INBOUND Experts Agree Personalization is Critical Right Now 🔥

Monica Caraway
Oct 18, 2021

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Another year "at" HubSpot's annual INBOUND conference, and another year in front of the computer (stupid COVID). We cannot wait until HubSpot hosts our favorite action-packed marketing event live in Boston. But this year's virtual conference did not disappoint. And one of the timely messages heard consistently over three days' worth of sessions is that B2B buyers are looking more like B2C buyers, which makes capturing attention and influencing through marketing communication personalization absolutely critical.

Why the Hubbub?

why personalization important_marketing tipsWhy is personalization important?

Because buyers have a crap-ton of choice and are pretty cluey on what mass marketing is and how to avoid it. Buyers also give precious seconds (if that!) to reading email subject lines, website content, titles of podcasts or videos, and general ads—you gotta catch them quick!

You are also on the guessing side of timing when your prospects are in the market for your product/service. LinkedIn-funded think tank B2B Institute asked B2B marketers at the conference to reframe their thinking, explaining that marketing doesn't actually nurture buyers. Buyers are either "in-market" or "out of market". They shared research proving people evaluate very little when making buying decisions, often just going with a familiar name. Because of this, there is a real need for brands to stay top of mind, so when buyers put themselves in-market, they already know your brand. 

b2b institute inbound 2021How B2B Brands Grow: Great Marketing Drives Sustainable Growth for Companies
B2B Institute, LinkedIn, INBOUND Session 2021

Many presenters, vendors, and sponsors shared tips on using personalization to stand out and capture attention and influence buyers. Read on to learn more!

Capturing Buyer Attention

Email Tips

Several members of our team thought that Jay Schwedelson (SubjectLine.com), really stole the show at INBOUND. He was over the top charismatic, with the right amount of "don't take yourself too seriously," and shared a lot of specific tips on what works right now with capturing attention via email. And he means it—RIGHT NOW. 

As Jay shared tactics and tricks, he said almost everything he highlights will be obsolete in 6 months. Why? Because to get email opens, you have to stand out. And marketers are constantly copying tricks that consumers end up getting used to. So what works now, ain't gonna cut it later in the year.  

Jay is also President/CEO of Worldata, which executes over 40,000 emails each year for clients and has researched across 6 billion transmitted email messages annually. So the open rate statistics he shared in his presentation carried weight.

Some shared stats include:

  • Using some type of an "oops" in subject headlines boosts B2B opens by 29%
  • Using suspense dots ... in subject headlines increases B2B opens by 31%
  • And using "friendly froms" that personalize the sender and matches the subject line makes B2B opens increase 34% (ex. FROM: Gap Back to School, SUBJECT LINE: You're still on the list for up to 50% off back-to-school faves!)

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email research_3Email Myths Busted! What's REALLY Working Now!
B2B Institute, LinkedIn, INBOUND Session 2021

Jay noted that the "friendly from" (above) was the only tip he believes will stay with us as a best practice as it works really well and is essentially free to use. He said you can even put an offer right in the subject line, such as: FROM: Back to School | 80% off.  - and then include a matching subject line. LOVE IT! 

Ebook: The Truth About B2B Email Deliverability

Personalize Messages

Gifting company Alyce shared messaging tips at the conference, saying buyers crave real connections—I mean, they would say that, given they are a "crafting personal experiences" company. BUT, the presenter pointed out how email is becoming more and more limited, like with new iOS 15 limitations, and how near-impossible it is to reconnect with someone once they unsubscribe or mark you as spam. This makes the importance of connecting on a personal level much more vital.  

alyce inbound marketing tips

 4 Ways to Use Personal Experience to Delight and Ignite Your Advocates

B2B Institute, LinkedIn, INBOUND Session 2021

The presenter used a clever tagline multiple times to drive the point home, saying: People are not their 9-5, they are their 5-9, meaning learn about your prospect/customer's outside work lives and create messaging that helps them bond to you in a meaningful way. 

Using Characters in B2B 

The B2B Institute also talked about how characters (think Geico's gecko) are rarely used in B2B marketing. Research shows characters (e.g. think cartoon) work extraordinarily well in B2B, and they present a huge opportunity to stand out among the competition. Characters resonate better than company logos in staying power and are good to use across marketing materials.

character use in b2b marketingPeter Weinberg, Head of Development, The B2B Institute @ LinkedIn

Writer and speaker Karl Palachuk, an associate of ours who advises B2B businesses in the Manage Service Provider (MSP) space, added to the above research. He noted that Russell Brunson talks about character use in his book Dot Com Secrets, pointing out that entrepreneurial business owners can be that "character"—it doesn't have to be an animated figure. This works well for Karl in his MSP space and for personas like "Mayhem," the character from the Allstate commercials.

Influencing Prospects and Customer Behavior 

Show Leadership in Your Space

ImpactPlus' Marcus Sheridan hit us with a massive dose of energy (a close match to Jay Schwedelson's bigger-than-life personality!). Marcus exuberantly prodded us that marketers are unwilling to do what is required to build trust with prospects and customers. He explained that to stand out and personalize content that people crave—to become the WebMD in your space—you have to be willing to take some risks. 

webmd example marketing

Trusted Content: 7 Steps to Becoming the Most Trusted Voice in Your Space

B2B Institute, LinkedIn, INBOUND Session 2021


Marcus said trust is vital to resonate and influence buyers, but you must be willing to talk about what others in your space are not. Examples he gave included:

  • Talk openly about who are ARE and ARE NOT a good fit for
  • Be willing to talk about the negatives everyone is searching & asking about, but no one is talking about
  • Talk about the competition—be professional, but give answers to how you are different
  • Talk about pricing, costs, rates, etc.—even if in a veiled way 

Give True Value and Tap Into Emotions

Presenter Andrea Belk Olson (University of Iowa's Pragmadik) gave us tips on connecting with content by understanding human behavior better. She reminded us that people are stressed right now, and they really crave things that support what they want and need, are consistent, and add real value to their lives. And that value builds trust. She also added that emotions trump logic most of the time, which is why ads like Michelin's below work so well. 

micheline tire adUsing Behavioral Science to Improve Customer Success
B2B Institute, LinkedIn, INBOUND Session 2021

Many presenters throughout the conference reminded us that appealing to emotions works well in the B2B space. People are people and respond to certain stimuli, whether in a stuffy corporate work setting or otherwise.  

Have a Referral Process

Presenter Lori Richardson of Score More Sales, talked about the value of referrals and how having a process to consistently work referrals is what elite sales and marketers do. She says your clients are your feet on the street, and having them as a referral is like adding another sales professional to your team. 

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Lori says to be successful with a referral strategy, you need to:

  • Set the tone—Upon your initial relationship with a client, be upfront about wanting to create a long-term, fruitful relationship that includes referral efforts 
  • Be consistent, establishing a referrals process and following up on tasks weekly/bi-monthly 
  • Have a "serving" attitude—Be willing to be there for your customer's business
  • Use tools to track, such as HubSpot's Lifecycle Stage tags to mark referral contacts and then use HubSpot's automation tools to stay in contact with them

The Power of Texting

Heymarket Co-founder/CEO Amit Kulkarni told us texting works particularly well to connect and influence contacts because the medium itself is more intimate in nature. When users pull out their phone they generally expect messages to be from friends or family.

Amit says text messaging if done well, outperforms emails and phone calls. He says texting has as high as a 98% response time, compared to emails/phone rates of 18%. 

texting tips_1Texting v. Email for Sales: When and How To Use Each Channel
B2B Institute, LinkedIn, INBOUND Session 2021

Amit went on to share a few things to keep in mind with texting:

  • Gifs perform really well
  • Texting can be scaled and streamlined via shared inboxes, workflows, and automation
  • Automating appointment reminders work great 
  • There is a 5% higher closing rate with texting 
  • Don't forget to stay compliant within the region you are texting–TCPA, SOC Type 2 (financial), and HIPAA (medical) 

Getting Through on Social

Canvas+Co's Carly Potock and Charlene Tassinari clued us in on what is hot with some key social channels, noting that streaming's popularity is huge right now and ecommerce is blowing past anyone's expectations. They say these facts mean short-form content will be premium for the foreseeable future across all social media. And it's important to understand each social channel when crafting messages that will resonate.

Some evolutions to keep in mind when crafting messages on critical channels include:

  • Tik-Tok is blowing it out of the water with content becoming shoppable like never before—shoppable tabs, shoppable tags, and enhanced shoppable ad formats are all being rolled out 
  • YouTube is coming out with shoppable ad formats 
  • Snapchat is making a huge push in augmented reality (AR) for product try-on
  • Pinterest is now pushing stronger into ecommerce

HubSpot's INBOUND 2022

After two years of hosting their annual conference online, HubSpot is already touting that 2022 will be one of their largest live experiences yet! And we cannot wait!! We hope to connect with you in Boston next year!

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