This year’s event brought in over 5,300 inbound marketing professionals from all over the world! With speakers like Seth Godin, Arianna Huffington and Nate Silver, just to name a few, every jam-packed session was inspiring, compelling and went against everything you thought you knew about marketing. Signs were posted all around Hynes Convention Center saying things like “Traditional marketing is easy, all you have to do is pretend that it works” and “Humanize marketing.” There seemed to be a theme going on here. With a wealth of information, I compiled my top 3 Take-Aways to help you on your quest inbound.
Opening Keynote, Seth Godin, rightly said “Your email list is the most important thing you own, why would you spam it to make a goal on the last day of the quarter? Marketing is all about coordination, trust, permission and an exchange of ideas. Generosity is about giving, and that makes people want to work with you. Art makes you stand out, special and unique with a point of view. Combined these elements make a brand special and stand out. That is how you gain connection.”
It is important to focus on people not tactics or processes. The internet today has made traditional “interruption” marketing a way of the past. People are in control. They have information at their fingertips and no longer need sales people to hand-hold them through the sales process. In fact, the IDG report shows that an average of 9 information assets are downloaded during the purchase process. And the average IT decision maker consumes 5 pieces of content before being ready to speak to a sales rep. At this point, they already have done their due diligence; they know what they want, how much it costs and the details associated with the purchase. So again, why would you try to cut short the sales process with “interruption” marketing or sales calls and possibly turn a potential customer and promoter away by trying to push your agenda? People are smarter than that. Think about yourself as an example. If someone is emailing you and you have not previously “opted in” to hear from them, whether or not the offer is relevant or not you most likely will delete the email before blinking twice. Connection is key. Most companies want more customers, but they really don’t want to know us. We need to respect people’s interests, needs and permission. By building real long-term relationships with your current partners and visitors by providing a valuable and delightful experience is key when trying to build trust and rapport. I’m also going to take this one step further. Building the connection is a lot easier said than done. You have to realize that people will only connect if they are provided the right piece of content, at the right time, in the right channel with the right messaging for their current customer lifecycle stage- Period. It’s time that companies and marketers everywhere realize this game-changing shift when it comes to marketing communication and learn to adopt this new mindset now. You cannot buy your voice… you have to build it.
Good and useful content is the basis for all things inbound. This goes for your sales process as well as your marketing process, which should work hand in hand. As I stated before, 57% of a prospect’s buying decision is complete before that prospect’s first contact with a supplier. Therefore, content needs to back up the unrecognized problems that are introduced in a sales call. Ask yourself this: Are your web pages showcasing how you solve those unrecognized problems? Do your blog articles help your prospects understand and solve for those unrealized problems? Are you looking for opportunities to establish trust and offer insight into how to solve those problems? Or are you just trying to set up a demo, schedule a meeting, get them on the phone? I hope you know by now that this doesn’t work…unless they are at the correct stage of the customer lifecycle. You need to work to reveal the problems your prospects don’t realize they have; don’t be the hero, make them the hero. Think about what your customers are finding while searching about the unrecognized problems you introduced and then specify content assets that are more relevant to them at the specific times during their buyers’ journey.
As I stated above, great content is the foundation of all great inbound marketing. But you can write the world’s best white paper, blog post or guide and never see any ROI if it’s not present to the right audience, at the right time in their buyer journey, and with fitting promotional messaging. This is where context matters. Check out this video you might get after a few failed attempts of connection from Hubspot. Use the context of a situation to customize your messaging. And be creative. Treat customers and prospects like humans, not numbers. Mass marketing is dead. You need to create relevant, personalized messaging across multi-channels in order to get a piece of a person’s 8 second attention span. Did you know, over 30% of traffic to websites is now coming from mobile? – and so it’s no surprise that 67% of mobile users who land on a mobile optimized site are more likely to convert than if the page wasn’t mobile optimized, and that 61% of mobile users are likely to move onto a competitor’s site if the page they landed on isn’t mobile optimized. A cross-channel strategy is the key to context marketing success and that includes a mobile-optimized site as a large number of people prefer to be communicated with through their mobile device. Our context shapes the content we want to read. It influences the way we shop and buy. And it defines how and when we choose to interact with companies. People are the sum of their entire experience, across channels, across devices, across their whole history of interactions with your company. And that experience, should move and adapt around us accordingly. This goes beyond tossing someone’s first name into an email.
So how do you create context around your content? According to Nate Silver, Inbound marketing grows its legs by gleaning relevant insights about human behavior out of your Big Data and connecting it to powerful storytelling. However, he also revealed that many companies fall short because not everything is predictable. Unless we are all robots and nothing changes, then we will certainly encounter unpredictability. It’s what makes us human and also what makes marketing not only scientific but also a creative process. Data itself will never solve anything. In order for businesses to truly achieve success, they need to take their statistical models and instill them with critical thinking. Additionally, they need to make three major improvements to the stores of data they already have – they must improve the quality, quantity and variety of information at their disposal. Context will always be changing. It’s not something you can create a process and a set group of messaging and call it a day. You have to constantly be tweaking it, building upon it and finding new ways to connect with your audience based upon what their behavior is telling you.
In my opinion, as marketers, in order to stay competitive and ahead of the curve, we have to realign our marketing efforts to encompass these trends because we are so bad about becoming customer-centric. In the past and even still today, brands tend to be extremely self-centric. And that makes sense because they are made up of people. But if marketing is supposed to work it needs to be proactive and not reactive. We need to start with the why. We need to start with the people. One statistic that was mentioned was “47% of buyers care about what you sell, 53% care about HOW you sell it.” If that doesn’t speak volumes to you right there, then you must be getting astounding results from your telemarketing and banner ads.
The customer revolution is caused by people in control of their own media choices, and choosing exclusive niche experiences via the Internet. It is true that people have more media power than brands now. But brands have more technological power. Think about that, the next time you are wondering why your efforts are in vain. Are you simply trying to control something you have no control over?
In sum, while the technology continues to evolve, the universal revolution remains the same: Customers today have the control of their media and experience. Brands and companies need to strive not to be heard while they are here but rather missed when they are not.