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Mission-Driven Marketers, Take Note: Insights from HubSpot’s INBOUND 2023

Mighty Insights

Insights, delivered.

In September, our team traveled to Boston to attend HubSpot’s INBOUND 2023 conference—one of the largest and most popular marketing events in the U.S. Throughout three days of thought-provoking discussions and presentations, we immersed ourselves in the latest trends, strategies, and insights that are shaping the future of marketing.

As we navigate through a period marked by rapid advancements and economic uncertainties, one thing is clear: we’re in the midst of a technological revolution that offers both challenges and opportunities. This article aims to help you navigate and capitalize on those complexities. Whether you’re in marketing at a nonprofit, a university, a professional association, or a government agency, we hope our key takeaways from this event spark creativity and drive your mission forward in 2024.

Optimize Spend, Maximize ROI

In an age where shiny new tech tools are tempting, what’s actually shifted in the marketing world? It’s not just a question of having too many options and not enough budget. It’s also about recognizing the value of targeted, meaningful investment, especially when times are tough. As Baruch Toledano from Similarweb suggests, those who double down on their marketing budgets emerge stronger than competitors who cut corners.

Unfortunately, the reality is that in many mission-driven organizations, marketing budgets are often viewed as a luxury rather than critical. That mindset needs to pivot. In a world where everyone can access the same set of tools, it’s not just about having the shiny new thing—it’s about how effectively you use it. That requires a committed, data-driven strategy supported by a budget that sees marketing not as an expense but as the future in achieving the mission.

B2B Should Be More Like B2C

Try using B2C (business-to-consumer) strategies for your next campaign. Yes, it may be risky, but you’ll never see extraordinary results by doing the same thing you’ve always done. We know for mission-driven organizations, getting support from the top is tough, especially because leadership teams often don’t have a background in marketing. It’s crucial to make your case in ways that will speak to your leadership’s priorities—whether it’s enrollment numbers for universities, membership increases for associations, fundraising for nonprofits, or service sign-ups for government agencies.

According to SEMRush, there has been a 300% increase in global Google searches for “storytelling ideas for business” over the last two years. Let’s bring some laughs and wonder into our marketing—that’s the fun part, right? Try new things. Don’t be like the rest of your industry. Finding aspects of your organization that truly set you apart and speaking to your audience using emotional storytelling with humor and authenticity will make you stand out.

Consider how consumer-focused campaigns and concepts can be implemented at your mission-driven organization. Nonprofits: Could you find a donor and adapt your next fundraising campaign to tell their story with authenticity and humor? Associations: Think about the last pleasant consumer purchase you had online. Can elements of that experience be infused into your membership renewal process?

Data Is Your Lighthouse

Data’s got some killer tales to tell. Using AI for data analysis and automation levels the playing field. As forecasting becomes more accurate, you can begin to see trends forming and make internal adjustments.

For example, Zapier used paid search to drive email engagement, which drove better organic rankings for their blog content. With Google updating its algorithms countless times throughout the year, this punchy bidding strategy worked in Zapier’s favor. In another example, found that business deals had a much higher win rate when they had between 2-4 contacts associated with them, so they reverse-engineered their prospecting to reflect that. To uncover these opportunities, you must immerse yourself in data and do the digging. Data should be your guiding light—your North Star.

To highlight the real-world impact of data in the mission-driven world, consider our experience with a recent association client. Using HubSpot, we developed an engagement score to track their members’ activity and involvement levels. That data was more than just a numerical value; it was a key insight that effectively pinpointed low-engagement members who we then targeted with a re-engagement campaign.

Brand Marketing = Performative Marketing

The B2B Institute at Linkedin is on a mission to prove that brand marketing is just as important and quantifiable as performance (direct response) marketing. They’ve developed a Brand Effectiveness B2B Index to showcase the data, focusing on three main components: Creative, Media, and Outcomes.

Creative: Effective creative can drive 10-20x more sales than mediocre designs.

  • Focus on getting your audience’s attention by spending money where they are and investing in high-attention ads.

  • Brand early and often and always use distinctive brand assets.

  • Align your brand messaging and keywords to your buyers’ needs. A brand that wins is the one that understands its audiences best.

Media: How you spend on paid media.

  • Effectiveness: Spend enough per category compared to competitors.

  • Evenness: Gaps in reach cause memories to decay—spread your spending out evenly over the year instead of bursts; you never know when your audience will be ready.

  • Efficiency: Spend more at the top of funnel/demand generation (creating net new contacts) where the cost per reach is lower.

Outcomes: Your output of creative and media.

  • Marketing: Is the campaign helping your brand recall and your leads (content conversions, event sign-ups, etc.) increase?

  • Selling: Is the campaign helping you warrant higher responses (membership inquiries, donor interest, student applications)?

  • Hiring: Is the campaign helping you hire better talent faster?

So, when contemplating brand vs. performance-based campaigns, consider the measurable and lasting impact brand campaigns can actually have.

As SEMRush CMO Andrew Warden says, “Brand campaigns go far beyond share of voice and impressions. They absolutely drive traffic, and traffic absolutely drives revenue.”

Outbound Reflections

As we look ahead, the ever-changing landscape is both exhilarating and daunting. AI and automation are transformative pieces of a bigger picture. Our understanding of our mission, audiences, and goals is the human element that can’t be replaced. Data continues to be a guiding light, and the importance of brand integrity has never been more clear. In a world saturated with new tech toys, authentic storytelling, ethical practices, and community engagement will distinguish your organization.

For our dedicated mission-driven marketers, this is a reminder your work has real purpose, one that goes beyond metrics. With the dawn of 2024 upon us, we hope you embrace what can help you achieve your mission and never forget the humanity that brings it all together.

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