Another year, another valuable experience at HubSpot's annual INBOUND marketing and sales conference. Our team was particularly impressed last week by the diversity of the 2017 speaker lineup—which, in turn, brought a greater diversity to the INBOUND audience. Not to mention we had the opportunity to sit in on stellar keynote presentations featuring the likes of Brené Brown, Ed Catmull, John Cena and Michelle Obama!
To no surprise, this year's event was jam-packed with informative sessions on all the latest industry trends – Artificial Intelligence, the rapid evolution of SEO, innovative video marketing techniques and more. And a few of our attending team members pooled their insights and collaboratively wrote this post for all those of you who'd like to get the inside scoop!
Generally speaking, we marketers are all still working with the same principles. Inbound has always been about customer centricity – really getting to know your target buyers, attracting them to your business with educational, high-value content and delighting them throughout the entire sales process, as well as beyond the close.
It's the processes, tools and technologies we are using that are dramatically changing. Video marketing methods, search engine optimization tactics, website user experience best practices, social media advertising and everything in between are experiencing a complete makeover. It's that much more important to stay current and have a grasp on what's in, what's out and what's up-and-coming so you don’t fall behind and turn off your prospects and customers. That being said, here's an overview of what you need to know now...
1. Optimize by creating topic clusters.
One of the most recurring themes of INBOUND this year was: forget everything you once knew about SEO. No, seriously. Forget everything.
Did you know a page can rank for a topic keyword even if that keyword doesn’t appear anywhere on your page? The days of writing a blog post for every variation of a keyword you can think of is over. And that’s where topic clusters come in.
The foundational idea behind topic clusters is to be more strategic and thoughtful about the content you create and how you link that content to other content on your site. For example, instead of writing blog posts for every target keyword, you should think strategically about topics, themes and subjects that people search for.
For example, you could have a topic cluster about email marketing. One piece of content could be about writing incredible subject lines. Another could be on strategies for using personalization. All these content pieces about email would link only to other content pieces about email. This keeps your audience engaged with content that is relevant to their search term. And it helps Google understand what your content is about – even if the keyword isn’t on your page.
When in doubt: Write content that’s helpful for the user, and it just might rank. It’s like magic!
2. You can’t escape video.
If a B2B business were to add or expand on a single piece of their marketing strategy in 2018, it would be developing compelling video content. It's no longer a "nice to have" – video is a MUST that can't be put on the backburner. With session titles like The Psychology of Video and Why It's More Than Just Another Content Format and Video Is the Most Effective Communication Tool You Have – and You're Misusing It, there was a heavy emphasis put on this medium throughout the week.
There are many ways to make video work for your business no matter what your budget is. The availability of tools is abundant for inbound, search, social media, and even sales. See, for example, the personalized introduction from a Vidyard rep (one of the video companies at INBOUND this year) to one of our AMs. We urge you to try one!
3. Leverage LinkedIn Publisher.
One of the most underutilized yet most visited content promotion arenas out there is LinkedIn Publisher. What's LI Publisher, you ask? It’s that little button that says “Write Article” when you go to post an update on LinkedIn. Similar to a blog publisher, LinkedIn Publisher allows you to write long-form articles and distribute them to your connections on this social network.
Studies have shown that contacts engage with content on LinkedIn Publisher much more than they do with blog posts. People tend to enjoy commenting, sharing, and linking to posts on LinkedIn – so it's high time you give this piece of the platform a shot!
Why does this matter? LI Publisher is a great channel to repurpose and promote existing content. And, best of all, Google is not currently flagging LinkedIn Publisher pieces as duplicate content. So no SEO penalities for the socially savvy marketer... nice!
4. Tell compelling stories.
Think your product, service, or industry isn’t “sexy” enough to have a story? Think again. A recent study has shown that more than HALF of people remember absolutely nothing of what they read online. That’s not an exaggeration. In an age where contacts are consuming content at higher and higher rates, how do you make your content messaging memorable?
First, you need to stop talking about yourself (or your product or service). Consider this example: Let’s say you sell patio grills. Your content could boast that your grill has 14 unique heat settings, holders for all your grill tools, and easy-to-clean grates! That’s all well and good. But what is the story behind your grill? What’s the real reason someone buys it?
“Cook a better steak.” That’s the core of your story. People buy grills because they want to prepare a better steak, not because they want 14 heat settings or grilling gadget holders. Those things are nice, and they certainly help to make the steak better. But when it comes to storytelling, we need to focus less on ourselves, and more on the original story.
In fact, people often feel overwhelmed by statistics. But they do remember how content makes them feel. Having fourteen heat settings vs. impressing your in-laws with awesome steak. Which is more memorable?
5. Account-Based Marketing and Inbound can work together.
It’s difficult to find a marketing publication today that hasn't mentioned Account-Based Marketing. In fact, 72% of marketers are trying ABM! If you’re unfamiliar with the term, Account-Based Marketing incorporates a focus on specific key accounts, and leverages a highly customized message to appeal to company decision makers and other stakeholders involved in the buying process.
Inbound-trained marketers can easily participate in the ABM methodology by paving the way for Sales with valuable data and building plays that cater to each buyer persona, at each stage of the buying cycle.
It's also important to recognize how powerful retargeting and direct mail can be when combined with ABM. Adroll has found that by sending physical goods (like direct mail), conversions increased by 8%. One session also highlighted the benefits of creating highly targeted remarketing ads, where the speaker recommended that companies design ads based on personas and to even consider putting the image of the prospect’s sales person in the ad.
6. Take notice of emerging channels.
According to Alexa, Reddit is the eighth most visited website in the world. In Dan Russell’s Reddit session, we learned the correct way to use Reddit and important information about its demographics. Most notably, the Reddit audience is made up of 67% men and 33% women, and 64% of users are between the ages of 19-29 years old. If your target audience makes sense for Reddit, it can be used as a powerful idea sourcing tool. Using the search function, you can find the topics your prospects are most interested in. Russel noted that Reddit’s search bar is not ideal but you’ll have the most success searching by relevance and then by time (the priority is given to the newest content).
Moreover, has your business ever considered creating a podcast or exploring non-traditional content channels like Medium? HubSpot’s Meghan Anderson recommends dedicating 20% of your team to innovation and exploring these new content promotion opportunities. In fact, 80% of people are using apps, not looking for content in Google. To stay competitive, businesses will have to embrace the platforms that people are using to consume content – even if it’s not their own website. Anderson warns that results may take time. The first 4 or 5 months that HubSpot tested Medium they saw no results. Most importantly, she recommends these channels should be optimized for people and not for search – the best advice she can offer is to focus on making great content first and worry about optimization second.
7. Voice search is on the rise.
In 2016, roughly 7% of all US households owned a smart speaker product. By 2020, this percentage is forecasted to reach 75% – that's a total audience of around 258 million people! Crazy, right? And to round out these stats, know that 40% of adults already use voice search once per day. So capitalizing on this trend will soon be what takes your marketing to the next level.
But here's some tough love: for many voice searches on mobile (and Google has made us all aware that mobile search volume has overtaken that of desktop), there is frequently only ONE answer provided in response to any given search query. That makes appearing in results that much more competitive. How can you optimize your content for these types of searches?
- Publish a company FAQ page with short answer snippets.
- Structure your website page data according to Google's guides.
- Focus on "near me" searches when creating paid ad campaigns.
- Create site pages that target particular locations – or that showcase your own if you have multiple sites or offices.
- Incorporate how-to's, numbered lists and question-based posts into your blog's editorial calendar.
What's more, in addition to voice search are voice ACTIONS – which will become increasingly important as people grow accustomed to living with a virtual assistant like Google Home or Alexa. Integrating your website with AI and apps that allow a prospect to book a meeting with your sales rep or order a product online simply by speaking to their smart device will give you a huge leg up in the near future.
8. Inbound Sales is serious business.
HubSpot is increasingly placing emphasis on sales and marketing alignment. So much so that they dedicated multiple INBOUND 2017 sessions to improving communication between the two departments and proving that sales and marketing harmony is not only very possible, but very fruitful. They announced the launch of an entirely new version of Sales Professional and Conversations – promising to supercharge your sales engine and make it so that your sales team doesn’t have to lift a finger in order to close a deal (with the help of marketing data, of course!)
9. Get your HubSpot portal cleaned up.
If you open your File Manager and have more than 14 versions of your logo saved, it may be time for a HubSpot clean up. This is especially true for customers that have been using HubSpot for more than three years. Legacy content, old lists, broken workflows, and ancient messaging could plague your marketing success and drastically decrease your productivity.
More and more companies are putting the pause on creating new content until they have spring-cleaned their automation software. With so much interconnectivity among your content tools, the way you approach your clean up matters. Here is the ideal order of operations if you want to tackle a clean-up in your HubSpot portal this year:
- File & design manager
- Landing Pages
- Lead scoring
- Social optimization
10. AI is no longer the future. It's here.
Between chat bots and automated sales tools, content generators and data synopsis writers, there’s an artificial intelligence mechanism emerging for just about anything you can think of. Marketers must adapt now or face falling significantly behind their competitors.
One notworthy system we learned about is Phrasee, an email marketing language generation software designed to improve email copy. A stat we found particularly compelling (and/or scary, depending on how you look at it)? When Phrasee was A/B tested against human writers in a research study about subject lines, the emails with subject lines produced by the AI outperformed the human ones 98% of the time!
A number of session speakers discussed bots as well (Drift, for example) and how implementing AI chat bots and using smart apps to design tools like calculators that can be deployed on your website will quickly enrich your audience experience. It's tools like these that are making marketers' lives so much easier (although hopefully not too easy – we'll all still have jobs in 10 years, right?) and allowing companies to technologically differentiate themselves in the marketplace.
Want to find out more about what we learned at INBOUND 2017? Our team will be continually posting more in-depth articles on our blog that dig into topics like these, as well as many others, so simply subscribe to receive updates or check back in with us in the coming weeks!