Fake Media Unethical Analysts

Tuesday's Tip: Why Unethical Marketing Costs Tech Vendors 100’s of Millions Every Year

What Every Tech Vendor CEO and CFO Should Know About Their CMO’s Wasted Investments In Vanity Metrics

Marketing professionals face massive pressure to show that their marketing investments have paid off. In a zero-interest rate environment, budgets were flush and marketers had a lot of leeway in building brand, hosting amazing events, and buying ads to improve market presence. However, a shift to a five percent interest rate environment has many CMO’s focused on performance marketing, showing return on investment, and moving MQLs from SQLs as fast as they can.

Why? CFO’s like making money from interest in the bank and marketing is often seen as overhead that needs to be justified.

Thus, marketing professionals must defend their budgets via metrics. But, not all metrics are created equally. Since the dawn of time, the urge to show performance has often led to shady strategies to boost numbers to game the system with metrics such as views, likes, subscribers, and impressions. To be fair, sometimes these efforts were valiant to prove a trend or take a stand. Other times, these were short sighted to justify an untenable position.

Unfortunately, many marketers have resorted to vanity metrics, metrics not tied to financial numbers or outcomes, that often have no correlation to the ultimate outcome – revenue.

The consequences of such actions have led to hundreds of millions in wasted in marketing investments that CEO’s and CFO’s should investigate.  Vanity metrics provide a temporary saccharin high, and then the sugar crash results in a lot of wasted investments.

ACTION ITEM: Develop metrics with marketers that are tied to short-term, medium-term, and long-term revenue outcomes. Create a balanced portfolio of initiatives.

Fake Media Takes Paid Media To New Lows

The good news, in a digital world, the ability to show performance is easier. The bad news, faking performance has become easier due to a class of bad actors espousing unethical practices. The rise of paid media continues this trend by marketers to reach and influence decision makers. To be clear, paid media has a place in building, nurturing, and developing a community when there is a real audience of human prospects on the other end.

Regrettably, many large tech vendors with flush budgets often spent money for permanent paid blogs on prominent business publications like Forbes, in lieu of earned coverage. Why work so hard when a million dollars bought a page or subsite on a well-read business blog? The assumption that readers could not tell the difference between authentic content and paid media was fatally flawed. Most educated buyers ignored these properties due to the lack of original or novel content. In fact, the views were low unless they also paid for a media strategy firm to “juice’ the numbers.

ACTION ITEMS: CFO’s and CEO’s should spend time rewarding performance metrics for the long term and not the quarter to quarter vanity metrics that often are reported. Don’t let marketing professionals fall into the vanity metric trap.

Marketing Strategy Firms Posing As Unethical Fake Analysts Waste Millions Of Dollars

On the video front, other marketers thought it was okay to pay for views for videos no one would watch. Hardware and chip manufacturers technology vendors were the worst offenders often paying for videos about products no technology prospect cared about. This failed tactic required marketers to spend money with “fake” analysts or marketing strategy firms posing as analyst influencers to reach views on videos with no audience.

Using bot farms and mechanical turks from Asia, they provided “views” for the CMOs to show off to executives.  The called it "paid" media. These unethical firms even disclosed these practices on their websites to justify their existence. In fact, a few of these “fake analyst firms" tried to pawn off their fake bot media efforts as paid media, pulling the wool over the eyes of CFO’s and CEO’s who thought they had 30,000 views on mundane topics such as “ The future of dot matrix printing” or “Networking and AI in the 21st century”. The reality – these topics would be lucky to garner 100 views on a great day.  So, instead of paid media to grow an audience, they had an audience of none.

The marketers who made these decisions wasted millions of dollars with bots who would never spend one single dollar. To be clear, paid media campaigns with a real audience can augment a marketer’s strategy to grow community. However, fake paid media, with zero real audience of buyers, is a disservice and a complete waste of marketing dollars.

What’s the point of having 29,000 views from bots who will never buy? Who would believe a social media influencer, who used to be a plumber living in the Southeast, now calls herself an analyst, could garner 536 likes on 4 views for a podcast no one has ever heard of? And even funnier, these type of fake analyst firms generate 29,000 views 24 hours later. Really? These folks don't even pass the sniff test.

Sadly, the industry has a small class of social media influencers pretending to be analysts who often pay bot farms to fake views and then show their clients that they are “influential”.

These analysts are so unethical that they even threaten technology vendors who don’t pay them, that they will say “bad” things about them when they show up on TV. This type of "extortion" is not good for the credibility of the industry and should be called out and stamped out.  The good news, this isn’t the norm and hopefully marketers will wake up and shut them down.

ACTION ITEM: CFO’s and CEO’s should demand the cancellation of these fake paid media dollars and replace them with long-term programs that grow audience.

The Bottom Line: There Are No Shortcuts For Good Marketing

Smart and savvy marketers know that communities and relationships are built on trust and authenticity. Real programs take time but payoff. CFO’s and CEO’s can eliminate millions of dollars of marketing waste on fake paid media and the unethical analyst firms who propagate these tactics. It’s time to root out the bad actors and end these dark arts. CEO’s and CFO’s can help their marketing brethren stay on the straight and narrow path of truly creating impactful and performance marketing that last the test of time.

Three Easy Steps To Root Out Unethical Marketing

The defensibility of vanity metrics no longer has a place in modern marketing. In fact, fake media practices are very unethical.

To identify fake paid media, one can take the additional security step of asking for proof on where the paid media comes from. A simple Google analytics log could help one's team identify if all the views come from the same IP or were all generated at the same time period. Any marketing strategy firm that can not come up with these stats or show this report is more than likely lying about their paid media efforts.

Here are three steps to root out this cancer in your marketing organization.

  1. Focus on performance metrics, not vanity metrics.
  2. Identify the bad actors in the space and put procurement bans on these players for five years. These actors could be media outlets, marketing strategy firms, media influencers, and unethical analyst firms.
  3. Build long term relationships with ethical organizations to grow prospects, partner for thought leadership, and create original content.

Your POV

Will your CMO stop using fake analysts, and paying for fake views? Need help in identifying the unethical actors in the industry?

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