In Inbound Marketing, Marketing Strategy

Lessons from the State of Inbound Report

Every year, HubSpot, a company with an inbound marketing and sales platform, surveys thousands of marketing and sales professionals for its State of Inbound report. The results of the report have become a go-to resource for understanding what marketing and sales people are focused on, their challenges, and their current tactics and tools. They’ve also become a litmus test for setting up the next year of planning.

The majority of respondents were marketers from B2B SMBs and only one-third have an affiliation with HubSpot. Half of the companies surveyed generate under $1M a year. The final report is a consolidation of survey answers and anecdotal feedback from 3,957 people in 150 countries and six international regions.

Why “inbound” marketing?

Inbound marketing, a phrase coined by Hubspot back in 2006, is defined as “a methodology that focuses on creating quality content that pulls people toward your company and product.” It’s in contrast to the idea of “pushing” messages at people with cold calling, trade shows, paid advertising, and more. It overlaps a bit with content marketing, but the two are slightly different. Inbound is essentially content marketing with added strategy for lead generation, lead nurturing, and marketing automation.

7 Takeaways from the Research:

1. Three out of four marketers across the globe prioritize an inbound approach to marketing.

Inbound is no longer a niche. It’s rapidly becoming the dominant marketing methodology. For years, it has been known as the “small business” answer to big marketing budgets. But now, evidence shows that everyone, big companies and small, are growing their teams and strategies to support it. As buyers are evolving, marketers are rethinking their processes into an attraction-based approach using educational content.

2. Both inbound and outbound marketers rank paid advertising as the #1 most overrated marketing tactic.

Every year HubSpot asks marketers to identify the most overrated marketing tactic. HubSpot is quick to admit that inbound marketers tend to be biased and rate outbound tactics, like paid advertising, as overrated. However, they cut the data to compare the responses of inbound marketers and outbound marketers and were surprised to find that outbound marketers hate outbound marketing too. 

It’s hard to measure the success of outbound campaigns. It’s also hard to track leads after an outbound campaign. With the report’s heavy focus on the value of ROI, it’s no wonder more an more people are struggling to suggest paid advertising.

3. Proven marketing ROI unlocks budget…but you have to be tracking it in the first place.

Everyone wants more budget. But, you won’t get it until you can prove your worth. As we’ll see in our next point, inbound isn’t a quick-hit process and the investment can spread over a long period of time. If you want more budget you need to be tracking the ROI of each step. Interestingly, some marketers actually secured more budget after failures. Why? Because they were able to demonstrate what they’ve learned. So again, if you’re not tracking…you can’t show what you’ve done.

4. Top-notch marketers recognize that inbound is a long game.

97% of marketers that proved success saw an increased budget. Of those that started slow and claimed a past failure with inbound, 81% still saw increased budgets. Some audiences and industries take longer. Everyone is different. Lesson is, don’t be defeated by a slow start and definitely don’t back off. Rather, you’d be wise to double down instead.

5. Inbound is the preferred marketing strategy regardless of company type (B2B, B2C, nonprofit).

Inbound has definitely been a major approach for business-to-business firms. However, the report shows that it’s not successful just for B2B. Of the nearly 4,000 respondents, inbound had a 75% change of being the chosen marketing approach while outbound had only a 25% change. These percentages remained consistent as they broke the data down into B2B (76% inbound), B2C (76% inbound) and nonprofit (78% inbound).

6. Inbound campaigns achieve higher ROI than outbound.

Every company surveyed, regardless of marketing spend, was three times as likely to see a higher ROI on inbound marketing campaigns than on outbound. Respondents from companies that saw a greater ROI in 2015 than 2014 cited paid advertising as the most overrated tactic. Outbound can still play a meaningful role in an integrated strategy. However, more and more evidence is showing that money may be better spend elsewhere.

7. Establishing a Marketing-Sales service level agreement (SLA) leads to higher ROI.

Marketing isn’t successful if sales isn’t successful. In order to work together, everyone needs to be on the same page. Inbound is a team effort that requires buy-in from all departments. For example, marketers need to create content that the sales team thinks is meaningful and the sales team needs to use the content the marketers create. Or, marketers need to understand the sales process/funnel so they can create appropriate content for each step of the way. If you can write out a “you do this and we’ll do this” SLA, evidence shows you’re 47% more likely to have a greater ROI next year.

These are only a small snapshot of the pages and pages of research and data. There’s even an entirely new section this year focused just on sales practices. Take a minute to download the entire report and consider using these results as you plan your next 12 months of marketing. 

Feature image courtesy of HubSpot.

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