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2020 Vision: Is Your Inbound Out of Date?

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing about,” said the one and only Benjamin Franklin.

It’s funny how a wise quip that is centuries old still perfectly applies to nearly every principle of inbound marketing. Yet, while philosophies may ring true through the ages, the methods of delivery and customer accessibility can evolve by the month, week or even moment.

By the year 2020, 85 percent of customers, followers and fans will manage brand relationships without ever talking to an actual human, reports Gartner Research. In other words, for the many who see the current climate of inbound marketing as huge; it’s a sleeping dragon that has just begun to open its eyes. In the last year alone, marketers that practice inbound grew from 60 percent to 85 percent. Meanwhile, the percent of those who don’t practice inbound has been cut in half to only 13 percent.

For eager marketers and entrepreneurs, an evolving inbound marketing strategy is the edge you need to keep your brand worth reading about; and for sharing remarkable things you do that are worth writing about. In order to get, and stay, ahead with an inbound edge, learn about the future of lead generation and nurturing, and how to bring inbound marketing to life below.

1. The Greatest Generators

The foundation of all great inbound marketing, no matter the medium, is the “meat and potatoes” used to generate interest. In fact, in 2016, 66 percent of buyers agreed that they chose a vendor because of higher quality content, and 63 percent said the better content was more conducive to building a case for the purchase, reports DemandGen. Inbound lead generation not only works more effectively, it costs up to 62 percent less than traditional outbound lead generation. Inbound lead generation isn’t just for B2C customers either. In fact, an astounding 80 percent of B2B purchase decisions made by businesses come from a reputable series of editorial or objective sources; much preferred over-obvious ads and in-your-face “advertainment.”

While it’s becoming more and more apparent, all marketing plans should have an inbound lead generation plan. Those that already do should consider allocating more resources toward their inbound-bound materials. White papers, case studies and webinars may not seem like an obvious “sell, sell, sell” strategy, but each of the aforementioned content formats are significantly sought out over most traditional sales tactics. Generating inbound leads may begin with great off-site content, but solidifying said leads requires follow-up that positions your brand in an alluring manner.

Casting a traditional “net” isn’t as simple as creating a phenomenal web of inbound content that brings “leads” back toward your site. “Drag and drop tools mean anyone can build a website. Sure, it puts a little more work on you,” report the gurus at Score.org, “but the benefits of creating it by yourself are unbeatable.”

When you or your team build your own lead-focused site, you have the ultimate say in how to best connect with the audience, save money and create free or low-cost updates at anytime. The cost of hiring a full-time Web developer mediates at around $150 an hour; for many hopeful businesses, there are significantly more practical options with less overhead. Other options can allow you to explore SEO-centric tools, like Search Engine Land or Moz — they can help boil down and optimize your inbound blueprint with a lot less hassle than hiring an agency. Even goliaths like Google offer instructive resources to help tailor site SEO (from ledes to meta descriptions) for inbound traffic. When coupled with poignant website builder articles and educated tweaks, a plan that marries your inbound outreach with your outgoing, responsive websites can turn browsers into buyers, and buyers into long-term fans.

2. A Knack for Nurturing

“Great marketers are matchmakers. We find ways to get offerings in front of the people will love in front of the people most likely to love them,” writes marketing maven April Dunford.

Marketing philosophy often comes across as simple and sensical, but too many businesses get it laughably wrong. While the best jingles, promotions and contests/ sweepstakes marketing initiatives will always have a place in our hearts; proper lead nurturing should have a place in your profits, too. Nurtured leads produce a staggering 47 percent more purchases than un-nurtured leads.

Custom, shareable inbound content creation is step one. Knowing how to nurture content is step two. Forrester Research revealed that, in 2016, businesses that excel at lead nurturing generate 50 percent more sales at 33 percent less cost. To put the importance of great lead generating in perspective, an incredible 50 percent of time spent online is spent engaging with custom content. Lead nurturing doesn’t mean there always has to be a team in place to respond to every comment and quandary in real time, either. In fact, response automation seems to do the trick just as well in many cases. The Aberdeen Group found that companies who use some sort of automation in their lead nurturing saw 53 percent more conversions, and 75 percent of companies who used automation saw an ROI within just 12 months. Automating responses, however, should be a supplementary way to nurture inbound leads, not a blanket response for all quandaries, especially the more shareable or public comments.

3. The New Art and Science of Social and Mobile

The future of social media and marketing is mobile. Social media is a pillar of an inbound campaign, and the perfect way to cross pollinate your lead generation and nurturing; if done the right way. B2B and B2C vendors simply cannot afford to have a weak social presence, and this need will only grow and evolve in the future, and the majority of social media browsing is now conducted on a mobile. In fact, by the year 2020, Digital Trends reports that there will be 6.1 billion Smartphones in use, used by 70 percent of Earth’s population. With mobile phone usage practically rivaling oxygen in terms of human popularity, it’s only fitting that marketers will have to adapt the majority of their inbound marketing efforts to social media and mobile.

Perhaps the most important shift in marketing trends leaning toward more inbound and social, is that the very fabric of the Internet is morphing. Digiday points out that the purpose of the “destination-based website” is beginning to change. With Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other dominating screen time, the importance of optimized inbound content sharing via mobile skyrockets. Seventy-eight percent of new businesses attract customers via social media, reports Revelanza. When it comes to merging social content with mobile optimization, there’s no room to cut corners.

No matter what you sell or the creative direction you choose to do so, there’s no denying that your online empire will need to grow and evolve in the years ahead. Inbound marketing can take many shapes and forms, but any way you type it, make it worth reading, worth writing about and worth clicking.

About the author

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Nik Donovic

Nik Donovic has been involved in all facets of online marketing for about half a decade and enjoys being able to share his expertise about current topics and trends facing online marketing, with topics such as content marketing, social media, and increasing inbound traffic.

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