3 Major Marketing Fails, Risks, and Fixes

Business.com / Marketing Solutions / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Let's talk about how difficult marketing our own businesses can be (and the ways it can go just as badly).

He was wearing a robe and slippers, day-old stubble, jeans, and a dirty T-shirt. A cigarette dangled from his lips as he leaned underneath the "No Smoking" sign and muttered: "You hiring?"

"Why, where have you been? You're exactly what I'm looking for!" (Not!)

As business owners, we can't help but look outside and wonder "what in the world are people thinking?" when they unsuccessfully market themselves as employees.

Before we cast judgment, though, let's talk about how difficult marketing our own businesses can be (and the ways it can go just as badly).

Email Marketing Etiquette Fails

Number one on the "email etiquette" fail list is adding someone to your list without permission. In fact, it is illegal under the CAN-SPAM Act. The Bureau of Consumer Protection offers seven tips for businesses sending marketing email. They can be summarized with two words: "permission" and "transparency."

Even so, mishaps can occur. Here is a common one:

FAIL: Adding "old" email addresses to your marketing mailing list is a potentially big mistake. Yes, you may have received permission from someone to join your list several years ago. However, if you haven't emailed them recently or regularly, there is a high probability they will mark your mail as "spam."

MailChimp, the 600 pound gorilla of email, reports 12% of legitimate subscribers hit the "spam" button rather than the "unsubscribe" button because they believe it's a faster way to get off a list.

RISK: If a large percentage of subscribers mark you as "spam" because they forgot they signed up for your mailing list, you put your entire mailing list in jeopardy of being permanently banned.

Don't think you can just move your email list to another provider, either. A ban-on-one system, like MailChimp, will follow you because email marketing systems need to protect themselves. If banned, you could have to rebuild your list from scratch.

FIX: Set up a separate list of "older" email addresses prior to mixing them with your existing list. Send a brief email to remind people of your earlier connection and allow them to "opt out" of ongoing email marketing. This ensures that interested parties remain and those who are no longer interested are removed promptly.

Social Media Marketing Etiquette Fails

Social media marketing promises big wins for businesses that can successfully capture and retain a loyal audience.

FAIL: The most common fail is actually three-pronged. The first prong is making your social media marketing all about you. The second is forgetting that you need to be human -- it is, after all, rooted in being social. The third part of the most common fail is a failure to appreciate the social nuances that have evolved on each medium.

RISK: No one likes a bore. No one likes ongoing, blatant sales pitches, either.

FIX: Rethink your social media marketing approach by putting your customer's perspective first. Travis Balinas of Outbound Engine provides a wonderful assortment of 25 tips to ensure you're striking the right chord. Number six is the simple but effective guideline of "Be a Friend to Get a Friend."

Ilya Posin at Forbes recommends a 12-step social media etiquette checklist. This list focuses on your personal use of social media, but all are applicable to business updates, too. For instance, tip number four "Is this [message] appropriate for a social portal, or would it best be communicated another way?"

In-Person Business Marketing Etiquette Fails

It can be easy to forget that as business people we represent our business no matter where we go or what we do! A large part of how this affects you and your business depends on your industry and geographic location.

Do you regularly see clients or potential clients in your daily life? If so, you might find yourself inadvertently doing damage to your brand if you are not mindful.

FAIL: Gossiping. This one word encompasses a whole range of potential problems for a business owner. Gossip in all forms is damaging to your brand, business growth, and employee morale. This includes gossiping about clients, employees, or fellow business owners in your industry. Inc. magazine summarizes this fail as TMI: "too much information."

RISK: In some industries (health care, mental health), gossip can end your career thanks to doctor-patient confidentiality laws. Even if your industry -- say food service -- doesn't have clear-cut ramifications for gossip, it makes good sense to avoid it. Why look like a jerk? At the very least gossiping makes you look shallow and weak, two qualities that don't reflect well on you or your business.

FIX: Besides "shut your trap"? The best approach is to be aware and be consistent. You never know how social circles intersect with your business and its potential for growth and success. You don't want to open the door for others to talk badly of you, either If you need to blow off steam, vent, or complain, do it privately.

Remember, if you're focused on negative gossip, it prevents you from keeping your focus on growing a successful business. Focus on putting positive messages out there instead. To paraphrase New York Times small-business blogger Jay Goeltz, "In business you usually get what you deserve, one way or another."

Take a look at your marketing efforts. Are you making any of these common etiquette fails? Address them and fix these quickly. You'll be glad you did.

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