Key Takeaways From the Hubspot State of Inbound 2016

Written by Lucy Jones

Sep 15 2016

hubspot state of inbound marketing 2016

We review HubSpot's eighth annual State of Inbound report to see how marketing and sales are progressing and what's predicted to change in future.

Benchmarking the Marketing & Sales Landscape, and Predicting Future Change

Each year, HubSpot release their State of Inbound report; a detailed survey that explores the lay of today's marketing and sales landscape.. Detailing exactly how marketing and sales are progressing, the SOI benchmarks the key priorities, challenges and trends of today’s marketing and sales professionals and offers insight into where we’ll be heading next.

What data does the State of Inbound explore?

Now in its eighth year, the 2016 State of Inbound report collates data from over 4,500 respondents in over 132 countries. This year:

  • 85% of respondents were non-HubSpot customers
  • The majority were from marketing backgrounds in B2B (59%), B2C (33%), and from small to mid-sized businesses.
  • Half of the companies represented generate under $1 million each year.

The world is becoming more inbound. It’s growing more authentic, less interruptive. And with the findings of this year’s report, I think it’s safe to say that over the next ten years we’re going to see an even more inbound world. - Brian Halligan

As inbound adoption continues to grow (73% of respondents stated that Inbound is already their organisation’s primary approach to marketing), the report lists a few common traits that we would expect to see, such as:

  • Outbound marketing (paid advertising) is considered the most overrated marketing tactic
  • Marketers who can calculate ROI are 1.6x as likely to receive higher budgets.

In addition to reviewing industry challenges, priorities, inbound adoption and more, this year’s data gives insight into the advance of inbound sales, reviews how marketers and sales teams are aligning and gives key predictions for the future.

We’ve explored key takeaways below:

Key Takeaways From SOI 2016

Over the coming year, most organisations plan to prioritise lead/customer conversion, before focusing on traffic growth.

74% of marketers listed ‘converting contacts/ leads to customers’ as their company’s top marketing priority for the next 12 months, followed by growing traffic to their website (57%).

Having a good web presence and supporting content are being recognised as priorities.

Organisations are recognising the importance of having a good web presence; 66% of respondents listed ‘Growing SEO/organic presence’ as their top activity priority, followed by blog content creation (60%). Creating interactive content is also increasingly important - 41% plan to prioritise this.

marketing_priorities_soi2016.png

Sales is transforming.

The Inbound sales movement is evolving and transforming the way sales works. 16% of companies plan to prioritise sales enablement in the coming year. Social selling has also increased in importance by 6% making it a priority sales action for 28% of organisations. And while 34% of sales reps say closing deals is harder than it was 2-3 years ago, it is 2016’s number one sales priority for 70% of organisations.

16% of companies plan to prioritise sales enablement in the coming year. - State of Inbound 2016

Lead to customer conversion rates are often below 20%.

Typically, the average lead-to-customer conversion rate was below 20% for 43% of survey takers. Only 11% said they saw 50%+ of leads convert to sales. This likely explains the above aspirations for organisations to prioritise ‘converting contacts/ leads to customers’ in the coming 12 months.

Generating traffic, proving ROI and securing budget are marketing’s primary challenges.

At 65%, this year’s top marketing challenge is generating traffic and leads, followed by difficulty proving marketing ROI (43%) and securing enough budget (28%). But they’re not the only problems marketers are encountering; 26% still find website management to be their prime challenge and 25% are struggling to identify the right technologies for their needs (yet in many cases, identifying the right technologies would help to solve other prime challenges).

marketing_challenges_soi2016.png

Prospecting is still hard.

For sales, prospecting is still the stage of the sales process that causes the most pain. 33% of salespeople say this is the most difficult stage, though this has dropped from 43% in 2015. 30% found closing the hardest, followed by identifying the lead (20%) and qualifying (17%). 27% of sales reps say identifying good leads/prospecting is harder than it was 2-3 years ago.


So why is prospecting so difficult? Sales staff state that prospecting becomes increasingly harder if a lead is poorly educated on the sales topic. 36% of sales staff say prospecting is difficult when a lead is ‘not at all knowledgeable’ vs. ‘very knowledgeable’ (26%). As only 8% of survey takers believe their prospects to be ‘very knowledgeable’ it’s unsurprising that prospecting remains difficult.


Bridging this knowledge gap is something that an inbound process, lead nurture, an effective marketing/sales qualification process and inbound sales enablement work to address.

Sales staff state that prospecting becomes increasingly harder if a lead is poorly educated on the sales topic. 36% of sales staff say prospecting is difficult when a lead is ‘not at all knowledgeable’ vs. ‘very knowledgeable’ (26%) - State of Inbound 2016

Marketers have more faith in inbound over outbound strategies.

New to the State of Inbound this year, HubSpot introduced a new angle to their survey asking ‘Do marketers believe in their organisation’s marketing strategy?


When marketers were asked at a top level if they think their organisation’s strategy is effective, the result was a 61% ‘yes’, 39% ‘no’ split. Explore this further, and 81% of those ‘yes’ answers were from marketers practising inbound. Overall, inbound organisations were 4x as likely to rate their marketing strategy highly.

Marketing and sales alignment is more crucial than ever for effective strategies.

A solid marketing/sales alignment (formally described as a service-level agreement/ SLA) is the key to having an informed, responsive team, with clear responsibilities and measurable results. However, while only 22% of those surveyed had a formal SLA in place between marketing and sales, 82% of those with an SLA believed their marketing was effective. 25% of those surveyed viewed their marketing/sales alignment as either ‘rarely aligned’ or ‘misaligned’. Out of those ‘misaligned’ respondents, only 20% had faith in their marketing strategies.


Noticeably, the State of Inbound picked up that even when an organisation has an SLA in place, there can still be a disconnect between marketing and sales perceptions. While 59% of marketers believe inbound-sourced leads are the highest quality (over sales-sourced and outbound leads), only 22% of salespeople believed marketing to be a good lead generation source (behind sales sourced leads at 38%, and referrals at 36%).

Looking Forward: What’s Predicted to Change in Marketing & Sales?

The HubSpot State of Inbound does more than benchmark what’s happening in marketing and sales today; it offers a few educated suggestions about how the landscape will change in future.


For the future of marketing, key points to note are that:


  • Content will become increasingly varied, and we’ll start speaking to buyers in different ways. With the demand for varied content expected to grow, marketers seem to be planning for more varied content distribution platforms. Video, chat, and new social platforms particularly, are expected to be included into the content mix, with marketers considering the following marketing platforms for the next 12 months; YouTube (48%), Facebook video (39%), Instagram (33%), messaging apps (20%), Podcasts (15%), Snapchat (15%), Medium (8%), Slack (5%), Vine (5%).
  • BUT. While marketing teams are preparing to change the way we reach buyers, many still expect preparation for change to be slow.

For the future of sales:


  • As we know, sales is currently undergoing its own inbound revolution, which HubSpot predict will continue. Outlining the key steps that a transformed sales landscape will need to take, sales must:
    • 1. Invest in social selling
    • 2. Overhaul the prospecting process
    • 3. Stop cold calling
    • 4. Commit to better marketing/sales alignment
    • 5. Determine how buyers want to communicate, and meet them there
    • 6. Adopt a CRM that integrates with other critical systems
    • 7. Train the sales team to adapt to new changes

Just like inbound marketing obliterated pushy outbound marketing, inbound sales will transform sellers from aggressive closers into helpful advocates. - State of Inbound 2016

  State of Inbound 2016
B2B Marketing Zone