In my own new business development process, I come across businesses all too often that simply don’t understand good marketing vs. bad marketing. And while that’s a good thing for me, I suppose, I nonetheless want to share some tips for how to avoid bad marketing pitfalls and instead use good marketing tactics and better understand good marketing strategies. Because bad marketing can hurt you.

Using the “Spaghetti” Approach

Are your marketing efforts akin to throwing a handful of spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks? Are you strategically mapping out your marketing approach or tossing your money behind the first strand of pasta that comes along? Once you’ve cooked up the right strategy, are you spending time and money to ensure it achieves the desired result? Do you know how to effectively measure your efforts to see which ones are tempting to new customers? And do you realize that a half-baked approach can leave a bad taste in your would-be customers’ mouths?

Okay, enough with the food analogies! The point of all this is that bad marketing can be worse than no marketing at all. But good marketing, of course, can help you attract new business and increase your bottom line. To illustrate, let’s look at a few real-life examples.

Bad marketing Ad No1Ineffective Execution

Bad Marketing: An upscale salon invested in a local advertising program that delivers folders of different marketing collateral to people who have just moved into their area. The salon’s choice of collateral to include was nothing more than a plain old price list of services that was done up in-house and printed on someone’s home inkjet printer. While the company did print it on a parchment-style paper to add a bit of flair, the choice of font—a tight script in a small point—was very hard to read. In addition, the advertising piece hadn’t been properly scaled or designed for the page, resulting in unbalanced margins and large blocks of blank space. And, of course, being a simple price list, it lacked any call to action.

Good Marketing: This kind of community-based advertising can be an effective local marketing vehicle. However, the failed execution cost them not only ad dollars but undoubtedly turned off potential customers as well. Instead, the salon should use a professionally designed piece that includes a call to action—something that motivates or directs the potential customer to patronize its business or at least reach out. Including a first-time customer coupon in the advertisement would be a great way to attract new business. Another option would be to announce in the ad a time-sensitive special, which can give potential clients the extra push they need to make an appointment. Once the campaign is up and running, proper ROI analysis is critical, as it will guide future advertising decisions. Better still: leverage landing pages on their website, so the results of the offer are easily measured and can even be changed routinely.

Failure to Follow-up

Bad Marketing: A local restaurant had been investing in an advertisement placed in a local printer’s broadsheet advertising program that uses the U.S. Postal Service’s Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) service for over a year, and the owners were convinced it wasn’t yielding results. They had taken some steps in the right direction: they relied on the printer’s graphic artist to design an ad that looked pretty good and it had a solid call to action (CTA) in the form of a coupon redemption offer. They had also saved every redeemed savings coupon to an envelope. But that’s where their efforts seemed to end. They did no ROI analysis on their campaign, yet, were prepared to scrap it anyway and move on to some other marketing tactic. One other note: they didn’t change the ad or the CTA for over a year.

Once we prepared an analysis of the redeemed coupons, we discovered that there was a reasonably good return on investment. Had the restaurant owner relied on their initial instinct and canceled the program they would have sacrificed a revenue generating tactic. To improve the campaign ROI, we designed four new ads with four different calls to action, as publishing the same ad over and over becomes stale to the reader. In addition, A/B testing in this manner allows us to analyze comparative results. Over time, we isolated one design and CTA that outperformed all the others and increased its frequency of use. We also began featuring it in a new social media campaign, which garnered the restaurant, even more, new customers and expanded the reach of their brand.

Poor Planning

Bad Marketing: In March, a tax preparation firm realized they had a serious problem with a digital advertising campaign they thought would attract new clients. The problem? It wasn’t. The firm had invested in a banner ad campaign sold by the local newspaper, and the owner of the tax firm had thrown advertising dollars behind the advertising opportunity without much thought. The ad did not include a vigilant call to action, nor was the ad supported with a dedicated landed page for anyone who clicked on the ad—instead, the ad merely deposited interested parties to the firm’s homepage. He had agreed to a three-month contract and left the writing of the ad copy to the salesperson who pitched the ad, concerned about time since the deadline had been only a day or two away.

Good Marketing: Had the firm allocated some time for planning further in advance, they might have leveraged the conversion power that dedicated landing pages can deliver, something featuring content built around targeted calls to action. Ideally, each landing page could have used content properly aligned with the needs or interests of each of the (previously identified) target audiences. Remember, while we generally look to appeal to our audience’s emotions to spur them into taking our desired solution (aka action), emotion has no place in making decisions regarding advertising investments. The tax firm’s owner was reacting out of a fear of losing a mechanism to foster potential customers and was probably also feeling frustrated at having not planned better for the tax season. If he hadn’t thrown money at the first advertising opportunity to land on his doorstep, he may not have attracted any new customers, but he wouldn’t have lost money on a poorly executed ad campaign either.

In short, he’s no worse off, but he’d still have hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in his bank account.

Good Marketing Guidelines

Plan, create, distribute, measure, adapt. As a process, this is an immutable law of marketing. And in the right order, they work–when they are executed properly and professionally. Rather than throwing spaghetti at the wall, plan a marketing calendar well in advance that uses a diverse mix of marketing tactics, such as direct mail, email, blogs, social networks, billboard and magazine ads, videos, commercials, social media, yard signs, and more.

Since not every tactic will be effective for every business, it’s important to analyze what works best for your business.

The right agency partnership can share which types of advertising work have a positive track record in your industry, and steer how you can test various tactics and measure the results. Once you’ve zeroed in on the most effective tactics, be sure to funnel consistent efforts into continuing to keep your content fresh, always measuring your results, and making the appropriate adjustments.

Above all, remember that good marketing can attract new customers, but bad marketing can drive them away!

Bad Marketing Ad No2