Over the last couple of weeks, I've read a lot of articles from "inbound marketing experts" describing huge shifts in inbound marketing for 2016. Granted, there is plenty of change going on and it is coming at a rapid pace. However, much of what worked in 2015 is still highly relevant in 2016, and it really depends on who you are targeting.
At Waypost, our target market is primarily B2B industrial and professional service companies. Within these markets, the targeted buyer personas are typically business owners, partners, presidents, and C-Level executives. The trends for these types of companies are quite different from the trends for companies targeting millennials. Emerging marketing platforms, such as Snapchat or virtual reality technology are cool to read about, but for most B2B organizations, the value will still be limited in 2016 in my opinion. So, here are our top 6 trends in Inbound Marketing for B2B companies.
1) It's Not Going to Get Any Easier
Companies are embracing inbound marketing at a rapid pace and we expect it to continue in 2016. What this means for you is that it’s only going to get tougher as more competitors adopt inbound marketing best practices. Here's what it looks like:
- More competition for organic keywords makes it increasingly difficult even for top SEO companies to achieve and maintain high rankings.
- More content being produced via blogging means more indexed pages targeting keywords.
- More content developed using other media - video, infographics, etc.
This means that even if you’re producing a lot of content and publishing it on all known sources that can potentially reach your target, you will still have to optimize it correctly to make sure your content can break past the competition.
Creating awesome content and just putting it out there no longer works. Why? Because with so many means of self-publishing, everyone can create shareable and valuable content. Everyone can publish a book on Amazon now. Therefore, chances are very low that your B2B content will convert without any extra marketing help.
Instead of targeting the mainstream media (which is more suited for B2C companies), you will need to network with the high-ranking channels to deliver your message to your interest group. By diversifying your traffic channels, you build your content pillars not only on your blog, but also social media, email marketing, PR, educational content, and much more. This way when one of your pillars fails, your inbound marketing can still stand up to the challenges and support the strategy.
2) Marketing Automation
As marketers today are spending at least 50% of their time on content, companies are coming up with more ways to automate marketing. Marketing automation alone is worth $5.5 Billion and is leading the way in lead generation and prospect nurturing.
Using a marketing automation platform such as Hubspot makes it easier to schedule emails, segment contacts, automate social media posting, manage your content, track the lifecycle of customers in your marketing funnel, and conduct better PPC management. This automation trend also highlights the growth of convergence, which allows you to stay lean, focused, and as profitable as possible without compromising on quality.
With even more focus on marketing to deliver results, marketing managers and CMOs should be taking stock of their team’s skills and resources, noting the gaps and defining a robust automation strategy to help sales through engaging prospects, qualifying leads, and shortening the overall sales cycle.
3) Email Marketing Still Works
Every day your buyer personas see more and more ads (on their Facebook timeline, morning newspaper, on their smartphone, in the store, driving home, etc). Most of those ads include calls-to-action encouraging them to order, buy, share, or want something. For this reason, most of the people you are targeting are already banner blind; they subconsciously do not perceive ads on websites, social media and even billboards.
With this phenomenon becoming more popular and the ad blocking trend more viral, it is crucial for you to deliver relevant and appealing content that will encourage your target to come to you, which is the primary goal of inbound marketing in general.
Adopting an email marketing strategy is one of the most effective means of delivering your information to your leads, provided that your newsletter is well optimized. If your target is a part of your community (for instance, a local company, a national telecommunications carrier, etc), a smart email campaign can engage and spark a conversation with them.
Marketers around the world name email as the first most efficient way for lead generation. Their inbox is one of the few spaces online where banner blindness yet hasn't taken hold—this is an opportunity not to be missed!
Smartphone adoption continues to rise year in and year out, 2 billion users worldwide are expected to have a smartphone in 2016. To be honest, I used to not pay attention to this trend—it's been something the marketing world has been predicting for a while. Google now negatively rates your website and can even score you a penalty if it's not optimized for mobile, which can be a big deal and a serious risk of losing leads. If the Google update rolls out and your website is still not mobile-friendly, you might end up on the 101st page of Google, which means you will be invisible in organic search.
What sold me on this trend was actually catching myself buying products and services while walking through the buyer's journey on my phone. The mobile trend is no joke and in 2016 it may be front and center. I’m not a millennial, but I will say I use my phone probably too often. I’ve come to realize that it’s just the world we live in now. Whether I'm taking my dog, Marley, for a walk or waiting in line at the store, I'm usually on my phone either reading, researching, or doing something that more than likely affects my buying decisions.
And if you pay close attention to your website data, you will notice that most of your visitors are probably doing the same.
5) Search No Longer Just Applies to Search Engines
Search engines have ruled our online world for too long. All this time they have basically decided what we should read, watch or play. This will no longer be the case in 2016.
Top online companies like Facebook and Pinterest have been experimenting a lot in 2015. The main goal was to make users stay within the app longer. In May 2015, Facebook started testing its new search engine for articles. Replicating the idea of LinkedIn Pulse, Facebook will allow you to publish and read articles while staying on Facebook. First tests ran on IOS, but we have a feeling this will roll out to other devices very soon.
And it’s not limited to Facebook. Our perception of search changed when Twitter introduced the hashtags, the new way of searching in social media. Not long after, hashtags, the keywords of social media, became crucial on Instagram and available on Facebook, although we don’t see much use for them in the latter. What this tells us is that the term search is becoming a whole new aspect of marketing, creating more need for search engine marketers and strategies.
Search is more than browsing …
Another crucial change has been the introduction of e-commerce into search. Google’s new experiments of adding the purchase option directly into search results was only the beginning. Pinterest has jumped into the race, adding the Buy pin and finally validating the first social media and e-commerce mutant.
Although Pinterest has announced that it will be sticking to the social aspect more than the e-commerce, late last year we’ve saw the network introduce another feature - discount notifications that would push you to click the Buy pin even more.
Pinterest and Google are not the only ones. The trend of selling it via search will grow in 2016, most likely with other networks joining the race and putting new features out there. At the end of the day, it’s a whole new opportunity for your brand to get more than just leads from your online marketing. Sell it when they search for you.
6) Video & Interactive Content
If your content doesn’t cause action on behalf of the reader, then it’s not serving its marketing purpose. To improve your content engagement rate, let’s go over some of the video and interactive content trends we’ve witnessed in 2015 that will stay in the game this year as well.
Here are some of the best 2015 trends from Marketing Tech Blog: (they have a nice infographic as well)
- 52% of marketing professionals worldwide name video as the type of content with best ROI.
- 93% of marketers use video for online marketing, sales or communication.
- Using the word “Video” in an email subject line boosts open rates 19%, click-through rates by 65% and reduces unsubscribes by 26%.
- B2B and B2C marketers all over the world say video is one of the top 3 most effective social media marketing tactics.
It’s only a numbers game! Video content is more effective and engagement-driven, especially when your users don’t like reading big chunks of paragraphs. There is a reason why so many worldwide brands are switching from print media ads and TV-focused commercials to online video marketing strategies.
Here are some of the reasons:
- Online video advertising is much more affordable than TV placement.
- Online videos have a longer lifespan than TV commercials or a print media ad banner.
- Online video streaming platforms like YouTube and Vimeo let your target respond to your video instantly. Quick feedback increases interactivity and can be decisive when launching a new product or service.
- You are much more likely to go viral with a video than copy or an image.
As video advertising gains more popularity in 2016, we will see more opportunities to use video content to boost interactivity between your brand and your buying personas.
Expect all this, and even more in 2016. We are about to find out and experiment with new innovations and tools, which can ease the sales process of B2B companies, improve your online reputation and bring your brand closer to your target.