August 17, 2018


by: shelwen elliott


Tags: B2B Marketing


Categories: B2B Marketing

The Disruptive Nature of Inbound & Conversational Marketing

Disruptive. Innovative. Two words that have been used to describe the ever-changing state of B2B marketing in 2018, but what do these words mean in practical terms?

Today we’re offering a summary on the present state of marketing. We’ll be looking at how marketing has changed recently, with a focus on the ‘new hotness’ that is inbound and conversational marketing.

The executive summary

For the terminally busy, here’s a brief rundown of this article’s findings:

  • Inbound marketing leverages content and convenience to ‘pull’ buyers in
  • It works for B2B (business to business) just as well as it does B2C (business to consumer)
  • It’s generally cheaper than other marketing activities
  • It makes clever use of current and emerging digital technology
  • It helps sales teams and marketers work better both together and separately

The difference between outbound and inbound

Outbound marketing ‘pushes’ a message out, as the name implies. Outbound marketing activities include email campaigns, cold calling and direct mail.

Inbound, as you might imagine, is the opposite; it builds conversations and creates content that ‘pulls’ buyers towards your business.

This new method works, but it’s far from a fire-and-forget technique. Inbound marketing relies largely on analytics that identifies audiences in detail – and content that draws them in. Its sister activity, conversational marketing, operates on a similar principle where customers are offered the ability to have one-to-one conversations with a business across multiple channels such as email, Facebook and more.

The importance of B2B marketing technologies

As you might imagine, automation saves money wherever it appears. In a marketing sense, the rise of tools such as chatbots has led to more efficient and affordable ways to engage with an audience. The use of chatbots on business websites has become an entirely global phenomenon, with 41% of business-related chatbot conversations started by executive-level professionals.

This trend is supported by the convenience of the digital lifestyle. Mobile searches are triumphant over other methods of search in their popularity; 49% of B2B researchers use mobile devices when searching at work and 48% of consumers begin any purchasing-related searching via their smartphone.

The trend towards higher mobile usage is clear (Google now operates a ‘mobile-first’ indexing system for mobile users), and when combined with instant chatbot interaction, the path to purchase enviably easy with the right investment. Business has never been better!

A recent study by Statistica found that every single one of the most valuable forms of content marketing for pulling prospects through the sales funnel was inbound. Blog content, whitepapers and video were cited as the top three.

Budgets are always a problem, and the inexperienced might think that these inbound activities are more expensive to produce – wrong. A study by Demand Metric on the costs of marketing channels found inbound to be a whopping 62% cheaper than ‘traditional’ approaches, while providing three times as many leads.

Attention spans are awful and that’s important

Ask any copywriter or content creator about attention spans and you’re sure to see a few rolled eyes! Capturing attention and keeping it are primary challenges in modern content creation, and the shocking statistics are arguably a reflection of how fast our societies operate in 2018.

Microsoft, of all people, did a recent study that found the average attention span to be eight seconds – how flattering! This is also a rather serious decrease from the 12-second result found in 2000.

If that trend stays on track, we’ll be at a one-second attention span by 2054. Oh dear. Better go shorten that title up there!

Great content – be it video or text-based – understands attention and how to grab and keep it.

On a wider scale, though, this combination of low attention and ultra-convenience via smartphones creates an ideal climate for inbound marketing. Why? Because it’s always there. Chatbots don’t sleep, and your video and blog content is always viewable by your audience.

Inbound vs. outbound: number crunching

Numbers are (or at least should be!) the last word in marketing. That ROI figure is always important, and decision-makers are incessantly keen to ensure that the channels they invest their marketing budget into are the best ones.

Fortunately, the many reports and papers available online speak of a general shift towards inbound and content-led methods by both B2B and B2C businesses. Marketers are also on-board – HubSpot found that 75% rate their inbound methods as effective, compared to 62% when speaking on outbound activities. The same report found 52% of marketers see more ROI from inbound than other methods; only 16% said the same for their outbound efforts.

The sales perspective

Salespeople are always up against it, and securing new customers is getting harder for them.

In most organisations, finding new leads is the primary challenge:  40% of salespeople say that getting a response to be their biggest challenge, followed closely by scaling their activities (engaging multiple decision makers easily) and actually closing deals.

Outside of general inefficiencies (27% of salespeople spend over an hour a day doing data entry), making the marketing funnel easier means more leads per hour worked. The ‘always-on’ nature of inbound campaigns allows for valuable data to be collected as visitors navigate websites to consume and share content.

This data is exceptionally useful for activities such as account-based marketing, where greater amounts of time are spent understanding and qualifying high-value leads before engaging – powerful indeed where B2B is concerned.

Numbers never lie. In 2015, HubSpot found 52% of marketers to claim inbound as their highest ROI activity – that number is now 60% in 2018. Outbound, by the same comparison, has hovered at a poor 16% and 18% respectively.

That’s a wrap

Interesting figures, and an honest take from the QliQ team on why they are worth paying attention to!

We hope you’ve found today’s blog of real use. If you’re in the market for marketing and think we could be the fit for you, we’re right here by phone and email.