Things are constantly changing in the world of marketing. Online, people have more information at their disposal than ever, and the volume is growing every day. Plus, as mobile devices replace desktop computers as the standard way to access the internet, users are wired 24/7 and can search for information whenever, wherever. Because of these trends, marketers have had to abandon old fashioned techniques like traditional advertisements and cold calling. Customers don’t want sales pitches—they want answers—and to draw them in, you need to establish yourself as the one who has the answers. Answers must be provided through content, including blogs, whitepapers, videos, and whatever else people encounter when they Google the problem your services can solve.
Inbound is the new norm, so you need to stay on top of the trends
If you don’t already know that this new style of content-based promotion is known as inbound marketing, you have some catching up to do—because inbound marketing is the new norm, and it’s still in a constant state of evolution, as are the types of content customers want. Even if you’re already doing inbound, there’s no time to relax—the state of inbound will continuously change and evolve as trends and patterns are established. Digital marketers and company decision-makers alike need to be aware of what inbound marketing services entail so they can work to take their marketing in the right direction. Luckily, two important “state of inbound”-type surveys were recently released that can give some insight into where the field of inbound marketing currently stands and where it may be headed.
First, HubSpot’s 7th annual “State of Inbound” report surveys digital marketers around the world. This annual report is noted for its insight into tactics and tools that work and don’t work for digital marketers trying to yield leads. The second report—the 2015 third quarter Digital Marketing Survey, from Tribeca Flashpoint College in Chicago—similarly surveys digital marketers from a variety of backgrounds on the state of inbound marketing as they see it. So, where is inbound marketing right now? Let’s take a look at some points of comparison from the reports and see what we can find out.
What is the latest trend in content marketing?
Content creation plays a major role in inbound marketing, but what type of content should you be creating? Blogs, social posts, infographics, and downloadable e-guides have taken off, and many marketers believe video is the future of content marketing—and with good reason. A third of respondents to Tribeca’s Digital Marketing Survey reported they use audio or video content as part of their overall strategy. This number is expected to dramatically rise in the coming years.
Video is a great way to build engagement and foster interaction with your audience, but in order to do so, your videos need to be distributed on social media—just like all your other content.
How is content being distributed?
While more “traditional” avenues of content distribution such as landing pages and display advertising are still used to hold and provide access to content, social media is the number one way to distribute content. The ability it enables for multiple-party engagement makes it the ideal avenue for marketers to get their content out there and use it to engage with their target audience.
Beyond simply promoting content, businesses are using social media to build communities. If you’re not already harnessing the power of social media channels, you can be sure that many of your competitors are. The Tribeca report provides valuable insight into the need to build communities via social media—as evidenced by hiring practices within the field: effective social community managers are needed to grow relationships with audiences.
Where is the content coming from?
Companies are looking to increase their content output in order to compete with the growing information online, and they must increasingly look for the best sources to generate that content—writers, graphic designers, and other specialists. In the past, many of this talent was outsourced for a low cost. However, cheaply bought, outsourced content is unlikely to be created by a freelancer who knows your industry.
With the increased focus on content creation within the past few years—and the resulting need for higher quality content—it follows that would be a transition in the type of talent hired by digital marketing agencies. Both reports saw a shift in hiring of more in-house content creators rather than relying on freelance external ones. This underlines a more committed investment to content on the part of digital marketers.
Do marketers have the budget they need for inbound?
An ongoing issue experienced by inbound marketers is the struggle to justify their efforts to their organization’s decision-makers. According to the Tribeca Flashpoint Digital Marketing Survey, respondents said that the biggest obstacle to creating more content was their budget. Additionally, they found that one of the biggest concerns amongst digital marketers was the inability to measure the effectiveness of their marketing efforts. HubSpot likewise found proving ROI to be a key to unlocking larger marketing budgets. Interestingly, they also uncovered that the majority of marketers who achieve a higher ROI than they did in the previous year check their analytics three or more time per week. Those who checked theirs less often saw a significantly lower ROI compared to the previous year.
The challenge of justifying additional funds raises an interesting dilemma for marketers. How do they measure marketing success when the impact of inbound marketing can take time—and be difficult to pin down? Sure, data on social shares, website traffic, email opens, and more can be measured, but at first, it’s hard to see the results. This can cause decision-makers to give up on inbound. Creating content also has inherent qualitative attributes that are difficult to illustrate to upper management. Leading marketers recognize that committing to inbound marketing is a long game—it often takes a while to see the full effect of inbound marketing efforts, and companies need to understand why they should still invest resources in content marketing.
Looking ahead to the future of inbound
What is clear from both the HubSpot State of Inbound report and the Tribeca Flashpoint College report is that inbound marketing and content creation are here to stay—they just may not stay in one place. However, it’s easy to see the trends: more content and better content are vital. The increasing relevance and importance of strategic content for generating sales should translate to increased funding given to inbound marketing efforts. As the results and effects of inbound marketing become realized, so too should the trust placed in it by executives. We’re moving rapidly toward a future where businesses will have no choice but to work with marketing agencies that provide their audiences with great content, and it’s important not to get left in the dust.