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Summary // State of Inbound 2016

SMPerth // 28th September 2016

The eighth annual State of Inbound 2016 report surveys thousands of marketers and salespeople from around the world to extract data around their challenges and priorities, as well as the strategies, trends and growth areas affecting them right now.

An extensive document, we’ve extracted some of the gems to ensure you’re across the latest from global inbound marketing.

Marketing and Sales Priorities 2016

Welcome to the inbound era: a whopping 73% of organisations are using inbound marketing strategy and tactics as their preferred marketing approach.

In terms of marketer’s priority over the next 12 months:

  • 74% converting/leads to customers
  • 57% growing traffic to their website
  • 46% increasing revenue derived from existing customers
  • 42% proving the ROI of marketing activity
  • 32% sales enablement
  • 27% reducing the cost of contacts/leads/customer acquisition

An overwhelming theme that has emerged across the survey in recent years is that organisations are becoming more and more vigilant about proving ROI on marketing activity, leading to greater emphasis on metrics.

Drilling down further 66% of marketers are focused on growing SEO, blog content creation, and content distribution. The blog continues to be marketers’ bread and butter, with 60% prioritising this form of content creation.

Marketing and Sales Challenges 2016

Access to tools to help track campaign results is a primary concern for marketers today with 43% suggesting proving ROI on marketing activity is their biggest challenge.

Inbound marketing is firmly focused on conversion and traffic growth over the next 12 months, whereas outbound is more inclined to focus on sales enablement.

Compared to outbound marketing teams, 24% more inbound organisations will be focusing on content creation and 11% more are prioritising organic reach.

Companies that described themselves as “outbound shops” seem to have slightly more trouble with proving ROI (49% versus 42%), securing budget (33% versus 26%), and training their team (23% versus 18%) compared to their inbound marketing teams.

ROI and Budget

Being able to prove ROI is crucial to a marketing team’s success and continues to be a top challenge for marketers today. Teams that can calculate ROI are 1.6 times as likely to receive higher budgets.

Marketing teams that can calculate ROI have 72% more confidence in their marketing strategy. Those who don’t calculate ROI are much more mixed in their assessment.

When asked what drove marketing budget allocation, teams that calculated ROI (58%) cited past success with inbound. Those who didn’t calculate ROI said economic conditions had the most impact on budget.

As marketing becomes more metrics driven, those who don’t measure ROI risk losing out on budget. Now is the time to need to invest in monitoring and reporting!

The Future of Marketing

The message is: marketers are thinking hard about de-centralised content.

“Many are experimenting with taking their content to new channels; this is a fairly new tactic that few have mastered, but many are working on.”

Marketers are increasingly accounting for video content’s rising popularity among global online browsers, with 48% planning on using YouTube and 39% looking to use Facebook video.

Podcasts are also enjoying a resurgence in popularity, and new channels like Instagram are in the marketer’s mix as well; 8% are even looking into posting content on Medium.

In Australia and New Zealand marketers are looking to add the following channels their mix:

  • 47% YouTube
  • 34% Facebook video
  • 22% Instagram
  • 19% Podcasts
  • 6% Messaging Apps
  • 6% Snapchat

Visual and audio content are channels many marketers believe will help “win the future”.

Respondents were also asked about the technologies or channels they believe will disrupt their industry.

41 respondents said marketing automation, 35 said virtual reality and artificial intelligence technologies, and a handful said Snapchat will disrupt how they do their jobs.

The majority of respondents plan to “iterate and adjust their strategy based on data.”

“What works stays, what doesn’t is abandoned. New ideas are tried and evaluated the same.”

Where the Decision Makers Go for Information

Globally, word-of-mouth, customer references and then media- and vendor-authored articles are most trusted sources for business purchases. Vendor-authored materials took a slight dip compared to last year, while industry analyst recommendations dropped 12%.

In Australia and New Zealand, 66% of those surveyed rely most heavily on word of mouth referrals; 36% media; 44% customer references and 46% vendor authored materials.

Reaching the Right Audience

For business communications, respondents prefer email (55%), face-to-face (45%), and phone (43%). A good portion of respondents like using social media to communicate (42%), and 29% like using messaging apps like WhatsApp or WeChat.

Globally there is a growing trend for messenger apps for business communication.

Preferred social media channels for professional and personal use shows messenger apps leading the charge among senior marketers. Messaging apps are usually seen as tools younger people use to communicate socially and not as a platform where senior leaders conduct business. However, it is expected that senior-level professionals curate their connections on social and messaging platforms more tightly, and so they’re more willing to converse on these networks.

Messaging apps work in a completely closed network, which offers privacy to those using the app to communicate.

The line between social networking and professional networking appears to be blurring: traditionally Facebook is a personal network while LinkedIn is professional. However, when asked 73% of respondents now use Facebook for professional reasons, and 56% use LinkedIn for personal reasons.

Emerging social networks like Instagram (64%), Snapchat (32%), and Vine (3%) are still mostly seen as personal channels. That’s likely because very few businesses have figured out how to successfully brand and represent themselves on these networks.

In Australia and New Zealand 91% of respondents use LinkedIn as their preferred social media platform for professional purposes; followed by:

  • 56% Twitter
  • 65% Facebook
  • 55% Google+
  • 27% Instagram
  • 19% Pinterest
  • 5% Quora
  • 2% Snapchat
  • 2% Vine
  • 2% WeChat
  • 1% Weibo

Content: Who Writes It?

Marketing teams today pull from a wide selection of resources to write their blog content: staff, executives, freelancers, and guest posters help fill the blog queue. Blog participation rates across the board are higher in 2016, pointing to continued investment in creating blog content.

Of those surveyed:

  • 71% have staff write blogs
  • 31% executives
  • 23% freelancers
  • 19% Agency partners
  • 14% Guest bloggers
  • 13% Curation
  • 3% Writing panels

In terms of time spent to create a 500-word blog, this has barely shifted from 2015, at 13% under one hour and 33% between one and two hours.

Overwhelmingly, inbound marketers take less time to write a blog: practice does make perfect; and they tend to write longer blogs (501 to 1,000 words).

In Australia and New Zealand, it commonly takes between one a two hours for an in-house marketer to write a 500-word blog.

Reference: HubSpot State of Inbound 2016

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