Top 5 Takeaways from HubSpot's State of Inbound Marketing 2014

Whenever a report like Hubspot's State of Inbound comes out, I get all excited. Some data! Some stats! New things to learn! Benchmarks to compare my work with!

And this year's report did not disappoint, either. With 54 pages of data gleaned from thousands of respondents in marketing and sales, Hubspot once again gives us a good overview of the world of inbound marketing, from budgeting to planning to measuring. 

And since not everyone has the time to read all 54 pages of the report, I've pulled my top 5 takeaways to share with you.

#5: Outbound marketing as a primary lead source has dropped significantly

In 2013, outbound marketing provided about 34% of lead sources. In 2014, that number dropped sharply to 22%.

What about inbound? According to the survey, inbound provides 45% of leads (down from 46% in 2013). That's more than double the leads from outbound!

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Analysis: Outbound is growing less and less effective as people use all the sources of information at their disposition to learn about a product or company before they even contact a sales rep. If I'm going to buy something, I'd rather do my own research than receiving a cold call from a pushy telemarketer, thank you very much.

As everything gets reviewed online, it's not hard to find people with the right experience to guide our purchase decisions. Outbound techniques like cold calling (and/or emailing), mass mail marketing and advertising are getting less and less effective--and, in my opinion, that's a really good thing.

#4: ROI is simulatenously the biggest challenge and a low priority for inbound marketers

Here's something very interesting: although close to 30% of respondents cited proving the ROI of inbound marketing as their top marketing challenge, the same activity is, on average, only the 4th on the list of priorities.

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Analysis: This state of affairs can seem puzzling at first, but as a content marketer in a small company, I totally get it. I'm a lot more concerned with producing enough quality content and involving a variety of writers internally to help with inbound efforts than proving the ROI of those efforts. 

But proving the ROI is indeed a challenge, especially when the ROI is sometimes a bit slow to come. Because it takes a few weeks for Google to pick up keywords, to build trust with a growing audience and to have people share more and more of your content, there's little evidence, at first, of an immediate effect on the business. The long view is more appropriate, but few small businesses can afford to spend much time or money on that.

#3: Email marketing is pretty much where it's at for both inbound and outbound marketers

We could even ask: is email marketing an inbound or an outbound technique? The survey shows that it straddles both--and very effectively so.

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Analysis: It's interesting to see how both inbound and outbound marketers can agree on at least one point: that email marketing is a very effective way to source leads.

With an ROI of 2500%, email marketing is one of the most cost-effective ways to market product and services to an audience. Although inbound and outbound marketers will use emails in different ways, there's still no denying that it is a channel that is worth paying attention to, no matter your marketing orientation.

#2: Blogging is the top inbound project

If this graph is going to guide your focus for inbound projects, then be prepared to blog.

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Analysis: Blogging is the top activity for all surveyed--and also the top activity for high performers. Blogging is the lynchpin of the following 2 activities, too: SEO and content distribution rely on strong blogging to work effectively. No blog? Can't do much about SEO. No blog? Can't distribute content either!

So, basically, every company should blog. It is the basis of any inbound strategy. Without a blog, it will be hard to make any headway into successful inbound marketing.

#1: Marketers who blog are 13x more likely to have positive ROI

Remember that ROI issue I discussed in #4? Well, if you blog, it'll be easier to get a positive ROI... 13x easier, actually.

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Analysis: My advice remains the same as above: if you do only one inbound activity, it should be blogging. Of all marketing activities, it correlated most strongly with positive ROI. 

So, if you don't blog, start now. It's really not that hard--and it gets easier the more you do it. Plenty of CMS have blogging modules that will get you started with a few clicks. There's plenty of information out there about blogging, from beginner's guides to advanced workshops.

A blog is not the only improvement you can make to your website to increase its effectiveness. See our 25 Effective Ways To Improve Your Website ebook (it's free!) to learn more.

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