GMT NewYork London Moscow Tokyo Sydney

Which Marketing Tactics Are The Most Overrated? [New Data]

If you were to ask a room full of marketers from all over the world which marketing tactics they think are least worth the investment, you’d probably get a flurry of strong opinions.

But what if you asked them to name the most overrated marketing tactic? Would their answers vary that much?

We surveyed 4,000 marketers and salespeople around the globe for our 2015 State of Inbound report and found that, no matter where they came from, marketers agreed on the #1 most overrated marketing tactic.

Specifically, we asked our survey respondents to rate the following marketing tactics on how overrated they think they are: blogging, social media, sales enablement, collateral development, SEO, email marketing, traditional paid advertising, online paid advertising, and PR.

Here’s what we found.

What’s the Most Overrated Marketing Tactic?

According to our research, marketers around the globe agree that traditional paid advertising is the #1 most overrated marketing tactic.

Click to Enlarge

Even outbound marketers think so: We found that 32% of outbound marketers said outbound marketing tactics, like traditional paid advertising, are overrated.

Interestingly, while agencies and vendors agreed traditional paid channels are the most overrated, nonprofit marketers cited social media as the most overrated tactic.

When we segmented these results by region, here’s what we found:

In Australia and New Zealand (ANZ): More people (42%) cited traditional outbound marketing tactics — like print ads, outdoor ads, and broadcasts — as the most overrated marketing tactic than anywhere else in the world. According to folks in Australia and New Zealand, the second most overrated marketing tactic was social media (14%), followed by online paid advertising (11%). The least overrated marketing tactics were blogging (1%) and collateral development (2%).

In Asia-Pacific (APAC): Most people (28%) cited traditional outbound marketing tactics as the most overrated marketing tactic. The next most overrated marketing tactic, according to people in Asia-Pacific, was online paid advertising tactics (15%), followed by social media (14%). The least overrated marketing tactics were sales enablement (4%) and blogging (5%).

In Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA): Just over one-third of people (34%) cited traditional outbound marketing tactics as the most overrated marketing tactic. The next most overrated marketing tactic, according to folks in this region, was online paid advertising (13%), followed by social media (11%). The least overrated marketing tactics were collateral development (4%) and sales enablement (4%).

In Latin America (LATAM): Just over one-third of people (34%) cited traditional outbound marketing tactics as the most overrated marketing tactic. The next most overrated marketing tactic, according to folks in this region, was social media (15%), followed by online paid advertising (14%). The least overrated marketing tactics were collateral development (3%) and sales enablement (3%).

In North America (NORTHAM): Most people (41%) cited traditional outbound marketing tactics as the most overrated marketing tactic. According to people in North America, the next most overrated marketing tactic was online paid advertising (16%), followed by social media (11%). The least overrated marketing tactics were sales enablement (2%) and SEO (3%). 

A Few Observations

Even outbound marketers think outbound marketing is overrated.

When it comes to generating leads and filling the top of your sales funnel, traditional outbound marketing tactics — where marketers push their message out far and wide in the hopes that it’ll resonate — isn’t as effective as it used to be.

It comes as no surprise that more marketers year-over-year are universally embracing inbound marketing tactics (where marketers help themselves “get found” by people already learning about and shopping in their industry) over outbound marketing tactics. Our data shows that in most regions of the world, content marketing tactics like blogging and collateral development were cited as the least overrated marketing tactics.

But, according to our data, it’s not just inbound marketers who rate outbound marketing tactics as overrated — even those who identify as outbound marketers think so. Roughly 32% of survey respondents whose companies identify as primarily outbound organizations called paid advertising the most overrated marketing tactic — the number one answer by a wide margin.

overrated marketing tactic

Image Credit: HubSpot’s State of Inbound 2015 Report

While this could be explained by large companies (200+ employees) dedicating money to paid as a sort of diversification of their marketing portfolio, it’s worth repeating that the smart money is on inbound.

But outbound efforts can be great supplements to your inbound efforts.

Although marketers across the board rated outbound tactics as the most overrated of all marketing tactics, that doesn’t mean marketers should cut them out of their strategy completely.

If it’s in your budget, online outbound marketing tactics like social media advertising and PPC are actually great supplements to those more effective inbound marketing efforts.

When done right, ads can play an important role in giving proven content a more prominent stage, whether it’s in maximizing reach to an existing audience or launching campaigns in a new market. For example, users who are retargeted to are 70% more likely to convert. And native ads that include rich media boost conversion rates by up to 60%.

And because these tactics are done online, it’s easier to measure their ROI — especially if you have the right tools. One reason online outbound tactics were rated as one of the most overrated marketing tactics under offline outbound tactics is likely because many marketers still haven’t been able to measure their efforts — though current tools can help you do that much better. (HubSpot customers: Read this post on our customer blog for tips on measuring the ROI of social using HubSpot.)

That being said, each social network comes with its own strengths and weaknesses. Read this blog post to learn more about the pros and cons of advertising on each platform. If you want a more comprehensive guide to social media advertising, download and read our free ebook, The Essential Guide to Social Media Advertising.

Are we seeing signs of social media fatigue?

Finally, you’ll notice social media was the one inbound marketing tactic that was considered overrated in several regions of the world. For instance, although folks in Latin America have broadly adopted social media, 15% of marketers in that region said social media was overrated. In Australia and New Zealand, 14% cited social media as overrated. Not to mention, social media was the third most overrated marketing tactic in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and North America.

What does this say about the state of social media marketing? Where is the fatigue coming from?

After all, social media activity actually has potential to help increase website traffic and sales. It impacts your organic search presence, helping your content rank higher in search engines. It’s also a way for businesses to speak directly with their customers, which helps build customer loyalty. For example, a company called Coffee Groundz started using Twitter as a direct order channel with customers and increased sales and market share via Twitter by 20-30%.

Marketers experiencing social media fatigue are likely having trouble strategizing and picking the right tools to achieve the results they’re looking for.

  • For some, it could be an efficiency issue — which is why we recommend streamlining your efforts by using a social media content calendar.
  • For others, it’s a lack of a solid social strategy. According to data analysis from SOBCon Founder and CEO Liz Strauss, a significant number of marketers “are using social channels in a non-useful manner: posting randomly, without a goal and without a true understanding of what can be accomplished on any particular social channel.” According to her analysis, consistency (even more than frequency) is the key to making an impact with your social media activity. When, how often, and which types of content to post will depend on a combination of research and your own testing.
  • For others, finding relevant conversations in a sea of irrelevant ones can feel like finding a needle in a haystack. This is where it helps for social media posting to become a contextualized part of your marketing, sales, and customer service strategies. (HubSpot customers: Social Inbox plugs your social media accounts into your contact database so you can see which folks engaging with your content are strangers, leads, and customers.)

What observations do you have from the results of our survey on overrated marketing tactics? Do you agree/disagree with our survey respondents? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

New Call-to-action