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Marketers who spend more than 50% of their lead generation budget on inbound marketing channels report a significantly lower cost per sales lead than those who spend 50% or more their budgets on outbound marketing channels, according to the “State of Inbound Marketing Report” [pdf] from internet marketing firm Hubspot.

Average Cost Per Lead $200 Less
The average cost per lead by inbound marketing-dominated firms in 2010 is $134. This is $198, or 60%, less than the $332 average cost per lead at outbound marketing-dominated firms. This percentage differential has remained consistent from a 61% higher average lead generation expense reported by outbound-marketing-dominated firms in 2009.

3 of 4 Major Inbound Channels Cost Less
When asked to rank each lead generation category as “below average cost,” “near average cost,” or “above average cost,” businesses consistently ranked inbound marketing channels as having lower cost than outbound channels. Only PPC (pay-per-click search) had overall cost rankings comparable to those given outbound channels.

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Social media and blogs had the highest “below average cost” rankings for both 2009 and 2010 (55% as a combined category in 2009 and 63% separately in 2010).

Trade shows, with their requirements for travel and expenses, as well as space rental and booth setup/removal for companies who exhibit, had the worst cost rankings in 2009 and 2010. In 2009, 55% of companies said trade show costs were above average and only 18% said they were below average. These figures improved moderately in 2010 (48% and 22%, respectively), but still left trade shows as clearly the least cost-effective marketing channel.

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Inbound Marketing Grows in Importance
Inbound marketing is continuing to grow in importance at the expense of outbound marketing, according to other findings from the State of Inbound Marketing Report.

As a percentage of the overall lead generation budget, inbound marketing expanded slightly from 2009 to 2010 (38% to 39%), while outbound marketing contracted more significantly (29% to 24%). The net effect is that the gap widened from inbound marketing, which had a 9% greater share of the overall marketing budget than outbound marketing in 2009, to a 15% greater share in 2010. Roughly one-third of the lead generation budget is considered “not classified.”

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