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State of Inbound 2016 Part 3: The Future of Marketing

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The state of inbound 2016 - Summary - Part 3

Summary by David O'Donnell
Inbound Marketing Director

In this third and final part of the state of inbound we have a closer look at the future of marketing and sales.

Future of Marketing

"The biggest takeaway: Marketers are thinking hard about decentralised content.

"Many are experimenting with taking their content to new channels; this is a fairly new tactic that few have mastered, but many are working on.

"In our survey, marketers clearly are accounting for video content's rising popularity among global online browsers, with 48% planning on using YouTube and 39% looking to use Facebook video.

Content distribution channels

"Podcasts are enjoying a resurgence in popularity, and new channels like Instagram are in the marketer's mix as well. 8% of marketers are even looking into posting content on Medium."

In Australia and New Zealand:

  • 47% plan to add YouTube to their mix
  • 34% Facebook video
  • 22% Instagram
  • 19% Podcasts
  • 6% Messaging Apps
  • 6% Snapchat

Visual and audio content are channels many marketers believe will help win the future. Respondents were also asked about the technologies or channels they believe will disrupt their industry. 41 said marketing automation, 35 respondents said virtual reality and artificial intelligence technologies, and a handful mentioned Snapchat will disrupt how they do their jobs.

The majority of respondents plan to "iterate and adjust their strategy based on data."

"What works stays, what doesn't is abandoned. New ideas are tried and evaluated the same."

The Future of Sales

"As power shifts from the seller to the buyer, salespeople are incentivized to be helpful instead of pushy. Just like inbound marketing obliterated pushy outbound marketing, inbound sales will transform sellers from aggressive closers into helpful advocates."

The following seven strategic changes are crucial to ensuring salespeople to remain relevant to the empowered buyer of today:

1. Invest in social selling

42% of buyers said they communicate via social networks such as LinkedIn and Twitter for business purposes. Sales teams growing more than 50% were more likely than any other group to identify LinkedIn as a valuable sales channel. Buyers are engaging with salespeople on social media so companies need to be part of the conversation. Biggest growth channels were: phone, email and LinkedIn.

2. Improve prospecting

Prospecting is becoming difficult for salespeople with each passing year due to seismic shifts in information availability and buyer behavior. It is time for a total makeover of prospecting strategies. Prospecting efforts must align with how buyers want to purchase by tuning into signals that indicate interest, and working with Marketing to increase the flow of inbound leads with a few simple tweaks.

3. No more cold calling

There are more effective, buyer-friendly ways to prospect today. Pledge to stop doing what no longer works for both buyers and sellers in order to kickstart your prospecting overhaul. Turbulence in the short term, it will ultimately shift your sales team’s health in the long term.

4. Better Sales and marketing alignment

Communication is key. Sales and Marketing departments must work more closely than ever before. Work with your marketing team to clearly define a "qualified" lead so Marketing can source the best-fit companies, and salespeople can capitalise on buyer interest as soon as they see it.

5. Meet your buyers where they are

While email emerged as the preferred communication channel in the survey, buyers have unique preferences. Diversify your channels based on prospect preferences.

6. Adopt CRM with an eye on integration capacity

Without a CRM in place, true Sales-Marketing alignment is impossible. Ensure everyone in the organisation knows exactly how and when to communicate with leads, prospects, and customers by adopting a CRM that works in conjunction with other mission-critical systems.

7. Invest in training

Salespeople need to keep up, they need proper training. Investigate sales training that will equip reps with the skills to serve the modern buyer, eg: social selling, prospecting based on prospect interest, research frameworks, and personalised messaging.

Where Decision Makers Go For Information

Word-of-mouth, customer references and then media- and vendor-authored articles are most trusted sources for business purchases. Vendor-authored materials took a slight dip compared to last year, while industry analyst recommendations dropped 12%.

Analyst reports and crowd sourced reviews both dropped, and sales person references stayed the same from 2015 to 2016.

In Australia and New Zealand, 66% of those surveyed rely most heavily on word of mouth referrals; 36% media; 44% customer references and 46% vendor authored materials.

By seniority, VPs are more likely to seek out analyst reports and C-Level executives are more swayed by the media.

Reaching the Right Audience: How People Connect Globally

For business communications, respondents prefer email (55%), face-to-face (45%), and phone (43%). A good portion of respondents like using social media to communicate (42%), and 29% like using messaging apps like WhatsApp or WeChat.

Best communication used for business

Across seniority levels, email is the preferred method, suggesting it might be sensible for sales people to forge initial buyer engagement via email before trying phone.

Globally there is a growing trend for messenger apps for business communication.

Sales people are necessarily on board with these stats, sticking with phone as their preferred and perceived most effective channel with prospects.

Preferred social media channels for professional and personal use shows messenger apps leading the charge among senior marketers. Messaging apps are usually seen as tools younger people use to communicate socially and not as a platform where senior leaders conduct business. However, it is expected that senior-level professionals curate their connections on social and messaging platforms more tightly, and so they’re more willing to converse on these networks.

Preffered social media channels

Messaging apps work in a completely closed network, which offers privacy to those using the app to communicate.

The line between social networking and professional networking appears to be blurring: traditionally Facebook is a personal network while LinkedIn is professional. However, when asked 73% of respondents now use Facebook for professional reasons, and 56% use LinkedIn for personal reasons.

Emerging social networks like Instagram (64%), Snapchat (32%), and Vine (3%) are still mostly seen as personal channels. That's likely because very few businesses have figured out how to successfully brand and represent themselves on these networks.

In Australia and New Zealand 91% of respondents use LinkedIn as their preferred social media platform for professional purposes; followed by:

  • 56% Twitter
  • 65% Facebook
  • 55% Google+
  • 27% Instagram
  • 19% Pinterest
  • 5% Quora
  • 2% Snapchat
  • 2% Vine
  • 2% WeChat
  • 1% Weibo

Content: Who's Writing and How Long it Takes

Marketing teams today pull from a wide selection of resources to write their blog content: staff, executives, freelancers, and guest posters help fill the blog queue. Blog participation rates across the board are higher in 2016, pointing to continued investment in creating blog content.

Of those surveyed:

  • 71% have staff write blogs
  • 31% executives
  • 23% freelancers
  • 19% Agency partners
  • 14% Guest bloggers
  • 13% Curation
  • 3% Writing panels
Who writes your content?

In terms of time spent to create a 500-word blog, this has barely shifted from 2015, at 13% under one hour and 33% between one and two hours.

Overwhelmingly, inbound marketers take less time to write a blog: practice does make perfect; and they tend to write longer blogs (501 to 1,000 words).

In Australia and New Zealand, it commonly takes between one a two hours for an in-house marketer to write a 500-word blog.

What People Look For in a New Job

Respondents (60%) have consistently ranked "opportunities for growth" as their number one determining factor when considering a role. Followed by work-life balance (50%) and compensation (44%).

When comparing Sales and Marketing; Marketing staff seek out growth opportunities and work-life balance more often than Sales. However, Sales more readily examine company performance (25% versus 20%), industry (17% v 14%) and quality of sales leadership team (15% v 6%).

What people consider when looking for a new job

In Australia and New Zealand, we buck the "opportunity for growth" trend and tend to look at work-life balance as number one priority (53%).

By seniority, individual contributors and managers are most interested in growth opportunities and work-life balance. The strength of culture is most important to VP and Director-level respondents. Compensation factors consistently across roles.

Want more data-backed insights? See also State of Inbound Part 1: Sales & Marketing and State of Inbound Part 2: Inbound Marketing.

Credit: All images from HubSpot's State of Inbound 2016 report.

Marketing Automation Demystified

For more information contact:

David O'Donnell

Equilibrium | Inbound Marketing Director
(08) 9218 8622
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