One of my favorite aspects of my job is getting to go to conferences, where I can clear my head and fill it up with all kinds of new ideas. Such was the case the past two days at the Inbound Marketing Summit in Boston, where I didn’t just learn, I also met a bunch of enthusiastic Constant Contact customers, as well as cool people like author Ben Mezrich, who wrote The Accidental Billionaires (the book the movie The Social Network was based on), and Dan Heath, co-author of the book Switch.

Ben and Dan weren’t the only writers in attendance. In fact, it seemed like every other speaker had a book out. (Yes, even Youngme Moon, who we talked about here yesterday, has written a book.) While that may have raised the eyebrow of some attendees, the point of it all was simple: Content matters. If there was one giant takeaway from the entire conference, it was that content, in all its varied forms — blog posts, videos, white papers, customer stories, and yes, books — is what will get potential customers’ attention and bring them to you, rather than you having to go out and find them.

In fact, according to Brian Halligan (who, yes, is also a published author), inbound marketing through content can increase your leads as much as 10 times. When you arm your customers with shareable, engaging, helpful, or fun content, in email or on social media, you are, in essence, letting your customers do the marketing for you. Then, when someone comes to you, chances are good that he or she will be better informed than a cold lead — maybe even better informed than your salespeople — and ready to make a purchase. That’s the power of inbound marketing.

Of course, IMS covered more than just ways to create and optimize content for inbound marketing purposes. Here are a dozen other quick takeaways from the conference:

  1. Before you use any social networking tool, it’s good to use it as a consumer so you can see and experience what it’s like from your customers’ point of view.
  2. Your business’ core message should be “We care about you,” and you should communicate that authentically with information, advice, and sales tactics that make customers feel comfortable.
  3. Even a story that seems boring can be exciting if it’s told with passion.
  4. Don’t rely on money. If the only reason people work with you is because you’re cheaper than other businesses, then something is wrong. It should be because they like you.
  5. If there’s a void of information, what information does exist (even if it’s untrue) will spread faster. Can your business provide information that people need that doesn’t exist? Do so.
  6. If you’re not staying top of mind with your customers, someone else probably is.
  7. If you’re going to go the mobile route, don’t just include a QR code on a sign. Explain what that code is and give a reason why people should scan it. Also, include your social media handles and website URL in case people don’t know what the code is or don’t want to scan it.
  8. People are more inclined to take action when they’re on a mobile device, so decide what action you want them to take before you use mobile for marketing. Make it a simple, relevant, timely action. Let them find where your store is, for example.
  9. Forget the term “B2B.” Think “B2H” and target your marketing to other humans.
  10. Social media’s positive effect on search gives it a higher ROI than people realize: Content that’s getting people to share is more valuable to search engines than content that isn’t.
  11. Want change? Don’t think of what you can explain to someone else. Instead, think of what you can show that will make people feel, and make them want to take action.
  12. To accomplish something great often requires struggle. Remember, no child ever walked on the first try.

What can you learn from these brief but important lessons? Share your thoughts in the comments below.