Inbound marketing ROI statistics to kick-start your campaign

From consumer behaviour to content marketing, we’re showing you some of the standout inbound marketing data from the previous 12 months.

Written by Bethany Spence
Inbound marketing |   9 minute read

Last year, we reviewed and reported on the state of inbound marketing. This year, is it still the same? We’re back at it again, scouring the web for the latest stats (no doubt many of which will come from our good friends at HubSpot).

From consumer behaviour to content marketing, we’re showing you some of the standout data from the previous 12 months, what it means and what you should do as a result. 

Like any great inbound blog, I'll aim to be as helpful as humanly possible, letting you know exactly what to do to see a better ROI from every digital discipline.  

Short on time? Don’t worry, read the key takeaways, then bookmark the blog to dig into later. 

 

Key takeaways 

  • Content marketing, email marketing and social media marketing remain important for all inbound marketing campaigns

  • Video marketing is a new frontrunner offering better engagement, conversion and opportunities to attract users to advertisements

  • As always, inbound marketing campaigns focus on providing value to the reader. However, a greater emphasis should be put on transparency, especially when it comes to price and how purchasing affects the planet

  • We’ve always suspected it but we now know for sure, those who spend time analysing their performance and conducting A/B tests are seeing greater success and a higher ROI

 

Consumer behaviour

The inbound methodology is all about bending to the needs of the customer and delighting their expectations. And so, no inbound marketing ROI statistics blog would be complete without mentioning customer behaviour. 

  • In 2021, 59% of consumers say they're more price-oriented (PwC, 2021) 

  • According to Google, 41% of those who own a voice-activated speaker say they feel like they’re speaking to a friend (Google, 2017) 

  • Today, 50% of consumers say they're more eco-friendly (PwC, 2021) 

  • During the course of 2021, 42% of consumers have used smart home voice assistants such as Google Home and Amazon Echo to make a purchase (PwC, 2021) 

  • Over half of consumers — 54% — intentionally buy items with eco-friendly packaging (PwC, 2021) 

  • Podcast listening has increased in the US by more than 60% in the last three years (HubSpot, 2021)

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What it means

As it stands, customers are becoming more interested in transparency, both in terms of pricing and production. 

Shoppers want sustainable, fairly priced products that make them feel good about their purchases and the impact that they have. 

What’s more, individuals are increasingly interested in learning about products via different mediums, be it podcasts or through voice-activated assistants. In fact, consumers might be even more receptive to advertisements in this format. 

 

What to action 

  • Feel-good, transparent marketing campaigns 
  • Investment in sustainable materials, packaging and products 
  • Share your marketing spend across alternative, audio platforms 

 

Content marketing

As the bread and butter of any inbound marketing campaign, content marketing activities provide consistent ROI, with evergreen blog posts, downloadable content and infographics piquing the interest of curious customers by providing them with relevant information.  

  • Almost half — 42% — of marketers say their organisation has a documented content marketing strategy, up from 33% the previous year (Content Marketing Institute, 2021)

  • Content creation is the most outsourced content activity, with 49% of marketers admitting to outsourcing some part of their content strategy (Content Marketing Institute, 2021) 

  • Content marketers utilise analytics tools (85%), social media publishing platforms (73%) and email marketing software (71%) the most (Content Marketing Institute, 2021)

  • Almost all top B2B marketers — 94% — measure their content performance, while only 60% of the least successful do (Content Marketing Institute, 2021) 

  • Blog posts (83%), email newsletters (74%) and video (62%) are the most popular content formats in 2021 (Content Marketing Institute, 2021) 

  • Marketers that prioritise blogging receive 13X more ROI than companies that don’t (HubSpot, 2021) 

  • Almost half of buyers — 47% – view 3 to 5 pieces of content before contacting a sales rep (HubSpot, 2021


What it means

Content marketing is only becoming more popular amongst marketers, with most marketing professionals investing more in this activity than they were previously in 2021. 

While most of us have now become masters at producing content and are more aware of its ROI benefit, we’re now turning our attention to measuring content performance, enlisting the help of analytics tools to help decide which are the most effective and lucrative content formats to lure in leads and turn them into customers. To save time, content creation is being outsourced. 

 

What to action 

  • Content topic clusters that give buyers a breadcrumb journey to the decision destination 
  • Analytics tools to measure content performance
  • Time for sprucing up old content with new internal links to other related posts, videos and podcasts   

 

Social media

To spark real-time conversations with customers, provide superior customer service and gain maximum content visibility, social media should be part of every inbound marketing campaign. While short-form social content is only a small piece of the pie, it can prove very effective when crafting a profitable campaign. 

  • YouTube is the go-to social media platform for watching videos, according to 35% of respondents in a recent HubSpot study (HubSpot, 2021)

  • Images are the most effective at driving click-through rate on social media, being likely to influence 25% of people to visit a brand’s website (Visual Objects, 2020) 

  • Just over a third of people consumers ― 37% — find purchase inspiration from social media (PwC, 2021) 

  • Nano influencers with follower counts between 1,000 and 5,000 have the highest engagement rate at an average of 8.8% (Buffer, 2019) 

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  • Global marketing manager of drinks corporation, The Absolut Company, Monica Jungbeck says global influencers with over 200M followers mostly average below 5% engagement rate, whereas small influencers see double this (Digiday, 2019)

  • Organic social media marketers used Facebook (97%), Instagram (81%) and YouTube (72%) the most in 2021 (Content Marketing Institute, 2021) 

  • ‘Facebook and ‘YouTube’ are the top two most searched terms on Bing in 2021 (Ahrefs, 2021)


What it means

Despite the hype surrounding less community-driven social platforms such as TikTok, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube remain some of the most influential platforms on the internet. 

The real change in social media seems to be how customers perceive influencers, preferring smaller, more relatable personalities, over mass-approved individuals. These lesser-followed nano influencers gain a higher than average engagement rate. 

 

What to action 

  • Paid partnerships with nano influencers
  • Organic social campaigns that speak to the everyday individual 
  • Investment in “old-school” social platforms, with a more modest spend on newly-emerging spaces 

Search engine optimisation (SEO) 

Although inbound marketing is set on speaking to the reader rather than the robot crawling the page, SEO still holds significance in its ability to bring content to the attention of your target audience. Alas, it’s important to speak directly to readers while shaping content into an attractive SEO package

  • The average click-through rate (CTR) of Google’s first position ranking content is 32% (Advanced Web Ranking, 2021) 

  • A whopping 90.63% of content gets no organic traffic from Google (Ahrefs, 2020)

  • The most popular worldwide Bing search query is ‘Google’ with 40.96M monthly searches (Ahrefs, 2021) 

  • Half of Google searches (50.3%) result in zero clicks (SparkToro, 2019)

  • More than half of pages (66.31%) have no backlinks (Ahrefs, 2020) 

  • More marketers are investing in SEO in 2021 than they were in 2020, up by 5% totally to 69% of all marketers (HubSpot, 2021)

What it means

Although the scope of SEO is always changing with ever-evolving ranking factors, weighting and surprise updates, there's one constant in SEO; Google

With competitive search engine Bing, getting its top search for Google, there’s no denying SEO is, by and large, a competition to get to the top of Google, with little interest in any other internet real estate. And this race is a worthy one with most content going unnoticed, unread and unconnected to any other source if it isn't sitting proudly in or around position one. 

 

What to action 

  • Helpful content with the potential to rank for long-tail keywords
  • Ultimate lists and meaty guides (just like this one)
  • Cleverly formatted content designed to answer user questions simply and succinctly 

Paid advertising 

Just because something is inbound, doesn’t mean it has to be organic, with paid and non-paid content all playing a part in user-friendly campaigns. Moreover, content quality is what to focus on in inbound campaigns, whether it’s been plugged for a price or featured for free. 

  • On average, it takes marketers 2-6 hours to produce a video-based Facebook ad and less than an hour to create an image-based Facebook ad (Databox, 2021) 

  • Paid advertisers used Facebook (94%), Instagram (58%) and YouTube (33%) the most in 2021, with Snapchat (3%) and TikTok (2%) being used the least (Content Marketing Institute, 2021) 

  • Brand awareness can be increased by up to 80% through Google paid ads (Small Biz Genius, 2021) 

  • Surprisingly, 53% of podcast listeners enjoy hearing ads during their listening experience and 61% of these are more likely to buy a featured product (HubSpot, 2021)

  • Ad blocking has become more prevalent, accounting for 35% of ads in some countries (Smart Insights, 2021) 

  • Text ads are the most popular with 49% of people saying they click on them, while only 31% click on shopping ads and 16% on video ads (Search Engine Land, 2019)

  • Paid advertising returns $2 for every $1 spent, producing a 200% ROI rate (Small Biz Genius, 2021)  

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What it means

On the face of it, paid advertising mirrors many of the other marketing trends in 2021. For example, paid advertisers are making more use of traditional social channels than TikTok or Snapchat and podcasts are also peeking through paid advertising. 

However, paid advertisers have their work cut out for them thanks to a tougher content climate made difficult by ad blockers and an emerging debate about which ad format is worth the time spent creating its content. According to the data, text ads are most likely to provide a certain ROI. When all is said and done, paid advertising has proven ROI, not to mention a sky-high brand awareness impact as a result of the right campaign.  

 

What to action 

  • Analysis instead of assumption to assess the paid content climate 
  • Well-written ads that highlight your company’s name and message
  • Consistent A/B testing to work out which advertising format is the winner 

Video marketing 

Video marketing is fast becoming the most popular form of online content, not so much eliminating as enhancing other content formats. Led by social media but seeping into other areas of marketing, video is a new aspect of inbound marketing that by all accounts, is here to stay. 

  • Only 8% of people say they primarily watch videos on Instagram, even though they contain live video and video story features (HubSpot, 2021)

  • Just over half of marketers (52%) say they leverage videos more than images when creating Facebook ads (Databox, 2021) 

  • Almost 60% of marketers say video drives more Facebook ad engagement (Databox, 2021) 

  • More than 55% of shoppers say they used online video while actually shopping in store (Think With Google, 2020)

  • Watch time for shopping-related videos on YouTube grew in the US by more than 5X in the past two years (Think With Google, 2020)

  • Video is now the most popular form of content, overtaking blogs and infographics (HubSpot, 2021) 

  • Media uploads increased 80% YoY in 2020 (HubSpot, 2021) 

  • Most video marketers (88%) are satisfied with the ROI of their video marketing efforts (Oberlo, 2020)

  • More than half of consumers (54%) want to see more video content from a brand or business they support (Oberlo, 2020)

  • Video marketers get 66% more qualified leads each year, probably due to the quality of education that they receive (Oberlo, 2020)


What it means

Video is being adopted by savvy marketers in both paid and non-paid spheres. Forward-thinking marketers have come to realise that video drives engagement, attracts qualified leads and helps us to achieve ROI goals

Customers actively want to see and engage with videos, especially when they’re ready to purchase. YouTube is the most popular video platform, yet, Facebook isn’t far behind. 

 

What to action

  • A video first approach, embracing video in your marketing, sales, and even recruitment strategies
  • Informational and educational videos that help to push visitors to purchase
  • Adding videos to existing content such as blogs to make them more compelling 

Email marketing 

As one of the most popular content formats, email marketing is no stranger to successful inbound marketing campaigns, allowing us to personalise and progress our relationships with ready and willing subscribers. Email marketing helps to nurture leads through entertainment and information, delivering helpful content straight to their inbox. 

  • According to the director of content marketing at Litmus, Megan Moller, 91% of consumers want interactive email content, but only 17% of marketers provide it (HubSpot, 2021) 

  • Marketers report seeing a 200% improvement in click-through rates when using interactivity (Litmus, 2020) 

  • HubSpot saw a 5% increase in open rate and a jump in unique clicks after adding a “Question of the Day” poll to one of their newsletters (HubSpot, 2021) 

  • Ashley Riordan, Growth Marketing Manager at HubSpot saw 30% more registrations on an event-based email that included a countdown timer as a result of a 50/50 test variation comparing the same email without this feature (HubSpot, 2021) 

  • The number of global email users is expected to increase to 4.48 billion users by 2024 (HubSpot, 2021) 

  • Marketing returns are 37% higher for companies that always A/B test emails (HubSpot, 2021) 

  • Birthday emails get 3.42 times the revenue than standard promotional emails (Litmus, 2020)

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What it means

In short, email marketing is still working and proving to be an important part of any inbound campaign. Yet, email marketing can be enhanced by introducing interactive features, be it a poll, countdown timer or another element that lets its readers take charge and talk back to a brand.

 

What to action 

  • Interactive features in any and every form 
  • A/B tests to analyse subject lines, sentiment and segmentation
  • Personalised promotional emails

In summary 

  • To create a successful inbound marketing campaign that provides a sound ROI, you’ll need to engage in the same, staple activities such as blogging, email marketing and social media marketing. Yet, it doesn’t hurt to introduce video into all of these formats. 

  • However, these mainstay marketing disciplines require a new approach, with a few subtle twists to keep their reliable formats relevant. From interactivity to intimacy, content should feel more personalised than ever before, as well as more authentic and well-intentioned. 

  • All in all, whatever inbound marketing tack you take, you’ll need to avoid speaking in riddles and instead speak the truth. Contemporary customers crave transparency and like to be told it via voice, whether it’s an automated tone or the sounds of an expert flowing through their speakers.  

  • Don’t just take a laid back, laissez-faire approach to your inbound marketing campaign either, as content analysis and A/B testing is proven to help you see more success. 

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