Have you sensed a massive shift in how business leaders are approaching their online marketing? It's not just you. Amazing things are happening.
No one is talking about their website’s SEO or pay-per-click advertising these days. The buzz is about content marketing and inbound marketing in combination with relationship marketing and marketing automation. Over the coming, big changes are coming to how all of these are best done and the impact they can achieve on how businesses generate and nurture sales leads.
If you're a little unsure what I'm talking about, don't be embarrassed. Despite all the attention to those four phrases, I don't know many marketers or business owners who can succinctly define them all.
Inbound marketing in concept has been around since 2005, but it has always been about drawing the audience toward you by delivering desirable, helpful, messaging rather than pushing out marketing messages in the traditional ways. Inbound has become increasingly smart and sophisticated, and has evolved to include functions and technologies that make it awe-inspiringly powerful. When we give a demo, sales and marketing teams are amazed.
Content marketing is often thought to be synonymous with inbound, but it's not the same thing. Content marketing is narrower, focusing on various forms of helpful and sought-out content as a delivery mechanism. Content marketing includes social media, blogs, ebooks, white papers and other information packaged for prospective customers. These elements are just part of what inbound marketing encompasses—along with the next two points.
Relationship marketing is not a new selling concept, but how it's done in inbound marketing is entirely different. The next generation of relationship marketers are using data and social media to build directly connected engagement that fosters loyalty, nurturing sales leads until they grow into enthusiastic brand advocates—more like sports fans than like traditional consumers. Look for the Internet of Things (IoT) to bring even more data into the equation as wearable and smart technologies continue to harness new products and activities, embedding branding into everything we do.
Marketing automation has become a "thing" largely out of the success of content marketing, which has driven marketers to spend 50% or more of their time generating content. It's a lifesaver because it enables us to automatically send emails to segmented contact lists, post optimized messages across multiple social media channels, and manage multiple parts of the marketing funnel. Marketing automation can easily make a lean marketing team more powerful than a massive one using old-school techniques.
Those are the current techniques being harnessed by smart businesses right now, and the beauty is their combined ability to generate ROI and prove it through built-in metrics. What's in store for 2016 makes things even more exciting.
Here is a sneak preview:
1) Mobile Finally Dominates
As of 2017, there are over two billion smartphone users in the world. We've already seen dramatic changes in our analytics with mobile usage coming to dominate one sector after another, and in 2015 Google began penalizing websites that are not mobile-friendly. Many online platforms are almost entirely mobile now, including Twitter with an 80% mobile user base. All of this means that "mobile first" is no longer a bold concept in how we design and plan marketing, it's how the world talks, decides and buys.
2) Competition Surges
While inbound marketing is done effectively by a minority of businesses, you should expect to see your competitors dive in and ramp up their efforts in 2017. More businesses have begun blogging and making better use of social media to reach their (and your) audience and to dominate in search. If you haven't been working on your inbound marketing strategy, 2016 was the best time to start, and second best is right now.
3) Selling Goes Inbound
After generations of salespeople pushing product through cold calls and agonizing old sales tactics, business leaders are learning to sell from their customer's point of view. Through innovations like inbound sales and “click to close,” customers are about to become an internal part, not an external one, of your sales mechanisms. These new techniques promise to dramatically improve close rates and increase revenue per customer.
4) Custom Web Content Explodes
Every visitor to your website is unique, so why show them all the same thing? When you visit Amazon, Apple Music or Staples online, your experience is tailored uniquely to you, and becomes more so with every interaction. New web design and development tools are emerging that will make this type of experience accessible to smaller businesses, and will give early adopters a competitive edge by speaking directly to their buyer personas and individual preferences.
Need help putting together the pieces for your own inbound marketing and lead generation strategy? Give us a shout or download our free guide by clicking the link below. It's a little complicated, but will be the most exciting and rewarding marketing journey you've ever had!
Laurier Mandin is president of Graphos, the Edmonton web design company, branding consultancy and digital marketing agency he founded in 1993.
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