Gabey Goh
Nov 27, 2015

Inbound marketing giving SMEs a competitive edge

SINGAPORE - Small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) are using inbound marketing to challenge the marketing budgets of bigger competitors.

Ryan Bonnici:
Ryan Bonnici: "Being able to prove positive ROI is something marketers have complete control over"

That was the observation Ryan Bonnici, marketing director at HubSpot Asia-Pacific made in an interview with Campaign Asia-Pacific. HubSpot is a US-based company that provides software to support inbound marketing activities.

“Inbound has always been more about using the width of your brain rather than the width of your wallet to drive impactful and genuinely valuable marketing efforts,” he said.

Hubspot recently released its first Asia-focused State of Inbound report, found that organisations spending less than US$100,000 on marketing annually are in fact four times more likely to practice inbound versus outbound.

“Across Asia we found that B2B, B2C, and non-profit marketers all choose inbound marketing nearly 60-70 percent of the time over outbound marketing and it has been working for them,” Bonnici added.

Companies were reported three times as likely to see higher ROI on inbound marketing campaigns than on outbound campaigns.

Inbound incoming

Three in four marketers in Asia have stated that they are prioritising inbound marketing, with many companies already using aspects of the methodology like SEO optimisation and social media, as well as marketing automation.

Bonnici said as Asian marketers become more comfortable with inbound marketing, they are increasingly focused on growing SEO/organic traffic and creating blog content.

“Asian marketers have realised that their website should be their best sales person,” he added. “A blog pulls in new traffic, and a good website that is dynamic and personalised for the visit closes leads faster.”

“In addition, email marketing is also a tried and tested method for pulling back people to your website; marketers in the region have realised this and are doing some pretty advanced things with email marketing that both surprise and delight their subscribers,” said Bonnici.

He added that in general, conversations around marketing in Asia Pacific are maturing as marketers have realised that techniques they were previously using, such as list buying and interruptive ads are no longer working

“The Asian region doesn’t actually respond well to this since most local markets prefer a softer sell,” he added.

Inbound leads to bigger budgets

According to the report, companies using inbound in Asia are seeing higher ROI on average than their counterparts who are relying mostly on traditional outbound tactics such as paid advertising and direct mail.

“Perhaps unsurprisingly, best-in-class companies get higher marketing budgets by proving their teams are worth the increase in cash,” said Bonnici.

Respondents were 50 percent more likely to receive a higher budget in 2015 if ROI was tracked in the first place, and over twice as likely to see an increased budget if that tracked ROI was shown to be higher than in 2014.

“What’s more, respondents were 10 times more likely to receive a lower budget if they failed to demonstrate a positive ROI,” Bonnici added.

The report also found that the most frequently cited reason for an increased budget was past success with inbound marketing.

Bonnici said that while the likelihood of lower budgets went up as a result of past failure with inbound marketing, marketers still received more money overall, perhaps suggesting an attitude leaning towards treating inbound as an investment for the future.

“The takeaway here is that while there are external factors such as changes in the economy or in management that can play into whether marketing budget goes up or down,” he added. “Ultimately being able to prove positive ROI is something marketers have complete control over.”

The primary tool in top marketers’ arsenals is usually a platform for automating marketing efforts, with an array of specific products currently being used.

“Those who saw higher marketing ROI in 2014 were more likely to have used marketing automation software,” said Bonnici. “Conversely, marketers not using marketing automation were more likely to see their budget decrease or stay the same.”

Content challenges

One report highlight was the finding that creating content for international audiences and hiring top talent are top challenges for Asian marketers specifically.

“Our report indicated that it took them one to three hours to write a 500-word blog post, while a quarter reported taking over four hours per post,” said Bonnici. “For marketers with a lot on their plates, the time required to consistently create compelling content can be a huge challenge.”

He added that one of the ways that marketers can cope is by not only sourcing content via company staff, but also via executives, guest bloggers, freelancers or marketing agencies. 

There are also many tools available in the market that smaller teams can use to brainstorm for content ideas, tools that can help analyse content and determine what works what doesn’t.

“There are tools that generate topics and give you starting points to work from,” Bonnici said. “As well as tools that help you track popular content from your competitors.”

 

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