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7 Marketing Practices That Can Eat Away Your Profits

  • Marketing
  • Article
  • 6 min. Read
  • Last Updated: 11/18/2016

Seven marketing practices that may be wasteful instead of profitable.
Are you frustrated with marketing strategies that aren't paying off? These tips may help turn common wastes of marketing dollars into big payoffs.

Table of Contents

Marketing is supposed to be an investment. Like any investment, it comes with risks. After all, customers are people, and people are unpredictable; they may not do what you want them to do or even what is logical. How else do you explain viral cat videos?

It's no surprise that so many small businesses have come to see marketing as an expense. You take money out, you receive a product or service, and that's it. In fact, for many small businesses, marketing has become a money-waster – you purchase a marketing product or service and don't even get what you purchased! That's enough to sour anyone on the process.

Running a marketing campaign is like running a marathon

Here's the problem: You've been treating marketing like an investment instead of a participation sport. Marketing is a marathon and you're running it. You wouldn't sign up for a marathon today and then go run it tomorrow – unless you'd been training all along. Using that same analogy, you wouldn't invest in a marketing campaign unless you have a foundation in place to support it.

Here are seven marketing practices that can result in a waste of time and money:

1. Selling to Everyone

You can't sell anything to everybody. When you speak to everyone, you're actually speaking to no one. Okay, may be not “no one”, but the idea is to have a specific target for your message. If your communication doesn't hit on an immediate want, it doesn't resonate, it doesn't tickle the emotional purchase bone, and then it may get ignored.

Choose an ideal customer, persona, or single individual to speak to in your marketing messages. One of the best and fastest ways is to think about who needs what you do? If you're a CPA looking for an ideal customer, you might choose an artist or a marketing consultant who sell online. That is a specific group with specific requirements who typically hate accounting and may love the value that you bring.

Choosing a specific customer allows you to speak to one person with one problem that is resolved with your product or service. This leverages your investment and puts a laser focus on just the right, most profitable audience.

2. Focusing On Demographics Instead of How and Why Your Customers Buy

A lot of advertising salespeople focus on demographics; age, education, location, etc. While these are relevant, they are NOT always predictors of whether or not this group will buy from you.

Conduct detailed, one-on-one customer interviews to discover exactly how and why they buy from you. What triggered their search for your product or service? Where did they look, how did they look, what did they see that they liked, and what were the obstacles to purchasing from you or someone else? All of these interviews will give you the marketing copy that you can use to create marketing messages that truly hit home.

3. Diluting Your Efforts Across All Platforms

Stop thinking that you have to be on every social media platform. Once you've chosen your customer and you know how and why they buy, your next goal is to choose a platform where they play. This is an important point. Generally, choose NO MORE THAN one offline and two online platforms to participate in.

If you love email and your clients have email, use an email strategy to communicate with them. If your clients are always on Facebook and YOU utilize Facebook – then choose Facebook. DO NOT choose a platform that you do not visit at all. Even though you may purchase advertising, you will NOT get the results you paid for unless you participate organically.

4. Using Advertising to Buy Customers

When you buy advertising, you are primarily buying brand visibility and recognition. You are NOT buying customers. This doesn't mean there is no place in your marketing program for advertising or sponsoring; it simply means that you must use your advertising dollars judiciously.

Create advertising that drives return on your investment. Use what you know about your customer to craft irresistible offers with a clear and present value statement.

5. Buying Marketing Programs and Coaching You Don't Use

Ah, the siren song of the silver bullet. There are numerous programs sold by experts and coaches that promise a marketing machine that delivers a flood of customers. The bulk of these programs actually contain very good content, sound strategies, and good advice. But if you decide not to follow the process that they are teaching, you may not get any result, least of all the result they promoted.

Before you buy into a membership program or hire a mentor or coach, clear yourself of any other activities and dedicate yourself to this process. To get the kinds of results they are promising will require an investment of time and attention, as well as time to implement. Complete the program and measure your results. That is an investment that often pays off.

6. Going to the Wrong Trade Shows or Conferences

Trade shows and conferences are an ideal way to meet new customers and connect with existing customers to move projects forward. The waste happens when you choose the wrong trade show or conference.

So what is a "wrong" conference? A wrong conference is one where your ideal customers are NOT in attendance. Remember, ideal customers are not just companies, they are people. You want to attend conferences where you know that decision-makers will be in attendance.

Before you commit to a booth or sponsorship to any conference, go to the conference as an attendee and think strategically about the specific ways attending this conference will help you achieve your marketing goals. Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • Are the attendees decision-makers?
  • Is there an opportunity to leverage the opportunity to build face-to-face relationships with decision-makers?
  • Can you schedule customer meetings during the event to save travel time and money?

Develop specific goals customized to that conference. Pay attention to the wants and needs of the attendees and start crafting marketing messages that are tailored to the specific ways your company delivers on those wants and needs.

7. No Follow Up

Your investment in marketing strategies and tactics may not pay out unless you make a firm commitment to follow-up. Follow-ups are conversations that will disappear unless you have a structure in place. While following up with contacts, prospects, and leads is something that happens AFTER a marketing activity, the follow-up structure is something that you will create first. Before you put any marketing strategy in place, make sure that you create a system and structure for how you will follow up with the relationships you create.

Make a plan for how you will collect your most relevant contacts and how you will connect with them. Create a funnel, prospect journey, or process for guiding people down the relationship path with you. Put the mechanics of this structure in place BEFORE you invest in any marketing strategy or conference. Think about what you might share with these contacts; ebooks, checklists, white papers, etc. Create those things in advance. How will you deliver your "gifts"? Create a list in your email marketing system for the contacts that you collect in advance, and then when your marketing program launches, follow-up will be a step in that program rather than something you have to create later.

Now go and waste no more

Waste is the result of thoughtless action. To waste is to use or expend carelessly, extravagantly, or to no purpose. Clearly defining your purpose, your focus, and your structure will help ensure that your hard earned marketing dollars never go to waste.

Female author icon

Ivana Taylor is the publisher of She ranked #21 out of 30,000 influential people on the Internet in Fast Company. Ivana is also one of D&B Top SMB Influencers. She is the book editor for Small Business Trends, a contributing author to AMEX Open Forum and has appeared on MSNBC.


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* This content is for educational purposes only, is not intended to provide specific legal advice, and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice of a qualified attorney or other professional. The information may not reflect the most current legal developments, may be changed without notice and is not guaranteed to be complete, correct, or up-to-date.

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