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6 min read

INBOUND 2016 Recap: The Future of Inbound Marketing

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As always, one of the highlights when attending HubSpot’s INBOUND conferences occurs when founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah take the stage to share reflections and inspirations, igniting the audience to continue to embrace technology and challenge the status quo of marketing.

This year’s conference offered an even greater perspective for how we got here and more importantly where we are going as they reflected back on HubSpot's 10-year milestone. 

Brian kicked off the keynote talking about what we know and what we are challenged by — adapting to where and how our customers are consuming information and engaging with our brands. As exhilarating as I found the conversation,  I couldn’t help but think how simple marketing seemed 10 years ago!

"Stop looking for a blogger and start looking for a videographer."

The marketer of 2006 could succeed with a simpler focus — a decent website, a strong sales team, content aligned with brand focus, an email and PPC strategy, etc. Fast forward 10 years, and it’s no wonder brands and agencies are having a hard time keeping up and adapting! It used to be that we needed to create a lot of content to elevate our brands with search and augment our customers' user experience.

The modern day marketer not only needs to have a written content strategy and a team to execute but Halligan was emphatic that you need to have a video strategy. His advice for modern sellers? "Stop looking for a blogger and start looking for a videographer."

Search is becoming even more important.

IMG_3692.jpgHow do you ensure your content gets found? Repurpose your content everywhere, and invest in paid search — not only Adwords but with social boosting.What about organic search? In 2006, we only needed to focus on search engines like Google and Bing, but today's marketers have to live in social media, says Halligan.

When a consumer has a need, a brand can leverage the large database of social media users to appear higher on the page, resulting in increased awareness for the brand. Increased awareness and need fulfillment can help a brand grow their audience and increase relevance for their audience. Search changes are everywhere!

We can search from across the room using ECHO from Amazon, in our cars, and now directly from our earbuds, wearing Apple's new Powerbeats 3 wireless headphones!

Here are some key takeaways on the future of search:

  • Facebook: Did you know the Facebook search box is one of the most powerful search engines after Google? There are over 2 billion times a day the search box is used. Facebook has cornered the market on the social graph of search. They know more about your relationships, who your friends are, and who you follow than any other source. As a marketer, don’t underestimate how important it is to build your Facebook community. Your search results may one day depend on it.

  • Amazon: Did you know that 38% of shoppers start their product search on Amazon compared to 35% on Google? As Facebook owns the social graph, Amazon owns the product graph. Their search engine far surpasses any other when it comes to product sourcing. Stop thinking about search in terms of the traffic generator. Start thinking of it more like a traditional lead generator, where you drive traffic to a teaser product and where you make some money that leads people to larger products down the road.

  • Google: To win at SEO you need to be good at HEO, Human Enjoyment Optimization. Google is building the engagement or “link” graph. This is the connection between website and content. They look at the same data but they analyze it differently. By understanding data points like “time on site,” Google uses this to determine quality of content, impacting your ability to get your content found. In short, the better content your create the bigger the effect will have on search results.

TOP TAKEAWAY: Create high quality content (that includes video). Budget to promote it, invest in customer delight (which leads to good reviews).

How has technology impacted the sales process?

Over the last 10 years, we have seen a drastic change in the way we sell (or need to sell) and the way the modern customer buys. In 2006, the sales rep had a great deal of power and they used it to their advantage.

Today, the customer has most of the power. They do their research, avoid taking your calls and reading your direct mailers; instead, they talk to their friends and read reviews. It's not until much later in their buying journey that the importance of a sales person come in. The customer owns the where, the when, and the how when it comes to buying decisions. It’s really never been a better time to be a customer. 

 Here are some key takeaways on the future of selling:

  • Cold Calling: Because the customer is in control, interruption marketing is no longer effective. As HubSpot loyalists, we weren't sure what Brian was going to say about the future of email marketing. Rest assured, it’s still alive and well. What’s different? Your sales team needs to do their homework before connecting with a prospect. Emails need to be thoughtful and well-researched. Content is king but context will prevail when it comes to email.

  • Trials: In 2006 customers expected to get value after their purchase. Today, the modern customer wants to get value before we buy. Companies like Warby Parker, Dropbox, and even mattress companies like Casper Mattress are leading the way on the “give to get” philosophy. The consumer can try the product without an obligation to buy and they often come with "free returns".  With more supply than demand in most product categories, the customer experience can be the primary differentiator. 

  • Always be Helping: Like back in the “Glengarry Glenn Ross” days of “Always be Closing”, sales has to be rooted in being helpful. The number one way you can help your sales team augment the sales process is to arm them with an arsenal of content. Helpful. informative and real content. When 70% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally, if you aren't creating enough content to support your prospect's discovery process, chances are  your competitors are.

TOP TAKEAWAY: Do your research before you prospect. ADD value to your customers before extracting value. Be helpful!

Technology will continue to define our future.

INBOUND is a technology conference, so it would only be appropriate to bring home the keynote by Dharmesh, focusing on the future and where technology will take us.

Here are some key takeaways on the future of technology:

  • Invest in Apps: We are mobile and we are on the move. Smartphones gave us a whole new way to interact with technology. Not only are we carrying the Internet in our pockets, but it’s all about the Apps, not the browser. Unless you have an incredible App, you are unlikely to get a lot of downloads.

  • Messaging: Messaging Apps are growing faster than any other social network. Facebook messenger has over 1 billion users! With messaging you can earn trust and build stronger connections because you can’t buy a list and blast it like an email. Messaging apps will introduce a paradigm shift for marketers where interactive and contextual conversations will replace ad broadcasting. New conversational interfaces will drive deeper relationships between consumers and brands.

  • Chatbots: Messaging triggered the chatbot. Software service that can be used via text, voice and other forms of conversations. They are anticipated to be the biggest wave in technology we will have ever seen. It allows interface with technology to be natural and will be able to power websites. Not familiar with Artificial Intelligence? Chatbot growth is being triggered by this. The most relevant part of artificial intelligence is machine learning which is what gives software direction to do things without telling them. 

 TOP TAKEAWAY: Pay attention to apps and how it impacts your customer user experience, embrace messaging, and be open to incorporating artificial intelligence into your marketing.

Be ready to embrace the change.

Don’t panic. We are all on this incredible journey of change together. Recognize change is inevitable and run towards it, not away from it.

Halligan pointed out there are only 298 Fortune 500 companies remaining today compared to 2006, “Change became the enemy of big corporations.” How we adapt will define our future.

Looking for more great recaps check out our INBOUND Conference recaps from other years:

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