INBOUND 2014: Digital Natives, Immigrants and More

Inbound marketing

by Mike Murphy on September 25, 2014

Wow! What an invigorating week at HubSpot’s INBOUND 2014 conference! Not familiar with INBOUND? Paraphrased from

INBOUND's purpose is to provide the inspiration, education, and connections you need to transform your business. Thousands of marketing and sales professionals from almost every industry imaginable get together in Boston to share ideas, hear from industry leaders and gain inspiring insights from speakers like Guy Kawasaki, Simon Sinek and Malcolm Gladwell. All this energy is built around one primary focus, the power of inbound and content marketing...and attracting the ideal customer.

There are so many takeaways and observations that we'd like to share, but there is one that, to us, is most compelling: A glaring cultural difference that was very evident at INBOUND 2014, a microcosm of today's business world.

So, what's the big deal? Have you heard the terms Digital Native, Digital Immigrant and Digital Immigrant with an Accent? Here are my unofficial definitions, gleaned from hours of workshops and networking:

Digital Native: Someone that never experienced a day in their lives without the internet. They are completely mainstreamed into digital society and wouldn’t know what to do if their GPS failed, or cell/wifi wifi weren’t available.
Digital Immigrant: Someone that did experience days without internet and actually has waited for a LANDLINE phone call, a letter, a map, or an actual face-to-face meeting. This person has overcome their ‘old school’ history and fully understands the tools of today. Other than the grey hair on their heads, a Digital Immigrant can be accepted as a Digital Native.
Digital Immigrant with an Accent: Someone that did experience days without internet and actually has waited for a LANDLINE phone call, a letter, a map, or an actual face-to-face meeting. This person has overcome some digital challenges but has not fully integrated into "native" mainstream. Perhaps this person doesn't use social media, or (*gasp*) still has a flip phone.


It was easy to find the Digital Natives at INBOUND. Between (and during) workshops and presentations, they had their heads buried in devices, thumbs going wild, barely making eye contact with others. They were busy communicating across the digital expanse with a faceless recipient on the other side.

The Digital Immigrant was also easy to find (although there were few of us). Even if we didn’t have the tell-tale salt and pepper hair, we could be found in conspicuous groups, having conversations. Yes, talking face-to-face! We of course had our digital devices with us, under an arm or in a pocket, but the device did not appear to be surgically attached!

To me, these glaring differences brought home what speaker Simon Sinek touched upon when he mentioned being addicted to your device. Sinek focused on how important personal, one-on-one communication is in leadership. Personal time, not digital time.

Trish Bertuzzi of The Bridge Group also caught my ear with the (here paraphrased) quote "Inbound and Outbound got married and we were not sent the invitation." To me, her comment focused on the fact that despite all the wonderful things happening in digital marketing, in the world of B2B, a deal does not close without a verbal conversation.

Bottom line: Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants need to learn how to work in tandem. Acadia got started on the conversation side of business and has evolved into the digital realm. I guess you can say we were founded by Digital Immigrants, but have fully embraced both sides of the spectrum – inbound and outbound. 

There is a great deal of confusion in the marketplace on how to merge inbound with outbound, or digital with interpersonal communication. Is this is the next ‘great frontier’ to overcome and integrate into our companies' business development activities? How are you going to bridge that gap? Working with, or hiring, someone that has learned to span that gap may be a good first start!


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