Last month, HubSpot released its State of Inbound 2017 report, which compiles tons of valuable research on sales and marketing across the globe.
The information in the report comes from surveys sent to CEOs, VPs, Managers, and individual contributors from companies of all sizes who were asked to give their thoughts on the current state of their own sales and marketing.
If you aren’t already aware, HubSpot is one of the industry’s leading inbound marketing companies (if not the leading) and we at Hey Now! Media became HubSpot Partners earlier this year.
In case you’re too busy creating and promoting great content and analyzing your company’s own marketing and sales efforts, we poured over the report and pulled the main trends to be aware of going into 2017.
1) Bring Sales & Marketing into Alignment
You probably hear this a lot, but it’s truer now than ever. The disconnect between a company’s sales and marketing can lead to a huge lapse in financial performance.
HubSpot makes a point of noting that over the years, organizations with aligned sales and marketing teams always perform better than those without. However, their findings show that few companies have achieved this tight alignment.
When asked where their top leads come from (the ones most likely to close), 38% of sales staff responded that sales sourced leads were top and 33% said referrals are highest quality. Only 25% of sales staff said that that marketing sourced leads were best quality.
In contrast, 59% of marketers said every lead they send to sales is very high quality. Note also that sales and marketing staff who believed marketing sourced leads were high quality tended to come from organizations with tightly aligned teams.
We’ve found that one of the best parts about using HubSpot’s software for our clients’ marketing is that it integrates marketing software and a CRM. Instead of having a separate marketing and sales funnel, HubSpot’s software creates one funnel where a stranger becomes a customer through a series of integrated marketing and sales activities.
Plan of Action: Establish better communication between sales and marketing. Create a written plan for sales and marketing alignment that helps connect the two including what constitutes a quality lead. Here are some resources to get started!
- 10 Myths About Lead Quality: Busted
- How We Aligned Marketing and Sales to Drive Quality Leads
- 4 Ways to Generate Higher Quality, Sales-Ready Leads
2) Management and Staff Need Aligning
On a related note, there’s another common, disconnect- management and company staff. In this report alone, there are four examples where company owners and presidents are not on the same page as individual staff.
- Management underplayed the success of phone conversations in the sales process and way overestimate the impact of social media.
- 69% of senior respondents said their marketing strategy was effective compared to 55% of individual contributors.
- 31% of senior respondents say their organization has aligned sales and marketing but only 17% of individuals say the same
- Senior respondents rate referrals as top source of sales leads while individuals point to sales sourced leads.
Why such a large disconnect on so many important points? HubSpot suggests that because individuals do not have a holistic picture of the organization they judge its activities harshly.
Plan of Action: A renewed emphasis from Senior Management on transparency and communication can help staff better understand the full picture and also take more ownership of company goals and results. We suggest starting a community meetings program. If you already have such a program, try restructuring your current meetings or holding them more often. At these meetings ownership should take the time to present a full picture of the company so that staff can understand where they fit and how they can help with success.
3) Digital Continues to Disrupt
We’ve heard it for years, and we continue to hear it – digital is king. This year, 32% of marketers rated traditional paid advertising as the most overrated marketing tactic and some even abandoned it altogether. One respondent suggested that soon “Digital Marketers” will just be called “Marketers” as online becomes the new normal.
But now, the digital disruption is at a new level. Marketers reported that having a website and blogs is no longer enough to attract leads and convert them to customers. As video marketing and visual content are on the rise, some marketers see it as a great content channel while others fear that it threatens their jobs as content writers. Some content writers are also threatened by the emergence of AI software, which is already compiling content on sports statistics and earnings reports using pre-made algorithms.
To prepare for the digital norm, marketing teams reported they will maintain or increase their presence on YouTube and Facebook Video. Note also that the most popular digital channels over the past three years are inherently visual. As digital grows, so does visual content.
Plan of Action: Keep on top of trends by making sure your photos and videos are strategic and well-designed and create a documented plan for your visual content. Here are some resources to help you build your strategy:
- 7 Steps to Documenting a Content Marketing Strategy That Works
- How To Plan a Content Marketing Strategy: A Start-to-Finish Guide
- 2017 Content Marketing Planning Template
4) People Want to Ignore You
Sales teams reported that their biggest challenge compared to three years ago is getting a reply from their prospects and that their biggest overall challenge right now is prospecting. This is only made more difficult by the fact that word of mouth is still key in influencing purchases and salespeople are considered the least influential factor in a purchase decision.
Sales representatives say that the most successful channels for connecting with prospects are telephone and email. However, according to HubSpot, the modern buyer likes to talk professionally via email by an overwhelming majority. Communicating over social media and chat apps like WhatsApp are also on the rise.
What do the modern buyer’s channels of communication have in common? They’re all digital! And with the click of a trash can icon, it’s easier than ever to dismiss sales communications. Without face to face meetings and trust in the influence of a salesperson, prospecting is hugely difficult for the sales team.
Plan of Action: The best way to work around this is to segment prospects and leads as specifically as possible with a CRM. That way you can create personalized content that prospects find more interesting and specific to their needs and goals. Some resources to help choose a CRM:
- The 11 Biggest Mistakes People Make When Choosing a CRM
- 4 Steps For Choosing the Right CRM Based on Your Inbound Marketing Plan
- The Best CRM For Small Businesses and Startups
5) Priorities Haven’t Changed – They’re Just Harder to Achieve
A total of 71% of sales survey respondents said closing more deals is their top sales priority for the next year. Meanwhile, 70% of marketers said their top priority was converting leads into customers. Cash is king and these goals prove it – both teams ultimately want to make more money for their organization and prove their value by providing ROI.
As digital becomes the norm, new technologies disrupt the industry, and sales and marketing teams struggle to align their goals, these priorities only get harder to achieve.
Plan of Action: Arm yourself with education! Use HubSpot’s blog to prepare for difficult conversion and closing processes and make sure you’re ready for any situation.
Looking to the future, it’s important all business owners understand and prepare for industry disruptions, take bigger strides to align senior management and staff and sales and marketing, and find new and profitable ways to generate quality leads. Continue to innovate, push the boundaries, and see change as an opportunity. In the words of one of the best writers ever, Bob Dylan, “the times, they are a-changin!”
To read the full State of Inbound 2017 Report, click here. There’s a ton of valuable information and takeaways for your organization!
And don’t miss out on Hey Now! Media’s latest offer. Get your free copy by clicking below.