7 Inbound Marketing Musts for 2014
By Carly Stec
The ball made its Time Square journey down the flagpole, and the confetti has been swept from the streets.
The month of January serves as an clean slate. A place where we can find our footing in the new year, and take a closer look at where we are now in contrast to where we want to be.
Last year many marketers got the ball rolling on their social media presence, they learned to leverage visual content, and made a conscious effort to blog more.
Set in an increasingly digital marketplace, 2014 is sure to present business owners with a new opportunity for marketers to garner the level of ROI that they deserve.
To ease the transition into the new year we've drummed up seven marketing musts for 2014 that have the ability to position your business in a positive light.
Tighten up Buyer Personas
If your buyer personas are looking a little subpar, now is a better time than ever to tie up any loose ends and solidify stronger personas.
Strong buyer personas are the key to understanding your audience, as they are designed to align the type of content you produce with the wants and needs of your ideal buyers.
In an effort to make the most out of your personas, consider utilizing professional networks like LinkedIn to conduct market research.
As you may know, LinkedIn is the world's largest professional network on the Internet with more than 140 million members. (Source: Social Media Today) 140 million members whose profiles bare the information you need to lay out effective buyer personas.
Conducting a search for professionals holding positions that comply with your target audience will provide you with real-life examples of your customers. From their page you make note of the content they choose to share, as it more than often reflects their pain points.
Look for trends in their skills, their educational background, their interests, and their specific demographics. Hold onto this information and use it to streamline your existing personas, or create new ones.
Make Note of Native Social Strategy
In 2013 we welcomed a slew of new social networks, including Vine and Snapchat. With more places than ever to connect with our audience online, many marketers have found it challenging to keep up with them all.
As a result, our content began to get muddy. Marketers fell into a lazy disposition, and began diffusing the same content onto all of their social platforms, and unfortunately it didn't all translate over that well.
In 2014 inbound marketers should shift their focus to quality over quantity. Rather than overwhelming ourselves with every social network under the sun, consider adapting only the ones suite your industry. From here you will be able to better master particular networks, and learn to understand the appropriate behavior of each one individually.
When users log into their Instagram they expect to find colorful visuals, not lengthy written posts. When they log into their LinkedIn they expect the content and language used to reflect the professional environment. Each platform touts it's own personality, and it is crucial for marketers to connect on these platforms accordingly.
Additionally, you'll want to keep the 80/20 rule in the forefront when it comes to your social media strategy.
You'll want to adhere to this ratio when it comes to the amount of non-promotional content you post versus the amount of promotional content. While it may seem logical to show off your product or service, you must build your audience by providing resourceful, industry-friendly content first. This will ensure that when you go to post something promotional, your audience is already listening.
Recognize the New SEO
2013 rocked the pants off traditional SEO best practices.
After Google decided to encrypt all search activity, many marketers were left scratching their heads when it came time to optimize their website pages.
The answer to all of this SEO mumbo jumbo lies in the quality of your buyer personas. Rather than focus your marketing efforts on search engines, 2014 is all about optimizing content for your personas.
This means that marketers should avoid getting wrapped up in keyword research, and drive their marketing efforts more towards increasing organic traffic, lead nurturing, and growing their reach.
Consider your titles. You want to create content that is unique, informative, and shareable. Consider the value of "How-To" titles, as they are designed to answer the questions presented by your personas.
Work on Your Content
Consistent, helpful articles have the ability to shape the success of your content strategy.
Before you sit down to start hacking away at another article, consider the question you are trying to answer. As we mentioned above, your content should serve as a solution to your buyer persona's problems.
The more informative content you pump out, the more likely your audience will be to return to your website.
Additionally, if a visitor recognizes your article as purposeful, they may bookmark it and return to it in the future as a reference. In other words, producing the right content allows you to increase it's shelf-life.
Guest posting is another excellent way to increase your reach, and place your content into the hands of others who will share it.
Recently, Unbounce featured one of our ebooks, The 7 Elements of Inbound Storytelling, after reading a guest post by our Marketing Director on the HubSpot blog. This connection proved the power of guest blogging, as it revealed how one post landed us a spot on Unbounce's Top 10 Online Marketing Resources of 2013.
Remember Your Customers
Consumer's relationship with technological devices is altering the way in which they interact with your content. Now that we are plugged into the Internet 24/7, our expectations for customer service have shifted.
We becoming conditioned to expect insant gratification, even if it doesn't seem realistic.
With a new year ahead of us, now is a better time than ever to reevaluate your customer experience strategy. With many businesses beginning to recognize that the customer-centric approach to marketing sets them up with a competitive advantage, the push for improved customer service is suddenly all the rage.
While it's easy to lose sight of your customer's wants and needs, it is important to remember that meeting their needs will increase the likelihood that they will return.
Satisfaction rates, customer retention, and brand advocacy are only three of the many factors that excellent customer service has the ability to advance.
"We follow those who lead, not for them, but for ourselves. And it's those who start with "why" that have the ability to inspire those around them for find others who inspire them." - Simon Sinek
If you have yet to watch Simon Sinek's TED talk, usher it to the top of your new years resolution list.
Simon Sinek has introduced a concept that influences the way we use storytelling to communicate our message to our audience.
Starting at the core of it, Sinek suggests that marketers consider the "why" above all else, and use this information to further perpetuate your message outward.
With storytelling making its way to the top of many marketer's list of effective marketing techniques, it is critical to understand that appealing to the why will make it easier to manufacture a story around the status quo of your audience.
Through the recognition of the status quo, you will be able to incorporate an element of drama in order to bring your story full circle, and ensure that it will resonate with your audience.
Provide More Context
Why should your business care about context?
People are more apt to respond to a piece of content when it is positioned in a relevant way.
Don't believe me?
According to HubSpot, calls-to-action which were altered to be more relevant to the viewer had a 42% higher view-to-submission rate than calls-to-action that were the same for all visitors.
In 2014 we can anticipate that the concept of smart content is going to continue to gain speed.
When visitors engage with your website, for example filling out a form, you want their experience to be as user-friendly as possible.
A smart form can be implemented to ensure that returning visitors never have to refill in information that they've already supplied you with.
By extending these types of personalization techniques throughout your marketing campaigns, not only will create an engaging customer experience, but also you will set your efforts apart from those of other businesses who simply just deliver content.
Wondering where to begin?