New research: Which marketing tools provide the greatest ROI


Guest post by Lee Frederiksen, Hinge Marketing

In marketing, it can sometimes feel like there’s a new “must-use” tool every time you turn around. At first they all sound great, but switching up your marketing routine is an intimidating process. You want to make sure that not only are your needs being met, but you’re also seeing the greatest return on your time investment.

In a new study from Hinge Research Institute, 130 high visibility experts were interviewed about how they built their “expert brands.” The study sought to understand what tools were used, how often and to what degree of success. The results give us insight into how some of the top expert brand builders have reached their level of success as a Visible ExpertSM.

Great Effort Leads to Great Return

Your time is valuable. If you’re going to expend the effort on various marketing tools, you want to make sure the payoff is worth the work you’re putting in. Hinge asked respondents to rate the tools that required the most effort on a scale of one to 10, with 10 representing the most effort (Figure 1). They then asked the experts to rate the impact of each tool, regardless of effort (Figure 2). Compare the two figures below.



Topping both lists was books. Even though the effort exerted was considerable—an average ranking of 7.5—the payoff was also high-impact with a ranking of 8.1. Also ranked high on both lists were keynotes and other speaking engagements. With effort scores of 6.6 and 7.2 respectively, their impact scores were nearly identical at 7.2. and 7.3.

While it’s comforting to know that with great effort comes great reward, that doesn’t mean you need to pour all of your resources into writing books and scheduling speaking engagements.

Less Effort Still Leads to High Impact

For an approach that won’t be nearly as time consuming as a book but still make a big impact in expert brand building, try online videos and featured newspaper articles. The experts gave online videos an effort score of 5.2. Newspaper articles came in even lower, with an effort score of just 3.9.

With a greater discrepancy between effort and impact, online videos and newspaper articles can provide an opportunity to build your brand while you might not have the resources to dedicate as much effort as you’d like.

Above all, diversity is key

While we would love to be able to identify the “best” marketing tool and leave it at that, the study reveals something we’ve suspected all along: diversity is crucial to brand visibility. On average, respondents used 15.9 different marketing tools when building their expert brand.

Experts aren’t just using lots of tools—they’re also using a wide variety of tools. The results show that the large majority of Visible Experts are using the standards like LinkedIn, speaking engagements and industry articles to build their visibility. In addition, most are also making use of a website platform and various social media sites. However, top and most highly visible experts take it a step further—they produce content for business publication and other print availabilities.

What does this tell us? That reach is just as important as range. Not only does expert brand building require spreading your voice across multiple channels, but also with a diverse collection of marketing tools. Using both online and offline techniques allowed these visibility experts to cultivate their brand throughout their industries.

And above all, your firm needs to find the combination of marketing tools that works best for you. As you try different approaches, watch your metrics to track where you see the best results and build from there. By spreading your reach across multiple channels, you can determine what effort is worth what degree of return. While you will almost certainly see stronger results from certain tactics, the best overall return will come from a diverse combination of tools.

About the Author:

Lee W. Frederiksen, Ph.D., is Managing Partner at Hinge, a marketing firm that specializes in branding and marketing for professional services. Hinge is a leader in rebranding firms to help them grow faster and maximize value.