Marketing Bootcamp

7 Marketing Mistakes That Could Sink Your Business

7 Marketing Mistakes That Could Sink Your Business
Image credit: Derek Gavey | Flickr

I once knew a marketing guy who always thought he could shape-shift the numbers and make them look good. That guy got fired from his job and cost his company hundreds of thousands of dollars. I once knew a company who was afraid to try anything new. Well, that company’s competition blew them out of the water over the next three years with a series of creative campaigns. They had to lay off half their staff.

Businesses live and die by their marketing strategies. Here are seven core marketing mistakes that could put your company six feet under.

Related: 9 Marketing Mistakes That Cost Your Business Money

1. Not taking the time to hear what’s new

The marketing landscape is always changing, part of the job of a good marketer is to stay on the cutting edge of new industry trends. While it might be easier to simply stay focused on what you already know and disregard the latest research and tools, that’s not a recipe for success. Simply put, part of your job is to innovate. 

First, make sure you begin each quarter with fresh competitive analysis. What are your competitors doing successfully that you’re not? Do your competitors have a superior content marketing program? Has native advertising on Facebook been their ticket to success? Know your competitors and leverage the channels that are working for them to your advantage. 

Next, talk to your vendors. I recommend holding a marketing day at least two times a year. Invite all your current vendors and the vendors who have been reaching out to you to do a 30-minute pitch on what's new. In addition, make sure to set up meetings with the marketing colleges you respect -- whether they are in your industry or not.

Finally, do some research. Make it a habit to visit marketing sites frequently, and digest the information they provide.

Through this process, you will gather a massive list of new ideas. Make sure to allocate at least some of your budget to trying new marketing services each year. For me, I like 10 percent.

2. Not trying at least one innovative growth hack

A good growth hack can easily propel your business to the next level. Growth hacking, simply put, is a creative use of technology to build your brand. If executed correctly, the right strategy can transform your business from a struggling startup to a household name. Unfortunately, many marketers don’t even try it.

The issue often comes down to time and creativity. You might be so busy going over your analytics, looking at your marketing channels and evaluating your latest campaign you think you just don’t have time to sit back and dream up of a creative way that you can use technology for marketing purposes.

Make the time. Close your office door, turn your PC away from you and think about different ways that you can reach people in your target market with the aid of modern technology. If that doesn’t yield anything for you, consider a brainstorming session with some of your favorite geeks on staff who might have insight about technical solutions that you can use. 

3. Pulling programs too early

Unfortunately, good marketing costs money and takes time. That’s why you need to be prepared to invest plenty of both if you want to make a sound determination about whether or not a particular campaign is successful. 

Search engine optimization (SEO), for example, will take a while. Give your SEO efforts a period of four months before you even look for results. With competition increasing all throughout Google, you cannot simply expect to sign up and be ranked number one. Conversion rate optimization (CRO) also takes time. It can be a few months before you have actually executed a new conversion strategy based on the tests you have conducted.

Regardless of the service, make sure to get a clear understanding of the timeframe from the sales rep before you sign up and stick to it. I have a client who we made an additional one million dollars in profit this year. He has been an SEO client for three years, and every year, we have made him money.

But the first six months he signed up, we had our heads down cleaning up a penalty and fixing his website. If he would have pulled the program in those first six months, he would be much less wealthy. However, he understood the program would take time, and he is now reaping the benefits.

4. Getting talked into a bad service by a slick sales guy

We’re all subject to the power of persuasion. Some of us, more than others, are known to fall prey to the clever tactics of (sometimes unscrupulous) sales reps. Make your decisions about new purchases based on your own analysis as opposed to the wily efforts of commission-paid smooth-talkers who approach you. A simple Google search can provide you with plenty of information about most services that have been around for a while.

Check the reviews, especially the bad ones. Don’t just read the social proof that you’ll inevitably find on the company website. Instead, validate the social proof by contacting the people mentioned. Look for concrete numbers that demonstrate how the service can benefit your organization. Finally, look at the competitors of the service that you’re considering and go through the same review process. You might find that a great service presented to you by a sales rep is offered by another company with a superior reputation of customer support.

Either way, take your time to really vet your new vendors.

Related: Five Signs You Need a Marketing Makeover

5. Dancing around bad numbers

Avoid seeing only what you want to see. Some of your great ideas aren’t going to work. Sometimes, the marketing campaign you thought would take your company to the next level just doesn’t pan out.

Be willing to evaluate your analytics without a bias. If the numbers are showing that the plan isn’t working, then be willing to pull the plug on it, even if it was your brain child. For example, if you’re investing $20,000 in a new ad network, but you’re not seeing the revenue that you think you should, then make it clear to everyone it is not working, and you are going to move on. This is a much better option than trying to highlight metrics that don’t matter.

Bottom line: Embrace bad news instead of trying to make the bad situation look good when everyone can see it is not. It will help you reallocate your resources appropriately so that, in the long run, you stand to benefit. 

6. Not creating a clear marketing plan and presenting it to executives

You need to create a marketing plan and make sure it is well organized. You can find a variety of templates online through a Google search, but here is some general top-level insight. 

  • Your plan should include a timeline and calendar of events. Why? Because that sets expectations that your plan will not gain immediate results and will keep you focused on major promotions. You’ll need to convince executives that it will take some time before your efforts will be noticeable.
  • You need to segment out each marketing initiative, project the return on investment (ROI) and show the growth over time. It is a good idea to show low, medium and high projections.
  • Include a contingency plan. Sometimes, the best plans go awry. There might be an unforeseen circumstance that derails your campaign effort, so have a Plan B in place in the event that you need it.

If you don’t create the plan and present proper expectations, it could mean your job. But worse than that, it will mean your business is not fully prepared, nor has the strategic planning been done that is necessary to take it to the next level. Do not fly by the seat of your pants -- make a plan.

7. Not taking the time to know your core business model

For starters, any marketer needs to know items such as: 

  • What is your average customer value?
  • What is the average lifetime of the customer?
  • What is your profit per customer?
  • What is your target cost to acquire a new customer? What is your leeway here?
  • When are your busy and slow seasons?
  • What are your growth goals?
  • What is your budget? What flexibility do you have with this budget?
  • What is a good customer and what is a bad customer?
  • What are all your marketing channels, what is the cost per channel and the return per channel?

Before you can properly craft a marketing strategy for a particular brand, you need to understand its core business model. By this I mainly mean the numbers, but also the subtleties of the business. Otherwise, you cannot make the most intelligent decisions for the marketing channels you are selecting.

Before any strategy is even put to the drawing board, you should understand these core items. In addition, it is also a good idea to learn general marketing information such as what is your business’ personality? What are its values? What are your main customer personas? What are the features that set the brand apart from competitors? What’s the unique selling proposition (USP)?

Arm yourself with that information and design a marketing strategy in line with the overall business model. That way, you can maximize creative potential and revenue. Many businesses I deal with do not know these core numbers. Without knowing these numbers, you cannot spend marketing dollars effectively, and that hurts a business’ bottom-line. 

Marketing mistakes are easy to make. The good news is that you don’t have to make them. With some proper planning, due diligence and creative problem solving, you can be well on your way to launching a series of error-free digital marketing campaigns. Just make sure that you’re always keeping up with the latest trends, you know your numbers and you plan and stay honest. 

Related: Bud Light's Lighthearted 'Up for Whatever' Campaign Takes a Dark Turn