Five digital marketing truths you shouldn’t ignore in 2019

The pace of change in digital marketing continues to accelerate in ways that can make it seem impossible to keep up. Yesterday’s advice seems passé today. What you thought would be the next big thing, is nothing but a memory the day after tomorrow.

As we roll into 2019, let’s take a look at the emerging trends that you need to wrap your head (and your marketing budget) around.

Here are five truths that promise to shake up 2019.

1. Keyword stuffing is dead.

Gone are the days when you created pages of content stuffed with every keyword phrase you wanted to rank on. Today you need a more considered strategy that focuses on the topic areas essential to your business, while answering the questions your audience wants to know about.

Why? Because search has changed. People use longer, more conversational search queries. They ask questions of search engines and look for more specific results, such as “What Thai restaurants are near me?” or “What is the best inbound marketing agency in Stockholm?” not just “Thai restaurant” or “inbound marketing.”

This can be largely attributed to the rise in voice search. According to Location World, more than 40 percent of adults used voice-based search on a daily basis in 2016. And ComScore predicts that 50 percent of searches will be voice-based by 2020.

Today, you need to cluster your content around keyword topics and link supporting pages back to stronger “pillar” pages. It’s the internal page structures that matter more than the use of specific keywords. Your website content should reflect the way your customers search for information and answer their questions.

More about Inbound Marketing

2. Organic reach on Facebook is dead.

It’s all pay to play now. Sorry. The days of unfettered access to a large and highly targeted audience on your social media networks has ended. Facebook has been putting the brakes on your content for several years now. Even followers who have “liked” your page have no guarantee of seeing the content you share there, unless you pay to promote it.

Creating an advertising account on Facebook can improve the reach of your organic posts.

As Facebook Marketing Expert Mari Smith said, “Facebook organic reach is so 2012.” We know, it’s sad, but it’s true. It’s been true since well before the beginning of 2018, when Mark Zuckerburg announced that Facebook was changing its news feed algorithm to show more posts from friends instead of businesses. He said Facebook was doing this because they were shifting their goal from helping people “find relevant content” to “have more meaningful social interactions.”

So there you go, Facebook has decided it’s all about social interactions, not content. Unless you pay. That changes everything, of course. Facebook is very happy to allow you to pay to have your business content appear in user’s social feeds.

In fact, advertisers gain exponential increases in visibility of their content regardless of whether those posts are part of a “paid boost” effort or not. One study by WordStream showed that having a Facebook advertiser account (regardless of what sort of ads are run) increases Facebook Page impressions (which means content impressions) by 126 percent and Facebook clicks by 96 percent.

3. Video is the new king of content.

You’ve undoubtedly noticed that video gets a lot of attention online. For social media networks, especially, video is THE format to use. Facebook rolled out its LIVE feature (live video streaming) to users between 2015 and 2016. LinkedIn added native video in 2017, and Instagram added native video hosting way back in 2013.

From Facebook Live to Instagram to Watch, video is the new king of content.

To ramp up its video offering and compete against Netflix, YouTube and Hulu, Facebook introduced Facebook Watch, a video streaming channel in August 2017 that focuses on episodic content. That means creating short (often less than 3 minutes), but regularly scheduled programs to grow an audience. Facebook Watch is still looking for quality content for this channel so you have an opportunity to get your content featured, if it makes the cut. You can apply here.

According to HubSpot research (and others), video improves your chances of creating content that your audience will actually engage with. In a 2018 survey, 54 percent of consumers said they wanted to see more video content from brands or businesses they support. HubSpot even introduced its own native video platform at INBOUND18.

Research shows consumers prefer video content.

How long should your videos be? The short answer is, it depends. One-size-fits-all video is not the way to go. Your audience, purpose and medium (whether YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, or your website) should all play a role in the length of videos you create. Live streaming videos and those on your website aimed at later funnel stages, when customers are looking for more in-depth information, can be longer than those designed to attract the interest of first time visitors.

On YouTube, instructional step-by-step videos are often more than 15 minutes long. For Facebook news feeds, some studies have shown that attention falls off after 2 minutes, Twitter has a limit of 2 minutes, 20 seconds, and Instagram 60 seconds, but for Facebook Live, 10 minutes or more is recommended.

Also keep in mind that your videos should tell a story, provide instruction or showcase examples. Make sure your videos are not glorified advertisements. When making a video, you need to think like a screenwriter not a marketing copywriter. Tell a story. Show how something works or go behind the scenes. Interview people, and make it entertaining.

Get a video branding checklist

4. Click bait is not a marketing strategy.

Now more than ever, trust in marketing mattersUsing dishonest or disingenuous tactics to drive traffic will only hurt you in the long run. Misleading headlines like “You won’t believe what happens when this woman drops her pen!” only frustrate and anger potential customers. This tactic might help faux-media sites inflate their viewer count for banner ad payments, but for businesses looking for genuine customers, it’s the kiss of death. Plus, these types of click-bait headlines are increasingly being filtered out by Facebook and Google algorithms that favor genuine content.

Even if you don’t resort to such blatantly cheap tactics, you should also consider whether you’re focusing on the right goals. Driving large amounts of traffic to your website for the sake of vanity metrics like page views isn’t doing you any good if the visitors aren’t potential customers. Focus more on your conversion rates and customer growth rates, and develop your content around what your ideal customer wants to know.

Good conversion rates help your rank in search engines as well. Google cares about delivering quality content to users. This is measured by how fresh it is (recently updated), how authoritative it is (sources and backlinks), and whether it delivers a good user experience. Some of the ways Google measures this is by how long someone stays on your page after clicking through, and whether people continue onto other pages of your site after reading the initial one.

Focus on developing an honest relationship with your customers about what you offer. Show examples and real case studies. Be authentic. Keep promises. Own up to your limitations, create a niche and deliver real, not inflated, information to your customers about what you offer.

5. Chatbots are here to stay.

Internet access is round-the-clock and customers visiting your website from various time zones expect service on their own terms. The advent of chatbots and AI technology makes it possible to provide answers to customer queries using pre-programmed scripts – even when you’re not available.

From basic customer questions to providing extensive online guides, chatbots can fill a hole in your customer sales and support funnel. But you need to use them carefully. There’s a place for chatbots (specifically to offer customers quick answers to simple questions or route customers to support teams), but half of your customers probably still prefer to speak to a human, according to a study by CGS.

To stay current in 2019, consider offering a chatbot on your website. It doesn’t have to be anything extremely high-tech, just having a bot that can let customers know when you’ll be back online, or way to leave a phone number for a call back is enough. Did you know Hubspot Offers a free chatbot? Ask us how we can help you get started.

Chatbots like those offered by HubSpot make it easy to add a chat function to your website.

Marketing in 2019: It’s not all about you

If your marketing approach involves continuously talking about yourself (your company or your products), then you haven’t caught up to how marketing in 2019 works. Promotion in the digital age is not about self-promotion. It’s not about pushing your product or selling features. It’s about helping your customers. Stop talking about yourself. Put your customers first – answer their questions and help them find solutions.

A key way to do this is to use an Inbound approach to marketing. Give your prospects the information they need for the stage of the buyer’s journey they are in at the moment. Provide tips and information. Share customer stories. Create useful “how to” videos to help customers solve problems. Offer guides or handbooks using your expertise that provide real value to prospects.

By putting your customers first, and embracing new technology that helps you do that, you’ll be moving in the right direction in 2019.

Find out more about inbound marketing.

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Have a question? Leave me a comment.

Five reasons your business needs content marketing now

The art and practice of content marketing has become an important trend in the last few years. You’ve probably heard this term used in conjunction with SEO (search engine optimization), inbound marketingand social media marketing. But what exactly do we mean by content marketing ?


What is content marketing?

Here is a definition from the Content Marketing Institute:

“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” 

Using content for marketing is not a completely new idea. It’s the way we think about content (or define it) that has changed, along with the tools we can use to make it available to others. As the Internet and social media become ever more important to people’s lives, the way they seek and gather information changes. Putting your content out in the world where people are looking for it helps them find you.

Why would you want to do that? Because you’re an expert and your customers need to know that. No matter what business you’re in, chances are you got into it because you’re an expert in an area or because you saw a chance to make a difference, and you’ve become an expert as a result of your hard work. By sharing your knowledge with your prospects, you’re not only improving your reputation, you’re helping your prospects in their journey to learn something new.

In fact, 88 percent of B2B marketers reported using content marketing as a part of their online marketing strategy. 

Why you should use content marketing

If building your reputation and sharing knowledge aren’t enough to convince you to consider upping your content marketing game, here are five preemptive reasons you should do it.

1. Old-style advertising is dead.

You may have heard this one before and thought “hog-wash.” But listen, I’m not trying to jump on a bandwagon here, and probably not saying what you think I am saying, so before you dismiss this, hear me out. Promotional ads aren’t enough anymore. Banner ads have been losing their efficacy rates for years. (Bannersnack).

The average click through rate of display ads across all formats and placements in the USA is now just 0.07%. (Display Benchmarks tool).  On the newspaper end, total ad revenue in 2013 was 49% lower than it had been a decade earlier, according to the “State of the News Media 2014” study by the Pew Research Center.

You have to bring more to the table. No one method will be enough to build your brand, develop leads and position your company in the minds of prospects. You need to offer something of value and, in the information age, that means — you guessed it — information.

Ads may help drive traffic to your website, or your storefront, but will that be enough? Probably not. To convert them into leads or sales, you need content that tells a story or promotes knowledge. Use advertising to boost your content, and you’ll be playing a different game.

2. Selling is dead.

Yep, another one that’s probably making you groan. But again, the way selling used to work — with cold calling and sales reps pushing a product that customers had never heard of — isn’t how it’s done anymore. Consumers are out actively seeking information to help them solve their problems and to understand what questions to ask before considering a new purchase. They have their own agendas, pace and options for how they want to receive that information. They don’t want anyone to “sell” to them. (Inc.)

Instead, modern sales reps need to form meaningful relationships with consumers – to provide information and guidance. If you wait for the phone to ring before you to start educating them about market differentiators and what they need to know to make a choice, you’re too late. Your competitors have probably already framed customer perspectives by offering information about the questions they should be asking.

In B2B, especially, 57% of a typical purchase decision is made before a customer even talks to a supplier. (Corporate Executive Board).

Content marketing can help you generate thought leadership, an important part of ensuring that your company makes it into your prospect’s frame of reference for consideration, and can help you get information in front of your audience at the right stages in the buying cycle.

3. Old-style SEO is dead.

Did I get you again? That’s right…the old-fashioned form of stuffing your web pages with keywords and paying for links on other websites no longer impresses Google. What matters is content. Good content that makes people stay on your site and click through to more pages. (Once upon a time, we called this “sticky” content). Organic search engine ranking is increasingly about creating content that people actually want to read, and it’s measured by how long they stay on your website doing just that.

That’s not to say you should ignore keyword research… you still need to create your content based on the search terms your audience uses, not the ones your internal organization uses, or it will be virtually invisible to your potential audience. However, optimizing your website needs to be less about tracking keywords and rankings, and more about engaging visitors once they’ve landed on your website. For that, you need valuable content that impresses and inspires. High converting landing pages are what matter.

4. Google is dead.

Just kidding. But creating a website primarily for Google has lost its potency. Don’t focus your efforts on “gaming” Google to appear at the top of search results. Furthermore, what is “top” for each person is different, based on location, past search history, and even the type of device being used. There’s no “one right page structure” or “one right keyword” that will win you the Google prize. It’s really all about knowing your audience, planning content that appeals to each of your target “personas” and offering what they need to make their experience on your website, or with your brand (whether in a store, event or elsewhere) meaningful. And then you need to make sure your content is where your audience is – whether that’s on Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or at tradeshows, industry journals or online media. Promoting your content through social media, PR and yes, even paid advertising, is an essential element of content marketing.

5. Print content is NOT dead.

(Did I throw you a curve?) In fact, content in all forms, offline, offline, mobile, video, TV, is in more demand than ever. Print is still a top-of-funnel medium. Print isn’t dead, experts say.  According to the AMA, “Print circulations are down, but in many cases, that means that publications’ readership has been culled to only the most engaged, which is a desirable trait, from an advertising standpoint.”

What’s even more in vogue than Vogue is customized content (content for a specific audience) produced by businesses. (Money CNN). Businesses are once again finding increasing success in printing their own publications, and, in fact, customers are responding to print simply because it’s so unusual to receive it now.

Plus, according to,  56 percent of all consumers trust print marketing more than any other advertising method.

And the majority of Millennials (45%) in a 2014 survey by Androit Digital say a combination approach of digital ads and traditional ad channels is equally or more effective in influencing their brand decision making, compared to either as a standalone channel. Furthermore, 3 out of 4 small businesses use both print marketing and online efforts combined. This strategy usually offers the best return on investment and gets the best response rates.

So what do you think?

Is content marketing in your plans for 2016? What made you decide to do it? Leave a comment or click to tell us what you think.

5 Essential Differences Between Marketing Software and a CRM

The era of marketing automation has brought new and powerful tools to the hands of sales and marketing teams. Our arsenal today includes a means to collect customer and prospect data (we never use the term “spying” *wink*), personalization of offers and even the all-important ROI analysis.

But there may be some confusion or overlap in the minds of marketers about the differences between various kinds of software tools. You may wonder, “How do I compare apples to apples? Or am I lumping in grapefruits?

Compare CRM to marketing software tools for sales funnel
CRM software and marketing software are meant for different stages
of the sales and marketing funnel.

The comparison may get even more complicated when you consider that some marketing automation tools, such as HubSpot, may seem to overlap with tools such customer relationship management (CRM) systems. In fact, HubSpot recently added a CRM directly into its marketing software system. So where do you draw the line?

What is a CRM?

First of all, it’s important to consider that definitions of these tools can be highly subjective depending on who is using them. In fact, a CRM (typically considered a sales or customer support tool) could even be considered marketing software, because the marketing team uses it.

That being said, it might make sense to create a broad definition of what each of these tools are:

  • A CRM – is a repository (database) of information for managing customer relationships
  • Marketing software (and in particular, marketing automation software) – is used to take actions toward customers and leads

To make the distinction more clear-cut, we’ve outline five essential differences between CRMs and marketing software.

Five essential differences

  1. What it’s used for: Database vs. control center.

    A CRM is a repository of customer history and information such as addresses and phone numbers, while marketing automation software is used to perform specific actions. A marketing automation tool allows you to create workflows and send emails or offers to particular customers at a particular time, based on the information they have asked (opted-in) to receive.

  2. How it’s used: Sales interactions vs. website tracking.

    A CRM is useful for tracking sales and customer support interactions with a customer by logging individual email contact and phone calls. It keeps track of all customer purchases and preferences. A marketing system, however, will track a broader set of data about prospects BEFORE they become customers, such as web pages they have viewed, social media sites they have interacted with and ads they have viewed.

  3. Who uses it: Sales vs marketing.

    Again, there can be some overlap here, but a CRM records every instance of contact with a particular customer into one aggregated dataset. (Every sales, customer service, and marketing touch can be recorded). Marketing software is a tool designed to measure and collect information about marketing campaigns: which emails generate leads and clicks, which ads pull in the most website visitors, which blog posts get the most readership and conversion on offers, which social media posts or Tweets got responses and views.

  4. When it’s used: After conversion vs before.

    A CRM primarily collects information after a lead is known and helps identify the best customers. Marketing automation software aggregates information about the customer that begins before the person has any sales contact by using website forms and online analytics to gather data.

  5. Why it’s used: Customer maintenance vs lead nurturing.

    A CRM is used to foster and maintain customer relationships while a marketing automation system is primarily used to nurture leads at the top of the funnel in order to convert them to customers. Marketing software provides personalized content to the prospect in order to CONVERT the prospect to a lead, which is why it is primarily used by the marketing department.

As we mentioned, many of the tools in both a CRM and marketing automation system can overlap. And in fact, often both Sales and Marketing departments have access to and may use both sets of tools. The difference will be the kinds of information and actions they want to get from the systems.

Marketing will be more focused on using the tool to generate leads at the top of the funnel, and Sales will be more concerned with the activities that happen to convert the leads into customers –and what happens with the customers after the sale.

Marketing systems may increasingly be useful in the later part as well, because they can manage email campaigns and content that help upsell customers, support re-engagement or get customers to share information with their own friends and contacts.

Want know more?

Want to know more about how a marketing automation system could help you? Download this inbound marketing presentation.

Tips and ideas for better visual storytelling

If you read my first post on Eight reasons your brand needs to use visual storytelling, you may be wondering if I have any advice about how to make visual storytelling work for you?

I do. Here are some tips and ideas for putting visual storytelling to work in B2B.

Stay on brand.

You’ll get two times the level of engagement with visuals on Facebook. But they need to be relevant and recognizable. Create a visual standard so people know it’s your image (this could mean using a certain camera angle, type of cropping, logo treatment, color filter, etc).

Use images with text overlays. (Memes).

Creating a graphic out of an elegant saying or useful bit of advice to your customers may resonate with them. Pick a saying or tip that they’ll want to share and remember. Then make it share-worthy by turning it into a graphic. (Like the example below).


Be consistent.

Your visuals need to tell an overall story. Make them original, but also follow a standard format for timing, style, message and objectives.

Create infographics.

Publishers who use infographs grow traffic an average of 12%. Select some interesting quotes or statistics, facts or tips to create something visual to spread your brand story further.

Infographic for Gemalto Netsize

Use Pinterest.

Pinterest drives traffic (for B2B too). For example, 25% of retail traffic from Sephora comes from Pinterest and the brand found that Pinterest followers spend 15% on their products more than Facebook followers. Pinterest is not just for consumer brands. Even medical device brands (like Thermo Fisher Scientific) have found that their product and user graphics on Pinterest have generated thousands of followers. Find the content that appeals to your audience and post it.

Add value.

Pull images and graphics from your other marketing materials such as ebooks, webinars, presentations or tradeshow posters. Give useful ideas and information away for free. It will build your brand following.


Don’t be afraid to show a humorous side. Even in straight-laced business areas such as life science and healthcare, content with an entertainment value is appreciated. The key here is to know your audience – well. What will they find entertaining? Never be off color or offensive, but poking fun at yourself (or your market area) can be appreciated.

Customize for every platform.

Every network is different. Don’t use the same images across all media. For example Tumblr is very .gif focused (Animation). Pinterest is great for infographics. Post video links on Facebook.

Use video effectively.

Video is a highly consumable format, and is a very underutilized tool. Video doesn’t always have to be film, but can be created as animations from stills as well. Use animation in a creative way. Tell a story using words and pictures.

Consider a video response (or parody).

Video “responses” to the viral sensation for Gangam Style grabbed attention and even brands were able to get in on the buzz. News clips or popular ads in your area can be inspiration. Consider this video response created by IKEA parodying the Apple ads.

Share your presentations.

Slideshare is a go-to network for business info and education. Be creative and to do your best to give audiences what they are looking for. The value of this channel is lead generation, because it can so effectively drive traffic to your website. Post not only sales and company presentations, but also useful “how to” and “step by step” slides.

Use cartoons.

You can boost your newsletter open rates with cartoons. Walter says that Intel’s newsletter open rates went up to 45% (from 5%) when they started using cartoons. Just ask Hugh MacLeod (Gaping Void) or Stu Heinecke. (Literally, ask them, they offer customized and syndicated cartoons).

Hugh MacLeod Gaping Void cartoons
Gaping Void by Hugh MacLeod offers customized cartoons.


Activate your passionate advocates.

Create a way to let them get involved, share their comments or stories. Ideas: have a Fan of week contest, let customers submit photos, or have them post their video tips and messages about using your product.

Be inspiring.

Don’t just create marketing campaigns. Build tribes. Inspire movements. Visual content inspires audiences.

Images stand out

Keep in mind, every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003, according to Eric Schmidt (as reported by TechCrunch). Visual storytelling is the way to stand out from noise.


Have any more ideas? Leave a comment below.

Eight reasons to your brand needs to use visual storytelling

At INBOUND14, Ekaterina Walter, an innovator who has led companies like Intel and Accenture to success with social media, discussed why visual storytelling should be an essential element to any brand story, and certainly any story that hopes to make an impact on social media.

Why? Because, as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. And when you have only 140 characters (such as on Twitter) to make your point, then linking to a photo is a better use of space trying to squeeze in 1,000 words.

And that’s just one reason. Here are seven more.

1. Images get shared.

Using images to help tell a story not only does it more effectively, but also with more viral impact. It’sproven.

People are much more likely to share posts with images (photos or videos) than without. And in social media, sharing is the name of the game.

Content is King- Visual Storytelling

Overall, on Facebook, for example, photos make up 87% of all shared posts, according to eMarketer.

Photos can also boost retweets by 35% (according a report by Media Blog).

social media facebook posts

2. Images catch attention.

According to KISSMetrics, photos get 53% more likes than and 84% more click-throughs than posts without images. When you’re scanning your social feeds or a web page, what do you stop to look at?


3. Images appeal to emotions.

Videos and images are also more likely to appeal to emotions…and as any good marketer will tell you, the key to engagement and action in marketing is getting to the emotion.


4. Images transcend cultures and boundaries.

You can tell a story with a single picture. Images make subtle connections that can be lost in translation. If you have a international audience, images (pictographs and drawings) can be useful and easily understood. Consider the universal sign for the men and women’s room.

Male Female universal pictograph restroom


5. Images make the point quickly.

A single image (or an infographic) can make a point much more quickly that a long post. On social media where attention spans are measured in fractions of a second, quick is good!

(Image Source: Charity Water)


6. Images get priority space.

On Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and many website home pages, images are given more physical space than similar text messages. This may seem counter-intuitive to the part about “getting the point across more quickly” but the fact is that social media sites (and other websites) allocate premium space to images. If you want to stand out in a crowded space, you need an image.

Tweets on Twitter

Tweets on Twitter images get more space


7. Pictures are memorable.

It’s easy to forget facts you’ve read, even when you’re interested in a topic. But visual images stay with you for a long time.


Not just babies and kittens

It’s important to realize that visual storytelling isn’t just about about cute pictures of kids and animals. It’s about telling B2B stories as well.

To use Intel as an example, one of the most shared images Intel ever experienced, was a post that internal marketing managers initially thought was a bad move. Turned out it wasn’t. The post was an image of a messy desk, showing an actual behind-the-scenes look at what happens at an Intel development center. The caption was “Inside Intel”. It received more views and shares that any single post they’d ever place on Twitter up until that point (according to eKaterina Walter).

More facts

Here are some other interesting facts about images (from INBOUND14):

  • Pages with images get 94% more total views than those without
  • Sharing goes up 30-40% on pages with images
  • Press releases are viewed 50 percent more often with image or video attached
  • Viewers spend 100% more time on webs pages with videos
  • Publishers using infographics grow their traffic 12%


Visual storytelling is the way to stand out from the noise.