At this point, you’ve likely heard of inbound marketing, or you should have, at least. It’s considered the best way to do marketing right now. You may even be using it in your business or expecting to adopt it and implement it soon.
If you’ve been considering inbound marketing or using it for a while, you may be wondering about where this marketing paradigm is heading in the future. After all, nothing is static, and even the most effective marketing techniques will need to change to keep up with consumer expectations and demands.
If you want a sneak peek of where inbound is heading in 2018, take a look at these ten predictions.
1. Video Is In
Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook all have a “story” feature, which allows users to upload short videos and images that disappear shortly after. Video clips are becoming increasingly important in the story feature.
Videos will become more important across the board. As video becomes more embedded in social media users’ timelines, it’s becoming the medium of choice. As a result, brands without video content will begin to feel as though they’re “hiding” from their audiences. Your customers want to see your face and hear your voice!
Luckily, producing great video content is also becoming more accessible to even small firms. Plan to add some video to your content strategy for 2018 and beyond.
2. User-Generated Content Is a Must
Most business owners and marketing managers who use inbound marketing know the importance of balancing content creation with content curation. You need to produce your own content, but you can also curate great content from other influencers and experts.
Your customers are going to expect more user-generated content to grace your social media feeds. These won’t be slick, professional-grade productions, but rather candid images and video clips that your customers send to you or generate using a tool you give them. Using this content will humanize your brand and promote authenticity. Brands that don’t leverage this kind of content will be increasingly distrusted by their customers.
3. Rise of the Chatbots
There’s no denying Facebook has been one of the major drivers behind different trends in inbound marketing for the last few years. Despite the company’s somewhat worrying plans to shrink and separate “publisher content” from content generated by users’ friends and family, there’s little reason to believe the social media giant will have less influence.
One of Facebook’s major focuses has been its Messenger app, which may have you thinking about how chatbots can help your marketing efforts. Many business owners are already investing in chatbot technology for their websites. With consumers demanding 24/7 availability, a chatbot could be the solution. As artificial intelligence improves, bots will get smarter and cheaper.
4. Personalization Will Continue
You didn’t think personalization was going away, did you? Consumers love it, and it’s still one of the driving forces behind inbound marketing. Being able to create a unique pitch designed for each customer and lead, no matter where they are in the sales cycle, will continue to increase in importance.
If you’re still using the same tired templates for all your marketing emails, it’s time to invest in the tools and technology that will allow you to create truly personalized communications and customized pitches.
5. Long-Form PDFs Decline
The internet is a master-class in brevity. Until late last year, Twitter forced users to express themselves in 140 characters or less. Long Facebook posts or social media rants typically get glossed over or are met with a disinterested commenter’s “tl;dr” (too long, didn’t read).
In this climate, it’s little wonder long-form PDFs as lead magnets have already started their decline. While they may have attracted potential leads in the past, people just aren’t reading them now.
Instead, think about deconstructing the e-book. Your customers want bite-sized bits of information and they want it now. A quick read, such as an information sheet, will give them what they want, when and how they want it. Video content can be served up in the same snack-sized format.
6. The Podcast Takeover
Podcasts have been around for a while, but they’ve generally taken a back seat in brands’ content creation strategies. Those podcasts that do exist haven’t been leveraged by companies doing inbound marketing in a very effective way.
As podcasts become more and more mainstream, you can expect marketers’ interest in this medium to be piqued. While video will dominate, a podcast interview or even a regular podcast feature could be a way to draw in new leads. More marketing opportunities will reveal themselves as people begin to realize they can connect with a captive audience.
7. Ongoing Sales and Marketing Alignment
It’s been argued inbound marketing is the perfect complement to sales enablement. Marketing creates content and draws in potential leads. Sales can capitalize by providing marketing-generated content and crafting customized pitches for warm leads.
As inbound marketing continues to grow and evolve, sales and marketing will become more closely aligned than ever before. In many businesses, alignment between these two departments is already happening. You can expect it to become a deeper, more permanent kind of alignment in 2018 and beyond.
8. Competitive Pricing
The last few years have witnessed substantial growth in the marketplace for services and software. Much of this growth has been for products geared to supporting inbound marketing. Companies offering these sorts of products will need to lower their prices in order to compete effectively.
As a result, small businesses can expect it to be more cost-effective to implement inbound marketing for their businesses.
9. A Crowded Marketplace
Just as the market for services and software has become crowded, so too has the marketplace for any number of products. As more and more business owners and marketing managers have adopted inbound marketing techniques for their businesses, it’s become more difficult to be seen or heard. Voices are routinely drowned out, so much so that your customers may not even hear you or see your content.
In this environment, it’s not difficult to see that smaller businesses will struggle more with getting their message out in this environment. Staying on top of inbound marketing trends and using the latest techniques will keep small businesses competitive, especially in the face of changing consumer expectations and demands.
10. Smarter Search Engines
While “search engine optimization” isn’t going anywhere, marketers are coming up against increasingly sophisticated (and smart) search engines. Some are now talking about “tech SEO,” and search bots are now able to begin valuing intent over keywords.
The result? Marketers are going to have to focus more on tech and the quality of their content now more than ever. Spruce up your website and clean up your content if you want to stay ahead of the curve here.
Like all things in business, inbound marketing is evolving. It has to in order to keep meeting consumer demands and expectations. If you can stay ahead of these ten trends in 2018, you’re guaranteed to rock your inbound marketing strategy.
Still not sure about where inbound is going in the next 12 months? Why not get a helping hand from an inbound marketing agency? Their expertise can help guide you to a more successful implementation for your company.