Brand Experience (BX)

5 Key Insights from HubSpot's State of Marketing Report [2023]

06.22.2023 11 Minutes

Each year, HubSpot, a leading marketing automation and client relationship management (CRM) provider, releases their State of Marketing report, which explores patterns and trends in the marketing ecosystem. This article examines how their predictions have played out over the first two quarters of 2023.

In the 2023 edition of their Marketing Trends Report, aptly titled The State of Marketing: Marketing Trends in 2023, from AI to Z, Hubspot explores the evolving landscape of digital marketing and the effect that disruptive technology such as artificial intelligence is having on the broader ecosystem.

Originally published in late 2022, this report synthesizes data from more than 1,200 surveys with B2B + B2C marketers across various industries to analyze and predict the trends and strategies that shape how marketers attract new leads and build momentum at their firms.

In this article, we’ll explore some of Hubspot’s key data points across various topics, from AI to data privacy, as they relate to B2B firms in professional service fields, and how they’ve played out over the last few months.

If you’d like to browse the report yourself, you can download a PDF version on Hubspot’s website (46 pages and about a 20-30 minute read). They also have a second version in article format that includes most of the same information available on their blog.

Strategies need to roll with the times

Before we get into the nitty-gritty statistics, it’s important to look at the “why” of this report and the macro trends it identified in the market.

The report begins with a foreword by HubSpot’s CMO, Kipp Bodnar, who described 2023 as a “transformational” year for marketers due to the prevalence of AI and disruption in other areas, stating:

By it’s nature, the internet is constantly changing and evolving, but this shift [toward artificial intelligence solutions] is huge — and the most successful companies and people will be the ones who take action and learn to embrace this change.

Bodnar further states that he advises marketers to take a balanced approach: investing in brand marketing and the customer experience while doing what you can to optimize and improve conversion rates.

“Brand work,” he notes, “helps audiences connect with your company and what you stand for — and it’s worth the investment.”

These paired trends — on one hand the prevalence and disruption of AI and on the other the shift toward building more personalized brand experiences — are central to the entire State of Marketing report and support many of the key points HubSpot goes on to make in later sections.

Importantly, each topic necessitates a change in strategy to better reach target audiences.

The marketing ecosystem is changing faster than ever before because of tension between automation (in which AI plays a major role) and personalization (in which users expect more authentic brand experiences that align with their values), and this problem has only become more apparent since the meteoric rise of ChatGPT and the fallout that service has had on the broader tech and marketing ecosystems.

While these two areas don’t necessarily have to contradict one another, the challenge presented by these two competing goals of improving personalization while reducing the resources needed to achieve such personalization lies at the heart of the disruption we’re seeing across the market.

In the face of such uncertainty, strategies must be agile in nature and flexible enough to account for rapid changes in the market, while budgets need to remain as streamlined and efficient as possible to ensure every dollar is put to good use.

For this reason, marketers were (and still are) searching for new and innovative solutions that allow them to face the headwinds present in the broader market.

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“Marketers need to know how to reduce inefficiencies so we can spend more time doing what we love: creating engaging content that helps our audiences grow.” — Caroline Forsey, Senior Content Strategist, HubSpot

Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence and machine learning programs have been top of mind for many marketers since the release of ChatGPT in November of 2022, primarily due to their potential to streamline and automate many of the boring, repetitive tasks that take resources away from other, more skilled and higher-impact tasks.

As we noted in our recent webinar in AI for B2B Marketers, programs such as ChatGPT will simply remove the difficult, demanding, and dull aspects of marketing — the repetitive tasks that take us away from the work that requires a human element — ultimately making us more efficient and more effective in telling our brand stories and improving every experience and touchpoint relating to our organizations.

HubSpot’s research, originally published before ChatGPT’s launch, predicts this idea, as they identified several interesting data points on the different ways marketers expect to use AI in the coming year:

  • Effective marketers are 46% more likely to use automation in their strategies when compared to marketers who reported having an ineffective strategy.
  • More than four in 10 marketers (42%) say that the number of marketing campaigns they work on each quarter increased from 2021 to 2022, and expect acceleration in work to increase again in 2023.
  • The average marketer spends 6 hours each day on manual, administrative, or operational tasks (which they infer could be replaced by AI solutions).

The trend from this data is clear: marketers who leverage automation in their strategies are more successful than marketers that don’t, and in a time when we all have to do more with less, finding ways to cut down on the busy work can lead to significant improvements in the effectiveness of our marketing campaigns.

Recent trends in the broader market toward adopting AI and machine learning solutions to improve efficiency have only accelerated this trend in the months since the HubSpot report was published.

Exploring AI for B2B Marketing and Content Creation Webinar Pusher

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“By taking advantage of automated tools for everyday brand content [...] we predict that creative teams will be able to spend more time on complex marketing projects and brand storytelling campaigns.” — Gabby Pinto, CFO, CXD Studio

Short-form video

One key channel that HubSpot calls out specifically in regard to disruption in the market is short-form video. They note that “short-form video allows companies to show off a more casual, entertaining side of their business, their team, and their mission at work…that’s why video has the highest ROI of any media format by far.”

This final data point is interesting because 25% of surveyed marketers noted that video was their highest ROI format, followed by only 12% saying that images proved effective and only 8-9% noting blog posts and case studies.

In fact, one in five (21%) marketers responded by saying that they plan to leverage short-form video for the first time this year, the highest of any trend.

This has led many B2B marketers to follow the trend and adopt short-form video platforms such as Instagram Reels or TikTok into their marketing strategies, with 42% of marketers using TikTok already and 56% of survey respondents noting they plan to use the platform in 2023.

Whether or not platforms such as TikTok are the right fit for your brand is a separate question altogether, but it’s undeniable that the format of short-form video has taken root in the B2C space as users become increasingly accustomed to the shorter format present in their personal lives.

Data from the Wistia video hosting platform (which constitutes section 6 of the report) notes that audiences will watch about 50% of the content on average for a video under 5 minutes in length. Meanwhile, only 16% of viewers will stick with you to consume more than an hour of your company’s video.

Interestingly, videos above 30 minutes in length saw over 11,000% growth over the past decade compared to videos under 30 minutes in length, showing significant investment in long-form content such as webinars, podcasts, and live events.

These trends indicate a growing divide in the types of content that users want to consume, as short-form video is used to fill short gaps in our days while longer-form videos such as webinars and podcasts are becoming an integral part of our digital appetites in times when we want to dig deeper into a particular subject.

Data privacy

One of the largest topics of conversation among the marketers surveyed was the importance of data privacy in our increasingly digital and data-driven world.

As noted in the report, “as consumers have become increasingly aware — and impassioned — about online data privacy, government regulations have started creating new restrictions on data use.”

Major pieces of legislation such as the European Union’s GDPR and California’s recent push for privacy with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) have made it increasingly important for major organizations to take steps to protect client data.

As a result, it’s generally expected that the third-party cookie (which is used to track user actions across sessions and sites) will be phased out completely in the coming years.

Google, for example, has closed down Universal Analytics in favor of the new Google Analytics 4 platform which doesn’t rely on cookies to function.

Around 86% of the marketers surveyed noted that recent data privacy changes had impacted their marketing strategy over the past year, while 85% stated their activities are slightly or completely reliant on these third-party cookies.

This high reliance on cookies presents a significant problem to marketers who want to target specific user groups or track analytics across a particular audience because losing access to these cookies means large gaps in the data needed to make sound business decisions.

As two examples of workflows that may be impacted by this change:

  • Many social media platforms use cookies to track users across their marketing networks, meaning data about actions users perform in other spaces may be less accurate or may go away altogether, impacting social ad campaigns or audience targeting and segmentation.
  • Most marketing automation platforms use cookies to track user activity on your website after a form submission, potentially leading to less information about sales prospects and leads if these platforms begin phasing out this technology.

For this reason, many marketers are turning to other solutions to create personalized experiences that reach the right people, while also respecting the privacy of their communities. For example, the study noted that 54% of marketers were exploring other targeting solutions such as native social media targeting and first-party data collection (via form submissions).

Regardless of the solutions marketers choose for balancing data accuracy with client privacy, the key is that data protection is an important and growing area of the marketing ecosystem that B2B marketers need to keep tabs on.

Values-based content marketing & brand positioning

circle S studio about page screenshot showing values and mission

We foreground our commitment to delivering exceptional experiences across channels, from our website to social media to in-person client interactions.

Lastly, and possibly most importantly, the HubSpot report noted an increasing emphasis on creating values-based content and foregrounding the brand experience.

Specifically, the report notes that “consumers, especially Millennials and Gen Z, want to buy from companies that display values and a purpose that resonate with them — and marketing teams have caught on,” further going on to express that “69% of marketers agree that taking a stand on social issues like environmentalism and racial justice is an effective marketing strategy.”

As a few additional findings in this vein:

  • Effective marketers are 43% more likely to have addressed social issues in their marketing campaigns when compared to ineffective marketers.
  • When asked how companies should show off their values, 30% of marketers stated that they are currently creating content that reflects their brand values.
  • Around 16% of marketers plan to get their company talking about values this year for the first time, while 89% of those that already do so plan to increase or maintain their current investment in the brand experience.

The report goes on to note that brand associations created now are likely to bring the greatest sales benefit during the recovery period, a point which is even more relevant for B2B marketers due to the longer sales funnels:

For those B2B businesses whose customers and prospects are unable to buy due to budget cuts, pursuing short-term lead gen activities makes little sense. For these brands, it is suggested to invest in long-term relationship-building.

These points all come together to promote the idea that your Brand (representative of your organization’s reputation and the image it invokes in the minds of your audience) is your most powerful marketing tool during an economic downturn.

As the broader market remains hesitant to ramp up spending in the face of high interest rates and economic uncertainty, another perspective on the situation would show that now is the perfect time to double down on building stronger relationships and experiences and finding ways to better your best.

Client loyalty is key to a strong recovery, and the seeds you plant now will help you as the economy climbs out of the current economic downturn.

Use data to inform your marketing decisions

Looking back over the disruptions of the first two quarters of 2023 — from the release of ChatGPT to rising interest rates to the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and the echoes that collapse had across the financial industry — it’s easy to see why many organizations are hesitant to overextend in their marketing out of fear of further disruption.

However, HubSpot’s research has insinuated, and the last few months have proven, that an emphasis on building powerful experiences is something that can help organizations stay afloat even in the most interesting of times — bobbing on top of the water and rolling with the ebb and flow of the broader economy.

The role that machine learning will play in the field of marketing in the coming months and years is still uncertain, and trends such as short-form video and influencer advertising are still establishing themselves in the B2B space, but the key concept of using data to inform marketing decisions and build better experiences is timeless.

Reviewing HubSpot’s predictions for the year presents a helpful opportunity to reflect on what’s working and what’s not in our marketing plans — and allows us to reconsider which marketing strategies and tactics we should adopt in the final two quarters of this year.

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