HubSpot recently released its State of Inbound 2017 Report. It’s chock-full of curious and incredible insights about top-to-bottom alignment, roadblocks faced by marketing and sales teams, and emerging trends in inbound marketing. The complete report is 46 pages long, and while you can certainly unpack it in its entirety if you’d like, we’ve compiled some of the more interesting bits and pieces for publishers.
The data practically speaks for itself, but there are several statistics I find critical for online publishers to understand thoroughly. Here are five important data-backed lessons for the digital media industry from the State of Inbound report.
1. Diversify Away from Advertising.
Executives say the most overrated marketing tactic is paid print, outdoor, or broadcast advertising (32%). One put it plainly, “We are abandoning the broadcast channels era to enter an individual on-demand environment, where places and things that surround users will create more useful, relevant, and customized experiences.”
This is a concerning bit of data for media companies that have not yet diversified away from advertising. Advertising — including digital — is simply not a strong enough revenue stream to exist in a vacuum. Publishers should look for other ways to monetize their content: create membership programs with premium content hidden behind paywalls, offer results-driven online learning programs, host events and meetups for elite customers, and more.
2. Quit Focusing on Traffic for the Sake of Traffic.
The second overall marketing priority for executives in 2017, coming in at 55%, is growing traffic to their websites. Businesses seem obsessed with traffic! When asked a follow-up question specifically about inbound marketing, traffic came out on top (specifically, 67% said SEO was the priority). Sixty-three percent of respondents also said generating traffic and leads is the number one marketing challenge.
But here’s the thing: not all traffic is equally valuable. I get if you have an ad-based model and charge by CPMs, you want and need a high volume of traffic. But as you diversify toward more direct conversion and lead-gen business models, it’s all about quality of leads. Inbound leads are considered the highest quality (59% of executives agree). Inbound leads are ones that you engage through providing quality content that solves a real problem.
Your efforts to boost traffic from SEO, advertising, or other means need to focus on bringing in the right kind of traffic, not just any kind at all.
3. Create a Product Pyramid.
Increasing revenue from existing customers came out as the third highest priority, just behind traffic at 45 percent. It may sound simple, but there are two things companies need to increase revenue from their current customer base. The first is they need things to actually upsell. (The other is satisfied customers… more on that in a second.)
Most companies literally don’t have enough products to upsell to their customers. But there’s an easy fix. A product pyramid is a basic framework to ensure you have a comprehensive product portfolio to attract and upsell your customers. Low cost, low margin (or even free, negative margin) products live at the base of the product pyramid to attract an audience. As you move up the pyramid, the number of customers in each level decreases, but the margins increase as you upsell to your most loyal, elite audiences.
4. Provide Outstanding Customer Value.
But even with an in-depth portfolio of products, you won’t be able to boost sales from your existing customers if you don’t ensure their loyalty with a flawless customer experience. You’re not here (or you shouldn’t be here) to fool people with click bait or fake news. You need to create a raving fan culture but on authenticity and a common passion. Ask your “whales” how you can help them solve problems, and build a community around them. Remember, ultimately, media companies are all about building a community around a shared interest.
Outstanding customer experience will not only help with those upsells, it will also boost new business. The survey showed that word of mouth advertising is still king. Fifty-four percent of respondents said WOM from others is what they continue to rely on for purchase decisions, versus 39% for media articles or just 23% for crowdsourced articles.
5. Key Your Eye on the Future.
So what’s ahead for the rest of 2017 and beyond? Here are the changing trends to watch, plus a few old stand-bys that aren’t going anywhere.
Marketers are betting on video being the future of inbound.
Said one executive, “Video is just going to get bigger and bigger. I think more people want raw, honest connection. They want to know you and the company in a way that feels personal. I don’t see this as a disruption, but it might be for those who aren’t willing to shift in this direction.”
Artificial intelligence and augmented reality are on the horizon, too.
But no one knows exactly where this trend will go. To quote one respondent: “I think virtual reality will further disrupt the digital marketing industry and represents huge opportunity for sales and marketing leaders.” But how? Because this tech isn’t available to most marketers and business teams, it’s hard to say for sure how it can be leveraged for publishers. Jay Baer, President of Convince & Convert Media, shares his take on it here.
Email is still not dead (in fact, it’s not even sick).
Eighty-six percent of executives prefer to communicate by email for business purposes. Whether it’s because asynchronous communication is particularly easy to track for busy executives, or for another reason entirely (a resistance to change perhaps?), this is notable if your publication is B2B focused. For marketing efforts, or lead acquisition, you need to meet your audience where they are most likely to respond.
Executives are using Facebook as a business tool.
When asked specifically about social media usage for professional purposes, LinkedIn won at 78% usage. But Facebook was hardly behind at 74 percent.
One of the best aspects of HubSpot’s State of Inbound 2017 Report is that it examines where we have been and where we are today—so we know where we might be headed next. Digital media can learn a great deal about their own bottom line by closely examining the behaviors of fellow business owners and marketers. By diving into this report, you can make more informed decisions to adjust your initiatives for growth and boost your digital revenue streams.
How Sterling Woods Group Can Help
Whether your goal is to diversify, acquire better quality leads from your web traffic, or create an extensive product pyramid, Sterling Woods can help you match the evolving trends in inbound marketing by helping you develop new paid digital products. We start with a diagnostic that identifies and prioritizes product concepts, the required investment, and the revenue potential. Then, we ramp up a cross-functional team to take care of implementation for you. In doing so, we can increase your digital revenues by over 50 percent.
Want to learn more? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free 30-minute consultation.
About the Author, Rob Ristagno
Rob Ristagno is the founder of The Sterling Woods Group and partners with companies to drive rapid digital revenue growth. Prior to creating Sterling Woods, Rob served as a senior executive for several niche media and e-commerce companies. Rob started his career as a consultant at McKinsey and holds degrees from the Harvard Business School and Dartmouth College. He has taught Product Strategy at Boston College