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4 Data-backed Truths You Need to Know from the 2018 State of Inbound

4 Data-backed Truths You Need to Know from the 2018 State of Inbound Blog Feature

August 20th, 2018 min read

With every technological advancement comes a change in consumer behavior and how we buy. So, it’s not surprising tactics that were successful 10-15 years ago are no longer proving the ROI they once were.

As marketers, it’s our job to be aware of these changes in the industry and strategize the best way to adapt to their buying process.

Luckily, HubSpot releases the annual State of Inbound Report that documents marketing & sales initiatives, consumer behavior trends, and how these have changed over time.

This report not only provides a snapshot of the current state of the industry, but can also help inform your own tactics on how best to reach your persona.

Data this year continued to confirm that old strategies are no longer effective - with the majority of respondents indicating that outbound paid advertising (Print, outdoor, broadcast) were among the most overrated marketing tactics.

Inbound practices such as SEO, blogging, and marketing automation, however, were rated among the least overrated tactics - consistent with how our personas are typically finding, engaging, and moving along the sales process.

Even over the last year, digital marketing has changed significantly. To see what’s to come for the next year, read on!

1. More Marketers Are Investing in YouTube Than Any Other New Channel

Several statistics in HubSpot’s report analyzed where marketing is going in the upcoming year and, it should come to no surprise, much the data pointed to video as a valuable asset to invest in for marketing teams.

In fact, when asked which content channels marketing teams are planning on investing in in the next 12 months, 45% reported YouTube, while 41% planned on creating content within Facebook Video.

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This trend is likely due to the buy-in on video marketing’s effectiveness from top executives.

HubSpot’s data shows that both C-level executives and VP and director level employees are planning to prioritize adding YouTube to their marketing plans in the next 12 months.

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What Should You Do?

To capitalize on this trend in your own marketing strategy, the best first step is simply committing to start! Video is the next big move in the digital marketing world, and you want to make sure you are staying ahead of the game.

If you’re looking to get started in video marketing today, here are some great resources that will help you:

If you need a more hands-on approach to get your video marketing processes up and running, you might benefit from IMPACT’s on-site video workshop - click here to learn more about it!

2. Sales & Marketing Alignment is a Competitive Advantage

We know that alignment between sales and marketing teams is an ideal scenario, but HubSpot’s report really drove home that this was a must for all organizations.

Of all companies surveyed, only 26% reported their sales and marketing teams as tightly aligned or operating under an SLA. While this number is low, of the companies that reported being tightly aligned or operating under an SLA, 85% of sales staff felt their marketing was effective, while only 24% of sales staff from misaligned teams felt the same way.

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Because of the data above, it’s not surprising that sales teams from tightly aligned organizations also thank marketing for bringing in the majority of their quality leads, while those at misaligned organizations, claim marketing bring in the least.

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Additionally, 69% of tightly aligned sales and marketing teams felt that inbound practices brought in the most high-quality leads for their organization. Go inbound!

This trend was consistent across the board in terms of high-value leads, and also suggests that inbound marketing may be most effective when your entire team is bought in and understands the process.

Tightly aligned teams also report seeing a higher ROI from inbound marketing than other avenues.

Bottom line: if your team is planning on investing in inbound, make sure you have buy-in and input from your sales staff so they understand the purpose and value behind your efforts. The data speaks for itself here!

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What Should You Do?

Clearly, alignment between sales and marketing is a vital component of any successful marketing strategy or sales team.

If you’re struggling to align your teams, here’s some tips that will help.

  • Schedule a regular meeting - Make sure both teams are meeting on a regular basis to touch base on what marketing is currently doing & what the sales team needs. This will help the sales team remain in the loop with marketing initiatives, and input from the sales team can uncover high-value areas for the marketing team to leverage in their approach.
  • Establish a Service Level Agreement - An SLA will identify exactly what each team is responsible for, what goals they’re accountable for reaching, and clearly demonstrate how the 2 teams work together to reach success.
  • Clearly Define who your Persona is - If both teams have a different idea of who their target persona is, it’s no surprise that they’ll grow frustrated with each other. By clearly defining who you’re targeting, you can ensure Marketing and Sales is aligned with expectations.

3. Word-of-Mouth is Powerful in Business Decisions

While marketing tactics will always evolve over time, word-of-mouth is one that is forever timeless.

For the last four years, word-of-mouth marketing has been shown to be a top influencer on buyer’s purchasing decisions.

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Additionally, 61% of C-level executives reported relying heavily on word-of-mouth when making big purchase decisions, with customer referrals as the second highest value criteria.

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This trend emphasizes the value of continuing to market to current customers to create loyal promoters of your brand.

A happy customer is the best marketing tool you can use, so make sure you’re taking advantage of it!

This report showed that although digital practices are quickly becoming the highest value marketing activities, referrals and connections are still the easiest to close in the sales process.

What Should You Do?

Beyond customer delight, another key area is to look into your brand’s presence on review sites and citation pages. Review sites like Clutch, Yelp, etc., are powerful marketing tools that you can use to let prospects know other companies like theirs have had success working with you.

To facilitate word-of-mouth marketing in your own strategy, reach out to key customers that you’ve identified as loyal promoters of your brand and ask them to leave you a review. You can even offer some kind of incentive to generate more action behind leaving a review.

4. The Basics Still Matter (But Practices Have Changed)  

Companies indicated their biggest priorities were SEO, blog content, and marketing automation, while, their biggest challenges remain generating traffic & leads and proving the ROI of their efforts.

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The concerns haven’t really changed over the past two years and neither have our methods for addressing them -- but the way we approach our methods  (i.e. SEO and blogging) have.

These basics are still vital, but your strategy for them need to evolve.

For companies that are employing these tactics but struggling to see the outcome, here are some tips to try:

Approach SEO from a technical standpoint: A few years ago, a keyword strategy and the right placement on your website were key elements of a successful SEO strategy.

Today, Google is actively updating its algorithm to best serve users and recently, that has been heavily focused on technical elements. To really see a difference in your organic traffic & ranking, evaluate and improve the following:

    • Site speed
    • Mobile experience & mobile site speed
    • Utilize LSI keywords in your content
    • Time to first byte
    • Check your robots.txt file

Additional Resources:

Prioritize Pillar Content creation: While a keyword strategy is still essential, if you’re still building your content strategy off of that alone, you won’t see the results that you once did.

What you should be prioritizing are topic clusters and pillar content.

As Google becomes more “human” in the way that it crawls pages, it looks for much more than just key terms - but how your site has authority over a particular topic or group of topics. Pillar content helps establish this.

Additional Resources:


In summary, marketers need to continually keep up with consumer behavior trend and how they change over time. HubSpot's report provides us valuable information about this behavior, while also showing us what a different one year can make in terms of consumer preferences, and the next big direction the industry is going. 

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