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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistThu, Dec 1, 2016 11 min read

A Look Back At 2016 Predictions For Inbound Marketing

Inbound Marketing Predictions 2017It’s the first day of December and this month is filled with tons of predictions, forward-looking thoughts and prognostications. I certainly have plans to share my own thoughts on what to expect in 2017, but before I do that I thought it would only be right to look back at the predictions I made a year ago for 2016 and see how I did.

I like to hold my team accountable for results and I expect our clients to hold us accountable for results. The least I can do is be accountable for those ideas I had last year. Did they come true? How accurate was I? Did I miss the side of the barn entirely? By the way, I was very aggressive last year, making 14 bold predictions. It will take me a couple of articles to get through all of them before I move on to what to look for in 2017.

Here we go.

2016 Prediction #1 — CEOs Make CMOs Accountable For Results

Perhaps when I wrote this last year it was more wishful thinking than an actual prediction. I’d like to think there has been some progress in this direction, but clearly not enough to move the market away from impression-based marketing and toward inbound marketing. We still run into many CMOs who are happy to be buying ads, attending trade shows, purchasing lists and pumping tons of money into pay-per-click ad campaigns.

This might be in large part due to our focus on educating the CMO and not the CEO. How can we expect the CEO to hold the CMO accountable for quantitative results and data-based metrics if we haven’t done a good job of helping them understand this is not only possible but also best practice? Perhaps in 2017 the inbound community can make a bigger effort to connect with CEOs and help them understand the differences between outbound and inbound marketing from an ROI perspective.

2016 Prediction #2 — Agencies Are Now Responsible For Revenue

I’d like to think I did a little better on this prediction than on the first one. I reported last year how clients that were seeing a huge improvement in lead generation (in some cases 10x) were still disappointed in their lack of revenue growth. To that end, we started offering sales enablement services to help clients close the leads we were getting for them. This trend continued with many agencies jumping into the sales enablement game and providing revenue generation engagements in 2016.

The marketing automation software firms also recognized that their success wasn’t tied to lead generation but rather to revenue generation, so they all moved in the same direction. HubSpot launched its CRM product and purchased Pardot, giving both of these companies a revenue platform for businesses. It’s likely that this trend will continue to grow as more companies ask for help with revenue instead of marketing or sales services.

2016 Prediction #3 — Weekly Cycles For Inbound Teams

Agile Marketing PlanningIt seems like this was a prediction that did come true. Many agency teams that are a little further along than their internal team counterparts have already realized the faster you cycle, the better the results you produce. We started with weekly sprints before moving to two-week sprints and the results have been fantastic in terms of driving leads for our clients.

I think people who practice inbound will continue to tinker with the concept of cycling, but more specifically, the rhythms associated with inbound must be constantly evolving based on program performance. For instance, earlier this year we started doing 30-day planning with all of our clients in preparation for our sprints.

This cycle helps us to collaborate more closely with our clients while gaining their buy-in to our recommendations and the results that should come along with the execution of the plan. This also enables us to help our clients prioritize their marketing tactics, pushing down the tactics that have little or no impact on results and moving up tactics that have a major impact on results.

2016 Prediction #4 — A Formula For Lead Generation

Again, in my excitement around this idea, perhaps I was a little premature. Personally, I’ve been tinkering with this idea for the entire year, and while I’ve made some progress it’s been slower than I’d hoped. I believe completely that the science behind inbound marketing and inbound sales means we can create a formula to predict lead generation.

I also believe that this insight will present marketing and business leads with unmatched insight into what exactly it takes to produce the monumental flow of leads almost every business expects from their modest investment in marketing. Translation? If you want more leads, you must invest more in marketing. However, knowing exactly what to expect is a far cry from where we are today.

2016 Prediction #5 — Mobile Improves Email Marketing Results

Mobile Drives Search And ConversionSwing and miss! It makes sense, doesn’t it? If I check email more often because I have a device with email access, I might tend to open my email more often and then click through messages more often. But that’s not what we’re seeing. Email open and click-through rates continue to be low, and while we need email to provide air cover to the marketing and continue the nurturing process, the time required to improve open rates by a percentage point or two is better used in other areas.

I think the generally low performance of email marketing is largely due to the ridiculous amount of email we all get daily. Our inboxes are full of junk. Regardless of where we view our email inbox, there is still a lot of deleting going on. I'm not sure I see this changing anytime soon.

2016 Prediction #6 — Marketing Strategy Still Being Skipped

Sadly, this is still going on. Companies do not appreciate the marketing strategy work required to generate leads. They don’t value it and don’t want to pay for it. This is validated by agency leaders in and out of the inbound community. Traditional creative shops are constantly lamenting the importance of strategy and the lack of buy-in and support from their clients for that specific type of work.

Honestly, this isn’t much of a prediction; it’s more of an observation that this will continue into 2017 and likely beyond. Now marketing and sales teams are being inundated with software and tools that make it appear strategy is even less important. Just buy this software and you’ll be fine. You’ll get found, get leads and drive new customers. Wrong! When you realize the software didn’t produce the results you expected and you wonder what happened, start looking at your marketing strategy, messaging, stories, differentiation and planning as the key reason program performance is lacking.

2016 Prediction #7 — Big Brands Start To Embrace Inbound

Again, a big miss here, although I do see glimpses of a future that doesn’t have interruptive commercials, calls to my home phone or postcards in my mailbox. We haven't seen a torrent of brands rushing to start doing inbound marketing and abandoning their media buys by the boatloads. Instead, it’s been a small trickle.

I do notice interesting content offerings that tie TV content to web content in a value-added way. I watch National Geographic’s "MARS" and the network regularly promotes additional storylines, character backstories and additional details on the mission via its website. If the network can then take advantage of that new visitor by offering additional opt-in content and leverage that to drive additional purchases, it might be on to something that’s more inbound.

But overall, big brands continue to scream at us through our devices, and we attempt to block them with our behaviors by using ad-blockers and DVRs.

All in all, not horrible. I got some right and some wrong. Tomorrow, I’ll review the rest of my predictions from last year and set the table for a series of predictions for 2017.

Square 2 Marketing – Inbound Results Start With ME!


Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.