As the year winds down, it's time to pull out the crystal ball to see what next year holds for inbound marketing practitioners. If you joined the growing list of companies that use inbound marketing in 2013, I hope you're seeing good results. If you haven't yet adopted inbound marketing, you'd better get going while the getting's good. Why? Because inbound marketing is a sales process that matches the way your customers buy. Rather than shoving marketing messages down busy buyer's throats regardless of their interest, inbound marketing attracts buyers to your brand when they are researching solutions to problems they face in their businesses. So let's get to it - here are 4 inbound marketing predictions for 2014.
1. Inbound Marketing Will Become More Difficult In 2014
As more and more companies adopt an inbound marketing lead generation channel, it will become more difficult to produce results. Why? Quite simply, there's more competition out there. More companies are competing for high search engine rankings for strategic keywords. It's not enough to produce content around targeted keywords. You need to produce good content that's relevant to buyers - and lots of it.
The same thing will occur in the social media space. As more companies and individuals use social media to sell, it will become more difficult to stand out in an increasingly crowded space. Companies that will be successful in social media marketing will devote appropriate resources to it. They will assign talented people to their social media marketing efforts and devote significant time every day to managing and growing their social networks. They will also train their sales teams on social selling and provide the appropriate tools to help them succeed.
Companies with established inbound marketing programs will have an advantage over newcomers. However, newcomers can't afford not to get in the game. It's no longer enough to do inbound marketing, you have to do it well to produce a return on investment.
2. Content Marketing Is Still King, But Context Is The Queen That Gets Results
As a follow-on to the first prediction, quality will become increasingly important in the marketing content you produce. Quality is not measured in the aesthetic elements of your content; it's measured in how well your content meets the needs of your target buying audience. You need to be able to identify what's important to your ideal customers and create content that answers their important questions and establishes your company as someone who can help them solve business problems.
Knowing your customers is a great help in creating content marketing that provides context to buyers, but inbound marketing software like HubSpot automates context and takes it to the next level. For example, inbound marketing software can recognize the IP addresses of your leads and provide a contextual website experience based on what you know about the visitor. For example, if one lead is in the professional services industry, the software can display a web page designed for the professional services industry. When another lead comes along that's in the medical industry, they will be served a web page specifically designed for their industry.
As more companies enter the content marketing arena, those that publish content that provides the right context to their ideal customers will separate from the crowd.
3. Video Marketing Will Become More Prevalent And Help Companies Communicate More Effectively
I realize that I'm not exactly going out on a limb predicting that video marketing will become more prevalent in inbound marketing. Video marketing is effective because it provides audio, visual and textual elements to communicate ideas, which match the way our brains are wired.
What will happen is that video marketing, once an enterprise-level endeavor, will be used much more frequently by SMB companies and start-ups. The tools to make quality videos are within reach of every business. While you can create videos with your smartphone, a good digital SLR camera can produce extremely high-quality video and images. Video marketing company Wistia shows how you can put together a video lighting kit for less than $100.
All growth-oriented companies will have an "explainer video" that succinctly describes what they do in an audio-visual format. Wikipedia describes an explainer videos as: "An explainer video is a web video that supplements textual information in audio-visual form. They are typically short, usually ranging from one to three minutes, to present information on business, products or services in a simplified manner." Think of it as a video version of your elevator speech.
Companies Will Outsource More Of Their Inbound Marketing
In PR 20/20's excellent research report, Marketing Score, companies identied the lack of internal inbound marketing talent as one of the biggest obstacles to success:
"Organizations lack confidence in their internal marketing teams, which are particularly weak in key digital marketing skills such as social media (5.2), data analysis (4.9), and lead management (4.7)......With the exception of strategic planning (6.2) and website management (6.1), on average, organizations rated their internal marketing teams weak in all 15 skills that should be considered as part of a modern marketing team."
Because of the lack of internal resources and the increasing red tape and expense to hire new employees, SMB companies will outsource much of their inbound marketing to qualified online marketing agencies. But buyer beware - it seems that half the population with Facebook accounts are claiming to be online marketing experts. Make sure that the agency you work with is certified and can show you the results they've achieved with their internal inbound marketing efforts.
Because of increasing competition, inbound marketing will become more difficult in 2014. Companies that produce content marketing that resonates with their ideal customers by providing the proper context will stand out from the pack. Video marketing will become both more prevalent and more accessible to SMB companies. Rather than taking on the time, expense and difficulty of hiring inbound marketing talent, companies will outsource much of their inbound marketing to qualified inbound marketing agencies.
Although inbound marketing will become more difficult to execute effectively, it's still a great lead generation channel because it syncs with the way your ideal customers buy. What will you be doing with your inbound marketing in 2014?