How do you define success as a marketer?
Well, generating a lot of revenue is a great start. Even better if you get a good return on your investment.
But better still is when you actually increase your return on investment, year over year. That means you’re getting more and more proficient at what you do best, and an upward curve smiles from the charts.
It’s an enviable position to be in. So how do you get there with your own marketing? We found a few answers in HubSpot’s just-released State of Inbound report. (Though we got a sneak peek, the report is available to the public as of this morning; you can download it at the end of this post.) They surveyed about 4,000 marketers—mostly working at small and medium B2B companies—on their strategies and success over the past year.
Before we dive in, a little context. What does “State of Inbound” mean in the first place? If you’re part of a marketing agency or a department within a larger company, you’re probably already quite familiar with this terminology, but here’s a quick primer for everyone else.
In the early days of marketing as a discipline, the most popular tactics were outbound tactics: TV and print ads, direct mail, door-to-door pitches, cold calls. You sent word of your product out into the world and hoped that some small portion of it landed with a receptive audience.
By contrast, inbound marketing is all about bringing a natural audience to you, and keeping them around with high-quality content once they get there. It includes tactics such as search-engine optimization, PPC advertising, content marketing, blogging, and permission-based email marketing.
There’s still space for outbound tactics in many marketing plans, but there’s little question that their power is fading. Which brings us to the first habit of 2015’s successful marketers:
1. Today’s successful marketers master inbound techniques. “Every company we surveyed—regardless of marketing spend—was three times as likely to see a higher ROI on inbound marketing campaigns than on outbound,” says HubSpot.
The upside of inbound marketing for consumers is that it tends to be minimally invasive, an invitation rather than the blare of a megaphone. But there’s also a major financial upside for companies: since you’re not paying for high-profile media spaces, and you’re deliberately speaking to a well-defined audience of your most qualified prospects, you’re likely to spend far less to acquire new customers.
HubSpot’s survey also turned up an amusing result from companies who don’t do a lot of inbound marketing. Even they don’t necessarily think they’re very effective: “Approximately 32% of survey respondents whose companies identify as primarily outbound organizations called paid advertising the most overrated marketing tactic—the number-one answer by a wide margin.”
2. Today’s successful marketers keep track of their analytics. HubSpot reports: “Respondents who achieved greater ROI in 2015 than the previous year were approximately 20% more likely to check their marketing analytics three or more times per week (or have someone on their team do so).”
If you’re a little overwhelmed by the thought of untangling numbers every other day, a good place to start is inside LeadPages®. You’ll be able to see your unique visitors and your opt-in rate for each page and LeadBox™ you create right from the dashboard. That’s enough data to begin optimizing and gaining confidence bit by bit.
3. Today’s successful marketers automate. HubSpot found that marketers who saw a higher marketing ROI this year were about 10 percentage points likelier to use some form of marketing automation software than not.
Yes, marketing software tends to cost money, but this stat suggests that it’s an investment that pays off. Which makes sense. When you automate your operations—whether that means using landing pages that automatically add people to your email list, setting up autoresponders with your ESP, or scheduling your social media posts in advance—it means that not every new lead requires human involvement. Your marketing operations can grow faster than your staff, and you can free up your own brainpower for the stuff that really requires it.
4. Today’s successful marketers keep close tabs on their leads. Simply attracting lots of leads doesn’t put you in the top class of marketers today. To get the most out of your marketing, you also need to be able to follow up with your leads and shuffle them into different segments depending on the direction your business is taking on any given day.
“Unsuccessful teams are more likely to rely on informal means [to store leads] than their successful counterparts,” HubSpot found. If you’re doing this, they recommend a shift in thinking: “While saving money where you can is wise (and essential for small companies), cutting corners with lead and customer management—the lifeblood of your business—might not be the smartest choice.” Instead, explore tools such as an email service provider (ESP) or customer relationship management (CRM) software and find the right one for your budget.
5. Today’s successful marketers know their leads before they try to make a sale. Says HubSpot: “How does lead information correlate with sales success? When we viewed this question in terms of successful vs. unsuccessful teams, a split emerged. While a staggering 83% of respondents from failing teams said they either didn’t know what information they had before contacting a lead, or that the question was not applicable to them, a mere 17% of successful teams gave the same answer.”
What’s more, 43% of all survey respondents had no contact information they could use to reach out to leads. When that’s the case, you’re marketing in the dark. It suggests that, at minimum, you’re not creating or using an effective email list, and your opportunities for following up with leads are a matter of blind chance.
6. Today’s successful marketers invest in content. If you’re creating information resources, working with guest bloggers, or writing e-books, you’re probably on the right track. “Organizations that saw an increase in ROI from 2014 to 2015 were more likely to employ both staff writers and guest contributors in their content creation efforts than their less successful peers,” HubSpot reports. When content is king, it’s important to spend some time expanding the kingdom.
Taken together, these stats coalesce into something like a winning recipe for marketing 2015: focus on content marketing and other inbound tactics—supported by good software and rigorous attention to the data—and follow up with all the leads you attract.
Piece of cake? Maybe not quite. But happily, it’s a recipe that businesses of just about any size can follow. Start applying these insights now, and you may be shouting your marketing ROI from the rooftops in 2016.
If you’d like to download the entire report, head over to HubSpot below: