Inbound marketing is officially 11 years old. Congratulations! But rather than resting on its laurels, this marketing philosophy is evolving constantly. The same underlying principles remain true, as it seeks to pull in potential customers with value and relevance rather than pushing promotional messages onto them.
But at the same time, the changes in technology and tactics needed to accomplish these goals are impossible to deny. In the process, we are increasingly arriving at an updated version of the concept that will keep it successful. More specifically, here are 5 trends that will shape inbound marketing in 2018 and beyond.
1) Paid and Organic Efforts Blend Together
The pure form of inbound marketing sounds great in theory, but may no longer be realistic in practice. Ideally, all of your efforts are organic, pulling in web visitors for conversions via effective search engine optimization and non-paid social media content.
Reality, of course, is not that simple. SEO still has the potential for immense success, but will need months to take effect. Meanwhile, organic reach on social media is dwindling. As a result, more and more marketers are using paid search and social ads not to push promotional efforts, but to highlight the conversion-focused content to a targeted audience.
2) Machine Learning Has Arrived
Almost every opportunity to publish content is now at least somewhat guided by machine learning. Algorithms on major social networks determine the most relevant content for every user, while Google relies on the concept to update its search algorithm more organically.
As a result, inbound marketing is becoming less formulaic. Rather than following a set of rules you need to optimize your SEO, an emphasis on quality content rises above all else. Machine learning, above all, means one thing: quality and relevance of content will always win in getting your audience's attention.
3) The Field is Becoming Crowded
Remember when content marketing was a novelty? The content-based foundation of inbound marketing is now crowding almost every industry. Almost 90 percent of both B2B and B2C marketers now use content to promote their brand in some way.
The takeaway is obvious: if your competitors do it, you need to do it better. Simply having a business blog is not enough. Instead, you need to find a unique niche of social media, blog, and long-form content that no one else offered. The more relevant to your audience, the better.
4) The Importance of Personal Contact
Throughout digital marketing, it's time to get personal. Human beings innately seek belonging and the human touch, and new technologies have finally made it possible for inbound marketers to accommodate that need.
Above all, live chat is gaining steam. Used correctly, it can raise your conversion rates drastically. But it also provides an outlet for you to offer your audience a direct line that establishes a better relationship than static, impersonal content ever could.
5) Real-Time Content is Here to Stay
Finally, we get to the holy grail of content (and inbound) marketing: real-time content. Wouldn't it be great if your audience could get instant gratification on their brand and content needs? Live chat is just one example of answering that question.
Another: live video. On Facebook, users view live videos longer, and engage more, than any other type of post. In another recent development, email software now allows marketers to deliver content that updates itself each time a user opens the message. Real-time content is here, and ready to make your inbound marketing efforts more relevant.
Building your marketing strategy on the philosophy of inbound marketing remains a great idea. At the same time, a purist approach to the concept according to its original, 2006 rules may doom your promotional efforts.
As the above trends show, inbound marketing is constantly evolving to adjust to modern audience and environmental trends. Is your marketing strategy ready for those changes? With 2018 only a few months away, preparing now will set you up for digital success in the foreseeable future.
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