Top 6 Inbound Marketing and Sales Trends for 2018

Every year, HubSpot’s State of Inbound report shines the light on the trends and challenges organizations face in terms of their inbound marketing efforts, sales strategies, and operations. The results of this year’s survey reflect valuable input from 6,200 respondents in 99 countries, representing a wide variety of industries, company sizes, and levels of seniority. 

In this article, we provide highlights from the report, including the top 6 inbound marketing and sales trends for 2018. We also share insight from Mark Briggs, CEO of Validity, Inc., regarding the importance of data integrity in achieving the most critical business objectives. 

Marketing Prioritizes Converting Leads Into Customers

When asked what their company’s top marketing priorities were over the next 12 months, it’s probably no surprise that 69% of survey respondents reported converting contacts/leads to customers.  

“Lead conversion is a significant challenge in and of itself,” said Briggs, “but when you factor in how much money and resources are wasted each month inputting and then chasing after bad leads, you realize how compounded this challenge can quickly become.”   

“Consider how often sales reps end up wasting their time trying to connect with a contact who isn’t a decision maker or nurture the same lead as a colleague because of duplicates in the database,” continued Briggs. “This erodes confidence in the data, which can lead to lost lucrative business opportunities because the data isn’t seen as trustworthy and warranting any action.”

Proving the ROI of Marketing Activities Proves To Be a Challenge

Listed as another top marketing priority by 42% of the respondents was proving the ROI of marketing activities. Nearly 40% of respondents also considered proving marketing ROI one of the company’s top marketing challenges.  

When you launch a marketing campaign, the ROI you can expect is dependent on the cleanliness of the data you’re using. If the underlying data is faulty—from invalid emails in your digital campaigns to duplicates that waste marketing spend—your ROI takes the hit.  

Further impacting your ROI is the quality of the data you collect from your marketing activities and, ultimately, add to your database. As Briggs explained, “If you’re collecting data from inbound sources like Web-to-Lead forms, leads generated through paid advertising, etc., without establishing a system to ensure that data is as accurate as possible, you’re making it far more difficult to connect your sales and marketing efforts to revenue generation.”  

Briggs recommends establishing standard operating procedures for capturing and entering data, enforcing those SOPs with training and accountability, and leveraging the right tools and technology to achieve and maintain clean data.  

“When you take the appropriate steps to prevent dirty data from entering your system, you allow your sales team to operate more efficiently and reduce the amount of hours spent on non-sales activities,” said Briggs. “You also help make follow-up more efficient and effective. This will make it much easier to prove the ROI of your marketing and the ability of your campaigns to generate leads that result in sales.” 

Generating Website Traffic Is a Top Inbound Marketing Trend and Priority 

Also at the top of the list, 54% of respondents said growing traffic to the website was a high priority.  

As Briggs noted, “It’s wonderful when you can attract unique and repeat visitors to your web pages, but you also want them to take action. What’s the action you want to encourage them to take? Is it to fill out a form for more information? Request a demo? Download a white paper? Set up an appointment time to connect in your booth at the next trade show?” Briggs stresses the importance of not just determining the action you want them to take, but the way you’ll collect their information when they follow through. He suggests asking yourself these questions:

  • Is the process to capture visitor information on your site in line with your database needs and best practices? For example, are you including the appropriate fields you want to transfer to your Salesforce instance?  
  • Are you requiring the specific information sales will need to effectively follow up on those leads? For example, if the ideal prospect is an administrator, data analyst, marketing manager, financial officer, etc., are you capturing job titles or other information that will help sales identify the decision maker? Likewise, if your product or service is more applicable to a large enterprise or a certain industry, do your form fields require information about company size or industry type so your sales team can focus their efforts accordingly? 
  • Is your Web-to-Lead form tied to your Salesforce database in a way that streamlines the entry of information? For example, if your database has been standardized to two-letter state names, are you employing a pick list so prospects choose CA for California instead of entering Cali, Calif, or a misspelling of the state? A best practice tip: Use pick lists whenever possible. 
  • Are you employing integrated deduping technology to avoid the risk of duplicate data entering Salesforce and resulting in missed sales opportunities, productivity loss, and inaccurate reporting?   
  • Have you added a real-time email verification API to the places where you collect customer data, such as on web forms and at point of sale systems, so emails can be instantly validated, literally as the customer is typing?  

Businesses Rely Heavily On Inbound Marketing and Customer-Focused Content

Customer-focused content is key to making inbound marketing successful and companies are heavily investing in it. Approximately 75% of survey respondents said their companies rely primarily on inbound marketing and indicated they would be increasing their inbound marketing budgets this year. 

“With so much reliance on inbound marketing, and plans to place even more money behind it, marketers need to consider every step on that inbound path,” suggests Briggs. “You’ve worked hard and spent a good deal of money to get prospects to come to you. Now you need to maximize those opportunities by ensuring the data that results is as accurate, standardized, and useful as possible.” 

What’s Your Organization’s Top 6 Inbound Marketing Trends and Sales Trends for 2018? 

Inbound Marketing TrendsThe following summarizes more of what ranked high on the list of priorities for organizations in 2018, as well as the top challenges today’s marketers and sales professionals face.  

Ready to make your own priority list? No matter what you place on it, don’t let bad data stand in the way of your organization’s goals. Be a champion for data integrity. Implement tools and processes that help everyone in your organization regain trust in the data they use to make business decisions and turn prospects into customers.

Top 3 sales trends:

  • Closing more deals 75% 
  • Improving the efficiency of the sales funnel 48% 
  • Reducing the length of the sales cycle 32%

Top 3 activities that are more difficult to do in sales than they were two to three years ago:

  • Getting a response from prospects 40% 
  • Engaging multiple decision-makers at a company in the buying process 31% 
  • Closing deals 30% 

 Top 3 marketing challenges:

  • Generating traffic and leads 61% 
  • Proving the ROI of marketing activities 39% 
  • Securing enough budget 27

Top 3 marketing priorities over the next 12 months:

  • Converting contacts/leads to customers 69% 
  • Growing traffic to website 54% 
  • Increasing revenue derived from existing customers 44%

To download the full HubSpot 2018 State of Inbound report, visit 

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