When it comes to marketing practices for modern companies, it's no surprise that inbound is king. Not only is it less expensive, it’s also more effective than its traditional counterpart.
Hubspot released its eighth annual report on the state of inbound marketing this month. You can download the full report here. In this post we'll cover some of the highlights and implications business owners and marketers will want to consider as they shape their strategy.
Inbound vs. Outbound
First off, if you’re not entirely clear on the difference between outbound/traditional and inbound/new marketing, this infographic from Blue Frog Marketing sums up the basic differences and provides some rationale for the shift toward inbound.
Hubspot reported that 73 percent of its respondents utilize inbound for marketing their products and services. Of marketers who prioritize inbound, 81 percent reported their strategies are effective while only 18 percent of marketers who focus on outbound methods called their strategy effective.
Of the marketers who consider their marketing a success, 67 percent said their best source of quality leads come from inbound practices, followed by self-sourced leads from the sales team (17 percent) and outbound marketing (16 percent). Even marketers who don’t consider their strategy effective cited inbound as their best source for leads.
The Formula for Effective Marketing
The ultimate goal of growing a company through marketing depends not only on bringing in the leads (marketing) but converting those leads into customers (sales). The more tightly aligned your marketing and sales teams are, the more likely you are to see growth. Of the companies who consider their marketing effective, 84 percent have closely aligned marketing and sales departments.
Inbound marketing practices with tightly aligned sales and marketing teams make up the winning combination for growth.
Part of aligning your teams includes creating a feedback loop between the two. When it comes to quality, salespeople graded marketing leads as low. This means even if the marketing team is bringing in hundreds of leads, salespeople won't be able to close them because the majority of these prospects aren't part of the company's target market. In order for your marketing team to fix the problem, they need to know there is a problem in the first place—and that won't happen without building feedback into your process.
Marketers’ top priorities as we head into 2017 are to:
- Convert leads into customers
- Increase website traffic
Their biggest challenges are:
- Generating leads
- Proving the ROI of marketing activities
The challenges feed directly into the priorities. Generating leads is the prerequisite to conversion, but those numbers are only going to go up if you’re marketing to the right people in the right places. Know your audience. If you need to do a survey of your current customers, it will be well worth your time and can help improve the return on your investment.
If you haven’t taken the time to assess who your ideal customer is and where they get their information, you’re not alone. According to Hubspot's report, lead-to-customer conversion was less than 20 percent in 2016. Marketers across the board are having a hard time attracting the right people, which means some extra effort on your part can go a long way in setting you apart from the competition.
Do your research. Peppering your message out to the masses because “it’s a numbers game and somebody will buy” is the mindset of traditional marketing. The ability to target the right audience is part of the power of new marketing.
Measuring the success of your marketing is essential to determining your strategy, budget and next steps. If you have a marketing team, they need to show they're getting results. If you are the marketing team, you don't want to waste your time on activities that don't grow the business. So gather your metrics, analyze your data and move forward accordingly.
If you’re struggling to prove the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness, which is also valuable information) of your current marketing strategy, start paying attention to:
- The number of leads sourced by your marketing department
- How many marketing qualified leads (MQLs) are handed to your sales team
- The number of MQLs worked by your salespeople
- How many of the deals your sales team closes originated from the marketing team
By collecting this data on a regular basis, you’ll be able to see where the issues lie and what is and isn't working. If your sales team works 1,000 MQLs but only closes five, there’s an issue with your marketing team’s qualification process. Now you know what to fix.
Collecting data adds a step to your marketing processes, but just like getting to know your audience it’s worth it to take the time and develop the process. When you see these metrics improve, you’ll know exactly what value your marketing efforts are providing. Of those marketers who track ROI, 72 percent believe their strategy is effective. For those who don’t track these results, only 49 percent said the same. Don’t guess. Know.
Seek to Educate
The point of marketing today includes education so a prospect is well-versed in your brand and product or service by the time they speak to a sales rep. However, 63 percent of those surveyed said prospective customers are only “somewhat” or “not at all” informed about their company before a sales rep makes contact. This makes selling more difficult. If you want to help your sales team, educate your audience. There is a direct correlation between how much a prospect knows and how likely they are to buy.
For 2017, marketers are paying attention to the rise in the power of video with 48 percent planning to add YouTube to their marketing mix and 39 percent planning to integrate Facebook video. This trend of prioritizing video is consistent for marketers globally. Other additions to companies' marketing tactics in 2017 will include:
- Instagram (33 percent)
- Messaging apps (20 percent)
- Podcasts (15 percent)
- Snapchat (13 percent)
- Medium (8 percent)
- Slack (5 percent)
- Vine (5 percent)
What you add to your marketing mix depends on your unique business and audience. Keep your ears open for new channels of communication and find out if your audience uses it. You just might be surprised.
Are your marketing efforts paying off? How could you make them more effective?