Well, once more HubSpot has outdone itself. Today, the company released its eighth annual report on the state of inbound marketing worldwide. As expected, this year’s comprehensive report (download at the end of this post) is chock full of actionable statistics and concerns of the 2016 marketer, indicating the state of inbound marketing for not only businesses and agencies here in North America, but also across the globe.
Most notably, we highlight here just how pronounced the change is of a consumer’s reliance on mobile notifications to find content to share. As an added bonus, we’ve collected and condensed the top 12 takeaways from the report that are all you really need to know.
Check it out.
Inbound Strategy’s Transformation
In its infancy, inbound marketing simply meant attracting strangers surfing the internet (funny how even the term “surfing” is antiquated now) and turning them into visitors to a company’s website. Over the years, inbound marketing strategy evolved. Marketers trained their focus on letting websites serve as outbound salespeople in and of themselves, turning visitors into solid sales leads.
Today, inbound marketing means turning visitors and sales leads into happy customers. And that means getting existing customers to buy more, not just enticing new customers to buy. To do that, marketers must align their marketing methods and the way the company sells with the ways customers want to shop and buy.
Another change involved inbound marketing’s growth into a global movement. The members, and evangelists, of that movement shared ideas, insights, and successes with other members of the inbound community. This feeling of community, willingness to share, and honesty reflects a softening and increasing transparency around the edges of the sales/marketing game.
Customers today reject the “hard sell.” Shoppers conduct their own research on the internet and look for assistance in making buying decisions through sources like reviews, blogs, and consumer videos.
On top of this, mobile devices and social media networks exploded into our lives in recent years. For example, look at the year-over-year change in how U.S. adults used mobile phones to connect to the internet. Five years ago (2011), mobile phone users spent less than 1 hour/day/user (or 22% of the total time spent with digital media per person per day). Two years later (2013), mobile phone users spent 2.3 hours/person/day (or about 47% of total time spent with digital media per person per day). By 2015, mobile phone users spent 2.8 hours/person/day (or 51% of the total time spent with digital media per person per day). That’s a healthy 11% increase year-over-year.
Those browsing the internet can find content to share in various places … and content that’s strategically placed can attract and engage them. Customers also receive information via comments from other shoppers/consumers, in the form of ratings for products and services. A stunning statistic is that 62% of U.S. adults get news from social media and 18% of those do so regularly.
When it comes to Facebook, 66% of Facebook users now get their news from Facebook. Facebook recently introduced Search FYI, a search tool that returns personalized results, adds news stories, and highlights popular posts. For advertisers, this means that the content they produce must include sharing and SEO components if they want to stay high in the Facebook rankings. Facebook’s search results are based on the amount of conversation going on around the content and news articles.
In addition, Facebook recently added push notifications to its new offering, Businesses on Messenger. This feature is only available in the U.S. and allows notifications to be sent to users, such as when items come back in stock.
So, smart marketers have tuned into the newly informed consumer and paid attention to buyer attributes for a simple reason. An informed consumer is an empowered consumer … and empowered consumers buy when, where, and how they want. Any business who wishes to be successful in this late-digital age must keep up.
So how do people find content to share through mobile channels?
First, let’s agree that not all content shares well across all channels. The trick is to find the channel(s) that best suit both you and your customer’s needs, and, at the same time, extend the reach toward additional potential and existing customers.
Having said that, choosing social networking is the smart move. Social media marketing has a 100% higher lead-to-close ratio than outbound marketing. And perhaps even more importantly, in the past two years, U.S. social network users have increased content consumption 57% on Facebook.
In addition, the cultural popularity of sharing all kinds of videos has internet users exponentially increasing use of YouTube and other video sharing sites/apps (Vine, Snapchat), and even Facebook, too, as video continually climbs in importance in its newsfeed algorithms. As a result, many marketers are looking into adding YouTube and video share sites to their list of channel distributors and pushing out notifications to subscribers when a new video posts. In fact, according to HubSpot’s marketing statistics, YouTube rose to the #2 search engine status after Google and ahead of Bing, Yahoo, Ask, & AOL combined.
Podcasts are another channel for marketers, especially since they’re enjoying a newfound popularity. Podcasts are especially useful for customers looking to find content to share in long-form. Podcasts with valuable content demonstrate that the company is a thought leader in its field of expertise and has plenty to say and share. Podcasts amount to a three-for-one blast: the audio (sometimes video) educates consumers in some aspect of the business’s field, and then it doubles as an ad for the company, its products, or partners. Here, too, push notifications are key to set apart the new from the archives for subscribers.
Adding social networks or messaging apps as marketing channels also aligns with the needs of commercial buyers who responded to the HubSpot survey. 42% of the commercial buyers said they used social websites like Facebook and LinkedIn for business purposes, and 20% of polled participants plan to add messenger apps like Whatsapp, Facebook, and WeChat to their marketing efforts in the next year.
Our Other 12 Top Takeaways From The Report
(When you have time, though, the comprehensive report is well worth a full read.)
- Survey respondents said that using new sales technologies have made their jobs more difficult, either because the sales tools themselves are more complex, or just because of the sheer number of tools they have to use in their day-to-day work. So, have company priorities changed in response to the new sales dynamics? No. A full 74% of survey respondents said they were most interested in turning contacts and leads into customers. Another 57% want to increase traffic to their websites, while 46% want to focus on increasing the revenue from existing customers. Closing more deals was also the specific goal for 70% of respondents. Nothing earth-shattering or new in these findings.
- With respect to inbound marketing projects, where are the priorities? The top priority is to grow SEO (66%) while blogging came in a close second (60%) for respondents. (It makes sense that these two categories are in close agreement, since SEO and blogging are closely related.) An increase in content distribution came in a close third for 50% of the respondents.
- With such an emphasis on closing deals, what is the average percentage of leads that these companies turned into sales? Only 11% of respondents turned 50% or more of their leads into sales. Another 11% converted between 30% and 40% of leads into sales. The largest percentage of companies (23%) converted 10% or less of leads into sales.
- What is at the top of company sales to-do lists? In 2016, 28% of respondents said social selling topped their wish list. This is a 27% increase over 2015, when 22% of companies said the same.
- What constitutes the most challenging marketing issue? Almost two-thirds (65%) of respondents answered that developing market leads and traffic were their toughest tasks. Another 63% said that prospective customers are not knowledgeable (25%) or somewhat knowledgeable (38%) about the company before the sales representatives make their first contact. Those two statistics point in the same direction: the urgency for more visibility.
- Is there movement in marketing priorities year-over-year? Yes. In 2016, the top priority is SEO growth, while in 2015 it was content blogging. On the other hand, product online videos dropped to last place in 2016. There is also a new priority this year: marketing automation landed in fourth place. Marketing automation refers to the software developed to help automate and streamline marketing activities.
- What was the biggest change in sales priorities over last year? The largest change in priorities from 2015 is the increase from 22% to 28% of companies focused on social selling in 2016.
- How did respondents feel about the effectiveness of their marketing strategy? Companies whose approach to marketing was predominately inbound responded that they believed their marketing strategy is effective (81%).
- The survey asked how respondents would describe the relationship between marketing and sales departments. The 44% who defined their relationship as generally aligned also answered that their marketing strategy was effective. HubSpot says its data shows that the higher the degree of alignment between marketing and sales, the higher the degree of a successful marketing strategy. For example, 82% of companies that responded they had an SLA between marketing and sales also reported that they had a successful strategy.
- What industries adopt inbound marketing? It will come as no surprise that the rate of adoption of inbound marketing is 89% for e-commerce companies, 84% of marketing agencies, and 78% of software companies. Non-profit and government agencies adopt inbound marketing at a still surprising rate of 76%.
- What is the most overrated marketing strategy? Again, no surprises here. Paid marketing is always named as the most overrated tactic.
- What channels do marketers see as winners in the future? Most marketers believe that video and audio channels will help them win in the future. When asked what distribution channels they expected to add in the next 12 months, 48% said YouTube, 39% picked Facebook video, 33% chose Instagram and 15% plan to use podcasts. Interestingly, the next highest response after Instagram was the 22% of companies who said they weren’t planning to add any new distribution channels.
Download the full HubSpot report below for more 2016 findings.