Email is holding its own in B2B sales despite minor slippage, according to State Of Inbound 2017, a global survey by HubSpot. Of 6,399 professionals surveyed in 141 countries, 86% prefer email for business communications -- a loss of two percentage points from last year.
That drop doesn’t mean much when you consider the gap that follows, however: Face-to-face communication is a distant second, falling from 61% to 60% Phone communication comes in third, holding steady at 56%. And social media has fallen from 42% to 39%.
No wonder HubSpot concluded that “when it comes to communication channels, email is the clear winner.” It added that it had seen “slight decreases in people’s preference to communicate in nearly all channels.” The only one to grow was messenger apps — from 29% to 31%.
At the same time, email was rated the second-most effective channel for sales reps to connect with prospects, falling from 29% to 26%. The telephone, holding steady at 36%, was first. Facebook came in fourth, having risen from 9% to 12%. These results were consistent around the globe.
Communication methods depend on the person’s seniority. The telephone is the most popular way of reaching everyone from VP/director on down, with email second. For example, the phone was cited by 42% of respondents as the preferred way to reach managers, and email by 24%.
But email has parity at the C level — it was selected by 25%, compared to 26% who chose the phone.
Here’s one list we don’t want email to head: The most overrated marketing tactic. For the record, email came in fourth:
Are you worried about this? Don’t be — the real losers here are the traditional channels. As one respondent wrote: “We are abandoning the broadcast channels era to enter an individual on-demand environment, where places and things that surround users will create more useful, relevant, and customized experiences.”
Similarly, email was way down the list of sales tasks that are harder to do than they were a few years ago, coming in eighth. Not that this is good news: 17% said email was more difficult, up from 14% last year.
The most daunting chore was getting a response from prospects (38%). That was followed by closing deals (35%), identifying good leads (30%) and engaging multiple decision makers at a company (27%). Connecting via phone was listed by 20%.
Of course, these findings are about tactical channel choices. Asked for their wider marketing priorities, 70% mentioned conversion of contacts and leads -- nothing else even came close. Second was driving traffic to the Web site (53%), followed by increasing revenue from existing customers, at (43%).
Inbound practices produced the most high-quality leads, and outbound the least.
Overall, 61% of the respondents say their marketing is effective, while 39% say it isn’t. But it depends on the person’s rank. CEOs are most likely to feel that way (69%), and individuals/contributors are less so (55%). And while all regions are upbeat, North America is the most positive, while Asia is the least.
That said, these executives are moving into social media. Their marketing teams “will maintain or increase their presence on YouTube and Facebook video and focus on figuring out how to market on messaging apps such as WhatsApp,” HubSpot writes. “Snapchat is still a mystery for many businesses, and we see a dip in focus as marketers opt to spend their time on larger emerging channels.
Here are two more tidbits:
What are these leaders’ sale priorities for the next 12 months? The answers were closing more deals (71%), improving the efficiency of the sale funnel (44%), social selling (29%), training the sales team (27%) and reducing the length of the sales cycle (26%).
But none of this will be easy. B2B marketers face these challenges:
Thanks, HubSpot. Let’s catch up again next year.