Why inbound marketing is more important now than ever
Trends in digital marketing for 2020 are shifting. This is largely in response to evolving Google Search and SEO evolution, forcing businesses to pivot to a more interactive, video- and bot-led model for marketing to ensure they don’t get left behind.
Marketing is increasingly integrative: this free webinar by Search Engine Journal demonstrates that it’s now an embedded process at the heart of a business. What’s required is a multi-faceted approach (including optimised content, SEO, Google ads, sales automation tools and more).
Inbound offers this, making it a more relevant approach than ever for 2020.
In a climate where customers expect more engaging interactive content that has been optimised for voice search, and draws on messaging technology, marketeers have to keep pace and deliver.
In this post, we’re sharing ESM Inbound’s insights on the latest trends in digital marketing and reveal why so many businesses are opting for one-stop-shop inbound marketing agencies like ours. We’ll reveal how our new-improved inbound methodology delivers a joined-up sales and marketing strategy that creates more, and better leads for our customers.
#1 No-strings ungated content
The inbound model that was dominant from 2010 to around 2017 worked brilliantly for our clients at ESM Inbound for the first few years of our agency’s life.
Here’s how a typical inbound customer journey would run:
- Customer finds blog post via Google search
- At the end of the blog is a CTA, they click on it and find themselves on a landing page
- That landing page describes what they get if they fill in a form (a longer piece of useful content, such as an ebook)
- They fill in the form, sharing their email
- Once the form is complete, they are redirected to a thank you page and sent a follow-up email that has a link to download the asset
- When they download the asset, there is a follow-up offer, which might be a button that says ‘book a call’ or another piece of useful content.
This sequence is likely to be so familiar to anyone with experience of marketing, that it seems strange to consider that it has only been around for a decade or so. When HubSpot created inbound marketing, it was a real game changer. The principle of inbound marketing was to meet customers where they were by responding to the problems and questions that they already had. Inbound marketing gifts information and expertise to customers before attempting to sell.
In the past two years, an evolution in inbound has pushed the boundaries of this approach even further. Customers now have ‘form fatigue’ and content saturation online is such that even a relevant e-book might no longer be enough to persuade a prospect to hand over their email. Post GDPR, customers are sceptical about giving away their data and less inclined to trust companies with their information (although there are signs that this trust is returning).
In this climate, meeting customers where they are means giving more away upfront, no strings attached. At ESM Inbound, we have ungated lots of our content as a result (and advised many of our clients to do the same). Engagement is up as a result.
#2 Better bots and the automation race
Bots are here to stay. Gartner research predicts that within two years, 47% of businesses will be using chatbots for customer care. Other marketing-automation tools are pushing the envelope for marketeers, too. Video has become a dominant sales tool, with personalised marketing emails and bot chats with video explainers (powered by platforms such as Drift) dropped in to create new windows of opportunity for businesses to interact with prospects.
Automated emails that can be customised to deliver personalised follow-ups in cases where customers have dropped out of the process, are a powerful example of marketing automation in action. In one study by Experian, e-commerce customers who received multiple ‘abandoned cart’ follow-up emails were 2.4% more likely to complete a purchase than those who had only had one.
Bots themselves are becoming increasingly sophisticated as the algorithms that power them learn more and more about customer behaviour. In the past year Hubspot’s chatbot and video have become essential inbound marketing tools, with greater customisation and functionality than ever.
#3 Inbound Is Expanding
Inbound is more than just a marketing strategy, it’s a business-wide approach. HubSpot calls inbound a business methodology, and the inbound approach applies to every aspect of an organisation, from after-sales service to operations and delivery. The real value of inbound marketing is that in its nature, it transforms the way you approach every interaction your business has with its customers.
An inbound after-sales strategy invests in content that helps customers to help themselves with using the new features and functions of your products, for example. Along the way, you’ll be educating them about potential upgrades and product lines, but these are almost incidental, the intention with inbound is to inform, educate and support first.
#4 Video as default
According to new HubSpot figures, video has overtaken other forms of content as the dominant medium for content marketing. The data shows us that when we integrate video into our customer-marketing campaigns, engagement goes up. Big picture analytics tell a similar story: when marketers add video to emails, they have a significantly higher click rate. Wyzowl found that 87% of marketeers said that video had increased traffic to their site.
Video, as the pandemic has demonstrated, really is the next best thing to IRL interaction. And where it can run alongside other communication methods – dropping a personalised demo video into a bot chat with a customer, for example – the benefit is increased. Furthermore, thanks to the relative novelty of this kind of technology, it’ll impress your prospects as well as making it easier than ever for them to become your customers.
While some of these methods might feel unfamiliar to marketers who have practised inbound marketing for a long time, the principles remain the same. All that is changing is the tools by which we get our message out to customers. If you cast your mind back, once upon a time it felt alien to offer content with no push to buy anything. A mere form felt too easy, too ‘free’ with nothing in return.
Now that inbound principles are ingrained in most of our strategies, these new methods – video, bots and ungated content – are simply encouraging marketers to apply their same beliefs but in a new setting. The world is changing, and what your customers expect from their experience with your brand is evolving too.
If we don’t adapt our marketing and sales strategies accordingly, then we’re in danger of ending up with dissatisfied customers. Inbound is very much still relevant to 2020 – more so than ever – it’s a time to feel excited about how to apply these new tools to your business, not shy away from them, to increase traffic, leads and customer satisfaction.
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