The Challenges of Inbound Marketing in 2017

Posted by Cydne Stewart Feb 15, 2017

It’s no secret that marketing has changed drastically over the past decade. Ten years ago, you could invest in a few adsonline and print, send out a monthly newsletter—online or print, and often just pick up the phone to make a few cold calls each day to achieve marketing success.

Fast forward to 2017—Inbound Marketing—things are a bit more complex, purchasing decisions are made with emotion and a mobile device, product knowledge is self-served via Google, and of course you have heard it a million times, content is king in this digital age.

But, for marketers to develop a successful marketing strategy they must stay focused on a content distribution strategy (one that provides continuous lead generation, contact, and sales conversions). They must rely heavily on cutting edge content and innovative concepts and hope for virality. All while maintaining a consistent publishing schedule and engaging social communities across the web, among other things.

Whew...it’s tiring just thinking about all of it.

Which is why I have gathered a list of best practices to keep at the forefront of your daily activity. My hope is to keep you focused on what matters, help you establish priorities for your business (because each one is a little different) and hopefully provide a little peace of mind along the way.

Let’s jump in…

Best Practice #1

Start everything with a S.M.A.R.T. goal.

How do you create your marketing goals? Do you focus on creating more audience engagement? Do you focus on trying to get more website visitors so that you can increase your lead conversion? Do you prioritize content development or search engine optimization?

Identifying clear and succinct marketing goals is as easy as prioritizing your marketing needs. Setting SMART goals requires details for each of the following:

  • SpecificYour goal should be unambiguous and communicate what is expected, why it is important, who's involved, where it is going to happen and which constraints are in place.
  • MeasurableYour goal should have concrete criteria for measuring progress and reaching the goal.
  • AttainableYour goal should be realistic and possible for your team to reach.
  • RelevantYour goal should matter to your business and address a core initiative.
  • Timely - You should have an expected date that you will reach the goal.

Pro Tip: Typically, marketers might have goals for visits, contacts, and customers for the year, quarter, or month and the numbers are closely related to each other. We've found that focusing on one of these specific segments gives the clearest vision of success. (HubSpot)

  • Visits - You should focus on visits if you are just getting started with your website, or if you already have good conversion rates for visits to leads and leads to customer, but need additional traffic to add some fuel to the fire.
  • Contacts - You'll want to focus on contacts if you are satisfied with the amount of traffic to your content, but you are not getting enough leads for sales. This is the segment that most HubSpot users focus on.
  • Customers - Focus on this If you are getting a healthy amount of traffic to your content, visitors are converting on forms, but the leads just aren't ready to close into customers.

Setting SMART goals has proven to provide long term success for both marketing and sales teams alike. Which bring us to our next best practice.

Best Practice #2

Ensure that sales and marketing teams are aligned.

The sales and marketing silos are being replaced with alignment and enablement.

We all know the world of sales is changing, and will continue to change as technology evolves. Traditional forms of lead generation, lead scoring, and outbound sales practices are quickly losing traction, and so are the businesses who haven’t changed with the times. Cold calling, static sales pitches, and seller-centric sales tactics are driving customers to the competition.Direct Images Interactive

Marketing is forced to take on some of the tasks that the traditional sales teams shouldered for so long. Sales people used to be the main source of product information and now the marketing team drives content initiatives to help inform purchasing decisions often before the sales team can identify the lead.

 
 
 
 
 
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If marketing has clear communication with sales, the chances of your lead quality increasing is rather high. The sales reps are on the customer-facing side that will help the marketing team understand how they can better attract and convert leads for the sales team. The marketing team is a potential customer-facing side that will help sales understand the needs, wants, and pain points of the sales qualified leads they are assigned.

Pro Tip: Start with a SLA (Service Level Agreement) between your sales and marketing teams by defining your buyer personas. Establish a standard for lead scoring, and set clear goals for attaining those leads.

Read more about sales and marketing alignment here:

Best Practice #3

Do your research: In-depth research for personalized marketing.

For your marketing campaigns to be successful, first and foremost, you must know your audience, and buyer personas are the gateway to that knowledge. With inbound marketing, creating buyer personas is like personally picking out representatives for your brand. And quite frankly not everyone is able to represent you in the best light possible for your business needs.

Understanding your target audience and buyer personas will provide a canvas of sorts to paint the informational content picture. This picture will be more likely to not only suit your readership and target audience, but set you apart from the competition as a go-to information source.—Direct Images Interactive

That’s why shot in the dark, outbound marketing tactics like cold calling just doesn't work anymore. You must bring your audience to you by personalizing your brand message to fit your audience’s needs. For example, if you are a website design agency that offers services to nonprofits and small businesses, then focus your research to each group and survey them—making sure to learn each group’s individual pain points to map out a unique buyer’s journey based on their needs. For more on buyer persona research to help cultivate an in-depth knowledge about your audience, learn from the following resources listed below:

 
 
 
 
 
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Best Practice #4

Diversify and distribute your content.

In the attract stage of inbound marketing methodology, it’s all about creating an engaged audience around brand through nurturing their trust by providing value as means to solve their pain points. Increasing trust in your audience takes consistency and value, and content coupled with thought leadership are just the tools to help you achieve it. 

Infographics, videos, blog posts, podcasts, ebooks, and webinars are just a few types of content you can include in your inbound marketing strategy. Take your content and share it on social media platforms or with people in your industry. Your website is the hub for all your great content. But you must produce and share your content in order for your brand to grow and your website visitors to increase. Explore how to create diverse content by improving your editorial calendar with this In-Sites video:

 
 
 
 
 
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Research, understand, know, and develop content under the premise that you must present the best user experience possible for your audience.Direct Images Interactive

Best Practice #5

Keep your website fresh.

Having a website is like running a hotel. You invite your visitors in. You make sure to provide them with what they need. And if they are happy with your service, they will want to come back again.

However, when was the last time you redesigned your homepage? In fact, when was the last time you redesigned your full website?

Using the same analogy, if you haven’t revisited your website design in over two years or more, it’s like keeping a hotel open even though it SERIOUSLY needs renovations. Freshen up your website with a website redesign by taking the following steps into consideration:

  1. Analyze each page’s performance
  2. Note down the problem areas within each page
  3. Choose the page with the most problem areas
  4. Create three action items to tackle each problem area on that page
    1. Examples of action items are:
      1. Include clear primary and secondary calls-to-action or CTAs
      2. Include more trust builders like testimonials or social media proof
      3. Include more visual content like videos and images
  5. Launch the page
  6. Analyze it—especially to note down whether or not the action items you implemented improved or diminished the page’s performance
  7. Rinse, and repeat.

A website redesign is beneficial to keeping your user experience fresh and new for both your current and new website visitors. For more information on the benefits of a website redesign, dive into the following listed resources:

 
 
 
 
 
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A website is not just a brochure. It is a connection that you make with your potential customers and existing customers that says 'We are here for you if you need us. In the meantime, check this out. It’s pretty cool and I found it just for you.'—Direct Images Interactive

Best Practice #6

Keep SEO at the forefront of all your content initiatives.

Yes, user experience and customized content is always the number one priority, but that doesn’t mean you must throw search engine optimization out the window. There is a delicate balance between content that is personalized for the user experience and keyword stuffing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t optimize said custom content for search engines.

If done properly Google and organic search can be a residual lead generating marketing strategy. Take a look at some of these organic search stats for yourself:

  • Google gets over 100 billion searches a month. (Mashable, 2015)
  • The average Google first page result contains 1,890 words. (Backlinko, 2016)
  • 50% of search queries are four words or longer. (WordStream, 2016)
  • 66% of marketers say improving SEO and growing their organic presence is their top inbound marketing priority. (HubSpot, 2016)
  • 71% of B2B researchers start their research with a generic search. (Google, 2015)
  • B2B researchers do 12 searches on average prior to engaging on a specific brand's site. (Google, 2014)

(Source: https://www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics)

To stay up with search engine optimization best practices be sure to include the following elements in your blogs and website pages:

  • Be sure to include a keyword in the title tag, meta description, and h1 tag.
  • Also, include a keyword in the blog title and URL.
  • Link to other pages within your website.
  • Reference outside sources that have established website authority.
  • And, be sure to write thoughtful and informative content.

You can also read more about SEO in these articles:

If you are not actively putting these inbound marketing best practices into play, it’s time to reestablish your focus for the sake of your brand. Just applying a few of them to your marketing strategy can strengthen your buyer’s journey, your user experience, and even your audience engagement. Not to mention it will make 2017 a more successful year for your inbound marketing efforts.

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You might also be interested in:

FAQ Friday: The Top Inbound Marketing Trends and Tools for 2017

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FAQ Friday: Inbound Marketing Best Practices for Your Tech Startup

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9 Reasons HubSpot and Inbound Marketing Work for Startups


Topics: Inbound Marketing

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