Marketing Missteps That Can Undo All Your Efforts

set realistic expectations

Did you know a single marketing misstep can sink your efforts and recovery takes years? Here are some of the biggest marketing missteps to avoid if you want to see your business continue to grow and thrive.

set realistic expectations
Image courtesy of Digital Examiner

Biggest marketing missteps

Every business owner and manager appreciates the importance of a strong marketing strategy in delivering tangible results, such as ROI or return on investment, from your business that allows it to grow and survive long-term. Yet, as you can see in the graphic above, most business managers don’t think they’re getting the kind of ROI they find satisfying from their current digital strategies (and, they’re even less happy with the ROI of their traditional marketing strategies, such as TV and print).

Any number of reasons account for the lack of success in current marketing programs but, it’s undeniable that much of the unsatisfying return comes from making one or more of the following marketing missteps. So, sit back and learn from the mistakes of other businesses to help your business avoid making marketing missteps that can sink your boat.

1. Not building a marketing plan based on data

One of the biggest marketing missteps made by companies, especially SMEs (small and mid-sized enterprises), is not making a marketing plan based on data and insights gleaned through careful and thorough research of both the internal and external environment. We’ve all heard of marketing plans built on the back of a cocktail napkin or businesses that succeeded without a marketing plan but those are the exception. You need a marketing plan that includes the broad aspects shown in the image below. However, these questions are just the outline for a plan that contains careful thought and planning based on the insights that come from researching external situations, such as the economy and competition, as well as collecting and analyzing internal data.

detailed marketing plan
Image courtesy of The Balance

A marketing plan starts with a review of the current situation; much like the “you’re here” pin on a map. From this situation, you develop a set of realistic goals, SMART goals, that guide the planning stage of the process. You end with concrete plans for tactics to get you from point A on the map (you are here) to point B (your destination), along with detailed action plans for these tactics.

Knowing your target market allows you to anticipate what they need, where to approach them, how many of them there are, what to say that motivates them to buy, and build a sales forecast (along with other data). Knowing your competition, especially understanding your competitive advantage (and disadvantages) over them allows you to anticipate future competitive actions so you can plan a response.

2. Not building quantitative and qualitative insights

If you paid careful attention to the graphic at the beginning of this piece, you should have noted that 45% of the businesses surveyed either didn’t know or didn’t measure the ROI of their marketing activities. This is one of the biggest marketing missteps a business can make. How do you expect to manage and grow your business without the data and insights needed to aid decision-making? You’re stumbling along in a dark room without any concept of the layout or light to guide your steps. Any success you achieve is pure dumb luck and you can’t count on that in the long-term.

Analyzing data is an overwhelming task unless you have a clear understanding of where to focus your efforts. That’s where KPIs come in. KPIs or key performance indicators, are metrics closely associated with your goals, such as ROI, sales, and growth. We call these bottom-of-the-funnel KPIs (see image below). But a singular focus on these KPIs is like cutting off your nose to spite your face in that sales and other metrics in this class don’t occur in a vacuum but result when a firm successfully fills the funnel and effectively drives traffic down the funnel.

content marketing plan
Focusing your efforts on vanity metrics such as follower counts and visits aren’t going to deliver much in the way of insights to guide decision-making. Sure, these metrics matter (somewhat) but growth in these metrics is more important than the numbers themselves. Other metrics, such as the bounce rate on your website, reach and frequency as well as cost per click numbers in your ad campaigns, number of reviews, return visitor numbers, etc, are much more directly related to your business success.

You should develop a list of KPIs and then create a dashboard allowing you to monitor your KPIs on a daily basis. Build insights from these KPIs to help direct your strategy.

3. Not using the tools of influence in your marketing campaigns

The tools of influence, such as social proof (coming from reviews and influencers), building authority, becoming likable, and using scarcity go a long way toward driving consumers toward conversion. Using testimonials and reviews, which are forms of social proof, from actual buyers helps those new to your brand feel comfortable that your product represents a good option to solve their problem. Of course, gaining these reviews and testimonials is a huge project that requires a significant investment in time and effort. You won’t get much in the way of customer support without these efforts.

Influencer marketing is something somewhat unique to the digital age. Sure, word of mouth was an important driver in the pre-digital age but transmission of these messages was limited and the most influential ones were paid ads from the company itself. Now, anyone with an internet connection can build a following and monetize that following through paid sponsorships, advertising, and other fees paid by brands.

Authority is another great tool of influence. Creating a blog on your website or posting valuable content to followers on social media can help build your reputation as an authority in your field. Such efforts also fit with reciprocity, which is another tool of influence. By providing value, you create the urge to reciprocate by making a purchase.

The failure to use these tools as part of your marketing strategy is another of the marketing missteps you must avoid.

4. Not putting the customer first

Superior customer service provides a strong competitive advantage and one that’s hard (and expensive) to duplicate. And, while customer satisfaction is a strong motivator for repeat purchases and positive word-of-mouth, customer piss-off (failure to deliver on minimum standards of customer service) is a much better predictor of your success or failure. Pissed-off customers are more likely to defect to a competing brand than satisfied customers are to stay. Pissed-off customers are also more likely to spread their discontent such that negative word-of-mouth spreads five times faster than positive word-of-mouth. It also has a more negative impact on purchase decisions than a positive review.

Some business point to the cost of such customer-first programs but ignoring the promises you make to customers is one of the biggest marketing missteps a brand can make, possibly the absolute worst misstep. Sure, customer service costs money, whether it’s a live chat system for your website or listening for complaints on social media and responding quickly doesn’t matter.

By far the best approach to providing customer service is to avoid making errors in the first place.

  • Ensure quality products by aiming for 0-defects in the production process and conduct service audits to identify problem points in delivering service products.
  • Develop a process that minimizes failures and provides contingency plans that limit the damage when a service failure occurs. For instance, if weather necessitates a delay in delivery, notify customers as soon as possible and offer a small compensation for the late delivery, such as a coupon for a future purchase.
  • Over-deliver rather than over-promising in your communications. For instance, don’t guarantee a delivery time that’s a best-case scenario. Customers will be happy if the product arrives early but disappointed if you miss your deadline.
  • Provide accurate and complete product information.
  • Don’t add surprise costs during the checkout process.
  • Provide installation and assembly instructions in different formats to meet the needs of customers.

5. Not showing corporate social responsibility

corporate social responsibility
Image courtesy of Customer Insight Group

As you can see, modern consumers want to work with brands that share similar values. Given that people are now more conscious about social aspects such as carbon footprints, diversity and inclusion, equity in employment, and support for local communities, this is a key element of your brand image that supports your brand when it aligns with the values of your target market.

Being socially responsible not only appeals to customers, it makes employees feel good about the company they work for, which reduces turnover and lowers absenteeism.

6. Not protecting your data

In today’s climate, cyber-attacks and data theft are major problems facing business owners. A single incident can harm your reputation beyond repair while also leading to huge fines. Using the right e waste recycling strategy in conjunction with advanced cybersecurity is crucial. Aside from maintaining your reputation, it will put your employees at ease and help prevent downtime.

It is a move that will ensure that clients and prospective clients have trust in your company. And its products by extension.

7. Not thinking of the future

Thinking you can continue with the same marketing strategy year after year, like your marketing is on autopilot, is one of the biggest marketing missteps you can make. Everything changes all the time and you must move with the times, even if it’s costly.

As an example, consider the car business. In the ’70s, car makers ignore signs that OPEC was strangling production to raise the price of oil and continued making huge gas-guzzling cars. When gas prices rose quickly and shortages meant long lines at the pumps, no one wanted their big cars and, instead, gave purchase to Toyota and Nissan with their small cars featuring higher gas mileage.

If your business is still ignoring modern marketing tactics such as social media, SEO (search engine optimization), mobile marketing, and advertising on streaming to build your brand, you missed the boat and need to change immediately. Digital marketing isn’t a fad and delivers much higher returns than traditional marketing techniques.

ignore digital marketing
Image courtesy of Lyfe Marketing


Avoiding these marketing missteps is, of course, only the first step in achieving market success but it’s a crucial element to consider as you build your business.

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Hausman and Associates, the publisher of MKT Maven, is a full-service marketing agency operating at the intersection of marketing and digital media. Check out our full range of services.