Originally published on November 2, 2016. Updated on April 21, 2020.
The only constant in marketing these days is change. Trends come and go, platforms rise and fall in popularity, algorithms are constantly tweaked and best practice is ever-evolving.
A few years ago, HubSpot published a video at the start of its “The State of Inbound 2016” report that said: “in five years, marketing and sales and you know it will no longer exist.” Fast-forward to 2020, and it still rings true. What does that mean for business owners, sales professionals and marketers?
Here is a summary of the key points, which give you an idea of how much changed since then:
- In the last 20 years, we have gone from getting hundreds of emails per week to THOUSANDS of emails per week. This isn’t news to anyone, but let’s take just a moment and remember the “good old days” when email was manageable and your to-do list fit on a regular-sized post-it note.
- Yes, your mobile device is buzzing at you more now, 34% in fact. If you have more than one mobile device (and who doesn’t), then each one is probably buzzing, dinging, ringing, chirping, or otherwise notifying you of yet another message of some kind. It’s been a major adjustment for us all.
- The majority of people surveyed say they now use social media to keep up with the news. This statistic is yet another indicator that the way the public consumes information continues to evolve.
Remember when all of those things were a surprise?
The point HubSpot makes in the video, which is still totally valid, is that businesses cannot continue to communicate with consumers the same way they always have. None of us in marketing, sales, or business can pretend nothing has changed and expect our result to stay the same. On the name note, inbound marketing cannot stay the same either. It has to continue to morph with the needs and wants of the consumer.
As far as advice goes, that’s marketing gold. It’s just as important in 2020 as it was back in 2016. Change really is the only constant, which means you have to stay on your toes and keep up-to-date with what’s coming.
Read more: Is marketing the new sales?
Future of content marketing
Back in 2016, we wrote that quality content was KING. It still is. Just about everything in inbound marketing seems to change and evolve, but through it all, quality content continues to be king. The more consumers get overwhelmed with emails, messages, notifications, etc. absolutely, it is even more important that the content we are putting out is targeted toward them. More than that, it has to be relevant and helpful.
We’re looking to add value to their day. Do that, and they’ll keep coming back.
People are skilled in finding what they want through search and on social media. They have questions. They have problems to solve. They feel inspired. Our products and services are the answers. We have to stop focusing on selling and instead turn our efforts to educating and informing our audiences with quality content.
When we do, the quality of the leads increases, which can make it easier for our sales people to convert leads to customers. Quality content also helps our existing customers to continue to feel confident that they picked the right company, because, “See, they are still the experts! They are still putting out information that I need.”
Not sure where the future is headed? Talk to our social media experts.
Marketing to empowered consumers
The public has access to more information than ever before in history. It takes but a moment to look up the three closest gyms and compare services, prices, and amenities. A few moments more to read reviews, check out their Facebook and Twitter feeds, and to verify any offers or claims.
Many consumers take it much, much farther; spending considerable time researching and following a brand before they make a choice to buy. Businesses cannot pretend that consumers will primarily rely on traditional methods of marketing like print ads, TV or radio ads to influence their decisions.
This has perhaps been the biggest shift in marketing, as it’s evolved from traditional methods to digital methods. We’re no longer casting wide nets in the hope of picking up a few bites (outbound marketing). Instead, we’re refining our bait so the right fish can find us when they’re ready (inbound marketing).
Knowing your customer
The key to success in this environment, of course, is knowing your customer.
It’s critical that companies invest time and resources into clearly defining and fully fleshing out the buyer persona. Understanding the tone of your audience and the questions they are asking will equip you and your staff to generate content your potential customers want to consume. You might find it helpful to engage a professional marketing company to work with you to develop this, especially if you need to do some surveys.
Another great source of information is asking your employees. Who in your company is the first point of contact with prospects? Who is answering all of the questions people always ask? These staff within your company are gold mines of information to generate content. What questions do they always get asked? What follow-up questions get asked after the product or service is purchased?
Once you know what your potential customers want to read, then you need to figure out where they want to read it. Which social media channels are your target audience participating in? There is a lot of data out there about how and where consumers want to read content. Of the people surveyed for HubSpot’s State of Inbound report back in 2016, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter were the clear winners for business use. That’s still true in 2020.
If your target is stay-at-home moms (hello, Instagram) or college students (what’s up, TikTok?), then where they spend their online time will be different. Don’t assume all so social media channels are the same. Investing the time in researching best practice for your target audience right at the start will be well-spent.
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