11 Fascinating Insights from HubSpot's State of Inbound 2014 Report


By Vee Tardrew - September 30, 2014

When it comes to research reports for modern marketers, HubSpot’s Annual State of Inbound can be considered the proverbial ‘bible in benchmarking’. 

The comprehensive 54-page report examines the challenges, priorities, tactics and results of more than 3,500 marketers and sales professionals across the globe, representing a wide range of verticals and businesses. The overall survey audience incorporates HubSpot customers and non-customers alike and comprises B2B, B2C and non-profit businesses.

Now in its 6th year, HubSpot has expanded on the survey to include data relating to the interdepartmental adoption of inbound methodology, which in itself highlights interesting trends.

While I highly recommend reading the full report when you have some time, I’ve scrutinized the data and analysis to share the points I believe to be the most pertinent.

Let's dive in, shall we?

Highlights from HubSpot's State of Inbound 2014-2015 Survey

1. Inbound Gains More Ground

Since it’s inception, we’ve seen more and more companies incorporate inbound marketing campaigns in their overall strategy. This year is no different and the State of Inbound 2014 report sees 80% of respondents claiming that they practice inbound methodology, compared to 65% last year, showing a clear uptick in adoption.


2. Inbound is the Primary Lead Source

Not only is inbound marketing being practiced more readily, it continues to work well to generate leads for businesses. This year’s report indicates twice as many respondents (45%) cite inbound as their primary lead source than outbound (22%), a sharp drop from 34% last year.


3. Inbound Leads - Still - Cost Less

As in previous years, the average cost per lead (outbound vs. inbound) has been examined and, as in previous years, we see that inbound leads continue to cost less than their outbound equivalents. The report breaks down the average cost per lead by company size for North American B2B organisations. The relative costs here are probably more important than the absolute values. If we consider the mid-size business (51-200 employees) we see that inbound leads, on average, cost about a third of those sourced from outbound activities.


4. High Performers Prioritize ‘Getting Found’

Inbound involves numerous activities. Which are deemed most important, or render the best results? For the answer, HubSpot honed in on those companies that generate positive ROI and asked them to prioritise their inbound activities. The results clearly show that blogging is a key driver of results. In fact, those that prioritise blogging are 13 times more likely to enjoy positive return on investment. Other areas of priority include optimising for search (SEO) and growing organic presence, amplifying content distribution and creating long form or visual content.


5. Agencies Set the Precedent for Inbound Lead Generation

It probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise that marketing agencies are the prime adopters of successful inbound marketing projects. Given the nature of their business it makes sense that they ‘drink the Kool-Aid’ and it is proving worthwhile! Agencies outpace vendors when it comes to sourcing leads, with nearly half (47%) of their leads being generated from inbound channels.


6. Mobile is a Top Challenge – For at least ONE Marketer!

The most jaw-dropping revelation of this year’s report (for me, anyway) was that 1, yes ONE, person out of 320 responses mentioned mobile when asked ‘What are your top marketing challenges?’. The remaining 319 cited numerous other issues.

I am not sure if this could be contributed to the fact that a similarly posed question in multiple choice format had planted the seed for responses to this (pure speculation as I am not privy to which question came first) or whether it is genuinely a case of mobile not being a challenge for the majority. Either way, unless you have mobile optimisation resolved, it is worthwhile to at the very least look into the impact of responsive web development on your overall programme results.


7. The Rest Are Concerned About Proving ROI

So if only one marketer is bothered by mobile optimisation, what are the challenges faced by the remainder? It appears that proving ROI of marketing efforts is by far the most pressing concern (28%, a 3% increase on 2013’s results). This is followed by:

  • securing enough budget (16%)
  • managing their website (14%)
  • targeting content for global audience (10%)
  • hiring top talent (6%)
  • training their team (5%) 
  • finding an executive sponsor (2%)

What is encouraging is the fact that apart from proving ROI, every other challenge is reported at a lower figure than in previous years indicating that marketers are steadily finding the means to overcome their challenges.


8. Measure ROI to Achieve ROI

So what about this ROI issue then? 28% claim it’s a challenge for them, and yet only slightly more than half (53%) are actually measuring ROI of their marketing efforts, indicating a disconnect between challenges and priorities in the marketing department. In a period where marketing needs to come to the table as a strategically-focused department, it is imperative that marketers get to grips with tracking and reporting on metrics aligned to overall business objectives.

Having a stake in the ground and a means to track performance appears to have a direct impact on achieving positive results. The report reveals that marketers that measure inbound ROI are 17 times more likely to see the same or greater ROI over the previous year than marketers that don’t track return.


9. Inbound is Not Limited to Marketing

The inbound methodology seeks to address changes in buying behaviour. This is not limited to marketing and while the first department within the organisation to perhaps adopt and practice inbound, we're (happily) seeing more companies apply the principles across the board. More than 25% of respondents reported that their organisations’ sales teams practice inbound with a fair respresentation within services and recruiting deparments too.


10. Sales Professionals Value Inbound Leads Too!

Considering the above information, it is encouraging to see that sales value leads generated from inbound sources too. When questioned about the lead's sources that have become more important over the previous 6 months, sales professionals cited email marketing, social media, organic search (SEO) and blogging - predominately inbound activities - within their top 5.


11. An SLA Leads to Greater Collaboration, Budget

One of the first steps towards an aligned sales and marketing team is the implementation of a Service Level Agreement (SLA) between marketing and sales. This document outlines each department's responsibilities to each other, demonstrating accountability and commitment to working together towards business objectives. The State of Inbound 2014-2015 report highlighted that having an SLA in place proved to be beneficial in a number of areas, namely:

  • Greater inclusion in the selection of sales software (49% compared to 38%) , which is important from a systems integration perspective  
  • Encourages consistent measurement and tracking, which we know from above points leads to greater performance
  • Higher marketing budgets than those without an SLA
  • Year-on-year increases on inbound marketing budgets 


Overall it would seem that a greater number of businesses - and agencies - are starting to master inbound marketing. They appear to understand which activities drive the best return and have learnt how to demonstrate their success. More marketing and sales teams acknowledge their mutual dependancies, formalise their respective responsibilities and work together towards business objectives.

If you aren't in this camp of proactive, performance-driven marketers perhaps it is time to re-evaluate your strategy. If the trends we see continue it is not long before non-metric orientated marketers will lose to those enjoying the positive returns an inbound marketing programme deliver.




...my two cents worth


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