How 2017 Marketing Can Drive More Profitable Sales [Research]

What 2017 State of Inbound Marketing Means For Your Business

2017 Marketing ResearchWant your business to standout amidst a broader array of customer options online and offline?

Then focus your 2017 marketing on building customer relationships by providing concierge-like service to meet your audience needs over time.

Because customer experience is the new marketing black!

Customer Experience Journey

As a result, marketing has grown from providing branding and sales support to contributing to bottom line results based on 2017 marketing research.

The marketing-sales continuum has transformed into a partnership where closer working relations yield better lead generation, higher conversion rates and shorter sales cycles.

Since inbound marketing is a subset of digital marketing it focuses on business-controlled elements of the marketing mix. Most noteworthy are search, content marketing, social media and customer communications. As a result, it requires lower marketing investment.

To show how digital marketing has changed, Hubspot’s State of Inbound Research 2017 surveyed 6,399 individuals in 141 countries.

  • 58% of those surveyed had 25 or fewer employees.
  • 46% of those surveyed generated less $1 million in sales.
  • 43% of those surveyed spent less than $25,000 on marketing.
  • 43% of those surveyed invested less than $5,000 in sales technology.

While the majority of Hubspot respondents are SMBs, larger companies can benefit from these findings too. At a minimum, test these approaches to see how they perform for your business. (BTW, Here’s our analysis of Hubspot’s 2014 State of Inbound Research)2017 Marketing Research


2017 Marketing Research: Top Marketing Priorities

3 Top 2017 marketing priorities identified by the research are:

  • 70% of respondents rank converting contacts and leads into customers.
  • 55% of respondents prioritize driving traffic to their website.
  • 45% of respondents want to increase revenue from existing customers

2017 Marketing Research

2017 marketing priorities chartYet, 3 out of 5 marketers can NOT show ROI for their marketing activities!

Translation: Marketers need to associate meaningful metrics with each marketing touch.

This is attributable to not determining your marketing metrics in advance in order to incorporate tracking into your marketing. Otherwise, you’re left with whatever you can measure which may not help you.

A majority of best (88%) and worst in class (56%) marketers measured marketing results according to Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs 2017 B2B Content Marketing Research.

2017 B2B Content Marketing Research -Chart

BUT it’s key to measure the “right” things!

Further the more people involved in a purchase decision (both B2B and B2C) the more difficult it is to capture key marketing information. Based on my experience, tracking different people, channels and devices is hard to do and expensive.


2017 Marketing Research: Leads, Interactions and Customer Conversion

From a marketing-sales perspective, examine the entire buyer journey and customer experience. 

To put these results in context, customer conversion takes time and repeated engagement, specifically 10+ interactions. Microsoft research found 12 touches were needed. (Note: Couldn’t find source.)

Customer conversion

According to Moz’s Rand Fishkin, customers who visit Moz 10+ times before converting are much more loyal. Loyalty increases based on the number of their pre-conversion visits.

The Problem:

  • 49% of marketers provide for less than 5 product touches in their lead nurture program (Demand Gen Report 2015)

Avoid short-term quick conversions that don’t ultimately yield loyal customers and users.

Actionable Marketing Tips:

  • Plan for additional touchpoints. Set up email series and interactive content where relevant.
  • Assess the need for gating content. Determine whether you’re reducing the number of people including prospects who see your information and data quality. Drift removed its registration pages and forms to increase conversions.


Top 2017 Digital Inbound Marketing Priorities

Top 2017 digital inbound marketing priorities based on research are:

  • Improve organic search presence and rankings (aka SEO) to drive long-term results (61%)
  • Create blog content on a regular basis to fuel social media and support long-term search (53%)
  • Amplify and distribute content – includes social media and influencer marketing to continuely attract attention (47%)
  • Use marketing automation to drive post-contact development (40%)
  • Create interactive content to stand out and engage prospects (38%)
  • Develop visual content to attract attention for different learning (31%)
  • Create long form content to provide additional information (29%)
  • Build online tools (sometimes considered interactive content) to help prospects and attract links for search (28%)
  • Produce “How to” videos (to answer prospect questions and support post-purchase use (24%)
  • Present webinars to educate prospects and build email lists (19%)
    (Editor’s Note: Commentary is ours)

2017 Inbound Marketing Priorities

Inbound marketing focuses on the acquisition portion of the customer journey. It overlooks customers post-purchase.


Content Distribution Channels Change Based On 2017 Marketing Research

Marketing channels for content formats and distribution continue to evolve and adapt as technology and platforms change.

Video remains white hot as shown by the use of YouTube, Facebook Video and Instagram.

Here’s how marketers use a variety of content distribution channels.

  • 48% of respondents use YouTube (Video and search).
  • 46% of respondents use Facebook Video.
  • 37% of respondents use Instagram (Video and photos).
  • 24% of respondents use messaging apps (May include Facebook).
  • 11% of respondents use podcasting (Audio).
  • 10% of respondents use Snapchat (Video).
  • 8% of respondents use Medium (Long form text).
  • 4% of respondents use Slack (Messaging).

2017 Marketing Research


Top 2017 Marketing Challenges

Top 2017 marketing challenges based on research include:

  • Attracting traffic and leads (63%)
  • Measuring marketing ROI (40%)
  • Getting sufficient budget (28%)
  • Identifying the right marketing technology (26%)
  • Targeting content for an international audience (21%)
  • Training marketing team (19%)
  • Hiring top marketing staff (16%)
  • Finding an executive sponsor (7%)

Echoing their top marketing priorities, the top 3 marketing challenges have remained the same as long as I can remember.

Despite the constant cry for more traffic and leads, it’s more cost effective to drive quality leads that convert to loyal customers. You must balance the tradeoff between quality and quantity.

  • Without sufficient leads, you won’t convert sufficient customers.
  • With poor quality leads, you won’t drive enough sales.

Forrester Research develop a visual graphic illustrating how low value leads hurt your purchase process.

Without being able to track people at different points in the process and how well each channel performs, it’s difficult to make the case for more budget and/or to allocate your current budget effectively.


Marketing-Sales Alignment

To maximize customer acquisition investment, marketing and sales must be closely aligned. For many businesses, this requires a change from an “us versus them” approach to a team approach.

Marketing-sales alignment is an evolutionary approach. Only 1 out of 5 businesses surveyed by Hubspot is tightly aligned. As this alliance improves so does the perception of marketing’s effectiveness.

  • 22% of respondents have tightly aligned marketing and sales.
  • 44% of respondents have generally aligned marketing and sales.
  • 14% of respondents have rarely aligned marketing and sales.
  • 11% of respondents have misaligned marketing and sales.
  • 22% of respondents don’t know about marketing and sales alignment.

Marketing-Sales Alignment as measured by Hubpsot 2017 research (CHart)

Marketing effectiveness increases with improved marketing-sales alignment – Hubspot Research 2017-Chart

As the marketing-sales integration gains traction, marketing delivers more value and contributes more to qualified leads and conversions.

  • Marketing delivers 36% of leads for tightly aligned marketing and sales organizations.
  • Sales delivers 45% of leads for rarely aligned marketing and sales organizations.

2017 Top Sources of Leads Based on Hubspot Research (Chart)

To improve marketing support for sales and customer conversion create the 5 types of content your customers need. This content continues to support the customer journey post sales.


Customer Trust

Trust continues to be a key marketing issue. At a minimum, trust influences:

  • Who delivers your marketing message?
  • Where you place your marketing message?
  • What influencers support your efforts?

Customer trust according to Hubspot includes:

  • 54% trust word of mouth (aka: WOM). This is low compared to other research.
  • 45% trust other customers. Often this data point is more qualified. But it’s the logic behind case studies.
  • 39% trust media sources. You need other people to talk about you. This is at the heart of Gini Dietrich’s PESO model.

    Earned Media Defined In Context

    PESO Model by Gini Dietrich

  • 39% trust branded content (aka: vendor materials). Marketing has more trust than sales. This is why you must provide the content your audience actively seeks.
  • 33% trust analyst reports (aka: influencer marketing)Influencer TypesInfluencers come in a variety of different types-Chart
  • 23% trust ratings and reviews.
  • 19% trust branded sales.

Hubspot’s 2017 marketing research is consistent with earlier research by well-respected organizations, specifically Edelman (Trust Barometer), Nielsen and WOMMA. They revealed word of mouth trumps everything else. Translation: “people I know”.

Influencer Relations

Global trust in advertising

Influencer Recommendation Value-data


Marketing Communications: Can you hear me now?

Customer conversions are no longer your grandfather’s telephone sales calls.

Astute marketers use multiple channels and devices to communicate with prospects and customers.

Remember: respond when, where and how your potential buyers want to engage with you.

Based on 2017 marketing research, here’s how customers want businesses to communicate with them:

  • 86% of respondents prefer to communicate via email. (Note: Many business people check their email on their always-present smartphones.)
  • 60% of respondents prefer to communicate in-person.
  • 56% of respondents prefer to communicate via phone. (Note: No mention of text messages which are critical for millennials. Also other mobile uses such as voice and mobile search and mobile apps.)
  • 39% of respondents prefer to communicate via social media.
  • 38% of respondents prefer to communicate via video conferencing. (Note: This provides visual connection without travel costs.)
  • 31% of respondents prefer to communicate via messaging apps. (Note: This can overcome Internet and long distance costs.)

2017 Business Communications Channels Used – Hubspot Research Chart

Do you allow your prospects to use any or all of these communications options?

With at least a third of respondents using each option, offer them all or risk loosing the sale.


Social Media Use

No marketing communications or content strategy is complete without assessing social media.
Professionals turn to these top social media platforms according to Hubspot:

  • 78% of respondents use LinkedIn (It’s the professional rolodex.)
  • 74% of respondents use Facebook (No surprise—it’s the elephant).
  • 59% of respondents use Twitter (It’s where you distribute your message and reach out to people to start social media relationships.)



The 2017 Digital Marketing Conclusion

Digital marketing continues to evolve in 2017 with advances in technology (including martech stacks), faster Internet speeds and new marketing options to meet dynamic customer needs.

You must keep up with the latest trends while remaining nimble enough to modify your marketing as needed. This includes distribution, lead generation and conversion.

To maximize business results, work closely with sales to yield better leads that generate higher profitable sales over the long term.

As you get better at overcoming these challenges the more your marketing will drive greater business profitability.

Don’t be afraid to improve your digital marketing.

Since not changing is a greater risk.

Use this research to test and modify your plans.

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Heidi CohenHeidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies.
You can find Heidi on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.


Photo Credit: ( CCZero)

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