This year, the conference in Boston hosted over 19,000 marketers and provided sessions, courses, and networking for four days. With hundreds of valuable sessions and breakouts to choose from, it's hard to say what the most important take-aways were. However, as attendees ourselves, we have a few thoughts on what the top marketing tips from INBOUND 2016 were, and what we're looking forward to in 2017.
Here are our top 10 key take-aways from this year's INBOUND conference:
Without strategy, you have no plan to incorporate those tactics. This leads to unfulfilled goals and wasted time. Avoid the “10% strategy, 90% tactics” solution. Aim for a 50/50 split at least.
Your competitors are pushing the same channels of marketing as you. You need to step it up by creating a thorough game plan on how to rise above the same old same old - don't waste time spinning your wheels with uncoordinated attempts.
In today’s environment, this means deciding how you’re going to develop content that is valuable to the customer. How you're going to integrate that content into your email marketing campaigns and social media, and how you're going to nurture your leads at each stage of the buyer journey with corresponding content.
A few years ago, your site might rank with only publishing keyword articles once or twice a month. Now, you need to publish more often with better content. Publishing isn't even enough - you need to have a promotion plan; content isn't valuable unless it's seen, read, and leads to conversions.
Without a strategic plan, your site will just be one of a million other websites doing content.
With so many businesses vying for the same client base, social media has become a way to get shares and create a real sense of community and brand.
Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all offer paid promotion options for your content, which work for an extra boost of exposure. Tie those into your marketing plan, highlighting specific articles at different times, and give your content the best chance to gain traffic.
To increase effectiveness, Larry Kim, the founder of Wordstream, recommends promoting content that’s already performing well. On Facebook, you’ll be charged less because the post is already popular, helping you spread your money further.
In addition to paid promotion, it’s vital to pixel your content. By pixeling, you can target and retarget your content to individuals who have already shown an interest in your material or products, turning your promotions into an open traffic loop.
3. Optimizing CTAs
Not a post goes by without a CTA. How they’re integrated, designed, and the relevance of their offer to the content, is more important than ever.
Throughout your traffic sources, optimizing CTAs comes down to more than just a pretty graphic. For some material, it could be adding a CTA that includes motion, catching the reader’s eye and holding their attention for longer than a static image.
When you’ve made a point in your writing, that hits home for the reader, having a relevant CTA provides the opportunity to click. Don't wait for the article to end for your CTA - that emotional connection may have faded, costing you the lead. Engage them at the moment they’re most likely to buy in.
CTA optimization also applies to social media. On most platforms, videos will play without sound unless the viewer clicks on your post. Ensure that audio isn’t required for any posted videos to be effective, and open with a intro that forces them to click.
4. The Cost of Design
There are various opinions on site UX/UI but one thing is certain, the standard has been set, and it’s much higher than before.
A year ago, design depended almost exclusively on how much you were willing to spend. Well structured UX/UI was a goal.
Good design is now the bar. Rather than focusing on spending money on design, businesses have begun to understand how much bad design can cost.
Modern customers have short attention spans. A site that loads too slow or doesn’t function correctly will turn potential buyers away faster than anything else on your site. Those lost customers translate into decreased income, lower search rankings, and less content sharing.
Ok, you're probably thinking, "I've heard this one before." Of course content needs to be valuable, it’s the baseline of your inbound marketing strategy. Content needs to be valuable AND tailored to the customer.
Rather than creating articles with the top ways to solve X problem, content needs to reach deeper. Why does the reader need this solved? What will it do for them? What’s at stake if they delay?
Answering these questions leads to actionable material that benefits the reader immediately. It provides them with more than a solution to their problem. It gives them a reason to come back to you for more valuable knowledge and positions your company as a thought leader.
The trick to writing content that sticks with them is to become their guide and set them up as the hero. You’re the Yoda to their Luke. The Gandalf to their Bilbo. You’re the reason they’re proud of themselves after they accomplish their goal, and because of it, they’ll continue coming to you for more.
An emotional impact - focus on creating one for content marketing and your inbound strategy. Readers want to align with you on larger beliefs rather than just a buy/sell relationship.
6. Video is Growing
Consumers are moving away from text as their main source of information and relying on videos. As social media and web page UX/UI continue to adapt to the modern environment, marketers need to find ways to effectively integrate videos.
On your website, videos can run in the background, or be embedded on landing pages. They’re great tools for humanizing your business and connecting with customers on a more personal level.
It’s important for marketers to leverage this form of content as it best suits their business. Not every company will use whiteboard videos, just like not every business will host a YouTube channel.
Incorporate them as you deem necessary, and be ready to reap the benefits.
7. Email Marketing Strategies
Though there are more opportunities to get into people’s inbox, the battle for their attention is at an all time high.
The subjects have to be tactical. You need to conduct A/B testing to identify what works and then make it happen, again and again.
Nancy Harhut, the Chief Executive Officer at Wilde Agency shared handy tips for your email campaigns during her session. These include incorporating the scarcity principle and the availability bias. For subject lines, Harhut recommends using the information gap theory. Start with “who, what, where, when, why, or how” and leave the question open ended.
Workflows need to have their own strategy within your campaigns. Plan for how you’re going to get that potential customer to click your CTA. If a customer engages, great, if not, have a coordinating workflow for a second attempt.
Track reader engagement in those workflows. Which links or images got their attention?
8. An Evolving Buyer’s Journey
As business becomes more complex, so does the buyer’s journey. To counteract this, you need to simplify every step of the process.
You can do this by minimizing what you ask the client for at each stage.
Is it important for the customer to fill out every portion of your form, or could you get by with only a few of the details? The less you ask for, the more likely they are to opt-in.
When you identify what information you need in order to maintain their customer profile, also acknowledge what could help your segment better. While you should require fewer details, you should still give them the option to provide others. This gives you insights on what actually engages them and if they ignore it, you’re no worse off.
9. Customers Want to Be Part of Something
With so many businesses to choose from, customers are more apt to work with a company they can connect with. This starts with portraying your business as a brand they can love.
Everything you publish has a voice and it should enhance the image you’re trying to portray. Adding a page with your company’s vision is a great way to show what you stand for. It’s an opportunity to depict your business’ personality as something more than a monetary transaction.
It’s also important to understand that your image doesn’t end with your business. It flows through every person that supports your brand. You need to use those loyal customers as a reflection of your company.
For social media, create a hashtag and give followers a reason to use it. The more people use it, the more social proof you’re provided, and the easier it is for new customers to join in.
If you haven’t created a persona for your business, bring your team together and organize the details. From there, add it to your brand guide so all your marketers can keep a clear message.
10. Continue to Optimize Your Posts
In HubSpot’s search to increase opt-ins without needing to generating tons of new content, they found a simple technique that led to large growth.
Since search terms can be tracked through your site’s analytics, after enough time, you’ve gained a significant amount of data. For those posts that are top performing, this gives you insight into what readers are actually looking for.
If a post ranks for email marketing, you’re able to go back and adjust the CTA to something that fits the top search term. The odds of someone opting in when they find what they’re looking for increase exponentially
Look through your older posts and adjust the CTAs to match what readers want. Update the article with links to content you created at a later date, offering more material that fits their needs.
Applying New Knowledge
Digital marketing is a constantly growing field where staying up to date on the best techniques is half the battle.
A lot of lessons were shared and learned at this year’s INBOUND. Many of the talks and slides are available online and will continue to be updated as they gain permissions.
Start applying these tips to your marketing strategy now and get up to speed for 2017.
Chris is the CEO at Lean Labs. He enjoys strategizing and creating content that drives results. When not typing away, Chris is exploring nature with his two daughters, wife, and dogs.