HubSpot recently published its State of Inbound report – an annual survey that explores the inbound marketing and sales landscape. More than 4,500 industry professionals from B2B and B2C backgrounds at small-mid sized businesses around the world got involved, revealing the trends, challenges, and strategies of the inbound movement right now, and where it’s set to head next.
Music to our ears – the majority of companies (73 percent) said they prioritise an inbound approach to marketing compared with outbound (24 percent) and other / don’t know (3 percent).
Opening the report, Brian Halligan, Hubspot’s CEO, says:
“The world is becoming more inbound. It’s growing more authentic, less interruptive. And with the findings of this year’s report, I think it’s safe to say that over the next ten years we’re going to see an even more inbound world.”
Here I will delve into some of the key findings and takeaways from the State of Inbound that I believe will help shape and evolve the industry.
Top priorities for inbound marketers
Marketers today are focused on the goal of converting their visitors into leads and customers – in fact, 74% of those surveyed claimed that this was their top priority for the next twelve months.
Closely behind this priority, is a desire to grow the quantity of web traffic, with 57% of marketers stating this as a priority.
In terms of inbound marketing specifically, improving organic presence is the top priority for 66 percent of respondents, followed by creating that all important bread and butter blog content (60 percent).
As search engines (we all know I’m talking about Google) continue to roll out algorithm updates and make developments in artificial intelligence, marketers are constantly battling to improve site rankings and attract more eyeballs. Optimising on-page content and providing a user-friendly experience is key.
Inbound marketers’ top challenges
Looking back at previous editions of the report, the biggest challenge for marketers has long been proving ROI of marketing activities. This year, Hubspot introduced a new response to the survey – generating traffic and leads — which is now the most cited challenge.
In fact, the top three challenges marketers face today are all metrics-driven: generating traffic and leads (65 percent), proving ROI (43 percent) and securing budget (28 percent).
It’s vital then to ensure the proper tools and adequate resource are available to track and analyse campaign results. The data collected will provide a strong insight into the types of content your audience finds irresistible.
A deeper delve into the data shows that outbound-focused marketers struggle more with these metrics than their inbound peers.
Whilst on the topic of proving ROI being a top marketing challenge, we should remind ourselves of the vital role that measurable results plays in successful marketing strategy. When asked if their organisation has an effective marketing strategy in place, 72 percent of those organisations that do calculate ROI said yes, compared to just 49 percent of those which do not calculate ROI.
What’s more, those companies that do calculate ROI were 1.6x more likely to receive a higher marketing budget compared to last year. Overcoming the challenges of proving these measures is therefore essential if marketers want to be successful in the future.
Planning for the future of inbound marketing
Looking forward, marketers plan to pour their efforts into producing more multimedia content, across more channels.
Visual and audio content is growing in popularity, and marketers are not holding back from leveraging this in big ways. The majority predict they will be jumping on the video bandwagon with 48 percent planning to introduce YouTube and 39 percent planning to introduce Facebook videos to their strategies. Instagram will be added to 33 percent of content strategies, and Snapchat added to 13 percent. Podcasts are set to enjoy a resurge in popularity, too.
Marketers are clearly working to decentralise and mix up their content then, so does this spell the death of the blog? Absolutely not. Multichannel content is not about scrapping existing strategies, but rather making them work more effectively. If a particular piece of blog content performs well, then this is a great place to start repurposing into other multimedia formats.
Respondents were also asked to report any channels or technologies they believe will disrupt the industry and their jobs in the future; 41 percent said marketing automation, 35 percent think virtual reality and artificial intelligence, and a few specifically called out Snapchat.
The State of Inbound report serves as a reminder that inbound marketing sets out to transform the way organisations carry out their business, making them more transparent and more human. This has given marketers a better opportunity to tailor their processes to fit with the way audiences actually want to consume them.
Being relevant and helpful to your audience is of course the nuts and bolts of any successful inbound approach, and while this remains constant, technology is always evolving and new consumer habits are unfolding, and so marketers must adapt in order to improve these relationships.
If you’re keen to find out more, you can download the full report here.