How Cultural Conditioning Biases Us to Make Bad Decisions in Our Lives, Our Work, & Our Marketing (my talk from INBOUND 2017)

This week I was invited to give a spotlight talk at Hubspot’s INBOUND in Boston. INBOUND is a unique event for me. It’s typically the largest in-person audience I’ll speak to in a given year (often in excess of 3,000 people in the room), and a less SEO-focused crowd than usual. Most of the time, I’m just trying to impress one person — my friend Dharmesh Shah, Hubspot’s co-founder.

I find this optimization tactic to be powerful. Choose someone whose opinion you deeply respect, someone whose career or accomplishments you envy, and craft a presentation you believe will make them think more highly of you. Dharmesh is perfect. He cofounded a company that has significantly impacted and evolved the world of web marketing. He’s created extraordinary financial success for thousands of people around him (through both Hubspot and his many investments). And most importantly, he’s done it with humility, grace, and generosity. Plus he’s picky.

To impress Dharmesh meant creating something that was personal and relatable, but also uniquely valuable. The points had to resonate, but also be different to what he had seen or would see in other talks at INBOUND or in the overwhelming amount of content that fills the marketing world. My aim was to share what I’ve learned and how I perceive bias to be affecting marketing efforts in a way that would be resonant and remembered by the audience.

Presentation Title: The Invisible Giant that MucksUp Our Marketing

Official Description: When the decisions we make — about which channels to invest in, where to spend, what to build, who to target — turn out sub-optimal, we look for answers in the data. We pivot our tactics. We seek out alternate solutions. But what if there are forces beyond visibility? Ones we can’t see in numbers? Ones that bias our thinking and shape our defaults in ways that lock away potential insight and progress? In this presentation, Rand will explore the cognitive biases and cultural pressure that create logical fallacies in our marketing brains. He’ll show paths through, and ways to uncover value, tactical and strategic, by removing the impediments that lock out too many great ideas and powerful opportunities. And as always, he’ll have some actionable ideas for your SEO, social, content, and paid campaigns.

I love that Hubspot makes these videos available so soon after the event. At Mozcon, it takes us 4-12 weeks to get the speaker videos edited and available (and because of our revenue model for the conference, we charge for access and don’t make the videos freely available until 2 years after the event).

I’d worry that putting up videos a couple days after a talk would discourage in-person attendees, but Hubspot’s proven me wrong. While Mozcon has grown to ~1,500 attendees over 10 years, INBOUND started only 5 years ago, but attracts more than 22,000 attendees.

Below are the slides from the presentation (well, most of them — some I cut as they weren’t valuable without the context of the accompanying talk):

On reflection, I don’t think this was my best delivery of a presentation, but I am proud of the content. Hopefully over the months ahead as I revise and perform it a few more times, that delivery will improve and the message will resonate even more.

p.s. Dharmesh didn’t actually make it to my talk, so I’m not sure what he thought/would think of it, but he did attend Geraldine’s presentation (video of which isn’t live yet), which meant way more to me.

p.p.s. You should also watch Dharmesh’s keynote, which I thought was one of his best ever.