If you are a regular reader here, or even if you aren’t, I want to preface this by saying that I am not trying to attack any one company or any one person. Rather, an opportunity has presented itself to demonstrate the kinds of irresponsible advice that are openly floating about in the world of social media when it comes to marketing your business.
In this particular case, the article comes from HubSpot, a highly respected company, a company I respect a great deal. But that respect and credibility is *exactly* why I find this content so disturbing. We’ve come to expect better from them.
Let’s take this article a little bit at a time and talk about why I think this represents irresponsible advice.
So this post’s title is “Blogging Trumps Traditional Advertising in ROI Head-to-Head Case Study.” The post, near the beginning, sets the stage for what this HubSpot customer did with their super bowl ads:
The ads used a tracking phone number — which means the business knew which incoming calls were a result of the commercial — and encouraged viewers to visit the company’s homepage; other than that, there was nothing in the ad campaign integrating the offline efforts with their website or another online presence like social media.
One thing I have always said about super bowl commercials – they might be clever, they might be super funny, but quite often you don’t even know what the ad was for. They are more entertainment than anything else. The fact that this advertiser used a special phone number to track leads is interesting, but given that that was the main way to track leads, one would also assume that TV watchers were encouraged to respond via telephone. In that scenario, hyping the website or the social media presence of the company would have reduced the number of leads. Right?
Let’s move on.
The article shows a graph indicating that during the period that the ads were running…
along with several inbound leads, the customer’s blog generated twice as much traffic as its TV spots. To make matters worse, the ads resulted in no online leads, only 7 phone calls, and zero opportunities or customer conversions. Needless to say, the company was not very satisfied with the ROI of the Super Bowl ad campaign.
Now, let’s think about this really carefully.
First, the customer’s blog out-performed the TV ads. Is it possible that the TV ads generated interest, people didn’t want to call the trackable phone number, but they Googled the company and the blog site came up? It’s possible, right?
Second, we must again note that the primary call-to-action, it seems, was for people to call a special telephone number that was featured in the ad. Given that, the goal would not have been to drive website traffic, which would not have been trackable to the television ad campaign.
Third, OK, yes, 7 phone calls out of a reported 2.8 million person audience is not a great percentage. We can agree on that one. Then again, Super Bowl Sunday is still a Sunday. Do people really want to take time out of watching the big game to call about a product? Given that context, 7 calls may not be all that discouraging after all.
So, HubSpot company is not super duper pleased with the ROI of its super bowl campaign. OK. Fair enough.
Now here’s the part that really fried my friddle (and you can quote me on that).
This customer has (understandably) requested to remain anonymous, but they asked us to share this story with the marketing community as a reminder that, more often than not, outbound marketing just isn’t worth the cost. This customer has seen a much higher return at a fraction of the cost doing inbound marketing with HubSpot software.
First, let’s get one thing out of the way pronto-pup. Saying something like “more often than not” based on one case study is simply irresponsible. In fact, it’s rather laughable. What if medical scientists said that they had cured cancer based on results in one lab rat? We’d be kind of appalled, right? We should be similarly raising our eyebrows in this scenario. We don’t know what kind of company this customer is. We don’t know what else they are doing to market their products. In fact, we don’t even know what their products are. We know that they had $54,000 to spend on super bowl ads in a targeted area. One would assume they are a B2C company based on the campaign. Do we really want to offer comprehensive advice based on all of this stuff we don’t know? Well, I don’t.
Now, there’s another little red herring in here too. If you noticed a few paragraphs up, the article noted that there were no online leads. Now, I get a little hazy here, but if there were ZERO online leads, that means all of that website traffic and all of that blog traffic didn’t result in any leads either, right? So even if the inbound marketing seemed to out-perform the super bowl ads traffic-wise, no leads still equals no leads.
Also somewhat absent from this equation is how much that HubSpot software costs. The products page does not seem to list pricing. I’m guessing it isn’t free.
Let’s end by looking at this paragraph:
Marketers, if you focus on inbound marketing, you will see consistent results. It takes time, dedication, and hard work to create great content and generate inbound leads. But those who are willing to do the work (including the company referenced in this post) get to see a real return on investment. In fact, since this company started using inbound marketing with HubSpot, it’s increased its organic traffic by 567% and its overall traffic by 583% in less than a year.
The problem with this statement, of course, is that this does not prove the ROI of the HubSpot software or of inbound marketing. Increasing traffic is great, but if your sales numbers aren’t climbing (and these figures are noticeably absent from the article) you’re still in a hole, right?
To me, the article was surprisingly misleading, possibly at the peril of a lot of companies who will be swayed by the words of such a reputable and respected company. The only point that I would agree with whole-heartedly is that neither outbound or inbound marketing should work in a vacuum. Integrating tactics is the most effective way to ensure positive results.
You can read the full article here. I’d like to see if your take differs from mine. If so, why?
1st image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/aguichard/357212691/ via Creative Commons
2nd image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ehousley/2657942647/ via Creative Commons