How to Excel in the New Year: Inbound Marketing Strategies for 2018

December 18, 2017

Small Business

Search Engine Optimization


How To

First off, what is this fancy term, “inbound marketing?” You probably already know, but here’s a refresher: it’s basically a super-cool data-driven marketing technique used to attract customers to your business via blogs, social media, and search engines. Simply put, it’s a subtler form of advertising and marketing, because it provides quality content to potential customers on their terms–when and where they want it–and uses data to convert these potential customers into, well, customers.

For example, if I drive by a billboard on the highway with a picture of a beach and Jill’s Travel Company logo, that isn’t inbound marketing (I didn’t seek it out).

But if I Google “best vacation spots for families in Florida” and a blog post from Jill’s website comes up, or if I follow Jill’s business on Instagram and Jill posts a contest to “win a free trip to Florida,” then that’s inbound marketing. I sought that information out, I wanted it, and Jill delivered it.

One of the most important factors regarding inbound marketing is that it’s an incredible way to build brand awareness, regardless of the industry. For instance, I might have never heard of Jill’s Travel Company, but if Jill’s Travel Company is at the top of Google with a blog post about vacation spots in Florida, then I have an awareness–and growing relationship–with Jill’s Travel Company. Maybe I’ll check out more blog posts, or follow the company on social media, and down the road, when Jill posts about her travel services, I’ll reach out to her first–regardless of all the fancy billboards lining the highway from big travel corporations–because I feel like I know her, so I can trust her.

That’s a long way of saying: inbound marketing is important, and it has been important for years.

But I’m not here to rehash old news. I’m here to tell you 8 ways you can use inbound marketing, and content marketing (which is basically a subset of inbound), to excel in the future… And, by future, I mean 2018. You’re on your own if you’re already planning your content strategy for 2020.

1. Have Variety in Your Content

Not only will a variety in content keep your core audience engaged (if you only ever post How-To blog posts, they’ll get bored, won’t they?), but it will also attract a new audience–like a demographic only interested in videos. A variety of content could include vlogs/videos, SlideShare presentations, how-to articles, infographics, e-books, a list of quotes from famous presidents, cat memes–as long as you’re keeping your content (somewhat) aligned with your brand and what you know your audience wants, it’s good to change up the platform on which you present it.

2. Update Old Content

Although “been there, done that,” might be an okay-phrase to use in regards to 2017 fashion, it’s certainly not a good phrase to use when talking about old content. Not only have you already put time and effort into creating that content, but some of it might still be useful if you just fix it up a bit. Your audience will appreciate updated and revised content, and search engines will take note of the updates, too.

3. Make Your Business Micro-Moment Ready

You know when you and your friends are starving but your favorite pizza place is packed, so your friend Google’s, “Where’s a good pizza place near me?” Or, you’re stuck on October 30th without a Halloween costume, so you start searching, “Best costume stores near me.” These are invaluable moments–these searchers are desperate and not interested in doing cost or brand research–and Google has recognized that by dubbing them “micro moments.” Figure out what type of questions your ideal consumer might ask, like “How to do X,” “where’s an X open near me,” or, “is X worth it?” and answer these questions directly on your site. The point is, when people are searching on Google, they favor immediacy and ease over brand recognition: if your business comes up ahead of Domino’s on “Pizza places near me,” people are more likely to choose your product over all competitors.

This Slideshow shows data from Think with Google, in regards to Micro-Moments:  

4. Find a New Audience via Social Media Influencers

Our world is becoming smaller by the day (thanks to social media), and there’s a way to benefit from it. For instance, I’m a big Ali Fedotowsky fan (from Season Six of the Bachelorette, of course); and while I’m not a big fan of cooking, HelloFresh caught my eye once Ali started sponsoring them in her blog posts and Instagram photos. Since she often posts un-sponsored, genuine content, her HelloFresh photos don’t feel like advertisements: they are subtle and unobtrusive, which makes me 300x (unofficial statistic) more likely to check out HelloFresh. Even if you’re a small business, you can benefit from finding a new audience via social media influencers or industry leaders.

5. Use Data for a Customer-Based Approach

With predictive analytics, as well as market and customer insights, you no longer have to guess at what your customers want; of course, marketing still requires creativity and emotion, but I’m betting that in 2018, data-driven content marketing will continue to exponentially outdo the old guessing-game marketing tactics. Plus, analytical intelligence will help your business create an ideal user experience, focusing entirely on a customer’s individualized experience (i.e. Facebook chatbots sending me personalized recipes, etc.). 

6. Invest More in Native Advertising

Essentially, native advertising is any paid promotion or ad that blends right in with the rest of the page–it’s that sneaky ad that you don’t even know is an ad until you’ve reached the end of the article, or video, or whatever; it’s that photo on Instagram that you don’t recognize as sponsored because it’s hidden in-between pictures of your brother and your best friends; or, it’s the search results at the top of Google, which look identical to the other search results except for the tiny “ad” category in the corner. Often, a clear call-to-action isn’t even defined, as it can be an excellent way to build brand awareness without demanding the consumer take action. Native advertising is going to rise steadily in 2018–check out the graph below for proof–so it’s a really great idea to get ahead by investing in this… now.

7. Create Marketing Videos

Here’s some official statistics regarding video in 2018: in 2018, video will attract upwards of 79% of total consumer traffic (compared to 57% in 2015); 55% of people watch videos online every day; and 65% of video viewers watch more than 3/4 of a video. Here’s an unofficial statistic: people like to watch videos. It’s enjoyable, it’s often easier than reading dense text, and our curiosity is piqued when we see the “play” button. So get ahead of the game, and start making some personalized video content for your business. At the very least, it’s a fun way to exercise your creativity, and show the personality of your brand.

8. Marketing Automation

Guess what? In 2018, you can automate your email marketing, CRM, and web personalization! Okay, okay, just kidding… this is already possible (I didn’t really know it either, though, so don’t feel bad). Marketing automation is great because it ensure consistency across all your marketing efforts, reaches your top-priority potential consumers, and enables personalization to your consumer.

Plus, as this graph from Smart Insights shows, only 18% of B2B companies are not using some level of marketing automation. If 82% of your competitors are using something, don’t you think it’s time you start, if you haven’t, or make it better, if you have?

So there you have it–8 ways to get ahead of the curve on inbound marketing in 2018, backed by some official statistics, and some personal anecdotes (hope you enjoyed those…). In 2018, it’s going to be harder than ever to grab your audience’s attention, but your audience also isn’t stupid–if you market yourself correctly, and continue to create a variety of thoughtful, high-quality online content, backed by data and analytics and personalized for the customer, then don’t worry. With time, they’ll find you.

Check out our other “How to Excel the New Year: Web Design, SEO, and Inbound Marketing Strategies for 2018” posts.