12 New Realities of Inbound Marketing

There’s one thing for sure in the online marketing world: change.

It’s constantly reinventing, recycling and regenerating into the next phase.

Right when marketing starts to show its wrinkles, in comes a splash from the fountain of youth or some secret anti-aging potion. And a new cycle starts; and marketers scramble for the road map, the recipe and the answers to staying relevant.

Is it the law of attraction?

The law of gravity?


1. It’s the Law of Change

The law of change states that everything is in the process of becoming something else.

Change happens everywhere and with everyone and happens constantly. Kind of tiring, but true.

“There are three main factors that are the causes of change in our life: choice, chance and crisis,” according to best-selling author John Kehoe.

The same holds true for online marketing.

At HubSpot’s INBOUND18, one of the largest marketing conferences in the world, the message was clear – change is in the air. There is a shift happening.

The inbound marketing event, which attracted more than 24,000 attendees, featured 280+ sessions, spotlights, and keynotes.

The result was more than your average marketing takeaways, the agenda left attendees inspired, challenged and walking away with a new reality of what’s happening and what is to come.

2. New Reality – No More Marketing Funnel

The marketing funnel is cracked, broken and just dysfunctional.

“Actually the marketing funnel has officially given notice and retired to Naples, Florida like all snowbirds do,” HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan said in his keynote.

3. Content Lost Its Crown

Content is no longer king. The official agents in charge are now the customers.

Word-of-mouth marketing takes the reins and brands no longer have the power to just push content and expect a party to show up.

“Attract” is so 2010 and “engage” is so uncool it can’t even be called retro.

4. Spin the Wheel, Slow & Steady

Halligan unveiled the new and improved marketing mascot – the Flywheel pointing to the most important aspect in the middle: The customer.

Your customer is in the middle surrounded by three sections:

This new approach comes at a time when trust in marketing is at an all-time low.

Getting results in Google and Facebook are harder than ever.

Let’s face it, most people believe a friend’s recommendation more than they believe Facebook.

The marketing funnel has a beginning and an end with the prospect baited in all aspects.

The Flywheel is circular with an infinite rotation around the customer – always.

5. Customer Experience

That was then:

  • 9-to-5 customer service.
  • Focus on acquisition only.
  • Customer support tickets.
  • Lead gen forms.
  • Siloed teams.
  • Support in English only.
  • Reactive reviews.
  • Your product is 10X better than the competition.

This is now:

  • Chatbots help customers 24/7.
  • Customers have more choices.
  • Focus on customer experience and retention.
  • User experience is a team effort.

Today, smart brands have a dedicated team focused on positive reviews and recommendations. (Ignoring and complaining about Yelp? Keep your enemies close. Start a campaign to reverse the haters.)

Your customer experience is 10X LIGHTER than the competition.

6. Frictionless Is the Key

The investment in making the process as effortless and frictionless as possible is how brand’s are winning the hearts of customers.

Brands like Stitchfix, Warby Parker, and Airstream have been nailing it when it comes to customer obsession.

Today we need to invest in technology to make customers more efficient.

The future is about balancing automation and personalization.

The best customer experience always wins the race.

Making your customers your biggest promoters takes a real plan with support from the top down.

7. Syndication Is the New ‘S’ Word

You don’t have to have a large content marketing or social media team to produce big results.

Gail Axelrod, Director of Opeview, a company that invests in brands such as Calendly and Expensify, shared secrets on how she led her two-person team to scale from 0 to more than 100,000 subscribers.

Tactics such as syndication, building a network of superstar contributors, long form content and turning amazing content into beautifully designed print books work like a mean and lean content engine reaching beyond sales borders and into thought leadership and brand dominance.

Her team scoured sources for published content that resonated with ClearView’s audience. Rather than reinvent the wheel, she asks permission to syndicate giving full credit to the source and author with canonical links.

The result?

Many times this content becomes the brand’s most popular content and leads to the authors/sources becoming exclusive contributors to ClearView’s blog.

Give to get.

Social PR Secret: Using tools like Typeform helps create lightweight surveys and turn data and results into infographics.

8. Video Is Your Content Answer

Embrace it. Be raw. Be real. Go beyond the obvious.

Video today means more than a YouTube channel you publish to a few times a year.

Video is the frictionless way to delight your customers and attract new ones. Some out of the box ways to incorporate video into your strategy right now include:

  • Adding a short intro video to your email signature.
  • Creating a video walking prospects through a proposal.
  • Adding FAQ videos as a source to share and use as a answer bank.
  • Embedding videos in your landing pages.

Social PR Secret: Instagram expert Sue Zimmerman uses FaceTime video to take one-on-one calls after large Facebook Live events. The result? It works to close deals.

Moral of the story? People like actual face time.

9. Messenger Is More Meaningful Than You Think

Not so breaking news: customers and prospects want to interact with a chatbot if it means a pain free, frictionless path to get from point A to point B.

Breaking news: Most brands haven’t adapted a chatbot strategy beyond the obvious customer service.

The time is now.

A chatbot ROI will beat out email results in ways beyond traditional expectations.

“Mari Smith and Larry Kim’s inbound sessions convinced me it was time to stop using social media to blast out promotional content, but instead, embrace one-on-one relationship via Facebook messenger. It’s clear Facebook messenger chats should not be completely automated but have a good balance between automation and human touch,” said Ai Addyson-Zhang, Associate Professor of Communication Studies at Stockton University and digital entrepreneur.

10. Movements of Diversity, Awareness & Responsibility

Inbound keynote Tarana Burke, who started the #MeToo movement back in 2006, reminded us that #MeToo is more than a marketing hashtag that trended in 2017 because of Harvey Weinstein.

It’s about the 12 million people who engaged with the #MeToo hashtag in a 24-hour period. Burke reminds brands that each #MeToo hashtag is a person who suffered from sexual harassment and abuse – each had the courage to raise their hand and say “Me too”. They finally have a safe place to be heard.

What can brands and marketers do?

Go review your sexual harassment policy. If you don’t have one, create one.

Burke encourages each of us to fill in the gaps. Keep the conversation open and the dialogue moving forward.

Should men act different since the #MeToo movement?

“People know where the line is. Women want to exist without men randomly touching them. Men should not act any different than they were before the #MeToo movement and if they feel they need to, then that’s a problem,” Burke noted.

“#INBOUND18 embraced diversity, empowerment, and new perspectives on the field from different approaches,” said Karen Freberg, Ph.D. Associate Professor in Strategic Communications. “Shonda Rhimes, Dan Gingriss, and The Museum of Ice Cream all did this superbly. Marketing, especially social media marketing, has been disrupted.

“Stories, those that spark emotion and delight others, can be the catalyst that separates brands and professionals from the rest of the crowd,” she added. “Embracing uniqueness and those who truly make an impact are the ones standing out from the crowd.”

11. Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality Joins Marketing

We are entering an era in which we are no longer bound to the content we physically produce.

“Now is the time to build your space. The time is now for first-mover advantage… people are looking for content and this is the time to seize the opportunity and build your VR and AR experiences,” said Matthew Cooney, VR/AR Product Manager, Fidelity Investments.

Social PR Secret: For your VR initiatives, don‘t build the class, build the classroom. Invest into a reusable platform for your brand initiatives!

“AR and VR will allow us to play, work, learn, and explore virtual worlds and alternate realities,”  Deepak Chopra noted in the opening keynote.

12. Career Well-Being Is a Function of Business Success

Chopra opened Inbound with a message highlighted career well-being.

It isn’t enough to only look at physical well-being.

We must look at well-being in a holistic manner – physical, mental, emotional, social, community, financial, spiritual, and career well being.

What does this mean?

“Successful businesses are those brands fully engaged and passionate about their business and the people they work with,” Chopra said.

If you work for a company and your boss ignores you, disengagement rises 40 percent. Ironically, if you are criticized at work disengagement rises only 20 percent.

A team member would rather be criticized than ignored because at least someone is paying attention.

On the flip side, if you’re recognized for a just a single strength, disengagement falls to less than 1 percent, said Chopra.

Career well-being has a direct correlation on physical well-being.

If we are stressed, tired, unhappy and unfulfilled at work, it manifests like wildfire to others – including your customers.

Treat your team with the same Flywheel approach – put them in the middle of the circle. Positive culture and passion breeds success. Delight them, they will want to delight you back.

“This year’s INBOUND encouraged me to get more in tune with that voice deep within that knows when things align (or don’t); to take more risks and stop waiting for outside permission; to think more about the stories I tell, and how I tell them; and that I’m so much more knowledgeable than I give myself credit for,” said social media strategist Christine Gritmon.

Whether it’s your brand, marketing, customer service or team building, like with anything, if we want to change the external we must change the internal.

Embracing the law of change allows us to not get stuck and always embrace new ways.

Check out this Inbound After Party Recap via Facebook Live

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Image Credits

Featured Image: Taken by author, September 2018
In-post Photo #1: Taken by author, September 2018
In-post Photo #2: HubSpot