• How Infographics Make Shoddy Research Look Deceptively Legit

    by  • November 5, 2011 • Content Marketing, Inbound Marketing, Social Media Marketing • 4 Comments

    There’s a new breed of infographics in town. Slick graphics purporting to give an overview of a concept, but presenting statistics without proper attribution so you have no idea how valid they might be.

    This infographic from Voltier Digital  was published on Mashable and purports to explain the difference between Inbound and Outbound Marketing. There are three types of deceptions practiced in this infographic.

    1. Citing statistics without attribution

    I don’t believe that 2/3 of businesses even have a blog, so the notion that 2/3 of marketers think their blog is important or critical is laughable. Show me the research and I’ll be happy to eat my words.

    At the bottom of the infographic, they list “sources”:

    But they don’t tie a specific source to a specific statistic in a manner that you could investigate where, when, or how the research was conducted.

    Say Hubspot surveyed their users. Wouldn’t that be a very biased sample? After all, people  subscribe to Hubspot because they believe they can get more leads through inbound marketing. What about the millions of small business that don’t. If we surveyed a representative sample, the statistic would drop precipitously

    2. Presenting results as generalizable

    I suspect that some of the statistics reported were gathered from B2C companies but they are presented here as applying to all companies. It’s possible that a survey of B2C marketers showed 83% growth in those saying Facebook is critical to their business. Or maybe it was just a tiny starting number.

    See Two Dirty Secrets About Content Marketing and Social Media for more representative results for B2B companies.

    Wouldn’t it have been more useful to show the percentage of marketers who think Facebook is important or critical?

    3. Making false claims

    Here’s how Voltier compares inbound and outbound marketing. I’m sure you can guess which column is which.

    The only row above that is partly defensible is how companies reach customers.

    I say partly defensible because inbound marketers do emphasize search engines, referrals, social media and purely outbound marketers do not. But the infographic doesn’t mention email-based marketing – which both use extensively. Hubspot got its start by promoting their free website grader, which required you to provide your email address, and then proceeded to email people other offers of content.

    The big difference between inbound and outbound is how the emails were acquired.

    The claim that outbound marketers don’t seek to entertain or educate is just silly. In 2004, we produced a poster that made volumes of convoluted FDA regulations comprehensible by ordinary pharma employees. We gave away the poster without using any SEO techniques, sending it to those we had email contacts for and to anyone who saw or heard about it. We got tremendous brand recognition among the 100 largest pharma companies we were targeting, especially when they found it – ironically – on the walls at the FDA.

    Only you can stop deceptive infographics

    This infographic was tweeted and liked and LinkedIn extensively, including by people I like and respect. I suspect most of them are trying to sell / promote their inbound marketing products and services.

    But a vital aspect of Inbound Marketing is carefully guarding your reputation and providing useful information. Promoting inane statistics and fake definitions to entice more people to try inbound marketing products and services are doing your audiences a disservice.

    When the tempted don’t get the results promised, someone’s integrity is going to suffer.

    We all need to be more skeptical and a bit more choosy in what we promote and relay.

    Don’t you sometimes wish there was a Dislike button to click?


    Sneak Preview

    Most posts and articles only seem to tell the positive, upbeat story of how effective, cheap, and easy inbound marketing is.

    Some posts in the works will show:

    – how a paragon of inbound marketing was not the overnight success we think it is

    – how supply and demand are going to limit your success

    – how the line between what most companies are calling inbound marketing and traditional “spread content through email lists” are closer than appears

    If you want to be notified when these posts come out, signup for email updates. I don’t email more than once a week and they are very brief.

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    B2B marketing is a little like kayaking in the everglades. You don't have signs to let you know the exact right route. Deep experience elsewhere doesn't always help in the current situation. Plotting your course by interpreting the moves of others can mislead you. You can spend a lot of time testing the wrong channels before you find the right one.

    I started this blog to share tips for how to achieve the insights that help you plot the right approach to attract more prospects and win more customers.

    For more on this story see http://bit.ly/qw0G9c

    4 Responses to How Infographics Make Shoddy Research Look Deceptively Legit

    1. November 6, 2011 at 1:43 pm

      100% of the marketers in my household think you are on to something!

    2. Pingback: Infographics: What the Pretty Pictures AREN'T Telling You | OpenView Labs

    3. Pingback: Jeffrey Henning’s MRX Top 10: Winners & Losers from ESOMAR 3D, NewMR & the UK | GreenBook

    4. Pingback: Infographics: What the Pretty Pictures AREN'T Telling You | OpenView Labs

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