HubSpot recently published its annual State of Inbound Report, giving organizations a lot to consider as they make strategic decisions for the second half of 2017 and beyond. In the fast-paced, follow-the-shiny-object world of marketing, 40+ pages of data, insights, and findings is a little much to absorb, so we took care of the grunt work for you and packaged it into nine must-read nuggets. We give you three high-level takeaways, three things you might have missed, and three actionable items to do today.
State of Inbound: High-Level Takeaways
1. Execs and employees have different perceptions of their company’s marketing strategy
The report’s responses varied greatly between C-level executives and individual contributors in regard to varying aspects of their organization’s marketing and sales process. For example, when asked if their organization’s marketing strategy was effective, 69 percent of C-level respondents said it was, while only 55 percent of individual contributors considered their strategy effective. Further, most C-level respondents agreed that referrals were the top source of leads, while individual contributors thought sales-sourced leads ranked at the top.
Why should you care? These findings showcase a lack of company-wide communication in many organizations, resulting in differing perspectives and goals internally.
2. Organizations with ‘tightly aligned’ sales and marketing teams perform better
Prioritizing tight alignment between sales and marketing teams was a driving message in this year’s report. Only 22 percent of respondents said their organizations had a sales and marketing service level agreement, but 81 percent of those who responded this way thought their marketing strategy was effective. They also were more confident in their inbound marketing leads. By comparison, 66 percent of organizations who had a “generally aligned” marketing and sales team thought their strategy was effective. As an added bonus, 70 percent of the tightly aligned team respondents said they’d be increasing the size of their team, creating more opportunity for growth on a person-to-person and company-wide basis.
Why should you care? Tightly aligned teams perform better, and believe in their company’s strategy more than other team structures.
3. Video and visual marketing strategies are seen as both an opportunity and a curse to business
Video was ranked as the main disruptor to marketing this year, which explains why some are running toward it, and others are running away. Those who love video see it as a way to better connect with potential customers and clients in a less “in-your-face” way; some content marketers, on the other hand, are worried it could reduce or remove the need for copywriting and editing. Regardless of where your organization stands on the issue, YouTube and Facebook video remain the top two channels companies plan to add to their marketing strategies.
Why should you care? The competing views on video production as a marketing strategy can lead to pushback across the organization. Be ready to cite a clear strategy and supporting data when you decide to move forward with a video platform.
State of Inbound: You Might’ve Missed
1. video and social media were the top disruptors, But today’s political climate was also blamed
With an ever-changing and evolving idea of effective marketing, the dramatic political landscape today only serves to complicate things. Many respondents cited ” Brexit, the current U.S. administration, economic crises, world politics, and even […] currency fluctuations in South Africa” as disruptors to their marketing strategy.
Why should you care? World politics will continue changing rapidly as technology advances and governments make more and more unilateral decisions. Like it or not, the political climate impacts the way business is conducted, both internationally and domestically. Prepare yourself and your organization to embrace change, and you’ll handle it better when it comes.
2. Internal resistance to change is a disruptor, too
It’s no surprise that introducing new marketing strategies can receive some internal pushback. Sudden change can be overwhelming, and therefore seem like a bad business move to those deeply entrenched in a company’s culture. One respondent said, “We are trying to introduce new methods but facing a lot of internal resistance. Everyone gets a say on everything. If something works for one thing, it’s rolled out for everything, even when it’s not suitable.”
Why should you care? There’s no “right answer” for a marketing strategy, so it’s important to tailor yours to the specific goals and objectives you set for your organization. Marketing strategy should be collaborative, and everyone should feel heard, but it’s crucial to make business decisions based on what’s best for the organization.
3. Most companies plan to spend less than $25k on marketing
According to the report, 43 percent of organizations plan to spend less than $25,000 on marketing efforts in the next 12 months. This means marketing teams will be working with smaller budgets, forcing scrappy marketers to show off savviness and creativity in their solutions—it also means they’ll have less room for testing and iteration.
Why should you care? Set SMART goals for all new initiatives and keep a close eye on your analytics to track progress toward them. This will help determine the best use of budget and, perhaps more importantly, make a clearer case for increased budget for your team next fiscal year.
State of Inbound: What to Do Today
1. Open a company-wide dialogue
The disparity in perceptions of marketing effectiveness between C-level execs and staff is alarming. It calls for open, intentional, frequent, company-wide dialogue to decrease the gap in numbers. Marketing performance data should be shared across the organization and put into context for different teams. Constructive, candid feedback should be encouraged and collaboration should be rewarded.
Pro tip: Do this face-to-face whenever possible. Emails are much more efficient, but also far less personal. Establishing a common goal, especially as your team embarks on a new strategy, is a crucial step and well worth the time it takes to have face-to-face interaction.
2. Set SMART goals to build your inbound marketing plan
Building an inbound marketing strategy isn’t easy; it’s not a fast process and doesn’t deliver quick results. But it does deliver the highest quality leads, according to 59 percent of respondents. Not only that, 46 percent of respondents said inbound marketing showed a higher ROI than traditional outbound methods. Measuring ROI starts with setting SMART—specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-based—goals and tracking progress toward them. This approach allows you to gain alignment across the organization and clearly measure the ROI of an initiative.
Pro tip: Make sure you’re measuring more than just leads over time. It’s true that leads directly drive revenue, but other metrics will drive insights that can help you up your game across each project or deliverable. For example, when it comes to content on your site, high click-through rates coupled with high bounce rates may suggest a mismatch between your well-written headline and searcher intent. Likewise, deep scroll depth coupled with low conversion rate could mean you’re engaging your target audience but your CTAs aren’t working hard enough for you.
3. Embrace the change
One respondent put it perfectly when they said, “If a company is slow to capture a new mode of communication, it might as well stop the business.” If you’re behind the change, you’re behind. Try training your staff on basic video production and editing. Join other trailblazing organizations that are leveraging messaging apps like WhatsApp and Snapchat. As long as you’re setting SMART goals and tracking the ROI of your innovative ideas, you’ll be able to adapt as you go, and achieve results that will keep leadership happy.
Pro tip: It’s been mentioned before but set realistic expectations for performance. “Inbound” marketing is about building trust and credibility among new audiences and proving to search engines your great content should be rewarded with rankings. This is not a quick process, but once it happens, your brand will reap the benefits of a consistent and predictable stream of traffic and high-quality leads.
The Bottom Line
It seems like marketers are constantly searching for the quick-fix solution that requires little investment to drive astronomical growth. The fact is, it’s not out there, so stop looking. The state of inbound marketing today is that organizations still need help setting strategic goals, embracing new methodologies, and communicating the ROI of inbound marketing to their internal teams. It’s going to take brave and patient leaders who understand that changing user behavior online takes time and that today’s new audiences are the foundation of tomorrow’s growth.