7 Marketing Sins That Could Damage Your Business

by Tom Ewer 5 Minutes

SinfulMarketingI’m an Atheist; however, there’s always been something fascinating about the idea of “sins.” That an action could be so reprehensible — so regrettably offensive — that a whole new word had to be created just to describe it.

Regardless of your personal beliefs, there are certain actions in the professional world that can only be categorized as “sins.” These actions can be deadly to your business and leave your customers with a lack of faith in you, and your services.

When it comes to marketing, avoid these seven sins:

1. Self-Absorption

It stands to reason that your marketing would be a tad self-serving. After all, you’re marketing your business and the end results (getting customers/making money) will be beneficial to you.

Unfortunately, marketing purely to yourself and your own vanity isn’t the way to go. By focusing on yourself rather than your potential customers, you’ll only be connecting with an audience of one: you.

Identify your target market and make sure all of your marketing materials speak directly to them. How do your products or services benefit your potential customers? (If you’re unsure, you may need to update your research on your target market!)

Interestingly enough, in most proposals that I’ve seen (including proposals pitching marketing services), the #1 mistake is self-absorption.

2. Airing Your Dirty Laundry

Failing to interact with your customers at all falls under the sin of Self-Absorption (answer those @-mentions!); however, thou shalt resist the urge to retaliate to negative comments at all costs!

Amazon, eBay, Yelp, Google+… So many sites allow user-written reviews now that you can’t help but get commentary on your business’ operations. And you won’t bat 100 every time — there will be the occasional negative review, even when you’ve “done nothing wrong.”

The last thing you want to do is have a public meltdown ala the owners Amy’s Baking Company (if you’re not familiar with the story, take a moment to check that link; I’ll still be here when you’re done cringing).

Don’t leave angry or negative rebuttals to customer comments. Take a deep breath and be the professional you claim to be. Offer help, offer a sincere apology, or leave it be.

Whilst it’s important to remember that you can’t please everyone, if you continue to get the exact same negative feedback from your customers repeatedly: maybe it’s you. Take their criticism to heart and work to improve your business accordingly.

3. Spamming (Or Near-Spamming)

This one should be obvious. But, every time I open my inbox I find a few more messages from would-be marketers who have stooped to this most evil of transgressions.

Let’s get one thing straight: sending spam emails is illegal. When you send an unsolicited bulk email to market your business, you’re breaking the law. (At this point nearly every country has laws targeting spam emails).

So what happens when your emails are wanted? When your potential customers have subscribed to your newsletter and given you permission to send them marketing materials?

First: congratulations. It’s difficult to get legitimate subscribers who are hungry for your content. They’ve placed their trust in you, and now it’s up to you to not betray that trust. Near-spamming isn’t “illegal,” but it’s definitely annoying. Sinful even.

Don’t overdo it. No one likes an overflowing inbox. Keep your emails concise and limited to the “most important” updates only.

4. Lying

“Lies, lies, lies, yeah!” Good song, but let’s remember what comes after the chorus: “they’re gonna get you!” And get you they will.

From straight-up lying about who you are and what you do/your product does to creating falsified testimonials, lying is one of — if not the — worst sins a business owner can commit. And make no mistake: you will get caught eventually.

If your business is worthy of them, honest testimonials will come your way eventually. Have patience. You believed in yourself enough to start this business, no need to start lying now.

5. Gimmickry

Whilst some would say that the medium is the message, I would argue that — in marketing — it’s never good to have your medium overpower your message. When your marketing gimmick stands out more than what its selling, something’s gone wrong.

Super Bowl advertisements are a great example of this premise. Do you remember a particularly humorous or outlandish advertisement you watched? Probably. Do you remember what product it was attempting to sell? Probably not.

However, the main problem with marketing gimmickry isn’t that your message and branding get lost (though that is a problem), it’s that gimmickry breeds inconsistency. And inconsistency is, you guessed it…

6. Inconsistency

How many social media accounts have you signed up for because they were “in” at the time? And how many of those do you still post on?

Starting and then abandoning social media outlets is just one form of online marketing inconsistencies. There are many more, including:

  • Not having/knowing your mission statement. If you don’t know what your company is all about, how will your potential customers?
  • Talking about subjects you have no interest in just to ride a trend. Do you have bacon pics and cat gifs on your blog about healthcare?
  • Trying to be everything to everyone. Good marketing is focused. When you attempt to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one.

When you’re building your brand, you’re also building relationships. And good relationships are consistent. Can you imagine how you’d feel if your girlfriend/boyfriend was pro-bananas today and anti-bananas tomorrow? Or what if they completely reconstructed their face during the night — leaving you to wake up next to an entirely new person? You’d be very confused, to say the least!

Now imagine how your customers feel each time you change your branding. If your marketing tactics don’t stay consistent with your overall message, you could be leaving your customers confused or, worse, annoyed.

But this sin stems from the greatest marketing sin of all:

7. Impatience

When you’re impatient, it’s all-too-easy to lose focus and become inconsistent, gimmicky, and self-absorbed. You may even be tempted to lie, to lash out, or to burden others with spam. When it comes to marketing, impatience is the root of all evil.

Good marketing takes time. Time + Consistency = Success.

Would you buy a product after seeing one ad? Would you enlist the services of a professional without finding out more about them? Probably not, right?

Your customers are the same way. Don’t expect your target market to come knocking your door down with fistfuls of money just because you finally got a Facebook page, or started an ad campaign. Think of your marketing as a stew: adding in the right ingredients isn’t enough — you need to let it simmer in order for it to thicken into something delicious.

If you’ve allowed some time to pass and you’re still not getting the results you want, then it’s time to rethink your marketing strategy. Don’t stoop to illegal or unethical means out of desperation. Sit down and reassess your plan.

Because if there are seven marketing sins, there are also seven marketing virtues:

  1. Planning. Don’t create a marketing campaign willy-nilly — plan it out carefully.
  2. Authenticity. Be honest about who you are and what you/your product can do.
  3. Selflessness. Center your marketing messages on how your services/product benefits the customer, not you.
  4. Consistency. Always remain “on brand” with all of your marketing materials.
  5. Self-Control. Don’t bombard your audience with content.
  6. Humility. Be brave in the face of Internet flaming. Thank those who offer constructive criticism. Never retaliate after receiving negative feedback.
  7. Patience. Continue marketing with due diligence, even when instant gratification would feel more pleasing.

Where does your marketing stand? Do you have any marketing sins you need to confess? Or have you been marketing on the path of virtue? The next time you sit down to analyze your strategy, you might need to do some soul-searching.

Then again, I’m an Atheist. What do I know? 😉

Image by cruxbrasil

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by Tom Ewer
Tom Ewer and the WordCandy team have clocked some serious mileage as freelancers, agency employees and even agency owners over the years, and they love sharing their combined expertise here on the Bidsketch blog.