Important Takeaways from HubSpot’s 2015 Industry Report

state of inbound reportHubSpot recently released its annual Inbound Marketing report, State of Inbound 2015. The 73-page monster doc is a comprehensive look at the challenges, triumphs, trends, and tips that marketers and sales teams around the world have learned this past year. HubSpot surveyed 3,957 people in all regions of the globe, from B2B, B2C, and Nonprofit companies with less than 10 employees to over 1,000. So suffice it to say, the report is packed with valuable information.

If you’ve been meaning to bone up on the contents of the report but haven’t found the time to tackle it yet, let us summarize they key ideas you should take away from this year’s findings.

The Five Most Important Conclusions

1. Inbound is King

Surprisingly, or maybe not so, depending on who you ask, inbound marketing is hands down perceived as the most important and effective marketing activity of the day. To the point which 3 out of 4 marketers worldwide prioritize inbound marketing over other types of marketing tactics.

More and more companies are finding that creating content over developing ads, attracting customers rather than pushing products and brands onto them, is what really gets people’s attention and wallets to open. This is especially true for small and medium-sized businesses, with over six times as many respondents from companies with fewer than 25 employees using inbound as their main marketing strategy.

84% of small businesses are predominantly using inbound marketing. 

2. Increasing leads and conversions are top priorities

No matter the size or type of the company, the top priorities among marketers are increasing leads and getting those leads to convert, with at least 60% of respondents in all categories saying so. B2B and Nonprofits, and companies larger than 201 employees place a greater emphasis on lead generation, while B2C and medium sized businesses say conversions take precedent.

But for small businesses with less than 25 employees, both leads and conversions are equally important, with 71% of respondents choosing these top answers. While this may seem like a no-brainer, leads and conversions claimed importance over activities such as increasing revenue from existing customers, proving ROI of marketing efforts, and reducing costs of lead acquisition. In fact, respondents were three times less likely to cite reducing costs as a priority than increasing the number of customers. It’s obvious that the pursuit of growth is what fuels the marketing fires in 2015.

3. The biggest challenge: Proving ROI

While marketers’ main goals are to instill growth in their business and turn potential customers into actual customers, many still struggle with showing how their efforts are creating a real value. Respondents from all sizes of companies said proving ROI was the top challenge, with only nonprofits putting it at second place behind managing their websites.

It’s shown that inbound marketing is a long game, and those looking for instant gratification should probably seek that elsewhere. But it’s still important to be able to show superiors- and themselves- that the time and money spent is worth it. So much so, that marketers would also like more resources. Securing a greater budget for marketing activities lands at the second or third biggest challenge currently facing those in the marketing industry. Which brings us to our next point:

4. Tracking ROI leads to an increase in budget – but not everyone is tracking ROI

67% of respondents who showed a greater return on investment over the previous year received a higher budget, and the one thing all respondents had in common? Everyone wants more budget. But the report finds that if you’re not tracking ROI, you’re not proving positive ROI. And not proving positive ROI means no increase in budget.

Respondents who tracked ROI in the first place were 20% more likely to receive a greater budget. Even while respondents said top priorities were generating leads and conversions, lowering costs for said leads and conversions was not a priority, with less than 30% of respondents in all sizes of companies citing it as such. Bottom line: if you’re still not tracking your ROI, you might want to start now. 

5. Paid Advertising is the most overrated marketing activity – and everyone knows it

Amongst respondents whose companies favor inbound marketing practices, 20% more named paid advertising, as in print, TV, and billboards, as the most overrated marketing tactic than the next item on the rankings. Additionally, 32% of respondents who primarily practice outbound marketing named paid advertising as the number one most overrated activity, a full 2X more than the second place overrated activity.

The least overrated marketing practices? Sales, enablement, collateral development, and blogging, were all at the bottom of the heap as the least overrated activities for both inbound and outbound marketers.

This Years Trends

6. Go to your executives if you want to try inbound

HubSpot’s report found that the higher up you are in your company, the more you are likely to favor the inbound approach to marketing. Of managers or senior managers surveyed, more favored outbound strategy over inbound, 43% to 37% respectively. But for respondents at the executive level, 31% favored inbound, with only 24% favoring outbound.

7. Content creation is no longer left up to staff

With the age of freelance and remote work upon us, it makes sense that this year’s report saw more marketing content being created by out-of-house contractors. With freelance and agency partners up 1% and 2% respectively from 2014, staff written content is also down from 46% to 41% from last year. Additionally, content created by executives is up from last year, showing that everyone is valuable in creating a company’s story.

8. Marketing dollars go farther with inbound

Overwhelmingly, companies with smaller marketing budgets spend their money on inbound practices over outbound, with companies spending $100,000 or less on marketing being 4X more likely to use inbound methodology. This is probably because across the board, regardless of annual spend, organizations were 3X more likely to see positive ROI for inbound practices than they were for outbound.

Companies are 3x as likely to see higher ROI on inbound marketing campaigns than on outbound. 

9. The more often you check your analytics, the greater success you’ll have

51% of respondents who check their marketing analytics three or more times per week saw a greater ROI over the previous year, versus only 40% of respondents who check their analytics two or less times per week seeing greater ROI.

Inversely, 48% of those who check their analytics two or fewer times per week, saw lower ROI from the year before. Meaning, if you check your analytics less than 3 times a week, there could be a greater chance of you decreasing your ROI, than actually increasing it.

10. Leading marketers use tools

Of marketers using automation software, over half saw an increase in ROI over the previous year. Only 41% of marketers who did not use automation for their marketing saw an increase in ROI, and even more telling, 14% saw either a decrease in ROI or no change at all. Subsequently, 60% the marketers who used marketing automation tools said that they received a greater marketing budget in 2015. Bottom line is marketing automation software helps marketers analyze their marketing activity, keep track of ROI, and in turn see better results.

11. Marketing and Sales go hand-in-hand

If you thought that all these increases in ROI were thanks solely to fantastic marketing teams, you could be only partly correct. HubSpot’s report shows that 47% of companies whose marketing and sales teams were closely aligned by having a Service-Level Agreement (SLA) saw greater ROI over 2014. In comparison, only 35% of companies who did not have an SLA had an increased ROI from the previous year.

Marketers who check their metrics 3x+ times a week areover 20% more likely to achieve positive ROI. 

Not only that, but 52% of companies with SLAs saw their sales teams grow in 2015, as opposed to 54% of companies without SLAs who saw stagnant or decreasing sales teams. When marketing and sales come together in an understanding on generating and following up on leads, more customers are secured, and the company grows.

12. Bonus: International Inbound

HubSpot’s State of Inbound report covered all corners of the globe, with a whopping 82% of responders coming from outside North America. That being said, the world does agree on one thing: inbound is the methodology of choice. Marketers who considered their operations inbound-driven versus outbound led 3:1 in every single region. Similarly, the number one challenge faced in every region was proving ROI for marketing activities, though North America leads in actual ROI tracking. Additionally, North America was the only region where more than half of responders said they check their analytics three or more times per week.

Final Thoughts

If there’s one thing you should take away from this year’s HubSpot State of Inbound report all tied up with a bow, here it is: no matter your size, type of business, or location, inbound marketing practices are what will drive your company towards growth. Have a solid partnership with sales, use marketing automation tools and check those analytics regularly, and you’ll see a positive ROI resulting in an increase in budget for next year.