Over the past several years, advances in the technology have brought about a corresponding revolution in both marketing and selling.
Changes in the way customers look for what they want have caused irreversible shifts in the potential modes of advertising, and consumers have gained control over advertising to an unprecedented degree. The old corporate-controlled sales models are losing customer share in favor of more consumer-controlled methods, and everything points to that tendency increasing in future.
Looking at the state of inbound marketing at the end of 2016 can help you make data-driven decisions in 2017 and beyond.
Hubspot's annual "State of Inbound" survey provides the most comprehensive benchmark data available anywhere on marketing professionals' attitudes and behaviors. Each year, more than 4,000 large and small B2B, B2C and nonprofit marketers from around the world - representing industries as diverse as marketing, healthcare, education, IT, financial services and software - offer their views on the marketing issues which companies need to weigh as they go about creating marketing budgets and allocate scant resources.
The State of Inbound 2016 report includes some expected findings, along with a few surprises. Once again, as Hubspot notes in the report's introduction, emerging technologies stand out as the factor most influencing the digital experience, and the one to which marketers are most pressed to respond:
"Over the past few years, we've observed innovations in technology that have drastically changed the digital experience for people all over the world. More people are using mobile to access the internet than ever before, newsfeeds are packed with content, and bots are redefining what it looks like to complete the most common of online tasks. And as technology changes, the inbound marketing methodology must evolve with it."
Here are 12 of Inbound 2016's key findings:
1. More companies are leveraging inbound marketing
For 73% of surveyed companies, inbound is the primary approach to marketing, compared to 24% who depend primarily on outbound strategies, and 3% who aren't sure.
2. Lead generation is the top marketing priority
74% of respondents selected "converting contacts to leads/customers" as their highest priority, followed by increasing website traffic (54%), increasing revenue from existing customers (47%) and demonstrating the ROI of marketing activities (42%).
3. Increasing SEO is the top inbound priority
66% of respondents listed improving SEO as their most important inbound marketing strategy. Others which topped the list are blog content creation (60%) , content distribution (54%) and marketing automation (44%).
4. Top sales priorities
The majority of respondents (70%) are focused on closing sales. Other top sales priorities include improving the sales funnel (47%), reducing the length of the sales cycle (31%) and social selling (28%).
Of these, social selling saw the biggest increase - up 6% from the previous year.
5. Prospecting is the biggest challenge for sales reps
Although this is down from the previous year, prospecting remains the biggest challenge for sales reps - 33% of respondents selected this option, and 71% of sales reps say they are only "somewhat knowledgeable" or "not at all knowledgeable" when it comes to effectively prospecting.
6. Most marketers think their company's marketing strategy is effective
61% of people replied "yes" when asked if their organization's marketing strategy was effective, compared to 39% who felt it wasn't.
7. Inbound organizations were 4 times as likely to rate their marketing strategy as "highly effective"
A whopping 81% of companies which rely primarily on inbound marketing consider themselves highly effective, compared to only 18% of those for whom outbound is the primary strategy.
8. For marketers, inbound practices provide the highest quality leads
For 59% of marketers, inbound strategies provide the best leads, while only 17% attribute their best leads to outbound practices.
Sales reps, on the other hand, felt their best leads were either self-sourced (38%) or came from referrals (36%).
9. Marketers who calculate ROI are 1.6 times more likely to see budget increases
49% of marketers who are able to tie the marketing strategies they employ to ROI saw an increase in their marketing budgets, compared to 30% for those who don't calculate ROI. In addition, 72% of those who calculate ROI felt their marketing strategies were effective, compared to 49% of those who don't.
10. Ecommerce businesses and marketing agencies are most likely to rely on inbound marketing
Of all the industries surveyed, ecommerce (89%) and marketing (84%) were the most likely to report inbound as their primary marketing strategy.
Healthcare and industrial/manufacturing (both at 39%) were the least likely.
11. Marketers feel paid advertising is the most overrated marketing tactic
Inbound (33%) and outbound (31%) marketers both agreed that paid advertising is the most overrated tactic.
12. Social media continues its dominance among content distribution channels
When asked what content distribution channels they plan to add over the next year, the top three spots went to social media platforms - YouTube (48%) topped the list, followed by Facebook video (39%) and Instagram (33%).
Marketers increasingly understand the value of inbound marketing, and are increasingly coming to rely on inbound strategies to achieve their principal marketing goals. These insights provide some perspective on the state of the market, which may help you get a better understanding of your approach and comparative position on the latest industry trends.
This post originally appeared on The Fried Side blog