For the past seven years, marketing automation software company HubSpot has published findings from its annual survey on marketers' challenges, priorities, tactics and results in its "State of Inbound" report.
The report tracks the practice of inbound marketing which it defines this way:
"Instead of blasting out interruptive ads and trying to pull people to your company, inbound marketing uses helpful content to attract visitors and get them to engage of their own volition."
Last year, the report added a sales section to provide a more complete view into the entire lead-to-customer life cycle.
"The biggest change is that 2015’s report doesn’t cover the emergence of inbound marketing as it has in past years -- the principles are now well-entrenched. Rather, this year’s data begins to reveal why leaders lead and laggards lag. You’ll also find trending sales data that reveals how salespeople’s pressing challenges and priorities have shifted since last year, in addition to attitudes toward buzz worthy sales practices such as social selling."
The study was a voluntary sample of nearly 4,000 respondents from more than 150 countries. Most work for B2B companies, with half those companies generating under $1M a year in revenue, and the other half generating over $1M.
Until you have a chance to dig into the 72-page report, here are 13 lucky takeaways that that can help you win at growing your business and boosting your career.
To attract prospective customers, think first about using a magnet rather than a megaphone. Instead of a traditional marketing approach of spending money on flashy advertising and other interruptive tactics, produce helpful, interesting content that pulls customers to you rather than trying to push your message on them.
Is advertising going away? Never! Is it as powerful as it was a few years ago? Hardly. Thanks to technology, people can increasingly avoid your unwanted, interruptive advertising. Plus, advertising is one of the least trusted forms of information.
So why are outbound marketers, who named paid advertising as the most overrated marketing tactic, still using it? They are most likely throwing money at paid advertising as a sort of diversification of their marketing portfolio.
Demonstrating ROI is the #1 challenge marketers face. Securing more marketing budget is #2. Not surprisingly, they go hand in hand. In fact, survey respondents whose teams demonstrated positive marketing ROI in 2015 were more than twice as likely to receive higher budget.
The opposite is even more compelling: demonstrating positive ROI makes you NINE TIMES less likely to see a lower budget the following year than if your team failed to show a positive return. The key is tracking ROI in the first place. No ROI tracking, no demonstrable ROI. No ROI, no budget.
Of those marketers who have had past success with inbound, 97% increased their budgets. And of those who got off to a slow start and claimed past failure with inbound, 81% still increased their budgets. Some take longer to see the light. If you get off to a slow start, don’t back off. In fact, you might consider doubling down.
Yeah, but you’re different right? If you think inbound marketing isn’t for you, guess again. Of the nearly 4,000 people surveyed, inbound had a 75% likelihood of being the preferred marketing approach. This was consistent across all company types (B2B, B2C, and nonprofit).
Every company surveyed, regardless of marketing budget, was three times as likely to see a higher ROI in inbound marketing campaigns than outbound. But here’s what might surprise you: the smaller the marketing budget, the higher the ROI. This is probably because the smaller the budget, the less that can be thrown around on low-return tactics. Which is why if your organization spends less than $100,000 on marketing annually, you’re four times more likely to practice inbound than outbound.
An SLA is a written definition of what marketing and sales agree to do for each other. For instance, marketing would agreed to provide a specific number of quality leads within a given time in order for sales to reach their quota. Conversely, sales will agree to a certain speed and depth of lead follow up that makes economic sense.
Why is this so important? Because it’s not all about marketing. Don’t forget the axiom “nothing happens until someone sells something.” That’s why inbound success requires a strong alignment between Sales and Marketing. The companies getting the most out of their marketing budget (and getting bigger budgets and headcounts) tend to be tightly partnered with Sales.
HubSpot defines social selling as “when salespeople use social media to interact directly with their prospects. Salespeople will provide value by answering prospect questions and offering thoughtful content until the prospect is ready to buy.”
Despite the considerable hype around the term social selling and growing evidence of its effectiveness as a sales tactic, the importance placed on it by survey respondents remained flat. It’s probably an overall lack of awareness and understanding of what social selling is.
However, social selling ranked higher on executives’ priority lists which could indicate an uptick in social selling adoption as executives being investigating and implementing the practice with their sales teams.
Sales teams are struggling with decreased budgets. Fortunately, lower priced sales technology are emerging. However, sales teams that have adopted new tools haven’t been blown away by them – highly satisfied users are in the minority. Want a competitive edge? Don’t give up trying to make the technology work.
CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. Salesforce describes it this way: "CRM system allows businesses to manage business relationships and the data and information associated with them. With CRM, you can store customer and prospect contact information, accounts, leads and sales opportunities in one central location, ideally in the cloud so the information is accessible by many, in real time."
The study found that CRMs remain a lower priority. One reason could be that CRM systems have been viewed as a contact management database and little else. However, modern CRM systems can actually speed the sales process and enable salespeople to close more deals.
As awareness of modern CRM systems increase, sales leaders, managers and reps will begin making CRM adoption and usage a higher priority. Don’t wait for that to happen – the early bird gets the worm.
And prospecting increases in difficulty the less information salespeople have readily available to them. So the more information salespeople have about their prospects, the more effective their efforts will be.
In the study, a staggering 83% of respondents from failing teams said they didn’t know what information they had before contacting a lead. Only 17% of successful teams gave the same answer. Knowledge is power!
Despite all the predictions of field sales going the way of the dinosaur given the ease and cost savings of conducting business virtually by inside sales, the survey revealed that staffing plans for inside and outside sales positions are nearly identical. Who knew?
According to the survey, executives making business software purchase decisions are least likely to rely on a salesperson for information, instead preferring to seek out word-of-mouth and social media referrals, customer references, and analyst reports.
Since buyers increasingly put their faith in reports and social media referrals, arming salespeople with content and engaging with buyers on social channels could boost their credibility.
photo credit: Thirteen via photopin (license)