Top 5 Shifts Between HubSpot's State of Inbound 2017 and 2018

By Shoshi Weinstein
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Top 5 Shifts Between HubSpot's State of Inbound 2017 and 2018 header

Just last week, HubSpot published their annual State of Inbound global report. As a researcher at heart myself, I spent a fair amount of time gushing over the stats and content over the past few days; trying to make sense of where Marketing and Sales stand and their developing trends.

One of my biggest questions scrolling through the new report was how this report compares to the report for 2017. Sure, HubSpot spends 11 multicolored charts showing how trends in the field have shifted over the past 4 years, but I just felt like there was more I could find if I did the year to year comparison myself. So that’s exactly what I did. Comparing the 2017 global report and the newest 2018 report, left me with a lot of insight on just how much has changes between December 2016 and March 2018.

That being said, here are the top 5 changes in inbound marketing and sales not to be overlooked, what that means for this ever-changing field, and what we can expect in the year to come.

1) “Thinking specifically about inbound marketing projects, what are your company’s top priorities?”

Diving right in, let’s see how the world of inbound marketing priories has changed.

HubSpot's State of Inbound 2017
(HubSpot's State of Inbound 2017)

HubSpot's State of Inbound 2018
(HubSpot's State of Inbound 2018)

Holding tight for first and second place in this category are respectively ‘Growing SEO/ organic presence’ and ‘Blog content creation’. It’s the third place spot that gets interesting. While in 2017 the Bronze winner for this question was ‘Content distribution/ amplification’, that got knocked down a notch on the roster to make room for ‘Marketing automation’.

So what’s going on here?

As I mentioned in my last post on AI and machine learning, automation is the future. According to Forrester’s recently published ‘Marketing Automation Technology Forecast’, they’re predicting that over the next five years there will be a 14 percent compounding annual growth rate in marketing automation spending. Seems like automation’s about to get big, fast. Making sure your stellar content is getting in front of the right people (or more accurately buyer personas) at the right time is crucial, but even more than that, marketing teams are learning now more than ever that they’ll need to use marketing automation to nurture their leads down their path to purchase. As great and helpful as content can be, if there’s no consistent follow up, you’re missing the boat to position yourself as a trusted problem solver for your prospects. This trend of marketing automation and AI is only bound to grow in 2018. So stay tuned.

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2) “What are your company’s top sales priorities for the next year?”

Moving on to sales, we see something similar to what we saw in the marketing question above.

HubSpot's State of Inbound 2017
(HubSpot's State of Inbound 2017)

HubSpot's State of Inbound 2018
(HubSpot's State of Inbound 2018)

It’s a no-brainer that the main priority of a sales team across time is ‘Closing more deals’. ‘Improving the efficiency of the sales funnel’, also seems to make sense to be found at the top of the list for both 2017 and 2018. The point of intrigue comes again at #3, ‘Social selling’ (2017’s pick) or ‘Reducing the length of sales cycle’ (2018’s pick).

So what’s going on here?

2017 was the year social selling for business was the hot topic. In this year’s report, it states that in 2016 9% of sales teams thought Facebook was a successful channel to connect with prospects. One year later, in 2017, that jumped to 12%. Interested in where that stat sits in 2018? It dropped down to 7%; showing even less successful than it was 2 years prior.

The future for social selling has become uncertain. Sure, you don’t need to an email address or a phone number to follow leads and interact with them on social, but is that the best way to talk about their pains, add value, and position your company as a thought leader? It’s unclear. I’m looking forward to see how well social selling does in the 2019 report. My guess is it might make a comeback due to the compliance of many companies to GDPR. Who knows? Social might just become more important than ever to engage and nurture leads.

3) “What is more difficult to do in sales compared to 2 to 3 years ago?”

Ah yes, a good, meta reflective question. Here’s what sales teams had to say the past couple of years to this question.

HubSpot's State of Inbound 2017
(HubSpot's State of Inbound 2017)

HubSpot's State of Inbound 2018
(HubSpot's State of Inbound 2018)

‘Getting responses from prospects’ was a two time winner for this questions, but after that it gets a little messy. While ‘Closing deals’ as seen in our last question, would be the expected runner up, that was true only for 2017, with ‘Engaging multi decision makers at a company in the buying process’ coming in at #2 in 2018.

So what’s going on here?

‘Engaging multi decision makers at a company in the buying process’ brings only one acronym to my mind: TL;DR. While a huge fan girl of HubSpot, could they have not come up with a shorter title? In all seriousness though, this option could be easily summed up by saying Account Based Marketing, or ABM. In 2018, we’ve learned something that’s apparently even more valuable than closing deals: working a prospect by reaching out to a number of contacts and decision makers. ABM is the new unicorn of marketing. Everyone can see the value in attracting a company based on various targeted personas, but few have mastered the technique to bring in new sales and retainers. In 2018 and 2019, we can expect seeing new thought leaders emerge from the ABM methodology. We can also expect to see marketers developing their own creative strategies to engage various levels of stakeholders. So sit tight, cuz it’s about to get interesting.

4) “What has been the most successful channel for your sales representatives to connect with a prospect?”

Let’s go back to talking about social media for a second though, ok?

HubSpot's State of Inbound 2017
(HubSpot's State of Inbound 2017)

HubSpot's State of Inbound 2018
(HubSpot's State of Inbound 2018)

Telephone, telephone. Email, email. So far so good. Wait -- what? What channels fall into the 15% of what 2017 surveyors referred to as ‘Other’ channels? Nevertheless, it’s good to know that LinkedIn is really on the ups when it comes to channels to be investing your time in.

So what’s going on here?

There’s no denying that when it comes to business, especially B2B, LinkedIn has been and will most probably always be the social channel where professions connect, learn, and browse, all while wearing their business hats. Try to catch them on another platform, say Facebook, and there’s a good chance they’re not in the headspace to be thinking about business.

Another perk of LinkedIn is the seemingly endless possibilities of what you can do to marketing and sell using this channel. I love this guide from HubSpot on ways you can do more business on LinkedIn. Read it, learn it, and use it to start generating leads in the post-GDPR age.

5) “Do you feel that your organization's marketing strategy is effective?”

Different from the Gold, Silver, Bronze analysis we’ve been doing up until now, I almost overlooked this these bar charts.

HubSpot's State of Inbound 2017
(HubSpot's State of Inbound 2017)

HubSpot's State of Inbound 2018
(HubSpot's State of Inbound 2018)

If you’re confused why these charts are set up differently from each other, not to worry. I made a sweet table of my own to help you make sense of the data.

 

2017 report

2018 report

Difference over time

Inbound/ Effective

68%

75%

+7%

Inbound/ Ineffective

32%

25%

-7%

Outbound/ Effective

48%

62%

+14%

Outbound/ Ineffective

52%

38%

-14%

So what’s going on here?

Inbound is clearly the winner of the marketing strategy competition and its power only seems to be growing. The interesting part of this is that outbound seems to have made significant advancements in effectiveness compared to last year. So the obvious questions staring us in the face is, why? Talking it over with our data wiz and account manager Nick Kenton, we came to the conclusion that maybe we’ve just gotten smarter at how to do outbound. In the past year with the rise of outbound marketing and sales tools like SimilarTech and Drift, we’ve been about to create more personalized and targeted outbound efforts than ever before. Something tells me we can expect to see more technology like these pop up in the second half of 2018 and into 2019.

Conclusion

The HubSpot State of Inbound report is the pulse that helps marketers and salespeople around the world understand how they fair compared to other professionals in the field. It’s always important to note though that these stats don’t come in a vacuum, but are a reflection of the times we live in and how the world of inbound is changing quickly around us. The better we can tap into trends today, the better off we’ll be at predicting the trends of tomorrow.

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About Shoshi Weinstein

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Shoshi hails from NYC, and is addicted to the startup life. She holds a degree in psychology and communications (IDC Herzliya) and is a published researcher. Your basic millennial, Shoshi loves gluten-free baking and sees her life through the lens of her instastories.

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