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What 2017 Holds for B2B Inbound Marketing

60% of marketers say blog content creation is their top inbound marketing priority

Source: HubSpot

The last decade has seen the evolution of b2b inbound marketing. Today, businesses need to be more savvy, specific and creative than ever before to grab customer’s attention.

Rewind the clock ten years and prospects had a choice of maybe four or five different vendors to pick from, for any product or service. Today, it’s more like fourteen or fifteen – an amount consistent across all commercial sectors. That’s quite an increase in competition.

With B2B sectors seeing an increase in suppliers, and different channels for businesses to research and source their chosen partners, positioning your business online as a thought leader or premier supplier will be 2017's most important marketing challenge. But just as supply has increased exponentially, demand ISN’T greater than ever. In fact, it’s remained relatively unchanged in a decade. This means that understanding buyer behaviour is more critical than ever before.

When observing buyer prospective behaviour, there’s only one conclusion to be drawn – we’re on the cusp of heralding the second phase of inbound marketing evolution.

B2B companies that blogged 11+ times per month had almost 3X more traffic than those blogging 0-1 times per month

Source: HubSpot

Here’s what this means for your business, and your 2017 marketing plan.

Google is The Answer

Rich Text Boxes

In 2007, Google helped buyers find the answers to any queries by returning search results with links to the answers they sought. Today, Google directly responds to any queries in a rich text box. No longer are buyers presented with a list of links as resources, just the answer to their query.

Now, statistics do vary, but between 20 – 35% of Google SERPs performed today return with a quick answer box, populated in the SERP itself. These answer boxes can be understood in a split second, making them highly-appealing to website browsers.

The content that your business creates should be able to be pulled into Google’s quick answer box. This allows you to educate buyers directly on the SERP, immediately engaging them. Check out this article for information on how to do this.

Google Adwords

Earlier this year, Google introduced changes to its layout. Prior to this, Google Adwords paid search results took up approximately half the page. The new layout shifted Adwords results from the right- hand column, where they typically went unnoticed, to centre stage, making up the entire space above the page fold on desktop and mobile devices.

Your inbound marketing budget should always factor in paid advertising. Whilst ads aren’t traditionally associated with inbound marketing, quality content can be promoted when found organically. And it can be amplified with a paid search budget.

Whilst we’re on the topic of social media, Facebook’s Lead Ads allows buyers to complete a form directory in their news feeds. Added in 2015, this feature lets user’s sign-up for lead generating offers and content without leaving Facebook. The feature was created specifically to simplify mobile sign-up, making it as easy as possible for mobile users to fill out forms without the frustration of the pinch and zoom when typing details into form fields.

The greater transparency of an ad campaign’s effectiveness means we are now seeing what is sure to become more and more prominent in 2017 and beyond – Pay Per Lead, not Pay Per Click.

Ads are being given increasing prominence in search engine results, offering enhanced clarity and more affordable cost per lead ratios. This will influence how prospective customers find your business in 2017.

The Evolution of Content

The types of content we consume has evolved. Ten years ago, it was all about the power of the written word. Today, content is visual – it’s videos, images and infographics. Moving into 2017, expect to see video content and social media sharing begin to take centre stage.

Look at the popularity of apps such as Snapchat, and how businesses are using live streaming to share content. B2B Inbound marketing campaigns that get the most traction are the ones that utilise short video content to portray a powerful message.

The Evolution of Content

The explosion of mobile devices has fuelled this surge in video content. Content marketers need to be searching for a video producer, not a blogger. As much as 50% of the content you produce in 2017 should be video content, whether created or shared or just shared on social media.

It’s Not Just About Your Website

Social media has evolved from a platform to promote your business to a content platform in itself. Buyers aren’t just sneaking the odd few minutes a day to change their status or browse what other people are saying, they’re spending much of their time glued to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other prominent social media platforms.

Facebook has a monopoly on the content we consume. Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp are all owned by Facebook. Every single day consumers happily explore, chat and share content with other users. If you’re not engaging with the platforms, you’re not engaging with potential customers.

Buyer Psychology in 2017

Ten years ago, your website was a resource. Today, it’s the ultimate sales pitch. Buyers want an experience, taking the decision to make a purchase on the website directly, or by contacting you when they want to.

Website evolution has resulted in consumers expecting an automated, personalised service that’s conveniently tailored to their needs. This on-demand, buying experience is set to continue into 2017, and your inbound marketing activities should reflect this.

Simple additions, such as an instant chat feature with sales or support staff can make the difference between browsers investing time on your website, or returning to Google’s search index. Content that delivers an engaging, helpful and memorable service, allowing consumers to help themselves will have the edge over content that doesn’t. This is why live web chats have proven to be so popular.

The Takeaway

Commercial success depends on value, experience and innovation. This has never been truer as we move into 2017. Your B2B Inbound Marketing strategy should keep these four key points in mind:

Visual Content – create and share diverse content. Ramp up your video content production, using social media to share content that adds value.

Be Social – remember that people buy from people they like. Engage your customers on Snapchat, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger and give them a reason to believe in you.

Change Your Content Collaboration – combine content with paid marketing. Repurpose successful content and share it on multiple channels, whilst boosting its influence with a dedicated budget.

Remember Your Customer’s Behaviours – make sure that you give your customers the ability to buy when they like – without the need for any personal interaction.

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Pro tip: Business to business marketing is about delivering high quality content to generate leads and authority in your industry

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