Inbound Marketing is Evolving - Are You Keeping Up?

Andrea Miller

Written by Andrea Miller on Fri, Mar 31, 2017

In 2006, the year HubSpot was founded, inbound marketing was a relatively new term. Marketers were more likely to have heard of and were perhaps starting to embrace content marketing at the time. 11 years later, inbound marketing is a necessity for every business. For a look back to the past compared to where we are now, the SPROUT Content team in Florida recently traveled to Baton Rouge, Louisiana to host a joint HUG (HubSpot User Group) with groups from Baton Rouge, Pensacola and New Orleans.

Inbound Marketing is Evolving - Are You Keeping Up?

Jared Broussard of Blinkjar Media and leader of the Baton Rouge HUG welcomed JD Sherman, HubSpot’s Chief Operating Officer with some funny anecdotes of how the Baton Rouge native came to be the guest speaker at this HUG. In reality, it was the devastating flood of August 2016 that prompted JD to return to his hometown and help. He started by showing off some photos of his impressive Louisiana State University sports memorabilia (which was especially cool to this LSU grad). JD focused on how inbound marketing is evolving and how far our industry has come in the past decade. He also provided guidance for companies wanting to adjust their culture to fit today’s inbound world.

JD Sherman, HubSpot COO

How Inbound is Evolving

If you work in marketing, you know that the way people shop for and buy things today has changed and continues to do so.

  • 94% skip TV ads
  • 94% unsubscribe from email
  • 27% of direct mail is never opened, and
  • 50% (over 200 million people) are on do not call lists.

Since so many people are ignoring messages, it’s necessary to adopt an inbound marketing approach where you are helpful which will drive people to your products and services.

“Inbound is about the size of your brain, not the width of your wallet.” - JD Sherman (Click to tweet)  

“Inbound is about the size of your brain, not the width of your wallet."  CLICK TO TWEET intents@1x.png

The Internet

JD noted that in 2006, when the Internet was really just getting going, there was a limited supply of content and unlimited demand for it. But in 2017, the shelf space is limitless. “That’s good news and bad news for companies. It’s much more competitive, but it’s much more democratized. It’s becoming more important and more challenging to be found,” said JD.


Flashback to 2006 when the major content type breakthrough was blogs. “A mere mortal could basically publish a newspaper,” JD said. Today, it’s all about video on a mobile device so he advises marketers to create a video for every piece of written content and experiment with Facebook Live. He says it’s time to invest more in video, but also understand you don’t have to have professional, expensive videos.

Social Media

Social media has seen a major shift since 2006. “Facebook was alive, but it wasn’t clear it would be a viable platform. People mostly used Digg and Reddit, where you consumed the content you found interesting and then you left. Today, social media has gone from the drive-through window to the internet cafe. Prospects live in this world constantly, so businesses also have to live there in order to reach them. Engage with your customers there,” said JD.


Google started transforming the world by cataloguing the world’s information and helping you find the answer to a question. Now, Google tries to answer the question for you so you don’t have to go any further.

In 2006, a Google search would reveal paid search at the top of the page or in a sidebar, and then organic results would appear underneath. Today, very often the only thing on the first page is paid search results. According to JD, “Paid search is becoming more important. You need to augment and segment the content you are creating with paid search. Think of it as pouring gas on a fire.”


In the past, customers would use websites to augment the sales conversation. In 2017, it’s the other way around. Your customers are using your salesperson to augment your website. Customers will only talk to a salesperson when they need to. As we say over and over again at SPROUT Content, your website is your best 24-hour salesperson. Make sure you have a clear buyer’s journey and help them along as much as possible with automation such as Buy Now and form submissions.


The old warning “buyer beware” certainly applied in 2006 but today the responsibility has flipped to businesses to prove their worth to buyers. That’s because you can now try basically anything before you buy it, even mattresses! For example, Dropbox offers a free 30-day trial, Warby Parker lets you try on glasses at home for free and Casper Mattress features a 100-night trial and free return pick up. All of these offers allow you to experience these company’s products before actually paying for anything. “The consumer is starting to demand this type of experience. They want to know your product’s value before you extract value from them. You earn trust by letting them get started for free, which is why HubSpot now offers a free version of both our CRM and marketing software,” said JD.

Company Culture

The way we do business has also seen a dramatic shift. In 2006, the most important thing you had on your desk was a phone, but today people don’t even have phones in their offices. “So, if you haven’t stopped cold calling, do it now! It can actually have a negative ROI”, according to JD.

We are also changing how we communicate with our coworkers and prospects. In 2006, email was king and though it’s still important, you’ll see many more companies embracing collaboration tools like Slack. At HubSpot, JD revealed that employees started using it with each other on their own before the company adopted it. “Texting is playing a bigger role today too. There’s a ton of texting happening during the buying process now, so you need to shift your sales process to match that,” he said.

All of these strides made by the inbound marketing industry over the past 10 years prove we are moving in the right direction of putting our customers first. By being helpful and relevant, marketers are able to prove our value first without asking for anything in return until trust is built which will ultimately lead to more business.

If you feel like you are relying on old tools and practices that are no longer working for your business, download SPROUT Content’s guide to get back to the future.

Don't Get Stuck In A Marketing Time Machine

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