21 Common Marketing Mistakes That Lead to Advertising Failure

Courtesy of Flickr
By Hector Cisneros

Wouldn’t it be great if you could run an ad and it produced great results the first time it ran? It also would be great if every advertiser told you the strength and weakness of their marketing program? Or, if you made a mistake, that the advertiser would allow you to make a change so that you won’t keep throwing your money away for a year?  When I speak with business owners, I often hear them say that advertising is like gambling. To a great extent, this is true! But it doesn’t have to be. If you take the time to vet both the vendor and the process, you can eliminate a lot of the risk, especially if you pick a vendor who provides guarantees. In this episode of Working the Web to Win, we will explore 21 common marketing mistakes that businesses make when advertising their products or services. So, learn how to prevent or eliminate any mistakes in your current or future marketing foray as you read “Common Marketing Mistakes That Lead to Advertising Failure.”


I often write articles about marketing. It is a source of endless subject matter, and its venues, techniques, and methods are always evolving. That is why I try to stick to providing as much principled information as possible. I want our articles to provide useful information for a very long time, not just teach some new short-lived technique that is only around for a year or two. I suggest you do a search on our blog and key in the words “Marketing.” You will find dozens of articles to help you get not only the big picture but also details of marketing tactics and strategy as well. A few of the marketing articles that I highly recommend include;


Here are the 21 Common Internet (and other Media) Marketing Mistakes
#1 Stuck in the Past – Stuck using what “use to work but doesn’t work now”! My business partner Carl says these businesses, “act like it's 1999”. In 1999 there were 3,177,453 websites in total on the web. Today there are almost 2 billion! In 1999 you could get on page one of a search engine in as little as 24 hours. People would also spend a lot of time reading and exploring your website. Today, people have lots of choices and a lot less time to explore. Now, a visitor will spend about two minutes max looking for what they want. If they haven’t found it in that time, they are off to the next website.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
#2 Build it Right So You Won’t Have to Do It Again! – This is what Carl, my business partner calls, the, “Set it and Forget it, don’t get it”, mistake. The evolution of the world does not stop for anyone. Nowhere in marketing does change occur faster than on the World Wide Web. In some arenas, (like A.I. search algorithms and Social Media) changes occur daily! Any marketing strategy that is based on a static methodology will fail, sooner if not later
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#3 Too Many Chefs Spoil the Sauce. – Often, I will talk to a business person and they will tell me they are using several people for their marketing. Some will even say they like to spread their patronage around. The main problem with this methodology, is that you lose some of the vital synergy and communications needed to maximize the results of your marketing. However, it is harder to find a company that provides all the elements you need under one roof. We offer 27 different digital products from SEO to Blogging to Social Media and more. We are also a regular marketing agency and can provide media buys. We can produce TV, Radio and Print ads, but we do not own a TV or Radio station, nor do we own a newspaper. The good news is that you can create your own Web TV or Radio channel and Blogging is quickly replacing print media as the prime news source.

#4 Not Doing “What Ever It Takes” – If you don’t have a “we must succeed attitude”, you will fail! These business owners aren’t doing all the tasks it takes to win. For example, if the goal is to get on page one of Google search organically in a very competitive arena, they may need to engage in a multitude of different marketing endeavors. They may have to engage in a marketing campaign that includes; blogging, social media, directory listings, podcasting, YouTube marketing, pay per click, and more on a regular basis. They may need to closely monitor their analytics to adjust the campaign on a regular basis, and they need to be willing to go back to the drawing board and re-analyze the approach if things aren’t going well.
Courtesy of Flickr

#5 Not Being Consistent, Too Many Starts and Stops! – This is a common problem for bloggers and those dabbling in social media marketing. The internet is like a huge broadcast station and your approach needs to encompass the fact that you’re in the audience building business. You can’t build a following for your blog, social net or video channel if you're inconsistently publishing content for your followers. For success, you must be consistent. In the blogging world this means weekly. In the social arena, this means a minimum of at least one daily post. In the video and podcasting world, also one a week. These four arenas also require that you produce content that is of high quality, relevant, timely, useful, authoritative and possibly entertaining. Publishing crap won’t cut it.

#6 Poor or No Follow Through. – We have seen clients start out like gangbusters and then peter out ¾ or halfway through a campaign. This often occurs because the client ran out of money or they just decided to change direction before they completed their plan. This can happen when they lied about how much money they had, thinking their campaign would raise the additional money needed to succeed, or they found some new shiny technique to chase which distracted them from completing their plan and reaching their goal. The real shame here is when we see a client’s campaign starting to take off, and the campaign comes to a halt because of lack of funds. We would rather a client give us a realistic budget to work with than creating a campaign that we know will end in a train wreck when the money abruptly runs out.

#7 They Can’t Define the Term SEO. – Here we have a client who has heard the buzzword SEO and has been told that this is what they need to do to be successful on the internet. However, in most of these cases, they don’t know what SEO means (neither did the person who told them they need SEO). Any marketing plan needs to be vetted and fully understood by those who are paying for the program. Ideally, the vendor can also explain the program in a way so that the customer fully understands how it works, along with its objectives, tactics and overall strategy being employed.

#8 They Don’t React to Changes as They Happen. - We have seen businesses who hesitate to make changes when marketing is not working. This usually occurs when a program used to work well, but now its results have slowed down or stopped, and the client doesn’t know what to do next. This is particularly true of TV, Radio, newspaper ads and even pay per click advertising. They will often say, I can’t stop, “I won’t receive any leads,” ignoring the fact that they are losing their shirt and digging a deep, expensive hole that is not cost-effectively bearing fruit. Often, their client is on a long-term contract on TV, Radio or in the Newspaper, which makes it harder to stop the bleeding. In the Pay Per Click arena, however, it can be turned on or off at any time! A big plus when you’re in a volatile market. However, if you have a contract with a company that requires you to stay on all the time, you’re stuck with their results.

Courtesy of Flickr
#9 They Don’t Know What They’re Getting for Their money. – It never ceases to amaze me when I ask a prospect the question – “What are you getting for your money,” and I get the answer – “I don’t know”! I see this mistake all the time, where prospects are spending upwards of $1,000 plus a month or more for so-called, “Search Engine Optimization Work,” but they don’t know what that entails! This one is sort of related to the “can’t define SEO,” except they never asked, they just accepted the promise that something would miraculously produce leads from the work. In most cases, these clients tell us they have received few if any leads from these programs. But because they have an annual agreement, they couldn’t stop or amend the program. Our Search Marketing campaigns spell out in writing the results you will receive from our plan. We take the time to explain the details, and in many cases, the program comes with a guarantee for elements of the plan. These are provided in writing on the quote and invoice.

#10 Lack of Testing – The business did not do any preliminary research or testing before the advertising was purchased or the campaign was started. Keywords, message, offer, content, images, target market and other marketing elements need to be tested to see which ones work best before any real marketing begins. This phase is frequently skipped because it costs money to test these elements. If no preliminary testing is done, the campaign is flying blind. Even if you have little money to do preliminary testing, you can always do a social media A/B keyword test for as little as $100. It won’t produce a lot of data, but it is better than nothing.

#11 They Are Not Paying Attention to Ad Fatigue - All marketing venues can be affected by Ad Fatigue which is also known as a stale ad. This can be the homepage of a website, landing page, video platform, social media page, TV, Radio, billboard or print ad. That is why you see an ever-changing group of Geico and Progressive commercials on TV. The website becomes stale about every two to three years, and lately, they need to be updated because of compliance issues. TV and radio ads start to get stale in about six months. Content gets stale even faster. That is why it is important to create a new blog each week (based on principles if possible so they can be recycled) and why you need to post new curated and authoritative social posts each day. Not paying attention to ad fatigue is a quick way to throw a lot of money down a hole.
Courtesy of Wikipedia

#12 Poor Timing - Sometimes a business gets so excited about a product or a new service that they ignore the importance of good timing. They don’t take into consideration the time of year, the day, the season or other timing factors that can in some cases dramatically affect sales numbers. For example; trying to sell holiday items when that holiday is some distance out, or advertising during the week when most people shop for that item on weekends. When it comes to food and dining items, every food category and dining area has its own special niche! You need to test to find out what the best timing is, or you may be fishing when the fish are not biting.  

#13 Platform Ignorance – If a business signs up to use an advertising platform like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google AdWords, Bing or other platform, you need to take the time to learn how to use that platform if you want to achieve success. In fact, this is true of any online marketing platform. These Pay Per Click venues are all different and are constantly changing.  Asking for help from the vendor is critical for your success. However, this help must also be taken with a grain of salt. Sometimes the suggestions are not in your best interest, especially the automated suggestions. For example, I have seen AdWords automated system make suggestions for keywords that have nothing to do with the customers product or service (i.e., an exclusive bathtub company being asked to add showers as a keyword). Having a professional who is well versed in the use of these platforms is well worth their fee, and in general, they will save you money. However, always ask what you should expect and make sure you can turn off the service.

#14 Technical Mistakes – It’s not uncommon for DIY advertisers to make technical mistakes. These mistakes can be as simple as using colors that clash, making it hard to focus on the message or print that is too small to read, or Missing contact elements like a phone number, postal or email address. Not selecting a clear target market or showing too many items can dilute the result of a good ad. Not clearly listing a product or service's benefits, is a common mistake along with not providing a call to action, a compelling offer or a buy now button. Other common mistakes include using poor quality graphics, photos, video or audio. It is also common to see DIY webpages where bad color choices, layout and design are made. Lastly, it is common to see spelling and grammar mistakes. Nothing can kill your credibility like spelling and grammar mistakes in your advertising. Make sure all ads are proofed several times.

#15 Too Small of a Budget – Most small businesses don’t have large budgets, and it is important for them to carefully watch their spending. This often leads to underspending on a campaign. I often hear a prospect say, “I want to try it for a month or I only want to spend X dollars.” This is not a good idea for any branding or lead generating campaign, and it often doesn’t give you enough time to work out the details that will allow an expert manager to maximize the ROI for a pay per click campaign. Most branding campaigns need to run for a minimum of six months, and it usually takes about three months to hone a pay per click campaign for maximum return. If we are talking about content marketing (which is a branding campaign), it can take a year to build a decent blog following and Six months to a year to grow a social network following that is capable of producing effective engagement.

Courtesy of Wikipedia
#16 Too Short of an Ad run – It is possible that a business has a strong budget, but they just did not give the ad enough time to get traction. It is often said that timing is everything, but how do you know when the best time to run your ad is? A short ad run usually doesn’t provide any statistically significant data. It’s just not enough data to tell if an ad would work or not. Unless you have been working with the details of an ad message and its elements for a long time, you cannot use short runs of an ad to know if it will work well at other times of the year. Realistically, most professionals let ads run for a month at a minimum to get a good picture. This is especially true if you're using Pay Per Click (because you only pay when it is clicked on).

#17 Over Spending – I often see medium size businesses make this mistake. They overspend because they are used to spending what’s in their pre-determined budget. If they have gotten lazy and have stopped looking to make sure they are getting the best return for their money, they fall prey to paying too much. Every year we are advised to get several quotes for any insurance we buy. The truth also goes for any advertising you buy. Often a smaller targeted budget would have been better especially if you took the time to vet the vendor and their process.

#18 Too Small an Audience – I have seen this type of problem in Radio, TV, Pay Per Click, and in content marketing as well.  The “sales rule of ten” can be applied here. A person creates an ad in Facebook and then selects their target audience which shows them that their ad will be displayed to 10,000 people. When they only receive a dozen clicks and no leads, they often blame Facebook as being no good for their business. What a business owner needs to realize is, that if 10,000 people saw your Facebook ad only 1,000 may have had any interest, of that 1,000 only 100 may be motivated to click on it, of these, only 10 may be serious potential buyers, so a dozen clicks is right on the money of what should be expected. If you were using AdWords, these numbers would be using a sales multiplier of around 33 to 55%, (i.e., 10,000 views produce 3,300 to 5,500 suspects, which is reduced to 330 to 550 prospects who were interested, which is reduced to 33 to 55 clicks from potential buyers). Audience size provides a direct effect on the potential return any ad can have. The rest of the equation has to do with budget, timing and the quality of the ads and offers themselves.

Courtesy of Flickr
#19 Putting Everything in One Basket – I often see business owners only try one advertising venue. This is usually because they like that medium, they are ignorant of what is available, or they don’t have time to explore other venues. The fact is that it is easy to become dependent on a venue (not a good thing). It is important to learn how to use multiple venues so that no advertiser can hold you hostage when the ads go stale. Even if you only have enough money to run one advertising venue at a time, you can rotate from one to another as each advertising venue goes stale. This is particularly true for TV, Radio and print ads along with pay per click, etc.… However, you must explore and vet other venues if you want to be able to solve this mistake.

#20 Running Ads in the Wrong Venue, Region or to the Wrong Demographic – It is important to remember that advertising sales reps are not all created equal and that there are sales reps whose only motive is to sell their advertising regardless if it’s a good fit or not. I have seen people buy print advertising in areas far outside of their business’ marketing territory. This is also true for ads in pay per click, social media, TV, and Radio. For example, a sales rep sells Facebook advertising to a B to B company when they really should be advertising in LinkedIn AdWords or maybe Talk Radio.  

#21 Not Taking Responsibility for the Results of the Campaign - which usually leads to unrealistic expectations - Expectations are often set by “what is asked or not asked”, when talking to and selecting a vendor. A business needs to explicitly ask, “what kind of results will be provided by the vendor.” Ask what the ad will produce or not do. Ask if there are any guaranteed results (specific number of leads, viewers, followers, clicks, form feeds, calls etc.). It is your responsibility to vet the vendor and their process. You need to understand what they are promising to do. Always ask if there are guaranteed results. If not, ask what you can expect and what will happen it those results don’t materialize. Ask if you can make changes in the middle of the campaign and is there a cost? Marketing is critical to the success of any business. Your advertiser needs to act as your partner, (not just a vendor who sells advertising) if you want to succeed. This can only happen when a business owner or manager takes the responsibility for the success of their marketing on their own shoulders. The buck starts and stops with their signature!
Courtesy of Pixabay

Engaging in marketing is replete with many obstacles, pitfalls, and ways to lose lots of money. A lot of money can easily be spent with little or no return on your investment. To be successful a business owner needs to take responsibility for the success or failure of their marketing. They need to vet an advertiser’s business and their process to make sure it has a decent chance of providing a return on their investment. We always tell businesses to ask for guarantees if possible. We provide them; we think other advertiser should do so as well. Many do not, which is why advertising is often referred to as legalized gambling. The best way to minimize your advertising risk is to partner with a marketing company whose process is based on cooperation. They require regular conference calls to discuss the status of the campaign. These calls should provide current stats, deal with shortfalls and look for additional opportunities. The vendor should provide some level of exclusivity, and yes, they should provide some sort of guaranteed results. If your vendor isn’t of this caliber, it’s time to begin your search for one that is. Start by always asking for three quotes, and always ask for guarantees and have everything spelled out in writing.

That's my opinion; I look forward to reading yours.
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This article provides 21 common mistakes that businesses make when engaging in marketing and advertising. These mistakes are provided in detail along with solutions to avoid making these mistakes in the first place. Additionally, links to other related articles are provided along with a links to the shows notes page.

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If you found this article useful, please share it with friends, family, and co-workers. I recommend checking out the links on the blog, along with checking out other related articles on our Show Notes Page.  Also, don’t forget to listen to the BlogTalkRadio show on this subject. If you have a related useful comment or opinion about this article, leave it in the comment section of this blog. Also, don’t forget to plus us, on Google+ and share us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn as well.




Hector Cisneros is COO and Director of Social Media Marketing at Working the Web to Win, an award-winning Internet marketing company based in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is also co-host of the weekly Internet radio show, "Working the Web to Win" on BlogTalkRadio.com, which airs every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern. Hector is a syndicated writer and published author of “60 Seconds to Success.”

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