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Is Your Small Business Profiting From Inbound Marketing Yet?
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Inbound marketing is hot. According to The 2013 State Of Inbound Marketing Report by HubSpot, 60 percent of companies are doing inbound marketing, and 48 percent those have increased their budgets for it compared to last year.

But despite all the hubbub, 19 percent of survey respondents admit they aren’t really clear on what inbound marketing is and whether they are doing it. To clarify things, HubSpot defines inbound marketing as a “customer-centric” rather than product-based marketing strategy. “[Inbound marketing] is a holistic approach that involves attracting and converting visitors into customers through personalized, relevant information and content–-not interruptive messages–and following them through the sales experience with ongoing engagement,” the report says.

Think of it this way: If a cable TV commercial is outbound (interrupting the viewing experience), a YouTube video that customers come upon through an Internet search or on your business’s Facebook page is inbound (attracting customers “in” to learn more about your business).

However, inbound isn’t a matter of channel but of approach. Emails can be outbound if customers haven’t asked for them and they have little to do with the customer’s needs, but also can be an inbound technique if customers have requested emails, the emails are relevant and the emails are part of an ongoing “conversation.”

Now that you know what inbound marketing is, there are lots of reasons to make it part of your marketing strategy. Here are a few that HubSpot highlights:

  • Inbound marketing provides more and cheaper leads that convert at higher rates than traditional outbound marketing. In 2013, respondents said 34 percent of all their leads came from inbound marketing, and that inbound delivered 54 percent more leads into the marketing funnel than traditional outbound tactics.
  • In contrast, 17 percent of marketers say both traditional advertising and direct mail have become less important in the past six months. In fact, traditional advertising and PPC will deliver the least amount of leads for marketers this year, with just 6 percent of leads coming from each of these categories.
  • Inbound marketing doesn’t just generate leads—it also makes sales. For example, inbound marketers see double the average website conversion rate of marketers who don’t use inbound marketing–from 6 percent to 12 percent.

So what are the hottest areas for inbound marketing?

Social media, SEO and blogs rank as the top channels, each contributing 14 percent of respondents total pipeline in 2013. Social and SEO also lead in sales conversions, with social media netting conversion rates 15 percent above average and SEO netting conversion rates 13 percent above average.

Social media accounts for 23 percent of all inbound budgets, and 21 percent of marketers say social media has become more important in the past six months. Facebook topped the charts, with more than half (52 percent) of marketing saying they’d sourced leads from it this year and nearly three-fourths saying it’s important to their lead generation strategy. Company blogs and LinkedIn were the second most effective inbound marketing tactics, with 43 percent of marketers generating customers from each of these channels.

What are inbound marketers’ top priorities? Nearly one-fourth (23 percent) say their top priority is reaching the right audience; the same percentage say their number-one concern is converting leads into customers. In addition, 20 percent of marketers want to increase total lead volume, while 18 percent say creating quality content is their top priority.

What’s the top challenge? Staffing and budget lead the way. More than half of companies (51 percent) report their inbound marketing teams include fewer than six people. Even at the enterprise level, 31 percent of all inbound marketing teams are that small. Budgeting for inbound marketing and choosing and using the appropriate technology were the other top concerns.

If you want to use inbound marketing, HubSpot recommends committing to it; devoting adequate budget and staff to it; and developing a way to measure ROI by tracking hard numbers such as conversions.

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