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.”
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.
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 videoplatform at INBOUND18.
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.
Now more than ever, trust in marketing matters. Using 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 howwe 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 approachto 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.
Even if the concept of inbound marketing is not new to you, you may find that some of the most commonly used vocabulary sounds a bit foreign or has meanings that are slightly elusive. But no matter what your native tongue is, we’ve got you covered with this glossary of the must-know terms for inbound marketing.
Split testing two variations of an idea can help you determine which factors lead to better performance. The key here is to test one variable at a time. That can mean swapping out headlines, images, colors, layouts, offers or specific text. Anything really. As long as you only try to measure one element at a time, you can test any variable of your page, email or offer to see what improves your conversion rates. You might consider A/B testing elements of your social media campaigns as well.
Analytics is an essential part of inbound marketing. Part art and part science, it requires not only that you consider what needs to be measured, but also that you interprete the data in meaningful ways to gain insights that will improve your marketing efforts. That may mean looking at your website visitor statistics to see which blog posts get the most views, which offers have the best conversion rates, what social media posts (or channels) deliver the most leads, and so forth.
Blog is a word that evolved from the term “web log” or “weblog.” In the early days, a blog was typically a website owner’s personal journal or story. Today that’s anything but the case. The term “blogging” covers all types of online content from company or business blogs to news posts to interpretations of scientific papers. Blogging is an important part of inbound marketing that helps companies attract prospects by offering them valuable content. It’s also an important strategy to improve your website’s performance in search engines (known as SEO, see below).
Bottom of the Funnel
The bottom of the funnel refers to the stage of a buying process in which prospects are about to convert to customers. They have recognized a problem, researched possible solutions and are close to making a decision (or in terms of the buyer’s journey, making a purchase). At this point (and not before), they are ready for a call from your sales team or a discussion about how your company can fill their needs.
The buyer’s journey is a way of looking at the buying process by aligning a prospect’s needs at each stage of the funnel with the actions they will take. The buyer’s journey usually follows this process:
1) Awareness: The buyer becomes aware that they have a problem or desire.
2) Information gathering: the buyer begins to gather more information about the problem or desire.
3) Exploring options: The buyer compares options and gets more details.
4) Decision making: The buyer is prepared to make a purchase and select a vendor. It’s important to keep in mind that the buyer’s journey will be different from one market to the next, and it’s typically a much more complex process in B2B than in B2C markets.
A call-to-action is specific request that encourages a website visitor to take an action, such as “subscribe now,” “download ebook”, or “register” for a webinar. It maybe be presented as a text link, button, or image, and typically directs the visitor to a landing page to complete a specific action, such as filling out a form to become a lead. It’s important to make your CTA as action oriented and simple as possible to get the best results, such as: Get our ebook now.
A conversion path is the prescribed way you intend to capture lead information. It typically starts with some sort of call-to-action (such as a button) that sends visitors to a landing page to complete a form and then redirects to a thank you page where they can download content.
Conversion Rates (or Ratio)
A conversion rate represents the ratio of people who are presented with an action to those who complete the action. This can mean the number of people who click on an ad (vs. number who view it), click a button or complete a form. Measuring conversion rates at each step of the conversion path helps you determine what part of your offer is working (or not working).
By content we mean any information presented to your audience for education, engagement or sharing. Content could be a blog post, ebook, video, social media post, photo, slideshow, or podcast. Some content is created primarily to generate visibility or “mindshare” and is therefore presented in an open way on your website, and promoted on social media and content sharing platforms. Other content (which we sometimes call “premium” content) is only shared after your visitor provides information such as their name or email address to you.
CTR (click through rate)
Click through rate (CTR) is a measurement of the number of people who view a banner ad, button or offer compared to the number who click on it and go to your landing page. Measuring CTR helps you determine which offers or creative (versions of your text or images) are working the best.
A CRM, or customer relationship management system, is a tool used to improve and track interaction with your customers and prospects. It can range from a sophisticated front-end website order fulfillment process linked to customer service, or primarily be used to manage the marketing/sales process (such as this free one from HubSpot). CRMs can provide analytics, keep track of your customer’s journey, and manage lead scoring so you know when to turn leads over to your sales team.
Dynamic content is content that appears unique to each website visitor or offers a customized experience based on information you have collected previously about the visitor. By capturing data from website interactions (such as form submissions, IP address, or website page visits), you can ensure that each future website visit is a more customized experience. This can be applied to email, newsletter or blog content as well, by using data fields (such as <<first name>>, <<last name>>, or <<recent ebook download>>) within your text.
The term email refers to “Electronic Mail.” Email is an essential element of inbound marketing because it allows you to send information directly to your contact’s attention. It’s important, though, to remember that the fundamental principal of inbound marketing is to create “likeable” marketing…and not abuse your relationship with your email contacts. Nurture your prospects by sending them only specific information they have requested and which helps them complete their buyer’s journey.
Facebook is an essential content promotion tool for many inbound marketers. As one of the largest (and daily accessed) social media networks, Facebook provides the opportunity to put your content in front of a huge audience (1.59 billion monthly active users to be precise). Whether you use paid or organic promotion, Facebook is just one channel that can help your inbound content be found.
Started by Google in 2011, Google+ (pronounced “Google Plus”) is a social media platform that allows you to post updates across “circles” or business interest channels. Despite recent claims that Google is phasing out Google+ as a social media tool, it’s not true. (However, Google IS phasing out the requirement to use a Google+ login to access Google Photos, YouTube, Google Play and other services.) Google+ is generally considered an excellent content publishing tool for SEO reasons.
HTML is an abbreviation for Hypertext Markup Language, which is a coding language that determines how web page content is displayed online. Even websites built in a CMS (content management system) such as WordPress, Drupal or HubSpot, are based on HTML, and knowing some can be helpful for customizing the specific appearance of content on pages.
We couldn’t skip defining this term in our inbound glossary, could we? Inbound marketing is a process of aligning content and information with a prospect’s needs in a way that nurtures the relationship from site visitor to lead to customer. Instead of using “old” outbound methods such as buying ads, email lists, or cold-calling prospects, inbound uses quality content to attract visitors and help you develop a relationship with them over time.
Keywords or “keyword phrases” are the terms (or topic areas) that get indexed by search engines like Google, Yahoo or Bing. Contrary to what some people think, you can’t just stuff a bunch of keywords onto your page (or in your meta tags) and expect it to do well in search results. Optimization requires knowing which search phrases your target audience might actually use and adding them in relevant ways to your page content. Of course, there are other factors involved in SEO as well (read more below).
In the broad sense, KPIs, or key performance indicators, are the measurable values that demonstrate how effectively a company is achieving key business objectives. In terms of inbound marketing, these are reflections of specific goals you may have for marketing growth, such as to gain X number of new customers per quarter, or double the number of leads from month 1 to month 2. By aligning your specific marketing objectives with broader KPIs you can help ensure success for your inbound marketing efforts.
Sometimes people use the term landing page to mean any website page to which traffic is directed (such as from an ad campaign). But in inbound terms, landing page refers specifically to a website page with a form that is used for lead generation. Landing pages are the conversion tools for turning website visitors into leads. A good landing page focuses attention on a single objective: getting a conversion (form completion). You’ll want to have a number of landing pages with different offers for specific personas at each stage of the funnel.
Lead nurturing, similar to “drip marketing,” is an organized method of moving your leads down the sales funnel with a series of communications (such as emails or social media) to help you qualify a lead and then further engage them. It is a process that focuses on delivering useful content to a specific audience at the right time.
As a business-focused social networking site, LinkedIn is the go-to choice for content marketing among many B2B companies. In addition to creating a presence online, it’s a way for a company to maintain a thought leadership role around specific topics (by posting content updates and long form posts) and participating in group discussions.
Marketing automation is the process by which lead nurturing happens. It makes use of a collection of tools such as database management, list segmentation and email distribution to automate and personalize delivery of content designed to move your prospects closer to sales, or to keep existing customers happy. Your email delivery can be scheduled to happen based on specific actions from a prospect (such as visiting a particular website page or downloading an offer), time periods (such as three days after downloading an ebook, or once a week like a newsletter) or other conditions (such as if the prospect is on a particular list or meets a demographic profile).
The key issue question many people have about this term is how to pronounce it. Say “meem,” which rhymes with team. The traditional definition of meme is a thought or idea that is spread from person to person rapidly. But in the Internet age, it’s taken on a whole other aspect. I’m sure you’ve seen these— particularly on social media—they are typically a humorous image, video, or piece of text that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users. Good memes have the makings of powerful viral content. There’s even a website you can go to make your own: makeameme.org. Here’s an example:
Middle of the Funnel
This stage of a buyer’s journey happens after a prospect recognizes or puts a name to a problem. Their goal at this point is to find a solution to the problem – to consider products or ideas that will help. It’s the stage for introducing case studies, product brochures or other materials that show how your business can solve the problem.
With Google’s addition of mobile optimization as a search ranking criteria in mid-2015, having a mobile-friendly or responsive website went from be optional to critical. Mobile optimization is the process of ensuring that visitors who access your site from mobile devices have a good experience (meaning, for example, not having to scroll left to right to see your page and having font sizes large enough for viewing on small screens). It’s more important than ever to make sure your website conforms to mobile-friendly techniques. Does yours? Get a free mobile readiness evaluation here.
A no-follow link tells search engine crawlers not to follow or pass “link credit” to websites or pages linked from your page. Why would you do that? The main reason is usually to avoid having your website flagged for duplicate content (which can look like spam to search engines) or for reasons such as paid links, embedded content, comments or anytime you don’t want your website to be seen as “endorsing” the linked content.
An offer is what you trade for a prospect’s email address or demographic information. It could be an ebook, white paper, webinar, checklist, template or another piece of relevant and valuable content.
This part of the SEO puzzle refers to incoming links and other outside factors that can impact your website’s search engine rank. Typically it means having the right sort of pages linking to you, including social media sites. You can help boost your off-page optimization with good social media and link-building strategies. It’s important to stay away from “black hat” techniques like paying to be included on “link farms,” however, as search engines increasingly penalize websites severely for these tactics.
As part of an SEO effort, on-page optimization refers to the steps you take to improve the content within the pages of your site, as well as the HTML code. It typically involves making sure your keywords appear in important areas of the page (such as the headline, page title, alt tags and URL) and within the visible page text.
Opt-in refers to the process of collecting email addresses only from people who have requested to hear from you. An “opt-in” list means that someone has filled out a form on your website and given you specific permission to contact them. (In contrast, opt-out means they have asked to be taken off your list). Both of these processes are important to ensure you have a “clean” list — not only a best practice for inbound marketing, but also an essential one for compliance with international anti-spam laws.
Sometimes referred to as a “buyer persona,” this is a representative profile of your target customer. You create a buyer persona by visualizing your ideal prospect, considering what they do, think and feel, and identifying their core problems or concerns. Creating buyer personas will help you more clearly visualize for whom you are creating content and how to segment your lists.
PPC (or Pay-Per-Click) is a form of advertising in which you pay for each click on your message. It’s a commonly used format on Google Adwords and sites like Facebook. It’s an alternative to CPM, in which you, the advertiser, pays per impression or each time your message is delivered, not just when it receives a click.
For a lead to be considered “qualified,” the person must have taken an action that shows they have an interest in your business or that they meet specific criteria which would make them a good customer for you. With inbound marketing, you can set the criteria around which you qualify a lead (such as their industry or location) by adding questions to forms or using logic based on which pages they visit (such as a pricing page).
A QR code (abbreviation of Quick Response code) is a type of graphical barcode that can be read by scanners or camera phones. It’s typically used by marketers to quickly send people to a specific landing page or website offer without having to use a long URL.
This type of website design takes into consideration how a web page looks across various devices, such as on tablets or mobile phones. A web page built with responsive design automatically resizes itself as the browser window grows smaller, and reflows the content in a way that makes it easy to view and navigate. So rather than a page appearing larger than the screen, it resizes to keep all the content within view. In addition to the obvious usability advantages, responsive design became an important element of SEO when Google made mobile friendliness a part of its ranking algorithms in mid-2015.
SEO (or Search Engine Optimization) is a process for improving a website’s chances for ranking more highly in search engine results. It includes both on-page and off-page elements and is sometimes thought of as a form of black magic (just kidding) but it’s really just a series of tactical steps to improve your website’s ability to be found by those who you want to find it.
This may sound like a canned meat product, but what we’re talking about here is unsolicited email. Sending out bulk email to people who haven’t asked to receive it (or “opted-in”) is considered spam, and with the passage of anti-spam laws in many countries, it is a punishable offense. How do you avoid breaking the law? Make sure you only send email to people who have asked to hear from you and filled out a “subscribe” or “contact me” form on your website. The term spam is also used in SEO to refer to “stuffing” keywords or content onto a website in attempt to fool search engines into ranking your site more highly (an offense punishable by being blocked from search engine results altogether). How do you avoid being blacklisted? Simple: Keep your content relevant and written for humans not “robots”.
Once upon a time social media was considered nothing but fun and games. Today, however, savvy markers consider it an essential channel for helping to spread the word about their content and brand. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Pinterest and Instagram are powerful tools for many companies in developing a relationship with their audience(s) as well as getting feedback on their brand.
Thought leadership might seem like one of those vague marketing terms like “brand relevance” but in truth, it’s a very important and compelling reason for companies to create original content. In addition to the practical use of content in generating leads, producing original, quality blog posts, white papers or ebooks and other information, helps establish your company and people as thought leaders, or experts in your market. When it comes to brand-building, expertise goes a long way toward generating credibility and sales.
Top of the Funnel
Top of the funnel refers to the very first stage of the buying process. At this stage, prospects are just starting to recognize that they have a problem or need and put a name to it. They turn to the internet to search for information. Smart inbound marketers make sure their company is offering content that helps people at this stage define their problem and start looking for a solution.
To make this definition relevant, let’s keep it to 140 characters or less, which is the limit for communication on this social media site: “Twitter is a tool that lets people publicly share short messages, images and URLs. Users can follow each other or interests via #hashtags.”
URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator and was invented by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, a software engineer atCERN, a large particle physics laboratory near Geneva, way back in ancient times: 1989. A URL serves as an address for a piece of information — whether a page, image or document — that can be found on the world wide web (which Sir Berners-Lee is also credited with inventing). The naming of your URLs (such ashttp://www.upthereeverywhere.com/inbound-marketing-services) can be an important factor in SEO.
Viral doesn’t mean your computer is sick. It’s a reference to the phenomenon that happens when a bit of content gets quickly and exponentially shared around the world. In the “old days” this often meant by email, but with the introduction of social media, it typically means your content has generated millions of “likes” and “shares” across various platforms. “Going viral” these days usually equates to millions of views.
A website consists of all the interconnected web pages that together form a virtual home of information or content from a person, company or organization. The home page of a website (which corresponds to the main URL such as www.upthereeverywhere.com) is often thought of as the front door, but other pages of the site, especially blogs or very well optimized content, may actually be the first point of contact that a person has with a website. Good inbound marketers realize the importance of these other pages and work hard to make sure they create relevant dynamic content that will attract each of their target audiences.
Workflow is a term used to describe a lead nurturing process. It includes the steps that need to happen to provide the right content to the right person at the right time. This can mean sending an email, adjusting a database field (such as changing a contact’s category from “subscriber” to “lead”) or adding a contact to a particular list (such as an ebook offer or a newsletter) when they reach a specific stage.
XML is a markup language that (among other things) allows the parts of a website to be categorized. An XML sitemap is a way to publish a list of all the links within your site, making it easier for search engines to index them. Publishing an XML sitemap is like issuing an invitation for search engine spiders to come visit.
YouTube is the largest video-sharing website in the world and provides a way for users to upload, share, and view videos. In addition to being a valuable content-sharing site, it’s become a launching pad for wannabe celebrities (Justin Bieber anyone?). YouTube is owned by Google so content published there has some obvious SEO advantages. It’s generally considered a social media platform because of the user interaction and discussion that happens, but increasingly it has become a business-focused advertising platform and streaming network to rival traditional TV. Like this example from UP’s YouTube channel:
Zentation is a content sharing platform, and since its name starts with Z, we decided it should be on our list. Zentation is a software program that lets you marry your Powerpoint presentation with video content, which is pretty cool if you want to post content from a seminar or webinar to your website. Check it out here: www.zentation.com.
Inbound marketing isn’t just for consumer-facing companies. In fact, for many B2B companies, especially in what we often refer to as “high involvement” markets, long and complex sales cycles mean a lot of information must be exchanged with a prospect before a sale is made. This creates a perfect situation for inbound and content marketing to become effective.
So what exactly is inbound marketing?
Inbound marketing refers to marketing activities that bring website visitors IN by providing the information they are seeking, rather than going OUT and interrupting people with messages or ads in which they are not interested. Inbound is a process of aligning content and information with a prospect’s needs in a way that nurtures the relationship from site visitor to lead to customer.
Instead of using “old” outbound methods such as buying ads and sending email to purchased lists, or cold-calling prospects, inbound relies on quality content, online conversations and SEO to bring prospects to your website. You then build a relationship with these people over time by continuing to offer useful information and relevant insights to them.
In short, inbound marketing is a program of content creation that is:
optimized on your website for SEO,
individualized to prospect’s needs,
responsive to what potential customers want, and
delivers information (content) that helps them make better buying decisions through a variety of online, social media and email channels.
Inbound and content marketing
The way customers seek out information has in undergone a fundamental shift over the last decade. Customers are actively seeking out new information channels and sources of authority in their fields. They want to know how to do their jobs better, and look for resources that can help them do that.
Customers no longer wait for a sales person to call to get information about a product that may help them do their jobs better. In fact, company websites may not even be the first line of information gathering for many people. They check out social media sites or peer-facing discussion pages, or whatever comes up first on Google.
Simply pushing product information out through advertising on mass media doesn’t work. You need to have your information timed to what the customer needs to know, not tied to your internal marketing cycles.
Information not advertising
Customers are looking for solutions to their problems. And looking for ways to help them do their jobs better. They turn to the Internet for information, advice and recommendations from their peers on what works.
If a potential customer searches on “how to get better results in (insert your area of expertise here)”, will they find information related to your company or product’s business area in Google? Have you created the online content that helps people looking to solve a problem consider your product in their frame of reference?
If they’re searching, and you’re not there offering the information they need, where will they get that information? Probably from people who know less about your market that you do, and potentially from your competitors.
Creating this sort of “top of funnel” content is what makes the difference for inbound marketing – and for successful sales in today’s online world.
Inbound marketing solutions
Inbound marketing software solutions like HubSpot, help you manage, monitor and analyze your marketing activities in order to generate high quality leads that more readily convert to sales. By nurturing your potential customers through the sales funnel with the right content provided at the right stages, you can shorten the sales cycle and make the sales person’s job easier.
Since the start of the digital age, the role of marketing and advertising in companies has been shifting. Where the role of marketing was once primarily promotion or branding, today it’s increasingly about delivering leads to the sales team. Qualified leads – in a measurable way.
With the rise of inbound marketing, the shift has continued with an even greater emphasis on measuring the impact of marketing work. That means tracking the number of interested prospects and measuring the conversion rates of visitors into leads and then customers. In other words: to prove ROI.
Proving ROI: a core tenet of inbound
So that is the theory. But is it being put into practice? And if so, does it work the same way everywhere around the globe?
The 2015 State of InboundReport from HubSpot answers some of these questions and others. HubSpot (the marketing automation software company) conducts an annual survey of marketing departments around the world, and this year’s survey included more than 150 countries with 4,000 respondents, primarily in B2B companies. It included companies who use marketing automation tools as well as those who do not.
Among other things, the report answers questions such as: How do marketing challenges and priorities differ by country? Does ROI matter equally in all countries? How does the acceptance of inbound compare internationally?
ROI: Lip-service or practice?
If we ask any of our team members who work on international business development in countries such as Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium and even the UAE, they will say the B2B companies they talk to claim to care about ROI. Yet, many of them are lacking a defined way of measuring their leads. Or even a defined process for sales to follow-up on leads generated by marketing.
The State of Inbound Report paints a similar picture. In fact, it shows that fewer than 43% of sales teams even have contact information before reaching out to a prospect. And even fewer (only 21%) have any information about the prospect’s interaction with the company website.
Only 21%. Website interaction data is basic information any analytics tool or marketing system like HubSpot provides. Yet marketers aren’t using it, or maybe they don’t know where to find it?
But back to ROI. Does it really matter? Are companies taking action based on it? That may vary by country. According to the report, companies in North America, Australia and New Zealand are more concerned with measuring ROI (56-59% listed ROI as the top marketing priority) than those in other parts of the world like Europe, the Middle East and Asia (46% said it was a top priority) or Latin America (where 49% said it was most important).
North America was also the most likely to track ROI and know what their ROI was at all, let alone achieve the goals. This might make sense, in part, since the “inbound revolution” started there.
“In theory, everyone is focused on ROI. In practice, lots of companies don’t measure much. If they get new leads, they’re happy, they don’t look further,” said one business development manager in the Benelux region of Europe.
So what does it mean? In general, marketers seem to understand the importance of measuring ROI and setting goals, yet the vast majority, especially in international markets, are still falling short of reaching their goals. Does this reflect a matter of practice or uncertainty about how to measure ROI?
Such low numbers may also suggest that a lot of companies are only just discovering the power of digital media compared to “old” media. A 2013 survey from a Belgian company called Acerta showed that only 41% of companies in Belgium with more than 1000 employees were using digital assets, and under 1000 employees, the number dropped to 36% and under 10 employees, it was just 27%.
Furthermore, some companies may have jumped onto the digital bandwagon or into using social media “because everyone is doing it” but without a clear idea of how to measure ROI.
“I have even heard marketing consultants say (about social media), ‘It doesn’t do anything for you but you need to be on it because your competitors are there’ <<facepalm>>,” said Marie-Helene Dibenedetto, an UP digital media consultant in Belgium. They clearly lack an understanding of how to create measurable social media campaigns. (Hint: it’s not that hard if you use the right tools).
“Business here – think retail, but also insurance, financial services and utility providers − are more integrated in their marketing compared to what I see in the rest of Europe and Asia,” said Roupert Muller, a digital and social media consultant in the Netherlands. “Most businesses are using a mix of organic and paid advertising, social media (organic & paid) and content marketing with a heavy focus on delivering a proper mobile experience.”
In other parts of the world, changes may be happening faster. As a relatively new open market, Dubai has a focus on international marketing with a modern approach to business. For growing economies like this one, a clear focus on metrics and business development may mean that generalizations about international marketing and results like those in this survey may be about to change.
“As companies focus on building an international market, they are looking to create best practices and follow methodologies that have been proven effective elsewhere,” saidAsra Eftekhari, an UP marketing consultant in the UAE. “They are willing to invest and hire the experts who can provide training or establish measurement systems.”
Inbound is world-wide
One thing the report showed for sure: The global community is united in favor of inbound practices. The days of interruption marketing and relying on print ads for lead generation are over. In all five international regions, a 3:1 ratio emerged between those who considered their organization inbound-driven versus outbound-driven.
“In Sweden, we are seeing a growing interest not only in the inbound methodology but also in creating processes and tools for measuring ROI, as well as accurately tracking lead generation. Inbound has definitely arrived here,” said UP Swedish Inbound Marketing and Digital Consultant Anders Westholm.
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Your visuals need to tell an overall story. Make them original, but also follow a standard format for timing, style, message and objectives.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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!
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.
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).
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.
HubSpot announced a new native CRM at INBOUND14. The new system was built from the ground-up to integrate with the HubSpot suite of inbound marketing tools and make it easier than ever for sales and marketing to guide potential customers through the sales funnel.
Using an Inbound approach to marketing means offering content that pulls people into the website based on what they want to know and when they want to know it, rather than pushing advertising messages out to them using “interruption methods.”
HubSpot CRM Overview
The HubSpot CRM takes care of all the little details – logging emails, recording calls, and managing your data – freeing up valuable selling time in the process.
HubSpot says the new CRM:
Is easy to use. The simplicity of HubSpot’s CRM makes it easy for people to start using it right away with very little setup or training. Your team can focus on selling instead of learning a new system.
Reduces extra work. HubSpot’s new CRM works in the background recording every interaction between you and your contacts so you don’t end up with a list of notes to input at the end of each day.
Reaches across channels. HubSpot CRM automatically tracks and records your customer interactions across dozens of touch points ranging from your website to social media to phone calls.
HubSpot CRM captures notes.
HubSpot CRM Features
The features of the news system include:
Database – Collect and store data on contacts, companies, deals, and tasks with a reliable, easy to use database that is built to scale with your data. It automatically creates company records, links up existing contacts, de-duplicates leads, and manages many other details to provide quality data.
Timeline – The timeline shows you all the touch points with your customer, including every email, call, note and website visit. It gives you a complete overview on one simple screen.
Email – You can send emails right from any contact record. The HubSpot CRM also connects to Gmail, Outlook, and Apple Mail, logging emails with your contacts easily and automatically.
Phone Integration (additional cost) – You can make calls with one click from the CRM system. Easily and automatically log notes and recordings of your calls. (Recording optional.)
Google Calendar Integration – You can connect your Google Calendar to HubSpot CRM to view scheduled meetings and create new meetings in seconds without ever leaving your CRM.
Data Enrichment – HubSpot automatically adds valuable information, such as company background, key employees and social data, to your contact records.
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