Inbound marketing is a methodology for attracting prospects to your company, engaging them with content and nurturing them until they are ready to interact with your sales team.
However, inbound marketing has changed a lot since HubSpot introduced it in 2006. People who knew it back then might not recognize it now.
Today, inbound marketing applies similar principles of being there when people are looking for you, but the techniques used to attract new prospects are definitely different.
To learn what inbound marketing looks like in 2024, check out the rest of the article.
When inbound launched, people relied heavily on search engines. Today, with voice search, ChatGPT and the rise of social algorithms, search is quickly becoming second to social.
Think about your most recent online purchase. Did you go to Google, do a search, find a listing, click on the listing, visit a website, find the product and purchase it? Or did an ad present on social that perfectly matched something you were interested in and you purchased it directly on the social platform?
I recently talked to a 50-plus CEO of a manufacturing company and he described the exact experience on Instagram. This is not a 20-year-old Taylor Swift fan; this is a CEO of a $500 million company. This is how people buy products and services today.
Our online purchase behavior is changing, and social is trumping search.
What this means to inbound marketing is you have to invest just as much or more in social as you do in search. Being there when someone is looking for you requires executing on both Google and Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn.
The content you used to create and post on your website to turn visitors into leads now has to be pushed out on the right social channels and proactively targeted at the right people so that they see it, convert on it and get into your database.
Think social over search in 2024.
When inbound marketing exploded in popularity, we were in the middle of the last major recession. The motto for inbound was, “The size of your brain is more important than the size of your wallet.”
Inbound didn’t include any paid advertising. It was 100% about earning attention with content, stories and messaging instead of buying that attention with ads.
Today, thoughtful inbound marketing includes both, and for the reasons mentioned in the above section.
If you’ve been practicing inbound marketing for as long as we have, you know it’s more of a reactive approach to marketing. You do everything in your power to put your company in a position to be found with the right story, the right content, the right website and the right capabilities to turn that person from a visitor into a lead.
But then you basically sit back and wait. This has always been a core challenge to inbound marketing.
Today, we blend all the important aspects of inbound with the demand generation tactics that turn your marketing from reactive to proactive.
That means pushing the same stories and content toward your prospects with campaign tactics that include paid social and organic social. This is coupled with buyer journey-mapped content, an amazing website and solid lead nurturing for a complete campaign with components that are critically important to driving results.
It’s this blend of reactive traditional inbound and proactive demand generation that makes up today’s inbound marketing strategy.
I was recently at a conference speaking and one of the attendees asked if social media is impacting the importance of having a good website. He means that if people find an ad on social but stay on social to learn more about your company, is your website still important?
It’s a good question, but the answer is 100% yes, your website remains the cornerstone of your marketing and the place where people still go to learn about your company, get to know you, get educated and start trusting your business.
You need a website that tells your emotional, compelling and disruptive story in 10 seconds. You need a website that sucks your visitors in by offering such a remarkable experience that they have to click around and learn more.
You need a website that has educational content for all stages of your prospects’ buyer journeys, and you need a website that strategically serves up pages to lead a prospect through the site, helping them get exactly what they need when they need it.
Your website has only one goal – attract visitors and turn those visitors into leads. It has to be the best in your industry.
Don’t cheap out by hiring your cousin to do your website. Don’t put it on Wix or Squarespace. Don’t think about it as your online brochure. Don’t tell me it’s three years old and you haven’t done anything to it in three years. Worst of all, don’t tell me your prospects don’t look at your website before engaging with you.
If you don’t have the best website in your industry, you have serious work to do. We recently wrote an article that includes everything your website needs to do: Is Your Website Generating Leads? If Not, We Have the Fixes.
Inbound marketing is all about understanding your prospects and how they buy. This means going deep into their buyer journey and knowing, in detail, the questions they ask along the way.
First, you’ll uncover what content you need to answer their questions, make them feel safe and move them along in their journey.
Second, you’ll uncover how to nurture these people through their journey effectively so that your company becomes their guide instead of just a resource at their disposal when and if they need you.
Most company leaders and most salespeople see themselves as gatekeepers, managers and process facilitators. This is wrong. You should see yourself in the guide role.
Guides help people, provide important information, and offer advice and insight. They say, “Don’t do this. Based on my experience, do this other thing instead.”
When you start guiding prospects through their buyer journey with helpful insights, educational content and valuable information, they start looking at you differently. They begin to know, like and trust you. This gives you valuable insight into their decision-making process so that you’re better able to influence and direct it.
Your lead-nurturing strategy and your lead-nurturing efforts should be designed in this way. You want to help them navigate the chaos, not contribute to the chaos.
AI wasn’t even a thought in Mark Zuckerberg’s mind when inbound came out. However, optimization was always key to turning inbound marketing campaigns into better-performing programs.
All aspects of inbound marketing need to be optimized regularly – in some cases weekly, like email and lead-nurturing tactics, and in other cases monthly, like website, search, social and paid advertising.
The faster you optimize, the better the results. An optimization methodology, like the one we use at Square 2, also helps.
But today, AI is here to make this optimization effort easier, faster and more efficient.
Here are three ways we’ve been using AI to help optimize inbound marketing campaigns for clients:
Personalized Content Recommendations: AI can analyze user behavior, preferences and historical data to provide highly personalized content recommendations. This helps ensure that visitors to your website or recipients of your marketing emails see content that’s relevant to their interests and needs. Personalization increases user engagement, click-through rates and conversion rates, ultimately improving the effectiveness of your inbound marketing efforts.
Predictive Analytics: AI-driven predictive analytics can identify trends and patterns in your inbound marketing data, enabling you to make data-driven decisions. By analyzing historical data, AI can predict which marketing strategies are likely to be most successful in the future, allowing you to allocate your resources more effectively. This can include predicting which content will perform best, which channels are most effective and when the best times are to engage with your audience.
Lead Scoring and Segmentation: AI can automate the process of lead scoring and segmentation, which is crucial for targeting the right prospects with the right content or offers. AI algorithms can analyze lead behavior and characteristics, assigning scores to leads based on their likelihood to convert. This helps your sales and marketing teams prioritize their efforts on the most promising leads and deliver targeted content and messages, ultimately improving conversion rates and ROI.
Like all aspects of marketing, inbound marketing as a methodology is changing so fast. It’s critical to stay up to date on these changes and how to use them in your own inbound marketing programs.
Another option is to work with an agency that is responsible for staying current or even ahead of the game and sharing these innovative new techniques with their clients.
Regardless of how you tackle the changing nature of inbound marketing, you’ll need to do something. What worked in the past won’t work in the future and might not be working now.