What to Expect from Inbound Marketing in 2017

Meredith Guarco

Written by Meredith Guarco on Wed, Nov 30, 2016

Earlier this month, the SPROUT Content team gathered in Boston to attend Inbound 2016, HubSpot's annual inbound marketing conference. Keynote speakers included Co-Founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, Gary Vaynerchuk, and influencers like Ta-Nehisi Coates and Reshma Saujani. A wide range of topics covered everything from machine learning to the psychology behind the buying process, and just about every discussion provided new insight and best practices to help us improve our marketing approach. We came away from the week excited to start implementing the strategies and tactics for attracting and inspiring our audiences. Here are some inbound marketing efforts you should expect to focus on in 2017.

Improve content marketing with machine learning

The number of sponsors and vendors at Inbound who offered elements of artificial intelligence or machine learning in relation to content marketing was fascinating. We work with a machine learning company that specializes in automated ticketing for support departments, which is now an expected application in most organizations. But to see AI listed as a key feature in content marketing tools like Scripted and Curata shows how close the marketing industry is to being altered by automated intelligence – from developing editorial strategies and reporting to writing and creating content. Paul Roetzer, CEO of PR 20/20, and author of The Marketing Performance Blueprint, delivered a fantastic presentation on the key players in the AI Marketing realm and has started the Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute. We highly recommend checking it out to get your footing on where this trend is going.

Map the inbound sales process

Mike Lieberman, President and Chief Inbound Scientist at Square 2 Marketing, discussed the psychology behind the old-fashioned “buy button.” Everyone who has money is likely willing to pay for the value that’s promised. But because of the way we’ve been bombarded with sales messaging, that buy button is hidden deep in our brain, back where we experience a fight or flight reaction, and it’s easy for marketers to inadvertently hit the fight or flight switch when they’re aiming for the buy button. Inbound marketing is effective because, as opposed to traditional advertising and marketing messaging, we can map out the inbound sales process strategically to make a lasting impact on prospects that can last for months or even years.

The solution is easy: Prospects don’t want to be sold to, so stop selling to them. Instead guide them through their buyer journey as their trusted advisor. You make them feel safe, get them emotionally engaged with your company and then give them the information they need to rationalize their decision. Lieberman concluded, “you’ll have a new customer 100% of the time.”

Is Your Sales Team Using Your Content to Convert Customers?

Question the credibility of keyword rankings

Keyword rankings in organic search will continue to lose value as a performance metric. While the credibility of keyword rankings as an ROI metric has been debatable for a while, search engines have made even more changes to put emphasis on semantically searched topics rather than keyword phrases. Google is also dictating how content should be structured with featured snippets, making it harder and harder for content marketers to play the SEO game with search engines. Instead, content marketers should start thinking about multi-platform optimization and "improving their ranks” beyond Google to optimize listings and the potential to be found in platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Amazon.

Dive into video

Hubspot co-founder, Brian Halligan, emphasized that video has moved from “nice to have” to “must have.” Video has been useful and effective for marketers for the last several years, but going forward, if you don’t have the tools and know-how to create compelling video content, you’re going to be left behind. Video is where everyone wants to consume their content now. As inbound marketers, we’re good at churning out relevant text content, but we need to make video a habitual part of the distribution process. If you’re looking to expand the platforms you’re using for distributing content to video, you don’t have to eliminate your existing strategies, but rather incorporate. You can simply scale your top content into video form that’s engaging, short and informative. Your prospects are already diving into the video world with sites like Vimeo, Youtube and Facebook. It’s not too late to join them.

Spend more time on strategy

Marketers can get caught up in creating tactics and are then disappointed when they don’t get the results they’re hoping for. To get those results, marketers should be focusing on spending more time on strategy first. When you create a solid strategy that grabs the attention of your target market, that's when Inbound Marketing begins. Once you have a strong strategy, the tactics will fall into place.

Eric Keiles, CMO of Square 2 Marketing offered incredible insight on how to start. Begin by asking how your solutions can be remarkable for your personas. Are you talking more about your company on your website, or are you talking about how your services can help your personas? Next, consider if you’re pushing yourselves to tell a better story. Keiles uses the term “edge crafting” to look for the edge in your content. No one cares about your staff and who they are. They only care about how you can help them.

Content Myopia - Just Because You Know Your Industry Doesn’t Mean Your Prospects Do

We’re excited to get started on the tips and tools we learned from Inbound 2016 and eager to improve our inbound marketing efforts in 2017 for ourselves and for our clients. If you’d like to learn more about how inbound marketing can help your business, contact us for a consultation.

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