Some research shops measure activity in the marketing world by inbound and outbound efforts. Inbound channels, especially blogs, social media and search engine optimization are making fast progress at smaller firms. These enterprises are finding that inbound channels cost less and are more effective at turning new leads into customers.

Currently, the average cost for a qualified lead obtained through outbound marketing such as direct mail or attendance at a trade show is $346. For leads obtained through inbound channels, the cost is $135. Researchers at HubSpot point out that the 61% cost advantage that inbound marketing maintains over outbound marketing has persisted for several years.

This year, about 47% of surveyed businesses will increase their inbound marketing budgets. Another 42% will keep their spending levels the same. The top reason for doing so is past success with inbound (54%).

For the 21% of businesses in the 2012 State of Inbound Marketing that plan to increase their inbound lead generation budget, 8% will increase their blogging effort and 13% will bump up social media. At the same time, companies have cut telemarketing and direct mail which now stand at 5% and 6% of the outbound lead generation budget. Generally, smaller businesses are spending more on lower-cost inbound lead generation than larger businesses.

Professionally-focused social media sites like LinkedIn resulted in new customers for 77% of B2B operators. However, Facebook was a better choice for B2C merchants; 65% of surveyed businesses have acquired new customers in this way. The top B2C industry for Facebook was retail/wholesale with 92% of operators claiming customer acquisition through this channel. On the other hand, LinkedIn was a top customer delivery vehicle for professional services consulting (68%) and education (63%).

[Source: 2012 State of Inbound Marketing. Hubspot.com. February 2012. Web. 19 Mar. 2012]