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As a follow up to last week's post about things a marketer could buy with a Super Bowl ad budget, we wanted to share this real life story of a Super Bowl ad buyer's remorse.

This week, we discovered that a HubSpot customer ran commercials for his business during last weekend's Super Bowl. Turns out that customer learned a tough lesson about the cost and value of outbound marketing as a result.

Truth be told, this company has made great progress implementing an inbound marketing strategy using HubSpot software, but it also hired a PR agency that wanted to help them make a big splash. The company purchased 3 in-game and 17 pre-game and post-game spots in its local market at a total cost of $54K. 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. According to Nielsen Ratings, their ads were seen by 2.8 million viewers.

The Results: Inbound Marketing Outperformed Super Bowl Ads

Thanks to the ads, web traffic was up 11% on Super Bowl Sunday (February 5th) and 4% the following Monday. Sounds great, right? Let's take a look at all of this HubSpot customer's traffic sources for that time period, first.

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Turns out the commercial wasn't so great. During that same time period, 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.

The Moral of the Story: Outbound Isn't Worth the Cost

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.

The outbound marketing vision of reaching 2.8 million viewers in a couple hours with minimal work sounds great; even if it comes with a $54,000 price tag. After all, that's a mere 2 cents per impression. But, like many things in life, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. So far, this company has yet to convert any customers from their ads and, even if they did get one or two, the cost per customer wouldn't even come close to justifying the investment.

The Takeaway: Keep Focusing on Inbound

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.

If you are doing outbound marketing like TV, print, or radio ads, at the very least, do yourself a favor and integrate those ads with your inbound marketing strategy. Create free offers and strong calls-to-action to give viewers a reason to come to your website and convert into a lead. Encourage viewers to follow you on social media so that even when they forget your ad, they'll still be connected with your company. And finally, be targeted in your outbound advertising. Just because you can reach 2.8 million people doesn't mean you should. Find shows and publications that cater specifically to your customer base, and don't ever pay for impressions that won't one day convert into paying customers. Not only is it annoying the audience, it isn't helping you achieve your marketing objectives.

Have you ever experimented with a commercial? What were the results (or could you even measure them)?

Image credit: .reid.


Originally published Feb 10, 2012 5:00:00 PM, updated July 28 2017


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