HubSpot's State of Inbound 2016 is the definitive benchmarking report on the current state of inbound marketing and sales. Encompassing a broad range of geographies, industries and company sizes, the State of Inbound is the definitive guide to how modern businesses are responding to changing buyer behaviors.
We've picked out four findings from the report that we think explain how businesses are modifying their sales and marketing process to synch with buyer preferences.
1. 73% of businesses identify inbound as their primary approach to marketing
For those of you who are familiar with the modern business buying process, this shouldn't come as a surprise. Buyers no longer have to talk to salespeople to find out things like pricing, product specifications and experiences other buyers have had with the product or service. It's all on the web. In fact, the Corporate Executive Board found that the average buyer completes 57% of her sales process before ever talking to a sales person.
The inbound growth process reflects these buyer preferences. The marketing side of the house creates blog content and premium lead generation offers to help educate potential buyers. They optimize their content for search engines and promote it on social media to maximize its consumption. The sales side of the house uses sales technology to anticipate buyer information needs and craft helpful conversations with them.
Simply put, the inbound marketing and sales process is educational, helpful and consultative.
2. 74% of businesses identify converting leads to customers as their highest priority
Businesses now recognize the need to convert leads to customers to hit revenue targets. While lead generation is still important, business managers recognize the need for a complementary inbound sales process to convert leads to customers (and revenue!)
When asked specifically about top inbound marketing priorities, 66% identified growing their organic search traffic and 60% identified content creation as top priorities. This reflects the primary responsibility of the inbound marketing team: to generate high-quality leads that the sales team can convert to customers.
This also reflects the most difficult part of a sales professional's job: prospecting for potential customers. 33% of sales professionals surveyed identified prospecting as the biggest challenge they face in their jobs (30% identified closing deals as the biggest challenge.) Decison-makers don't have time to respond to telephonic sales outreach - and they delete sales voicemails before listening to them.
The inbound marketing process lets leads self-select by exchanging contact information for premium content when they're in an active sales process. That lets sales people interact with buyers when they are ready and in the way they want to interact.
3. 65% of businesses identified generating traffic and leads as their biggest marketing challenge
Generating traffic and leads is the essential responsibility of inbound marketing. Closing these leads to sales is the essential responsibility of inbound sales. You can't hit your revenue targets without a healthy sales pipeline and it's the responsibility of marketing to fill it.
The ever-growing glut of marketing content makes the task even more difficult. The best inbound marketers are using segmentation and targeted content to find the right buyers - decision-makers and influencers in their targeted market niches.
The really good inbound marketers recognize the complexity of the modern buying process. They user buyers and influencers in addition to the C-Suiters that have the ultimate decision-making authority.
4. Priority has shifted from generating leads to converting them to customers
In 2015, businesses identified "increasing the number of leads" as their top marketing priority. In this year's survey, businesses identified "converting leads to customers" as their top priority.
As we've stated above, this reflects the need to have an inbound sales process that is a natural evolution of the inbound marketing process. It's a jarring mismatch for a buyer to develop a relationship with a business through helpful content only to have a sales person "hard-sell" them in their first interaction.
Just as technology is essential to an effective inbound marketing program, it's just as essential for the inbound sales process. Integrated marketing and sales technology provides the sales person with lead intelligence that allows her to structure a meaningful, helpful sales conversation with a prospect. Good sales technology will show:
- Which pages a buyer has viewed on your website
- Which content offers they've downloaded
- Which emails they've opened and clicked
- What they're saying on social media
This information, combined with a sales person's review of the buyer's LinkedIn profile and company website, allows the sales person to prepare for a consultative conversation that touches the buyer's needs and priorities doesn't waste her time. An effective sales process separates the winners from the losers in the modern business environment.
Regardless of your industry, inbound marketing and sales reflect modern buying habits. For professional services businesses, it's getting impossible to survive without an effective inbound marketing process. If you'd like to learn how to step up your inbound game, please schedule a free consultation with us.