Let’s have a little fun.
Think back 10 years to 2006 and picture the marketing landscape. You will recall it was dominated by big brands on the airwaves, on billboards, and utilizing a lot of expensive push tactics. This made it very difficult for smaller brands to stand out.
As the world became increasingly connected, behaviors changed and a great equalizer emerged with search and online content. Marketers began to create content to address customer needs and optimized it to be found and promoted on search engines. This is inbound marketing, the act of putting out searchable content that draws prospects to you. This inbound content is the cornerstone of initial lead capture and nurturing through marketing automation.
But, that is not all that has changed in the past ten years. The dynamics of supply and demand have been altered. Ten years ago, people had about four to five options for any product or service. Today, there can be up to 15 options, but demand has remained flat. This means that marketers must understand exactly how their customers research and buy in order to occupy mindshare, at the right time, in the face of increased competition.
When looking at prospect behavior, many believe we are on the verge of another evolution, or what HubSpot is calling the Second Act of Inbound Marketing.
Search is made up of micro moments in that people actively look for information in the moment they need it. For example, “I want to buy…” or “How can I……”, etc. As a result, content needs to be created to address these “in the moment” needs. And, you need to be readily present on Google for all these moments.
Ten years ago, when you looked at search results, they were largely a list of blue links. However, now there is little need to click on any search result as Google provides the answer in rich answer boxes. While research on these answer boxes does vary, it is safe to say that anywhere between 20 and 35 percent of all searches performed result in a quick answer box – especially with the increasingly popular micro moment search queries where users need an answer fast. According to RKG Merkle, these boxes enjoy 516% higher clicks than traditional search links. As a result, companies need to adapt and begin to build their content to appear in these search result boxes.
Once upon a time, if you optimized SEO to be found on page one, that was fine. However, Google has changed the available real estate on their search results. Since Google removed right-rail ads in the past year and updated their layouts for the answer boxes, almost all the organic search results are below the fold. So, if you have budget, it is now worthwhile to purchase search engine advertising.
I know this sounds contrary to traditional inbound marketing. But, you can utilize AdWords and these search result ads as part of your inbound marketing strategy, especially if you have a great piece of content. If this content has had organic or social media success, it is an indication it is popular and you can amplify it to a wider audience through advertising. Through a little advertising backing, you will capture more prospects who are willing to provide some information in exchange for your content. Then you can begin to nurture and score them through your marketing automation platform.
Speaking of content advertising, new features on Facebook allow users to directly complete forms in their newsfeeds. As a result, marketers can now pay per lead, versus pay per click.
The way people find products and services has changed, and so has the content itself. Ten years ago, people did a lot of reading online.
Today, reading is out and watching is in. People love videos. The nice thing is that videos do not need to be highly produced and long form. Many marketers who are winning the video content game simply produce quick and off-the-cuff videos which are more candid and authentic.
What makes the video content even more interesting is the fact that most video is consumed without sound, especially on social media. In fact, 85 percent of videos are watched without audio and only with captions.
On the note of content consumption, understand that most content consumption now occurs away from your website. Most content is now consumed and discovered through social media. And, while social was something people would occasionally jump on during lunch breaks or at home on the couch, research has found that with Facebook people never leave. So, if you are not meeting your prospects and customers on Facebook, you risk loosing them.
It’s Not You, It’s Your Website
A while ago, websites were intended to augment your sales teams. People would browse your site to learn about you and then give you a call to get more details.
That is no longer the case.
Today, sales reps augment websites. Buyers now desire self-service sites where they can make purchases directly or contact a sales rep only when they are ready. Recent research from HubSpot uncovered only 19 percent of buyers want a sales person to talk to them while they are in the “awareness” stage of the buying cycle.
As a result, users today expect websites (across all industries) to have automation, personalization and self-service experiences. They need on-demand information from your website, such as live chat. And, throughout the buying process users expect personalization. Given that demand for services is relatively flat with stiffer competition, the main thing you can do to set yourself apart at critical stages is to ensure personalized, on-demand information throughout their experience.
How to Use This Information
This upcoming year, the key things you can do to harness the changes to inbound marketing are:
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There are 4.76 billion social media users around the world in January 2023, equating to 59.4 percent of the total global population.