There’s nothing more frustrating than spending time, effort and money and it all going to waste. The world of digital marketing is so vast that there are literally a million different things you can do. So how do you know when your efforts will be rewarded? And how can you tell when you’re making the biggest marketing mistakes?
This article is designed to stop you making the most common, most frustrating marketing mistakes, because your time is too valuable for that.
Let’s get started.
Table of contents
Do most marketing mistakes matter?
The truth is that most mistakes in isolation don’t matter at all. We all makes tonnes of mistakes. It’s only way to learn.
But the biggest marketing mistakes cost you lots and lots of time, which can be pretty debilitating when it starts adding up.
And when brands make big mistakes, it can be catastrophic.
The biggest marketing mistakes I see are usually related to efficiency.
- An inefficient use of time
- A poor and inefficient use of money (particularly media spend)
- An inefficient use of data
- An inefficient use of resources
When these add up, it becomes crippling for any business, resulting in a poor use of funds, and often directionless, hopeful marketing that has no real strategy.
In this article, I’m going to help you put this right.
Mistake one: too much emphasis on social media
The explosion of social media has transformed the way businesses see their communications.
- Facebook has over 2.1 billion users.
- Over 500 million people use Instagram stories every day.
- TikTok has been downloaded over 1.5 billion times.
The logical conclusion that businesses come to is that they HAVE to be on social media.
And they’re correct in the main part. To avoid social all together leaves a vacuum for competitors to step into. Social media has the power to make companies billions (see Nike) or to wipe billions off a share price (see Elon Musk and Tesla).
Or how about this infamous effort…
This groupthink attitude to social media, where brands think they have to be on every platform is one of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen in my 15 years of marketing.
The most common result is that brands pay lip service to the idea of being on social without doing it properly.
They view it as an add-on, and treat it as such.
Very few brands have the resources, understanding and creativity to create brilliant, compelling social content across every channel.
Most fall into the category of ‘we need *something* to post across every channel we have’.
Do you ever feel like this?
The result is often a dull mix of throwback posts, team days out, and bland announcements. Very rarely does it include insightful thought leadership, or joining key conversations.
So, what’s my takeaway?
If you’re a business that can produce genuinely great social, with a stack of ideas then do it. But limit your channels to the ones you can do really, really well.
Here are my top three tips:
- Don’t try and be active on too many channels. It’s impossible for most businesses to excel at Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok, Reddit and Pinterest all at once. Choose the two channels that suit your company best.
- Don’t hire three junior community managers and let them get on with it. They will forever be stuck in an approval process loop what will stifle genuinely great content. Thought leadership needs to come from the top, so your CEO and board need to be engaged in social instead of seeing it as a tiresome add-on.
- Do engage with other brands, reply to comments and put quality over quantity. A great thought-leadership post or a well assembled video every week is so much better than the daily grind of random team pics.
There are too many social platforms out there to get them all right. Step off the hamster wheel and start focusing on the ones that will add real value.
Mistake two: relying on organic reach on social media
This once is close to my heart and comes from personal experience.
But before I tell the story, what is organic reach?
According to renowned marketer Neil Patel, organic reach is this:
So why shouldn’t businesses rely on organic reach, especially when it comes to social?
Here’s why you need to understand organic reach.
Earlier on in my career, I worked for an agency who did a lot of social media.
I would help them write tweets, Facebook posts, Linkedin posts for several clients.
The approvals process would often be as follows:
Client brief > account manager > copywriter > back to account manager > to client > round of amends > back to copywriter > into design > client approval.
The process for a single Facebook post or tweet could take tens of emails and days of cumulative time.
THE POST WOULDN’T BE PROMOTED!
That means it wouldn’t have any paid advertising spend behind it.
This means that the client would pay the agency thousands in fees for the time spent, but then wouldn’t even put as much as $10 behind the post to ensure it got seen.
Newsflash: if you don’t promote posts on platforms like Facebook, you’re invisible.
Social media platforms are built to extract paid spend, because that’s how they make their money.
Therefore, the organic reach on established platforms like Facebook and Twitter is incredibly low.
How low is organic reach?
This is an older chart profiling Facebook, but it illustrates it point perfectly.
Organic reach was just 1% in 2016 (down from 26% in 2011). Imagine how low it is in 2020!
Back to my story.
I couldn’t believe that multiple clients were happy to spend the time and effort on posts that they wouldn’t promote.
Aside from being bad strategy, it’s also a huge waste of everyone’s time.
Worst of all, everyone on the account is demotivated because posts that took days to organize would get under 10 likes and 1-2 comments.
If you’re a client or a business that spends any time and effort at all in putting your posts together but don’t promote them, please reconsider.
To extract the most out of your social media using automation, listening and outreach tools then check out my blog on the best social media marketing tools.
Mistake three: choosing the wrong niche to write about
If your business isn’t to do with writing then you can skip this section. However, since I’m going to touch on the importance of keyword research I think it’s useful to read anyway, whoever you are.
If you’re trying to start a lucrative online business then this is recommended reading.
When advising you how to begin, most advice blogs say things like:
‘Write about what you love’.
The quote above is from Ray Bradbury, an author I love.
However, it’s from a long time before internet blogs came along. It was about being an author.
Similar strains of the same advice are littered on marketing blogs around the world.
Most of the blogs giving this advice were probably started around 2005, when blogging and ranking for keywords was easy, and writing about what you love made sense.
Today it’s different.
Writing simply about what you love can be one of the biggest marketing mistakes.
You need to write about what other people love, forget about yourself.
There is a difference in just writing about what you love, and writing about something that will make you an income. Writing about a hobby that you’ve done very little commercial research on will dry up soon. You may love the writing part, but you will soon get bored of making no money.
Then you will give up.
The first thing you need to do before deciding and finalising your niche is to check that your topic has a commercial market.
A good way of doing this is to research the keyword traffic for some of the phrases around your subject.
You can do this through ahrefs or by searching through Google’s own keyword tool. I use a tool called Ahrefs because it saves me a lot of time by also telling me how easy it is to rank for a specific keyword.
The below screenshot is from Ahrefs.
In this example I have picked drones as my example niche.
My hunch says that this is in the technology space a fast-growing market. However, it’s always best to check the keyword traffic.
It lists that there are 65,000 searches for drones on Google in the US each month. This is more than enough.
With a simple keyword check, you can make sure your niche has a commercial market.
That will sustain your interest far longer and give you the lasting motivation to put in the hard work that’ll turn your blog into a business.
Mistake four: placing any value on vanity metrics
I’m finding writing this article about marketing mistakes quite therapeutic.
This is another one that really, really irritates me.
Here’s another story from a project I worked on.
It was for a company (I won’t reveal which one), that was looking to recruit coders.
They decided to run a social media campaign and hired us (my agency at the time) to do their creative campaign.
The results were outstanding. The campaign ran brilliantly. The numbers of engagement, click-throughs were x5 higher than any campaign they had ever attempted.
But here’s the important bit. They didn’t hire a single person. Not one.
Why? How is that even possible?
It was because the client has insisted on setting entirely the wrong KPIs at the start.
They’d asked us to set up their ads to measure metrics like reach and engagement, rather than the one that really mattered: people hired.
This is what I would define as a vanity metric.
Techcrunch describe vanity metrics as:
So, this was the big mistake of this client. They were obsessed by vanity metrics.
They refused to back down and even hired a third party to do the ad spend, since they believed that the biggest reach (people who saw the ads) would result in the best hiring results.
The craziest part was that we did the creative and it ran. The reach, likes, comments were off the scale.
And the clients considered the campaign a SUCCESS.
However, what they’d actually done was massage their ego by delivering a campaign that was seen by millions, but didn’t focus tightly on their core aim, which was to recruit people.
Sadly, I’ve seen this all the time. Especially with huge clients that employ huge agencies.
They just lose focus on their ROI (return on investment), and end up delivering campaigns that are stacked with vanity metrics.
The most important part of any campaign is what you choose to track.
Staying laser-focused on your ultimate goal will stop you patting yourself on the back just because you’ve achieved a million global impressions or some other arbitrary statistic.
Key takeaway: set a core aim and only track and judge the stats that move you closer. Keep asking yourself the question about whether what you’re doing is achieving anything useful to your business.
Mistake five: not putting enough care into your copy
What’s the quickest way to improve your website’s user experience (UX)?
That’s right, failing to get your copy right is one of the biggest marketing mistakes.
While it’s common for copywriters to be hired to write high-profile headlines and bodycopy, it’s not the full story. Great copy is required on the areas of a website or campaign that everybody thinks they can write.
- Call to actions
Very few businesses understand the importance of ‘microcopy‘, which is all the helpful lines, directions and pointers that take a website from good to great.
Microcopy can be the difference between a customer passively reading a page, and a customer feeling great.
You need to give your customer all the information they want to know, exactly when they need it.
Here’s an example below.
This might seem like the simplest line, but it’s crucial because it allows the customer to close the window with confidence that they’ll get all the information they need via email. That helps form a great, trusted relationship.
Today, UX copywriters get paid as much as designers, for very good reason.
great copy is seamlessly integrated, it’s helpful and empathetic. It’s optimistic and informative.
Check out this example from UX collective.
The smallest tweaks can have a massive impact when it comes to conversions, sales, sign-ups.
The trouble with UX copywriting is that it often falls to either the regular copywriter, who might be brilliant at blogging (for example) but completely oblivious to the subtleties of UX writing.
Worse, it often falls to the designers and developers to fill in button text, add directions and complete the CTA (call-to-action).
If more businesses hired the right people to to their UX copy then I firmly believe they would benefit hugely from the results.
Recent developments like the rise of voice search have made copy an even more important consideration, especially as voice search uses only a small handful of specific trigger words to account for vast numbers of overall searches.
Getting the right copy can help you with your SEO, User Experience, Brand building, engagement, conversions and every other aspect of your business.
Quite simply, the fastest way to improve most digital businesses is to start with your copy.
Key takeaway: Hire a great copywriter, now.
Mistake six: Doing too much of everything
This is a common one, and an easy mistake to make.
I have a lot of sympathy here, because I’ve also made this mistake multiple times.
Not being focused and intentional enough about everything you do leads to a ton of wasted time.
Here’s a common scenario:
A small business wants to acquire customers (like us all).
So they do a little bit of social media, a little bit of SEO, a little emailing etc.
Nothing happens. But why?
It’s because they’ve failed to master any single aspect of their digital marketing, so it’s all fairly pointless.
Let’s say that this same small business had focused on nothing except building their email list.
Or focused only on building their instagram audience.
They’d likely be in a much stronger position than they are by simply dipping their toe in the water.
The importance of having clear marketing goals.
My advice is to do everything with a clear aim that will get you closer to your destination.
If your destination is sales, you might complete every task with the thought:
‘Will this lead directly to a sale, or will it be part of a chain reaction that might lead to a sale’
My second piece of advice would be to hire help. It’s likely that having a great social media, excellent SEO and a healthy email list will help your business immensely, but you can’t do it all alone.
I like this myth from Laurent Bounty.
Becoming successful in the digital space is rarely a solo effort.
If you can’t afford the help (many small businesses can’t), then I recommend just doing one or two things brilliantly.
Mistake seven: Being a perfectionist
Forget digital marketing.
This is a mistake people make in every business.
Now, there are times when being a perfectionist is really important. Like proofreaders, for example.
Nobody wants to own up to mistakes like this.
It’s true, these are some of the biggest one-off marketing mistakes out there.
But when it comes to most marketing, perfectionism is often your worst enemy.
For example, how many businesses spend weeks designing their logo, with 1,000 rounds of amends? Even though they are getting zero traffic on their website.
Or how many companies are so busy getting the blogs word-perfect that they don’t bother with any SEO.
How many businesses will happily spend days approving a single social media post, and then fail to promote it.
Having a beautiful looking web page is not a business.
Having ones that works gives you a chance.
Here’s one of the world’s most popular websites: Craigslist
Ever think perfectionism held them back?
In digital marketing, perfectionism can be particularly debilitating since EVERYTHING can be done better.
I recently checked on ahrefs and my site score looked like this:
Turns out that over 50% of my pages have errors.
But when I looked into these errors they were tiny. Things like pages pointing at http rather than https. Irritating, but nothing that would actually affect the user experience.
So what would be a better use of my time, manually fixing all these tiny errors or promoting blog posts, or refining my pages?
I know that could get to 100%, but it would come at a cost. Still, it took every fibre of my being to leave that score for later and continue focusing on something that would actually make a difference.
Sometimes, it’s just not worth going down the rabbit hole.
Key takeaway: Stay focused on what really matters
The biggest marketing mistakes of 2020: a conclusion.
The tricky thing about most marketing mistakes is that the majority of individuals and businesses don’t realise they are doing anything wrong.
Most companies are on a hamster wheel, trying to post as often as they can on social, or just not really understanding how to promote posts, or track the right KPIs. As a result they end up doing too much of everything.
Unfortunately, many marketing agencies are just as culpable. Sometimes it’s best just to take a step back and review your own performance. So, here’s a recap of the biggest marketing mistakes I’ve ever seen:
- Too much emphasis on social media
- Relying on organic reach on social media
- Choosing the wrong niche to write about
- Placing any value on vanity metrics
- Not putting enough care into your copy
- Doing too much of everything
- Being a perfectionist
If you notice yourself (or anyone else) making these kinds of mistakes, feel free to get in touch. I’m always happy to help point businesses and individuals in the right direction!