Content Marketing

Why Inbound Marketing Is on the Rise, and What That Means for Content Marketing

HubSpot, a company that sells inbound marketing software and even coined the term “inbound marketing,” just released its sixth annual “State of Inbound” report for 2014–2015. The report, based on a survey of 3,570 marketing and sales professionals—44 percent of which are HubSpot customers, and 68 percent of which are B2B marketers—finds that inbound marketing is trending upward and is here to stay.

Before digging in, though, it’s important to understand what inbound marketing is, why it’s so important to marketers, and how it relates to content marketing.

HubSpot’s own website defines inbound marketing against its counterpart, outbound marketing:

Instead of the old outbound marketing methods of buying ads, buying email lists, and praying for leads, inbound marketing focuses on creating quality content that pulls people toward your company and product, where they naturally want to be.

In other words, it’s an “out with the old, in with the new” form of advertising that engages consumers by appealing to their interests, not by shoving ads in their faces.

Still, HubSpot was concerned that many people in the industry didn’t understand the differences between inbound marketing and content marketing. HubSpot took to their survey to find out the exact nature of the industry’s knowledge, asking respondents, “Which of the following best describes the relationship between ‘content marketing’ and ‘inbound marketing’?”

It turns out there is a clear answer: The majority of professionals in marketing, sales, and services believe that content marketing is a subset of inbound marketing. That makes sense: Inbound marketing consists of myriad components, and none of those components is more important than content. As HubSpot’s Joe Chernov put it: “I believe content marketing is a subset of inbound marketing, but like the Arc Reactor to Iron Man, there is no inbound without content.”

Armed with that understanding, let’s take a look at the big takeaway from the rest of the study: While 2014 has been a huge year for inbound marketing, 2015 is set to be even bigger. More money has been pumped into inbound marketing in 2014 than ever before, with almost 50 percent of B2B marketers saying their budgets are up from the previous year.

Why are more funds being allocated to inbound marketing? Fifty percent of marketers said it’s because of their past success with inbound.

That success seems to have manifested in the holy grail of top-of-funnel marketing: leads. The percentage of marketers reporting inbound leads in 2014 is more than double that of marketers reporting leads from outbound strategies. In fact, the pool of respondents who had success with outbound leads dropped by over 10 percent from 2013 to 2014—most likely a result of all of that money being pumped into inbound.

Not only are the leads coming in droves, but they’re also of higher quality, with the majority of respondents saying that their inbound leads are more knowledgeable about the product than outbound leads—one of the unsung results of creating consistent, quality content.

In terms of where these qualified leads are coming from, 84 percent of inbound marketers, as opposed to 9 percent of outbound marketers, report that “organic, top of funnel sources” are rising in importance. Inbound marketers are prioritizing the power of social media, blogs, and optimized SEO for bringing in new sales opportunities—in other words, the key components of content marketing.

Measurement is key for continued inbound success; marketers that measure ROI are 17 times more likely to generate the same or greater ROI compared with the previous year, a sign that data-focused marketers are successfully optimizing their approach year-over-year.

In 2014, marketers have flexed their inbound marketing muscles, and for good reason. These tactics produce more qualified leads, generate higher ROI, and offer marketers an opportunity to reach new consumers in the social and blogging spheres. Expect even more inbound marketers to feel like Iron Man in 2015.

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