will see that in turn, your sales will begin to climb.
As automation takes over and messaging becomes a significant communication platform for marketers, it’s important to note that email ISN’T dead, it’s just changing. There are 250 billion emails sent daily. 57% of emails sent today are considered spam. To set yourself apart from spam emails and really connect with your audiences, there are 4 major elements you must capitalize on.
- Responsive Design - an approach to web page design that makes the web page work on any device the consumer is viewing on.
- Segmentation - the process of dividing a market of potential customers into groups, or segments, based on different characteristics and demographics.
- Personalization - meeting the customer's needs more effectively and efficiently by making the content useful and specific to them personally.
- Automation - creating a more streamlined email process that both saves the marketer time and serves your consumer personalized content based on behaviors or actions they take.
Major design trends that today’s consumers are interested in seeing in your email sends are interactivity, big data personalization, embedded HTML videos and automation. Everyone has an email address. As long as you are changing along with your consumers, you will still connect and make an impact with your brand through email.
You Can’t Keep Ignoring Video
At DMA Solutions, we’ve been talking about the importance of video for some time. At Inbound 2017, we learned that it’s only growing in importance, and that the way you use your video content matters just as much, if not more, than creating it. Successful marketers don’t wait for people to find them; instead, they meet their target audiences where they are already consuming content. Share video content on social media and on YouTube, and have a place for video to live on your website.
The conference reminded us that video is human, personal, and authentic. Live video, in particular, helps brands extend this humanization and connect and engage with consumers. We learned that live streamed video gets 3x more engagement than on-demand video. With that data in hand, when is YOUR next Facebook Live?
Michelle Obama Delivers a Lesson on Authenticity
“Don’t put so much on your plate that you can’t do it all well.” - Michelle Obama at INBOUND 2017
The former first lady taught us an important lesson on leadership and on leading others with compassion and grace. “Remember, you’re a manager of humans,” said Mrs. Obama, emphasizing the importance of understanding and valuing others in collaborative environments.
Michelle Obama’s wisdom was especially inspirational for our team of unique and individually brilliant women. She reminded us that before her role as the First Lady of the United States, she graduated from Princeton and held a successful career as an attorney. Her goal upon entering the White House was to have a “substantive being,” and to contribute to more than just a slogan while her husband was in office. This bit of inspiration meant so much to our team, as we are blessed to be part of an industry that constantly creates substantive work.
Finally, she shared a key piece of advice that all marketers can learn from: “Don’t put so much on your plate that you can’t do it all well.” At DMA, we constantly challenge ourselves with growing, learning and finding more opportunities to turn up the dial on what we’re doing for this industry. While it’s always important to take on new challenges, it’s critical to take the time to ensure you’re doing good work and learning. Don’t overextend your marketing efforts and make them less impactful in the process. In other words, take the time to master the marketing you’re already doing. Stick to your plans, and don’t get distracted with every new idea that pops up.
The Power of Storytelling
“It’s a privilege to expand the realm of storytelling.” - Issa Rae, at INBOUND 2017
Issa Rae and Brit Marling, expert content creators and the minds behind Insecure and The OA, respectively, shared powerful lessons they’ve learned as storytellers. They expressed how people crave stories that make them feel something.
As fresh produce marketers, we know how important it is to tell the growers’ stories and share the bits of information that make each brand unique. In today’s environment, people increasingly want to know where their food comes from. They want to know how their protein was cared for and if their produce was grown sustainably. We have a responsibility to share this story with consumers and inform and delight them with the information they crave. Issa Rae commented on her love of her line of work, stating that “it’s a privilege to expand the realm of storytelling.” We certainly feel privileged to tell the stories behind fresh produce.
Brit and Issa also taught us the importance of breaking the formula of storytelling. Brit explained that we’ve grown numb to traditional stories, and that storytellers need to be more surprising and distinctive in their approach. To do so, you should think about your story and it’s commercialization, Brit said, and find the best medium for it. For example, as a fresh produce marketer, if you have a story to share about your newest packaging, ask yourself if it is something that will appeal to the trade or to consumers. Based on your answer, you can decide to share it via a press release or through your social media channels.
Mario Batali’s Insights on Leadership
Mario Batali interviewed by Andy Cohen at INBOUND 2017
The best chefs are passionate about what they do. We know this, and so does Mario Batali, one of the best chefs in the world! In sharing his journey and how he became the icon he is today, Batali explained that those who are the best at what they do work hard, but also make time for others. True success is impossible to achieve alone. In business and in life, lessons are learned with people. There must be collaboration and trust in the kitchen, and on any team.
Sometimes things get heated, and while Batali acknowledges that stereotypical angry chefs exist, and are even famous for their anger, when that happens in actual working kitchens it can be hard on a team. “Basically the reason why chefs yell at other cooks is because the chef in their heart knows they didn’t properly train the team to do it in a different way with an acceptable window of variation…” Batali notes that even leaders make mistakes, but there is a better way to act than to yell. Chefs are about nurturing and mentoring and while there are tough days, yelling at someone is not the best way to get someone to modify their behavior.
In really listening to what Chef Batali had to say it’s apparent that true success is not based on the harsh saying, “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen” mentality but rather the understanding that success will come with a combination of hard work, persistence, a willingness to listen and learn from your mistakes.
Ed Catmull’s Lesson on Failure and Creativity
Ed Catmull, Pixar Co-Founder, shared his insight and experiences on failure. He shared that creativity is the process by which we solve problems when he said, “we need to rethink failure.” There are professional failures and personal failures - both different. In school, we’re taught that if you fail or make a mistake, then you're not smart. That’s false. Too often failure is used as a bludgeon rather than a tool by which we learn.
Sure, having zero errors is an important goal for an airline, but not for people working in a creative space. At Pixar, Catmull was blunt in saying that "all of our movies suck at first.” But he went on to note that it is in being comfortable enough to bring all ideas to the table (good or bad) that success begins. It is much easier to correct errors than to try to prevent them all.
It’s true, good ideas come when you feel ego leave the room. They come and go without people being attached to them. New ideas are fragile and often off track. It’s important that we nurture each other when in a creative space so that we may bring these fragile ideas to life, which is exactly what Catmull has done throughout his career. Without his breakthrough RenderMan technology and sensible yet fearless leadership in arguably the most creative office on the planet, we would not have life-altering, soulful films like Up!, Toy Story, or Finding Nemo.
There’s More to John Cena than Meets the Eye
“If you don’t love what you do, you’re in the wrong business.” - John Cena at INBOUND 2017
Although John Cena may seem like an unusual speaker to be at a marketing and sales conference, he was the perfect speaker to end the event on a positive and motivational note. We were blown away by how much more there is to Mr. Cena than a WWE superstar and actor. He is constantly striving to do more and evolve both professionally and personally, which motivated us to think about ourselves and how we can be striving each day to improve.
During his delivery, Cena spoke to 5 major questions that you must ask yourself, no matter what kind of industry you are in or what job position you hold.
- What does your company do?
- What do I do?
- Do I know my audience?
- Do I ask enough questions?
- Do I love what I do?
Cena also elaborated that to succeed in your position and be the best at your job, you must touch a little bit of everything in the company. Be curious about what your co-workers do every day, ask them questions, and learn something new.
In the fresh produce industry, you must really believe in what you do to make a difference. Cena said it best: “How do you create authenticity? With passion.” We can’t help but feel extremely validated and uplifted by this and our passion for increasing fresh produce demand and thus consumption. Thank you, John Cena!
We’re so grateful to have been given the opportunity to attend Inbound 2017 and we encourage our fellow fresh produce marketers to check it out and learn more! You’re sure to leave the conference inspired and well equipped to bring substantive change to our space. Not sure what Inbound means? This marketing ideology could be your brand’s next level path to increased demand for your product or service. If you’re interested in learning more about the inbound approach, click here and read through our blog. We will share more of what we learned here on The Core in the coming weeks. Be on the lookout as we explore topics on leadership, authenticity, collaboration, automation and content development!