Marketing Mishaps — 8 Big Mistakes You Might Be Making

Marketing has always been a balancing act. Your strategy has to be constantly changing, evolving to meet the shifting needs of your customers, your company, and the world at large. Never has this been driven home so powerfully as during the current COVID-19 crisis, when massive economic upheaval has forced thousands of companies to rethink the way they do business.

One thing’s for sure — now, more than ever, you can’t afford to waste time, money, or human resources. This is the time to take a serious look at the way your marketing is being done and keep a sharp eye out for any of these major mistakes that might be holding you back.

1. Cutting Back Your Budget

When times get tough, people start to look closely at their budgets in a way they might not have done for a while — and they start making cuts. Often, marketing is one of the first things to go, since C-suite execs might not be seeing a clear return on their investment or they might think of marketing as fluff.

That’s a big mistake. Marketing is the only way that new business comes into your company, and in a crisis you need new business more than ever. Instead, companies should be focused on shifting limited resources to their most efficient forms of marketing. If you’re getting a 200% ROI on a Facebook ad set for a product, pour more money into that ad. If you’re getting nothing out of sponsored Twitter posts, scrap them and spend that money more productively.

2. Focusing on One Kind of Marketing

This might sound like it goes at odds with the last point we made, but it’s just as important to make sure you’re covering all your bases. Inbound, outbound, and account-based marketing all have their own purpose and their own targets, so make sure you’re spreading out your attention to capture every possible lead.

  • Outbound marketing: often thought of as the most traditional type of marketing, outbound is an effort to capture your prospects’ attention with direct mail, print, TV, radio, and digital ads. It’s intrusive, but it has its place when no one has heard of you and you just need to attract new attention.
  • Inbound marketing: once you’ve started to make a bit of an impression, you can take a slightly more passive role with inbound marketing. Inbound is all about problem-solving — create content that’s not just flashy but genuinely useful and help potential customers see that you’re positioned to solve their problems.
  • ABM: if outbound marketing is a net and inbound is a fishing line, ABM is a spear. Rather than going after an umbrella of potential customers that might be interested in your brand, you’re picking specific individuals and companies and creating content just for them.

These three methods don’t have to conflict — you can take advantage of a strategic mix of all three to keep leads rolling in.

3. Bad Segmentation and Targeting

With any marketing method, you’ll be wasting money if you put your brand in front of someone who doesn’t care about your product. We’ve all seen mistargeted ads, especially on TV — ads for a walk-in tub and anti-graying hair products when you’re only 30 years old, for example.

If you’re going to spend your money wisely, it’s vital that you build out detailed buyer personas that tell you who your customers are, what they like, and (most importantly) where to find them.

That way, you can put your money into the channels, methods, and content types that will resonate with the right people.

4. No Personality

Your brand isn’t a person, but it needs a personality. You can’t just be a faceless seller of goods. You need to stand for something, and that stance has to come through in your content and marketing.

Think long and hard about who your brand would be if they were a person. Would they be the voice of authority, helping people solve difficult problems? Would they be casual and accessible, offering a simple solution in a complex industry? Would they be comedic and irreverent, adding humor to an otherwise dry process? The way you come off in your marketing will have a major effect on how people perceive you and the kinds of customers that you attract.

5. No Accountability

We’re marketers, so we can say this: sometimes marketers take themselves a little too seriously. It’s easy to get caught in a trap of self-congratulation, putting out work that you think is great without any real data to back it up. But without proof that your marketing is working (and proof of what’s not), you’ll never improve or adapt.

That’s why accountability is so important. Every marketing campaign and piece of content should have clear goals with measurable KPIs and established timeframes. Every KPI should have a reason behind it — not everything you can measure is a useful number. And every campaign and channel should have regular reporting so you can tell whether what you’re doing is working.

6. No Collaboration

Marketing isn’t an island — you’ll need to work in close proximity with product development people, sales teams, customer service, and customer success in order to make sure that the customer’s journey is as seamless as possible.

Everyone is on the same team, but sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. When marketers make promises that sales teams can’t keep or vice versa, customers become frustrated and jump ship. Coherence and communication between every department is vital for a well-oiled marketing machine.

7. Empty Messaging

Every February, thousands of brands change their social media profile pictures for Black History Month, and every June, they do the same for Pride Month. But is that all they’re doing? Lots of brands make gestures toward a political stance or socially conscious message (like when GM turned their logo green … and that’s it). Not many of them actually put their money or their product where their mouth is.

That’s not to say that you need to take a bold stand on every social issue that comes up — some of them don’t have a lot to do with your industry or location, and it will look inauthentic if you pretend to care about everything.

Instead, pick the issues that really matter to your employees, your leadership, or the people in your industry or area. It’s still a delicate line to walk between inauthenticity and true advocacy, but that line will be easier to stay on if you pick one single thing to worry about.

8. No Diversity

Everyone lives a different life, and those lived experiences turn into a variety of perspectives that can be invaluable when it comes to your marketing. We can’t tell you how many times a company has made a stupid marketing mistake — Prada’s monkey keychain, H&M’s “coolest monkey in the jungle” sweatshirt,” Target’s “baby daddy” card, and countless others — that would probably have been avoided if the people brainstorming ideas had been a little more diverse.

Even if you’re working with a small team and can’t get your creative ideas in front of a lot of people, put a focused effort into examining your ideas for as many perspectives as you can and making sure that what you say won’t be misinterpreted or offensive. You’re not here to ruffle feathers, you’re here to help.

The Bottom Line

There will never be an end-all be-all answer to the question of how marketing should be done. Platforms, technology, markets, societies, and opinions are always in flux, so marketing will always be a moving target. We don’t expect anyone to avoid every possible misstep in their creative and campaigns, but if you can avoid these eight big ones, you’ll be on the right track.

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