Today we are in the age of the consumer. This era has come about simply because of the surge in supply from manufacturing, without an actual increase in demand, explained Brian Halligan (pictured), co-founder and CEO of HubSpot. He added that this is an issue which has perpetuated in the last decade.
“Back in 2006, the battle was for inches on a four foot shelf. In 2016, it is a battle for millimetres on the infinite shelf of the internet. That is great for your prospects, but bad for vendors,” Halligan added. Echoing his sentiments is fellow co-founder and CTO Dharmesh Shah, who added that to combat this shift and win over the hearts of consumers, brands need to start focusing on helping customers instead. He said:
Stop talking about extracting value from your customers, instead start talking about how you can add value to your customers.
Explaining Hubspot’s decade-long journey in the industry, Halligan compared how consumers engaged in digital 10 years ago, and how they do so today.
According to Halligan, there has been a huge shift towards video in the realm of consuming content. Back in 2006, buyers mainly read various sources and articles to learn more about what is happening in the world around them. However, today they spend more time watching videos online.
Buyers also used to focus on one piece of content at a time, but today they are not only looking at your brand’s content, but its competitor’s as well. Not only do buyers willingly share content nowadays, they also have a shorter lifespan.
Halligan added that while in the past consumers preferred highly produced videos and spent hours consuming them, the shift is now tending towards live videos as Facebook Live is revolutionising the game as it is much easier to spread the content across the internet.
Stop looking for that blogger and start looking for that videographer. 50% of your content mixture should be text and video. You need to make the shift to what your consumers are on.
Attitudes towards social media have evolved
Halligan explained that in 2006, while consumers were adopting social media, the way they were using it was a lot more sporadic.
“Consumers were using it like a Dunkin Donuts drive through. They get in and out of it quickly and move on to the next platform. However, buyers today treat social media like their favourite coffee shop. All their music and friends are in there – people now live inside social media sites,” he added.
He pointed out that when it comes to the social world, it is actually Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg who is leading the world.
“Your prospects live inside ‘Zuckerberg's world’ for a couple of hours a day. Between Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, Whatsapp, you name it, your prospects are spending their life in there," Halligan said.
If you are not marketing inside of Zuckerberg's world you might as well be marketing inside a trash can.
More demand for self-service and automation
Halligan added that a surge in brand content and intuitive sales engines has also led in the shift of the relationship between a salesperson and a company’s website. This is because buyers now want to help themselves as opposed to waiting for a sales rep to explain a product or service.
“Back in 2006, the website augmented the sales rep. In 2016, the sales rep augments the website,” Halligan explained. There has also been a shift in customer expectations when it comes to garnering value for a brand’s offering. Customers want to try before they buy a product or service.
“In 2006, people expected to get value after they purchased your product. However, in 2016, buyers expect to get value before they purchase your product,” Halligan said.
The influence of search engines and value of Adwords
As organic search has evolved in just a couple of years, a brand’s strategy towards search engine optimisation needs to change too as the value that search engines deliver has only gotten greater. Halligan said that back in 2006, Google helped buyers get to the web page where they could find the answers to their questions. This is in contrast to today, where Google delivers the answer directly.
“What is so impressive about Google is that they have mastered the AskJeeves playbook. About 35% of the queries I search on Google gives me the answer that I want automatically,” Halligan explained.
The influence of Google Adwords has also soared, he said. 10 years ago, Adwords took up about half the screen above the fold, as opposed to the 100% share it takes up today on most mobile devices and platforms.
Shah explained that Google came out top amongst its competitors because it knew how to interpret and analyse the data differently. It built the "link graph", which is not just the information on every webpage but the connection between those webpages.
"Google figured out that if you look at a webpage and all the inbound links which connect to that page - that is a high signal of quality," said Shah. Hence, when it comes to getting somewhere with your search engine optimisation, Shah explained that brands need to be really good at HEO (human enjoyment optimisation). So brands should not solve problems with the search engine in mind, but rather having the human using it in mind.
HubSpot paid for the journalist’s trip to Inbound 2016, held in Boston.