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Nathan Van Zyl   |   26 Feb 2019   |   Inbound Marketing

10 Things we learned from the State of Inbound 2018 report

Hubspot’s State of Inbound 2018 report revealed a bunch of interesting things about the challenges businesses, both big and small, are facing when it comes to their marketing and sales activities.

Some of them were pretty obvious.

Like the fact that:

#1 Marketers are a pretty confident bunch.

state of inbound

That is good news. It means that they believe in their strategies and know that they produce results.

This is particularly true for inbound marketers. 75% of them were confident that their inbound strategies were effective while only 62% of outbound marketers thought that their outbound strategies were effective.

state of inbound

This isn’t really that surprising because one of the primary benefits of inbound marketing is its ability to prove return on advertising spend (ROAS), an essential metric to measure the effectiveness of marketing efforts.

What was surprising is the revelation that:

#2 Marketing and sales want the same thing.

We often look at marketing and sales as two competing forces within a business.

They can never agree on what constitutes a lead and the one is always blaming the other for missed targets and lost deals.

The State of Inbound 2018 report revealed that the top marketing priority for 69% of businesses is to convert leads into customers:

state of inbound

Now let’s take a look at the top sales priority for the year:

state of inbound

The top sales priority for 75% of businesses is to close more deals.

Essentially, sales and marketing want the same thing - more customers.

The challenges they face though are slightly different.

#3 Generating traffic and converting them into leads is the biggest challenge faced by marketing teams. 

state of inbound

For marketing, the journey to achieving their goal starts with generating traffic, converting that traffic into leads, and then finally into customers.

The quality and volume of visitors coming in the top of their funnel directly impacts the number of customers coming out of the bottom.

This means understanding their buyer personas and then building out quality content to attract and nurture visitors into leads.

To increase the effectiveness of this process, marketers have started looking at ways of improving their content distribution strategies.

#4 Marketers are turning to video

 state of inbound

This seems to be the natural progression of blog content.

Leveraging that content and converting it into formats that are easier to consume, like video, expands its lifespan and puts it in front of new audiences - essential if you are trying to drive more traffic.

This shift is an important move for marketers embracing inbound methodologies, especially when you consider that:


#5 Marketers think paid media is overrated.

 state of inbound

Paid media has for a long time been a strategy employed by businesses to create awareness but the mass media approach is ineffective at creating long term value.

It’s hard to measure ROAS and even harder to reach ideal customers and deliver a targeted message.

Creating high-quality content and delivering it across mediums, like video and audio, has, therefore, become an essential weapon in the inbound marketer's arsenal.

Similar to the difficulties faced by inbound marketing teams,  

#6 Sales teams are struggling to get responses from prospects.

state of inbound

With the pressure faced by sales teams to meet ever-increasing targets, they have been forced to expand their reach in search of new prospects.

The result is a reduction in the quality of prospects which inevitably leads to a reduction in response and engagement rates.

Interestingly though;

#7 Email is still king.

state of inbound

Direct channels of communication, like calling and sending emails, are still at the heart of a sales team’s communication.

This is inline with generally preferred methods of business communication.

state of inbound

Finding ways to make communication more effective and automating parts of the process could help sales teams close more deals.

This would however also depend on the quality of leads being added to their sales pipelines. A strong focus on  bottom of the funnel (BOF) content could help nurture leads more effectively.

Businesses would also benefit from investing in customer service teams to make sure their service delivery is aligned with their goals.

#8 Customers produce the highest quality leads

state of inbound

The State of Inbound 2018 report showed that customer referrals produce leads that are 2x better than leads generated by sales teams and 4.5x better than those generated by marketing.

That is further reiterated by the fact that:

#9 Customer referrals and customer reference are the most import sources of information when people make buying decisions.

state of inbound

Let’s consider this for a moment…

The current trend is to increase the size of sales teams and push harder to find new prospects.

So although it might lead to an increase in prospects, those prospects are lower quality and come at a higher cost, due to an increase in overheads.

The alternative though, is to invest in the quality of service being delivered, converting customers in advocates for your business who are willing to recommend your business to their networks through reviews and direct referrals.

This brings us to our last insight from the State of Inbound 2018 report.

Despite the rivalry between sales and marketing, in the end they are both working towards the same goal. The key is to create alignment with a service level agreement (SLA):

#10 SLAs between marketing and sales increases the quality of leads.

state of inbound

Marketing teams believe they produce better leads when they are tightly aligned with their sales teams.

And sales teams agree.

state of inbound

SLAs clearly define what is considered a marketing qualified lead (MQL) and a sales qualified lead (SQL), ensuring that potential customers who still need to be nurtured aren’t handed over to sales team prematurely and that prospects who are ready to purchase are handed over to the sales team in time.

This clarifies expectations between marketing and sales and ensure that they are working closely to meeting their goals.


The State of Inbound 2018 report has a lot of data points to draw insights from but our main takeaway was that the most value can be derived from focusing on your BOF activities.

Align your marketing and sales teams with an SLA and delight your customers with exceptional service.

If you would like to download the full report, you can find it 👉🏼 here.

Are you ready to take your content marketing to new heights? Simply click the download button to get started 👇🏼

content marketing strategy template

Nathan Van Zyl

I spend most of my time defending my lunch from seagulls. The rest of my time is spent behind the scenes, figuring out ways to grow our agency and better serve the people we work with.