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Digital marketing is a constantly changing practice and there's no guarantee what works today will work in a few months time. For marketers, this means keeping up to date with the latest news, trends and developments on a regular basis. However, keeping up to date – even with the Internet –isn’t that easy. Sure, the Internet is a great resource for information and can provide everything marketers need, but sifting through it can be a challenge. Most marketers simply do not have the time and cannot read the articles they want, when they want to – so we’ve taken the liberty of going through all of the current digital marketing trends and condensing the list down to just seven.

These seven digital marketing trends have worked successfully for B2B companies in Europe and the US

1. Content Marketing

Though more than two decades have passed since Bill Gates’seminal article “Content is King”, the content remains one of the most effective lead generators for B2B companies. According to HubSpot’s 2018 State of Inbound Report, more than half (55%) of the marketers reviewed said that content creation is their top Inbound Marketing priority. Content isn’t just on the list of priorities for marketers… it’s their number one priority. Similarly, 20% of survey respondents to a 2018 Smart Insights report stated that they expect content marketing to make the single largest commercial impact for their business in 2018.

More and more companies are getting on board with content marketing (known to the initiated as InboundMarketing) – and those that plan and deploy a content marketing strategy correctly are achieving great success. A key part of this process is a business’ buyer personas, i.e. fictional representations of their ideal customers –those they should be marketing to. To achieve success with content marketing, companies must create content that meets the needs of their target audience across all stages of the buyer’s journey and the flywheel.

2. Video Marketing

Video is one of the most dominant forms of content marketing in the world. Statistics from Engadget indicate that more than one billion hours of video are watched on YouTube each day – and almost half the population (45%) watch more than an hour of Facebook or YouTube videos a week. The reality is that video is far more accessible than it was in the past. Modern smartphone devices have powerful, sophisticated cameras, so it’s now easier than ever for marketers to record high-quality video and upload it to the social media channels their audience frequent.

In addition to its accessibility, it doesn’t cost a ludicrous amount for marketers to create video (there are a number of free video hosting platforms online, some of which include detailed analytics to understand the effectiveness of videos)and it delivers exceptional return on investment (ROI). Video marketing isn’t losing any momentum either. According to Wyzowl’s State of Video Marketing in 2018 report, 81% of companies use video as a marketing tool – and 99% of those who already do use video say they’ll continue to do so through 2018. It’s most definitely an opportunity for B2B marketers, and those that haven’t incorporated video into their B2Bmarketing strategy are seriously behind (the leading B2Bcompanies were creating marketing videos way back in 2016).

Video marketing has grown tremendously over the last few years, gaining a seat at the table and cementing itself as one of the most cost-effective content formats.

3. Inbound Marketing

Inbound Marketing – synonymous with content marketing –has grown rapidly. As companies have accepted that Outbound Marketing methods (such as cold calling, blast emails, TVadvertisements) have gradually lost their effectiveness and customers have changed their buying habits, they have embraced Inbound as the solution. Inbound – according to HubSpot’s State of Inbound 2018report – is the primary marketing approach for the majority of companies worldwide and most see a higher ROI as a result of it.

Inbound Marketing is all about helping customers to find the solutions to their problems and providing value at every stage of their journey. Inbound is all about creating high-quality, search engine-optimised content that prospects can find – and using social media to amplify the reach of that content.

As interested parties find their way back to your website via search engines and social media platforms, they read your content and you include calls-to-action (CTAs) within it to direct readers to another relevant piece of content or landing page where they provide their details in exchange for a more informative content asset. inbound marketing allows interested parties to qualify themselves.No longer do companies need to badger their prospects– prospects will come to them when they are ready, providing the content is there. Inbound works.

HubSpot’s State of Inbound report highlights that 65% of survey respondents achieve a higher ROI as a result of Inbound Marketing.

4. Topic Clusters

Consumer search behaviour has changed and in response to that, search engines have changed, too. Rather than entering fragmented keyword terms into google, searchers are comfortable posing more conversational – and complex – questions… and expect accurate results. Of course, search engines have evolved to a point where they are capable of understanding and filtering these queries, providing results that match a searcher’s intent and context, whilst taking into account previous search behaviour and other variables. Search engines today put more emphasis on topic-based content – or more accurately, topic clusters – rather than individual keywords. This means that repositories of information are seen to have more value than individual blog posts.

Realising this – many companies have moved towards a topic cluster approach – and it is an approach we advocate and practice ourselves.

A topic cluster is where a single ‘pillar’ page acts as the main hub of content for a specific topic and multiple sub-pages (cluster content) related to that topic link to and from the pillar page. Think of a topic cluster as an eBook laid out like a web page but with individual blog posts linking to each section. The benefit of this is that any value attributed to any of the cluster content is shared amongst all the other content linked to the pillar page and the pillar page itself. It also allows interested parties to find out more about a particular topic and positions companies as authorities on that topic.

Many companies have achieved success using this method. Only four months ago we developed a topic cluster around HubSpot Website Design – and it now ranks fourth on the first page of Google – behind only HubSpot themselves.

As search engines place more emphasis on topics rather than individual keywords, companies should take the time to devise a strategy to shift their content creation away from segmented blogs and create a repository of content on a specific topic relevant to their target audience.

5. Chatbots

Research from HubSpot states that customers today expect a response to an enquiry from marketing, sales or customer service within 10 minutes. Thinking rationally, for busy marketing, sales and customer service departments, consistently achieving such a response time is incredibly difficult and, in some cases, unachievable. However, being in a position to respond to such enquiries is beneficial for any business – these enquiries could turn into potential leads for the business if managed correctly. It’s all about convenience and being there when the customer needs something.

Taking this into consideration, many B2B marketing and sales teams are utilising live chat and chatbots. Live chat – long been used by customer service teams – is a great way for prospects and a business’ marketing or sales team to connect at the time of need. This minimises delays and can streamline the lead generation process. Similarly, if no one is available, chatbots allow for that process to be automated and at scale. B2B companies are teaching chatbots how to respond to certain enquiries and where to direct potential prospects when specific questions are asked. This way, marketing and sales teams never miss a trick and potential prospects are engaged with.

But companies aren’t just putting live chat and chatbots on their website and seeing what happens – they are utilising them as part of a 'conversational strategy’.

6. Chatbots - conversational Strategy

This framework represents just how some B2B companies are engaging with website visitors (i.e. potential prospects) that speak to them via live chat or a chatbot. The first step is to connect. Chatbots should be able to provide all the information a website visitor needs upon request and should deliver personalised responses based on that website visitor’s behaviour and the information stored in their contact record. The second step is to understand. Chatbots should ask filtering (or qualifying) questions to understand the user’s intent. The third step is to deliver. At no point should website visitors have to leave the chatbot app to find the content they are looking for. Make it easy for website visitors and provide the information upfront.

The final step is to refine. Based on user interactions via chatbots, companies should continue to optimise their conversational strategy to provide more value and encourage habitual use of the bot.

Using chatbots, companies will not only be able to engage with potential prospects and customers earlier in the buyer’s journey, but they will also be able to scale their customer service activities and preserve their human resources.

7. Customers as marketers

Potential buyers care less about what you have to say about your business and more about what your customers have to say about you.

Happy customers are the best customers, and the fact is that there's no better form of advertising than a customer talking positively about a brand or business and recommending it to others. Today, buyers are increasingly reliant on word of mouth; they look to a business's existing customer base for recommendations and read reviews and case studies to find out more.

And no amount of content or online advertising will achieve the same effect. Take Amazon for example. Amazon learned a long time ago that instead of shouting about its products and services, providing value to customers even after they have made a purchase (through personalised recommendations, newsletters, gift vouchers and free services) would help them to improve brand awareness, sentiment and customer reviews. In addition, Amazon is constantly looking for new ways to innovate its service offering and demonstrate to its customer base (and potential buyers) that it can help to solve certain issues.

Marketing and sales no longer end after the deal has closed. If companies want to increase brand awareness and sentiment, as well as increase lead generation, they need to provide customers with a personalised experience and deliver value regularly.

It also has an incredibly responsive customer service team, offers free incentives (like Prime) and gift vouchers. All of this results in their customers being incredibly happy – and happy to speak about the brand on social media, recommend it to others and write positive reviews, all of which grows awareness of Amazon and helps it to attract new customers. Now for smaller companies, particularly start-ups and SMEs, achieving such market coverage isn’t going to happen overnight – but the basic methodology is still there. It’s less about talking about a product or service and more about showing how those products and services have helped others in the past. It’s also about empowering customers after the point of purchase and maintaining customer relationships. Companies that grasp the fact that marketing and sales is a continuous process of delivering value will quickly understand that their customers are their best marketers and salespeople.

8. Growth Suites

As the digital landscape is constantly expanding and diversifying, it’s fundamental that companies have the right tools in place to allow their marketing, sales and customer service teams to connect and help grow the business. The problem, however, is that many companies take a“piecemeal” approach to the integration of marketing, sales and customer service software, choosing instead to acquire individual tools for each department rather than an all-in-one solution. Whilst this approach provides each team with dedicated(and in some cases, powerful) solutions for their respective functions, it becomes increasingly difficult for teams to connect and scale their activities, as well as understand how their efforts contribute to the business's bottom line.

Fortunately, more and more companies are developing their software infrastructure from the outset and deploying all-in-one marketing, sales and customer service tools to allow their teams to connect, collaborate and scale activities to grow the business. Tools like HubSpot, for example, are leading the charge.HubSpot is an all-in-one growth marketing solution designed to help companies enhance their marketing, sales and customer service. HubSpot provides tools for companies of every size so, unlike most other all-in-one solutions, companies can pick and choose the elements they require and expand the solution as and when necessary.

Bringing marketing, sales and customer service together in a single environment will not only allow for operational oversight but will also allow companies to scale and grow significantly as everyone is working towards the same objectives.

Closing Thoughts

A lot of the trends mentioned in this eBook will remain relevant for a few years to come. Content marketing isn’t going anywhere any time soon and video marketing has only just become a part of the digital marketing mix as it was used almost exclusively byB2C companies. All-in-one marketing, sales and customer service tools, on the other hand, are experiencing something of a resurgence, especially as HubSpot has developed a number of service offerings for companies of every size.

Topic clusters are more or less new and many websites have yet to incorporate the model. As search engines begin to place greater emphasis on topics rather than individual keywords, we suspect they will become the go-to for B2B companies looking to own a sphere of influence. Customers will continue to be the best marketers for companies, especially as word of mouth becomes the main focus for modern companies, and given that chatbots allow customer service teams to scale, they will most likely be more sophisticated in the future.

These elements should be incorporated into any digital marketing strategy and leveraged now for the immediate benefits they can provide.

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Grow with Inbound 2021

Aligning people, processes and platforms

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