It’s Friday afternoon. I’m still playing catchup from some recent traveling. And I’ve got a 6 pm tee time (no, not really, but it seemed like a good way to wrap up that thought). BUT, I also have some learnings from this year’s Inbound conference that I wanted to share and I want to get them on the blog before the week’s end.

What you’ll read below is a little all over the place. Don’t say I didn’t give you a heads up. But bear with me and give each point some thought. I think you’ll find them all relevant and helpful.

Let’s go. I’ll make this quick.

Read the greats

This year’s Inbound conference kicked off with a keynote by none other than Seth Godin. If you’re not familiar, get familiar. This guy is smart. Inspiring. He’s world renowned. And for good reason.

What I realized as I heard him talk was that I hadn’t REALLY read any of his books. “Really” meaning “from start to finish.” Yes, any of us in B2B marketing have read excerpts from his works here and there, but I’ve never really jumped in all the way. Now I’m ready to do such. Mr. Godin, you’re very much on the reading list. I want to keep getting better and better as a B2B marketer.

Learn to sell

We’re in the business of marketing. And good marketing ultimately culminates in selling. After all, that’s the purpose of it all. People don’t market for fun, they market to sell. To make more money. The idea is to invest a little in order to make a lot (hopefully). So if that’s the case, why are we as B2B marketers so bad at selling? The majority of us (myself included) just plain suck at selling. Why? Shouldn’t we be good? Shouldn’t we focus on developing in this area of business?

For our own good, for the good of our clients, we all need to become better at sales. We can do better. Our clients deserve better. And their clients do as well.

Don’t use overly thick business cards

I love our business cards. They’re cool. They’re well-designed. They’re thick.

But, because they’re thick, I can only carry a few in my wallet at a time. And because I can only carry a few at a time, I’m almost always out of business cards. At a huge conference like Inbound this is never a good thing.

I know this is an odd “learning”, but hey, to me, it’s important. I thought you might appreciate it as well. Joe, we need thinner business cards.

“It’s not the critic who counts…”

There’s a classic quote from Theodore Roosevelt. One we’ve all heard before. One that’s made it into numerous self-help books and business presentations. Brene Brown included it in her Inbound keynote (best keynote of the week in my opinion) as a way to state that if you live a life worth living, you’re going to get kicked in the teeth once in awhile. And that’s okay. It’s admirable actually and it needs to be embraced.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Brene talked a lot about the idea of vulnerability and putting yourself “out there.” I think this is why I struggle with sales. None of us like rejection. None of us like an awkward phone call, especially one with awkward silence. But as B2B marketers, we can’t be intimidated by vulnerability. We need to embrace it, take chances, and remember that doing such almost always pays off.

Agency lesson #22: The greater your expertise…

… the less great you have to be at customer experience. Obviously, in a perfect world, you excel in both. But building a company that is built solely on customer experience and NOT on industry expertise is building a company that is destined to fail.

As David Maister points out in “Managing the Professional Service Firm“, if you take your car to a mechanic, and the shop is clean and the staff is friendly, you’re going to be happy. And you’re going to be even happier if in six months your car is still running the way it should be and you have not had to return to the mechanic. A good experience is important – but it’s not everything. The core service has to be strong as well.

Direct mail vs. junk mail

“Direct mail is what a creative director signs off on before he leaves for the day. Junk mail is what he gets when the piece he worked on arrives at his house.”

Think about that one.

“Market to others as you would want to be marketed to” was a leading theme in one of the presentations. And that idea really resonated with me. Not just because it makes my life easier, but it makes more sense for the companies doing the marketing.

Today, in the mail to our office, came a very well-designed and very well-produced direct mail catalog. It’s big, beautiful, and it was likely VERY expensive to produce. Oh, and it’s for convenience store owners. I don’t own a convenience store. I’ve never worked at a convenience store. I don’t do work for any convenience stores. I have absolutely no idea how our office was deemed a convenience store. But at some point it was, and because of such, a publication wastes lots of money every month to send us a catalog.

Did you go to Inbound?

If so, what were your takeaways? What did you enjoy? What did you learn? I’d love to hear about your experience. I’m already looking forward to next year.