Top Six Inbound Marketing Trends for 2014

2014 is so far shaping up to be a banner year for inbound marketing. When you see the way things are trending for inbound marketing, you’ll be hard-pressed to agree. If there’s one thing that marketers can agree on, it’s that they’re raising their budgets for this type of marketing this year, as they already have last year. As such, it’s no surprise that interruption or outbound marketing continues to see deterioration.

Inbound marketing is anything that provides great value for people, such as blogs, white papers, infographics, social media, podcasts and ebooks. Outbound marketing is the epitome of interruption, as it strives to get people’s attention when they may not necessarily welcome it. Notorious examples include TV ads, radio ads and cold calling.

Of course, not all inbound marketing is created equally; some types are more popular than others, which is reflected in the percentage of marketers who have already increased certain types over others. For instance, content creation’s demand skyrocketed by 70.94% last year, and it’s expected to see another stunning jump in 2014.

So you can be ahead of the curve, let’s look at the top six inbound marketing trends of 2014.

SEO: Companies Are Able to Try Greater Marketing Automation Thanks to Budget Increases

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The SEO industry keeps growing thanks to increased budget allocations. SEO is always a big deal for marketers, as ExactTarget data shows that 73% of marketers are already relying on SEO/SEM in marketing while another 71% already utilize a type of content management platform. The parallels between SEO/SEM and content are due to the fact that both go hand-in-hand.

Based on the same data, marketing automation takes the top spot with regard to where much of the increased budgets are going. It’s important to remember that marketing automation doesn’t market for you; it merely assists in scaling your efforts. That’s understandable when you consider that marketing automation is software that empowers you to nurture sales prospects with very valuable and personalized content that moves them further down the sales funnel into an eventual conversion.

You have to choose the best automation platform, so that your goals are achieved most efficiently. Here is a comprehensive list of marketing automation software that compares and contrasts the different options available to you. It’s definitely worth more than a look!

Content Is Still King: Having a Strategy in Place Is Key

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While a huge number of B2B marketers either plan on or are already laying down a sizable share of their budgets on content in 2014, not all of them are organized enough to actually have a strategy in place to make that happen smoothly. It turns out that just 44% of all B2B marketers actually have a documented (read: in-place) content strategy, but almost 50% don’t! It goes without saying that there is clearly a lot of room for improvement in this planning area.

So how do you go about creating this elusive strategy to pursue your content-creation ambitions? First, identify your target market, so that you can compose content that is perfectly tailor-made for the customers that your company wants to reach. Second, come up with a list of topics, and, third, an actual schedule for your blog posts, which should be published regularly. While this does sound simple, coming up with a schedule will set the organization in place to allow content creation to flourish at your company.

Social: Using the Network Your Demographics Are Fans of Is Super-Smart

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Though Facebook is still the most popular social network for many people, some believe that it may have peaked, at least with younger demographics. Still, the PEW Research Center reports that the site still enjoys the greatest frequency of all social media site use. Yes, it’s still the top dog, but there’s a lot more complexity that you should take away from this.

Marketing through social media only gets effective when you actually use the specific channels that your target market is using! Let’s say your product or service is mainly patronized by the female demographic. Well, right there, you should know to use Pinterest for social media marketing efforts, just because 33% of all women in the U.S. use it.

To decide where to dedicate your marketing time and effort, check the cross tabulation of social media sites for your target demographic. This is provided that you have the wherewithal in the first place to focus on more than one social network for marketing purposes.

Mobile: Your 2014 Should Be Dominated by Responsive Design

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What’s responsive design? It’s essentially designing a mobile site so that it renders properly and perfectly on a handheld device, just as when you access the desktop version of the site. You need to make sure your site is responsive since the number of people (read: potential customers) who are using handheld devices (smartphones or tablets) is surging. It would naturally be foolhardy to miss out on this huge demographic.

It’s also important to understand why the number of people using handheld devices is surging—because more are growing dependent on them. According to PEW, 44% of those who own mobile phones actually sleep with their mobile phones next to their bed! Talk about really being attached to your handheld device!

In marketing terms, this boils down to this: 2014 is the year that you should make a commitment (if you haven’t already) to creating either a responsive site or a mobile app. If you don’t, then you’re simply losing out on more business.

Local Mobile Searches: Ensure You Show up in Local Searches Since They’re Proven Conversions

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This is one that combines the power of staying in touch with your local base and good, effective SEO. Local searches have only gotten more and more popular throughout 2013, and that trend is only going to keep skyrocketing all throughout this year. You can’t be left out in the cold, or else you will be losing a highly profitable and sizable chunk of your business prospects.

We’ve already established that mobile use keeps going up, and one of the most natural follow throughs regarding this is an increase in local searches. Hey, it makes perfect sense when you think about it: You’re out and about, and you’re going to use your mobile phone to find businesses and services that are meaningful and useful to you in your neck of the woods. Research already confirms that as much as 88% of local mobile searches end up converting by way of a phone call or an in-person visit within 24 hours!

Therefore, by failing to manage your local SEO effectively, you’re really only helping your competitors and hurting yourself.

Email: If You Seek Low-Cost and Very Valuable Marketing, Then Go With Email

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Although this way of marketing is very traditional, it still stands the test of time by continuing to show healthy growth. According to ExactTarget, 98% of all marketers have plans to rev up their marketing spending in 2014, and marketing spending increases on email will amount to 58%. It’s easy to see why email marketing continues to be a favorite among marketers:

  • It’s among the lowest cost per lead
  • It produces a high quantity leads
  • It produces high-quality leads

The lifecycle campaign success of email marketing is also solid, which further confirms why it’s still very popular today. According to the ExactTarget survey mentioned above, email marketing has proved successful with regard to:

  • Customer Loyalty (almost 50% of marketers rate it as excellent or very good)
  • Birthdays (almost 45% of marketers rate it as excellent or very good)
  • Browsing retargeting/Cart abandonment/Welcome series (more than 40% of marketers rate it as excellent or very good)

So as you can see, email is the old mainstay that still delivers. This is also in part thanks to marketers’ efforts to finally understand what their customers like and dislike in emails, which has led to reductions in spammy types of emails and emails that weren’t personalized.

Inbound Marketing Is Strong

It’s more than safe to say that inbound marketing will be strong for 2014 and beyond. This newer and smarter way of marketing that understands prospects better and delivers greater value of content to them is all the rage. Marketers and companies have already seen great results from this approach in past years, which helps to explain why the trends discussed above involve marketers increasing budgets for inbound efforts.

We know it’s a cliché, but the old phrase “content is king” is still as true as ever. Among all forms of inbound marketing, companies are committed to increasing their budgets for content creation the most in 2014, but analytics and social media marketing are following closely on its heels.

That said, if there’s one disappointing revelation in the trends that we’ve uncovered, it’s that most companies still fail to have a dedicated content-creation strategy in place! After looking at all this data and where trends are going, that’s a serious mistake for any company, business or marketer that wants to have a good year and succeed with its ad efforts.

The bottom line is this: If you’re still relying 100% on outbound marketing, you’re going to be losing traction soon. If you’re putting a serious inbound strategy together, complete with a dedicated budget allocation, then you should see great times ahead for your company in the coming year!

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