The best way to turn strangers into delighted customers and promoters of your business is through inbound marketing, says Hubspot. It’s definitions like that which make us proud to be content marketers.

That summation of content marketing comes courtesy of Hubspot CEO Brian Halligan in the firm’s eighth annual State of Inbound report. Halligan also coined the term “inbound marketing”, which is now used ubiquitously throughout the industry. It’s fair to say he knows what he’s talking about.

Without further ado, then, let’s get into what Hubspot’s findings tell us:

1. Align sales and marketing or prepare to fail

It’s not rocket science, is it? Pouring the insights of two customer-facing departments into your marketing is better than just relying on the thoughts and data of one. That’s why 82% of companies with effective marketing strategies say their sales and marketing teams are tightly aligned, as per the report.

Look, you don’t have to work in the same office, if you don’t want to – just make sure you’re meeting regularly with those who are constantly talking to current and prospective customers. These detailed audience insights are not to be passed up just because Dave in the sales team likes the sound of his own voice a bit too much.

IT Crowd

2. Create content that serves to educate

Going in cold on a prospect is no fun for a sales person – there’s basically zero chance of the prospect making a purchase there and then if they have little or no knowledge of your brand. This was backed up by Hubspot’s survey, with sales reps reporting that ‘prospecting’ becomes increasingly difficult as the amount of knowledge a prospect has goes down.

If sales find that all of their prospects lack knowledge, they might come gunning for the marketing team, whose job it is to inform prospects through quality content; content which grows brand awareness and educates prospects at the same time. You don’t want to give Sales Dave an excuse to raise his voice…

Wolf of Wall Street

3. Make good use of tools

No, we’re not still talking about Sales Dave. We mean measurement tools, which help you to decipher how people are coming to your site and how they’re interacting with your content. You might think it was a given that marketers were using them already, but generating website traffic and leads, and proving ROI are the two top marketing challenges cited by Hubspot respondents.

Generating useful data from Google Analytics and the like is your opportunity to show executives just how well your campaign has done, and where there is room for improvement to make the next one even better.

4. Up your visual content game

People like Sales Dave may have called visual content a “fad”, but Hubspot’s survey suggests it’s the opposite, and it’s only going to prove more popular and engaging with audiences. It shouldn’t come as any surprise, really, given that research shows how 90% of the information that comes to our brains is visual.

So, it’s time to up your visual content game a whole lot and go big on video, be it animated graphics or camera-shot stuff. According to the report, 48% of marketers plan to add YouTube as one of their content distribution channels in the next 12 months. In addition, 39% plan to add Facebook video and 33% plan to add Instagram to their efforts. I’m not sure why it’s taken us so long to clock on to the fact that people love visual, but it sounds like marketers are making up for lost time.

South Park

5. Let user experience lead your SEO

As Google continues to tweak its search algorithms and grow its artificial intelligence programs, marketers need to give SEO due consideration.

Hubspot found that 66% of marketers say growing SEO and organic presence is their number one priority within their inbound marketing projects. However, our advice to them (and you) would be to let user experience lead your SEO. Sure, get all the technical stuff sorted first – metadata etc. – but once that’s done, focus on the SEO aspects that will improve your website from your visitors’ perspective.

So there we have it. Make sure these five takeaways shape your inbound marketing strategy for 2017. Although, of course, the thought of thinking about Christmas and beyond is sacrilege, according to Sales Dave…

Disclaimer: The characters depicted in this content are fictions. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental.