Converting contacts and leads into sales will be one of the top priorities for 7 in 10 businesses worldwide in the next 12 months, according to a recent survey by inbound marketing platform Hubspot. The survey also revealed that nearly two-thirds (61%) of businesses involved with inbound marketing intend to increase their presence in the organic search engine results in 2017. Generating traffic and leads remains the biggest challenge for the vast majority of businesses. Hubspot conducted the global online survey among 6000+ executives, managers and sales and marketing professionals from December 2016 through February 2017. The vast majority of survey participants were SMBs, half of which had less than 10 employees.
Top Marketing Priorities
The purpose of marketing is to drive sales. That’s why it is no surprise that 7 in 10 marketing and sales professionals surveyed by Hubspot revealed that converting contacts and leads into sales will be one of their top priorities in the next 12 months. Slightly more than half (55%) cited growing traffic to the website as an activity they are going to aggressively pursue in the next 12 months, 45% said they will pay more attention to selling into the existing client base.
The first two goals are consistent with a recent poll, among worldwide marketers, by marketing research firm Ascend2. It’s 2017 Digital Marketing Plans report reveals that 58% of the marketers they surveyed cited that increasing sales revenue was their most significant goal for 2017, followed by generating more leads (47%) and increasing website traffic (44%).
Inbound Marketing Priorities
When it comes to inbound marketing ‒ the technique of drawing customers to products and services via social media marketing, content marketing, and search engine optimization ‒ nearly two-thirds (61%) of survey participants said that growing a presence in the organic search engine results was one of their highest priorities for 2017. Blog content creation (53%) and content distribution/amplification (47%) are two other activities that were high on participants’ 2017 priority lists. Unsurprising, because content creation and distribution not only drives content marketing but also organic search engine optimization.
Top Marketing Challenges
There are many barriers on the way to marketing success. Most companies face a range of challenges when implementing their marketing strategy. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of survey participants reported that generating traffic and leads was their biggest challenge while proving the ROI of their marketing activities was a difficult task for 40% of the respondents. The latter obviously does not make securing enough budget (28%) for digital marketing any easier.
In contrast to the Hubspot poll, 40% of marketers participating in the Ascend2 2017 Digital Marketing Plans survey cited that obtaining an adequate budget and improving lead quality were the most significant challenges they were expecting to face in 2017. Increasing sales revenue and website traffic were expected to be a challenge for 38% and 37% of the survey participants, respectively.
Nearly two-thirds (61%) of the survey participants felt that the marketing strategy employed by their companies was effective. Hubspot also found that representatives of organizations that were inbound were more likely to state that their marketing strategy was effective than those who were part of an outbound organization.
Closing new business was by far the highest sales priority for nearly 7 in 10 (71%) of the sales and marketing professionals surveyed by Hubspot. Improving the efficiency of the sales process through optimization of the sales funnel was a critical activity for 44% of the professionals participating in the survey. Connecting and interacting directly with prospects, through social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook, also called social selling, was listed as the third most important priority.
The Hubspot survey data revealed that sales prospecting (38%) ‒ for example, making outbound calls, sending outbound emails and activating cold leads ‒ were the most challenging activities for sales reps. 28% of respondents said their company reps had difficulty closing sales.
Sales Channel Effectiveness
A good old telephone call is still the most effective way to connect with prospects, followed by email, according to the Hubspot survey data. Surprisingly, only 12% of respondents said they used Facebook to connect with prospects and 8% used LinkedIn.
A survey by Quotable, an online magazine created by Salesforce.com, surveyed 180 sales reps and sales managers across states and a range of industries to find out about their average workday, and specifically, how they spend their time prospecting. 25% of the survey participants said they use social media to connect with potential customers, 25% said they use referrals/networking events, 22% used prospecting tools and 16% made cold calls. Only 9% of sales reps said they were using search engines to find new prospects.
Top-3 Sales Lead Sources
The top-3 sources for sales were leads generated by the sales organization, referrals and leads from marketing. The Hubspot survey data shows that 38% of sales was generated from sales leads, 33% via referrals and 25% from marketing leads. The participants also indicated that the best leads were those they sourced directly and referrals.
Sales Lead Quality
High-quality leads are leads that are more likely going to convert into sales. When Hubspot polled the survey participants about lead quality they rated leads generated by the sales organization (38%) and referrals (33%) to be of the highest quality. 30% of respondents in the survey rated marketing leads as poor quality. In contrast, 59% of marketers believed that the leads they sent to sales were of very high quality. Hubspot also revealed that 59% of respondents rated leads generated through inbound practices of the highest quality. Only 16% of respondents indicated that outbound practices generated the highest quality leads.
The survey was conducted by Hubspot, an inbound marketing platform that provides a range of inbound marketing services. In situations like this, when companies survey the markets they serve, carefulness and skepticism are often justified, although various other surveys support many of the findings in the Hubspot survey.