First things first—what is inbound marketing?
Inbound marketing uses techniques and tools to get your customers to come to you by educating and entertaining them until they can’t help but buy from you.
With outbound marketing, you go directly to them, usually driving hard sales to a broad market through mainstream advertising.
Putting your content on a hook
Let’s put it another way: you know the river is full of fish. So you could wade in with a spear and a net and hunt one down yourself. Alternatively, you can pop a big juicy worm or a pretty feathered fly on a hook and trick that fish into coming to you.
Either way, it's salmon for dinner—you don’t know which method will get you fed fastest.
Inbound marketing (putting a worm on your hook) is known as ‘pull’ marketing, and outbound marketing (clubbing fish with rocks) is often referred to as ‘push’ marketing: pushing ads to a broader audience or pulling in interested, invested aficionados, eager to hear your expert insights and opinions.
Typical inbound marketing strategies:
- Content marketing
- Blogs/blogging/guest blogs
- Social media
- Email newsletters
Typical outbound marketing strategies:
- Banner ads
- TV advertising
- Cold calling and cold email marketing using outbound sales tools
- Billboard advertising
A final comment on inbound marketing basics
The inbound marketing methodology is defined best by our friends at Hubspot; they describe the system as a 3-stage operation:
Step 1: Attract — You attract interested users with high-quality, valuable content, conversations, and information, depicting yourself as an expert and a trusted authority in the field.
Step 2: Engage — Present insights and solutions that offer solutions to their problems and help them achieve their goals, making your product a viable and attractive purchase.
Step 3: Delight – Going the extra mile with exceptional help and support empowers your new customers, encouraging repeat and additional sales while becoming ambassadors for your fabulous product and trustworthy brand.
With those three steps firmly logged and with no further ado, here are a small handful of the inbound marketing trends we believe you should watch through 2023.
1. Using video marketing across channels
Video is huge in every aspect of digital marketing, and that isn’t going to change anytime soon. If you’re not already pushing video to your customers, socials, and website, did you even show up today?
It doesn’t matter which survey or report you read; video bumps up the numbers, whether that’s attracting visitors to your website, engaging them in your email campaigns, or delighting them with aftercare—video is pulling users into your sales funnel for the conversions you need.
Cross-channel campaigns represent a 9.5% year-over-year increase in revenue compared to only 3.4% for single-channel companies.
Add those two winning strategies together, and you’re doubling your chances of success.
- Create a YouTube channel.
- Post to Facebook video.
- Add it to Instagram IGTV.
- Back all your channels up by posting links on LinkedIn.
- Add a snippet and a link on Twitter.
- Is your market demographic appropriate for TikTok or Snapchat? Get it on those too.
- Add your videos to your SM feeds, web blog, and stories.
- Add links to your email newsletters.
- Promote your most popular platforms with paid advertising and targeted outreach.
Short-form video is the big hitter for 2023
Social media has made short-form video the go-to way to deliver everything we do, know, see, or sell in bite-sized clips that are easy for anyone to digest.
TikTok has delivered a short form classic format for influencers and educators alike, with Facebook and Instagram stories presenting the same style vertical format we’ve got so used to scrolling.
Don’t get too distracted with those ultra short form versions, though, as YouTube tutorials and reviews are still as popular as ever. Facebook video advertising is an affordable and broad market option, and LinkedIn will back up everything you post with your professional persona.
Your fans will still engage with long-form video content where it matters, attending webinars, discussions, and debates. Just be aware that many only have the patience and attention span of a 4-year-old, or enough for a 10-minute Ted-type talk and a quick guide into flushing out their central heating.
2. Leaning into ungated content
Again, for those unsure of what gated and ungated content is, the ‘gate’ is usually a form the user needs to complete to access guarded information. It’s a traditional tactic for sales teams to gather contact details and generate leads.
Gated content usually holds higher value to the reader, something worth parting with their email address, so they wouldn’t be too heartbroken to hear a little more from that particular website or expert.
- Online events
- eBooks and white papers
Ungated content delivers free-for-all access to blog posts, web pages, and information designed to lure readers into the early stages of a sales funnel.
- Educational and informative articles and videos
Remember the ‘attract, engage, delight’ methodology? Inbound marketing is about creating relationships and making them stick. Hopefully, your product is good enough to persuade customers to engage, and your sales team can use other tools to prise the contact info they want and need from them.
We think that having a transparent delivery of information will buy the confidence you want to build a healthy relationship, rather than a gate causing suspicion by forcing you to give up your email before you’re ready.
You can add forms for every purpose at any point of your information delivery, ensuring users don’t have to engage if they don’t want to. But, if they’re genuinely interested, they’ll participate, and those leads turn into the gold your sales team dream of.
3. Build content as sales tools
Earlier, we described inbound marketing as the lure on the hook, so isn’t making the content the hook itself going against what we already preached?
Well, content can play a valuable part in the sales process.
Remember the ‘attract, engage, delight’ strategy? Once potential customers are engaged, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with delivering beautifully prepared content to educate and engage them further—hey, you can delight them with the right tools—nudging them casually over the finish line.
So, how do you do that? First, you need easily accessable and deliverable digital content answering all the questions your leads are likely to ask.
- Build content that explores and offers solutions to all the recurring pain points your sales department is sick of answering time and time again.
- Create specific sales content for different case issues. Your content should include everything from case studies, sales decks, and kill sheets to one-pagers, white papers, and demo videos.
- Build a library of the content your sales team needs so it's easily accessible for immediate delivery (better still, automate it through your CRM).
- Construct case study content with customer testimonials. Social proof (buyers trusting and following other buyers) is a valuable tool for sealing conversions. Testimonials, reviews, and company case studies are popular parts of every website for a reason.
- Collect data from your content and sales staff, analyze it, review and revise. Continually upgrading content will make it even more efficient and further fit for purpose.
Sales content is designed to drive customers further down the sales funnel. You can use the information your customers need to get them there.
4. Adding walkthroughs or step-by-step content
Interactive walkthroughs are the easiest way to get new users up to speed using new software or updates.
UIs have become increasingly intuitive, meaning many of us can figure out where everything we need is with a few clicks. But for those apps and packages that aren’t so easy to figure out, you could spend days getting to grips with them.
Or, with a well-designed walkthrough taking care of the onboarding process, perhaps only 10 minutes?
Taking a tour uncovers all the areas the developer thinks you might not track down so quickly without a little direction. And that’s great for delivering delight.
You can transfer this mentality to your offline products or those without a digital interface.
Creating interactive step-by-step content to guide users through processes at their own pace is the perfect solution in those situations. You can even include videos that cover the details your words and illustrations can’t.
Did we mention that Foleon docs do all that? Simply and without any special skills? Just sayin’…
5. Increased use of artificial intelligence and chatbots
For the final item in our 2023 inbound marketing trends, let’s get back to our ‘attract, engage, delight’ methodology.
You’ve attracted a potential customer to your website via search engines or an inbound link from content you’ve posted elsewhere. You’ve engaged them in your beautifully presented and curated information (you can see they’ve already visited several pages). So how do you hit the final checkbox and ‘delight’ them?
Give them even more of what they want.
Here’s the thing about chatbots. When chat boxes first appeared on websites, they were usually manned by humans because the tech wasn’t quite where it needed to be.
Some users were delighted to connect instantly with someone who could deliver precisely what they wanted without trawling through entire websites to find what they wanted.
Others—those less outgoing and far less impatient—found it all, well, a bit intrusive.
As AI developed and chatbots were introduced, they became increasingly compelling, innovative, and convincing.
At that point, introverts could interact stress-free with a machine and its algorithms, and the extroverts could get to the finish line in record time thanks to their intelligent robotic guide.
Today, chatbots are more human-like than ever. Natural language processing, understanding, and generation (NLP, NLU, and NLG technologies) using text-based or auditory requests and responses are convincing enough to feel like we’re dealing with people—only more efficient!
Here’s how to utilize them in inbound:
- Offer direct access to the information they need
- Schedule calls and meetings
- Book services
- Provide pre-sales information, price guides, rates, and even time-sensitive offers
- Administer direct customer support over all departments
- Pay for products and services directly through most chatbots
Whenever the conversation reaches the point where only a human operator can provide what the user needs, that’s the point they’re brought into play and save the day.
As chatbots continue to improve, they’ll offer you and your users more help than ever.
Making them conversationally smarter, they’re far more fun than they used to be and easier to engage with, providing all those ‘feelings’ your UX team keeps nagging you about. And they’re the absolute future of time and resource saving in digital inbound.
So, what have we learned?
To stay competitive means keeping up with (or sailing past) your competition. Therefore, knowing the latest inbound marketing trends and what’s working for everyone else should already be part of your master plan. Implementing as many of these activities relevant to your growing success is paramount.
Engaging with Foleon is an excellent step towards that healthier and happier future. Presenting striking and engaging content is a must—whether for content marketing, as a sales tool, or as a walkthrough or guide.
Losing customers because they couldn’t face another 200-page PDF isn’t on. But, bringing them into your loving arms with the best-presented content on the Internet? Well, that’s something we can help with.