Whether you’re a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) or managing the marketing efforts of your own small business or organization, the latest inbound marketing trends are not something you should ignore. To do so is tantamount to not keeping up with the rapidly evolving digital landscape and losing sales and customers in the process. Your marketing success this year may well depend on these trends.
Trends are important because they have the power to predict the evolution of the digital market place. While trends may lose momentum or even flounder, they invariably bring with them valuable insight into the state of the digital market; this insight isn’t only useful, but actionable. Making the right marketing decisions becomes easier when you understand the most important trends.
Drawing on the compelling and influential State of Inbound 2015 report, HubSpot’s 7th annual report on the state of inbound marketing and selling, here are the 5 key inbound marketing trends you should not only be aware of, but act on this year.
- Inbound marketing continues to be more popular than outbound marketing
While this is by no means a surprise, inbound marketing clearly holds sway over digital marketing this year, with no less than 75% of participants in the study (including B2B, B2C, and nonprofits) preferring it over outbound marketing. The explanation is simple – inbound marketing brings better results and is more cost-effective, especially as a long-term strategy.
It is important to understand that inbound marketing does not refer merely to content marketing through blogs and social media, but also includes video, podcasts, e-books, SEO, whitepapers, and newsletters. Inbound marketing is most effective when all these different formats and strategies are combined and used for the same end.
One outbound marketing strategy which seems to have lost a lot of ground last year is paid advertising, which, according to the study, is the most overrated strategy, although it can still be useful for companies that already have a successful inbound marketing strategy in place and plenty of money to burn.
- Leading marketers continue to invest in marketing automation tools
Marketing automation software, now increasingly available as Web-based, cross-platform, mobile-friendly apps, empowers markers to track their marketing Return on Investment (ROI) and act on it. The result is more informed decisions taken at the right time. The general trend in the inbound marketing world is for marketers to invest in marketing measurement, accountability, and ROI, with as many as 84% of CMOs planning to do so in the next 24 months, according to CMO Middle Market.
Although today content management systems, social media publishing software, or email marketing software come with their own built-in analytics and insights, as a marketer you still face the challenge of having to cumulate this data and make sense of it. That’s where marketing automation software comes into play, providing the intelligence you need to understand what is happening and make smart decisions.
- The marketing team is working more closely than ever with and for the sales team
The State of Inbound 2015 report found that sales teams all over the world – the report surveyed marketers in 150 countries – continue to face the same old challenges: closing more deals and improving the sales funnel. Marketing teams have today, more than ever, the opportunity to help sales teams become more efficient, by generating more high-quality leads for them.
The sales process has been undergoing a silent revolution in recent years, so that today, customers have more control over it than ever. After hearing the company’s story, customers now have access to Web search and social media channels that enable them to research and compare products, services, and companies, a process which increases in depth and length as the cost of the product or service increases. Studies such as Google’s Zero Moment of Truth, which highlights how the Internet has changed the way we decide what to buy, has found that the average buyer reads no less than eleven pieces of content before making up his mind.
This creates a situation in which the marketing team, more than reaching out to new customers and passing them on to the sales team, must find effective strategies for making it easier for the sales team to turn leads into customers. Inbound marketing, with its focus on the personal story and the individual, its powerful message, and its highly targeted strategies and tools empowers marketers to effectively send the right leads at the right time to the sales team. CMOs are today in a position to improve the synergy of the marketing and sales teams.
You can achieve this through a service level agreement (SLA) between your marketing and sales teams. Companies with the highest ROI already have a SLA. A SLA defines and aligns goals and sets up key performance indicators that can be monitored and measured. With a SLA in place, measuring and engaging with leads becomes a much clearer and smoother process for both departments.
- Marketers have recourse to guest authors, freelancers, and content curators to sustain their inbound marketing and generate leads
The demand for high-quality content in different formats (blog posts, videos, podcasts, social media updates, etc.) that successful inbound marketing requires is often more than what a business or organization can create using their internal resources. HubSpot found that 39% of the companies surveyed have recourse to freelancers, guest writers, agency partners, or content curation to produce at least part of the content they need.
Blogs, social media, and newsletters, in particular, require large amounts of content which existing teams either don’t have the time or the necessary set of skills to create. Inviting guest authors to publish on your blog or website or curating content for your social pages are two highly effective and entirely free strategies for generating more content. Although for many small businesses hiring freelance writers to create their blog or social media content may seem like a luxury, the long-term benefits outweigh the costs.
- New best practices for maximizing ROI have emerged
A deep look at HubSpot’s report reveals that the leading CMOs with the top ROI base their approach to marketing on a set of clear and highly effective best practices. These translate into the following best practices for maximizing your ROI:
- Focus your online marketing efforts on inbound marketing regardless of the size of your company or your marketing budget, because it performs better and costs less than outbound marketing.
- Invest in marketing automation software that empowers you to track your marketing ROI and act based on it.
- Regularly increase your marketing budget by proving that inbound marketing works for your company.
- Understand that your internal resources for producing the content that your inbound marketing strategy requires are often not enough and use freelancers, guest authors, or content curation to generate new content and keep it fresh.
- Keep an eye on your marketing analytics, checking the new data as well as the results several times a week, instead of only monthly or quarterly.
Acting on these new key marketing trends and being open and flexible to the changes that are constantly transforming inbound marketing in particular is a sure way to maximize your online marketing efforts and deliver results that not only meet but exceed expectations.