Inbound marketing, on the level it’s done today, just wasn’t possible prior to the digital age. Technology was the key limitation. Advertising on TV, or in your local newspaper, for that matter, had to paint in broad strokes. You could look at demographics and do your best to plan, but ultimately you had no way to connect with customers individually. Ads like that were also imposing on customers. TV commercials or half-page print ads were the price you paid for watching your favorite show or catching up on the news.
Why does this matter now? Well, technology has reshaped marketing once again, this time for the better. Our digital world opens up possibilities that simply didn’t exist, even in the relatively recent past. With how fast technology develops, it’s important to stay up to date on the latest trends if you want to sustain success.
There are few better ways to gauge marketing trends than a look at HubSpot’s annual State of Inbound report, which takes the pulse of the people on the front lines of marketing. Ahead are three inbound marketing insights you need to know, inspired by the 2014 State of Inbound report.
Building a website without including a blog is borderline marketing malpractice, at this point. Content marketing is huge, and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. How huge? Marketers who regularly used blogging as a marketing tool were 13 times more likely to generate a positive ROI than those who did not, according to the 2014 State of Inbound report. It’s no surprise, as blogging, and content in general, have been key to successful inbound marketing from the beginning.
The difference is that now the stragglers are starting to catch up to the early adapters. That means simply having a blog, while a good start, isn’t really enough. Your blog also has to offer real value to your readers. That means different things for different businesses. You can set yourself apart by having a strong voice, showing personality, injecting some humor, and not being afraid to take a position (within reason). If linguistic acrobatics aren’t your thing, you can appeal to customers by offering valuable information in an easy-to-digest package. Consider your company’s values and your target customers as you shape the direction of your blog.
One of the more interesting if unheralded tidbits in this year’s report relates to marketing budgets, specifically to employees who are trying to convince management to invest more into inbound. First off, the number one reason that inbound budgets shrink is the economy, which dwarfed every other reason in the survey. That’s important because it shows that downturns in inbound marketing budgets are tied more to uncontrollable outside factors than the viability of inbound itself.
Now, let’s say you’re trying to convince the higher-ups to devote more money to inbound. You could come in with an artful, enthusiastic pitch, but you might be wasting your breath. Over 50 percent of respondents said that proving inbound’s value with hard data is the way to a bigger budget. Ideally, you can pull this data from recent inbound projects at your current company. Start small if you have to. The important thing is demonstrating results.
Inbound relies heavily on content marketing and social media for success, two avenues that most people associate more with B2C marketing than B2B or non-profit. On the surface, it makes sense. Are B2B decision-makers really looking to blogs and social for information? As it turns out, yes they are. If a Google result appears to have the information they’re looking for, then they’ll click it regardless of whether it leads to Facebook, your blog, or just about anywhere else.
The proof is in the numbers. In the 2014 report, 50 percent of all marketers reported that inbound was their primary method of lead-generation. That includes B2B, B2C, and non-profit. The next closest competitor, traditional outbound marketing, checked in around 20 percent. The large gap basically holds across the board, too, B2B included.
Growth is one trend that shows up across HubSpot’s 2014 State of Inbound report, almost everywhere you look. Inbound is growing each year, usually in big leaps rather than small steps. It’s growing because it works. It just happens to work best with a blog and a budget. If you’re looking for more, check out the report for yourself. It’s required reading for anyone who takes their marketing seriously.