The last decade has seen the evolution of B2B inbound marketing. Today, businesses need to stay on trend to grab a customer’s attention.
Rewind the clock ten years and prospects had a choice of four or five different vendors to pick from for any product or service. In 2018 you could double or triple that figure – an amount consistent across most commercial sectors. That’s a dramatic increase in competition. Competition who could take your business!
Start In Pole Position
Marketing changes fast. Advances in technology usually have something to do with it. A new piece of tech means a new way of doing things. Be proactive. Even if you aren't the boffin who thought of the idea, you need to keep up.
The following ideas are going to help you beef up your marketing material and plan for the future. We use all these methods and take it from us, they work!
Inbound Marketing in 2018
1. Everyone Wants A Rich Answer
In the past, Google helped buyers find the answers to questions by returning search results with a page of links. Today Google shows information in different formats, depending on the query and what the best way to show the answer is.
No longer are buyers presented with a list of links as resources; they get rich information shown to them in image packs, definitions, lists and video panels.
Statistics do vary, but between 20 – 35% of Google SERPs performed return with a quick answer box, populated in the SERP itself. Users can understand these text boxes in a matter of seconds, making them 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.
You should make sure your text is punchy; long-winded answers are less likely to appear. The content is crucial as well, because if it doesn't answer the question it isn't going to be there!
2. Paid Advertising Supports Campaigns
Your inbound marketing budget should always factor in paid advertising. Ads aren’t traditionally associated with inbound marketing, but if you can promote your content then you should consider any means necessary! Amplify your work with a paid search budget.
The problem with inbound is that it can take months to start getting meaningful traffic. Paid ads can give you a quick-win in the period where your content isn't. You may notice that a Google algorithm change has knocked a piece of content down, so you could give it a quick boost while you figure out how to get it up the ladder!
Dominate the page
If you can get paid and organic links on a Google page you'll be stamping your authority on the search term. If you can get a Google rich answer then you own the space!
3. The Evolution of Content
The type of content we consume has evolved. Ten years ago it was all about the power of the written word. Today content comes in visual forms as well – videos, images and infographics. Moving into 2018, expect to see video content take centre stage (although it already has).
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 use short video content to portray a powerful message.
The explosion of mobile devices has fuelled this surge in video content. Content marketers need someone on their team with video production skills; failing that, your mobile phone will have to do! As much as 50% of the content you produce in 2018 should be video content, whether you create it or share it on social media.
4. Social Media Soldiers On
Social media has evolved from a platform to promote your business to a content platform in itself. Buyers aren’t 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.
5. It's All About The Experience!
Ten years ago, your website was a resource. Today, it’s the ultimate sales pitch. Buyers want an experience, deciding to 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 2018, 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 will have the edge over content that doesn’t. This is why live web chats have proven to be so popular.
6. More Small Business's Trial Inbound
HubSpot has made their Marketing Hub Starter package free. This means more small businesses can trial the software and see how much time automation can save them.
Most small business owners are aware that you need to send out marketing emails and create content to get more traffic to your site but waste a lot of time trying to link this together.
HubSpot will also be offering more comprehensive packages so smaller businesses can afford to market themselves better. Some of the features of the free package include:
- Email marketing
- List segmentation
- Lead flows
- Facebook and Instagram ads integration
7. Voice Search Is Taking Off
There have been suggestions that voice search is for B2C rather than B2B. It's easy to see why someone would say that; who's going to sit in a crowded office and ask for printer ink when they've got a computer to do it on?
Stone Temple conducted a survey seeking the voice search trends of 2018 and found some surprising results. Nearly 50% of respondents said they used voice search while alone at work, and around 25% used voice search in the office with coworkers.
No doubt it feels a bit silly talking to a machine in front of people, but once you break that barrier it becomes the norm. Voice search offers too many benefits for inbound marketers to ignore.
Inbound marketers need to think about more organic phraseology, adding more context to the keywords they're already using. One technique all marketers should adopt is reading copy back to themselves. If it sounds unnatural, it's got less chance of appearing in a voice search!
8. Marketing Automation Continues to Improve
Whether the sales manager wants a hub for customer information or the marketing manager wants to create email lists to promote their content, the chances are there's someone in your organisation banging on about CRM systems.
The market looks set to grow as more vendors pop out of nowhere with a new solution to a problem you never knew you had! It works though. For all you Excel/Word gurus out there, there is a simpler way! Stop pressing sticky notes to your computer screen edges.
As we discussed in point 5, it's all about the experience when you're in inbound marketing. Companies like Uberflip are taking this into consideration, and their platform is known for its ease of use for marketers, making content production quick and easy.
There's an irony with marketing automation. Buyer's now expect you to know what piece of content they need at each stage of their buying journey. We're using robots to share this content with them, but people want to feel like they're speaking to a human. Marketers need to get this part of the strategy right.
Commercial success depends on value, experience and innovation. This has never been truer as we move into 2018. 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, while 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.
Editors note: This post has been revamped and updated for 2018. At Red-Fern, we love keeping our content fresh, it ensures our articles are up-to-date, relevant and accurate!