The Hinge Online Marketing Study - What Does It Mean For Small Businesses?

If you have been researching inbound marketing for any length of time, you will no doubt have come across a similar set of stats that are used across various blog posts, infographics and such. A few of these statistics come from the Hinge Marketing Online Study of 2011, including:
  • Businesses who generate 40% or more of their leads online grow 4x quicker than those who do not
  • Businesses who generate 60% of their leads online are 2x more profitable than those who generate 20% or less of their leads online
The Hinge Online Marketing Study - What Does It Mean For Small Businesses?
Copyright Hinge Marketing

Although the study is relatively old now (2011), the numbers still pop up a fair bit so I thought it was worth talking about here. I've used these stats on this blog too previously, and you'll find them on high profile sites such as Mashable and Hubspot. However, although they are impressive numbers, I wonder how relevant they are to small business owners? After all, it seems like the blogs and infographics I mentioned are aimed at small to medium businesses - this one certainly is. Therefore, the information/claims should definitely be applicable. 

With that in mind, I thought I'd have a look at the study in more detail and see if I can come up with an answer. 

First of all, the study is fairly comprehensive and covers other areas such as online recruiting. However, I'm going to focus on the stats that relate to generating leads and creating revenue.

Here goes:

Where Are The Numbers Derived From?

Well, if you read the study you can quite clearly see that the data is taken from a relatively specific segment, as follows:
  • Professional services firms (500 of them)
  • With an average employee count of 319
  • And an average annual turnover of $53, 929, 853 (the actual range is between just under $1m and just over $1bn a year turnover)
So, as you can see already, this pretty much removes most small businesses from the equation. It depends on how you define a small business I guess, although the numbers above certainly seem to indicate at a pool of least 'medium' sizes businesses in my book.

However, just because the sample is taken from a different segment, it doesn't mean that the findings won't apply to small businesses or that we can't learn anything from them.  

How Do The Top Performers Actually Generate Their Leads?

This was quite a big part for me - I figured that whether or not small businesses could replicate these figures would depend on how the online leads were generated in the first place. For example, if it required large-scale PPC/integrated media campaigns, I doubt the average small business could keep up.

However, I was pleased to see that the following types of online marketing were considered amongst the most effective:
  • LinkedIn
  • Email marketing
  • Blogging 
  • SEO
With the following being perceived among the least effective:
  • PPC
  • Banner ads
  • Youtube
So, What Does This Mean For Small Businesses Then?

Well, my own interpretation is that I think it's dangerous to simply take studies like this at face value and think that whatever applies to large businesses will also apply to your small business. However, in saying that, I think that this is a really important study for small businesses in the professional services sector, for the following reasons:
  • Online marketing has been proven to provide high growth rates
  • Online marketing has been proven to result in better profits
And just as importantly;
  • The methods used by the larger firms to achieve the above are the kinds of methods that small business owners can be successful at
What I mean here is that if you look at the kinds of marketing activity that the larger companies have said are most relevant and successful, you will notice that these are the kinds of marketing activity that small businesses can do just as well, if not better. For example, blogging is an area where a small business owner can match or exceed the performance of a large business. The same goes for a well designed SEO campaign and connecting through LinkedIn.

In sum, I think that in the end, this study looks great at face value, and even better when you really start to think about it in detail. You can read the full study here (free and no registration required).

What about you - what are your thoughts? Let me know on Facebook, Twitter or Google+.

Thanks for reading!

By Alan MacDougall

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The Revenue Builder Blog is a small business marketing strategy and tips blog designed to help small business owners and startups maximise sales revenue.