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Insights from 'The State of Inbound'

Michael SilvermanWritten by Michael Silverman
Feb 8, 2017 10:15:00 AM

If you saw Hubspot’s State of Inbound 2016 report last fall, chances are you’ve put it aside, maybe after feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the information in there. Trying to digest it all at once was a bit like drinking from a fire hose.

But it’s worth taking a second look at what that report has to say about the state of inbound marketing. There are insights in the report that can help you.

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Generating leads is the biggest challenge for inbound marketers, the report outlines, followed by proving the return on investment of inbound. Generating leads has been on top since 2013 in this annual report but wasn’t visible before that. What happened? Has everyone suddenly gotten religion as far as inbound is concerned? And if they have, will there be a shake-out as those not doing it well give up? That will be worth watching because those who are doing it well can prosper when that shake-out occurs.

IT is the heaviest user of inbound marketing with 72% of respondents in IT and services using primarily inbound marketing for lead generation. But other sectors are beginning to catch up. In education, 66% are using primarily inbound while in financial services the figure is 62%. Healthcare and manufacturing are lagging at 57% and 59% respectively.

screenshot2-1.pngAnother challenge, of course, is to turn traffic into sales, which means it’s important for marketing and sales to be working together. But the report shows a disconnect between marketing and sales in terms of what source they think generates the highest quality leads. Roughly 59% of marketers say those premium leads come from inbound practices while 38% of salespeople say the best leads come from lead directly sourced by sales.

There’s work to be done here. Marketers need to be up-to-date with their understanding of who key prospects are, verifying who is coming to their sites so they can communicate with sales about the quality of their inbound-generated leads.

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It’s interesting to see that when decision-makers are asked where they go for information, word of mouth still ranks No. 1 with 55%, down only slightly from the previous year’s 57%. All these years of content marketing efforts have not changed that. Customer referrals, media articles and vendor authored materials are neck and neck for the second, third and fourth spots.
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Also interesting is that e-mail still comes out on top in the question “How do you prefer to communicate for business purposes?” Content marketers take note of that, it means you still need to be doing e-newsletters to push content out to decision-makers.

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screenshot5.pngSurvey respondents also confirm that, in terms of social media outlets, Facebook is the place for personal communications while LinkedIn is the place for professional networking. It will be interesting to see what Microsoft’s purchase of LinkedIn does to it. Facebook is a strong No. 2 on the professional side, but there really is no strong No. 2 for personal.

Generating qualified leads is getting more difficult, the report finds, and some of the tools sales people are using seem to be getting in the way of them doing their jobs.

So to sum up, your key take-aways from this report:

  1. The goal of inbound marketing has progressed from merely getting people to your site to converting them into customers.
  2. The industrial sector is lagging in its use of inbound and needs to pick up the pace.
  3. We may be in a bit of a bubble in which many have gotten the inbound marketing message, so many that some will start to abandon it when they don’t see desired results. That shakeout will leave the best of the inbound marketers to reap the largest rewards in terms of visitor conversions.
  4. Marketing and sales need to be aligned in your organization to maximize the effectiveness of your inbound efforts. The report shows a disconnect in many cases.Let's Talk!

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