Marketing Hall of Shame: HubSpot's Worst Marketing Mistakes, Revisited

by Corey Eridon

Date

June 25, 2012 at 9:00 AM

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Ask your boss what she thinks. Send to colleagues for review. Double check your work. Twice. Sleep on it. Check your work two more times. Cautiously hit send. Freak out.

If this is how you prepare for a marketing campaign , you're probably a little high strung, to be honest ... but not without good cause! It's those last twelve thousand double checks that usually save you from a multitude of embarrassing, brand-busting, and all-too-public marketing faux pas. Thing is, no matter how cautious you are, mistakes will slip through on occasion. And some are more disastrous than others.

As a little marketing therapy on this fine Monday morning, last week the HubSpot marketing team sat down and relived some of HubSpot's most mortifying marketing mistakes, and of course thought it'd only be prudent to publish them for everyone to peruse through at their leisure. So point and laugh or commiserate in our embarrassment -- pick your poison. And hey, if you haven't been there yet ... just you wait ;-)

Blogger Problems

We'll start in familiar territory (for me, at least) and relive a few of our most argh-worthy moments on this very blog. We do our best to publish a mix of content -- visual content , how-to posts , news content , etc. -- but we always like to back up our points with data when possible. Thing is, sometimes that data isn't as on-point as we thought. We've suffered the backlash of commenters -- you may also know it as "flaming" -- who found data we cited was misinterpreted, out of date, or (gasp!) calculated incorrectly. And boy were we red-faced.

Worse, when that data is used to back up a controversial viewpoint (we like to publish a rabble-rousing post once in a while), the comments sure do roll in. The worst case of this was when we misinterpreted our own, original data to back up a very controversial claim about social media on Facebook ... only to accidentally rub one of our extremely important partners the wrong way in the process. Needless to say, the blogging team received a prompt email from our CMO, and some "recommendations" on how to avoid that type of problem in the future. Sorry, boss.

On the less drastic end of the scale, we've had a lot of cases of fumble-fingers on this team, too. While getting ready to schedule a blog post, we've neglected to change the schedule date to the future date for which we wanted that post to run. Which means that epic post we spent all day Friday working on for Monday morning got published, well, right away. You know when that really sucks? When there's no other content ready to go out for the Monday morning slot. Uh, back to the drawing board, I guess ... and sorry for the really random publishing frequency, everyone.

Email Problems

Is there any marketer out there without an email marketing horror story? If so, I'd like to meet you ... call me, maybe ?

The sender field is so small, but so deadly. We've conducted tests to determine whether we should send emails from a person -- Patrick Shea, for example -- or from just our company name. We've found that a combination works best, so our email recipients will often receive an email from someone like "Patrick Shea, HubSpot." We've flubbed that a few times and just sent it from one of our names without including "HubSpot," but that's not that big of a deal, right? What is a big deal, however, is when we send the emails from our personal email addresses. Yeah, we've done that. Who wants marketing advice from seahorseluvr84@whatever.com?

We've also done the email marketer's worst nightmare, and sent out emails using dynamic tags based on fields that didn't have the cleanest data. The ESP we were using at the time didn't let you set default values like HubSpot's shiny new email tool lets you do, either, so there were plenty of recipients who opened a message that began with, "Hi, N/A!" Real professional. Luckily, now we use our own email tool, and we've worked out those kinks.

SMarketing Problems

I like to think of Sales and Marketing's relationship as a torrid love affair -- when it's good, it's really good. And when it's bad, well, things like this happen ...

Our sales organization gives demos of our software to people all the time. A lead hops onto a shared-screen meeting, and gets a tour of all the features of our marketing software to learn how it works. Naturally, part of that tour is actually testing out features. So it only makes sense that we gave everyone in Sales full access to the software running on our website to show off those features! Yes, the software that powers our website . You can imagine our surprise when our website started getting unplanned navigation changes, like "Look How Easy This Is," and emails were getting sent like, "Testing software, hey, what's up?" Oh. My. Gosh. Everybody out. Luckily we caught on pretty quickly and immediately started damage control.

Website Problems

Our sales team wasn't the only group to rock our website's world. We marketers are always tinkering with our website, and sometimes we don't notice when we've actually taken those changes live. We've had plenty of instances of publishing items to our navigation that really don't belong there, but the best was years ago, when on our navigation we published something to the tune of, "Why You Should Kill Your Sales Team." Talk about going for shock value . For the record, we do not, nor have we ever, condoned killing your sales team.

Webinar Problems

Webinars are fantastic lead generation mechanisms, but there are so many things that can go wrong when you're hosting them. For example, we've done seemingly little things -- like adding the wrong date of the webinar to its landing page -- that really aren't so little when you're hosting a live event. We've also created those landing pages without doing the detail-obsessed form check (that is now part of our pre-publishing protocol thanks to this) to ensure all of the form fields work. The result? We launched landing pages that were either missing critical form fields, or weren't properly synced with our CRM -- meaning we missed out on lots of that lead intelligence we needed to collect.

One of the biggest webinar problems we've come up against more than once is having too many attendees. That's kind of like saying you have too much money, but bear with me. The first time this was a problem, we were using a webinar platform that couldn't handle our volume. Unfortunately, we had to turn people away. Not cool. The second time this happened, we had prepared -- the webinar platform could handle everyone that registered and then some! But that wasn't the problem ... we had accidentally forgotten to tell our engineers about the giant webinar we were hosting. The webinar ended up driving so many attendees to our website that it wasn't prepared to handle the giant influx of traffic, and it crashed. Cue phones ringing off the hook. Leads, customers, visitors, and HubSpot support team, we're sorry for that one.

Social Media Problems

Social media is one of those marketing channels that's always ripe for faux pas , and we've had our fair share. Too many to list each little one individually, so I'll regale you with two of the taller tales (and I don't mean that they're fictional).

If you've ever been given administrative credentials for a Facebook page, you'll know that you can use Facebook as yourself, or as your company. You can probably see where this is going ... we've had more than one employee post updates as an admin of HubSpot's page, when they really thought they were posting to their personal accounts. No, HubSpot is not "working for the weekend" (but we do crack beers around 4:00 on Friday for the Marketing Update ).

Those who have worked in the news or PR industries probably know about the concept of an embargo. If there's an embargo on a story, it can't be shared until a pre-agreed upon time. So while we may know about an important piece of industry news, and we could draft a blog post about it that's ready to publish immediately after the embargo is lifted, we cannot publish that story before the agreed upon time.

So we do just that -- we draft the post, and when the moment of truth arrives, we hit publish. And that usually works, except when we share a link to that blog post through our internal group chat rooms without a disclaimer that the story is NOT live, and CANNOT be shared outside of the office until the embargo is lifted. As a result, a few employees grabbed the link and tweeted it out to their followers -- and fellow employees saw it and retweeted. After much panic, we realized what happened and frantically asked the well-meaning employees to delete the tweets. Whoops!

A Big, Giant, Enormous Problem

Some of you may remember this. And if you do, thanks for being a loyal supporter even after this really, really big and hairy marketing mistake.

In June of 2010, we created the first Alternate Reality Game (ARG) for B2B marketers. An ARG is a game where players "pretend" a crisis is occurring and work together to save the day through solving puzzles and searching for clues across the internet. These are fun and exciting social experiments, which have been successfully executed prior by major brands.

In HubSpot's ARG, the pretend crisis was "shutting down Inbound Marketing University ," our inbound marketing training and certification program used by thousands of marketers across the world. At the start of the game, we told our community that IMU had received a cease and desist letter by a big, fictional outbound marketing company, and we needed the community to help us save it. The problem? No one knew it was a game. The community rose to action -- literal legal action -- and offered their lawyers in this crisis. After just one day of ARG (appropriately named considering the outcome, eh?), we received so much confusion and frustration from people, we had to post an explanation to everyone that essentially ruined the ARG campaign and our reputation with much of the IMU community. They felt betrayed, that they couldn't trust us, and that they'd been tricked. All fair points.

We lost some people to the marketing experiment, but eventually we were able to do enough damage-control to regain the trust of most of the community. When I asked everyone in our department what they considered to be the biggest marketing mistake we've ever made at HubSpot, this was consistently cited as the worst of the worst.

What are your worst marketing mistakes? Don't be afraid to share ... we all make them ;-)

Image credit: CarbonNYC

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