The State of Inbound Marketing

Monday, October 21, 2013

Having recently attended the Inbound Marketing conference in London, and returned with a mountain of notes, we wanted to pass on some of the great things we picked up about the state of inbound marketing and what it means for B2B and Professional Services.

Marketing Has Changed

But not just marketing, our lifestyles and work-lives have changed. Twenty years ago people would go to the office to work, now they go home to work. With younger people coming through the ranks who have a different attitude to working companies need to adapt to these lifestyle changes. 

Brian Halligan from HubSpot explained how technology has affected lifestyle changes and with it the way we market to people. People have become wise to marketing, and more than that they are immune to the traditional forms of marketing. They can use Sky+ to record TV and skip the adverts, they can install ad blockers on their PC's to stop ads disturbing their online experience, now Gmail have added ad filters into their email so newsletters and promotional emails don't reach recipients (even if they signed up to the mailing list), and the introduction of call display and the ability to block telephone calls means that cold-calling is becoming a thing of the past.

Marketers have to be clever now, we can't concentrate on spending as much money as possible on this ad stream or that ad stream because the success isn't going to work the way it would have even five years ago.

A Company Philosophy

This is why inbound marketing is so important and why companies need to adopt the philosophy of inbound marketing. But, the problem so far with inbound marketing, and, this is where it needs to change, is that companies put the responsibility on marketing to make it happen.

You see, for inbound marketing to truly be effective, the entire company needs to adopt the philosophy, or someone is going to break the chain. 

Marketing can create the plan, get the kind of content out there that will blow people's minds, and start getting leads. Frank Belzer tells us that everyone in the business has to buy into the process; sales, customer service, accounts, distribution; other wise the process can quickly fall apart.  

Every member of staff needs to understand the concept and know what content is being put out to the public. THEY should be on the social networks promoting the company and its content so that a consistent message is being communicated at all times.

All to often inbound marketing falls down because sales and marketing are at cross purposes. Sales teams are still working based on techniques from years ago and need to catch up fast! A survey carried out in the US by Kurlan & Associates showed that only 6% of sales people were qualified to do their job properly; i.e. they would listen more than they talked, take in what the customer needed etc. 

The research also showed that only 22% of sales people are aware or aligned with marketing efforts, showing a huge gap in communication between two teams vital in bringing new business into companies.

Ultimately, people want to feel like they are being helped more than they are being sold to and they want to feel like the person they are dealing with has a true passion for their product or service.

Content Marketing

Doug Kessler from Velocity Partners, talked us through how Content marketing is the art of producing content which promotes your company indirectly. You don't want a sales piece. You want something interesting which people will actually pick up, read, and share.

What you really want though, is something outstanding, something which will run away with the horses, and make you a household name without even trying. Examples of this type of content are:


Crap. The Content Marketing Deluge. fromVelocity Partners

As you can see, this content doesn't need to be particularly difficult to put together, just clever and something to catch people's imagination. Yes with a big budget and lots of connections you can do something to attract 20+ million views as the makers of the latest Carrie film did with their telekinisis prank video recently but in the real world, most companies don't have those budgets!

Advantages of creating content that will knock people's socks off..,

  • Instant recognisability - you become known outside of your immediate circle, people become interested in who you are, what you do, and why you do it.
  • High performance - other content you've created such as on your blog, will start to perform better as people come and check out other things you've written and created. People will become interested in what you do moving forward.
  • Social Sharing - you will see your social status rise, as your content is shared in the social stratosphere, you will start being contacted on social networks, asked questions, your connections, followers, likes and so on will grow exponentially widening the audience available to listen to what you have to say.
  • Improved Search - all of that work you have done to improve your search rankings will really pay off now! Those lovely links that have been created with people sharing your content, and embedding it on their sites and in their blog posts and newsletters is giving your website a huge boost. It's making you stand out as an expert in terms of your link profile and the search engines will reward you greatly for it.

Don't be afraid to give a new idea a go, if it's not out there, or it's not been done well then it's worth the risk!

Persona Modelling

Every business should know who it is talking to in it's marketing communications. Having a target audience isn't enough. It's important to do persona modelling so that when a piece of content is created the company knows exactly who they are talking to, what their interests are, what is going to inspire them etc. We were talked through persona modelling by Richard Strange from Deeply Digital.

Your persona will be a 'real' person, you will give them a name, a background, demographic data, you will identify who their influencers are, who they identify with, what their goals and challenges are, what questions they ask, things they would say, and what marketing messages would work for them. Don't give them job titles because that starts narrowing your thinking, and stops you thinking of this persona as a person.

Hubspot have a free template you can use to get yourself started with persona modelling.

Get Your Context Right...

Kieran Flanagan from HubSpot explained to us the importance of getting context right in content.

We all know that if something is taken in the wrong context then things can go very wrong. Everybody has been through it. 

  • That email that was worded sarcastically, but without tone of voice, the sarcasm just sounds like you are being mean - Context
  • You cough a few times, look up cough on the internet and self diagnose with lung cancer, when you probably just have a cold or infection - Context

Knowing how important this is means that it's important to know that all of the marketing content that we, as a company, put out. Needs to have the right context behind it. Build your content around your personas, personalise your contact with people from emails, to your website; make your contacts feel special.

There are three steps to getting your context right right:

  • Personalise - gather information across various touch points, collect demographic through progressive profiling.
  • Goals - It helps you to advance your audiences goals, understand where your audience are in the buying cycle, changing the experience is better, most websites are stuck in the past.
  • Mobile Devices - A third of UK traffic is now from mobile or tablets but 46% of mobile users are reporting difficulties.

Mobile Marketing

As mentioned above the use of mobile devices is growing at an exponential rate and Paul Berney from the Mobile Marketing Association told us that it is expected that mobile traffic will overtake fixed line traffic in 2014. With this in mind, is your website ready for mobile?

Whilst a lot of mobile traffic relates to consumer goods, there is still much traffic for B2B as more professionals turn to mobile devices both in the office and on the go, working on tablets during meetings and on the train for example. When users visit a site which doesn't respond well to mobile they all to often leave and go somewhere else, this is a huge loss to the first business as even if they wanted to use your business, the chances are they won't now.

Are you ready for the mobile marketing revolution? Check out our recent blog post to find out more about getting mobile ready.

The Future

With lots of new and interesting technology still to come, and with people continuing to get wiser to the tricks of marketers inbound marketing is only going to grow and the need for amazing content is only going to get bigger. 

Stick with us and let us know how we can help you on your journey, don't get left behind and embrace the inbound marketing philosophy.