The New Rules of Marketing [2020 Edition]

Marketing your business is both an art and a science — and the industry is rapidly evolving as the audience you’re trying to reach is changing.

In some ways, this makes it one of the sciences with the fastest rates of turnover, since you are actively trying to match, or exceed, the pace of the culture to which you’re marketing.

But if you aren’t able to adapt to or anticipate the pressures of the market, your marketing efforts are essentially setting money on fire.

As a company — especially now in the wake of COVID-19 — you can’t afford to be inflexible with your voice and presence when reaching customers.

While adaptable, your marketing efforts also need to be a tight ship. You don’t want your messaging to come across as insensitive.

The newest generation of customers is highly alert, especially of their influence as cultural drivers, and they will quickly shut down any brand they perceive as “invasive.”

Here, let’s dive into the new “rules of marketing” you’ll want to lean into as you move forward in your marketing efforts in 2020 and beyond.

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Rules of Marketing

While the marketing landscape is ever-changing, there are some foundational elements that are timeless: static ideals that aren’t going to become obsolete.

For instance, one of the unchangeable rules of marketing is that you must use personal context in your marketing efforts to receive the highest quality results. The difference now is how you plan to deliver that context in a relevant way.

This means you need to be more aware of the needs of your client and consumer than ever before. Access to the internet and its complete integration into our culture means that your customers have a greater ability to research exactly who you are — and they aren’t afraid to use it.

Therefore, your marketing team needs to be as active and alert as the consumer you’re trying to target — and it means your marketing approach needs to be genuine, relevant, and customer-focused. This is the heart of modern marketing, also referred to as “inbound marketing.”

1. How you treat people with your marketing is a reflection of your brand.

I think we’ve all heard the phrase “the customer is always right” a time or two in our lives. That might be a cliché, but it’s one that rings true. Even when potential or existing customers are upset, they’re paying attention to how businesses react to scenarios that they directly identify with or feel represents them.

To avoid the kind of negative press that comes with saying one thing and doing another, your marketing needs to hit home that it’s there to meet your customer’s needs while actively following through on that unspoken promise.

To do this, you might start by creating a marketing campaign that includes:

  • Responsive live-chat messaging that gets answers to your customers sooner.
  • Upbeat customer service emails — without canned generalizations — and modern signature etiquette.
  • Curating careful content that takes an empathetic stance on an issue relating to your client — or no stance at all.
  • Following up on every customer review with a positive response and solution showing your appreciation for their feedback and business. This one needs to be both organic and professional.

2. More than ever, you need to get to know your customer.

You need to dig into what makes your customers tick — but not only in the moment. The core values each of your clients have drive their current and future responses to your marketing.

If you were a doctor, this would be like trying to treat the cause rather than just addressing the symptoms.

This is very easy to get wrong — with disastrous results for those who miss having the right “tone” in their marketing.

To do this correctly, take the time when developing your strategies to ask yourself:

  • What kind of deeply-ingrained pain points do my ideal clients have?
  • Do I offer products, services, or other solutions that solve these problems?
  • Which keywords are going to attract and engage customers and support my inbound marketing approach?
  • What kind of in-depth research do I need when creating a marketing persona that accurately reflects my potential clients?

3. Give your customers results-oriented content.

Once you know more about who you’re trying to serve, you can deliver better service.

Customers want to see results, but the modern consumer also wants to know how you arrived there — and if the convenience and relief they are paying for comes from an ethical standpoint.

This also gives you an opportunity to circle back and delight your customers by reminding them why you’re worth what they pay. This is something that can be carefully managed with automation, depending on your client base — but your marketing team should always have their fingers on the pulse of your programs and be ready to make changes.

At Rent Bridge, this is one of the many reasons why we love working within the HubSpot framework: it allows our marketing team to make quick, responsive changes on the fly both for our property management customers and ourselves alike.

To provide results-oriented content, consider trying some of the following tips:

  • Show your customers how your business’s products or services solve their problems in a way that acknowledges them as more than a dollar sign.
  • Stay current without appearing opportunistic: your clients are smart, and they can tell when you’re being real with your sense of understanding or if you’re just milking the moment.
  • Continue to provide well-researched content for your clients to drive organic growth, and update what isn’t working to keep your quality consistent.

Digital Marketing Rules

You already know by now how crucial your online presence is when trying to reach your ideal customer. If you haven’t already invested some of your marketing resources in email, social media, and your website, your business may suffer unless you make this a priority moving forward.

However, some methods are more successful than others when it comes to engaging with the modern customer.

1. Provide quick insights.

Customers can usually tell within three to five seconds whether your website contains what they’re looking for — or if they should be giving your content a hard pass. In marketing, this is often referred to as “The Blink Test” and it makes infographics one of the best ways to deliver value to your customers.

This kind of imagery is not only scannable, but it delivers critical information that your customer needs. People process digital messages 60,000 times faster than text, making infographics one of the most effective ways of engaging with customers — especially on social media.

However, you also need to make sure that your content can be interacted with by a diverse range of customers — including those who might not be able to see your content. The last thing you want your business to appear to be is exclusionary.

2. Make finding you easier.

More than 60% of smartphone users have tried voice search services at least one time within the past 12 months, and 55% of teenagers use it daily. Many of these services include Google’s voice search, Alexa by Amazon, and Apple’s Siri.

That means digital marketers must focus on keyword research that supports voice search. That way, their business shows up in results when their audience utilizes these services.

Email Marketing Rules

If you’re doing your email marketing right, there’s no need for it to be boring.

At Rent Bridge, we tap into email as a core component of our “delight” approach to marketing (another facet of the inbound marketing philosophy). Email should be a crucial element of any future marketing campaigns you intend to build.

If you consider the statistics available from Oberlo that by the year 2023, the number of consumers with ready access to email is expected to be 4.3 billion, then you’ll quickly see that this is still a powerful tool to reach current and future clients.

With such a high number of users turning to email for their communication needs, that means you must know email marketing etiquette and how to implement this successfully.

1. Make your call-to-action pop.

If you want your potential and current customers to act, your call to action (CTA) must be to the point.

Take a look at The Complete Checklist for Creating Compelling Calls-to-Action for more tips on CTAs.

2. Focus on one product or service.

Offering more than one product or service in an email confuses readers and inundates them with too much information. Too much choice in an email can also muddle the effectiveness of your CTA.

3. Make sure it’s personalized.

In addition to the greeting, the customer’s name should be in the body of the message as well.

For example, when talking about your product or service, insert the customer’s name in the middle of a sentence to engage them at a deeper level. If you’re using automation for your marketing emails, this is crucial to include.

4. Create clickable images.

Creating clickable images with a tracking URL helps you understand when readers are clicking internal links and images in messages. Alternatively, you might try embedding video and keeping track of who clicks on the video in your email.

5. Use plenty of space.

Instead of clustering links or other content close together, space things out to make the message easier to scan and links more clickable.

6. Keep it simple.

While we all might love creating colorful email messages full of imagery, video, and other content, that isn’t optimal for those with a slow connection. So, offer faster loading email options for those who prefer plain text.

7. Don’t forget the subject.

Subject lines should pique interest, give clients a sense of urgency, and be relevant to their needs.

Social Media Marketing Rules

Learning how to market on social media platforms is an integral part of your business’s success in 2020 and beyond. Digging into the statistics for each platform is an excellent way to understand trends and where you should be focusing your efforts.

According to Statista, during quarter one of 2020, Facebook reached 2.6 million monthly active users.

However, data also reveals that the United States leans heavily on LinkedIn, with active users totaling 160 million as of April 2020.

The platform you choose depends completely on understanding more about your ideal client.

1. Develop content your audience finds valuable.

Your audience doesn’t want to see posts about your products or services. They want to see stories about ways your company can solve their pain points.

2. Focus on reputable content.

Does the content you’re posting put your company’s reputation at risk? Are you responding to comments in ways that are damaging?

Social media focuses on conversations, no matter if they’re in groups or happening one-on-one. Your content should focus on stirring up that engagement in a positive way.

3. Collaborate and engage.

Your social media marketing should include authenticity and transparency each time you engage with your audience. Look at the conversations happening in your network and think of ways your company can contribute valuable information.

4. Don’t force engagement.

In today’s business climate, your audience has the convenience of interacting with your company on their terms. That means businesses aren’t talking “at” their customers to force engagement.

Instead, they’re developing deeper relationships that foster targeted conversations. This ties right back into the principles of inbound marketing.

5. Automate within reason.

While you should have some content prepared ahead of time to keep engagement high, the platform you post with should allow you to be flexible enough to change your content at the drop of a hat.

Now that you know the direction marketing is heading, how will you respond as a company? Your response to the changing desires of your clients should always address their fundamental needs.

This allows you to build a business that is both agile and stable, rather than directed by whim or whatever new marketing technique catches your eye. At Rent Bridge, we call the latter “random acts of marketing,” and it’s one of the easiest ways to dilute your message as a business and sabotage your brand-building efforts.

Ultimately, to be a profitable company, you need your marketing to be both genuine and trendy, stable and flexible. This dichotomy in business is partially what makes inbound marketing paired with a careful amount of automation so powerful for the growth of companies today.

Shelter your efforts from instability by returning to your “Why” with your marketing efforts (one of the new rules of marketing), and your content will be genuine from the start.

Marketing Plan Template

Originally published Aug 25, 2020 12:00:00 PM, updated August 25 2020


Marketing Strategy

8 Ways Digital Rewards Can Help Marketers to Stand Out

Many of us scroll past ads in our newsfeed, delete emails, or even run to the bathroom during commercial breaks.

As consumers, we’re constantly bombarded with advertisements and calls-to-action. This is the challenge of marketing: campaigns are everywhere.

And, if campaigns are everywhere, they can be easier to tune out and ignore.

In fact, social click-through rates on ads went from 2.6% in late 2018 to 2% in late 2019, a sure sign that social media users have advertising fatigue.

Ultimately, marketers need to try increasingly new and innovative approaches to grab consumers’ attention. Marketers work hard daily to create the exception: a message that can’t be ignored.

Here, we’re going to dive into one innovative strategy that could help marketers’ stand out in 2020: digital rewards.

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Digital Rewards: The Secret Weapon for Standing Out

Digital rewards are e-gift cards, either from retailers or virtual Visa/Mastercards that can be delivered in an instant via a link or email. These virtual rewards can help you stand out against competitors.

More often than not, marketers ask for consumer’s attention without much upfront benefit. Every time consumers see marketing campaigns, they make a decision within seconds — and it often follows the logic of, “if I click this Facebook ad, am I really going to buy this product?” They risk spending valuable time evaluating a purchase, but then ultimately decide not to. Digital rewards minimize that risk by creating tangible upfront value.

In addition, digital rewards are a kind gesture that lets a prospective customer know you value their time. It’s a way of recognizing their engagement and saying “thank you” for their attention. Gift giving is a classic way that humans show warmth and appreciation for others.

Digital rewards enable you to tap into this age-old societal practice and modernize it for the virtual era. By sending personalized digital rewards, you create human connections despite physical distance.

Because digital rewards are a lesser-known tool, you may be wondering how to incorporate them into your current marketing strategy. Below are eight ways to boost marketing campaigns with digital rewards to accelerate engagement and maximize campaign ROI.

Digital Rewards Strategies and Examples

1. Host incentivized webinars for your target audience.

What this looks like: “Attend our live webinar for a $10 thank you gift!”

Why you should do it: Incentivized webinars make it easier for consumers to evaluate your product. Additionally, the upfront value excites consumers and makes these webinars much more effective at lead generation than typical webinars.

Plus, the reward delivery email can be prime real estate to feature follow-up content and calls-to-action. Consumers tend to be more willing to provide data in exchange for coupons, loyalty points, or rewards, making it a powerful tool in accelerating the buyer’s journey.

2. Compensate prospects and customers for taking surveys and sharing feedback.

What this looks like: “Tell us how you’re liking our latest update for a $15 reward.”

Why you should do it: Brand goodwill will come naturally when your consumers feel that you value their time and feedback. Simply saying you appreciate their feedback doesn’t do much to motivate a survey response. Digital rewards create motivation so you can worry less about representative bias and get the answers you need.

In other words, you don’t have to worry about feedback from people who only love or hate your product. You want to capture everyone’s feelings, and digital rewards can motivate the otherwise neutral crowd. With accurate data, your company will have the insights to adapt swiftly to shifting consumer preferences. Most importantly, your consumers will know you truly value what they have to say.

3. Leverage rewards within your ABM program.

What this looks like: Asking for a meeting with a key contact and sending a $25 reward as a thank you for their time.

Why you should do it: If you know you want a customer, digital rewards are a great way to show you appreciate their time. Digital rewards can be a powerful tool to fast track an ABM campaign and get the attention of the right people. Everyone loves receiving gifts, and digital rewards can be the perfect gift for relationship building.

4. Create a referral marketing program to turn your customers into brand advocates.

What this looks like: “Get a $10 reward when you refer a friend. When your friend makes their first purchase, they will also get a $10 reward as a welcome from our team.”

Why you should do it: An effective referral marketing program turns your customers into your second sales team. A University of Chicago study found that non-cash incentives are 24% more effective at boosting performance than cash incentives. Digital rewards for referrals can be an effective lead generation tool that also establishes brand loyalty and goodwill with existing customers.

5. Boost your brand’s online reputation by rewarding customers for writing a review.

What this looks like: “Write a review of our software on Yelp or TrustPilot for a $5 reward.”

Why you should do it: Thanking customers for providing feedback builds brand goodwill. Their reviews will help you leverage word-of-mouth marketing and tap into new audiences who may be shopping for a product like yours.

6. Establish customer appreciation programs.

What this looks like: “Thanks for being a loyal customer! Here’s a $10 reward for lunch on us.”

Why you should do it: Customer appreciation programs establish brand goodwill, increase customer satisfaction, and develop long-term loyalty. Recognize and celebrate customer achievements and milestones with digital rewards. These happy customers will be more likely to engage in positive word-of-mouth marketing for your brand.

7. Reward prospects for attending a product demo.

What this looks like: “Join a brief 15-min demo for a $5 reward.”

Why you should do it: Digital rewards show people you appreciate their time right away. Pairing them with demos helps jumpstart the buyer’s journey and get your Product team the feedback they need to ensure a great product. Like the incentivized webinar, use the follow-up reward email to your advantage by offering more content and calls-to-action.

8. Host a giveaway as a reward for promoting your product or service on social media.

What this looks like: “Post about us on your Instagram to win a $20 reward!”

Why you should do it: Digital rewards can help your brand kick off an influencer marketing campaign without the transactional pressure cash creates. Plus, showing prospects you value their time and social audiences with a reward creates a positive relationship and can help your brand reach new audiences.

However, you don’t want to give $20 to everyone who posts about you on their social pages — it could result in thousands of lost revenue without much to gain.

Instead, host a giveaway where the first 100 posters will receive a reward in exchange for re-sharing your post on their story and tagging a friend in the comments. That way, everyone feels as if they have a legitimate chance to win, and you still have dollars left in your marketing budget!

With the right incentives management platform, you can easily automate these limits and avoid any budget disasters.

There’s lots of ideas above for you to consider, but here’s the good news: you’re probably already executing most of these ideas in some capacity, so just take a step back and see how you can add digital rewards into your current marketing strategy.

Digital rewards are easy to set up and a quick addition to your marketing toolbox, making them a nifty trick to keep handy when you need a boost. An extra bonus is you can easily integrate digital rewards into your HubSpot workflows. “Request to connect” our Rybbon digital rewards app found within the HubSpot Marketplace. Experiment with digital rewards in your next campaign and let the results speak for itself!

Marketing Plan Template

Originally published Aug 3, 2020 7:00:00 AM, updated August 03 2020


Marketing Strategy

The Key Role Technical Marketing Can Play in Content Strategy

Technical marketing is a key aspect of a successful content marketing strategy, particularly if your organization deals with complex products and services.

But it can be difficult when your marketers don’t have a firm understanding of the technical aspects behind your product.

Without technical expertise, your marketing team likely has a difficult time executing on content that will resonate with your core audience and — ultimately — turning readers into customers.

In this blog, we’ll take a look at why technical marketing is so important, as well as the skills necessary to successfully implement it as part of your wider marketing strategy.

But first, let’s take a look at what technical marketing actually is.

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What is technical marketing?

Technical marketing may be a confusing term, with differing definitions.

In more recent times, it has been used to reference the technology increasingly used in the marketing industry.

Historically, however, it refers to a specific type of marketing that focuses primarily on the specifications and, of course, ‘technical’ aspects of a product or service. It’s this second understanding that we will be focusing on.

This type of marketing centers on exactly how a product or service works, and therefore the detail of exactly how it will benefit the user. This is typically more necessary in technical fields where the products are more complex such as engineering electronics, and equally in other complex areas such as finance.

Why is technical marketing important?

Technical marketing is a crucial part of any marketing strategy, particularly when consumers are very knowledgeable about the subject matter and have a detailed understanding of the product or service.

More generalist marketing, and providing more of an ‘overview’ of a product, is not likely to cut it with these consumers — they require more in-depth information. Technical marketing is therefore a necessary component of content strategy, in order to engage, attract, and delight a more technical audience.

Since Google’s Medic Update, there’s been a huge spotlight on EAT-ing, or content that demonstrates Expertise, Authority & Trust.

Positioning content that covers technical aspects of a service or product, then, should also help to improve rankings… if it’s done properly.

So, technical marketing is clearly a key part of your marketing strategy. But how do you achieve it?

Technical Marketing Skills

To successfully incorporate technical marketing into your content strategy, there are some key skills that your technical marketing team will need to hone.

Let’s break this down into content marketing as a whole, qualities required of a technical marketing manager, and those of a technical marketing writer.

Technical Content Marketing

Technical content marketing should play just as big of a role in your content strategy as any other marketing activity.

Marketing is all about understanding your audience’s needs and pain points, and navigating them towards a useful solution. Yet typically, this form of marketing will require an even greater dose of creativity, with a need to continually search for new avenues to make technical and complex products and services fascinating, and arrive in the hands of the right people.

To incorporate technical content marketing into content planning and wider strategy, we’ve put together some key considerations and essentials:

  • Targeting a range of areas. Considered purchases such as those that require technical marketing might need content targeting multiple stakeholders, and various pain points, if your product affects several business areas. For instance, sales-driven technical content, marketing, accounts etc. For this reason, you’ll have to really contextualize and hone in on your personas pain points, and how best to approach them.
  • Targeted content offers. Talking about in-depth topics through different content platforms and communicating about the product in a more thorough manner assumes a level of knowledge with prospects, thereby attracting a better fit and more qualified visits to your website. Consider technical readouts, product demos, user manuals, setup checklists, training materials, or online courses. Technical video tends to be a great format, but you’ll need to judge what works best for your market!
  • Think about all of the buyer’s journey stages. Come up with consideration and decision-stage content or flesh out personas based on common specification questions. Case studies on specific use cases and scenarios will help build trust and establish fit, and help consumers to better weigh up the product or service. And don’t forget the delight stage content! Improve the retention of your products and services, and create real brand advocates through FAQ’s, How-to’s, and videos.
  • “Versus” and “Or”. You need to understand and cater to comparison-focused searches such as “versus” and “or” in your content planning. “Your product vs. competitor product” is a key stage in the consideration phase of your prospective buyer’s journey. For example, prospective TV buyers might search for “OLED vs. QLED model benefits”.
  • Think about how you can upsell. If customers are engaging with advice and help-driven content, you may be able to identify opportunities to upsell! For example, if an existing customer views or downloads information on higher product tiers, or functionality available in paid add-ons, your sales team might reach out to discuss potential upgrades.
  • Work backwards. This may sound counterintuitive, but start from the feature. You’re probably used to the following formula: persona > pain point > search term research > advice-driven content > relevant product or service. Yet, if this starting information isn’t available to you, or your personas pain points aren’t well-defined, you can reverse engineer the process. For instance, let’s say you’re a HubSpot Partner and you want to better promote the chatbot software to your SaaS personas … you may write content about how automating routine support questions improves service team response times. This way, you can target your content around the product in the most helpful way.

Technical Marketing Manager

So what does it take to be a technical marketing manager and to implement all of the above into your content marketing strategy? There are certainly some key characteristics necessary to this role, and some definite skills to hone. Here are some of the most important aspects to consider:

  • Public speaking skills. This may be unexpected, but it’s an incredibly important skill in technical marketing, as part of a wider content marketing strategy. Given that the content that tends to perform well are conferences, video, and presentations, a technical marketing manager must be able to communicate technical aspects in this thought leadership setting.
  • Training skills. Similarly, another content form that lends itself well to this style of marketing is training courses on the products and services offered. Great training skills are therefore necessary, both for online and in-person technical training.
  • Big picture view. It’s essential that a technical marketing manager has wider business knowledge, to understand the ROI for the specific product, as well as the product’s use cases. Wider industry knowledge is also a must, with an understanding of complementary or substitute products on the market. For example, if you think about your prospect’s existing subscriptions or tool stack, a detailed overview of the specifications and limitations of your product will highlight where your offering will complement or overlap with their existing tools.
  • Deal with objections. With more involvement in business operations, your concrete understanding of your product’s specifications will be necessary to better explain where the features are adding value.
  • Problem-solving. Ultimately, marketing is all about helping consumers solve their problems. It’s therefore important to be consultative and empathetic, allowing you to explore and further advise prospect’s decision-making processes by continually looking at specific needs, and aligning features and uses of the product to this.
  • An honest and understanding approach. As well as being empathetic, it’s also important to be helpful so that prospects make the most informed decisions on product fit and commitment. Consider questions like, ‘Does the service offering tick all their boxes? How much time and money will they need to commit to adopt your product?’

Ultimately, all of this comes down to the technical marketing manager’s strategic planning ability. It’s not just about all of this information that you’ve gathered from the industry and personas, but what you do with it.

You have to think about how best to engage a technical audience, which takes real time, planning, and market research, as well as how this may fit in with wider business goals.

Technical Marketing Writer

So we’ve looked at how you incorporate technical marketing into your strategy, as well as who’s responsible for the overarching goals, but we’re forgetting one exceptionally key piece of the puzzle: the technical marketing writer.

A technical marketing writer has a real responsibility to commit these ideas to paper (or video, as the case may be). Their content will be the driving force behind better qualified leads.

Here are a few aspects of content you’ll want any technical marketing writer to understand:

  • The content needs to live and breathe the product or service it’s related to, and the audience that desires it. Whether this be through product descriptions, web pages, or more general industry-related content that will drive traffic.
  • It’s not just a strategist that needs technical knowledge — the writer themselves will need a full understanding of a product or services’ USPs, abilities and benefits. And this should outweigh the understanding of the customer — there should be no questions left unanswered.
  • Similarly, this technical knowledge is essential for those that are putting pen to paper. They need to have the ability to best showcase the technical data of the product or service to position the company as an expert in the field.
  • They’ll also need strong research skills to get up-to-date knowledge on wider market trends, as well as the ability to retain and communicate this information to consumers, and showcase it in communication such as newsletters.
  • They will, of course, need to be an excellent writer. As we have seen, you need to understand your personas from a content platform perspective, but you’ll also need to know how to write for them. This includes tone of voice: is it appropriate to write it simplistically? Or will it be more fitting to include industry jargon?

Ultimately, technical marketing can be a really important component of your content marketing strategy if your industry or products and services lend themselves to it.

Technical marketing can help you attract more qualified leads and showcase your company as an expert in the industry. Create a clear technical marketing strategy so that you can cut through the marketing noise, and deliver an exciting and engaging message to your audience.

Marketing Plan Template

Originally published Jul 30, 2020 7:00:00 AM, updated July 30 2020


Marketing Strategy

5 Ways Go-to-Market Strategies Will Change in the Post-Pandemic Economy

This article is part of a series on how business is changing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Other pieces in the series include HubSpot’s Chief Customer Officer on Why We Need to Talk About Growth and our VP of Marketing’s Content Marketing Playbook for Times of Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic has produced a plethora of paradoxes.

As the rate of employment has gone down, the stock market has surged. As we find ourselves more socially distant from one another, we’re connecting more than ever with friends and family. And as growth has slowed for many companies, their digital transformation has accelerated. Dramatically.

Companies in nearly every industry have urgently adopted remote tools to allow them to support employees working from home. Millions of marketers have quickly signed up to automation software to help them move their entire marketing strategy online. And brick-and-mortar retailers have hastily acquired website management systems to enable them to spin up ecommerce sites.

Plans for gradual, carefully managed digital transformation have been torn asunder by the pandemic, and the changes that many leaders thought would take years to implement have taken place in a matter of weeks. Entire industries are now waking up in a digitally transformed world awash with new opportunities … and unknowns.

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Is a remote workforce a threat to productivity or a boon for hiring? Is a fully online marketing strategy going to bring companies and customers closer together, or drive them further apart? Are rapidly adopted tech tools going to stimulate internal alignment or drive a wedge between teams?

These are the questions that companies are asking themselves as they rewrite their go-to-market strategies and charge headlong into the new economic era. The answers will largely depend on whether they welcome the tides of change or attempt to row against them. Because, with change always comes opportunity, and the businesses that view this period of upheaval as a chance to create efficient new processes, upskill employees, and better serve their customers are the ones most likely to thrive in the coming years.

To help businesses navigate their digital transformation journey with success, we’ve put together a list of five key ways in which go-to-market strategies are changing, along with advice on how to adapt to each.

1. Outside Selling ➜ Inside Selling

The pandemic has turned outside sales teams into inside sales teams overnight. And while some companies may view this change as temporary, most will witness first hand the benefits that come with inside selling and commit long-term to the model.

In the digitally transformed world, prospects and decision-makers are less likely to be located in the same office — or even in the same territory — making it all the more difficult for outside salespeople to arrange meetings. Inside selling, however, gives salespeople the opportunity to connect with prospects at any time, from any location.

Tools like live chat, 1:1 asynchronous video, and sequences — which allow sellers to schedule personalized follow-up emails to prospects — are now available as standard with many sales software products. These features enable salespeople to adapt how they sell to the way prospects want to buy and allow them to increase their productivity without losing the personal connection that comes with outside selling. In fact, inside sales teams make 43% more phone calls, leave 10% more voicemails, and send 9% more emails than organizations predominantly made up of outside sales people.

On top of that, 85% of consumers now conduct online research before making a purchase decision, meaning salespeople’s time is better spent building relationships and providing prospects with helpful information online rather than placing the majority of their focus on running in-person demos.

To successfully adapt to an inside sales model, companies should seek out sales software that’s user-friendly enough to allow their salespeople to get started quickly, while also powerful enough to provide them with a centralized view of customer data — an essential ingredient to delivering a personalized experience to prospects, even without meeting in-person. Sales leaders should also provide training to their teams on how to run effective demos online and set up webcams in a way that’s professional without being impersonal. According to Gong, using a webcam in sales calls increases the likelihood of closing a deal by an eye-catching 41%.

2. Offline Marketing ➜ Online Marketing

If there is one image that illustrates the fact the marketing world is moving from offline to online during the pandemic, it’s that of empty billboards. From Tokyo to Toronto, outdoor advertising canvases that were once in high demand have been left blank as marketers pour all of their resources into online channels. And in most industries, it’s likely to remain that way.

When a marketing strategy is fully online, it enables marketers to manage their budgets and strategies by metrics. Everything from webpage traffic and email open rates to social media engagement and digital ad ROI can be measured accurately, giving marketers a deep insight into which channels are the most effective at engaging customers. It also allows marketers to keep pace with rapid shifts in consumer behavior and adjust messaging and budgets in a matter of hours — something that takes weeks, or even months, to do with offline channels like TV and outdoor advertising.

Never have these benefits been more visible than in recent months. As many offline channels have gone quiet during the pandemic, online engagement between consumers and companies has reached record heights. According to HubSpot data, website site traffic increased by 16% from Q1 to Q2, and marketing email open rates were 18% above pre-COVID-19 levels by the beginning of Q3. Companies that were already invested in these channels have not only been able to stay engaged with customers throughout the current crisis, they have been able to quickly adjust the tone of their messaging to reflect the times and communicate important information to their audiences in a timely manner.

Companies that are embracing fully online marketing strategies for the first time should be cautious, however, to not open up too many new digital channels all at once. Doing so could overwhelm marketing teams as they’re coming to terms with new tools and tactics, and create a disjointed experience for customers. Instead, marketers should prioritize a small number of new tactics, set goals for each, and implement a system to measure progress. For example, instead of setting up accounts on every social media channel at once, which could be difficult to manage, marketers should choose one or two platforms that suit their brand and seek to build an engaged audience there before branching out. Similarly, teams seeking to implement an email marketing strategy for the first time should choose software that includes analytics features like A/B testing in order to closely monitor what’s resonating with audiences.

3. Traditional Customer Service ➜ Self-Service

During the pandemic, the volume of customer-initiated chat interactions has increased by 45%, and self-service options like this will go from being a “nice to have” to a “must have” in the eyes of consumers in the digitally transformed world.

When a business empowers its customers to self-serve, everyone wins. Automated chat, for example, helps customers find solutions to issues more quickly than if they had to email or call a helpline, while also freeing up customer service staff to work on more complex customer issues. Businesses that had a chatbot on their website prior to the pandemic were well-positioned to manage the increased volume of queries that accompanied the crisis, and from here on, customers will expect to be able to have their questions answered in minutes without having to pick up a phone. After all, according to Nuance Enterprise, 67% of customers prefer to use self-service options instead of speaking with a company representative.

Automated chat is just one of a number of ways businesses can provide self-service options to their customers. Companies should also consider building a knowledge base — a collection of resources that offer guidance on common queries — and creating product training videos for new customers. HubSpot’s version of this, HubSpot Academy, saw traffic double between March and May, highlighting the growing desire of customers to engage with high-quality, on-demand video that enables them to become more skilled with the products they use.

4. Funnel ➜ Flywheel

According to research conducted by HubSpot in the midst of the pandemic, consumers cite “customer care” as the single greatest influence on their sentiment towards a company. As more companies come to see customer experience as the key to growth in the post-pandemic world, many will abandon the funnel model in favor of the flywheel.

While the funnel focuses exclusively on acquiring customers, the flywheel is built to delight them over the course of their entire journey with a company. When companies embrace the flywheel, it enables them to place the customer at the center of everything, from how they attract and engage customers to how they help them achieve long-term success. Thinking of the customer journey in this way helps companies to identify the areas of their business in which they can remove friction and apply force in the name of delivering an experience so delightful, customers can’t help but tell others.

There are three key steps to take when adopting the flywheel model.

Firstly, companies should identify their core business metrics so that they can monitor progress and identify areas for improvement. Secondly, they should look for the parts of the flywheel in which they can add more force, in other words, the aspects of their business that have the greatest impact on key metrics. At HubSpot for example, we increased force by introducing a self-purchase option for prospects, expanding our knowledge base, and creating a dedicated customer marketing team to ensure that outgoing communications were consistent.

As a third step, companies should identify points of friction that counteract force in their flywheel. A good starting point for companies seeking to reduce friction is to analyze the experience a customer has when they move from being the responsibility of the sales team to the customer success or service team. Does their new point of contact at the company have historical information about their purchase experience and pain points? If not, there could be an opportunity to remove friction by introducing a process or system that shares new customer information between different teams.

5. Bloated Tech Stack ➜ Lean Tech Stack

As companies accelerate their digital transformation, many are rapidly adopting a vast array of new technologies. The ample choice of powerful tools available at companies’ fingertips is unquestionably a positive thing, but there are potential downsides to consider. For example, when a businesses rushes to move its entire operation online — as many are now having to do — they run the risk of taking on a host of disparate tools that don’t work well together, leaving them with a bloated tech stack that creates data silos, increases administrative work, and makes it difficult for teams to stay aligned.

In the digitally transformed world, we will see an increase in companies seeking to shed their tech debt and construct a lean suite of tools that enables them to move quickly in the post-pandemic era.

When building a tech stack, companies should select a system that gives all internal teams access to a single source of truth on customer data. Without this, customer-facing staff will be working off different information, making it monumentally difficult to deliver the type of seamless, contextual experience that customers now expect. Additionally, businesses should consider how easy or difficult it is to integrate additional tools with their platform of choice. In order to keep a tech stack lean, companies need the freedom to build it in a way that suits their unique needs.

The Great Acceleration

The 1930s brought with it the Great Depression. Ten years ago, the Great Recession took hold. As an optimist, I hope this time will be remembered by businesses as “The Great Acceleration” — a time when companies in every industry and region underwent a rapid digital transformation that defined a new economic era.

The go-to-market playbook for this era will be one made up of inside selling, online marketing, and self-service options for customers, underpinned by a flywheel mindset, and powered by a lean tech stack that enables them to keep pace with customer expectations. Companies that embrace these new strategies are the ones most likely to navigate these times with success and thrive in the post-pandemic world. And it is my hope that in years to come, businesses will look back on The Great Acceleration and remember it not for the economic stagnation that took hold, but rather for the rapid progress that took flight.

Product Marketing Kit

Originally published Jul 20, 2020 7:45:00 AM, updated July 20 2020


Marketing Strategy

When You Should (and Shouldn’t) Outsource Your Marketing

When internal talent is stretched thin and in-house teams are struggling to get campaigns over the line, outsourcing marketing tasks to a specialist third-party can alleviate a ton of the operational pressures your team might be facing.

That being said, outsourcing is a big decision that requires financial commitment and an agreeable working relationship between companies. So, if you have the bandwidth and budget, it can make more sense for some tasks to be kept in-house, or to use a combination of the two.

There are three outsourcing routes you can take:

  • Outsource your marketing in full
  • Keep all of your marketing efforts in-house
  • Use a combination of outsourced and in-house marketing

Requirements will differ between businesses. The option you select will be determined by your financial situation and the experience, capacity, and skill sets of your current in-house team.

Here, let’s dive into the advantages of outsourcing your marketing efforts, and which individual components of your overall marketing strategy might be best-suited for your brand to outsource versus tackling in-house.

Free Resource: Content Marketing Planning Template

The Advantages of Outsourcing Marketing

Time constraints, limited budgets, and even complacency can make it all too easy for even the best marketers to fall back on familiar tactics.

But for marketing to be effective, it needs to be innovative and engaging, so relying on the easy option will only get you so far. Outsourcing connects you with marketing agencies who specialize in keeping on-top of new technology and trends.

These professionals can offer an outsider’s perspective of your business and bring new, exciting ideas and strategies to the table.

Additionally, maintaining a salaried in-house marketing team can be expensive and — depending on your marketing requirements — often unnecessary. Turning to a third party whenever you require marketing collateral means you’re only using budget when it’s necessary.

For instance, let’s say you work for a small company and want to publish two blog posts a week on your company’s blog. Rather than paying an in-house blogger to write full-time for your brand, you might consider hiring a freelancer to write those two posts per week, which is undeniably cheaper than the alternative. As your company grows, you can reassess whether it makes sense to pay a writer full-time.

With time, you’ll be able to develop a fixed budget that better reflects marketing expenditure in terms of requirements. This budget will help you determine if developing an in-house team is financially viable for your business.

If you want to outsource some (but not all) of your marketing efforts, let’s dive into a few different aspects of your overall strategy where you might consider hiring a third-party to do the heavy lifting.

Outsourcing Content Marketing

Authoritative, informative content that positions your business as a thought leader can do wonders for your bottom line. So what does it matter if it’s written or designed by people outside of your organization? As long as these writers or video creators are fully immersed in, and understand the complexities of your business, they should be able to serve up relevant, engaging content for your target audience.

If you want to outsource your content marketing efforts, you can choose to go with an agency or freelancer — sites like Upwork and Fiverr are great resources for entrepreneurs and allow you to vet a professional’s work before committing.

Take a look at How to Find Freelancers for Your Business to learn more about how to find top-notch freelancers for your business.

However, you might feel that your internal team has a better grasp on the nuances of your business. That’s fine! There are a number of marketing tools and platforms available to make the content creation process simpler. For example: WordPress and its deeply functional dashboard; Ceros with its collaborative, experiential slant; or HubSpot’s own marketing suite, which brings blogging, social media, and website material together under one powerful software solution.

Outsourcing Marketing Strategy

From lead generation tactics to email workflows, a solid marketing strategy should cater to all stages of the buyer’s journey. This vital groundwork includes developing buyer personas, mapping campaigns to need states, and identifying growing trends in the market.

Outsourcing your marketing strategy to a career specialist means you’re enlisting the help of someone whose job it is to keep abreast of industry innovations and new, creative methods of marketing delivery. They will also be able to identify audience demographics that you may not have considered before.

However, it may not be financially viable for your business to outsource the entire task to a marketing strategist. If that’s the case, then another solution is for you to commission a ‘strategy skeleton’ for your internal team to build on. For instance, the outsourced strategist defines your buyer personas and then your team adds the muscle and sinew to the bare strategic bones.

Outsourcing Marketing Analytics

Your marketing intelligence is informed by how well you use your data analytics. Many businesses will find that they just don’t have the in-house expertise to extract nuggets of insight that can turn marketing efforts into gold. Moreover, it can be expensive and time-consuming to recruit and train an in-house team of data scientists and engineers.

Specialty agencies, however, can provide the expertise necessary to interpret your data and offer data-driven insights in response to your existing analytics. Additionally, they can offer a number of solutions that can be fitted to your budget and requirements.

Instead of stretching your resources thin or incurring unnecessary costs, you can focus on developing outstanding products and delivering exceptional service, drawing on the insights unearthed by your marketing intelligence agency.

If you’re interested in diving into marketing intelligence in-house, take a look at How Market Intelligence Will Make Your Marketing Team More Agile to explore whether that’s the right solution for your needs.

Outsourcing Email Marketing

Wary of either cluttering a prospect’s inbox or being forgotten by them altogether? A successful email marketing strategy can make automation and personalization your secret weapons.

For instance, hands-off, lead-nurturing workflows can fire off emails automatically based on a user’s action — such as when a user clicks on a social media advertisement or plays a video. Outsourcing the creation and setup of these workflows takes much of the manual, administrative labor from your shoulders and places it into the hands of professionals.

Should the in-house route sound like a better option, you’ll need an infrastructure in place to facilitate the timed delivery of these emails, as well as an internal strategic and content team to develop them. HubSpot’s marketing suite offers an intuitive framework to outline your email workflow strategy and its automatic triggers.

Outsourcing Social Media Strategy

There are plenty of benefits to keeping social media in-house: for instance, social media is one of the most direct opportunities your business has to connect and engage with prospects and customers. If you keep social media in-house, you can hire full-time social media strategists who communicate with prospects via social media and then relay that information back to leadership to inform more personalized, targeted brand messages moving forward.

However, if you work for a smaller company with a limited budget, a full-time social media manager might currently be out-of-reach.

Additionally, the power of social media might actually make it an important task for you to outsource — when done correctly, social media can take your brand’s reach and visibility to the next level, so you might want to outsource to an agency with proven success in the industry.

You can also delegate certain social media tasks to a third-party group, rather than handing off the entire strategy to them. For instance, maybe you notice Instagram is a fantastic avenue to connect with leads, but your social media manager is currently juggling Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook as well, making it difficult for her to give her full attention to Instagram.

To combat the issue, you might hire an agency to focus primarily on all things related to Instagram, including Instagram advertising, posting to Instagram Stories, and hiring Instagram influencers to promote your products or services.

If you don’t want to hire a third-party agency for your social media needs, however, there are plenty of impressive social media tools to help you automatically post across channels on a regular basis, use data to refine your strategy over time, and communicate with prospects at-scale.

Every business requires a marketing strategy that’s tailored to their unique challenges. Some may find that outsourcing the entire marketing spectrum is right for them, while others may want to implement marketing technology and develop a core team around it.

We recommend keeping activity in-house if your current marketing technology is generating excellent ROI and you have a trained, experienced marketing workforce with the capacity to handle long-term campaign work and ad-hoc tasks.

You should consider outsourcing all of your marketing activity if your team members are wearing too many marketing hats, consistently missing deadlines, or are hampered more than helped by your current marketing technology.

A happy medium can be found by using a mix of agency and in-house resources, alongside powerful marketing tools. With an experienced third-party agency guiding you every step of the way, you’ll be able to upskill staff and onboard new technology without overspending or embarking on a lengthy recruitment process.

Additionally, if you’re having a difficult time making an informed decision, consider reaching out to a consultancy (like ours, Huble Digital) to explore which software and skill sets can transform your marketing efforts in 2020 and beyond. 

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Originally published Jul 6, 2020 7:00:00 AM, updated July 06 2020


Marketing Strategy

12 of the Best Marketing Techniques for 2020

When content marketing was gaining steam, there were really only a few techniques you could leverage.

On a typical day, you’d write a blog post, hope it ranked on Google, send it to your email subscribers, and post it to your social media profiles.

That was pretty much it.

This is still the main strategy most marketers use nowadays, but since content marketing has exploded in popularity since its early adoption, it has developed into a much more nuanced and complex type of marketing with many techniques for reaching and resonating with an audience.

To help you learn about the most effective marketing techniques around today, we’ve rounded up the best ones to add to your content marketing arsenal.

Free Resource: Content Marketing Planning Template

1. CTA Copy Test

Every company has a different set of customers, so there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for designing the most optimal CTAs. To figure out which CTA copy will produce the best results for your company, you must discover what your unique set of customers prefer.

With A/B testing, you can run an experiment between two variables, like a red and blue CTA, and identify which one produces better results. A/B testing shouldn’t be confused with multivariate testing, though, which allows you to simultaneously test many variables.

To conduct an A/B test, you can use HubSpot’s A/B testing kit. With this kit, you’ll get guidelines for A/B testing, learn what variables to test, and gain access to a simple significance calculator to track your results.

2. Email Preview

Did you know that more than 50 percent of U.S. respondents check their personal email account more than 10 times a day, and it is by far their preferred way to receive updates from brands.

This means that there isn’t a lot of room for error when you send an email. To avoid any issues, a great marketing technique to implement is to begin previewing your email in different email providers before sending.

There are plenty of tools you can use to preview your emails such as HubSpot’s free email software. With an email preview tool, you can test your emails before you send them and see how they look in every service provider.

3. Blog Post Title Test

When you write a blog post, do you use the first title you came up with or do you write a few?

Most marketers write several headlines before deciding which one to use. However, it’s not always easy to decide.

To make this decision, you can run an A/B test and see which types of titles work best for your audience.

Additionally, you can use tools like this headline analyzer to see what you can do to improve your headline.

4. Brand Storytelling

In the neuroscience field, researchers have proven that storytelling is the best way to capture people’s attention, bake information into their memories, and resonate emotionally with them. The human brain is programmed to crave, seek out, and respond to well-crafted narrative — that’ll never change.

So just like your favorite Netflix show, you can craft a series on YouTube to entice your viewers subscribe to your updates. This can get your audience more excited for your show’s newest season than they currently are for the latest season of Stranger Things.

Before you green light another slew of listicles, how-to posts, and ultimate guides, remember how powerful storytelling is and consider crafting a YouTube series, podcast, or social media hashtag chock-full of conflict, surprise, and emotion that your viewers will relate to your brand.

5. A Topic-Based Content Strategy

Since people heavily rely on Google to provide accurate and relevant answers for most of their questions today, Google needs to understand the intent and context behind every single search.

To do this, Google has evolved to recognize topical connections across users’ queries, look back at similar queries that users have searched for in the past, and surface the content that best answers them. As a result, Google will deliver content that they deem the most authoritative on the topic.

To help Google recognize your content as a trusted authority on marketing, sales, and customer service topics, consider implementing the pillar-cluster model on your blog.

Essentially, the pillar-cluster model is a topic-based based content strategy. This means that you generate and organize ideas for your blog by topic.

By creating a single pillar page (an ultimate guide, for instance) that provides a high-level overview of a topic and hyperlinks to cluster pages (subtopic blog posts) that delve into the topic’s subtopics, you can signal to Google that your pillar page is an authority on the topic.

Hyperlinking all of the cluster pages to the pillar page also spreads domain authority across the cluster, so your cluster pages get an organic boost if your pillar page ranks higher, and your cluster pages can even help your pillar page rank higher if they start ranking for the specific keywords they’re targeting.

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6. Growing Email Subscriptions

As of now, subscribing to your favorite online publications through email is the best way to keep up with their latest stories and news. And since it takes an average of six to eight touch points to generate a qualified sales lead, persuading people to subscribe to your emails and, in turn, constantly consume your content will generate more leads and revenue for your business.

Growing an engaged, loyal subscriber base also speaks volumes about the quality of your content and its emotional resonance. Even though hoards of content saturate the internet and most people’s inboxes today, people are still actively engaging with your content, which is a clear sign that they actually value it.

To build your email list, you’ll want to use an email marketing software like HubSpot. This way you can create, personalize, and optimize marketing emails without needing a developer.

7. Historical Optimization

In 2015, HubSpot made a revolutionary discovery about our organic monthly blog traffic — the overwhelming majority of it came from posts published prior to that month. In fact, 76% of monthly blog views came from these old posts.

Today, the groundbreaking revelation rings louder than ever — 89% of our monthly blog views currently come from posts that were published at least six months prior, and we’ve developed an entire strategy dedicated to refreshing and republishing these historical pieces of content.

These types of blog posts are called “updates”, and they comprise 35-40% of HubSpot’s editorial calendar. By refreshing posts with new information and effectively republishing them as new blog posts, HubSpot can build upon its existing organic value that these posts have accumulated through backlinks and user engagement and double or even triple their traffic. This process also helps HubSpot optimize our blog for efficiency, decreasing the amount of new content we have to create while increasing our organic traffic and conversions.

8. Podcasting

According to a content format study conducted by Edison Research and Triton Digital, people age 12 and older are listening to online audio content at unprecedented levels. On average, people spend 17 hours per week tuning into their favorite podcasts, online radio shows, and audiobooks. There are also 14 million more weekly podcast listeners this year compared to last year, which is more than Guinea’s entire population.

The demand for audio content has exploded, but that doesn’t mean people will listen to your branded podcast just because it’s a podcast. In reality, they’ll only listen to it if it can hold their attention and, ultimately, entertain them. Otherwise, producing yet another interview-an-expert podcast like everyone else will only add to the noise flooding the internet.

9. Link Building

Earning high-quality inbound links from websites and pages with high authority scores is crucial for boosting your domain authority. But, unfortunately, “If you write it, they will link to it,” is not a viable SEO tactic.

An effective method for earning high-quality links is by asking other websites that have the same or higher domain or page authority score than you to link to your top content. You should also make sure your content is relevant to the referring website’s content.

Another way you can earn quality backlinks is by using Backlinko’s skyscraper method. The skyscraper method is an SEO strategy where you find content that ranks well for keywords you want to rank for and then create content that’s better than the top ranking posts. Then, you use SEO tools to find all the sites that have linked to your competitor’s content and ask the most relevant sites to replace your competitor’s link with a link to your improved content.

10. Social Media Based Public Relations

Today, over 30% of time spent online is dedicated to social media. Needless to say, people spend more time on social media than ever before. And public relations professionals are pivoting their strategy from solely focusing on placing their stories in news outlets’ publications to concentrating on driving traffic to their social media profiles too.

In order to successfully pitch your stories to journalists and news outlets nowadays, you need to account for the content that performs well on their social media profiles and their publication. So before you pitch your story, make sure it’s relevant and interesting to the news outlet’s social audience.

11. Audience Segmentation

In a world overflowing with digital noise, creating irrelevant or unwarranted content won’t catch anyone’s attention.

To create personalized marketing campaigns for each slice of your target market, consider leveraging audience segmentation, which separates your target market into specific, accessible groups of people based on personal attributes like their demographics, psychographics, and behavioral information.

To properly implement an audience segmentation strategy, you can use a marketing software like HubSpot. For example, with HubSpot’s marketing software, there’s a lead collection and tracking feature where you can segment and nurture your leads. This makes it easy to build an email list, automate campaigns, and expand your database.

12. Brand Extensions

Big companies often extend their brand to develop new products in industries that they don’t have any market share in. These initiatives are called brand extensions, and they allow companies to leverage their brand awareness and equity to create more revenue streams.

Historically, the most successful brand extensions are the ones that closely tie to the company’s flagship product or core brand, like Gerber’s baby clothes and Dole’s frozen fruit bars. So by entering tangential markets that can preserve your brand’s unique associations and perceived quality, you can develop new products that consumers intuitively understand the benefits of, even though they’ve never seen them on a shelf.

On the flip side, a company can also exploit its brand, and, in turn, damage it. If they develop a product in a market that isn’t closely tied to their flagship product or core brand, audiences might attach undesirable associations to a brand, weaken its existing associations, and hurt its established products’ perceived quality.

When you’re developing a new marketing plan, it’s important to consider new marketing techniques. Don’t forget to continuously innovate on your strategies.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in May 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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Originally published Jun 29, 2020 5:45:00 PM, updated June 30 2020


Marketing Strategy

What is the Purpose of Marketing? [FAQ] defines marketing as, “the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.”

If you work in a marketing role like I do, it’s probably difficult for you to define marketing even though you see and use it every day — the term marketing is a bit all-encompassing and variable for a straightforward definition.

This definition feels unhelpful.

The selling part, for instance, overlaps a little too snuggly with a “what is sales” definition, and the word advertising makes me think of Mad Men brainstorming sessions.

But upon digging deeper, I began seeing that actually, marketing does overlap heavily with advertising and sales. Marketing is present in all stages of the business, beginning to end.

Download Now: State of Marketing Report [2020 Version]

At first, I wondered why marketing was a necessary component during product development, or a sales pitch, or retail distribution. But it makes sense when you think about it — marketers have the firmest finger on the pulse of your consumer persona.

The purpose of marketing is to research and analyze your consumers all the time, conduct focus groups, send out surveys, study online shopping habits, and ask one underlying question: “Where, when, and how does our consumer want to communicate with our business?”

Modern marketing began in the 1950s when people started to use more than just print media to endorse a product. As TV — and soon, the internet — entered households, marketers could conduct entire campaigns across multiple platforms. And as you might expect, over the last 70 years, marketers have become increasingly important to fine-tuning how a business sells a product to consumers to optimize success.

In fact, the fundamental purpose of marketing is to attract consumers to your brand through messaging. Ideally, that messaging will helpful and educational to your target audience so you can convert consumers into leads.

Today, there are literally dozens of places one can carry out a marketing campaign — where does one do it in the 21st century?

Types of Marketing

Where your marketing campaigns live depends entirely on where your customers spend their time. It’s up to you to conduct market research that determines which types of marketing — and which mix of tools within each type — is best for building your brand. Here are several types of marketing that are relevant today, some of which have stood the test of time:

  • Internet marketing: Inspired by an Excedrin product campaign that took place online, the very idea of having a presence on the internet for business reasons is a type of marketing in and of itself.
  • Search engine optimization: Abbreviated “SEO,” this is the process of optimizing content on a website so that it appears in search engine results. It’s used by marketers to attract people who perform searches that imply they’re interested in learning about a particular industry.
  • Blog marketing: Blogs are no longer exclusive to the individual writer. Brands now publish blogs to write about their industry and nurture the interest of potential customers who browse the internet for information.
  • Social media marketing: Businesses can use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and similar social networks to create impressions on their audience over time.
  • Print marketing: As newspapers and magazines get better at understanding who subscribes to their print material, businesses continue to sponsor articles, photography, and similar content in the publications their customers are reading.
  • Search engine marketing: This type of marketing is a bit different than SEO, which is described above. Businesses can now pay a search engine to place links on pages of its index that get high exposure to their audience. (It’s a concept called “pay-per-click” — I’ll show you an example of this in the next section).
  • Video marketing: While there were once just commercials, marketers now put money into creating and publishing all kinds of videos that entertain and educate their core customers.

Marketing and Advertising

If marketing is a wheel, advertising is one spoke of that wheel.

Marketing entails product development, market research, product distribution, sales strategy, public relations, and customer support. Marketing is necessary in all stages of a business’s selling journey, and it can use numerous platforms, social media channels, and teams within their organization to identify their audience, communicate to it, amplify its voice, and build brand loyalty over time.

On the other hand, advertising is just one component of marketing. It’s a strategic effort, usually paid for, to spread awareness of a product or service as a part of the more holistic goals outlined above. Put simply, it’s not the only method used by marketers to sell a product.

Here’s an example (keep reading, there’s a quiz at the end of it) …

Let’s say a business is rolling out a brand new product and wants to create a campaign promoting that product to its customer base. This company’s channels of choice are Facebook, Instagram, Google, and its company website. It uses all of these spaces to support its various campaigns every quarter and generate leads through those campaigns.

To broadcast its new product launch, it publishes a downloadable product guide to its website, posts a video to Instagram demonstrating its new product, and invests in a series of sponsored search results on Google directing traffic to a new product page on its website.

Now, which of the above decisions were marketing, and which were advertising?

The advertising took place on Instagram and Google. Instagram generally isn’t an advertising channel, but when used for branding, you can develop a base of followers that’s primed for a gentle product announcement every now and again. Google was definitely used for advertising in this example; the company paid for space on Google — a program known as pay-per-click (PPC) — on which to drive traffic to a specific page focused on its product. A classic online ad.

Where did the marketing take place? This was a bit of a trick question, as the marketing was the entire process. By aligning Instagram, Google, and its own website around a customer-focused initiative, the company ran a three-part marketing campaign that identified its audience, created a message for that audience, and delivered it across the industry to maximize its impact.

The 4 Ps of Marketing

In the 1960’s, E Jerome McCarthy came up with the 4 Ps of marketing: product, price, place, promotion.

Essentially, these 4 Ps explain how marketing interacts with each stage of the business.


Let’s say you come up with an idea for a product you want your business to sell. What’s next? You probably won’t be successful if you just start selling it.

Instead, you need your marketing team to do market research and answer some critical questions: Who’s your target audience? Is there market fit for this product? What messaging will increase product sales, and on which platforms? How should your product developers modify the product to increase likelihood of success? What do focus groups think of the product, and what questions or hesitations do they have?

Marketers use the answers to these questions to help businesses understand the demand for the product and increase product quality by mentioning concerns stemming from focus group or survey participants.


Your marketing team will check out competitors’ product prices, or use focus groups and surveys, to estimate how much your ideal customer is willing to pay. Price it too high, and you’ll lose out on a solid customer base. Price it too low, and you might lose more money than you gain. Fortunately, marketers can use industry research and consumer analysis to gauge a good price range.


It’s critical that your marketing department uses their understanding and analysis of your business’s consumers to offer suggestions for how and where to sell your product. Perhaps they believe an ecommerce site works better than a retail location, or vice versa. Or, maybe they can offer insights into which locations would be most viable to sell your product, either nationally and internationally.


This P is likely the one you expected from the get-go: promotion entails any online or print advertisement, event, or discount your marketing team creates to increase awareness and interest in your product, and, ultimately, lead to more sales. During this stage, you’ll likely see methods like public relations campaigns, advertisements, or social media promotions.

Hopefully, our definition and the four Ps help you understand marketing’s purpose and how to define it. Marketing intersects with all areas of a business, so it’s important you understand how to use marketing to increase your business’s efficiency and success.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in May 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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Originally published Jun 24, 2020 5:00:00 PM, updated June 25 2020


Marketing Strategy

What Is Context Marketing, and Why It Matters [Quick Guide]

In 2020, it’s undeniable how powerful content marketing has become for businesses of all sizes.

In fact, content marketing brings in 3X as many leads as traditional marketing — and costs 62% less.

But, while it’s fair to say most marketers are on-board with the importance of content marketing, there’s still an aspect of marketing that doesn’t get as much love: context marketing.

Whether you know what context marketing means or not, I’m willing to bet you’ve dabbled or wanted to dabble in context marketing for some time.

Here, we’re going to introduce the concept of context marketing and dive into strategies you can use to implement context marketing into your overall marketing strategy.

Free Resource: Content Marketing Planning Template

What Is Context Marketing?

At the most basic level, context marketing is … well, using context in your marketing.

Since that just sounds like circular reasoning though, let’s dive into the definition a little further.

My favorite definition of context marketing is delivering the right content, to the right people, at the right time.

Let me explain what I mean by context a little more, though.

Context marketing is like a spelling bee …

When you have context around something, you have a larger, more telling picture — you know, those little details that help lend more clarity to things that would otherwise be pretty general, unspecific, and, well, uninteresting.

Let’s use a spelling bee as an analogy here. If a judge asks a kid to spell the word “pour,” he might want to ask a host of questions to get more context before answering: What’s the part of speech? What’s the definition? Can you use it in a sentence, please?

Answers to those questions all provide context that helps paint a clearer picture of the word he’s trying to spell.

And it’s important context, too! Why? Because the word “pour” is different than the word “pore” — or “poor.”

Without getting more context around what the judge is asking, how could that kid possibly provide an accurate answer? Getting more context around that word would be pretty useful to helping our kid become a spelling bee champ!

Ultimately, the same goes for your marketing. Do you want to be a marketing champ like our spelling bee friend?

The marketing champs in every industry are the ones who are leveraging context about their audience, leads, and customers in their marketing. For example, a marketer using context would know more about a lead than whether she’s B2B or B2C, and her first name. They might also know what industry she works in, what kind of content she likes best, through which channel she prefers to consume content, whether she’s currently using another solution to meet her needs, and whether her company has budget at this time of year.

As a marketer, if you were asked to “market” to someone, and all you were given was a first name and the type of company your lead works at, wouldn’t your first question be … what else do we know about her? Probably, if you want to do your job way better.

That’s the idea behind context marketing: Using what you know about your contacts to provide supremely relevant, targeted, and personalized marketing.

Why Is Context Marketing Important?

Context marketing is important for many reasons, but here are the two that I think trump them all:

  1. When you have context around your relationship with a contact, you’re able to provide more personalized and relevant marketing content that’s targeted at their needs. Personalized and relevant marketing is the foundation for creating content people love! What’s more, personalized and relevant marketing is typically not the kind of marketing that annoys people into clicking “unsubscribe”. Win-win!
  2. When you’re creating marketing that’s targeted at people’s point of need, it stands to reason that marketing will perform much better for you, because you aren’t delivering marketing content that’s misaligned with their interests or stage in the sales cycle. Think about it: If you know that our B2B lead from the previous section is getting new budget in January, she’s downloaded a couple buying guides in the past two weeks, she’s visited your product pages, and it’s December, you’re able to send her insanely targeted content that addresses her needs — like, say, an offer for a custom end of year demo of your product with a rep that specializes in the finance industry. That’s content that she’s pretty likely to convert on.

Why not use the context around your relationships with your contacts to create marketing that they a) love, and b) convert on?

3 Areas You Can Incorporate Context Marketing

Alright, these ideas all sound lovely, but how does this “context marketing” theory manifest itself? What would it look like for you, as a marketer? With the help of integrated marketing software, here are some examples of where you’d actually use the principle of “context” in your marketing.

1. Dynamic Calls-to-Action

You have a bunch of offers you want to use to convert traffic into leads, leads into qualified leads, and qualified leads into customers.

To help strengthen your lead conversion rates, you probably don’t want leads visiting a case study webpage (typically an action you’d perform further along in your buyer’s journey), and finding a CTA leading them to a blog post (which is meant for people earlier in the buyer’s journey).

However, not everyone who visits a case study page on your website is necessarily ready to talk to a salesperson. You don’t want to turn them away, either, by offering a CTA that’s too pushy.

Fortunately, with dynamic CTAs that adjust depending on who is visiting the page, you can actually surface a CTA that automatically aligns with the visitor’s stage in the sales cycle … or any other host of criteria you want to set! Think industry, business type, location, past activity/behaviors, that type of thing.

2. Dynamic Email Content and Workflows

Your forms aren’t the only things that need to be smart.

Your email database — especially if you want to maintain your space in people’s coveted inboxes — needs to be segmented into highly targeted lists, as well.

Plus, beyond email segmentation, your email lists need to be smart enough to know when to pull in a contact, and certain information you have in your database about that contact, into your email marketing.

Remember, a great context marketer delivers the right content, to the right person, at the right time. So to send emails that are contextually relevant, you need the power of workflows — the tool that will put the right person into the right list.

3. Smart Forms

So you want to be a context marketer and see higher conversion rates.

Let me introduce you to your new best friend: smart forms.

Smart forms are just what they sound like — forms for your landing pages that are wicked smart.

So smart, in fact, that they know if someone has already filled out the form fields you’re asking for. If you use smart forms, for instance, your site visitors won’t see “First Name” and “Last Name” every time they fill out a form — instead, they’ll answer those questions once, and then never again.

This will help youglean more new information about your leads each time they fill out a form, instead of just more of the same stuff.

Ultimately, smart forms will help you gather even more context about your visitors, leads, and customers, and help increase conversion rates over time.

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Originally published Jun 23, 2020 1:00:00 PM, updated June 23 2020


Marketing Strategy

How to Run a Successful Grassroots Marketing Campaign [+ Examples]

When I try to think of marketing campaigns that were emotional and memorable, one of the first ones that comes to mind is the Dove Real Beauty campaign.

The reason?

Dove uses grassroots marketing strategies to create targeted content that their audience wants to share with everyone they know.

Continue reading “How to Run a Successful Grassroots Marketing Campaign [+ Examples]”

16 Digital Marketing Ebooks You Can Download Today

About 60% of marketers believe that content marketing is important to their overall marketing strategies.

When you think about your marketing strategies, what are the tools you’re using to deepen your understanding of the current landscape of digital marketing?

As an ever-changing industry, it’s important for marketers to commit to learning as much as possible about digital marketing. But … who has the time?

Enter: the ebook.

→ Click here to download our free guide to digital marketing fundamentals [Download Now].

If you want to expand your knowledge of digital marketing from reputable thought leaders, but have limited resources, or don’t even know where to start, this post is for you.

Below, I’ll list some awesome ebooks on the ins and outs of digital marketing, from SEO, to content building, to beginner’s guides.

Let’s jump in!

1. Digital Marketing for Small Business by HubSpot

For this ebook, HubSpot teamed up with the experts at MOO to build a guide aimed at small businesses. It provides everything startups need to know about inbound marketing and gives a great scope of how to test, learn, and grow in an online marketing landscape.

This ebook takes readers through accessible ways to maximize resources and get the greatest benefit from marketing. Need help with channels like Facebook, Google, and Twitter? “Digital Marketing for Small Businesses” has you covered.

If you’re looking for a one-stop shop for how to start a functional digital marketing strategy from the ground up, this ebook is for you. It even provides templates and concrete examples that will help you organize your strategy.

2. Paid and Earned: The Two Sides of Influencer Marketing by Jay Baer

Do you want to have a robust understanding of how influencer marketing can boost your ROI? This ebook shows you how influencer marketing is a great method for building brand awareness and boosting conversion, while offering a guide on how to choose between paid influencers or earned influencers.

Author Jay Baer explores how influencer marketing can be a necessity for brands as well as the inverse relationship between the two. Baer discusses how different kinds of influencers have their own impacts on the industry and how to navigate working with influencers to maximize ROI.

3. The $10 Digital Media Startup Ebook by My Frugal Business

If you’re building your business from the ground up and need a little help, this guide is aimed at guiding you through how to begin that process. This ebook is for those starting at level zero with building an online digital media strategy.

It’ll walk you through fleshing out a social media strategy, SEO, influencer marketing, and how to become a successful digital entrepreneur. If you’re in the space where you have to multitask in order to get your business up and running, consider giving this ebook a look.

4. 25 Actionable Social Media Strategies You Can Implement Today by Buffer and Kevan Lee

For this ebook, the team at Buffer collaborated with marketer Kevan Lee on social media strategies that are easy to implement. If you think a social media strategy is just about posting consistently, think again. This guide debunks that theory and explains how strategies also need to be delightful, effective, and targeted.

You’ll receive advice that’s actionable and useful as you plan out or re-work your current strategy. For instance, you’ll learn how to leave a lasting impression on followers through content and when to post to leave the most impact.

5. Content Marketing: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to What Works by Search Engine Journal

The team at Search Engine Journal put together a comprehensive ebook that focuses on how to build a content marketing strategy for those just getting started. Content marketing encompasses lead acquisition and the growth of your business — but only if it’s done effectively.

This ebook is for anyone who wants a content marketing strategy that’s successful. It provides readers with an understanding of the value of content marketing and how to maximize your resources so you get the most bang for your buck.

6. How to Build a World-Class Internet Lead Generation Program by Peter Geisheker

If you want to know how to attract more target customers to your online business this ebook should be useful. Author Peter Geisheker gives a crash course in improving lead generation, correctly.

You’ll receive actionable tips about attracting customers, social media marketing, and how to retarget content to generate leads. Additionally, this ebook talks about how sales funnels work online and how having an online advertising plan in place helps you drive website traffic.

7. Data-Driven Content Marketing by Uberflip

Content marketing works when it’s built from helpful, actionable data. With this ebook, you’ll become an expert at understanding the power of data analytics in building a content marketing strategy.

Of course, data isn’t the only necessity when planning out content marketing. This ebook also dives into the creation process, distribution, and strategizing of a content plan that works for your company.

This ebook will help you determine if your current content strategy is the best that it can be and provides valuable tips for marketers about how to improve what’s not working.

8. How to Run a Marketing Campaign with G Suite by HubSpot

In this ebook, you’ll learn the best practices for digital marketing using Google’s tools.

With so much to manage in the marketing landscape, you’ll learn quick, easy ways to become a rockstar at managing Google Suite, which streamlines marketing activities on a digital landscape. You’ll become comfortable with Google’s offerings of productivity and collaboration software to help your marketing efforts.

This guide presents concrete examples of how HubSpot’s marketing team uses Google Suite to create, manage, and analyze campaigns giving you actionable takeaways as you become familiar with the platform.

9. Complete Guide to Crushing Your Influencer Marketing: Influencer Marketing Blueprint by Shane Barker

Unsure about the true benefits of leveraging influencer marketing? Let this guide by Shane Barker lessen your uncertainty. It puts a digital marketing lens on the ins and outs of using influencer marketing to your advantage.

This ebook gives you a full understanding of how to effectively use influencer marketing to boost the ROI of your digital campaigns, from picking the right influencers to crafting compelling pitches.

10. The Marketer’s Guide to Facebook by Contently

Contently, a content planning platform, offers a guide about executing a fully-fledged Facebook marketing campaign using the platform’s suite of tools. Facebook has a pretty intuitive marketing toolkit, but using it effectively can be an uphill battle — this ebook helps.

It’ll give you a deep dive into how Facebook works when aligned with marketing strategies and puts a content marketing lens on how to engage new and current customers. If you want to learn how Facebook’s tools can be useful to you from top to bottom, then this ebook is for you.

11. The Beginner’s Guide to Online Marketing by Wrike

This guide walks you through how online marketing has changed over the years, and it brings you up to speed about how to be a master online marketer in today’s ever-changing landscape. You’ll learn how to leverage email, Twitter, and YouTube to create an effective marketing strategy.

You’ll also learn how to develop new approaches to digital marketing, roles, and tools that are a necessity, and how to keep track of what’ll help your company the most.

12. Successfully Generate Leads To Grow Your Business With Facebook Ads by AdEspresso

AdEspresso’s ebook focuses on lead generation targeting only one channel: Facebook Ads. This book will guide you through the process of expanding your reach and finding new audiences using Facebook Ads. It also provides strategic insight into how to use the tool in a way that maximizes ROI.

You’ll also learn how to leverage Ad tools to engage your audience, and dive into lead nurturing, building landing pages, and how to manage your campaigns. If you want to learn more about how to perfect your Facebook Ads strategy, this ebook will help tremendously.

13. Beginner’s Guide to SEO by Moz

This series of articles put together by the team at Moz is formatted like an ebook. It provides readers with a detailed introductory lesson on how to use SEO to grow your business.

It gives an in-depth tutorial about how search engines work. Additionally, this ebook provides the fundamentals of how to make your website compatible with search engine results.

You’ll also find strategies for making the content you provide to audiences more search-engine friendly, and you’ll develop an understanding about how your target audience interacts with search engines. Plus, you’ll become familiar with keyword research and how your content affects search engine rank.

14. Killer Content Marketing by Content Marketing Institute

If you’re comfortable with content marketing, but want an intermediate-level guide to maximize your strategy, this is a great ebook. Going beyond the basics of content marketing, you’ll learn how social data can be used to construct new, innovative strategies.

This book is easily comprehensible, and you’ll find out how to organize your content planning and up your brand presence online.

15. Introductory Digital Marketing Guide by Simplilearn

This ebook gives you an expansive history of digital marketing and why the landscape has morphed into what it has today. After you gain this understanding, the guide will take you through the different channels you can use for digital marketing, such as blog, social media, and your own website.

You’ll learn the importance of understanding your target audience and how your strategies must place the customer at the center.

16. Why Digital Marketing? by HubSpot

Without having a presence online, it’ll be pretty difficult to grow your business. And that’s how digital marketing can step in and help. To aid in that process, this ebook by HubSpot teaches you the ins and outs of marketing a brand online.

You’ll learn how to construct a functional digital marketing strategy in seven easy steps that provide robust techniques for managing that strategy. Additionally, you’ll learn the importance of SEO, social media, lead nurturing, and reporting as well as how to accurately perform these methods to help grow your business.

This ebook also provides you detailed advice about how to leverage your digital marketing campaigns to their highest performance, earning you the most ROI possible.

Whether you choose a few of these ebooks or many, they all dive into the importance of digital marketing. Because we are in a landscape that is continually changing, keeping up-to-date on those industry changes and trends is a necessity to properly execute your job and provide value to customers.

Which ebook are you most excited to download?

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