Key Inbound Marketing Trends To Watch In 2016

January 21, 2016 Dani Carlo 1 Comment

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As the year comes to an end, we often recap the past year and think about what we will do differently in the coming 12 months. But no matter how your 2015 was, 2016 will be an exciting year for marketers! 

Why? Because the leaders have already started to separate from the rest of the pack and there is a tangible chance to stand out and gain a significant advantage over your competitors. 

The Inbound Marketing Evolution

Just like products or concepts, marketing techniques go through life cycle phases: Introduction (Infancy), Growth, Maturity and Decline. Six, seven years ago, Inbound Marketing was in it's infancy. Only a few picked up on it. Kuno Creative, PR20/20, or Impact Banding & Design for example were some of the very first adopters of this kind of marketing - and now they are the biggest agencies. In the past three years, inbound marketing has grown significantly.

Now, that three out of four marketers claim they use inbound marketing tools, it is safe to say the concept is gained massive adoption and blogging, social media and email marketing has become often-used tools in almost every organization's marketing mix. We are entering the maturity phase. However, I do not not believe; rapid decline is the next step. Just as search engine optimization (SEO) is not dead; it just morphed into something else - something more useful that the stand-alone concept. The same will happen with inbound marketing.

But now that everyone is doing the same thing just writing some blog posts or writing some Facebook messages is not enough. You have to be creative, innovative and brave to go to uncharted territory and push the boundaries to be even better than anyone else. 

Marketers Need To Push The Envelope

In 2016, the cream rises to the top, so to speak. We will see creative and innovative marketing that is:

  • More helpful. People are sick of getting sold to — and the resistance is just getting worse. Getting a cold call from a company can build negative associations, but receiving help in surprising and delightful ways will create positive associations. Customer service is already going above and beyond. It is time for marketing and sales to bend over backward to be helpful.
  • User-Driven. Marketing will not be something that is being done TO somebody, but WITH somebody. User-testing and early involvement will not only be vital in creating campaigns, but also in designing websites.
  • In context. The attention span of an internet-surfing American adult is less than the one of a goldfish! So, we as marketers cannot expect ads to work anymore that are out of context and require a thinking across three corners to get it. Also, with the flood of information available, we need to present our content in context for it to be consumed. 
  • Savors micro moments. Marketing will be most useful, when it is at the right time, the right place for the right people. According to Google, "of smartphone users, 82% consult their phones while they’re standing in a store deciding which product to buy. One in 10 of those ends up buying a different product than they had planned."

So, how can we make sure, we emerge as the leaders this coming year? Here are five trends to get you there:

1) User-Driven Web Design: Growth-Driven Design

In a recent white paper, Forrester Research predicted that “In 2016, leaders will understand and anticipate individual needs to deliver personalized experiences, sharply increasing their lead in the market.”

But how can you anticipate your visitors needs and deliver personalized experiences if you redesign your website every three years and never ask your visitors how they will be using it? You can't. If you design you website the traditional way, you only putting your best guess up, but never validate that hypothesis with actual users. 

To build this type of website the right way, an agency will first meet with you to strategize about your marketing plans over the next 3-5 years. You can make a wishlist of all the things you ever wanted to see on your website, with a focus on functionality, SEO and lead generation. You then work together to prioritize that list and create something that not only covers your desires but caters to the needs of the user.

So is it worth the investment?
According to the folks at UserTesting, every $1 invested in user experience will bring $2 to 100 in return. Not only are you making your customers happy, but ultimately you are growing your business. 

2) Content in Context: Contextual Marketing

Contextual marketing, not to be confused with content marketing, is a highly personalized and targeted approach to inbound marketing. By focusing on the details of your audience you can personalize everything from emails to blogs, and even your website to provide them with a user experience that truly caters to their needs and breaks down their distinct barrier to purchase.

Kevan Lee, Content Crafter for Buffer's Social blog says: “One thing that has been valuable for us at Buffer is making the time to listen to our audience. We do this in a couple of ways: Monitoring blog comments and social media mentions, and staying in touch regularly with our support heroes about the conversations they're having with customers. Doing this allows us to create content that is of particular use to our audience and has been validated as meeting a need or solving a problem.”

3) From 0 to 100 Step By Step: Marketing Automation

Marketing automation allows you to nurture your leads throughout the buying process while simultaneously delivering targeted, personalized messages that address their particular needs. What does necessary automation look like? We've outlined an example email workflow below:

  1. You send a promotional email invitating a targeted contact list to download your latest ebook.
  2. You send a follow-up email thanking everyone who downloaded the offer.
  3. A week later, you send a follow-up email to the people who downloaded the ebook with a case study relating to the same topic.
  4. Every time someone downloads your case study, your sales team will be notified so they may follow up with this, now qualified, prospect.

Although this may seem like a lot of work to remember with so many moving parts, tools like HubSpot workflows make it easy! Marketing automation allows you to build your emails, customize them with personalization tokens, set your rules, schedule emails ahead of time, and watch your prospects get nurtured right before your eyes. 

4) Highest Marketing ROI: Email Marketing

Ultimately, email marketing is affordable, which means this type of campaign carries a lower risk and has even more potential to carry a high return on your investment. Between the time an email takes to develop and the cost to actually create and distribute the email (which can often be free), email marketing is a safe and effective medium.  Other options that can be used to communicate the same message in an email such as direct mail, radio, or print advertiding can be costly, presenting a much higher risk. In fact, according to the Direct Marketing Association, email yields an estimated 4,300% ROI, now that's a worthy investment.

5) Key To Inbound Success: Company-Wide Buy-in

Creating “buy in” is not easy but it can be one of the biggest factors in the success of your team. Adopting a new process or marketing methodology can be a challenging process and, often times, the barrier between the decision and the change is a big one. The key to company-wide buy-in is starting early and making it non negotiable. For any new process to truly be successful you need all hands on deck from the very beginning, all willing to make concessions for a method that will truly be beneficial to all parties down the road.  

Conclusion:

There are simple things you can do to cultivate this as a part of your company culture without ignoring the needs of your employees, such as creating team emails and shared Google documents. These small changes not only keep everyone on the same page but they allow the opinions and suggestions from multiple teams to be heard. For more tips on how to cultivate team buy-in as well as the other trends you've read about today, join us for our Live webinar by clicking below:

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