Reading one of the vast number of content marketing pieces from HubSpot, I noticed the following from a basic piece on What is Digital Marketing?, after paragraphs about the virtues of Inbound marketing techniques:
Digital outbound tactics aim to put a marketing message directly in front of as many people as possible in the online space -- regardless of whether it’s relevant or welcomed. For example, the garish banner ads you see at the top of many websites try to push a product or promotion onto people who aren’t necessarily ready to receive it.
Now HubSpot obviously have an agenda here – their whole business model rests on the validity of the Inbound marketing approach over Outbound approaches (such as “garish” banner ads ), and so they’ve over-stated their belief in the inefficiency of ads. But are ads really garish and intrusive? Are they really “push” advertising (rather than the “pull” of good content)? What’s the problem here?
Since becoming CMO of Redgate and, perhaps foolishly, updating my LinkedIn profile to reflect this, I’ve started receiving endless emails from agencies, recruiters, marketing data organisations and so on. And many of these are what, I would call, if not rude, certainly intrusive and over familiar. These techniques have been written about elsewhere – this week alone I’ve had:
- Use of “RE: Our conversation” in the subject line (really, I don’t remember this!?)
- Taking names from my LinkedIn network and saying “Your colleague <Insert Name Here> said I should speak to you…” – when I know that’s not true
- Assumptive closes (“Shall I book 20 minutes in for a chat on Wednesday?”)
- Stalking (early messages which seem innocent enough, chatting about marketing issues, but then soon turn in to sales patter)
…and so on.
I find all this pretty intrusive. But isn’t it just the same thing as “garish” banner ads, intruding on my field of vision, when I’m trying to get something done on the Internet? Interrupting my work when it should be me in charge of my flow (as per the Inbound model)?
I think this is to overstate the intrusion from banner ads. Firstly, yes there are very interruptive ads which fill the screen, and you have to either play “hunt the X” to try and close them, or wait 15s before you can move on. These are pretty annoying. But most graphical ads aren’t like that – they’re well branded rectangles, which are as ignorable as you like. As a marketer I hope you’ve picked up on the branding, noticed a message, that the ad has lodged somewhere in your subconscious, so that next time you’re looking for a solution you think, “Oh yeah, who were those Redgate guys?”. But of course, you might just ignore them (and I’d be very surprised of you clicked on them – we all know the stats on banner ad click-through rates), and that’s fine.
I don’t feel this is nearly as intrusive as aggressive cold-calling and emailing – these are marketing techniques too, but exhibit the worst traits of “push” marketing – interruptive, based on your timetable, not mine and quite frankly, not leaving me with a particularly positive experience of your company. A well designed ad, perhaps with humour, certainly beautifully designed isn’t in the same category.
As I say, HubSpot have an obvious agenda – to push the Inbound model and disparage outbound techniques, but the latter shouldn’t all be tarred with the same brush. Ads are as popular as ever on the web, and as more options for personalisation and targeting become available to graphical media – combined with the deluge of mediocre content – I feel this un-intrusive channel will have a resurgence.
But you’ll never find me pushing the dishonest cold-call/email (“I spoke to your colleague yesterday about how we could help you..” – no, you didn’t!). That’s truly interruptive marketing, which does nothing but damage to your brand.