Inbound marketing is the king of modern marketing tactics. Businesses love it because it generates leads and builds brand awareness; customers love it because it's unintrusive and provides answers to their questions. Those things remain true, no matter how much marketing channels and tools evolve.
Today's customers are getting more and more intelligent when it comes to spotting and avoiding marketing gimmicks, subversive advertising, and clickbait. Those tactics continue to work on the lowest common denominator of Internet user - but are those the kind of people you really want to attract?
That's why inbound marketing as a whole - not just content marketing or SEO or social media marketing - is the kind of marketing we preach. In 2016, effective online marketing means education, not gimmicks. It's too easy to fall into the stereotypical "seller" role if you're ONLY utilizing content marketing or social media without internalizing the philosophy of inbound.
Instead, we always push our clients to provide valuable, relevant information where their best buyers are looking. This removes the possibility of annoying valuable prospects, and builds respect among your customer base. Your relationship with your customers is so much more important than pushing your product, and it will get you much better and faster results.
So, how are today's most successful marketers educating their buyers and optimizing ROI? Let's look at a few of the biggest trends of 2016.
Video is a very popular content format at the moment. Snapchat, Vine, Instagram, and other social media have made video easy to capture and easy to watch. Facebook's video autoplay feature means more people are likely to stop and watch a video as they scroll through their news feeds.
Whether you take the super professional route (hiring a videographer to use the best lighting and do nice voiceovers) or go the more personal, casual route (using your smartphone to capture a funny moment in the office or a one-of-a-kind manufacturing process) will depend on your company's personality and your target audience. If you're not sure what will resonate with your audience, you may benefit from defining your buyer personas.
Personalization marketing and the user experience are trending upward as our technology allows for increasingly customized websites, interfaces, and experiences. If you wanted, you could give every single visitor a unique experience on your website.
While you're probably not aiming that high right off the bat, your web dev can add small touches of personalization throughout your site: displaying different CTAs everytime someone visits your site, using their first name throughout the site once they login, or
Account-based marketing identifies potential customer accounts rather than individuals. This means you're targeting a group of decision makers rather than any solo user. Instead of a singular buyer persona, you create a group persona that identifies the pain points and motivations of an entire team.
This new type of marketing is great for B2B companies who want to get ahead of potential clients. You're more likely to win them over if the entire team is familiar with your name.
Interactive content allows your visitor to input data, click buttons, or otherwise directly involve themselves with the content in a way that lets them uniquely absorb the information. This can mean calculators, quizzes, surveys, checklists, etc.
That's right - podcasts are back! People like podcasts because it's a hands-off content format that they can absorb while they perform other tasks, like driving, exercising, or eating. Podcasts are a great way to talk about issues within your industry, customer problems, and new offerings in a customer-friendly format.
Predictions & the Shifting Marketing Landscape
Virtual reality is slowly becoming an everyday reality. Google Cardboard, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, PlayStation VR - all are available to consumers and more and more people are hopping on the bandwagon. It shouldn't be long before we start seeing ads infiltrating the virtual world.
Social Media Evolution
Social media networks are changing every day. Facebook recently implemented a "profile video" function (because profile pictures are so last year). Most platforms have their own internal sponsored advertising capabilities. Snapchat is becoming a marketing reality as companies figure out how to use it as an advertising tool.
We can expect to see even more changes with shifting social expectations and expanding technologies.
How Can You Keep Up?
Check up on the marketing landscape consistently. Things change quickly these days as we continue to spit out new technologies. Keep up with new tech, understand how to use new mobile devices, new social media platforms, and Google's updated marketing software (AdWords, Search Console). Understand how to update and publish on your own website, and how to create content that resonates with modern users. Don't let yourself fall behind.
To market your business in 2016, you have to understand the modern landscape. This article should be a wake up call - a lot of people don't realize that virtual reality is right on top of us! Take a minute to learn more about these marketing trends and start implementing them into your own strategies.