It’s that time of year again, and the good people over at HubSpot have produced what is perhaps the most insight-filled inbound marketing report in the industry – State of Inbound 2017.

Today, inbound marketing needs to be at the forefront of all businesses’ marketing operations. No matter if you’re in B2B or B2C, your prospective and existing customers aren’t sitting around waiting for you to bombard them with unsolicited emails, TV commercials or junk mail through their front door. Instead, when they’ve got a problem that a business like yours can solve, they head online to find it – and inbound marketing is the number one strategy smart businesses use to ensure that they do.

Such is the nature of the modern internet, however, that online consumer habits don’t stay static for very long. As such, it’s imperative that we all keep firmly abreast of what’s going on in the industry, what the current trends are, and what we can expect to happen in the future.

The State of Inbound 2017 has arrived.

State of Inbound 2017 brings together data collected from more than 6,000 respondents in the world of inbound marketing. Brian Halligan, HubSpot CEO, marks two major changes that seem to be taking place as inbound continues to evolve: “Marketers are making the leap into visual content creation while salespeople are slowly shifting from the hard-seller stereotype to a more trusted advisor.”

That’s some great insight right there – as inbound marketers, we need to be focusing more and more on creating stunning visuals, while the sales team needs to be placing larger emphasis on educating prospects, as opposed to relentlessly going for the hard sell.

Great stuff, but State of Inbound 2017 is a lengthy document – so let’s now delve deep into the data and see what other important insights we can glean that should inform our inbound marketing methods as we head into the second half of the year.

The State of Marketing and Sales

First, let’s consider priorities.

To the uninitiated, it is often assumed that inbound marketing is primarily concerned with growing website traffic. Whilst it’s most certainly true that driving traffic is one huge benefit of good inbound marketing, State of Inbound 2017 reveals in no uncertain terms that its main purpose is to convert leads into customers. Make sales, in other words, and improve the bottom line.

That’s what a whopping 70% of the marketers surveyed stated as their top priority. Check it out…

The number one marketing priority for surveyed companies was lead conversion.

Inbound Marketing Priorities

One respondent to the State of Inbound 2017 survey highlighted that the inbound marketing priorities at the business where they worked were “focusing more on online presence such as industry directories, fixing and improving our own website, interacting with potential customers or people within the industry through online forums ... rather than print mags which don’t always reach our targets.”

This, indeed, marries with the overall trends from the survey, where improving SEO presence, creating more blog content, and content amplification were the top inbound marketing priorities of most marketers.

“Thinking specifically about inbound marketing projects, what are your company’s top priorities?”

Growing an organic presence was highlighted as the main priority for inbound marketing projects.

Here’s a big reveal. When asked, “In your opinion, what is the most overrated marketing tactic?”, by far and away the biggest answer was traditional, outbound, paid advertising, such as print and broadcasting.#

Paid advertising was deemed to be the most overrated marketing tactic.

Sales Priorities

Perhaps unsurprisingly, “closing more deals” was the top priority for 71% of sales professionals. Coming in second and third was “improving the efficiency of the sales funnel” and “social selling” at 44% and 29% respectively. And this is indeed revealing about how modern businesses are approaching the task of “closing more deals” in 2017.  

Improving the efficiency of the sales funnel means adapting to consumers’ changing online habits – and that means paying more attention to the buyer’s journey across the entire path to purchase, with social media, of course, being a particular case in point. Starting online conversations through the distribution and amplification of thoughtful content across social channels is helping more businesses generate leads and drive sales in 2017.

With 71%, closing more deals came out as the top sales priority for marketers.

The State of the Business

Here’s something very interesting revealed from the State of Inbound 2017 report – the higher the seniority of the respondent, the more effective they believed their organisation’s marketing strategy to be.

CEOs felt their marketing strategy was more effective than individuals with less power in the organisation.

What is the reason for this?

The report offers two possibilities. First, that senior figures are not reporting marketing’s performance adequately to the rest of the team, and are therefore seeing benefits that the rest of the team isn’t. Second, it could be that marketing teams believe that their organisation is not reaching its full potential in terms of marketing, and, for whatever reason, senior figures are blind to it.

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Either way, communication is clearly breaking down somewhere. Often, it’s the people on the ground, the individual contributors, who know what would most benefit their organisation, but can find themselves coming up against managerial figures who need more convincing. In light of this, we highly recommend you read our previous post, ‘How to Educate Your Boss on the Benefits of Inbound Marketing’.

Marketing and Sales Alignment

Positive accounts are generally reported in terms of marketing and sales alignment, with only 25% of respondents stating that their organisations are lacking in this area (though a further 10% are unsure).

Just 22% of responders felt their sales and marketing departments were tightly aligned.

The importance of a good, working relationship between these departments is highlighted by the fact that the better the alignment reported, the more effective the inbound marketing strategy.

This indeed is one of the key takeaways from State of Inbound 2017 – organisations perform better when traditionally siloed departments are merged to create a functioning and communicating whole. What’s more, the better the alignment, the larger the sales team, indicating that more sales are being made and the company is growing.

The less aligned the sales and marketing departments are, the less likely respondents were to report that their marketing efforts were effective.

The Marketing Business

While there is a clear indication that inbound marketing produces higher ROI than outbound marketing, 41% of business were either unable to answer the question or otherwise unable to calculate ROI. This is slightly concerning – the inability to calculate ROI means that it will be almost impossible for marketing teams to command bigger marketing budgets, or indeed prove their value in the first place.

Inbound marketing was deemed to have the greatest ROI for respondents.

Nonetheless, it is clear that inbound marketing practices are consistently providing the highest quality leads across the board – if you’re struggling to calculate your marketing ROI, now is the time to address the issue.

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Looking to the Future

Video is cited as the main inbound marketing disruptor today, with VR (virtual reality) and AI (artificial intelligence) expected to be the next big things that will shake up the industry.

Social media is cited as being the constant, steady disruptor, though it is noted that the rise of messenger apps is causing come change of focus.

As such, an increasing focus is being placed on YouTube and Facebook video in particular, with Instagram and messenger apps not far behind.

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Understanding the Modern Buyer

The biggest insight to take away from State of Inbound 2017 in terms of the modern buyer is that word-of-mouth recommendations are still the most powerful influence over purchase decisions.

This means that it is an organisation’s existing customer base that is their most valuable marketing asset – it is your customers advocating your services and products that will lead to more sales. Look after them.

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How People Like to Communicate

Good old email is still the preferred communication channel for 86% of respondents.

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As for social media, Facebook retains the top spot as might be expected. But it must be noted that LinkedIn actually comes up trumps in terms of professional use.

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10 Mind-Blowing Statistics from State of Inbound 2017

Ok, so that’s our executive summary of State of Inbound 2017.

We’ll conclude by listing 10 of the most important inbound marketing statistics revealed in the report for ease of reference.

  1. 70% of marketers cite converting leads into customers as their top inbound marketing priority for 2017
  2. Outbound marketing is overwhelmingly deemed as the most overrated marketing practice – cited by 32% of marketers
  3. Only 61% of respondents felt that their organisation’s marketing strategy was effective – there’s more work to be done
  4. 66% of organisations now have a good or excellent alignment between sales and marketing departments – great progress
  5. 81% of organisations with tight sales and marketing alignment report effective marketing
  6. 46% of marketers report that inbound marketing gives them the highest ROI – though, worryingly, 41% cited uncertainty about ROI calculations
  7. 59% of respondents said that it was inbound marketing practices that brought in the highest quality leads
  8. Word-of-mouth retains the most power over purchase decisions – cited by 54% of respondents in 2017
  9. 86% of marketers still prefer email as their primary communication channel for professional purposes
  10. LinkedIn is the most-used social media channel for professionals, favoured by 78% of respondents

If you want to know more about the State of Inbound 2017, you can download the full report here – and if you need help with any of your inbound marketing practices, please get in touch with us here at Incisive Edge.  

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