The eighth annual HubSpot State of Inbound Marketing report is here! Each year, this valuable resource provides insight into the ways marketers are generating results today—and how they plan to do so in the future.
One thing this year’s report makes perfectly clear is that content is just as important in marketing strategies as ever—but the same old content is no longer cutting it. Smart marketers are making some significant shifts in their content strategies, and those shifts provide insight into the future of content marketing.
We dove into the 2016 State of Inbound report to find the three biggest shifts smart marketers are making to their content strategies. Take the lessons we’ve gleaned from this data, and consider making adjustments to your own company’s content strategy to make it as effective as possible!
Shift #1: Focusing on lead-to-customer conversion
Marketers are recognizing more than ever that it’s not enough to simply attract an audience. In order to generate a clear return on investment for their efforts, that audience needs to start turning into new business.
In the next 12 months, 74% of marketers say that one of their top priorities is converting leads to customers.
Interestingly, the progression of marketers’ top priorities has followed the same path as the good ol’ inbound methodology. Back in 2013, marketers’ number one focus was reaching a relevant audience (Attract). Over the next couple of years, the strategy shifted to increasing the number of contacts and leads (Convert). Now, in 2016, marketers say their top priority is converting those leads to customers (Close).
According to the 2016 State of Inbound report report, marketers’ top strategy for converting more leads to customers is growing their organic presence by writing more blog content.
66% of organizations say that blog content creation is a top inbound marketing priority in the next 12 months.
“What are your company’s top inbound marketing priorities over the next 12 months?”
Since the report also indicated that a top sales priority for companies in the next year is closing more deals, it seems marketers are actively shifting their blogging strategies from simply attracting traffic to aligning with the sales goals of their organizations.
Why does this shift in priorities also require a shift in content strategy? Because a prospect’s needs change as they move through the process of learning about the solutions to their pain. In the awareness stage, leads don’t want to hear about a specific brand or product—they want information about their problem from an expert source. In the consideration stage, the lead isn’t ready to be sold—they need more information about your solution. Finally, in the decision stage, leads are ready to talk to a sales rep—and that calls for specific product or service information.
By now, many marketers have grasped the idea of creating content that attracts website visitors and converts them to leads. Now, they’re focused on using an elevated content strategy to support Sales in converting those leads into new business.
Shift #2: Changing up content formats
For the past three years in a row, content distribution and amplification has held the number three spot in the list of marketers’ top priorities. Now, however, marketers are planning on ramping up their efforts by adding new distribution channels to their strategies. And along with new channels comes new content formats.
The interest in new channels and content formats is a result of trying to align marketing priorities with the kinds of content customers actually want to consume. According to the 2016 HubSpot Future of Content Marketing report, people want to see more social media posts, news articles, and videos—so marketers are planning on investing resources into diversifying their content with multimedia.
Which content formats are getting marketers most excited?
- Video. In the next 12 months, nearly 50% of marketer plan to add YouTube to their marketing efforts, and 39% plan to add Facebook Video.
- Photos. 33% of marketers plan to distribute content on Instagram in the next 12 months, and 13% plan to add Snapchat to their repertoire.
- Messaging Apps. This channel is relatively new to the marketing mix, but marketers are jumping on board as they strategize ways to reach consumers outside of email. 5% are planning on using Slack for marketing in the next 12 months, and 20% are planning on using other messaging apps (such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and WeChat).
“What distribution channels do you plan to add to your marketing efforts in the next 12 months?”
Shift #3: Increasing the investment in content creation
Content has been a core aspect of most marketers’ strategies for a while now, and marketing teams use a wide range of resources to write their blog content. But participation in content creation is seeing higher rates in 2016 than ever before.
“Who writes your content?”
Last year (2015), staff wrote blog articles at 41% of organizations. This year, there was a massive leap in the participation level of staff in creating content, jumping up to 71%. An equally impressive increase can be seen in the amount of executives contributing to content creation.
In fact, across the board marketers are investing more time and resources in generating content. That makes sense, since marketers’ top priorities in 2016 are increasing their organic reach through blogging while supporting Sales with conversion-driven content. With the wide range of distribution channels marketers are incorporating into their strategies, an abundance of engaging content is a necessity.
No content strategy is ever set in stone. Based on ever-changing goals, priorities and technologies, marketers are shifting their strategies to be even more successful at solving their audiences’ challenges and providing content they actually want.