I hate most yearly round ups. They can be click-baity, full of cliched drivel like "this is the year of mobile, and quite obviously there to fill a gap with easy-to-churn-out, bounce-ready content. I'm not a fan.
However, I am a firm believer in agencies striving to avoid stagnation. Markets change, consumers and clients saturate. Marketing needs to continually keep pace. It's important to look at what we've done and what we're going to do. Looking at what others value is also part of that.
So, skirting very close to hypocrisy... I thought I would share a few of the things that this inbound marketing agency has spent the last few months focusing on. The stuff we intend to make real impact with moving into 2018.
The chatbots are coming
The rise of the chatbots has been coming for a while. Unsurprisingly, we've been playing with them feverishly. LandBot, Chatfuel, Intercom and Drift have all given us opportunities to test and explore. We've improved conversion rates, turned dormant websites into subscriber-driving machines, nurtured leads while we sleep soundly in our beds AND had our robots tell a few jokes along the way.
Bots, chatbots, AI powered gods - whatever you want to call them, they're here to stay and 2018 will mark their explosion into the world of the wider inbound marketing and sales community. There's two reasons for that:
- Consumers love conversations. They love engagement. They also love using mediums they understand, stuff that forms part of their normal lives. Ads, albeit nigh on ubiquitous across mulitple platforms, are not part of a normal conversation flow. They're not helpful. Despite autofills and prediction, lead generation forms are out and out still a pain in the arse (particularly on mobile). Bots converse with people on a human level - yes, I'm well aware of the irony there. But also... and with what may be a significant contributing factor to the eventual "trough of disillusionment" down the line... they are new and exciting. Chatbots are fun and they can be playful - en mass. And that scalability is key to their success, as they spread across marketing, sales and customer service. Plenty of opportunity to "delight".
- The big girls and boys have really started to take notice. This week, Salesforce announced its new myEinstein, a point and click app builder for AI-powered bots and automation. At #Inbound17 this year (and last year with the launch of GrowthBot) Dharmesh Shah reiterated HubSpot's focus on bots. Not only that, but the company's acquisition of Motion.ai signifies a new direction for the inbound powerhouse. IBM Watson, Micsrosoft Bing, Google ChatBase... they're just some of the many, many examples out there.
So, here's my humble opinion, and that of this inbound marketing agency. Chatbots are coming, and they are going to take over the world. You need to get on board with them, and you need to do it quickly.
Read more: Our guide to creating your own ChatBot
"Videos are the future." For the best part of a decade now, we've been hearing about the rise of video content in marketing. But not until smartphones found their way into everyone's hands and User-Generated Content (UGC) proliferated marketing campaigns did we really start to see the attraction.
We're out-and-out not a video marketing agency. We work with some very talented people who can do a much better job than we can in that department, and we manage that process very effectively for our clients. What we can do is create social video, UGC campaigns, small animations and even interactive content.
Video content is often more engaging than words on paper. It's quickly consumable, can be quick to create and has the potential for a huge impact. It can tell a narrative and give some real "face time" with your prospects.
For us, where we feel the big shift in video is coming is its use outside of lead generation. For a while now, we've used video to nurture and convince as part of automated sequences, and that's great - we know we can improve the likelihood a lead will go through to sale by 27%. The really exciting bit though, is using personalised video in your sales and account management processes. Personalised video proposals and first contacts with the sales team (check out VidYard), video reporting with your account manager - it's a real differentiator, offers a nice way to get through often mundane information and importantly, it opens new doors.
Account-Based Marketing (ABM) isn't new. Taking targeted accounts, those perfect-fit clients and going hell for leather trying to attract them, on digital channels or otherwise, makes logical sense. It's targeted, and for those big-hitting, hard-to-reach clients, it's effective.
What is new is the proliferation of technology and the use of more inbound-y tactics. Creating persona-driven content that is likely to resonate with those prospects, positioning it with ad spend and driving them back to technology-led interactions is exciting and effective.
We love ABM, but that in itself shouldn't be enough to convince you it's on the rise. So, again take a look at the movements of the much bigger players in the market. This summer, HubSpot piled an awful lot of cash into Terminus. Yesterday, Drift announced new ABM options and integrations, and dynamic email sugnature provider Sigstr allows you to target based on where contacts are in your funnels and lists.
Inbound marketing is great, but sometimes, it can't gain traction quickly enough. Using ABM, you can get your perfectly crafted conent in front of those hard to reach "whales." (Just don't call them a whale to their face...)
Read more: Our guide to Account-Based Marketing
So, that's it. In 2018, we'll be continuing on our journey as an inbound marketing agency, pushing our way to the forefront of Manchester's inbound and HubSpot community but also playing with our new toys, chatbots, ABM, video content and any other gadgets we stumble upon in the near future.