The State of B2B Inbound Marketing – New Insights


Outbound marketing, where marketers and businesses push their content out to a wide audience, is no longer the most effective strategy – inbound marketing is on the rise. Inbound marketing is when a company essentially advertises themselves and engages their audience through content, such as white papers, newsletters and social media to earn their audience. HubSpot gives inbound marketing this definition:

Inbound marketing is a holistic, data-driven strategy that involves attracting and converting visitors into customers through personalized, relevant information and content –- not interruptive messages – and following them through the sales experience with ongoing engagement.

According to the HubSpot 2013 State of Inbound Marketing Report, 65% of B2B companies report embracing inbound practices this year (Tweet this!). If your business is just getting started or is looking for new ways to improve its inbound marketing strategy, here are four insights that can help you evaluate and redefine your inbound strategies.

Measuring Inbound Marketing

Perhaps the most impactful insight worth noting is that of inbound marketing measurement. With their efforts to determine ROI, B2B marketing experts are struggling. B2B companies struggle to prove the ROI of inbound marketing much more than other companies, with 27% reporting this struggle versus the 21% average. Some marketers are unsure which of their tactics qualify as inbound marketing, and perhaps this is where part of their struggle in determining ROI lies. If you’re unsure about the metrics that matter the most to your executives, company revenue or customers/wins generated from inbound marketing is a great place to start. While marketers may be focusing on engagement more than ever before, it comes down to the numbers and according to this report, they’re not as clear as they could be.

Overcome Obstacles with Teamwork

Sales, marketing, IT and design all need to work together in order for a business to be successful with inbound marketing. Respondents from the study say that 26% of B2B IT groups impede inbound efforts. B2B firms likely struggle for IT resources because it’s harder to draw a direct line to ROI for lead generation efforts. B2B sales teams also lag in supporting B2B inbound efforts, with nearly 14% of responses. When it comes to allocating resources to support inbound efforts, only 11% of company executives and 17% of sales teams lend their full support. Testing inbound marketing, which requires an investment from your tech department, analysts and design team, is a team effort and companies who test are 75% more likely to show ROI for inbound marketing than those who don’t test. Get your team working together to test, execute, and measure your inbound marketing strategies.

Booming Inbound Marketing Budgets

Nearly 50% of all marketers are increasing their inbound marketing budgets in 2013. While determining ROI may be a difficult task, those who can do so are seeing success. When looking at budget ratings by business model, HubSpot found that success with inbound marketing nets a significant boost among B2B firms, with 45% indicating positive ROI as the reason to grow their inbound budgets (Tweet this!). Inbound marketing campaigns can generate new leads, incite new impressions, and build brand awareness. If you think lead generation is out of the question, consider the numbers. According to the HubSpot report, twice as many marketers say inbound delivers below average cost per lead vs. outbound strategies (Tweet this!). A white paper lead generation campaign is one example of inbound marketing perfect for B2B businesses.

Capitalize with Customer-Focused Initiatives

Content marketing isn’t news. Businesses need to tailor and personalize the content they’re sending out to prospects and leads. Inbound marketers need to focus on “content plus context” to truly add value to their audience and generate more business as the end result. According to HubSpot, “Customer-centric marketing directly works to meet and serve the needs of its customer base by offering them thought leadership content and educational material, rather than content that “pitches” your wares.” Customer-centric business will have less of a problem developing the best inbound content marketing strategies as they’ll understand the problems of their audience and should be able to provide solutions. 42% of customer-focused companies calculated positive ROI from inbound marketing compared to just 38% of sales-focused companies (Tweet this!)

Inbound marketing is growing. More businesses are adopting inbound strategies and directing larger portions of their budget towards these efforts. Inbound marketing is maturing as customers become more educated and involved before ever making a purchase. Make sure your business’s inbound efforts exceed expectations.

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2 Responses to The State of B2B Inbound Marketing – New Insights

  1. Ian Guiver says:

    Thanks for highlighting the importance of Inbound Marketing to B2B companies Erica. I could not agree more with your comments about getting buy-in from sales and senior executives. The switch from Inbound to Outbound represents such a big shift of mindset that marketers sometimes either completely avoid the issue of getting buy-in from colleagues or understate the difficulties. Their programmes then lack access to the expertise that those colleagues have and which is needed to make Inbound work. For example, content is based on guesswork rather than in-depth understanding of their customers’ pains and challenges. So, lots of expensively produced content misses the mark and fails to attract website visitors, let alone to create leads and sales-ready opportunities. Other times content lacks the depth of understanding and careful targeting that is required to stand out from the increasing content deluge. This is a big problem. As more and more people jump on the content marketing bandwagon, the more difficult it is to build the credibility to attract readers and to convert those readers into prospects. The answer is to do the up-front homework required to build a case and to undersell rather than oversell the benefits to budget-holders. The truth is, depending upon your market sector, many Outbound techniques are not just more expensive, they are not even available as publications go out of print and trade shows close their doors. So, Inbound is the only game in town and making that case is increasingly easy to do, especially if you hire people with experience in executing Inbound techniques to help you make that case.

    • Erica Bell says:

      Hi Ian,

      Thanks for checking out the post. Great insight into the budget differences between inbound and outbound strategies. You make another good point in your latest comment about hiring the right people. The right inbound team will save a business time and money while increasing customer loyalty and improving their experience.

      - Erica