The 3 A’s that Inbound Taught Me

Last week I had the opportunity to attend Inbound 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. Inbound is an annual event that brings together over 24,000 marketing, sales, and business professionals from across the world (110 countries to be exact) to connect, learn and grow better. While the event itself is hosted by HubSpot, there are over 300 sessions of content that cover various other topics such as avoiding ‘analysis paralysis,’ creating compelling storytelling, and improving the customer experience.

As a first timer, I was prepared to be a bit overwhelmed so I made sure I planned out my sessions prior to the event and focused around topics that were relevant to my current roles and would further develop my skills set. These topics fell into three main themes: automation, artificial intelligence, and authenticity. Here are my takeaways on each:


Whether you use marketing automation to simplify processes or effectively manage pipelines, it’s important to note that automation is not a substitute for human interaction. However, it can be a great way to better understand personas and identify gaps in attribution models. Traditional marketing funnels have taught us that we should front load our efforts to increase traffic and lower conversion rates. The inbound methodology teaches us the opposite. Why would we want to drive more traffic for only minimal results? Instead, focus on the different stages of the buyers’ journey and when prospects move from a marketing qualified lead (MQL) to a sales qualified lead (SQL) and so forth. The more you can learn about each stage, the better you’ll be able to align content that resonates more with the consumers’ intent.  

Understanding the buyers’ journey will make it easier to prioritize metrics that matter. As marketers, we can quickly get trapped in all the different types of KPIs to choose from: clicks, impressions, conversions, the list goes on. Here are a few helpful tips I learned to use when trying to decide the most effective metrics.

  • Prioritize the metrics that matter by dividing them into three groups: KPIs (key performance indicators, LPIs (leading performance indicators), and TPIs (tactical performance indicators).
  • Designate your KPI with revenue in mind. Ask yourself, “What will bring this user closer to becoming a paying customer?” Booking an appointment and scheduling a consultation are two examples.
  • LPIs are metrics that support the KPI and are middle of the funnel conversions. Converting content for LPIs reflect evaluation and consideration. For example, case studies or webinars.
  • Micro-conversions, or TPIs, lead users to execute LPIs, and ultimately KPIs. These are common metrics like clicks, open rate, social engagements, page views, etc. TPIs will help you understand the user’s digital body language but should not be the only metrics tied to overall revenue goals.
  • Remember, just because you can sell to someone doesn’t mean you need to target them. You want to market to those who will become evangelists of your brand.


Artificial Intelligence

Another hot topic at Inbound this year was AI and how it applies to both marketing and sales. The stat “80% of images online that include a brand logo do not mention the brand in the accompanying text” is enough information to keep any marketer up at night. Now thanks to AI, we are beginning to use tools like image search to better track these occurrences and learn more about how users interact with brands. But image searches are not just convenient; they also allow us to better use search when we don’t have the words to find what we are looking for. For example, say you liked a pair of shoes your colleague was wearing but didn’t know the brand name. With machine learning built into image search you could simply take a picture of the shoes and links to purchase would appear.

As for sales professionals, AI allows us to incorporate chatbots into the sales cycle to remove friction and create better inbound leads. Here are a few tips to remember when using chatbots:

  • Don’t start the chatbot with “How may I help you today?” Think of when you’re at a clothing store and the associate asks you this question. Most likely you would reply with “I’m just looking but thanks.” The user does not want to be bothered until they have a need.  
  • Start the chatbot with question that will help you identify the persona of the user such as “Are you a marketer, sales professional, or other?” Then set the corresponding questions that are unique to that persona.
  • Keep in mind that chatbots are for filtering, not for closing the sale. Use them to guide the prospect through their decision-making path.


Many companies are shifting their focus to providing better customer experiences. This starts with learning to be more authentic with the way we reach and engage with potential customers. Dharmesh Shah, founder and CTO of HubSpot stated, “Improving your experience 10x is much easier than improving your product by 10x. It’s not what you sell but how you sell it.” As part of his presentation, Dharmesh revealed HubSpot’s new Customer Code site, that’s filled with content dedicated for solving for the customer’s needs. The site includes a report card that you can use to score your own company against the customer code tenets.

There were several more sessions throughout the event that followed the subject of customer experience. I learned that not all experiences have to be transactional. Some brands, like the Museum of Icecream, built online communities around storytelling and empowerment. One of the best things a company can do today is to stop hiding behind their logo and look at the emotions that drive purpose. It’s all about being human and connecting with audiences authentically.

In turn, that’s exactly what Inbound did for me. This event gave me the opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals, to share thoughts and grow better personally and professionally. It is more than a conference, it’s a community. A community that brings together inspirational speakers, motivational storytellers, marketers, and change agents who dare to be different by challenging traditional marketing and thinking.


Jessica Ray

(Me with Beth Comstock, former Vice Chair of GE and author of Imagine It Forward: Courage, Creativity, and the Power of Change)



About Jessica Ray

Jessica Ray currently serves as the VP of Membership for the American Marketing Association’s Birmingham, Alabama chapter. Outside of AMA, Jessica works as the Field Marketing Manager for American Family Care, one of the nation’s largest health care providers with over 200 clinics across 26 states. At AFC, Jessica is responsible for leading digital marketing initiatives for corporate and franchise clinics as well as franchise development. Prior to joining AFC, Jessica was the Digital Account Executive for CBS 42, a subsidiary of Nexstar Media Group and LIN Digital. In that role, Jessica developed highly customized and strategic omni-channel marketing plans for both B2C and agency clients.

In her spare time, Jessica immerses herself into learning new skills that will provide value to the organizations in which she contributes to. She is passionate about the evolution of digital marketing and currently holds certifications in both Google AdWords and HubSpot. Jessica is also proficient in social media marketing and is an advanced WordPress designer with over 30 developed websites.

Jessica has a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Alabama where she graduated with cum laude honors and was elected to serve in the Alabama Student Society for Communication Arts.