2016 has come to an end, and Inbound Marketing, or marketing in general, is in a revolution.
Marketing is no longer about spreading your name, making noise, or purely generating leads. There are many new efforts your marketing team will have to make to create success for your business, whether done in-house or by a marketing agency. In this blog, we’ll share the key elements you need to have in your strategy for success in 2017.
Simply handing your leads over to sales and “calling it a day” won’t cut it in 2017. A marketing team, or Inbound Marketing agency, will need to take ownership of the entire marketing funnel, from demand generation to closing the deal, and delighting clients and customers.
That is not to say that a marketing team is supposed to sell directly to the client. It is, however, a marketing team’s responsibility, to facilitate the entire marketing and sales process, for example, creating sales collaterals based on buyer personas and the buyer’s journey.
A lead that’s being handed over to sales should go through a comprehensive nurturing process, including figuring out what their actual needs are and comparing different solutions to the problem they are trying to solve.
A sales qualified lead should have all this information in their profile before being passed to the sales team. The sales team should receive details on what pages the leads have viewed, what blogs they’ve read, and what content offer they’ve downloaded. This allows your sales team to decide what sales pitch works best for the particular buyer persona’s pain points.
Once the sales team has sufficient information, their selling will be much more effective. This is when a marketing automation and CRM tool come into play. They, in combination, will be able to tell the entire story of the lead’s journey.
To sum it up, Sales Enablement includes:
- Strategy development
- Sales materials and assets creation
- Systems and support (including marketing automation platforms and CMS)
- Sales training
- Performance analysis
- Cross-selling opportunity discovery
- New channels integration
- Sales team coaching (marketing and nurturing methodology)
- Sales staff on-boarding
Many years ago, HubSpot defined the buyer’s journey with a unique funnel analogy as “Awareness, Consideration, and Decision.” Even back then, the funnel didn’t end until a transaction happened, and in many cases until a promoter was born.
At INBOUND 16, HubSpot re-emphasized the importance of Sales Enablement, and their investment and involvement in helping agencies and companies to reach their sales goals via Sales Enablement increased.
It’s safe to say that there will be a movement in the sales world in 2017. Just like how Inbound Marketing has changed marketing, Sales Enablement will change sales.
Data is Key
To a lot of people, marketing has always been mysterious and unpredictable, in terms of whether it works. And if it does work, what kind of results should we expect from marketing?
With AB testing, heatmaps, Google Analytics and other data-driven platforms playing major roles in this day and age, I can say with full confidence that marketing should not only be accountable for results, but moreover, that results and data should be the major factors that determine your marketing campaigns and strategies.
2017 is about taking the mystery out of marketing. No longer should your marketing team be acting upon common sense, or merely hoping for the best.
One of HubSpot’s standout features is being the integration of your different marketing platforms, tools, and arenas. There are data and metrics for almost everything - traffic, conversions, goals, from your website to your blogs, landing pages, and individual emails.
It doesn’t get any more granular than this...
... and you should care about each individual KPI to be able to fine-tune your marketing strategy and maximize results.
Here’s one example of letting your data determine your behavior - when sending out emails, send the same type of email to the same group at different times. Let your open rate, click rate, etc. tell you when would be the best time to reach people - simple and effective.
Another example (not necessarily Inbound, but digital marketing nevertheless) would be to conduct a paid ad campaign on social media, and use the same set of creatives in different geographical regions. Let your engagement or conversion data tell you which geographical region responds to your ad campaign the best. Change up creatives in the regions that didn’t respond well, until you figure out which creatives suit which region.
And YES, this will get very granular, but that’s when Artificial Intelligence (AI) comes to play. We’ll discuss this topic later in the article.
In 2017, if you are not personalizing your marketing, you are not marketing at all.
And yet, some companies are still utilizing email blasts as their main digital marketing methods, and hoping that someday someone from the right department in the right company will open the email and click on the CTA - although it wasn’t specifically meant for him/her in the first place.
Many people will equate personalization to having a person’s name, company name, etc. in their emails. In most cases you should make sure those are taken care of, however only doing so would have the same effect as having the right date at the top of your email.
Personalization is much more than that. Personalization involves personalizing the journey your prospect is going through.
For example, in an rCommerce environment, your prospect should be given relevant content based on their previous behavior on your site, or any other information you can gather from him/her. Like this email from Alexa.
Moreover, a personalized environment shouldn’t be about shoveling sales information to a prospect all the time, even if the products match the hobbies or likes of the prospect. The information you give to the prospect should heavily rely upon which stage the buyer is at in the buyer’s journey, and he should only receive information that’s relevant to that particular stage of his journey.
For example, if a new manager has just started up at a company, and you, a travel agency, are trying to sell your B2B travel packages, the content you provide should be about the importance of team building, the benefit of having an energetic and harmonious work environment, etc., instead of your current deal for 15% off all travel packages.
Then you can use workflows to qualify the prospect by nurturing them with different and carefully curated content based on their previous engagements and reactions.
The eCommerce side of the equation is somewhat similar, and yet different in many ways. If someone is a basketball fan, he shouldn’t be seeing too much about David Beckham, even if he’s in England and has lived through Manchester United’s golden years.
Instead he should be surrounded with information and content geared toward basketball. The information, again, should not be gearing toward buying at all times. Provide visitors with relevant information in terms of their buyer’s journey, and then use workflows to engage or re-engage them.
“According to recent research, 93% of all online experiences begin with a search engine, and 75% of users never scroll to page 2.” (Neil Patel)
Needless to say, ranking on the first page of Google for certain keywords is crucial for your business. But there are two sides of SEO - foundation and performance.
There’s no reason why your foundational SEO shouldn’t be on point. Foundational SEO includes things like page titles, duplicate pages, meta-tags, etc., all of which should be taken care of at the time your site was built, and if not, shortly after. Foundational SEO usually requires more technical skills than strategy.
The other side of the equation, however, takes more strategy, including keyword strategy, content strategy, pillar content strategy, etc. With the many updates Google has made, keyword stuffing no longer works.
Your performance SEO strategy should consider the key theme or goal of your website and create substantial content to support your pillar theme. For example, if the goal of your website is to help you generate leads for life insurance sales, then most of the content on your webpages should mention life insurance. The reason behind this is simple, and yet disguised in all the SEO strategies being published everyday.
If you look at all the past Google updates, they are all ways of creating a fair environment that ultimately benefits Google’s customers - the searchers. Therefore it’s safe to conclude, from 2017 and beyond, that Google will continue to perfect the search engine environment to provide a better experience.
So as long as your website and content are created with the best interest of the searchers in mind, you can assume that Google will favor your site more than others. But, this needs to be a consistent and continuous effort.
The Use of Artificial Intelligence
Previously in this blog post, I mentioned that AI will play a bigger role in digital marketing in 2017 and beyond.
The testing method that’s most popular and deemed most effective, AB testing, will only do one variation at one time. The paid ad optimization by geo-location can only be reviewed and modified periodically, not in real time. These are all limitations of conducting marketing campaigns “by hand” - they are slow and of a much smaller scale.
Fortunately, there are AIs that allow for adjustments real time, based on the data gathered by bots. Once there’s a trend of changes in a certain metric of a certain campaign, when several variations are present, AI will be able to react in real time and prioritize campaigns that create the best return.
What’s even more exciting about AI is that it’ll be able to test, instead of just two, many variations all at the same time.
Does that mean we can safely eliminate humans in the marketing process? No. On the contrary, people's role is adjusted to a supervising role, to design strategies, analyze scenarios based on research, and set the rules for machines to carry out repetitive tasks more efficiently and effectively.
Now here comes a taboo word - Outbound. However, in 2017 and beyond, Outbound Marketing will continue to play an important role in marketing as a whole.
Trade shows and mailers, along with paid demand generation and social media campaigns, will still be very important to generate initial visitors to your website, or create buzz for a certain promotion of yours.
Inbound and Outbound Marketing will work more closely together to generate better results. For example, I may have a spectacular idea for a piece of content, and I’m sure whoever sees this content will be interested to engage in further interactions, eventually turning into my client. Outbound, or paid demand generation in this case, will be the key step in generating the traffic I need to get that content to take off.
Digital Marketing in 2017 requires a more robust and aggressive approach.
To help you get ready for 2017, get in touch with us and schedule a free consultation. Let’s talk about how to get your business success using the right strategies, today.