What’s Driving Today’s Inbound Marketers?
HubSpot’s recently released report, “The State of Inbound 2016,” shows a shift in the inbound marketing landscape. If in the past the focus was on persuading people to visit your website and turning those visitors into qualified leads, today the emphasis is on converting leads into delighted customers. According to a recent McKinsey Quarterly executive briefing, how an organization delivers for customers is beginning to be understood as just as important as what it delivers. It’s all about looking at how people make purchasing decisions and aligning your marketing efforts around that in order to deliver the best customer experience possible.
With that goal in mind, we’ve provided a snapshot of the report’s findings. HubSpot gathered responses from over 4,500 small and mid-size B2B marketers worldwide—most of whom are not HubSpot customers—to generate the report.
Challenges and priorities
Metrics remain a perennial challenge for inbound marketers, with many saying they lack access to tools to help them adequately measure campaign results. Top challenges for 2016 include:
- Generating traffic and leads—65%
- Proving ROI on marketing activities—43%
- Securing enough budget—28%
- Managing their own website—26%
- Identifying the right technologies for their needs—25%
Not surprisingly, the #1 business priority for those surveyed maps directly to the most-cited challenge: Converting contacts and leads into customers moved up from the #2 spot last year to the top this year, cited by 74% of respondents. Increasing traffic to their websites ranked second at 57%, followed by increasing revenue derived from existing customers at 46%.
Top priorities for inbound marketing projects in the coming year include:
- Growing SEO/organic presence—66%
- Creating blog content—60%
- Distributing and amplifying content—50%
- Marketing automation—44%
- Creating interactive content—41%
Other popular initiatives involve long-form content creation, such as ebooks and white papers; visual content creation, such as infographics; and online tools, product how-to videos, and webinars.
The benefits of an effective team
When HubSpot looked into the composition of strategically effective marketing companies, inbound organizations were four times more likely to rate their marketing strategy highly. On the other hand, a higher percentage of teams—32%—who rated their marketing strategy as ineffective reported challenges with managing their website. Only 22% of teams who rated their strategy as effective were likely to report issues with website management.
It also pays to measure the results of your efforts. According to the report, organizations that calculate marketing ROI are 1.6 times more likely to receive higher budgets than those that don’t gather ROI metrics.
And such measurement influences the way those efforts are viewed. For example, 72% of organizations that calculate ROI believe that their organization’s marketing strategy is effective, while slightly more than half (51%) of organizations that don’t calculate marketing ROI feel their marketing strategy is ineffective.
Organizations that do calculate marketing ROI said that past success with inbound marketing drove their marketing budget allocation, while those that don’t calculate ROI cited economic conditions as having the strongest effect on their budget.
The industry view of inbound and outbound marketing
Ecommerce firms, marketing agencies, and software companies had the highest rates of inbound marketing usage. And as any fan of The Fantastic Four knows, a unified effort produces better results than going it alone: The same industries that show a high level of inbound marketing also have highly aligned sales and marketing teams: 28% of e-commerce firms, 31% of marketing agencies, and 20% of software companies have a service level agreement (SLA).
For marketing agencies, 77% said that converting contacts and/or leads into customers was a top marketing priority over the next twelve months. A significant number ranked increasing revenue derived from existing customers as a priority (47%), as well as growing traffic to their website (46%). And more than a third of marketing agencies (39%) ranked proving the ROI of marketing activities as a top priority. These three activities go hand-in-hand, since the ability to show ROI is a key way to attract more business, from both new and existing customers. And the story behind each happy customer is all the more convincing when there’s hard data to back it up.
Across the board, by industry and region, survey respondents felt that outbound marketing (paid advertising) was the most overrated marketing tactic. This finding has been consistent throughout the eight years that HubSpot has conducted the survey.
A window into the future
Video looms large in the content distribution plans of many survey respondents, with 48% planning to launch efforts on YouTube and 39% voicing interest in posting video on Facebook. C-level business leaders in particular are keen to add video, with 56% of executives planning to add YouTube as a content channel and 46% intending to use Facebook video. However, only 17% of C-level survey respondents said they are considering Snapchat.
When asked what technologies or channels they thought would most likely disrupt their industries, respondents cited marketing automation, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence technologies, with a small number calling out Snapchat’s potential to change the way they do their jobs.
To prepare for these potential disruptions, respondents plan to adjust their strategies as needed, sticking with what the data shows is working and trying out new ideas, so as not to be caught off guard.