Looking Back at 2016: The Most Overrated Marketing Tactics

Posted in Advertising, Marketing by Frank Cowell

Some marketing tactics perform better than others do. During the past several years, HubSpot surveyed thousands of small and mid-sized business professionals to find out the state of inbound marketing and sales. This year, the organization’s State of Inbound 2016 report discovered – yet again – that outbound marketing tactics are the most overrated.


The success of marketing activities lies in market reception. Most consumers today feel so inundated with traditional and digital advertisements that they subconsciously tune them out or consciously avoid them. Instead, consumers respond to organic and value-added content.

Related: Get your complete copy of the State of Inbound report. Download the  report now.

How to Fix The Top Three Most Overrated Marketing Tactics

The idea that outbound marketing tactics are overrated isn’t limited to the North American marketplace. Companies in Latin America, Europe, and other areas of the world also consider outbound tactics largely ineffective and overrated.

The problem is that most companies haven't adjusted their outbound marketing tactics towards an inbound approach. I can hear you asking now: "How do you make outbound more inbound???"

I'm glad you asked...

Paid Advertising: How to make it more inbound.

Regardless of an outbound or inbound approach, paid advertising is the most overrated tactic, according to HubSpot’s report. Companies often pay thousands of dollars for paid advertisements that may never reach their target market.

But, again, that's because people are still doing it the old way. Don't do that. Instead, do it the inbound way:

  1. Stop leading with promotion (your offering) and start leading with enrichment (your content).
  2. Make sure your content gives tons of value.
  3. Connect the content to another piece of content that helps your prospect take the next step (again, with enriching content, tools, or resources).
  4. Follow-up to offer even more value. Which brings me to email...

Email: How to make it more inbound.

Many consumers face a barrage of emails in their inboxes throughout the day. While email is still one of the highest converting marketing tactics, marketers are falling out of love with email because their results are dwindling.

And, again, I say that's because marketers aren't adapting to today's realities. They're still using email the same way they did five and 10 years ago. And that ain't gonna cut it!

Instead, let's do email the inbound way:

  1. Send emails from a person, not a company. This is huge. The only way you're going to establish any sort of "inbox recognition" is by connecting your prospect to an actual human being at your company.
  2. Stop worrying about "being professional" and just be human, be personable. I'm not suggesting you come across as a jackass, but I am suggesting that you engage your database as if you were talking with an associate that you know on a first name basis. Be down-to-earth.
  3. And speaking of "down to earth," save the pretty, designed emails for your newsletter or product emails. When you're following-up with leads, it should look like a regular ol' email — little-to-no graphics!
  4. Engage in conversations. Ask them to reply. Yes, that's the point of having a database of leads: to move to a point of one-to-one engagement!
  5. Always deliver value before asking for something. Give them so much value, that they actually look forward to your emails.
  6. Then, after doing all of that and providing tons of value, ask them to take the next step. BUT, make sure the next step is low commitment, low risk, and provides even more value.


Social Media: How to make it more inbound.

Social media activities can make a significant difference in a brand’s reach, but social media marketing was deemed one of the top most overrated marketing tactics. This seems strange since Facebook, as an ad platform, is all the rage right now and the marketers I know are getting amazing results.

Again, that's because people are using it all wrong. Here's how to do social the inbound way:

  1. This is going to sound familiar: Stop leading with promotion (your offering) and start leading with enrichment (your content). Really, my recommendations for social are no different than that of paid advertising (scroll back up a bit and re-read — those tips apply here). Which brings me to my next point...
  2. The days of free traffic from social are mostly gone. It's a "pay to play" world and so you're going to have to put a budget behind social if you want it to be worth your time. This is going to require that you nail-down your targeting in your paid campaigns. Seriously, this is really important!
  3. Stop looking at social as a "soft" tactic. Hold social to the same standards as your other marketing tactics, which is to say that it must produce measurable results!

Match Marketing Tactics to Goals – Never the Other Way Around

As you explore your marketing strategy, consider your business goals first. Driving more traffic to your website or social media account is not a business goal. Growing your book of business by 10% and retaining 80% of current customers are business goals. Work backward from your goals to find the marketing tactics that appeal to your brand. Develop a cost/benefits analysis for all marketing techniques before you write off a paid campaign, SEO effort or anything else.

For more insights into the world of inbound marketing and inbound sales, explore the full report: HubSpot’s State of Inbound 2016 Annual Report. Use these insights to develop a customized strategy based on your business’s needs, goals, and expectations.

About Frank Cowell

Frank Cowell is President at Elevator, a digital brand strategy agency based in the San Diego, California area. He works regularly with CEOs, CMOs, and VPs of Marketing who are looking to create amazing brand experiences while driving inbound leads. A self-taught programmer with a deep understanding of technology, Frank enjoys a unique blend of brand development and marketing savvy that enables him to offer fresh perspectives on often-complex marketing concepts that he distills into actionable, easy-to-understand language. An energetic and entertaining speaker, Frank presents regularly to regional and national organizations on topics related to branding and digital marketing.
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