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In 2015 we published our inaugural State of Pipeline Marketing report and shared our findings on how pipeline marketers track and grow demand. We followed up in 2016 with our second annual report

Today we're updating this popular post with 2017 data, which shows the most effective marketing channels by industry.

Depending on which industry you’re in, you can expect success from certain key marketing channels and activities. This post helps readers understand what channels their industry peers are having the most success with in terms of revenue generation. We'll discuss changes from the 2016 data, too.

So let's dive right into some new charts, updated with the most recent State of Pipeline Marketing survey data.

Meet The Industries

The 370 marketers who took our survey come from eight major industries.



--Financial Services

--Internet, Technology, and Software

--Healthcare and Wellness

--Business Services, Logistics, and IT

--Marketing / Creative Agencies

Business services include legal services and consulting businesses. The marketers surveyed are all investing in online marketing and are part of fast growing companies.

Here's a heatmap using 2017 responses to the question, "Which marketing channel has the largest impact on revenue?"

We can see concentrations for certain channels and industries. 


Let's take a closer look at each industry.

Email Marketing Is The Most Effective Marketing Channel For Manufacturers

Our survey data shows that marketers in the manufacturing sector have success with email marketing. In fact, it is highlighted as the marketing activity with the greatest impact on revenue by the plurality of marketers in the manufacturing sector.

most effective

Last year we found that manufacturers indicated conferences and tradeshows as the most impact channel from a revenue perspective. We’ve written about email marketing tactics before and manufacturers may have the most success with email marketing due to limited audience size and seasonality. Highly specialized widgets, for example, components for the wings of a commercial aircraft probably don’t require a large rolodex. Boeing, Airbus, and a handful of known regional brands make up the market. So it's no surprise that specialized tradeshows for aviation are a strong revenue driver. 

Distribution channels and intermediaries also limit the need to engage in activities like outbound calling and prospecting. With the former, established relationships create opportunities for upselling, which may be why word-of-mouth is the second most effective channel.

Seasonal factors may also explain why email marketing is so effective. Offers or specials based on distributors’ busiest months fits with the strengths of email marketing: relationship building via one-to-one communications.

SEO and Content Marketing Work In Education

Last year, booths and conferences was indicated as the the most effective channel. Which makes sense, since marketers must go where the students and parents are. Often times this means a table at a recruitment event, partnering with campuses and community organizations, and ads in magazine read by parents.

This year, SEO and content marketing tops the chart as the most important channel for revenue impact. Here is an updated chart for the most effective marketing and recruiting activities for education institutions.

marketing channel greatest impact


The change from last year may be due to differences in who was surveyed. There are a variety of educational companies and institutions (for example, private vs. public, online vs. in-person, and etc). This can impact the findings.

In Financial Services Email Marketing and Tradeshows Are Effective

In 2015 local search listings matter as marketers in the finance industry name SEO as their number one most important channel for revenue. In 2016, the number one most important channel for revenue is word-of-mouth (WOM) and referrals. This makes sense because deals involving money, investments and high levels of uncertainty require trust. WOM and referrals reflect this need for trust among finance marketers. 

But in 2017 the email and events channels became stronger. This may be due to the maturing of the finance industry in terms of marketing technologies used. Or this could simply be due to the set of marketers who responded to our survey. They may come from a particular part of the finance sector that invests more in email marketing.


Word-of-mouth and referrals slide down into second this year. 

Content Marketing And SEO Generates Business For Tech Companies

In 2016 there is a clear trend towards WOM/Referral and content marketing and SEO as the top marketing channels with the greatest impact on revenue.

Where new and sophisticated products are born, so too is the need to notify the masses and find qualified buyers. Using content marketing, these marketers can communicate the value proposition, and establish a need -- which is critical for new products and technologies to gain adoption by users.

That trend continues in 2017 where content marketing and SEO has an even bigger lead over other channels compared to past years. 


Health, Wellness, And Pharmacueticals Should Keep Sticking With Paid Search And Referrals

Next is the health, wellness and pharmacuetical industry. For these marketers, content marketing works and was indicated in the 2015 data. The 2016 data shows a shift towards word-of-mouth referrals, and paid search.

The companies surveyed in this year's report, and the sample size may influence the results. But WOM does make sense for something as important as providing healthcare, plastic surgery, and medical operations. Paid search also makes sense as the industry could be seeing a shift towards how consumers search for providers or health information.

chart healthcare

Business Services, Logistics, and IT Marketers Rely On Content And Word-Of-Mouth

In 2016 the business services and IT sector was marked by a heavy focus on SEO/Content, WOM, and email. This makes sense as educational content is important to helping professionals understand gaps and problems that B2B services can solve.

Due to longer sales cycles and larger deals, email nurturing plays an important role in moving prospects through the funnel.

In 2017 referrals and word-of-mouth was the channel most chosen by marketers in the business services industry. 


[Bonus] Marketing And Creative Services Sector Rely on Referrals

Here we can see that may marketers choose WOM and content marketing as having the strongest impact on revenue. This is the case in 2017 and was also the case in 2016.


This makes sense given the important work an agency does for its clients. Involved and lengthy marketing campaigns require time and money. And many campaigns and product launches only have one chance to get it right. It's no wonder that word-of-mouth and referrals are so important. 

What’s With The Don’t Know?!

Every marketer should be able to answer the question, “What’s the activity that’s generating the most revenue?”

For some marketers this isn’t the case.

Marketers chose “Don’t know” as a response to the survey question, “What’s the activity that’s generating the most revenue?” We removed these responses when plotting the data to keep the chart focused on communicating what's working best. Suffice to say a large number of marketers are unsure of which channels are effectively driving revenue.

Without an attribution model, identifying the strongest and weakest channels is difficult. An accurate attribution model begins with understanding the customer journey and the major transition points within the funnel.

Just how widespread is the lack of attribution models across industries?

This circle packing chart below shows the attribution models used by marketers across industries. The larger the circle the more marketers use that respective attribution model.

The majority of marketers in technology, manufacturing and advertising industries are not using an attribution model (as shown by the larger dark navy blue color). The dominant models in use today are single-touch models. Multi-touch models are burgeoning, represented by the light brown circles.

The larger the circle the more marketers are using that attribution model. Click the chart to view it larger in a new tab. 


When marketers can distribute revenue along the key funnel transition points, they gain an accurate and detailed view of their funnel and pipeline. They know where there marketing budget is going at every stage of the funnel.

No marketer should be lost when it comes to examining how marketing activities generate leads, sales opportunities and revenue.

As our recently released State of PIpeline Marketing report shows, revenue-focused marketers are leading the way in proving the value of their marketing budgets.